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9 Best Countertop Espresso Machines in 2024

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This is our review of the best compact espresso machines. Read on to find your next espresso maker.

Having lived in small apartments, I relate to the struggles of brewing espresso with little space. That’s why I aggregated the best compact espresso machines for countertops.

I went with the Breville Bambino Plus as the top choice because it’s affordable, compact, and includes luxury features like pre-infusion. Such features lead to better-tasting drinks without putting more effort into brewing.

Breville Bambino Plus Espresso Machine

Breville Bambino Plus: Best Overall

  • Price: $$
  • Type: Semi-automatic
  • Dimensions: 12.6 × 7.7 × 12.2 in (D, W, H)
  • Bars of pressure: 9-15
  • Boiler Type: ThermoJet
  • Warranty: 1 year
  • Milk frother: Yes
  • Water capacity: 64 fl oz = 64 solo shots
  • Material: Stainless steel

It’s not the best for making all drinks that call for milk froth (e.g., latte). I’ll cover a number of alternatives that help alleviate this issue.

Here’s where the fun begins.

Top 9 Countertop Espresso Machines

  1. Breville Bambino Plus: Best Overall
  2. Ascaso Dream PID: Best Performer
  3. Gaggia Classic Pro: Best Budget Pick
  4. Nespresso Vertuo Next: Best for Beginners
  5. Rocket Espresso Appartamento: Best Machine With Water Line
  6. LELIT Elizabeth: Best Machine With Dual Boiler
  7. Breville Barista Express: Best Machine With Grinder
  8. Nespresso Essenza Mini: Most Compact
  9. De’Longhi Dedica: Best Machine UK

9 Best Countertop Espresso Machines for Home

By “countertop” espresso machine, I refer to machines that’ll likely fit on smaller counters. You who are reading should find something that’ll fit in cupboards or studio apartments. Or on coffee carts and small counter tops.

Measure your countertops before buying. And double check each machine’s dimensions. Don’t order something for it to arrive and not fit.

Before proceeding, I want to clear up a few things with a legend:

  • 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 may not understand additional terms, products, features, or whatever. I’ll talk about most of what I discuss throughout each section under a buying guide toward the end.

Speaking of. Each section will cover relevant information like specs, advantages and disadvantages, who each machine works best for, and more.

1. Breville Bambino Plus: Best Overall

Breville Bambino Plus Espresso Machine
Price$$
TypeSemi-automatic
Dimensions12.6 × 7.7 × 12.2 in (D, W, H)
Bars of Pressure9–15 bars
Boiler TypeThermoJet
Warranty1 year
Milk FrotherYes
Water Capacity64 fl oz = 64 solo shots
MaterialStainless steel

Pros

  • Compact
  • Heats within 3 seconds
  • Includes pre-infusion

Cons

  • Doesn’t support ESE pods
  • Frother isn’t the best for microfoam
  • Drip tray doesn’t hold much water

The Breville Bambino Plus is a perfect machine for anyone wanting a somewhat affordable device that’s compact and includes pre-infusion. I’ll get back to the latter in a second.

This machine is a semi-automatic espresso maker. It automates steaming and water temperature to ensure consistent drink temperature and taste. Meanwhile, you’ll retain control over the rest of the espresso-making process.

The included ThermoJet heating system allegedly heats your machine in around 3 seconds [1]. Making it excellent for those in a rush in the morning. However, this heating type is primarily exclusive to Breville/Sage machines.

Breville is known for having machines that last a long time. Combine that with all the features included, and you’ll wonder why it’s so affordable. But don’t wonder. Just accept the exquisite price.

Pre-infusion introduces water at low pressure to your coffee beans until the pump is ready to blow out more bars. This moistens your beans to help evenly extract your flavor. And since the machine heats quicker, you’ll have less downtime between drinks.

But it doesn’t support ESE pods. Meaning, you must buy a separate coffee grinder. Or pre ground beans. The former option demands more space. And the latter doesn’t ensure fresh beans.

Lastly:

The frother is great for producing large bubbles for cappuccinos. Not as much so for microfoam, which you’d use for lattes.

Here’s a machine that may perform better.


