A good cup of coffee is one of life’s great pleasures. But, unfortunately, a good cup of coffee from the comfort of home isn’t always easy. Sure, there’s always plunger coffee or, for the truly desperate, instant coffee. But none can match an espresso from a quality coffee machine.
So you’re left with two options: fork out the cash for daily trips to your local cafe, or invest in an espresso coffee machine to bring the cafe into your kitchen.
But with so many different types of coffee machines on offer, it can be difficult to zero in on the best one. Do you go for the simplest and most automated, or do you fancy yourself as a barista and opt for something that gives you more control?
Whether you’re a coffee snob, or just someone who wants to cut down on their coffee bill, read on for everything there is to know about espresso coffee machines, as well as some of the best coffee machines available to buy.
In this article we cover:
What is an ‘espresso’ coffee machine?
Things to consider when buying a coffee machine
What types of coffee machines are there?
How much does a coffee machine cost?
Which type is right for you?
Best coffee machines
What is an espresso coffee machine?
Espresso is a common way of making coffee, and the way you’ll be familiar with in your local cafe. It involves shooting hot, pressurised water through finely ground coffee beans. The higher the pressure, the better the crema – the rich creamy head on the espresso.
The hot shot of coffee can be drunk straight (as an espresso) or used as the basis for many of our favourite coffees, such as long blacks and Americanos, flat whites and cappuccinos.
It’s a different method of making coffee from the old-school drip coffee machines. These slowly drip hot water through a filter filled with coffee grounds. The coffee is then collected in a jug below, and kept warm on a hot-plate.
While some drip coffee machines can produce great coffee, any coffee produced can quickly stew if not drunk quickly. And the results are really no better than a simple coffee plunger, or French press.
Buying a coffee machine: things to consider
Below are some of the key things to consider when purchasing a coffee machine:
Naturally, coffee taste/quality is the most important factor when choosing a coffee machine. If a machine can’t turn great beans into great coffee, it will be a waste of money.
Value for money
When it comes to buying a coffee machine, there are certainly some cheap options out there. But cheap doesn’t always mean the best value. For your purchase to represent good value for money, it needs to deliver on coffee taste and reliability, so it needs to offer years of reliable service.
But value for money is very subjective, so do your research and compare products on features and prices.
Ease of use
No espresso coffee machine should be overly difficult to use, but some are easier to operate than others – and that’s to be expected. Keep this in mind when picking the best machine for your home.
The most sophisticated coffee machines may deliver the best coffee, but unless you can operate the machine properly, you won’t get to enjoy it.
Many people buy expensive, professional coffee machines only to have them collect dust because they’re too fiddly to use on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s worth sacrificing a little taste for a quick and easy cup of coffee that you can make on the go.
Quality & reliability
Of course, if you purchase a coffee machine, you want it to work when needed. So when choosing the right machine for your kitchen, make sure you pick one that’s reliable and up for the job. There’s no point choosing a cheap machine if it’s not going to last the course of your caffeine habit.
Ease of cleaning & maintenance
You might be surprised to learn that coffee machines require a fair bit of love and care in order to keep them working effectively. So, consider how easy a coffee machine is to clean before splashing out hundreds of dollars.
If a two-minute cup of coffee requires a lengthy clean-up, you could find your machine too much bother to use on a daily basis.
After all the functional factors mentioned above are taken into consideration, you’ll also want a coffee machine that is easy on the eye. One that can impresses your guests. Some espresso machines more closely resemble alien spacecraft than traditional coffee makers, but perhaps that’s the look you’re going for!
Whatever your design tastes, you might be better advised to concentrate on the above points, rather than the appearance of your coffee machine. Though, it’s still something to consider. After all, depending its size, your machine could become a focal point of your kitchen.
What types of espresso coffee machines are there?
There are three main types of espresso coffee machine:
- Manual machine: become a barista in your own home with a manual coffee machine that gives you full autonomy over the results of your coffee. This type of coffee machine lets you control the coarseness of your grounds and requires you to tamper and pull your own shot and froth your milk.
- Capsule/pod machine: typically easy to use with no tamping required. Just put a capsule into the dispenser and hit go! Some high-end machines come with a milk steamer on the side. Ideal if you’re limited on bench space.
- Automatic espresso machine: takes all the guesswork out of your morning coffee. Simply put the beans into the machine, and it’ll do the rest – grinding them up and pouring you a perfect shot. Some machines even do the milk for you, too!
How much do coffee machines cost?
A home espresso coffee machine can cost between $80 and $3500, depending on the quality of the machine and its features. As a general guide, expect the following figures for each type:
|Coffee Machine Type||Price Range|
|Manual machine||$150 – $2500|
|Capsule/pod machine||$80 – $1000|
|Automatic espresso machine||$500 – $3500|
Which coffee machine should I buy?
