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Best coffee machines guide

The best coffee machines to try at home for a barista-like experience

Bean-to-cup, espresso or coffee pod? We explain the difference and how to choose the best coffee machine for your requirements.

For those partial to a cup of coffee, the aroma of freshly brewed espresso is the best way to start the day, or keep you going all day long. A home coffee machine is one way to not only save money on expensive coffee shop prices, but also the unnecessary wastage of reusable cups.

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Espresso machines are a great way to brew professional-style espresso topped with silky crema at home; the staple which forms the basis of most coffee shop classics.

Whether you want fully-automated convenience and coffee at the touch of a button, or the gratifying connection to your cup of coffee that comes with a hands-on machine, there are lots of coffee machines to choose from. Prices of espresso machines vary from £25 to £2,000, and can be compact models or stalwarts of your countertop. There’s no point in paying for sophisticated personalisation features if all you’re after is a delicious americano, or dedicating half your surface to a machine that won’t get used.

So, with this in mind, we’ve rounded up our tried and tested favourite coffee machines to help you make great coffee at home.

Treat yourself to the full experience and serve your coffee in one of our favourite espresso cups and coffee mugs.


Types of coffee machines

The type of machine you buy will depend on the type of coffee you drink, priorities, budget, space available and level of personalisation desired. The more you pay, the greater the personalisation options you’ll likely have.

Bean-to-cup: These espresso machines are fully-automated. They grind freshly roasted whole beans and the grinding, dosing and tamping are all done at the touch of a button. You can usually make two drinks at a time, they often have sophisticated customisation settings available and you can save your drink preferences. Some even have apps and wifi connectivity which means you can set the machine to make your coffee while you’re still lying in bed.

Coffee pod espresso machines: These accommodate pre-prepared coffee pods which provide a mess-free espresso. The machines themselves are relatively affordable, starting around £30, but the pods themselves can be expensive and difficult to recycle, unless you buy biodegradable versions.

Ground coffee espresso machines: The closest you’ll get to espresso machines in a coffee house. These use ground coffee and have portafilters that you lock in place. You’ll likely need to tamper and tap out the grounds yourself with these machines which adds a satisfying hands-on experience. Providing its the right grind level, you can also switch up the coffee you use. Manual pump espresso machines are the most experiential of all, harnessing your own strength to apply enough pressure to produce espresso, rather than being plugged into the mains.

Filter coffee machines: These machines are a different beast, not requiring any power and generally taking longer than espresso machines. Comprising just a filter, coffee and hot water, the brewed coffee drips into a jug.


How to choose the best coffee machine

There are specific features to consider before you buy your coffee machine.

Milk steam wand
If you like milky coffee drinks like lattes and cappuccinos, a milk steaming wand should be on your list of features to look for. Some higher-value machines include a stainless steel milk jug specifically for this, but if not, we’d recommend investing in one.

Single cup and double cup functionality
It can be convenient to be able to make two cups of coffee at the same time, particularly in busy households.

Single and double espresso filter baskets
Ground coffee espresso makers should offer single and double espresso filter baskets for swapping into the portafilter.

Coffee grind personalisation
Customisation over how fine coffee can be ground is an excellent way to tailor your coffee to your own tastes. For example, fine-ground coffee is perfect for espresso.

Adjustable drip trays
This will enable the machine to accommodate your favourite mug, however broad or tall it is.

Water hardness adjustability
This is a sophisticated feature that the best coffee machines should all have, as water hardness can affect the taste of the espresso. Areas of hard water are also more prone to the build-up of limescale so machines may need more maintenance.

Self-clean functions
These can be anything from a self-purge cycle to simply an automatic steam wand clean after every use. Combined with the habitual efforts of wiping the steam wand after every use, you will prolong the life of your espresso machine.


Best coffee machines and coffee makers

Best espresso machines

  • Best mid-range espresso machine: SMEG ECF01 home espresso machine, £319
  • Most stylish espresso machine: De’Longhi Dedica EC685.M manual espresso maker, £180
  • Best espresso machine for adventures: Wacaco Minipresso GR espresso maker, £240
  • Best mid-range buy for simplicity: Sage Bambino Plus espresso maker, £399.95

Discover our full guide to the best espresso machines

Best coffee pod machine 

  • Best blowout coffee pod machine: Grind One, £275
  • Best basic coffee pod machine: Lavazza Jolie, £79
  • Best coffee pod machine for retro style: Lavazza A Modo Mio SMEG, £199
  • Best for energy efficiency: Illy ESE pod machine, £115
  • Best for versatility: Nespresso Vertuo Next, £149