2. Ascaso Dream PID: Best Performer

ascaso dream pid
Price$$$
TypeSemi-automatic
Dimensions13.5 × 10 × 13.5 in (D, W, H)
Bars of Pressure15
Boiler TypeThermoblock
Warranty5 years
Milk FrotherYes
Water Capacity48 fl oz = 48 solo shots
MaterialAluminum

Pros

  • Long warranty period
  • Easy to repair
  • Includes pre-infusion

Cons

  • Milk texture isn’t very creamy
  • Could cut off extraction
  • No bottomless portafilter available

The Asaco Dream PID is a fantastic choice for folks who want an attractive device that’s easy(ish) to repair due to replacement part availability.

Asasco is a semi-automatic machine that’ll require some input on your half. However, you’ll have automation regarding pressure and water temperature. Ensuring consistent results with all your drinks.

It uses a thermoblock heater, which heats quicker than single boilers and slower than dual boilers. Making it an excellent option that balances heating time and price. You won’t pay too much, yet you won’t have a slow-heating machine.

Great for making many drinks back-to-back.

The price is a bit high, but the inclusion of PID monitoring and pre-infusion make this cost acceptable.

PID ensures your machine remains at a consistent temperature, which helps with flavor extraction. Pre-infusion further enhances flavor extraction by gradually applying pressure to your portafilter.

Speaking of. They don’t support bottomless portafilter, which could help you diagnose potential issues with this component. As with issues, some folks have complained about Asaco’s maker cutting off extraction.

Upon finishing your drink, you may have to worry about a creamy milk texture. Negatively impacting your frothed/steamed milk’s flavor and mouthfeel.

Considering the machine lasts 5 years and has easy-to-find parts, you shouldn’t have to replace it for a while [2].

You may want to consider a more affordable option.


3. Gaggia Classic Pro: Best Budget Pick

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

Pros

  • Commercial-like filter basket & portafilter
  • Works with ESE pods
  • Uses a solenoid valve

Cons

  • Includes plastic accessories—coffee scoop & tamper
  • Doesn’t include many advanced features (e.g., pre-infusion)
  • Uses a single boiler

Gaggia Classic Pro is a fantastic choice for folks who want a commercial-like espresso machine guaranteed to fit in smaller spaces.

It’s a semi-automatic machine that, for the most part, will give you a “traditional” espresso-making experience. You’ll control every aspect of drink-making except for boiling and pressure. Having these factors automated will help your drink have more consistent results.

The Classic Pro uses a single boiler, which prevents you from being able to steam milk and make espresso simultaneously. It also doesn’t heat drinks quickly as other heater types. Making it an unideal choice for brewing drinks while in a hurry.

But it makes the machine more affordable. Considering the inclusion of a single boiler versus the great tastes this machines offers, it’s worth the price overall.

The solenoid valve guarantees consistent water flow from your boiler and group head. Because of this, you’ll reduce stress on your machine’s other internal components. Increasing its lifespan. And the high-quality portafilter and basket further improve its life.

The coffee scoop and tamper aren’t the highest quality. But you’ll spend fewer than $30 for higher-quality counterparts. And to further manage your kitchen’s space, you could opt for ESE pods instead of pre ground coffee or buying a coffee bean.

There’s no making up for the lack of pre-infusion, though. You’ll need to determine whether you want an affordable and robust machine. Or something with additional quality-of-life features.

Here’s a pick that beginners may enjoy.


4. Nespresso Vertuo Next: Best Countertop Espresso Machine for Beginners

nespresso vertuo
Price$
TypeCapsule
Dimensions16.8 × 5.5 × 12.4 (D, W, H)
Bars of Pressure19
Warranty2 years
Milk FrotherNo
Water Capacity8 fl oz = 1 cup
MaterialPlastic

Pros

  • Takes 25 seconds to heat
  • Variety of capsules available
  • Self cleans

Cons

  • Must buy separate milk frother
  • Can’t tailor your drinks much
  • A bit noisy

The Nespresso Vertuo Next serves as a fantastic option for households who want an easy-to-use machine for quick espresso drinks. Making it also ideal for beginners.

