Espresso

At Craft Coffee Spot, we have written 30+ articles on espresso, including espresso machine buying guides, reviews, and how to guides on making great espresso and espresso drinks. Espresso can be a rabbit hole, given the equipment and information available.  But, an espresso shot’s bold, rich flavor is hard to beat, and learning the process is worth it. 

Articles are categorized by topic and choose one to get started:

Espresso Basics: Info To Get Started

These articles cover the basic information about espresso, including the simple terms, how to use an espresso machine, and espresso drinks.

  • What is espresso: it’s a stronger form of coffee that uses high pressure to extra a thick and bold drink.  We review the history, overview of the machine, and different espresso shots to order.
  • How to use an espresso machine: a starting guide on how to make espresso.  The step-by-step guide on how to dose, tamp, and pull a shot. We address common issues to pull a proper shot and review how to steam milk.
  • Twenty espresso drinks: a list of our favorite espresso drinks from the basics (doppio) to the more uncommon (like a black tie).  We’ve included a simple recipe and photo with each drink to make it easy to try at home.
  • Cappuccino vs latte: a deep dive into the two most common espresso drinks.  Many people don’t know the difference between the two drinks (cappuccino has more foam), and plenty of coffee shops mix them up too. We also taste test a cappuccino vs latte on taste and texture.

Advanced Espresso Brewing: Step Up Your Espresso Game

These are specialized guides for home baristas who want to improve their espresso shots.  These articles cover detailed topics if you’re having some trouble getting the right flavor or have other random questions.

  • Dial-in espresso: espresso is a fickle drink, and every bag of coffee beans needs to be tweaked or “dialed in” to get great taste. If you have sour or bitter espresso, you must dial in the grind size and volume properly. Our guide goes step-by-step through the parameters and tweaks to make better espresso.
  • Pressurized vs non-pressurized portafilters: most espresso machines come with two sets of filter baskets: dual wall (pressurized) and single-wall (non-pressurized). This article reviews the difference between the two in taste and ease of use.
  • How to clean an espresso machine: learn the necessary maintenance to keep your machine in good shape, including regular cleaning, backflushing, and descaling. We include photos detailing the steps with a Breville semi-automatic machine. 
  • How an espresso machine works: this is a detailed breakdown of the mechanics behind an espresso machine to help choose between a thermoblock, boiler, or heater exchanger machine. This article is more complex than a basic guide.

Espresso Machine Buying Guides: Our Top Lists

We’ve tested numerous espresso machines at Craft Coffee Spot and curated our lists for different buyers.  This section is the best place to start if you’re looking for a new espresso machine. 

  • Best espresso machine for beginners: this is the place to start if you’re buying your first espresso machine.  It includes a comprehensive buying guide on different types of espresso machines, what to look for, and a quick list of our top choices.  
  • Best super-automatic espresso machine: these are great options for espresso lovers that don’t want the hassle of preparing espresso. We curate the best options and factors for choosing a super-automatic.
  • Best espresso machine with a grinder: the grinder is as important or more important than the machine itself, so choose the integrated grinder wisely.  We review our favorite espresso machines with a grinder and what factors make a great grinder.
  • Used espresso machines: pre-owned machines can be 20-40% cheaper than new ones, especially with refurbished super-automatic espresso machines. We list the best places to buy a refurbished or used machine (and where not to buy), along with how to know if it’s a bargain.

Best Espresso Machines by Price

Budget is probably the biggest constraint to what espresso machine you choose. Thankfully, there are great options across different price points. We’ve curated a few of the most common levels.

  • Best espresso machine under $200: these are “starter” espresso machines. You’ll start here and either enjoy espresso before buying a better machine or stop. Machines under $200 generally make acceptable espresso, but we’ve found ten that will hold up. If you’ve been thinking about trying espresso but cost holds you back, buy a machine from this list.
  • Best espresso machine under $500: the “budget” category of espresso machines. Brands like Breville and Gaggia have developed great products for under $500, so you can make excellent espresso at a reasonable price.  There is a learning curve with these no-frills espresso machines, but the interface is simple, and these options fit small kitchens too. 
  • Best espresso machine under $1,000: this list includes options that make great espresso, have a grinder, and have bells and whistles (automatic milk frothing!). This list includes some of our all-around favorites, and you’ll find an espresso machine that will last years.

Individual Espresso Machine Reviews

We’ve reviewed over a dozen espresso machines and categorized them by brand. Every brand has a different lineup to consider.

Breville

We’re big fans of Breville at Craft Coffee Spot.  The Australian brand has a full line of semi-automatic espresso machines that are durable and stylish at reasonable prices. In addition, Breville offers free shipping online, and we love their customer service.