Picking the best coffee machine for your home can be tricky. However, ultimately, it comes down to your personal preferences – and your budget, of course! Some things to consider, include:
How often you’ll use it
If it will get daily use, you may want to spend a bit more to get something that’s going to last and make quality coffee. If it’s for a quick breakfast pick-me-up, you may also want to consider something that’s quick and easy to use, like an automatic or a capsule machine.
If you want a machine for slow Sundays, a manual coffee machine adds more of a ritual to your coffee-making experience, allowing you to fine-tune your skills until you master the perfect brew. But if it won’t get much use outside of the weekend, spending top dollar on a machine might not work out to be good value.
Fuel or flavour?
Those who enjoy coffee for its caffeine content and not its crema, will want quick and easy coffee. So, it’s probably best for them to avoid a manual machine. Not only can they be time consuming to use, but they require some level of understanding and love for the art of coffee.
On the other hand, those prioritising flavour should look for a quality machine that gives a high level of control and can heat water to a high pressure.
Do you want milk with that?
Are you a fan of flat whites or long blacks? Espresso coffee machines provide the basis for both, but if you want to drink something milky, you’ll need a machine that comes with a coffee steamer.
These are common on manual and automatic coffee machines, but most basic capsule coffee machines don’t have one. Although there are some high-end capsule coffee machines that do feature a steam wand.
A common solution used by capsule coffee drinkers is a separate milk frother, like Nespresso’s Aericcino 4. Do keep in mind, however, that milk frothing is not the same as steaming. Milk frothers produce something more akin to the foam you get in your cappuccino, or the thin foamy layer that makes your latte art. Not the velvety milk that is used in our beloved flat white.
Factor in how much your coffee habit costs (and the complexity of your drink) when considering what machine you go for. If you’re buying cheap Americanos, a cheaper and more basic coffee machine is probably fine. Don’t overspend for the sake of it.
For a more complex order, consider going for something with a few more bells and whistles. If you buy a Starbucks Frappuccino every day, then switching to a machine that can only make a bitter black coffee isn’t a good idea. You need to want to drink the coffee for it to be good value. And while a fancier machine may be a little more expensive, it’ll still be cheaper than spending $7 or $8 a day at Starbucks!
Owning your own coffee machine is a great way to cut back on your day-to-day spending, especially if you’re trying to save for a home deposit. If you are, and would like to know more about the great mortgage deals on offer at the moment, just click on the button below to access Canstar’s free mortgage comparison tool.
Coffee machines range from tiny models that can sit in the corner of your kitchen, all the way up to cafe-sized set-ups. Make sure you consider how much available space you have for any machine.
Consider the cost of any specialised cleaning products you might need, and the level of care and maintenance required. Likewise, how much will a bag of coffee beans set you back vs a pack of coffee pods?
Best coffee machines: Manual
Delonghi Dedica Pump Espresso ($249*)
This coffee machine is a fan favourite. It’s compact and stylish – perfect for the countertop – and makes a great cup of coffee with little fuss. It’s a straightforward machine that doesn’t come with a heap of features, which makes it great for beginners.
- Fast heating time: 40 seconds
- Flow stop function to personalise your coffee length
- 15-bar professional pump
- Double drip tray: for small or tall cups
- Cup warmer
- Easy to use controls
Breville Barista Express ($799*)
While the compact Delonghi Dedica is a great coffee machine, the Breville Barista Express is more akin to what you think of when you imagine a coffee machine. It’s a larger machine that features an inbuilt grinder, and a tamper that slots nicely next to it, a barista-style steam wand plus a heap of other accessories and features.
- 250gm on board grinder makes up to 25 cups
- 1850W faster heat up
- 2L water tank with filter
- 18 adjustable grind settings & dosage control
- Electronic PID temperature control maintains temperature stability throughout extraction
- Pressure gauge to assist with optimum extraction (+/- 1 degree C)
- Low pressure preinfusion for a richer crema
- 15-bar Italian made pump
Kmart Espresso Machine ($109*)
Kmart is the undisputed champion of bargain buys, and if customer reviews are anything to go by, this coffee machine is another win. It won’t offer the same quality of high-end models, but for this price, you can’t expect it to!
Overall, it’s about the cheapest coffee machine out there, and in the right hands can still make a great espresso. The milk steamer has room for improvement, and overall the machine is not quite as fast as some of the other machines (it can take a while to reach ideal temperature between shots), so if you’re making multiple cups one after the other a little patience may be needed.
