The best coffee machines for a barista-like experience at home
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 a satisfying 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.
Coffee machines allow you 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 coffee machines vary from £25 to £2,000, and can be compact models or showstopper features 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.
We've chosen machine from each category, but for more information read the full guides for best coffee pod machines, best espresso machines and best bean-to-cup machines. Treat yourself to the full experience and serve your coffee in one of our favourite espresso cups and coffee mugs.
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- Best coffee machines at a glance
- Types of coffee machine
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- How to choose the best coffee machine
- How we tested coffee machines
- Best modern classic: Gaggia New Classic espresso machine, £489
- Best mid-range espresso machine: SMEG ECF01 home espresso machine, £259
- Most stylish espresso machine: De’Longhi Dedica EC685.M manual espresso maker, £179.99
Coffee pod machines
- Best for speciality coffee and variety: Morning Coffee Machine, £349
- Best blowout coffee pod machine: Grind One, £295
- Best speciality coffee pod machine: Opal One coffee pod machine, £123.90
Bean-to-cup coffee machines
- Best for cold brew: De'longhi Eletta Explore, £900
- Best for versatility: Jura Z10, £1,920
- Best bean-to-cup machine for contemporary style: Smeg BCC02 bean-to-cup coffee machine, £699.95
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.
Espresso machines: The closest you’ll get to 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.
Coffee pod 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 eco-friendly pods.
Bean-to-cup coffee machines: These coffee 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.
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.
Gaggia New Classic espresso machine
Best modern classic
Star rating: 5/5
If you're looking for an espresso machine that carries legacy as much as style, Gaggia's Classic effortlessly denotes quality and expertise. Made in Italy, its trio of rocker switches and steel outer case hide the trappings of a state-of-the-art machine for home use, including a solenoid valve for controlling water temperature. All the accessories are also professional grade.
SMEG ECF01 espresso machine
Best mid-range espresso machine
Star rating: 5/5
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
Most stylish espresso machine
Star rating: 4.5/5
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.
Morning Coffee Machine
- Available from Morning, £349
Best for speciality coffee and variety
Star rating: 5/5
Released in 2022, the Morning coffee pod machine is one of the first of its kind equipped with the precision controls needed to get the best from a host of coffee varieties and roasts. It brings intricate features from professional espresso machines into the capsule style, measuring the extracted coffee in grams rather than ml, allowing for adjustable water temperature, bar pressure and coffee quantities. Ten pre-set coffee functions are on offer including a drip function for iced coffee, selectable using its touchscreen frontage and spinning outer rim. It's also Bluetooth and WiFi compatible.
Grind One coffee pod machine
- Available from Grind, £275
Best blowout coffee pod machine
Star rating: 5/5
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.
Opal One coffee pod machine
- Available from Origin Coffee (£142.95)
Best speciality coffee pod machine
Star rating: 4.5/5
This machine is very easy to use, with three buttons at the head of the machine for a short, normal or lungo espresso. It's sleek and modern in design which would fit well in a minimal or monochrome kitchen. We tested the machine using regular Nespresso pods, for which it's compatible, as well as with speciality coffee pods. This is where it really shines, and the espresso from the Gesha pods from Colonna Coffee which we tried had a notably thick crema and nicely balanced acidity.
De'Longhi Eletta Explore
Best for cold brew
Star rating: 5/5
Many bean-to-cup coffee machines have the capability to make iced drinks, but this model from De'Longhi stands out from the crowd with its specially designed cold brew technology. We used it to make a cold brew cappuccino which was nicely balanced between the creamy texture and strong flavour, perfectly refreshing on a warm day. Despite its large footprint, the machine looks sleek, with an easy-to-use touch screen that walks you through the process of making your drink.
Smeg BCC02 bean-to-cup coffee machine
Best bean-to-cup for contemporary style
Star rating: 5/5
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 Smeg BCC02 bean-to-cup coffee machine review.
Best for versatility
Star rating: 5/5
This machine earned its five-star credentials partially due to its versatility. It boasts the ability to make 32 drinks, which are further customisable through elements like strength and brew time. While it might have as many choices as your local coffee shop, you don't need barista-level skills to make an excellent coffee with this machine. It does the basics well, producing a nicely-balanced espresso with thick crema, but the iced cappuccino was what really impressed on test as it was packed with flavour with a refreshing creaminess.
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.
Cold brewing capabilities
A cold brew or iced coffee can make a refreshing alternative in warmer months. We're now seeing more automatic coffee machines offer cold brewing technology to cater to cold brew lovers.
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.
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.
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
For coffee gifts and accessory guides, read on:
Best coffee gifts
Best coffee mugs
Best coffee subscriptions
Best coffee gadgets and accessories
How to store coffee
How to order coffee
How to use up coffee grounds
How to read a coffee label
How to taste coffee