Best Espresso Coffee Machine For A Better Shot

We can all brew better with the right know-how.

Best Espresso Coffee Machine UK 2023

by Natalie Knowles |
Updated on

If you're looking for the best espresso coffee machine, you are clearly someone who knows their beans. Owning an espresso machine is a must for connoisseurs of coffee. It's an opportunity to explore speciality grade whole beans from all over the world. Finely ground, the coffee is tamped into a portafilter and hot water is run through the grounds under pressure. This produces a 40ml shot of strong coffee, known as an espresso.

Investing in a compact, countertop espresso coffee maker gives you top-quality coffee in the comfort of your own home. The ritual of preparation - savouring the aroma and appreciating the decadent crema - is a mindful way to begin the daily grind.

Best Espresso Coffee Machine At A Glance

Best Sage coffee machine for espresso: Sage Barista Pro – View on Sage Appliances
Best for espresso and beyond: illy X7.1 Iperespresso – View on illy
Best De'Longhi coffee machine for espresso: De'Longhi Dedica Style Traditional Pump Espresso Machine – View on Amazon UK

As appreciators of fine coffee, we're keen to get to the root (or bean) of coffee production and explore the provenance of our favourite fix. UK coffee consumption has increased from 17g per person per week in 2006-8 to 29g in 2020-21 (British Coffee Association). We drink more than 98 million cups of coffee a day. Coffee's carbon footprint ranges from zero to high, depending on where it comes from. If you want to support low-carbon, sustainable coffee production, opt for Fairtrade and B-Corp-endorsed coffee brands. Scroll to the FAQs at the end of this article for more on how coffee production is under threat from the climate crisis.

How you want to prepare your coffee depends on if you have time to grind your beans and go through the manual process, or if you'd prefer the convenience of a coffee pod machine. In this guide, we've included options for budding baristas, manual espresso makers, as well as super simple-to-use pod machines.

Best Espresso Coffee Machine

Best Sage coffee machine for espresso

Sage Barista ProSage
Price: £629.95 (was £729.95)

www.sageappliances.com

The Sage Barista Pro is an extremely popular and versatile coffee machine that provides barista-level control and ease of use at great value for money. With its adjustable grind size and dosing, water temperature, and easy-to-use LCD screen, the Barista Pro puts the variables of making espresso in your hands. The machine also features a powerful steam wand that can texture milk like a pro, although it may take some time to get going. Overall, the Sage Barista Pro is an excellent choice for coffee enthusiasts who want to craft professional-quality coffee at home.

A Modern Kitchen has tasted espresso, made in the Sage Barista Pro, using freshly ground coffee beans. The whole ritual of the coffee preparation is as professional as it gets at home. Aroma and taste were sensational. If you are a serious coffee connoisseur, having the real deal knocks spots off coffee pods machine alternatives.

Although it may take a few Youtube tutorials to learn how to get to grips with the finer points, customers agree this machine makes you a barista in the comfort of your own home. Coffee is smooth, rich and has a delicious crema of coffee oils.

Pros

  • Easy to use, yet produces barista-quality coffee
  • Allows users to adjust the dose, grind size, and water temperature with a twist of a dial or push of a button
  • Weighs the portafilter and adjusts the length of time
  • LCD screen shows settings for precision brewing

Cons

  • Milk frother occasionally takes a little while to get going

Best for espresso and beyond

 illy X7.1 Iperespresso illy

With a classic look and modern design, the illy X7.1 Iperespresso coffee machine makes a bold statement in any kitchen. It comes with a two-year warranty and useful features to make a delightful cup of espresso. Customise with the milk frothing wand to indulge in creamy cappuccinos and lattes if you wish. With Power Save, this coffee is energy-saving and automatically descales, too. With a press of a soft-touch button, you'll be indulging in illy heaven.

Customers say this is an easy-to-use and compact coffee machine that delivers great tasting Italian coffee. However, it is only compatible with illy coffee pods, which makes it a bit expensive if you enjoy coffee every day. The bonus is this model has a milk frother, which sets it apart from most other coffee pod machines at a similar price point.

It makes for a bold retro centrepiece for a home coffee bar. Plus, it's easier to use and clean than machines that have portafilters and brew with loose ground coffee.