This machine is a capsule maker. Unlike a traditional espresso maker, you plop pods into an outlet then press a button. Depending on the machine, it’ll scan a barcode on the pod and brew coffee to its specifications.

It falls around the same price point as other Nespresso machines. The biggest downside to most capsule machines is their lack of milk frothers, which add another cost to latte lovers. Not so much of an issue if you don’t care for milk-based espresso drinks.

Otherwise, it’s worth the price.

There’s the pod premium that comes with the machine. But compare that to what you’d spend on a coffee grinder and coffee beans and/or ESE pods. Speaking of, this machine will only work with Vertuo capsules.

But you’ll find various options available, like:

  1. Doppio: Double-shot espresso.
  2. Ristretto: Stronger espresso shot.
  3. Lungo: Watered-down shot.
  4. Black coffee
  5. Different coffee flavors: e.g., watermelon
  6. Beans from different regions: Examples include Columbia, Peru, & Costa Rica.

The 19 bars of pressure may add a bit more bitterness to these drinks. But I’ve never noticed a difference.

And it’ll take 25 seconds for your Vertuo Next to warm up [3]. Ideal for brewing drinks quickly when you’re getting ready to leave your home.

This next choice will make dealing with your machine’s water much easier.


5. Rocket Espresso Appartamento: Best Countertop Espresso Machine With Water Line

rocket espresso appartamento nera espresso
Price$$$
TypeSemi-automatic
Dimensions17 × 10 × 14 in (D, W, H)
Bars of Pressure13–14 bars
Boiler TypeSingle
Warranty3 years
Milk FrotherYes
Water Capacity101 fl oz = 101 solo shots
MaterialStainless steel

Pros

  • Includes various accessories
  • Can brew coffee & froth milk simultaneously

Cons

  • Plastic cup rail on cup warmer
  • Requires cooling flush prior to use

You’ll love the Rocket Espresso Appartamento if you want something that’ll connect directly to your plumbing for reducing maintenance.

It’s a semi-automatic machine, which gives you control over every aspect of espresso making except applying pressure and boiling water. You may find it ideal to automate these steps, as they ensure consistent taste throughout drinks.

Unfortunately, it uses a single boiler. This boiler type heats slower than thermoblock and dual boilers. Usually, this boiler type doesn’t allow you to froth milk and brew drinks simultaneously.

But:

The heat exchanger makes up for that. It’ll deliver steam and water through your machine. Allowing you to perform both tasks at once. A great alternative to the price increase that would come with this machine if it included a dual boiler.

And that feature, along with the high-quality design, make the Appartamento worth the cost.

I don’t care too much for the plastic railing surrounding the cup warmer. And if you want a replacement, you’ll need to spend a decent sum to get a stainless steel variation. However, that’s a minor gripe.

Lastly, it’ll include a bunch of accessories like:

  • Bottomless portafilter: Allows you to know what’s going on under the portafilter basket.
    • Ideal for troubleshooting.
  • Coffee tamper: Needed for tamping beans.
  • Micro cloth: Great for wiping down the machine without leaving fabric residue.

Another downside for this machine is that it doesn’t go up to 15 bars of pressure. That’s mostly an issue for folks who love bitter drinks. As 9 is the ideal amount of bars you’d need.

Perhaps you’re after a machine that’ll heat drinks quicker.


6. LELIT Elizabeth: Best Countertop Espresso Machine With Dual Boiler

lelit elizabeth
Price$$$
TypeSemi-automatic
Dimensions11 × 12 × 15 in (D, W, H)
Bars of Pressure8–11 bars
Boiler TypeDual boiler
Warranty3 years
Milk FrotherYes
Water Capacity84 fl oz = 84 solo shots
MaterialStainless steel

Pros

  • A lot of features for price point
  • Heats in 10 or fewer minutes
  • Includes pre-infusion

Cons

  • Sharp corners
  • Doesn’t include E61 group head
  • Low-quality tubing

The LELIT Elizabeth works best for homes who want to extract the most flavor out of their coffee beans, but don’t want to pay thousands of dollars.

Since it’s a semi-automatic machine, it’ll automate water temperature monitoring and applying pressure to your portafilter. Making this machine type best for folks who want control over their drinks, but don’t want to risk inconsistent temperature and pressure.

