What else have we tested
What else do we recommend and why:
Under $ 500
Breville Child ($ 299.95): Breville’s latest addition, Bambino, is its most diminished offering. If this is the scope of your budget and you want a real machine (as opposed to a device), this is the best thing you will do. Breville cut some corners here because they had to, and the concessions we’ve noticed compared to Bambino Plus (which we prefer) are: an aluminum portafilter (as opposed to more heat-retaining steel), portafilter basket under pressure (for good freshness ) coffee and pressure you want them without pressure), exposes less pressure than Plus. You can still make a great espresso with this machine, you just have to order some extra accessories to do it.
Breville Child Plus ($ 499.95): If you already have a grinder and have your heart set on a Breville machine but can’t quite jump to the Duo Boiler, this is essentially the Barista series, but without the built-in grinder.
AeroPress ($ 29.99): Aeropress is a great tool for making coffee that many a coffee snob keeps on their kitchen table where it is their only coffee maker. What you get out of an Aeropress is something along the lines of a finely squeezed French press coffee with a generous layer of foam, but it’s not quite espresso. For many, this simple little plastic device will suffice. Plus, its portability makes it convenient for outdoor use.
Under $ 1000
Breville Barista Express ($ 699.95): It was almost a game between the Express and the Pro, and although we regret the loss of the pressure gauge on the Pro in favor of an LCD interface, it is a faster, smoother machine. That said, if you want to save a few hundred dollars (the price varies a lot on this machine), Barista Express is a great alternative. Note: We are also in the process of testing Breville Bambino, which is a good consideration if you already have a good grinder.
De’Longhi The Specialist ($ 849.95): A very close competitor to the Breville Barista Express, De’Longhi La Specialista is designed almost identically, but comes with a built-in tamper that removes a lot of potential for user errors, which we like, but many people prefer to use a tamper and / or or leveling. Still, it’s about the same price and comes with a three-year warranty instead of the one-year warranty Breville offers. This is another machine that needs to be considered seriously.
Flair 58 ($ 575.00): Flair’s 58 is a newer, more robust version of Flair’s previous models, and the best manual machine we’ve tried, but it’s going to cost you. That said, if you prefer to become extremely obsessive and do not want to spend too much money, Flairen will surpass our recommendations above and we highly recommend ordering one.
Gaggia Brera ($ 449.95): We found this automatic machine to be quite good, but its pictures could not be compared to the Gaggia Classic Pros due to the built-in grinder that allows for minimal adjustments. Still, if you want an all-in-one automatic machine that can do it all in the form of espresso drinks, it is significantly more affordable than many of its competitors, and acceptable if it is large and clumsy.
La Pavoni Europiccola ($ 958.42): Handle machines with built-in boilers are among the best on the market for two reasons: they are affordable (compared to commercial machines), and they are built as tanks so they will survive pretty much everything. The problem is that learning a good shot of espresso from one of these things is a bonafide challenge, and it takes time. If you are willing to go through the motions, we recommend it, but you have a long journey ahead.
Under $ 2000
Breville Dual Boiler ($ 1,599.95): We’ve used this machine a few times, and professionals like Lance Hedrick from Onyx Coffee Lab and Dan Kehn from Home-Barista.com call this Breville’s magnum opus. Like any of Breville’s newer and top machines, it offers some of the fastest warm-up times and is very fine-tuned, allowing you to adjust the brewing temperature and even (through a hack) the brewing pressure.
What we do not recommend and why:
Over the past many years, we’ve tried around a dozen of the most popular espresso machines and another handful of Nespresso and Illy pod machines. Since there are currently several options in the way of third-party pods and refillable capsules for Nespresso machines (currently there are no refillable Illy capsules), you should choose Nespresso. The model we recommend above is among the most affordable and there is no point in wasting it when you decide to buy a pod machine. If you want foamed drinks, consider investing in a separate foamer that is easier to use and clean.
Breville Child Plus ($ 449.95): This machine worked almost as well as the Breville Barista Express or Pro, but it did not seem to carry as much power and is more designed for those going up from a capsule machine. Given the price and difficulty of repairing a Breville machine that is out of warranty, we think the Gaggia Classic Pro is a better bet. Still, we are testing the new Bambino (not to be confused with Bambino Plus we discuss here) and we will discuss our results in the next update.
Cuisinart EM-200 ($ 249.95): This machine made almost espresso, but we could not produce the thick elixir we got out of machines at $ 450 and above. If you want to fill around $ 200, it is best to go with a manual device or a pod machine. That said, some might find it acceptable in a cappuccino or latte.
De’Longhi Stilosa ($ 99.99): This machine replaced the De’Longhi 155 15-Bar, which made decent, frothy coffee. But like Cuisinart, Stilosa delivered something a little more watery than espresso and more akin to French press or AeroPress coffee. Like the Cuisinart EM-200, it can be used in cappuccino or latte, but a pod machine or a manual device will give you better espresso for the same price.
Rancilio Silva Pro PID ($ 1,690.00): This is a professional machine for the home, but like a professional race car, it works best in the hands of a professional, and it may be something you are better at working up to, not starting with. It also apparently did not let brighter roast shine, which we consulted our expert, Dan Kehn, who agreed. Still, it’s a powerful machine that allows you to eventually make superlative images, but with lots of practice and bad espresso poured down the drain.
Smeg ($ 514.95): This is a cute little machine and it certainly has counter appeal, but it pumps out more watery shots than we would like and for the price it just is not competitive.