Caffeine Corral: The 10 Best Espresso Machines

Mar 17, 2016

Category: Tech

Sit down, settle in, and get your pinkies out, it is time to talk about the best espresso machines on the market. These are for anyone that just doesn’t get the jump start they need from regular coffee. While a decent machine is costly, any serious caffeine junkie that is grinding up and mainlining their beans knows that it will pay for itself in a few months if it stops you from slammin’ your espresso from the chic java shop around the corner. Whether you want to cut down on cost or simply have more control over your coffee, one of these will take care of you, so take a sip to calm the shakes and read The List.

De'Longhi EC155

De’Longhi EC155

Do you know a poor college student who needs to get jolted awake every morning or pull all-nighters before final exams? Then this is the perfect affordable espresso machine. Coming in just a hair under $100 it is the only bargain option if you want your coffee to kick. It’s a semi-automatic pump machine, so it makes real espresso rather than just pumping out lies like a steam machine. It can give you a relatively strong cup or froth to make lattes or cappuccinos for those that care about the lining of their stomach. Very, very basic but surprisingly good for the price. [Purchase]

Nespresso C60 Pixie 0

Nespresso C60 Pixie

The Pixie uses a minimal footprint at minimum cost so it can be mounted inside of your RV or wired into the backseat of your Escalade for those long nights when you need a little bump to keep the party going and no one on your crew is holding a bindle. It warms up in about half a minute, so there is virtually no wait time. It has buttons for espresso and lungo depending on your mood. The 24 ounce reservoir means lots of refilling and there are some issues with splashing, so it might ruin your phone if you leave it next to the machine, but since the Pixie only costs $200, you can afford to replace it. Ideal for caf-head on the go, though you’ll be stuck relying on Nespresso pods for your coffee. [Purchase]

Nespresso Citiz

Nespresso Citiz

Nespresso puts the “express” in espresso. They also make horrible, inaccurate puns. This is the best basic automatic option for those that want a little more than the Pixie has to offer, but aren’t ready to start pulling their own. This little machine is sexy, effective, and low-maintenance. Fill it up, pop in the pod, and press the button. All you need to do to keep it clean is run a hot flush and toss the used pods. No backflushing or descaling necessary. Like almost all Nespresso products, you’ll be relying on Nespresso pods, but that’s a minimal sacrifice for decent coffee quickly. Costs around $300 with attached milk frother. [Purchase]

Gaggia 14101 Classic

Gaggia 14101 Classic

The Gaggia Classic is the first step between espresso machines and true espresso makers. It comes with a marine-grade brass grouphead and portafilters for better temperature control. It also has a steam wand that does a yeoman’s job of whipping your milk smooth and frothing it into a creamy head. It isn’t quite as simplistic as cheaper machines since it uses a larger 72 ounce reservoir and stainless-steel filter basket that accommodates both single and double shots, but it still won’t suck up half your morning warming up or pumping out a straight shot, latte, or cap in just a few minutes. Expect to pay $400 thanks to the extra bells and whistles. [Purchase]

Breville BES860XL Barista Express

Breville BES860XL Barista Express

The Express will run you $600 bills, but it comes with its own burr grinder, which easily makes up for the higher price tag. This is one of the most comprehensive and customizable semi-automatics you will find. You can alter the grind size and amount as well as change the shot size to suit your personal tastes. This allows you to make a cup with personalized potency without sapping too much time. The heating system is a 1450W stainless steel thermocoil operation that keeps your espresso consistent no matter how much you adjust your settings. [Purchase]

Rancilio Silvia

Rancilio Silvia

Said by aficionados to be the only one under $1,000 that any respectable person could have in their home without being burned at the stake. Silvia or “Miss Silvia” as she is known to many, is a semi-auto, but don’t hate her for it. She acts as the foundation for a whole system. Add in a quality grinder and attach a PID (Proportional-Integral-Derivative) temperature control and maybe some aftermarket cleaning brushes and the girl will burble and percolate pure, concentrated, caffeinated magic just for you. At $700, she’s a bit costly, but once you whip up a cup that makes your eyes roll back in your head, you’ll forget all about the money. [Purchase]

Breville BES900XL Dual Boiler

Breville BES900XL Dual Boiler

A dual boiler at last, a dual boiler at last, thank God almighty a dual boiler at last. Naturally, as soon as the prices jump, the machines get serious. The BES900XL runs at just a hair over $1,000, but when it has dual stainless steel boilers as well as dual Italian pumps so you can double-fist it with espresso extraction and steaming, you must spare no expense. The pressure is regulated with the over-pressure valve, and the heated group head combined with the heat exchanger keep the temperature even from start to finish. Mixing the perfect shot volume and temperature is easy as pushing buttons, and the swivel foot makes cleaning simple. [Purchase]

Pasquini Livia 90

Pasquini Livia 90

Professional grade in a consumer-sized package. The Livia 90 is the semiautomatic that broke the mold. It is a true heat exchanger, dual boiler so your shots and blends are done flawlessly. It is the perfect machine for the bookstore owner or internet cafe entrepreneur that needs to add a high-quality coffee component to their business. It has high volume output and is made entirely from true Italian commercial parts so the espresso is without equal for a consumer model. The price tag is a bit steep at $2,000, but if it can bring in more customers drawn by its aroma Italiano, then the expense is well worth it. [Purchase]

Saeco Xelsis Digital ID

Saeco Xelsis Digital ID

Tired of machines that are dumber than you are? Well, then look no further than the Xelsis. This is espresso pulling for the 21st century. First, you scan and store your fingerprints in the machine so that it knows who you are. It can hold up to 6 profiles, so if you have a whole household that can’t function without java, each one can have their own setting. Within each profile the individual can have nine pre-set beverages so they can either get a little sipping latte or the full synapse-scorching espresso experience. In addition to the high-tech settings, it has an integrated milk function, ceramic grinder, and all the best accessories. You’ll pay about $3,200 for it, but face it, you need coffee more than your kids need dental work. [Purchase]

La Marzocco Mistral

La Marzocco Mistral

Why put a down payment on a home when you can make a professional-grade cup of joe? The Mistral is designed by Kees van der Westen, often considered the only name that matters when it comes to espresso. It is hand constructed and comes in semi-automatic, fully automatic, or manual depending on your desire. It has a double boiler for consistency in your blend, a steam wand, cup warmer, and PID temperature control. While it says “professional,” even an amateur can pull a great cup from it with ease. [Purchase]

La Pavoni Stradivari La Romantica SGR

Honorable Mention: La Pavoni Stradivari La Romantica SGR

The La Romantica is only for the classical purist. If someone claims their automatic machine can make real espresso and you challenge them to a duel to the death, then the La Romantica should sit on your counter. It is a true manual pull lever machine where each cup is as unique as the person on the stick. You’ll pay $1,200 to $1,500 for this work of art, though it does come with the added irritation of telling your former barista to stop coming to your house every morning for coffee. Anyone who believes they “don’t make them like they used to” has never put their hands to a Romantica. [Purchase]

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