Pros

  • Milk frother for cappuccinos
  • Classic look, modern innovation
  • Energy saving and automatic descaling

Cons

  • Only compatible with Iperespresso capsules

Tested

Best De'Longhi coffee machine for espresso

De'Longhi Dedica Style Traditional Pump Espresso MachineDe'Longhi
Price: £229 (was £249.99)

www.delonghi.com

A more traditional-style coffee machine, the De'Longhi Dedica Style Traditional Pump Espresso Machine lets you control every step of the coffee-making process, from tamping your ground coffee to frothing and steaming milk - just like at your local coffee shop, just on a smaller scale. At only 15cm wide, it’s the slimmest design of all the brand's machines.

Natalie tested this De'Longhi coffee maker for A Modern Kitchen. She says it strikes a good balance between being easy to use (for beginners) and producing barista-style coffee. But, bear in mind it is a manual coffee maker, so be prepared to empty coffee grinds and clean the portafilter after use. If the Sage or Smeg manual coffee machines are out of your price range, this is a solid mid range alternative.

Read our full review of the De’Longhi Dedica Arte Espresso Machine.

Pros

  • Doesn't take up too much room on the worktop
  • Easy to clean
  • You feel like a barista

Cons

  • Attaching the tamper can be a little fiddly

Tested

Best entry-level coffee machine for espresso

Salter Caffé Barista Pro Espresso MachineOn Buy/Salter

If you want to enjoy barista-style coffee in the comfort of your own home, the Salter Barista Pro Espresso Machine is an excellent option and value for money. As someone new to the world of espresso machines, you may be hesitant to invest in an expensive appliance. However, with the Salter Barista Pro Espresso Machine, you can create a range of authentic tasting coffees using the integrated milk frothing wand for creamy lattes and frothy cappuccinos at a fraction of the price. Plus, it's so compact and lightweight it will only take up a little precious counter space in your kitchen.

Our review: "All-in-all, this is a very straightforward appliance that is pretty much fool-proof. There was no step of the process that felt too arduous and nothing that a bit of practice couldn't fix. What I loved the most about this device were its ease and functionality. I didn't need to read a manual, and my common sense allowed me to figure out how to use the machine. I really would recommend this espresso maker to anyone that enjoys a good cup of joe but doesn't need all the bells and whistles or a particularly sleek-looking appliance."

Read our full review of the Salter Caffé Barista Pro Espresso Machine.

Pros

  • Produces barista-style coffee in the comfort of your home
  • Possible to make up to two cups at once
  • Easy to use and clean
  • Durable and long-lasting
  • Compact and lightweight

Cons

  • Best for making one coffee at a time as it is hard to fit two cups

Best Lavazza coffee machine for espresso

First and foremost, we love this modern take on a classic. It’s kitted out with newer features, such as an adjustable cup rest or the capability to give you different size coffees. Not only that, its iconic design is perfect for lovers of retro, available in black, beige and red. It’s an elegant model, combining iconic style with advanced technology. Plus, it’s compatible with all Lavazza A Modo Mio capsules. Make authentic espresso and long espresso with Italian flair.

Customers love the design of this model. They also applaud that the coffee pods can be recycled. It achieves the quality taste of Lavazza coffee. But, do note the dimensions as it's quite a large machine in comparison to a Tassimo, for example. Definately a talking point and a statement coffee machine.

Pros

  • Looks great as a statement piece
  • Smart and quick
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Only compatible with Lavazza capsules

Best for budget espresso

Lavazza A Modo Mio Tiny Espresso Coffee MachineEbay/Lavazza

This machine is really easy to use; to turn it on and off and start preparing the coffee - you just use the same button. If espressos and americanos are your go-to, you will love this coffee machine. It has a sleek design that is ideal for smaller kitchens. The Lavazza A Modo Mio Tiny Espresso Coffee Machine especially features slow coffee extraction at a high temperature to release the maximum flavour. It calculates the optimum water pressure to brew a smooth, creamy coffee. Additionally, the A Modo Mio coffee capsules contain the perfect amount of coffee and tamping level with espresso ground coffee preserved in an air-tight pod. Additionally, if you prefer a longer drink, you can brew mug-sized coffee by removing the drip tray.

Customers like that it is a small model that doesn't take up too much counter-top space. It's also at the lower price-end of the coffee machine market – ideal for dipping your toe into home coffee brewing. Pods are widely available and a good price. Some customers comment that it's noisy, but in our experience all automatic coffee machines produce sound when brewing.