It also uses a dual boiler, allowing you to brew drinks and froth milk at once. This perk, plus the boiler’s ability to warm up quicker, makes it best for making drinks quickly when you’re in a rush.

Then you have the pre-infusion feature, which gradually applies pressure to coffee beans to help achieve maximum flavor extraction. Usually, machines with this feature and dual boilers would cost thousands.

That’s why I believe this high-end machine is reasonably priced.

But they cut costs when it came to tubing. Instead of stainless steel tubing, they use plastic and Teflon, which don’t withstand wear and tear well. And it doesn’t include an E61 group head, which lasts longer than most group heads.

With a 3-year warranty, I’m confident this machine will provide its value. Especially since it warms up in 10 minutes.

You may want to reconsider if you’re a clumsy type, though. If you frequently bump into your existing espresso machine for some reason, you won’t want to follow that trend with this one. Because the sharp corners could hurt.

It doesn’t go up to 15 bars of pressure, which isn’t ideal for those who love bitter-tasting drinks.

Maybe you want a machine that includes a grinder.


7. Breville Barista Express: Best Countertop Espresso Machine With Grinder

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

  • Digital temperature control
  • Includes pre-infusion

Cons

  • Can’t control milk frother temperature
  • Water tank is difficult to access

The Breville Barista Express works perfectly for homes who want an espresso machine that’ll heat quickly and automate drink making.

This machine differs from semi-automatic machines because it automates every espresso-making step. It is an ideal choice for offices, entertaining guests, or other areas where you need quick back-to-back drinks.

The thermocoil heater allegedly heats your machine in 30 or fewer seconds. Making it even more ideal for producing many drinks in a short span.

It’s a Breville machine—known for long-lasting machines—includes pre-infusion, and is a super-automatic machine. All those features and it’s less than $1,000. Worth the price.

Pre-infusion improves your drinks’ flavors by slowly applying water to your beans. This helps improve flavor extraction. But the steel conical burr could negatively impact your beans. Steel heats up quickly and can “roast” beans.

Making them taste more bitter. And the conical portion of the burrs has less consistency than flat ones. However, flat burrs would increase the machine’s cost.

A digital temperature control makes it easier for the user to set temperatures for coffee. I wish we could do the same with the frother. Another downside regarding user experience resides in the water reservoir’s location. It’s in the back of the machine.

And it’s not built in. You must reach around, open the hatch, and bring a pitcher to the machine to fill the reservoir.

Too big? This next one isn’t.


8. Nespresso Essenza Mini: Most Compact Countertop Espresso Machine

nespresso essenza mini espresso breville
Price$
TypeCapsule
Dimensions4.33 × 12.79 × 8.07 in (D, W, H)
Bars of Pressure19
Warranty2 years
Milk FrotherNo
Water Capacity20.3 fl oz = 2 cups
MaterialPlastic

Pros

  • Choose between solo shot or lungo
  • Automatically powers off after 9 min.
  • Heats up fast

Cons

  • Tiny compartment for used capsules
  • Plastic body feels cheap
  • Water drips from the nozzle once done brewing

The Nespresso Essenza Mini works best for single folks who want to brew coffee quickly. I say “single” due to the reservoir’s tiny size.

It’s a capsule machine that only requires you to place a capsule in an outlet and press a button. From there, it’ll brew your drink. No maintaining and grinding of coffee beans required.

Despite feeling like the machine will fall apart when I hold it, costing less than $200 makes this machine worth it. Since you’ll get great-tasting espresso quickly.

And that’s not the only cost-cutting you’ll see. Once you’re done brewing, a bit of water will dribble from the nozzle. Keep a towel nearby to wipe it. My other complaint stems from a small area to store used capsules.

But it’s compact, which makes sense.

It’ll take 30 seconds for the machine to warm up. Perfect for those who are in a rush and need to make a quick drink. Did you forget to turn off the machine? Don’t worry. It’ll power off after 9 minutes of use.

No needing to worry whether it’ll burn down your home.

It uses Nespresso’s original pods, which means you’ll have a variety of flavor options to choose from. Including lungo shots, which is an option the machine gives. “Lungo” means “long” in Italian. This type of shot is watered down espresso.