  • Best Breville espresso machine: a full rundown of Breville’s lineup.  Breville segments their semi-automatic machines by good, better, and best models with clear price tradeoffs for different features. 
  • Breville Barista Pro review: this is our favorite Breville machine and one of our favorite all-around choices. It has the latest Thermojet heating system, 30 grind settings to dial in, an LCD interface, and a four-hole steam wand. Sure, it’s not a dual boiler, but the price is very reasonable.
  • Breville Barista Pro vs Express: we think all espresso buyers should transition to the Barista Pro. The Barista Express is excellent in its own right, but the Pro’s heating system, grinder, and interface are worth the modest premium.
  • Breville Barista Pro vs Touch: the Barista Touch takes the Barista Pro to a new level with a color touch screen and automatic steam wand.  It’s great for those who want to pay more for ease of use.
  • Breville Bambino vs Bambino Plus: two excellent beginner options from Breville. They both have the latest heating system, while the Bambino Plus has an automatic steam wand.  We spend a lot of time reviewing that steam wand in this article.
  • Breville Infuser vs Duo Temp: these are two of Breville’s classic models and are good options for those looking for a larger water tank and who don’t mind the simple interface.  

DeLonghi

DeLonghi has a long Italian heritage, and the DeLonghi family still runs the company.  DeLonghi is great for its breadth of options: from starter to super-automatic, DeLonghi has something for everyone.

  • Best DeLonghi espresso machine: we review DeLonghi’s espresso machine lineup, from entry-level super-automatics to budget semi-automatics.
  • DeLonghi ESAM 3300 review: a popular super-automatic espresso machine for good reason. It’s one of the best values with a dual boiler heating system. A quality, budget super-automatic espresso machine.
  • DeLonghi Dinamica review: The Dinamica is DeLonghi’s newer lineup of super-automatic machines. The Dinamica has an improved display and makes five drinks, including iced coffee!
  • DeLonghi ECP 3420 review: a solid “starter” espresso machine.  There are mixed reviews, but it works and the price is unbeatable. The ECP3420 has a place if you’re an absolute beginner and are unsure if you’ll brew espresso daily.
  • DeLonghi La Specialista vs Breville Barista Express: a comparison of two popular semi-automatic espresso machines. We think the Barista Express holds its own for a better build and better grinder at a lower price. However, the La Specialista has redeeming qualities: the dual heating system and a Panarello steam wand.

Philips

Philips has a line of super-automatic machines that are affordable and come with some very unique features. The LatteGo milk system is the standout feature, which automatically textures milk and is very easy to clean.  

  • Philips 3200 LatteGo Review: the mid-range Philips super-automatic espresso machine. The 3200 comes with a touch display, the innovative LatteGo system, and the Aqua Clean system. It’s easy to use and maintain and makes great cappuccinos.
  • Philips 5400 LatteGo Review: the high-end Philips model has 12 drink options, a full-color LCD display, and can set four user profiles. It has the same ceramic grinder and AquaClean filter of the other Philips models.  A great choice for a household or office, and we also compare other different Philips options.

Jura

Jura is the Lexus of espresso machines (while admitting we know less about cars than espresso!).  Jura automatic coffee machines are consistently excellent.  You always get a nice shot, thanks to Jura’s unique technologies. The machines have high-quality ceramic grinders that are ultra-quiet too.  

  • Best Jura coffee machine: we review the entire lineup, including a breakdown of the key technologies on Jura machines, and a guide on navigating their naming system.
  • Jura E8 Review: our favorite Jura espresso machine, especially after its full redesign in 2019. The E8 has all of Jura’s best features while having the mid-range price point (keep in mind, the mid-range for Jura is premium by any other espresso machine standard).
  • Jura S8 Review: the S8 includes a color touch screen with more programming options for customized espresso drinks. This is a great option for an office or household of espresso drinkers.
  • Jura E8 vs S8 Review: these popular models look similar, but there are some key differences, namely, the pre-infusion technology on the E8 versus the S8’s better interface. However, we think the winner is clear (read to find out).

Gaggia

  • Best Gaggia espresso machine: Gaggia manufactured the first espresso machine over 50 years ago, and they have a great line-up of super-automatic machines.  Gaggia is most known for the automatic milk frothing options (the “prestige” models) and the legendary Classic Pro model for semi-automatic.

Calphalon

  • Calphalon Temp IQ: While Calphalon is better known for its pots and pans, they also have a great budget espresso machine – the Temp IQ.  It has a thermoblock heating system that produces consistent high temperatures and a high-pressure steam wand.  Perfect for mid-range beginners with a built-in grinder option.