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11+ Best Home Espresso Machines For Beginners in 2024

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This is our review of the best home espresso machines for beginners. Check out our recommendations.

I’ve learned to shop for the best entry-level machines as a beginner. That led me to craft this guide.

We went with the Breville Bambino as our number one option. It’s not ridiculously priced and includes quality-of-life features like pre-infusion. And it’s from a company known for their quality products.

breville bambino

Breville Bambino: Best Overall

  • Price: $$
  • Type: Semi-automatic
  • Dimensions: 13.7 × 6.3 × 12 in (D, W, H)
  • Bars of pressure: 9-15 bars
  • Boiler type: ThermoJet
  • Warranty: 1 year
  • Milk frother: yes
  • Water capacity: 47 fl oz = 47 solo shots
  • Material: Stainless steel

Despite being such a worthy machine, it requires a bit of manual work. Making it not the best option. However, we’ve covered many machines that’ll do more of the espresso making for you.

Let’s move forward.

12 Best Espresso Machine for Beginners at Home

  1. Breville Bambino: Best Overall
  2. De’Longhi Dedica: Best Affordable Machine
  3. Nespresso Lattissima Touch: Best Capsule Machine
  4. Gaggia Velasca Prestige: Best All-In-One
  5. Gaggia Classic Pro: Best Small Espresso Machine
  6. Breville Café Roma: Best Espresso Machine Under $200
  7. Breville Barista Express: Best Machine With Frother
  8. Breville Infuser: Best Professional Espresso Machine
  9. The NEO by Flair: Best Automatic Espresso Machine
  10. De’Longhi Stilosa: Best Manual Machine
  11. Rancilio Silvia: Best UK Machine
  12. De’Longhi Bar Pump: Best Espresso Machine For Philippines

Top 12 Beginner Espresso Machines

Each section will cover how each machine fits into our criteria. Then I’ll dive into the pros and cons and explain remarkable aspects of the makers that put it on this list.

Before moving on, here’s a legend that may clear up confusion:

  • Dimensions:
    • D: depth
    • W: width
    • H: height
  • PID = proportional integral derivative: monitors water temperature & makes minor adjustments to keep it to a set temperature.
  • ESE = Easy Serve Espresso: pods with pre-ground beans to make brewing drinks easier.

You might not understand some of the criteria I cover. Don’t worry. You’ll find clarification under the buyer’s guide section much later in the guide.

Behold, the winner.

1. Breville Bambino: Best Overall Espresso Machine for Beginners

breville bambino
Price$$
TypeSemi-automatic
Dimensions13.7 × 6.3 × 12 in (D, W, H)
Bars of Pressure9–15 bars
Boiler TypeThermoJet
Warranty1 year
Milk FrotherYes
Water Capacity47 fl oz = 47 solo shots
MaterialStainless steel

Pros

  • Heats in 3 seconds
  • Removable water tank
  • Includes pre-infusion
  • Compact size

Cons

  • Included portafilter isn’t the best
  • Must buy separate grinder
  • Requires a bit of trial-and-error

The Breville Bambino works best for anyone who doesn’t mind putting some manual work into their espresso and wants a compact, great-looking machine.

Since it’s a semi-automatic maker, you only automate pressure and water flow. You must manually do everything else. That includes grinding and tamping your beans, along with timing your shots.

If that doesn’t fit your lifestyle, I’ll cover devices with more automation later.

It has a unique ThermoJet heating system, instead of relying on traditional boilers or thermoblock. The Bambino will heat in a few seconds. This feature is critical if you’re in a home with multiple espresso drinkers. And don’t want to wait forever for the maker to reheat.

Breville machines would cost much more, but this one delivers much value in its price range. It’s made of stainless steel, meaning it’ll last a long time. And the steam speed is much faster compared to other machines. Great for making quicker lattes.

The pre-infusion function wets grounds before brewing; ensuring even flavor extraction. Otherwise, it’s great for smaller kitchens due to its size and has a removable tank for easy cleaning.

But the inside of the portafilter has plastic—likely to cut costs. Get a metal portafilter if you have up to an extra $100 to spend. It’ll last longer.

Here’s a more affordable choice.


2. De’Longhi Dedica: Best Affordable Espresso Machine for Beginners

DeLonghi Dedica Style Espesso Machine
Price$$
TypeSemi-automatic
Dimensions12 × 6 × 13 in (D, W, H)
Bars of Pressure15 bars
Boiler TypeThermoblock
Warranty1 year
Milk FrotherYes
Water Capacity35 fl oz = 35 solo shots
MaterialStainless steel

Pros

  • Compact size
  • Supports taller & shorter cups
  • Simple UI

Cons

  • Steam function is finicky
  • Hard to clean

The De’Longhi Dedica is a wonderful choice for anyone who wants a compact machine that’ll fit in tight spaces, while not costing much.

