Are you ready to take your love of coffee to the next level? Well then, it's time to become a home barista! Before you invest in an espresso machine, though, there are a few things you should know about making this bold caffeinated beverage. Don't worry - even if you're relatively new to home-brewed coffee and have never pulled your shot before, we've got all the essential knowledge needed for navigating the world of espressos here in our comprehensive entry-level espresso machine guide.
Choosing the Best Espresso Machine for Beginners
Choosing the right entry-level espresso machine can be daunting with all the features and modding options to consider. But if you're just getting started, there's one question that should guide your decision: do you want a system packed full of features or are willing to put in some extra work for maximum potential performance? In this article, we will take a look into single boilers, manual levers, and Breville machines. Each of them is offering something unique – it’s time find your perfect fit!
Before making the plunge into espresso-making, it's important to consider a few factors - whether you'd like your setup used or new; do looks matter? Is milk steaming an absolute necessity? Knowing when and where to look for deals is also key. With this information in mind, make sure that your machine purchase perfectly suits all of those needs!
If you’re after barista-level performance, consider investing in a Gaggia or Silvia. Not only are these machines more affordable than entry-level Brevilles but they come with the potential to be tweaked and modded - so your espresso dreams can become reality! But if customization isn't for you, perhaps invest in one of the many hassle-free models from Breville such as the Bambino Duo Temp Pro Infuser or Barista Express – each offering its own unique features.
So grab yourself a nice cuppa joe and let's jump right into it!
Best Single Boiler Espresso Machines
Single boilers bring the barista experience within reach! Offering a lower price point than dual boilers or heat exchanger models. Single boilers are a type of espresso machine that uses one boiler to heat water for creating espresso and steam. These espresso machines let aspiring coffee aficionados make their lattes - all from just one boiler.
If you're looking for top-notch espresso, then Single Boilers espresso machines can provide great quality - but they need a few tweaks to get there. A modification or two out of the box and learning proper temperature control methods are recommended if you want peak performance from your unit.
Many of these units are configured poorly out of the box, ou might need to use a thecnique called temperature surfing or use the steam knob to control the temperature. An OPV (over-pressure valve) adjustment is beneficial to avoid excessive pressures during shot pulls. Multiple shots back to back with milk steaming can be tough as the same boiler is used for both operations.
Rancilio Silvia vs Gaggia Classic Pro
Boasting a variety of options, the Single Boilers espresso machines we recommend range from as low as $200 used to $750 new. The Gaggia Classic Pro and Rancilio Silvia are coffee enthusiasts' staples within this affordable selection; both providing ample steaming power - with an extra kick for those who opt for the more costly Silvia, offering a larger boiler with more temperature stability. For expert-level adjustments though you'll need pid controllers that must be purchased separately due to neither machine coming outfitted initially!
Buying a used espresso machine
If you're looking to snag a great deal on an espresso machine, the Rancilio Silvia and Gaggia Classic are both excellent options. Although they haven't changed in two decades, these machines can still take your morning cup of joe up several notches with full manual controls- for far less than their new counterparts! Splurge-savvy coffee connoisseurs have been able to score preloved models as low as $150 for a GCP or under $400 for a working Silvia - making it easier than ever to brew every single day.
The Gaggia Classic Pro espresso machine is a classic in the espresso scne. It offers an unbeatable combination of tried-and-true craftsmanship and an extensive modding community. A huge bonus with the Classic Pro is that, with some savvy modification, you can add a dimmer switch that enables user flow control. You'd be hard pressed to find a better made espresso machine - some of them are over 20 years old that are still working perfectly!
The downside? It needs some modifications to really shine - PIDs, OPV adjustment and so on - not to mention it's quite difficult to fit a scale and espresso cup within the confines of its stock drip tray. If you're buying used, make sure you know what year it was made too – machines from 2015-2018 manufactured in Europe should be avoided at all costs!
Be aware that you won't be able to fit all cups unless you modify the drip tray yourself, or buy one online! All in all, it's really worth considering if you're looking for an espresso machine - and prices depreciate rapidly so this should be a great pick up if on a budget.
Difficult to fit a scale and cup with stock drip tray
The espresso machine that never goes out of style - Rancillo Silvia! With their longstanding reputation, it's no wonder that this espresso maker has established itself as a favorite in espresso circles around the world!
While it comes with lots of great features, what really sets it apart is its large community and support forums - key for espresso beginners or pros alike looking to fine tune their espresso-making skills. It's also very common to find, so replacement parts and help in troubleshooting are available.
However, one of the only drawbacks to this espresso machine is that it doesn't come with a PID controller, making the espresso not as finely balanced as some other espresso machines have. Nevertheless, if you do your research and know exactly what you're getting into, then this espresso maker is certainly worth checking out!
Needs a PID
Needs some modifications
The Lelit Glenda espresso machine is an upgraded option for espresso aficionados, including a PID installed and the 58 mm version of the Lelit Anna. But the true gems are easily accessible coffee baskets and a larger boiler – think espresso temperature stability in every shot.
Sure, it's more expensive compared to the Anna machine but you get equal bang for your buck when compared with the Silvia espresso machine with its added-on mods. Put simply: if espresso is your game, Lelit Glenda makes sure you're ready for it!
Slightly more expensive
Best Breville Espresso Machine Comparaison
Breville makes it easy to upgrade your coffee experience! Their machines come with plenty of features, are ready-to-go and at competitive prices. But that's not all - minor modifications can make a major difference in terms of flavor! All you need is some minimal effort for maximum reward.
What is a Thermoblock Espresso Machine?