- 5-bar pressure pump
- Single or double espresso shot
- High pressure frothing function
- Adjustable steam knob
- Detachable transparent water tank with closing lid
- Warming plate for coffee cup pre-heating
- Detachable frothing nozzle and drip tray for easy cleaning
Best coffee machines: capsule/pod
Nespresso Essenza Mini (from $179*)
The Essenza Mini is a cheap entry point into Nespresso and capsule coffee. It’s compact enough for any space, and quick and easy enough for coffee on the run.
However, the Essenza Mini is from Nespresso’s original line, which offers barebones espresso. So you won’t be able to make anything but a shot of espresso, or a lungo (a shot with added water).
Although you can always add water to turn your espresso into a long black or Americano.
As we mention above, you can pair your Nespresso machine with a milk frother – the Nespresso Aeroccino 4 – to make yourself a Machiatto. If none of this is making any sense, read our article Americano or Long Black? Different Types of Coffee Explained
Nespresso Breville Creatista Plus ($1099*)
Nespresso’s Creatista Plus is Nespresso’s answer to a barista-style coffee machine. It mixes the convenience of popping in a capsule for a perfectly pulled shot (no clumsy grinder or manual tamping needed) with the versatility of an automated steam wand.
The result, you can make anything from an espresso or a long black, to a cappuccino or flat white.
It also features a sleek stainless steel design with a digital display, for ease of use and plenty of style.
- 19-bar pressure
- Fast 10-second warm up
- One touch button, offering: ristretto, espresso lungo, cappuccino, cafè latte, latte macchiato, flat white and milk froth
- Milk-based drinks – steam pipe for milk frothing, with auto frothing feature for eight texture levels and 11 milk temperature settings
- 1.5l water tank capacity
Nescafe Dolce Gusto Piccolo XS ($89*)
The Piccolo XS is the perfect little machine for a quick cup of coffee, at an unbeatable price. Simply pop in your favourite capsule, and you’re good to go.
- 0.8L water tank capacity
- 15-bar pressure
- Makes hot or cold beverages
- Auto-off eco mode
Best coffee machines: automatic
DeLonghi Magnifica S (from $989*)
The DeLonghi Magnifica S is great value for an automatic coffee machine that takes out much of the fuss that comes with making a fresh cup of joe. Simply put in fresh beans, and the machine will grind, tamper and pull your shot for you.
The only thing left to do is froth your milk. Although, if you have the funds, and don’t want to bother with doing your own milk, you can always opt for a Maestro, which is essentially a robot barista. But for the average user, the Magnifica S provides excellent espresso and a safe space to practise your latte art.
- Coffee beverages at the touch of a button from freshly ground coffee beans
- Twin-shot system brews two espresso cups at the same time
- Make a rich foam for all milk-based beverages with the manual milk frother
- Customise your desired level of coffee aroma and quantity for each recipe
- Compact design with a sleek finish to fit any space and soft-touch buttons with easy to use digital display
Breville Oracle Touch ($3949*)
For those that want quality coffee and ultimate convenience, the Oracle Touch is an excellent choice. Although, one you have to pay for. Featuring a sleek and simple digital interface, and the option to save custom coffee settings, the Oracle Touch makes your favourite cup of coffee as simple as pressing a button.
- Convenient touch screen operation, simply swipe and select to have your espresso, long black, latté, flat white, or cappuccino
- Automatically doses, grinds, and tamps up to 22 grams of coffee
- Incorporates digital temperature control (PID) technology which effectively keeps the temperature at its best range
- The Over Pressure Valve (OPV) helps restrict the maximum pressure during the extraction so that you won’t get bitter flavours in the coffee shot
- Self-cleaning steam wand for quick cleaning after perfectly frothed milk
- Delivering convenient operations, it enables you to create, name, and save up to eight personalised coffees
- Convenient hot water button for pre-heating cups, rinsing the milk jug, preparing tea, or adding more water to your coffee
*Prices taken from retailer websites, correct as of 05/04/22.
Get a better power deal with Canstar
If you’re going to brew up a storm at home with your new coffee machine, you’ll definitely be using more electricity and adding to your power bill. So while you’re considering the best caffeine, why not consider whether you’re on the best electricity deal for your household, too. Because you could be getting a better rate. Fortunately, Canstar here to help and every year we compare and rate electricity providers, so you can check your options easily:
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About the author of this page
This report was written by Canstar Content Producer, Andrew Broadley. Andrew is an experienced writer with a wide range of industry experience. Starting out, he cut his teeth working as a writer for print and online magazines, and he has worked in both journalism and editorial roles. His content has covered lifestyle and culture, marketing and, more recently, finance for Canstar.