Since it’s a semi-automatic espresso maker, it will require manual work. Not great for anyone who wants the machine to do all the espresso-making.

The thermoblock heater is a welcomed addition since it’ll reduce the downtime between making each drink. Making it ideal for homes with multiple espresso drinkers who don’t want to wait forever for the machine to reheat.

It doesn’t include any exceptional features, though. For instance, it doesn’t include PID heating or support for ESE pods.

Considering its price point, many machines in this category—that are made of stainless steel—won’t. But it’s easy to use due to the 3 easy-to-understand buttons and a knob for pressure.

Then, the adjustable trip tray makes the machine accommodate smaller and larger cups. No having to collect shots in a small cup, then transfer them to a bigger one.

Not convenient enough? I have an alternative.


3. Nespresso Lattissima Touch: Best Capsule Espresso Machine for Beginners

nespresso lattissima touch
Price$$
TypeCapsule
Dimensions6.81 × 12.59 × 10.15 in (D, W, H)
Bars of pressure19
Warranty2 years
Milk FrotherYes
Water Capacity30 fl oz
MaterialPlastic

Pros

  • Emulates super-automatic espresso makers
  • Descale alert
  • Takes 40 seconds to heat up

Cons

  • No control with milk frother
  • Requires Vertuo Nespresso pods
  • Plastic housing feels cheap

Nespresso’s Lattissima Touch works excellent for anyone who wants a machine with a built-in milk frother that heats fast. Also, who wants a super-automatic machine without paying the premium.

Super-automatic machines automate the espresso-making process. Capsule makers do the same, but use pods instead of beans. It’ll take up less counter space since it doesn’t require a built-in coffee bean grinder.

The machine heats up in fewer than 40 seconds thanks to its boiler. Great for homes with multiple espresso drinkers who don’t want to wait 2–4 minutes for regular espresso boilers to warm up.

The Lattissima costs less than most machines with similar features, thanks to Nespresso cheaping out on the hollow plastic housing. But it still looks good. Don’t let guests touch it; they may believe you have a $900 espresso machine.

And since it’s a Nespresso machine, you must pay for single-use pods. You won’t need to buy a coffee grinder, coffee beans, or ESE pods.

Then you won’t need to pay the extra electricity costs with coffee grinders.

You don’t have control over your milk froth because you lack a steam wand. A no-no for those who want control over their milk froth texturing. You’re buying a “super-automatic” machine. What did you expect?

Maybe a Nespresso isn’t up your alley. The next machine may be, though.


4. Gaggia Velasca Prestige: Best All-in-One Espresso Machine for Beginners

gaggia velasca prestige
Price$$$$
TypeSuper-automatic
Dimensions10.25 × 13.5 × 17 in (D, W, H)
Bars of Pressure15 bars
Boiler TypeSingle
Warranty1 year
Milk FrotherYes
Water Capacity54 oz = 54 solo shots
MaterialStainless steel & plastic

Pros

  • Removable parts (e.g., milk carafe)
  • Adapts to your coffee-making habits
  • Uses ceramic burrs
  • Front-loading

Cons

  • No proper steam wand
  • Uses a ceramic burr

The Velasca Prestige is a stellar choice for homes that want minimal time spent on cleanup and espresso making.

As it automates everything for you, thanks to it being a “super-automatic” espresso maker. You pour the beans in, press a button, place your cup under the spouts, and wait.

I don’t love that it has a single pump instead of a thermoblock, which means it’ll take longer to heat. Not the best selling point for folks who want to make multiple drinks in a row. Or who are in a rush and need to make a quick drink.

That’s the one point I’ll deduct when determining whether it’s worth its value. The ceramic burrs also pose another concern, since they don’t stay sharp as long as steel ones. But, they won’t heat your beans and eliminate some of their flavor.

Thus, it’s a double-edged sword. Just like their milk frother. It looks cheap and doesn’t allow you to customize your milk’s texture. But it’ll do everything for you, since it’s an automatic machine.

What does “front-loading” mean? It means you’ll spend less time disassembling your machine to remove components. Pull out a drawer, and you’ll have access to your water reservoir and dreg bin. The dreg bin collects brewed coffee grounds, which the machine turns into pucks.

Since they’re pucks, they’re much easier to pull out of your machine. Instead of using a tool to dig out all the coffee grounds.

It’ll also learn from your coffee-making habits. The Velasca will study how you’ve made drinks and implement those settings into future ones. A great time saver.

Too big? Read on.


5. Gaggia Classic Pro: Best Small Espresso Machine for Beginners

Gaggia Classic Pro Espresso Machine
Price$$$
TypeSemi-automatic
Dimensions8 × 9.5 × 14.2 in (D, W, H)
Bars of Pressure15 bars
Boiler TypeThermoblock
Warranty1 year
Milk FrotherYes
Water Capacity71 fl oz = 71 solo shots
MaterialStainless steel

Pros

  • Rotating steam wand
  • Kinda compact
  • Includes 3-way solenoid valve
  • Heats up in 30 sec.