However, it’s different from an Americano since you’re adding water while making the shot. Not after.

Here’s a great option for those living in the United Kingdom.


9. De’Longhi Dedica: Best Countertop Espresso Machine UK

delonghi dedica arte pump ec885m
Price£
TypeSemi-automatic
Dimensions30 × 15 × 33 cm (D, W, H)
Bars of Pressure15 bars
Boiler TypeThermoblock
Warranty1 year
Milk FrotherYes
Water Capacity1 l = 35 solo shots
MaterialStainless steel

Pros

  • Supports ESE pods
  • Looks good
  • Has a great-quality milk frother

Cons

  • Not much flexibility with steam wand
  • Must buy a separate grinder
  • Includes plastic tamper & scoop

The De’Longhi Dedica works excellent for beginner home baristas in the UK. Specifically in the United Kingdom because of De’Longhi’s international warranty policy.

This machine is a semi-automatic machine that retains most manual control over espresso making. Except with water pressure and temperature regulation. Areas that’ll ensure consistent results with your drink.

It uses a thermoblock. It heats drinks much quicker than single boilers, yet doesn’t make the machine as expensive as dual boilers. It’s a great choice for homes who don’t want to wait forever for their machine to heat.

It’s a little pricey, but the machine’s compact size, stainless steel body, and stellar milk make it worth the cost.

Regarding space, the ESE pods prevent you from needing to buy pre ground beans or a separate coffee grinder. Great for further conserving counter space.

I don’t care too much for the rigid steam wand, though. It doesn’t offer as much control over the frothed milk’s texture and, in extension, flavor. Otherwise, the machine itself and the frother produce consistent, great-tasting milk and espresso.

What an espresso machine should do.

But you’ll likely want to put money toward a different tamper. It’s plastic and won’t last long. Fortunately, it won’t impact your drink’s flavor much.

Dive into our buyer’s guide.


How to Choose the Best Countertop Espresso Machines

Here’s a buying guide for compact espresso machines:

ChecklistWhy it’s Important
Water PressureCritical for optimal extraction & flavor.
Ease of UseEnsures a seamless brewing experience.
Time to HeatQuick heating for faster coffee preparation.
DesignAesthetically pleasing design enhances decor.
PriceBalancing affordability & desired features.
Brewing CapabilitiesVersatile options for various coffee styles.
Additional FeaturesEnhance convenience & customization.

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

To brew a perfect espresso, you need 9 bars of pressure. This level of pressure is crucial as it drives the hot water through the coffee grounds, unlocking their full flavor for a rich, balanced espresso.

Small espresso machines typically have a capacity of up to 15 bars of pressure. But, they use the optimal 9 bars during extraction. The excess capacity ensures these machines can deliver consistent performance over time.

2. Time to Heat

  • Temperature control: Maintains machine temperature.
  • Boiler type: Time it takes to heat the machine.
  • Time to heat frother: Time it takes to heat milk frother/steamer.

Ideal brewing happens at around 195–205 ° F. If you stray from this, you risk ruining the taste, leading to an overly bitter or bland espresso.

Boiler types in an espresso machine manage this temperature.

Single boilers manage one task at a time—brewing or steaming. Dual boilers can handle brewing and steaming simultaneously. Heat exchanger boilers use steam pressure to keep brewing water at the right temperature.

Compact espresso machines usually manage temperature using thermostats or thermocoils, and many have single boilers. The heating time for their milk frothers varies, but generally, it’s about 1–2minutes.

Here’s a brief comparison of different boiler types for your reference:

  • Double boilers (best): Heats the quickest.
  • Thermoblock (runner-up): Balances price & speed.
  • Single boiler (worst): Heats the slowest.

3. Design

  • Size: Compact(ness)
  • Aesthetics: Whether it looks good.
  • Materials: Stronger materials equals longer lifespan.
  • Water reservoir size: Determines time required before next refill.

Countertop espresso machines commonly use plastic, stainless steel, or a combination. Plastic machines are lighter and cheaper, but less durable. Stainless steel machines are sturdier and better at retaining heat, which can enhance the taste of your espresso.