Pros

  • Two temperature settings
  • Adjustable cup holder (2 heights)
  • Thermoblock technology

Cons

  • Only compatible with A Modo Mio capsules

Best manual espresso maker

The Flair 58 Manual Espresso Maker is an upgrade of the Flair Pro, and this new model now has a 58mm standard size portafilter (hence its name). The benefit is that tamping equipment, you may already own, will fit this size, while its predecessor had a smaller portafilter. The lever has been redesigned so it's effective at creating the pressure needed to manually brew espresso. You need to get involved and press the lever, so bear in mind a bit of muscle-work is required. You can see how much force you're exerting by keeping an eye on the live pressure gauge. It's tip-top in terms of built quality and will long outlast a plastic model, as reflected in the price-point.

The Flair 58 has an electric pre-heating element, to make it easier to achieve the higher brewing temperature that's needed for espresso. This heats the brew chamber. Be aware you will be working with hot water from your kettle and this heated metal coffee maker, albeit you need a little hot water in order to brew your shot.

The Flair 58 is one for collectors or someone who loves the ritual of preparing espresso. It's beautifully balanced and ergonomic to use.

Pros

  • Improved design compared to previous Flair models
  • Heating element helps to attain the higher temperatures needed to brew great espresso
  • Aesthetically pleasing collector's piece

Cons

  • Involved process, so one for lovers of coffee ritual

Tested

Best luxury coffee machine for espresso

SMEG BCC02 Bean To Cup Coffee MachineAmazon/Smeg

If your kitchen already has Smeg products and you're loyal to the brand, then this coffee machine is a no-brainer to add to your collection. Even if you don't own a Smeg product, this Smeg BCC02 Bean-To-Cup Coffee Machine is a great mid-range appliance which includes features like a sophisticated thermo-block heating system to allow faster switch-on times and precise water temperature control for brewing, steam and hot water. The Smeg bean-to-cup coffee machine has two options, the BCC02 with a steam wand and the BCC01 without, which is better suited for those who prefer espresso or black coffee without the bells and whistles of adding foam or hot milk.

Our review: "A mid-range bean-to-cup coffee machine the Smeg BCC02 more than delivers for a coffee aficionado looking for their daily fix. Personally, as someone who isn't that addicted to coffee, this satisfies my basic needs for a good espresso. Smeg has also released the BCCO1 bean-to-cup without the steam wand, which is definitely preferable for my needs as I barely used it during my test and retails for around £100 less.

"For the price point over £600 but less than £1,000, I'd expect a little more finesse over the materials used. Although the vintage style is Smeg's trademark, the coloured plastic does make it look a little cheaper than necessary. But the clever design of the adjustable spout, the steam wand and how easy it is to load the coffee beans I can overlook that."

Read our full review of the SMEG BCC02 Bean To Cup Coffee Machine.

Pros

  • Stylish and compact
  • Quick change between making coffee and steam
  • Removable drip tray
  • Adjustable cup volume

Cons

  • Water tank runs low quickly, and sensor light can be temperamental

Tested

Best Nespresso for espresso

Nespresso Vertuo PopNespresso
Price: £79 (was £99)

www.nespresso.com

The Nespresso Vertuo Pop retails at a very reasonable price for a high-end coffee experience. In terms of taste, it produces more flavoursome coffee because of the high-pressure technology (Centrifusion) used in the brewing process. This compact coffee machine is available in a range of vibrant colours and it's small enough to fit between appliances on a kitchen counter, or on a pedestal in the office. It's incredibly energy efficient and produces excellent coffee at the press of a button with no mess.

Our review: "I call the Vertuo Pop the 'Crema of the Cup'. The thick frothy top you get on these decadent coffees is incredible. If you are a coffee lover, I highly recommend trying coffee from the Nespresso Vertuo range. Other benefits that the machine offers include: speed, ease of use, no mess and compact size. Nespresso offers a premium customer journey in every way. I greatly enjoy curating my coffee experience and feeling like a connoisseur. There are nods to Italian café culture in the names of the blends and language used to describe the preparation and cup size. The provenance of the beans and the tasting notes is akin to characterising fine wine. From the brilliant simplicity of colour-coded capsules, beautiful graphics and evocative language, Nespresso's attention to detail makes every step of the coffee experience feel like a luxurious treat."

Read our full review of the Nespresso Vertuo Pop.