Cons

  • Requires a learning curve
  • Requires separate coffee grinder
  • No removable water tank

The Gaggia Classic Pro is a worthy candidate on this list due to its compact(ness), durable build and excellent quality-of-life features. So long as you don’t mind being more hands-on with your espresso-making.

Because you’re using a semi-automatic machine. It requires you to do most steps of the process, except dealing with water flow. Meaning you’ll need to ensure you’re dedicated enough to the craft.

Otherwise, opt for a fully-automatic or Nespresso machine.

Another feature I love is the thermoblock heater. Though it’ll take 5 minutes to heat up, the milk steamer takes 30 seconds. Making it so you can quickly aerate milk while the machine warms up.

This might not be ideal for those who want to make coffee while rushing to prepare for work, but you’re considering a semi-automatic machine. It isn’t meant to give you super-fast espresso.

The rugged, stainless steel body, commercial steam wand and portafilter, and simple controls make this well worth the price. The “commercial” means they’re similar to what machines in coffee shops use.

Hinting that they’ll last a long time and withstand a lot of use.

The one area that will hurt with the cost is the need for a coffee grinder. Unless you opt for the ESE pods, which will save room and money.

If you get coffee grounds, you’ll love the 3-way solenoid valve. The valve will mold your grounds into a puck for easy disposal upon brewing your drink. No need to dig out coffee grounds is required.

I have to stop talking about this machine. We’ve been here too long. Here’s a more affordable option.


6. Breville Café Roma: Best Espresso Machine for Beginners Under $200

breville cafe roma
Price$
TypeSemi-automatic
Dimensions9 × 9 × 12 in (D, W, H)
Bars of Pressure15 
Boiler TypeThermoblock
Warranty1 year
Milk FrotherYes
Water Capacity42 oz = 42 shots
MaterialStainless steel

Pros

  • Easy to clean with removable components
  • Includes cup warmer
  • Heats water fast

Cons

  • No built-in grinder
  • No color variety
  • Steam wand lacks pressure

The Cafe Roma’s a great addition to any household that wants a high-quality yet compact and durable machine that should last for years. While a vague description, you should trust me here. I’ll explain why.

Before praising it, understand that it’s a semi-automatic machine. You’ll have almost total control over the machine, except for dispersing water. Not ideal for anyone who wants an automated espresso-making experience.

I digress:

It includes a thermoblock heater. It’ll require less downtime after brewing your drink before your machine reheats. Ideal if someone wants to brew a drink after you.

It’s a Breville machine, meaning it’ll last long due to its higher-than-average-quality-build. But it doesn’t include features like a touchscreen display or PID heating.

When reviewing De’Longhi’s Dedica, I said most machines at this price point don’t have many features.

I’m still right.

That’s likely why there isn’t much color variety; you may have trouble finding a maker that’ll fit your kitchen’s aesthetics. But the removable components make the machine much easier to clean.

Prioritizing practicality over appearance. However, it’s still a pretty machine.

I can’t say the same for the steam wand. It lacks pressure, which means you may have difficulty achieving the desired texture and taste for your frothed milk. If this proves too much of a problem, consider blowing another $100 on a separate milk frother.

So long as you want milk-based drinks like lattes and cappuccinos.

On to a more “professional” machine.


7. Breville Barista Express: Best Professional Espresso Machine for Beginners

Breville Barista Express Espesso Machine
Price$$$$
TypeSuper-automatic
Dimensions13.8 × 12.5 × 15.9 in (D, W, H)
Bars of Pressure9–15 bars
Boiler TypeThermocoil
Warranty1 year
Milk FrotherYes
Water Capacity67 fl oz = 67 solo shots
MaterialStainless steel

Pros

  • Dose-control grinding
  • 16 grind sizes
  • Includes many accessories

Cons

  • Bulky 
  • Can’t remove water reservoir

The Barista Express lives up to its name by automating every step of the espresso-making process. Making it an excellent machine for homes that want to serve espresso to guests.

That’s because it’s a super-automatic machine. Meaning, all you do is press buttons, and the machine will make your drinks. And it doesn’t require much manual input, giving you more time to socialize.

However, the machine does have “manual” buttons. If you want to customize your shots, you can. Control you’d only get on semi-automatic or manual machines.

The thermocoil system with PID control is excellent; it constantly makes minor adjustments to your machine’s temperature. It’s ideal for brewing drinks with consistent flavors. And minimizing downtime between each drink.

The 16 grind sizes allow for slower or faster extraction. Faster for quicker, more bitter drinks. And slower for maintaining your drink’s flavor. Once grinded, the assisted tamping will automatically tamp your drinks.