Discover our full guide to the best coffee pod machines

Best bean-to-cup coffee machines

  • Best bean-to-cup machine for contemporary style: Smeg BCC02 bean-to-cup coffee machine, £679.95
  • Best bean-to-cup espresso machine: Sage Oracle Touch espresso machine, £1,999.95
  • Best smart bean-to-cup coffee machine: Smarter Coffee Machine, £179
  • Best mid-range bean-to-cup coffee machine: Delonghi La Specialista Maestro bean to cup coffee machine, £999.99
  • Best bean-to-cup machine for adjustable aroma intensity: Gaggia Milano Magenta Milk, £599

Discover our full guide to the best bean-to-cup coffee machines


Best coffee machines and coffee makers

SMEG ECF01 espresso machine, £319

Score: 5/5 stars

SMEG ECF01CRUK espresso machine in cream

Best mid-range espresso machine
Unmistakably SMEG in its design, this espresso machine is deceptively simple. Behind its trio of buttons lies the option to tailor everything from coffee quantity and automatic shut-off timings to the water temperature. Its milk steamer wand is also incredibly efficient. Read our full SMEG ECF01 espresso machine review.

De’Longhi Dedica EC685.M manual espresso maker, £180

Score: 4.5/5

De'Longhi Dedica EC685.B espresso machine

Most stylish espresso machine
De’Longhi is responsible for making some modern-day classics of the coffee machine world and its Dedica is quietly confident, packing 15-bars of brew pressure into the diminutive 14cm x 33cm footprint. At just under £200, it’s excellent value for money for the quality of espresso generated, if not a little unstable for warming your espresso cups. Read our full De’Longhi Dedica EC685.M espresso machine review.

Wacaco Minipresso GR espresso maker, £36.90

Score 4.5/5

Wacaco Minipresso GR espresso maker

Best espresso machine for adventures
The quality of espresso this hand-sized espresso maker produces rivals the most expensive bean-to-cup machines. Its components stack and twist together with a water chamber at the bottom and then pump manually into the integrated espresso cup. At just under £40, it’s one of the most affordable espresso machines on the market and one of our ultimate favourite coffee gadgets. Read our full Wacaco MiniPresso GR espresso maker review.

Buy from Wacaco (£36.90)


Sage Bambino Plus espresso maker, £399.95

Score 4.5/5

Sage The Bambino Plus SES500BSS espresso machine

Best mid-range buy for simplicity

Sage delivers on the style and quality front with its gadgets, known for its brushed-metal bodies and rocket-fuel espressos. With an efficient steam wand and intuitive button display, the Bambino is a reliable espresso maker to keep proudly on the countertop. Read our full Sage Bambino plus espresso maker review.


Smeg BCC02 bean-to-cup coffee machine, £679.95

Score: 5/5 stars 

Smeg BCC02 bean to cup coffee machine in red

Best bean-to-cup for contemporary style

Not only does Smeg’s new bean-to-cup coffee machine carry the rounded lines, matte colour shades and statement style that’s synonymous with its iconic 1950s designs, it’s also the smallest of all the bean-to-cup coffee machines tested. The compact footprint makes it a convenient choice for homes with limited countertop space, but it should be a top choice for anyone looking for a bean-to-cup for a few reasons. The controls consist of four buttons from which eight functions are selectable. The single espresso is dark, packed with flavour and aroma, and topped with a swirling crema. Its milk steam wand is also efficient. Read our full review of the Smeg BCC02 bean-to-cup coffee machine.


Sage Oracle Touch espresso machine, £1,999.95

Score: 5/5 stars

Sage Oracle Touch espresso machine

Best bean-to-cup espresso machine
If you have the budget to invest in a premium machine, then Sage is a sophisticated, brushed-steel number that’ll please coffee connoisseurs and beginner baristas alike. It combines full automation over the grinding, dosing and tamping of grounds with 11 present coffee-house classics, while leaving the drinker to load the portafilter and steam the milk. If you’re keen to experiment, elements like grind level, milk temperature and froth level are also adjustable. Read our full Sage Oracle Touch espresso maker review.


Grind One espresso pod machine, £275

Score: 5/5 stars 

Grind One coffee machine

Best blowout coffee pod machine

This model oozes industrial elegance, offering a remarkably hands-on experience for a coffee pod machine. Its small boxy design has a diminutive presence on the countertop and yet, it still steals attention, protected by a stainless steel outer. Its cup warmer is practical, the drip tray manually adjustable thanks to a series of notches and, once the coffee cap is locked in by the lowering of its handle, it produces rich, crema-topped espresso.