The material of the machine directly influences its lifespan. Plastic machines may wear out or break sooner, while stainless steel machines can last for years with proper care.

Higher-priced countertop machines often have superior aesthetics. They usually feature sleek designs, premium materials, and professional finishes, adding a touch of class to your kitchen while providing a robust, long-lasting espresso brewing experience.

4. Ease of Use

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

  • Touchscreen interface: Allows you to choose programmed drinks.
  • Removable components: Makes cleaning & maintenance easier.
  • Descaling notification: Notifies you when it’s time to descale.
  • Automatic descaling: Descales your machine for you.

Whether a countertop espresso machine has a touchscreen interface depends on the model. Some high-end appliances do feature this for user convenience and modern appeal.

Removable components are typical in most compact espresso machines. They simplify cleaning and maintenance, extending the machine’s life and preserving its performance.

Not all countertop machines have descaling notifications and automatic descaling, but more advanced or pricier models usually include these for easier maintenance.

A descaling notification is vital as it signals when to clean mineral buildup in your machine. Over time, minerals from water can collect inside the machine, interfering with its operation and affecting the taste of your espresso.

Automatic descaling is a handy feature where the machine cleans itself. This saves you time and ensures the device gets a thorough cleaning. Proper maintenance like this helps your machine last longer and keeps your espresso tasting great.

5. Coffee Machine with Grinder vs. Separate Grinder

Usually, machines with grinders demand more space, not making it ideal for small countertops. Use the following sections to help you determine whether it’s worth getting a machine that includes grinders.

1. Built-in Grinder

Certain small espresso machines do come with built-in grinders. The main advantage is that it allows for freshly ground coffee each time you brew.

While built-in grinders provide these benefits, it’s also vital to weigh in on their potential drawbacks.

Consider the pros and cons of using a built-in grinder in a countertop espresso machine:

Pros:

  • Grind Freshness: Brews with freshly ground beans for maximum flavor.
    • Grinding beans just before brewing preserves oils & aromas.
  • Space Efficiency: Combines grinding & brewing into a single unit.
  • Seamless Process: Smoothly transitions from grinding to brewing.
    • Makes espresso preparation quicker & more efficient.

Cons:

  • Grinder Exclusivity: Limits the grinder’s usage to the espresso machine.
    • This means you can’t use the grinder for other coffee brewing methods or needs.
  • Single Point of Failure: Puts your machine at risk if the grinder malfunctions.
    • If the grinder fails, it may render your whole espresso machine inoperative.
  • Maintenance Challenge: Makes cleaning more complex.

Let’s see how separate grinders compare.

2. Separate Grinder

Separate grinders often demand more counter space, but you could store them when not in use. Making them work better with smaller spaces.

Pros:

  • Flexible Operation: Tailors grinding levels to different brewing methods.
  • Separate Reliability: Keeps espresso machine functional even with grinder issues.
  • Maintenance Ease: Facilitates straightforward cleaning.
    • Standalone grinders simplify cleanliness & help maintain taste consistency.

Cons:

  • Greater Space: Demands extra kitchen counter area.
  • Increased Cost: Inflates overall coffee gear costs.
  • Additional Task: Incorporates another step into brewing.

To save the most space, opt for ESE pods or pre-ground coffee beans.

6. Brewing Capabilities

  • Shot preparation methods: Doppio, ristretto, etc.
  • Included milk frother: All machines in this price range include them.

All countertop espresso machines are capable of making these drinks:

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

However, Nespresso machines can’t make many of these drinks. Unless you have specific pods and a separate milk frother.

7. Quality-of-life Features

Let’s compare a bunch of luxury features:

FeatureDescriptionBest For
Pre-InfusionWets coffee grounds before full extraction, enhancing flavor uniformity.Flavor consistency
Cup WarmersPrevents espresso from cooling too rapidly.Drink warmth
Programmable SettingsAdjust your espresso’s characteristics, from strength to volume.Personalized brewing
Automatic TampingApplies correct pressure to your coffee grounds, improving extraction quality.Extraction consistency
PID Temperature ControllerMaintains exact brewing temperature, essential for perfect espresso flavor.Flavor precision

Countertop espresso machines can come with a variety of these features, but their inclusion largely depends on the model and brand. Not all countertop models will include every feature listed above.