Making it so you don’t have to guess how many pounds of pressure you have to apply to your tamps.

Due to all these features, the machine’s massive. And doesn’t have a removable water reservoir. Making it a pain to clean when the time comes.

Let’s balance affordability and functionality.


8. Breville Infuser: Best Automatic Espresso Machine for Beginners

Breville Infuser Espresso Machine
Price$$$
Dimensions10.25 × 12.5 × 13.25 in (D, W, H)
TypeSemi-automatic
Bars of Pressure15 bars
Boiler TypeThermocoil
Warranty1 year
Milk FrotherYes
Water Capacity61 fl oz = 61 solo shots
MaterialStainless steel

Pros

  • Includes pressure gauge
  • PID temperature control
  • Volumetric control

Cons

  • Learning curve required
  • Requires a bit higher budget
  • Must buy separate grinder

Breville’s Infuser is a must-buy for anyone who wants an affordable, yet durable machine that’ll automate only the water pressure portion of espresso making.

Since it’s a semi-automatic machine, you’ll retain the most control over your drinks. Not ideal for someone who wants to let their machine do everything. In that case, opt for a capsule or super-automatic machine.

Refer to the previous section to understand what a thermocoil heater is. I don’t want to repeat myself too much.

The machine’s great for its price. You get a pressure gauge, something not common in budget-friendly semi-automatic machines. And it includes PID temperature control; a feature great for optimal flavor extraction.

The volumetric control allows you to choose between 1 or 2 shots. Great for giving yourself a huge caffeine boost; or making multiple drinks.

Otherwise, the biggest downside comes from needing a separate grinder. Considering you have counter space large enough to support this machine, this technically shouldn’t be an issue. Worst case scenario, you could grind many beans in bulk, then store the device for later use.

Though, I recommend against doing that. As you want to grind only the beans you’ll use. To maintain their flavor and aroma.

Here’s a machine that’ll give you the most control over your grinds.


9. The NEO by Flair: Best Manual Espresso Machine for Beginners

The NEO by Flair
Price$
TypeManual
Dimensions12.5 × 6.25 x10.5 in (D, W, H)
Carrying case: 14 × 10 × 4 in
Warranty3 years
Milk FrotherNo
Water Capacity2 fl oz = 1 solo shot
MaterialStainless steel & aluminum

Pros

  • No electricity
  • Easy to pack
  • Absolute shot control
  • Lasts forever

Cons

  • Steep learning curve
  • Requires separate milk frother
  • Must buy separate grinder

The Flair NEO works best for anyone who doesn’t mind the steep learning curve that comes with this grinder, wants to save money, and desires a portable maker.

Since it’s a manual machine, you must perform all the espresso-making steps yourself. No automation. I found that spending an hour on YouTube makes learning how to use this baby easy.

The NEO has a flow control head that includes the grounds holder and reservoir. You don’t need a separate water tank. And it comes with a carrying case, meaning, you could take it camping.

Since it requires no electricity to work, this shouldn’t be an issue.

You will find issues if you’re a latte or cappuccino lover. Because you must buy a separate milk frother, which costs upward of $100.

I slightly exaggerated the truth when I said it lasts “forever.” Its stainless steel body and lack of electrical components will last at least 10 years. And it has a generous 3-year warranty, much better than its counterparts.

I can’t spend too long talking about The NEO. I’d rank it number 1 if it were more beginner-friendly (regarding automation). But it’s amazing for beginners who want to learn by doing everything by hand.

Perhaps, you’re a De’Longhi fan.


10. De’Longhi Stilosa: Best De’Longhi Espresso Machine for Beginners

DeLonghi Stilosa Espresso Machine
Price$
TypeSemi-automatic
Dimensions8.07 × 13.5 × 11.22 in (D, W, H)
Bars of Pressure15 bars
Boiler TypeThermoblock
Warranty1 year
Milk FrotherYes
Water Capacity33.8 fl oz = 33 solo shots
MaterialStainless steel & plastic

Pros

  • Holds different cup sizes
  • OEM portafilter includes double- & single-shot baskets
  • Somewhat simple user interface

Cons

  • Not the most compact machine
  • OEM portafilter is flimsy
  • Plastic parts feel very cheap
  • You must control drink yield

De’Longhi’s Stilosa’s an excellent choice for a beginner who wants a budget-friendly De’Longhi machine that’ll help you get used to espresso.

The thermoblock heater is also a great addition because it’ll heat your water quicker than that with a single boiler. Great for folks who live in homes with multiple espresso drinkers and don’t want to wait too long to make the next drink.

The price is exceptional, considering you get an ESE-compatible machine with a mostly durable body. One of the cost cuts they’ve made is in the portafilter. It’s made of plastic on the inside.

If you’re not considering upgrading within the next year, get a better portafilter. Because that’s likely how long it’ll last. And it’ll require at least another $60 upgrade. Then you’ll need to buy a separate coffee grinder for your beans.