Pros

  • No mess with the convenient Vertuo pods
  • Quality coffee in less than a minute
  • Excellent crema and premium coffee taste

Cons

  • Only Nespresso Vertuo pod compatible

Best compact coffee machine for espresso

Nespresso Inissia, Ruby Red by KrupsAmazon/Nespresso

Heating up in just 25 seconds, this small yet powerful Nespresso Inissia, Ruby Red by Krups offers espresso and lungo-size drinks at the touch of a button. This super compact and light Nespresso machine will fit the smallest of spaces – ideal if you have a motorhome. The Inissia is made from 23.4 per cent recycled plastic. It takes Nespresso Original capsules and equivalent 44mm ESE dupes.

Customers rate the quality of coffee that they're able to brew in such a small coffee machine. They downside is that amount of coffee that a 44mm coffee pod products is less than a mug-size. If you brew the same capsule more than a couple of times it dilutes the coffee. So, this machine is great for espresso, or if you enjoy topping up your coffee with lots of milk.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Tiny machine so it takes up little space
  • Produces a thick crema

Cons

  • Produces small cup sizes of coffee only

Our Verdict: Best Espresso Coffee Machine

We recommend the Sage Barista Pro for coffee aficionados who want to enjoy the whole bean-to-cup experience. There's no doubt that the Barista Pro by Sage has all the bells and whistles you could wish for from a home coffee machine. The 4 Keys Formula guides you through the four stages of preparing espresso, from filling a precision puck, and applying 9-bar extraction pressure, to reaching extraction temperature and producing microfoam bubbles. There are video tutorials on Sage's website for a masterclass in coffee preparation. Additionally, we love Sage's Third Wave coffee initiative to promote connectedness between the farmer, the coffee journey and the consumer.

FAQs: Best Espresso Coffee Machine

How is climate change affecting coffee production?

Christian Aid has published a report on how coffee production is being affected by climate change and what changes need to be made to make coffee farming sustainable. Christian Aid's report "Wake up and smell the coffee: The climate crisis and your coffee" calls for financial support and the cancellation of debt to help small-scale coffee farmers diversify and adapt to climate change.

Coffee beans are grown in hot equatorial countries, such as Latin America, Asia and Africa. These countries are experiencing soaring temperatures and changes to rainfall, plus disease, drought and landslides. Focusing on coffee, the Christian Aid report draws on research that predicts land that's suitable for coffee production could decline by 54.4 per cent by 2100, with a consistent temperature increase of 1.5-2 degrees Celsius. Shockingly, the predicted target for global warming is 2.7 degrees Celsius. In our lifetime, a 5-degree temperature increase would result in 59.5 per cent of previously arable coffee land being lost by 2050.

The cultivation of climate-resilient crops needs to start now, as it takes at least three years for a coffee plant to come into berry. Arabica is the most common species of coffee plant but it's particularly vulnerable to blight and temperature change. Robusta is the second most common coffee plant species, with a less desirable taste, but it's hardier to disease and climate variations. Farmers are beginning to explore other coffee plant species, such as Liberica, to futureproof coffee cultivation in rising global temperatures.

How can I support sustainable coffee production?

Support small-scale sustainable farms by buying Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, and B-Corp-endorsed products. Intensive mass production results in widespread deforestation, loss of biodiversity and use of chemicals on the land.

What types of coffee beans are there?

The most well-known type of coffee bean is Arabica, accounting for 70 per cent of global coffee production. It's most likely this is what your ground coffee derives from. The oval-shaped bean is grown on mountain tops. Because of the high altitudes, with steady rainfall and shade, they take a long time to mature. This makes them develop a sweet, fruity taste and higher acidity. Arabica plants are easily affected by changes in the environment - impacting flavour and aroma.

Robusta beans rank second in worldwide coffee production. The circular-shaped Robusta bean is hardy, immune to various diseases and can thrive in a hot climate with irregular rainfall. Robusta beans have a higher amount of caffeine and a harsher flavour. Its strong taste makes it a good option for milky drinks as it stands up in flavour to sugar and lots of milk.

Liberica and Excelsa beans are less common. Liberica accounts for just two per cent of global coffee consumption. These are significantly larger beans that come from much bigger plants. The distinct flavour is characterised as smoky and fruity. It's not widely cultivated because it came close to extinction. Now there's a challenge for coffee creators.

Natalie Knowles is a Homes & Garden Product Writer for A Modern Kitchen, specialising in kitchen appliances. When she's not testing coffee machines, she flexes her creative flair as an artist.

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