Pre-infusion and PID temperature controllers are typically found in more high-end countertop machines designed to give a precise and nuanced brewing experience. Programmable settings are more commonly found in more expensive models.

Automatic tamping is less common in countertop models as it’s usually a feature of more high-end or commercial machines. However, some premium models may include it.

Cup warmers are another feature more common in higher-end models, although there are small machines in the mid-price range that also include them.

The availability of these features emphasizes the importance of researching specific models when shopping for a small espresso machine.

5 Types of Countertop Espresso Machines Compared

Let’s compare all the different types of small espresso makers:

Machine TypeWhat it AutomatesBest for
Super-automaticEverythingAutomated traditional espresso
Semi-automaticPressure & water flowGraduating from manual machines
AutomaticGrinding, tamping, & brewingBalancing cost & automation
ManualNothingLearning the basics
CapsuleEverythingConvenience, cost, & speed
Different types of espresso machines compared.

The following sections will provide a bunch of information to help you make the wisest purchasing decision. For instance, I’ll talk about what each machine does and who they’re best for.

1. Super-automatic / Fully-automatic Machines

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

Pour beans into the machine’s hopper, pick your desired drink, and let it brew. Sometimes these machines will let you adjust the steam and such for a more customized drink. The automation makes these devices perfect for offices, cafés, and homeowners entertaining guests.

Due to their automation, they require additional components. This makes the machines demand more counter space. Sometimes you’ll find fully-automatic machines that’ll fit in tight spaces. So long as they’re built vertically.

2. Semi-automatic Machines

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

Semi-automatic machines balance super-automatic and manual machines by retaining most control over your drink. Except when it comes to water flow and pressure. Making it a great option to save money and retain control over your drink.

They do require separate coffee grinders, making them sometimes not space-efficient as super-automatics. But you have a couple options to condense space:

  1. Use ESE pods
  2. Buy pre-ground coffee

Their lack of automation prevents manufacturers from needing to add additional components. Often making them thinner than automatic and fully-automatic machines.

3. Automatic Machines

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

Automatic machines automate most parts of brewing espresso while giving you a bit of control. Making them a great option that balances speed, automation, affordability, and control.

But they’re not the best for tight spaces. Since they have components that contribute to their automation (e.g., electronic pumps).

4. Manual Machines

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

What manual machines do is in the name. It requires you to perform every step of espresso making on your own. No help from automation. Making it a great choice for those who want total control over their drink’s taste.

Due to requiring a separate kettle to boil your water and a grinder, these machines often take up the most space. Making them not the greatest choice for reducing small usage.

5. Capsule Machines

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

Capsule machines read barcodes of pods you place into their outlets. It then brews drinks based on the pod’s specifications. For instance, if you input a doppio pod, the maker will brew a double shot espresso drink.

It works like a super-automatic machine, but quicker. And doesn’t require a grinder to make beans. Making it technically the most cost- and time-efficient machine for most folks.

Due to its lack of a required drinker, and components often included in espresso machines (e.g., large boilers), these don’t demand much counter real estate. The biggest issue you’ll encounter is storing the pods.

Our Verdict

Here are the best 3:

  1. Breville Bambino Plus: Includes pre-infusion & will last for years.
  2. Ascaso Dream PID: Repairable & also includes pre-infusion.
  3. Gaggia Classic Pro: Robust & supports ESE pods.

I chose the Breville Bambino Plus since it includes pre-infusion, yet costs under $600. This feature will extract more flavor from your beans. Meanwhile, it’ll last a while.

Do you need something more affordable? Check out our list of machines under $300.

Breville Bambino Plus Espresso Machine

Breville Bambino Plus: Best Overall

  • Price: $$
  • Type: Semi-automatic
  • Dimensions: 12.6 × 7.7 × 12.2 in (D, W, H)
  • Bars of pressure: 9-15
  • Boiler Type: ThermoJet
  • Warranty: 1 year
  • Milk frother: Yes
  • Water capacity: 64 fl oz = 64 solo shots
  • Material: Stainless steel
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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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