Unless you opt for an ESE filter.

Otherwise, the Stilosa isn’t exceptional. But it’s not a bad buy.

People in the UK will love this next choice.


11. Rancilio Silvia: Best Espresso Machine for Beginners UK

Rancilio Silvia M V6 Espresso Machine
Price££££
Dimensions23 × 27 × 33 cm (D, W, H)
Bars of Pressure15 bars
Boiler TypeSingle
Warranty1 year
Milk FrotherYes
Water Capacity300 ml = 10 solo shots
MaterialStainless steel

Pros

  • Includes cup warmer
  • Can also use capsules & ESE pods

Cons

  • Doesn’t include grinder
  • Steam wand may suddenly spurt

The Rancilio Silvia is an excellent choice for folks in the United Kingdom due to its international warranty, nice aesthetics, and high-quality stainless steel body. Ensuring it’ll last for years.

I can’t sing as many praises for their single boiler, which isn’t ideal for anyone in a rush to make espresso. Because it’ll take longer for your machine to reheat.

I’m conflicted about whether I truly believe this machine’s worth its value. The durability will make it last much longer than other machines, requiring fewer replacements. But it doesn’t have many quality-of-life features like Breville’s machines.

It does have compatibility with ESE pods and Nespresso capsules. Giving you an alternative to buying a coffee grinder. The cup warmer’s also a decent addition, as your cups will have a consistent temperature that’ll help maintain your drink’s flavor.

And those in the Philippines will like this next one.


12. De’Longhi Bar Pump: Best Espresso Machine for Beginners, Philippines

DeLonghi Bar Espresso Machine
Price
Dimensions24 × 18 × 28 cm (D, W, H)
Bars of Pressure15 bars
Boiler TypeSingle
Warranty1 year
Milk FrotherYes
Water Capacity1.1 l = 37 solo shots
MaterialStainless steel

Pros

  • Removable water tank
  • Supports tall & short cups
  • Brews 2 shots simultaneously

Cons

  • Noisy pump
  • Included portafilter isn’t great
  • Steam wand isn’t great

The Bar is a great addition for those in the Philippines who want an affordable machine with a decent international warranty.

It’s a semi-automatic machine. Meaning, it’ll demand a fair amount of manual input. But it’s a great way to train your espresso-making skills on a low-cost machine. Giving you plenty of time to save up for an upgrade.

Part of why it doesn’t cost so much is the fact that it uses a single boiler. The worst of the boilers will take a while to heat up. The number of minutes varies by machine. But I’ll confidently say that it’s not ideal for making multiple drinks if you’re in a rush to prepare for work.

Another reason why it doesn’t cost the most is due to its noisy pump, low(ish)quality, wand, and cheaply made portafilter. The loud pump isn’t ideal if you don’t want to wake up roommates or family.

The wand doesn’t heat the milk, which is terrible for steamed milk drinks, like lattes. But it’s still good for frothed milk beverages (e.g., macchiatos). And the portafilter is made of metal and plastic.

Plastic never withstands wear and tear as well as metal. Meaning, it may not last long if you use the machine a lot. If you have the budget, invest in a metal portafilter. Speaking of spending money.

You’ll need to buy a separate coffee grinder. Unless you go with the ESE pods, which will save you money and space. Since you won’t need to pay for, maintain, and eventually replace a grinder.

Before I go, it’ll brew 2 shots simultaneously. Great for making doppio (double shots) or 2 solo shots for you and someone else.

Let’s learn how to choose the right machine.


How to Choose the Best Home Espresso Machine as a Beginner

Here’s what to look out for when shopping for espresso machines:

ChecklistWhy it’s Important
Water PressureDetermines drink flavor.
Ease of UseWon’t require a steep learning curve.
Time to HeatDetermines time required to make the next drink.
DesignIt should fit into your kitchen—design- and size-wise.
PriceShould fit within your budget.
Brewing CapabilitiesWhat it can brew.
Additional FeaturesTakes less time to brew & provides better-tasting drinks.
Included grinderThe machine grinds beans for you.

Each section will cover important points to consider under each criterion. Then I’ll emphasize each bullet.

To learn more, read our espresso machines buying guide article.

Let’s cover the most critical factor.

1. Water Pressure

  • <7 bars: under-extracted; super sour
  • 7–9 bars: Mild flavor & a bit sour
  • 9 bars: sweet spot; balanced flavor & excellent starting point
  • 15 bars: stronger-tasting drink, but not too bitter
  • >15 bars: over-extracted drink; excessively bitter

A pressure of 9 bars is ideal for creating well-balanced beverages, avoiding excessive sour(ness) or bitterness [1]. Increasing pressure to 15 bars can yield a slightly more bitter taste without over-extraction.