Grind, £275


Lavazza Jolie, £79

Score: 4.5/5 stars

Lavazza A Modo Mio Jolie

Best basic coffee pod machine

If you’re looking for a small, neatly styled coffee pod machine that does the basics well and won’t break the bank, the Lavazza Jolie is a reliable option. It’s been around for a couple of years and still matches up against newer, flashier models, producing flavour-packed espressos and lungo coffees at the touch of the (only) button. Affordably, it also hovers just under £80.


Nespresso Vertuo Next, £149

Score: 4.5/5 stars

Nespresso Vertuo Next coffee machine

Best for versatility

When it comes to coffee technology, Nespresso’s Vertuo machine is innovative. Each pod is marked with a barcode on its underside that tells the machine how much water to brew. Unlike any other espresso pod machine, it even tops its filter coffees with a thick crema, which is not as silky as those on traditional espressos, but still flavourful and aesthetically pleasing. The variety as well as the coffee quality impressed.


Smarter Coffee Machine, £179

Score: 5/5 stars

Smarter Coffee machine with smartphone

Best smart bean-to-cup coffee machine
Rather than focusing on producing short, dark espressos, the Smarter Coffee Machine comes with a glass carafe and measures its coffee settings from four cups (equates to 500ml so two mugs) to 12 cups rather than shots – making it a great option for larger quantities. The strength is adjustable, but the thing that makes this one special is its smart-home capabilities for connecting and controlling it remotely through an app. The front panels are also changeable for customisation of its design. Read our full Smarter Coffee Machine review.


De’Longhi La Specialista Maestro bean to cup coffee machine, £999.99

Score: 5/5 stars

Delonghi La Specialista Maestro bean to cup espresso machine

Best mid-range bean-to-cup coffee machine
This is another espresso machine which combines full automation with useful range of personalisation features. It makes a refreshing change from the traditional box design of bean-to-cup machines, instead offering control of the espresso portafilter and milk steam wand. It’s a great pick if you’re after reliably good espresso with room for experimentation. Read our full De’Longhi La Specialista Maestro review.


Gaggia Magenta Plus espresso machine, £599

Score: 4/5 stars

Gaggia Magenta bean to cup espresso machine

Best bean-to-cup for adjustable intensity

When it came to flavour, the espresso this Gaggia created was some of the richest we tested. It’s a sleek machine, finished with statement red detailing which makes it stand out nicely on the countertop. But beyond the design is great usability. The coffee spout is height-adjustable, as is coffee temperature, quantity and grind-size. It arrives with a 500g bag of beans which is a nice touch. Read our full Gaggia Magenta Plus review.


Breville Barista Max, £349

Score: 4.5/5 stars

Breville Barista Max espresso machine

Best affordable bean-to-cup espresso machine

Requiring little set up beyond the attachment of its bean hopper and coming in at just under £400, Breville’s Barista Max is an approachable espresso machine that has most of the trimmings of a professional bean-to-cup. Inside you’ll find an accessories storage tray along with a multitude of cleaning tools. A stainless jug for steaming milk is also included. Read our full Breville Barista Max review.


How we tested coffee machines

This all depends on the type of coffee machine, but at the centre of our tests was the following core criteria:

Performance: The flavour, aroma and temperature of the coffee needed to be enjoyable, so every coffee and espresso function was tested to assess this. Bitterness, acidity or weakness were scored down.

Value for money: Its performance and versatility play into this one. These appliances may be one of the largest investments you make for your kitchen, so the price must feel right.

Ease of use: All were scored from unboxing, so they needed to be simple to unpack with easy-to-follow instructions. When the variety of settings is so broad, intuitive controls make the experience fun. Everything from milk-wand range of motion to adjustable drip trays and access for refilling the water tank and bean hoppers were considered here.

Convenience: is one of the biggest selling points for buying a bean-to-cup espresso machine so any fussing around with parts affected scoring.

Quantity of materials: Flimsy build-materials don’t warrant a high price tag and make things difficult to clean. They also affect the longevity of an appliance’s life.

Design and aesthetic for keeping on the countertop: Bean-to-cup machines are generally very deep and broad, so a good design plays into this.

The average scores out of five decided each product’s overall star rating. The additional criteria also played into our decision-making.

  • Variety of functions
  • Kitchen footprint
  • Ease of cleaning
  • Advanced features
  • Packaging

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