These speedy espresso machines use fast heating elements to brew a variety of espresso drinks that are sure to satisfy.They don't take up too much space either - so it's easy to set them up on almost any kitchen counter.
The Breville Bambino espresso machine deserves more recognition. It's easy to use and is surprisingly affordable – you don't need to break the bank to make espresso like a pro! At only $300, its PID temperature control (set at a consistent 200F) and integrated OPV at 9 bar gives it an edge over many espresso machines in its class. and an affordable price tag. And just when you thought it couldn't get any better, let's not forget about the single and dual wall baskets that give you greater choice for espresso extraction.
Although it's pre-infusion isn't as adjustable as other more expensive Breville thermoblock machines, with ten second intervals, it still creates espresso shots with a delightful flavor profile truly worthy of the espresso title. The Breville Bambino espresso machine is a very wise purchase for espresso enthusiasts everywhere.
Single temperature PID Control
9 Bar OPV
Could have more steam pressure
Breville Bambino Plus
Breville's Bambino Plus espresso machine comes in with a price tag of $500, it better be! This upgraded version of the regular Bambino is just slightly better - but that 'slightly' might not make all the difference. You get an automatic milk steaming wand with adjustable temperature and texture if you need this.
It also features a significantly bigger water jug than the regular (64oz compared to 47oz). Sure, it's pricey, but that pre-infusion is still limited to 10 seconds, so espresso aficionados might have to look elsewhere.
Automatic steaming wand
Bigger water jug
Comes with cleaning tools
Higher cost than the regular bambino
Could have more steam pressure
Looking for the perfect espresso machine that won't break the bank? Look no further. The Breville Infuser is the espresso machine to end all espresso machines. Not only does it have a fantastically built set of features including five PID Controlled temperature settings and manual preinfusion, but it's also widely available new or used, giving you more bang for your buck.
With an immense community of espresso lovin' users, you can be sure they've got plenty of tips, tricks and tutorials to ensure you get the most out of your espresso maker. Of course, it's not all sunshine and rainbows - while the 15 bar pump can be great in theory, it can prove a bit tricky to work with more unforgiving espresso roasts - but there's always a way around that if needed!
Great out of the box
PID Controlled temp
15 bar pump can be unforgiving
Best Manual Levers Espresso Machines
No Steam Wand No Problem
Even if your espresso machine doesn’t come with a dedicated milk steamer, that does not mean you have to leave the dream of espresso drinks behind. When it comes to foaming up and turning that cup of espresso into a latte or cappuccino, why not take it into your own hands? You can heat the milk in the microwave and use a French Press, invest in something that looks like an ancient prop from Star Wars (you know, with the spinny-thingy!), or go all out and grab yourself the Bellemain stovetop milk steamer. Whatever route you choose when it comes to espresso machines and fancy frothing fun, we're sure both you and your espresso will be glad you did!
Flair espresso machines offer coffee lovers the highest espresso quality at its price range due to its profiling ability! Plus, its portability and durability are major pros compared to other espresso machines.
With that said, Flairs can be a bit tedious when needing to pull multiple shots - not to mention there's no steam milk function either. Temperatures also taper off at around 200°F and limit your shot time and ability to pull those light roasts, so espresso drinkers should keep this in mind when pursuing their perfect espresso machine.
Lastly, accessories may be limited due to the portafilter size of the Flair espresso machine. With all of that considered, is the Flair still an espresso machine worth looking into?
If espresso making is a passion of yours, then the Cafelat Robot espresso machine is worth taking a look at. Boasting improved build quality and an easier workflow than the already beloved Flair espresso machine, this espresso maker might be just what you are looking for.
The low thermal mass means you don't even need to do preheating with medium-dark roasts! And with its 58mm basket, you can easily create your espresso drinks twice as fast. While it may be a bit pricier than the Flair espresso machine, you can guarantee quality espresso drinks each time with the Cafelat Robot!
Preheating is optional
More expensive than the Flair
Needs proprietary accessories
Best Combo Espresso Machines (Machine + Grinder All-In-One
Espresso machines with built-in grinders are great for espresso lovers who are short on space. But you've been warned - espresso enthusiasts beware! Although the grinder may start off meeting your espresso needs, it won't be long before you're longing for something more.
These espresso machines respond best when used with medium to dark roasts, and many espresso aficionados eventually choose to upgrade their grinders to get superior results. So if espresso is your passion, opt for a machine with an upgradeable grinder to ensure that your espresso dreams become reality.
Breville Barista Express
If you're looking for a great espresso machine without the premium espresso machine price tag, look no further than the Breville Barista Express. This espresso machine combines the Breville Infuser with a grinder for espresso-lovers who long for espresso perfection. It can usually be found on sale for under $600.
Plus, there's also a huge community of users for support and help should any questions come up about using the espresso machine. Espresso enthusiasts who want quality espresso but refuse to pay outrageous prices. The manual preinfusion offers a degree of finesse that could be lacking from other espresso machines in its price range.
Although its 15 bar pump may require some tuning – easily done by setting it to 9 bar or relying exclusively on pre-infusion mode. And if you plan to upgrade your grinder for the best espresso possible, then bear in mind that this will become slightly wasteful as your Breville Barista Express' included grinder won't be getting much use!
Comes with a grinder
Needs OPV mod
Grinder is not that great
Now that we’ve gone over a few espresso machines, it’s time for you to make a decision. There are a lot of options on the market, and it can be tough to decide which one is right for you. If you need more help, our blog has plenty of resources to help you learn about espresso and find the perfect machine for your needs. Thanks for reading and happy brewing!