Almost all espresso machines—excluding stovetop and capsule makers—will have up to 15 bars of pressure. If you want higher, you’ll need to find machines that target niche markets.

Some machines will offer 19 to 20 bars. Catering to those who prefer a more bitter flavor in their drinks. Most entry-level machines won’t have such a high number of bars. Beginners will need to shop for niche machines.

2. Ease of Use & Cleaning

Make cleaning easier by keeping an eye out for these features:

  • Easy-to-understand buttons: Less of a learning curve.
  • Touchscreen interface: More customization & less manual work.
  • Removable components: Easier to clean; no need to dig into the machine.
  • Descaling notification: Machine shows when it requires descaling.
  • Automatic descaling: Descales for you.
  • Built-in grinder: Grinds beans for you.

Most entry-level espresso machines include a few knobs and buttons that control the amount of pressure your device uses. Or the number of shots you brew. Some machines, like the Barista Express, include pressure gauges.

These make it so you don’t need to rely on intuition to know how much pressure you’re getting. But adds more costs to the machine. In this case, you’ll want to consider getting a separate pressure gauge.

You’ll also need to consider the time it takes to clean your machine. Almost all entry-level machines should have removable water tanks. Making it easier to refill and clean. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to pick apart your machine when it comes time for a deep clean.

Speaking of cleaning—descaling.

It’s when you clean mineral buildup out of your machine. Considering almost all beginner-friendly machines don’t have auto descaling or notifications, you’ll need to set a reminder every 1–3 months to descale.

We covered more information on descaling in a separate guide.

Learn whether you should get a built-in- or separate grinder.

3. Time to Heat

  • Temperature control: Keeps machine at set temperature.
  • Boiler type: The time it takes to heat your machine.
  • Time to heat frother: Time before you can froth milk.

This is an important criterion if you don’t have much time to brew your drinks. Or if you have another espresso drinker in your home waiting to brew their drink after yours. Features like Proportional Integral Derivative (PID) keep your machine at a constant temperature.

Reducing warm up periods.

Most entry-level machines under $500 won’t include this. Meaning, we’re stuck with relying on single boilers or thermoblock for heating.

Here are your options:

  • Double boilers (best): Uses separate boilers for simultaneous brewing & steaming.
  • Thermoblock (runner-up): Heats on demand & fast warm-up time.
  • Single boiler (worst): Lower cost, but takes much longer to heat.

I’ve never seen a beginner-friendly machine that includes a double boiler. They’re meant for making drinks back-to-back for hordes of people (think cafés). Thermoblock heaters are the next best option.

They’re great for homes with a couple espresso drinkers and won’t evaporate your bank account. If thermoblock make you feel regret when entering your credit card information, you might want to consider a single boiler.

Though, when you’re waiting for your machine to reheat, you’ll wish you had a thermoblock.

And milk frothers. Almost all machines in this category won’t have specialized heating units to maintain temperatures for milk frothers. Creating a less-than-ideal scenario for homes with multiple folks who love lattes.

4. Design

  • Size: If your machine can fit on counters & carts.
  • Aesthetics: Whether the maker fits your kitchen’s style.
  • Materials: Effects how your machine looks & how long it lasts.
  • Water reservoir size: Number of cups your machine can brew before refilling.

Measure your counter space before buying. Then consider whether you’ll get a grinder (and measure space for it). From there, think about whether a machine that catches your eye fits your kitchen’s style.

If not, and if it’s compact enough, you could hide it. Or throw a blanket over it.

You won’t think of Frankenstein when looking at most machines over the $150 mark. And most of the time, manufacturers will make them out of stainless steel. I’ll talk about why that’s important later.

Just because you’re a beginner doesn’t mean you should lower your standards on the way your machine looks.

Lastly: 

How many drinks do you want to serve before refilling your water reservoir? If you have a removable tank, that shouldn’t matter much. And if you don’t, get one that’ll serve the most drinks possible.

Larger water reservoirs will demand more counter real estate, though. Consider that.

5. Quality-of-life Features

You may want to consider these features:

FeatureDescriptionBest For
Pre-InfusionGently wets coffee grounds before extraction to ensure even flavor release.Coffee connoisseurs seeking optimal taste.
Cup WarmersHeats cups to maintain espresso temperature, enhancing flavor and aroma.Those who want to maintain an ideal serving temperature.
Programmable SettingsAllows users to customize settings like temperature, volume, and strength.Those who want personalized espresso.
Automatic TampingApplies consistent pressure to compact coffee grounds for even extraction.Users who prefer convenience.
PID Temperature ControllerPrecisely maintains water temperature for consistent brewing results [2].Users seeking temperature consistency.
Dual Boiler SystemSeparates water for brewing and steaming, allowing simultaneous use.Frequent users and multitaskers.
Energy Saving ModeReduces power consumption when the machine is not in use.Environmentally-conscious users.

