The best espresso machine for 2020: Cuisinart, Breville, Mr. Coffee and more

The best espresso machine for 2020: Cuisinart, Breville, Mr. Coffee and more

If you’ve ever fallen in love with espresso, you’ll know its powerful charms firsthand. Ultra-strong, rich, yet balanced espresso is addicting. However, making it at home can be a daunting task. Many coffee machines that are billed as household espresso machines only have that name. If you don’t do your homework, chances are you have some awful device that flings awful drinks. Make sure that you avoid this hazard and by a machine that produces excellent shots all day.

The best household espresso machines have an advanced brewing process and handy frills like a double portafilter basket for double-shot drinks and a milk frother and a steam wand for a cup of cappuccino or a latte. These machines aren’t cheap, and you can expect to pay at least $ 500 for something that whips up real cafe-size espresso drinks (or a shot of espresso, if that’s your thing). But when in doubt, think about how much you’ll save on all of the lattes, cappuccinos and double shots you get from your café thanks to your espresso and cappuccino machine.

Espresso-Promo-Shots-4

Espresso is uniquely powerful and aromatic. It’s the ultimate test for home brewers.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

You can Also, drop a mere $ 100 when you’re ready to settle for a mediocre espresso. However, I urge you not to rush into products that cost less, especially if you plan to drink espresso regularly. A seemingly affordable espresso machine may look like a bargain at first, but it’s also often a waste of money and counter space.

For price-conscious customers, “espresso breweries” (in the $ 30 to $ 50 price range) typically lack motorized pumps and are powered solely by steam pressure. What they produce is real Moka pot Coffee, the type of drink made by simple stove-top brewers; It doesn’t taste as good as the espresso you are used to from the barista in your local cafe or coffee shop. That’s not inherently bad – it’s just not really espresso.


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Do you want to buy an espresso machine? Here’s what you need …


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To find the best espresso machine for espresso lovers, I spent over 80 hours putting 10 available espresso machines through their paces. I limited my testing to manual espresso machines, not those that make espresso from bowls or capsules. I also visited three other espresso machines that I checked before. During the process, I made and tried dozens of espresso shots, double shots, lattes, cappuccinos, and jugs of steamed milk and milk foam. Basically, if it was a coffee drink, I made it. I also took into account other things like water reservoir and storage, water filter, control panel, grinding functions, automatic milk frother length (and the ability to steam and froth milk) and a lot more.

In my experience, these are the three that I would qualify as the best espresso machines to use at home. While they all do the job and give you the essentials need – like a steam milk frother, a drip tray, a large water container and an easy-to-clean stainless steel floor – the key difference between them is the price. And how much you spend on an espresso machine has a huge impact on the type of coffee you ultimately get.

I’ve also narrowed this list down to vending machines and semi-automatic espresso machines. I also excluded super-automatic espresso machines sold by Krups, Philips, Miele, and others. These models are in a breed of their own and cost many times that ($ 2,000 to $ 3,000). I regularly update this list and my testing method is below.

Still with me Go on, delicious espresso will be yours soon!

Chris Monroe / CNET

The Breville Barista Express and its combination of performance, features and price are unbeatable. For $ 700, the machine’s impressive grinder pulverizes espresso beans, the intelligent technology doses the base straight into the portafilter basket, and the sturdy nozzle steams the milk well and creates thick foam. The tastiest espresso shots in my test group were also consistently achieved.

The control panel may be a little intimidating at first, but once you get the hang of it, a delicious shot (or double shot) of espresso, latte, or any other coffee-based beverage will be your reward. The stainless steel Barista Express is also child’s play. And to seal the deal, Breville includes high quality metal tools like a handy dose cutter and tamper.

However, I will find that this machine does not offer a compact design. If your kitchen is running out of counter space, check out the next machine on the list to make your cup of coffee. Continue reading.

Brian Bennett / CNET

For those who crave great espresso at home but are nervous about improving tech, the Breville Bambino Plus is the perfect choice. It’s very easy to use and keep clean. It’s also compact yet delicious espresso according to Breville’s Barista Express. I especially appreciate how easy it is to froth milk with the Bambino. Simply insert the steam wand into the Bambino’s stainless steel milk jug (included) and press a button. Less than a minute later you have expertly steamed milk foam for lattes and cappuccinos.

While there is no coffee grinder of its own, preparing an espresso, cappuccino or latte from the Cuisinart EM-100 has a lot to offer. This espresso machine has a compact design but is powerful enough to brew from fine coffee grounds. Tasteful espresso shots were also achieved, ranking second in terms of quality, taste and strength after the Breville Barista Express. The machine has a long stainless steel nozzle for steaming milk and a built-in cup warmer heating element. A solid espresso machine at about a third the price of the Breville.

How we test espresso machines

My espresso machine evaluation process is similar to testing standard filter coffee machines. First, I hand wash and dry all removable parts and accessories. For most espresso products, this includes the portafilter basket, metal portafilter inserts, a water tank, etc. Next, I run a brew cycle with just hot water to wash away any residual material from manufacturing.

Most espresso machines, aside from fancy super-automatic models, don’t have built-in ones coffee grinder and I prefer to test with freshly ground coffee. So I supply my own mill — the one Breville Smart Grinder Pro. I chose this grinder for two reasons. First, it’s calibrated more for espresso and less for drip or other styles of brewing. That means, the result is a grind that is quite good. Second, its grind size is consistent throughout. Both of these factors are critical to a proper espresso brewing process.

To take pictures, I start with the suggested method described in the product manual for a particular machine. Usually this covers the amount of coffee grounds expected per shot as well as any guidelines regarding the degree of coarseness. Likewise, I follow the pounding instructions (light, medium, or hard pounding) if the manual includes them.

Whenever possible, I brew double sprays of espresso for all of my test runs. I make sure I keep a record of the weight of the floor I use as well as the weight of the espresso for each shot I draw. This data, along with readings from a portable refractometer, enables me to calculate two important percentages: total dissolved solids and extraction percentage.

And just like any coffee preparation, the ideal extraction percentage for espresso is between 18% and 22%. This makes for a well-balanced cup, provided you perform a smooth and efficient extraction of coffee blends from your soil (both flavor and caffeine).

Not many home espresso machines can brew high quality shots. This one was pulled from the Breville Barista Express.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

If you extract too much, you run the risk of leaching out unpleasant aromas (bitterness) after the good. At the other end of the scale, under-extracted beers tend to have undeveloped flavors. Without sugar and other caramelized organic chemicals, these shots taste sour, weak, and watery.

In contrast to the preparation of a cup of filter coffee, the espresso should be concentrated. While excellent drip typically has a TDS percentage of 1.3 or 1.4, great espresso has a much higher percentage. The Breville Barista Express, for example, produced recordings with TDS percentages of up to 12.4.

However, those shots I took were balanced, with an extraction of 18.6%. The test beans I use are the same variety I use for standard coffee makers – Costco Kirkland Colombian. It’s a medium black roast that is also great for brewing espresso.

Breville Bambino steam milk 1

Many espresso machines have steam sticks for frothing milk. The Breville Bambino makes steaming milk particularly easy.

Brian Bennett / CNET

Finally, I try to froth milk with every coffee machine that is equipped with a steam wand. I record the overall experience with the steam wand, whether it’s a snapshot, a tricky task, or somewhere in between.

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Steamed milk for café-style espresso drinks such as lattes and cappuccino.

Brian Bennett / CNET

Would you like more options for your cup of coffee? Check out this list of espresso machines that I tested in addition to the ones above.

More coffee tips from CNET and Chowhound

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