Most entry-level machines won’t include a majority of these features. Many include cup warmers, and some pre-infusion. If you value taste, always get a device with the latter. So long as you have the cash.

Speaking of.

6. Budget/Price

  • Warranty: They often indicate how long the machines will last.
  • Opt for better materials: Better materials usually result in longer-lasting machines.
  • Electricity usage: Consider voltage required to calculate electricity costs.

Lower-end beginner-friendly machines will cost $150–$300. These costs don’t include buying new portafilters, separate grinders, and beans. Those with more features (e.g., built-in grinder) will cost up to $900.

Buying from reputable brands has the benefit of warranties. Most machines will include a 1-year warranty. Meaning, that’s technically how long they should last. Giving you time to save for an upgrade.

Opt for stainless steel bodies over plastic to ensure your machine lasts past the year. They’re better for withstanding wear and tear. And ensure you clean your device regularly.

Worried about electricity costs? Don’t. Unless you’re using these machines for hours a day, it’ll likely tack $20 onto your annual electricity bill [3].

7. Brewing Capabilities

  • Shot preparation methods: Lungo, doppio, solo shots, & ristretto.
  • Pressure: How much water bursts through your machine.
  • Included milk frother: Needed for adding oxygen to milk to make drinks like lattes.

I mentioned that water pressure will affect whether your drink’s too bitter, too sweet, or just right. Think of it like Goldilocks and the three bears. You’ll need to tinker with the espresso maker’s settings until you find your Goldilocks level.

Every entry-level espresso machine I’ve found includes a milk frother. Some include swivel milk frothers that give you more control over your aerated milk’s texture. Resulting in better-tasting lattes and cappuccinos.

Few include automatic frothers, which do all the work for you. Though, I wouldn’t trust them too much. Because they’re not tailored to your preferences.

Beginner-friendly machines can make the following drinks:

AmericanoCortadoLong macchiato
Black EyeGuillermoRápido y Sucio
CappuccinoGalãoCafé Crema
Dripped EyeIrish CoffeeFreddo Cappuccino
Flat WhiteCafé MediciAffogato al Caffe
LatteCafé BreveMocha
Lazy EyeVienna CoffeeCubano
Manilo Long BlackMacchiatoZorro
Red EyeEspresso RomanoMarocchino
DoppioLungoRistretto
List of espresso drinks espresso machines can make.

Few entry-level espresso makers include pre-programmed buttons to automatically brew the above drinks for you. Aside from the Breville Barista Express, which will make doppio (double shots) or solo shots.

You’ll need to pay at least $700 for that luxury. Not an ideal budget if you’re just a beginner.

Now that you know the features, know the various machines.

8. Espresso Machine With Grinder vs. Separate Grinder

Built-in Grinder

Espresso machines featuring built-in grinders combine the grinding and brewing processes into a single device. Catering to those who prefer a convenient and space-saving option.

Learn why:

Pros:

  • Space-efficient: Merges 2 appliances, conserving countertop space; sometimes.
  • Optimized performance: Tailored to work seamlessly with espresso machines.

Cons:

  • Limited upgradeability: May have to replace the entire machine if something goes wrong.
  • Possible inconsistency: Doesn’t provide consistent grinds.
  • Restricted versatility: May not offer coarse grinds (needed for drip coffee).

You won’t need to worry about these, though. Over 90% of machines for beginners won’t include this, aside from the Barista Express.

Onto separate grinders.

Separate Grinder

Separate espresso grinders offer dedicated grinding features and are typically chosen by those who value precision and adaptability. They’re ideal for beginners due to them not costing as much as super-automatic espresso machines.

Here’s why:

Pros:

  • Accurate grinding: Provide superior grind consistency & control.
  • Adaptability: Can tune for various brewing methods (e.g., cold brew).
  • Can store for later use: Save counter space by storing in cupboards.
  • Simplified maintenance: Cleanable without impacting the entire setup.

Cons:

  • Increased space requirement: May require additional space.
  • Extra expense: May cost more to buy a separate device.
  • More steps involved: Must transfer grounds between appliances.
  • Greater cleanup: May require more cleanup due to increased messes.

Buy ESE pods or grinding your beans at the store if you don’t have the money or space to get a separate grinder. You’ll also have to deal with less cleanup going this route. Or get a Nespresso.

Here’s another super-important factor to consider.

Types of Espresso Machines Compared

Here’s an overview of all machine types:

Machine TypeWhat it AutomatesBest for
Super-automaticEverything except dosing & tampingAutomated traditional espresso
Semi-automaticPressure & water flowGraduating from manual machines
AutomaticGrinding, tamping, & brewingBalancing cost & automation
ManualNothingLearning the basics
CapsuleEverythingConvenience, cost, & speed
StovetopNothingBudget
Types of espresso appliances compared.

These sections will cover the average prices, advantages of each machine, who it’s best for, and additional information.

1. Super-automatic / Fully-automatic Espresso Machine

  • Average price: $800–$5,000 (varies by model).
  • Automation: Grinding, brewing, water flow, & pressure.
  • Advantages: Top-notch convenience, consistency, & variety.

Super-automatic machines cost the most, but will automate the entire espresso-making process. Some of them will also automate frothing to make drinks like macchiatos and lattes.

You’ll want this machine if you don’t want to use Nespresso machines and want the taste of a traditional espresso. But you don’t care about customizing every aspect of the process.

Most beginner-friendly machines aren’t super-automatics.

Onto a cheaper option.

3. Semi-automatic Espresso Machine

  • Average price: $200–$2,000 (varies by model).
  • Automation: Pressure & water flow.
  • Advantages: Control, consistency, & user-friendliness.

These types of machines automate pressure and water flow, yet give you full manual control over making your drink. You’ll still need to time your shots along with grinding and tamping your beans.

These machines work best for beginners who want control over most aspects over espresso making. Most entry-level machines are semi-automatic. If you’re interested in automation, you’ll need to pay a premium for such features.

Here’s something that’ll automate the process a bit more.

4. Automatic Espresso Machine

  • Average price: $300–$3,000 (varies by model).
  • Automation: Pressure, water flow, & shot timing.
  • Advantages: Consistency, time-saving, & ease of use.

These machines automate a bit more of the espresso-making process, but will often result in more pricey machines. Making them less-than-ideal for beginners on a budget.

Whether you’ll love the next choice depends on the amount of control desired.

5. Manual Espresso Machine

  • Average price: $100–$800 (varies by machine).
  • Automation: Nothing; do everything by hand.
  • Advantages: Mastery, customization, & mechanical simplicity.

Manual espresso makers require you to do every aspect of making espresso by hand. Requiring you to know when to time your shots, grind your beans, and the rest. Many models (e.g., The NEO), are affordable and recommended to beginners.

So long as you don’t mind spending a fair amount of time learning. Start with these machines to learn the basics, then consider upgrading to a semi-automatic machine.

Perhaps, you’re interested in giving the machine full control. Without paying a fortune.

6. Capsule Espresso Machine

  • Average price: $100–$700 (varies by machine).
  • Automation: Brewing & water flow.
  • Advantages: Simplicity, consistency, & minimal mess.

Capsule makers (e.g., Nespresso) only require you to plop in a pod, tap a button, and let the machine do the rest. They’re excellent for beginners who don’t care much about the craft, but more so just getting espresso.

Meanwhile, you wouldn’t pay the premiums super-automatic machines come with, but you’d need to make up for those costs by buying a separate milk frother. Unless you don’t want cappuccinos and lattes.

You will save money by not having to buy a grinder—and counter space.

This next one will cost the least.

7. Stovetop Espresso Machine

  • Average price: $10–$50 (varies by maker).
  • Automation: Nothing; do everything by hand.
  • Advantages: Portable, brews coffee & espresso-style drinks, & affordable.

Stovetop coffee makers like the Moka pot uses heat from stovetops to create pressurized brew. This leads to creating highly concentrated coffee with an espresso-like taste. But it’s not true espresso.

If you’re frugal, yet want concentrated coffee, get this.

Explore frequently asked questions.

FAQs

Read on to find FAQs on finding a good espresso machine for a beginner.

Do Cheap Espresso Machines Make Good Espresso?

Cheap espresso machines can produce acceptable espresso, but they often lack the consistency and quality of more expensive models.

What Is the Difference Between a Cheap & Expensive Espresso Maker?

The key differences between cheap and expensive espresso makers lie in build quality, consistency, precision, and features.

These factors lead to superior espresso extraction and flavor in higher-end models.

Our Verdict

Here are our top 3 candidates:

  1. Breville Bambino: I’ll explain why it’s the best shortly.
  2. De’Longhi Dedica: Competitively-priced machine that provides beginners with essentials (e.g., milk frother).
  3. Nespresso Lattissima Touch: Most affordable way to have your espresso making automated.

I put the Breville Bambino in the “S” tier because it’s from a company known for their durable machines. It’s also affordable while having functions that’ll optimize your beans’ flavor extraction (e.g., pre-infusion).

breville bambino

Breville Bambino: Best Overall

  • Price: $$
  • Type: Semi-automatic
  • Dimensions: 13.7 × 6.3 × 12 in (D, W, H)
  • Bars of pressure: 9-15 bars
  • Boiler type: ThermoJet
  • Warranty: 1 year
  • Milk frother: yes
  • Water capacity: 47 fl oz = 47 solo shots
  • Material: Stainless steel
Photo of author

Author

Tim Lee is, as you might have guessed the founder of TimsCoffee.com. He is a former barista and a professional web publisher. He has now combined his knowledge and expertise in both subjects to create TimsCoffee.com.
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