Choosing the Best Home Espresso Machine and Cappuccino Maker for Your Needs
Like many others, you landed on this website because you have come to prefer the strong taste of a cappuccino much more than a regular cup of coffee and want to find the best espresso machine for your home.
An espresso machine works by brewing thick, concentrated coffee by forcing hot, pressurized water through a stack of ground coffee and filter.
Our goal with this website is to help you find the best home espresso machine for your needs.
If you’re looking to get into home brewing for the first time or just want some recommendations on buying a new espresso machine, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll help you find the best cappuccino maker that fits your taste and budget.
Below, you’ll find this free guide divided into four parts:
- A Quick Introduction to Espresso Machines
- The Best Espresso Machine Reviews
- Important Features Regarding Home Espresso Machines
- Common Questions and Answers
A Quick Introduction to Espresso Machines
Unlike a coffee maker (which uses a dripping mechanism to brew a cup of joe) an espresso machine works instead by forcing very hot water through finely ground coffee known as a “puck.” This process causes the liquid to become thicker than regular coffee. In the end, this cappuccino also forms froth, known as “crema,” on top of the drink as a result of emulsifying the oils in the coffee into a colloid.
A fact that many people get backwards is that an espresso shot actually has less caffeine than cup of coffee (40-75 mg as compared to 80-185 mg.) If daily caffeine intake is a concern to you, then an espresso machine is a great investment.
Finally, when trying to find the best home espresso maker for your needs, you’re going to have to consider what type of drive mechanism you want it to use to make the beverage. Not all espresso machines operate in the same way, and the strength and taste of the drink is affected by the operation it uses to produce it.
For further explanation about the device drive mechanism, keep reading below.
The Best Espresso Machine Reviews
#1 Best Home Espresso Machine:
KRUPS EA8250 Espresseria
While the $640 super-automatic KRUPS EA8250 Espresseria may seem like a big investment, but you won’t regret it. This amazing espresso machine will last a lifetime and give you the best tasting cappuccino with minimum work required on your part. By combining a bean grinder, brewer, and self-cleaner all in one unit, you’ll brew delicious cups of espresso from bean to the cup at the touch of a button with no clean up. Hands down, it’s one of the best cappuccino makers for the money and that’s why it’s ranked at the top of our espresso machine reviews.
Customer Rating: 4.5 stars
#2 Best Cappuccino Maker:
Gaggia 14101 Classic Espresso Machine
For $350, this top of the line semi-automatic Gaggia 14101 machine gives you to power to brew a single- or double- shot espresso. With sleek stainless steel housing it looks beautiful in any kitchen and is perfect for anyone who wants control over output and quality of each cup.
Customer Rating: 4 stars
#3 Top Pick:
The $160 Nespresso CitiZ is a great automatic espresso maker for anyone who wants a great tasting cup of espresso but doesn’t want to spend a lot of money. With its compact design it can fit in the smallest kitchen. Also by using coffee capsules, it’s a mess free device and one of the best espresso machines under $200.
Customer Rating: 4.8 stars
Important Features Regarding Home Espresso Machines
As we mentioned earlier in this post, home espresso makers utilize several different drive mechanisms to produce the cappuccino.
While there are actually four main types of espresso machines, for home use you really only need to be concerned with two:
- Steam-Driven Espresso Machine
This device is very attractive to many consumers because of the low price ($30-$70). But, it’s important that you know that instead of making real espresso, it actually just produces very strong coffee.A steam-driven machine works by forcing stteam pressure through the coffee grounds to make the beverage. Because the temperature of steam and pressure is inconsistent, it’s impossible to generate thick crema.If you’re serious about brewing a cup of espresso, we suggest that you not buy this type of machine. However, for the budget conscious consumer who wants a stronger cup of coffee, your best bet is this steam-driven Mr. Coffee ECM160 machine for under $40 on Amazon.
- Pump-Driven Espresso Machine
For making real espresso, this is the type of device you want.This espresso machine makes a true cappuccino by pumping water from the boiler and forcing it through the coffee puck. When you walk into a coffee house that serves espresso, this is the type of machine you’ll see.There are several variations in a pump-driven espresso maker:
- Semi-Automatic: This is the most popular pump-driven espresso machines among enthusiasts. Home brewers love this device because the quality of each cup is controlled by the you. You also control the amount of pump. It does not come with a coffee bean grinder, so you’ll have to grind and tamp them into the portafilter yourself. The best semi-automatic machine we recommend for a great mix of value and price is the Gaggia 14101 Classic Espresso Machine for around $350.
- Automatic: This type of machine is great for people who want a easy solution for a cup of self-brewed espresso without having to get their hands dirty. The pump controls itself with the push of a button and coffee is supplied in a pod or capsule form. The only drawback to this device is that you are limited to the flavor selections by the manufacturer. If this appeals to you we highly recommend the Nespresso CitiZ for around $160.
- Super Automatic: This is the top of the line, best home espresso machine. People are most attracted to this machine because it does everything for you: stores the beans, grindsthem, brews and self-cleans. Just choose a few settings, hit a button and let it go. The most expensive units also contain a built-in milk frother. If you want an espresso machine that is hassle free, yet produces a high quality beverage, then this is your best option. We suggest you go with the KRUPS EA8250 Espresseria for around $640.
How do I know if I have good crema?
A high quality cappuccino is one that has a great crema. The crema is the foam that forms on top of the espresso. In order to find out if you’re brewin a cup with great crema, use the “Island test.”
This simple test will instantly tell you if your espresso machine is producing a good crema. Just sprinkle a little bit of sugar on top of the beverage and watch what happens. In low quality espresso, the sugar will immediately dissolve. In a high quality cappuccino, the sugar dissolve slowly below the crema.
What type of water should I use with my machine?
Not many people know this but the type of water you use in your cappuccino maker will make it or break it (literally) as well as affect the taste.
You may think that it is safest to use distilled water (which lacks minerals), but in fact, a good tasting espresso actually requires some mineral deposits in the water to make it taste best. Distilled water will cause your cappuccino to taste rather flat and shouldn’t be used.
On the other hand, some tap water has too much mineral content and can therefore cause your device to build up mineral deposits very quickly. If your machine is not cleaned regularly due to the hard ward content, you may end up breaking your machine.
The best option for water to use in your espresso device is bottled drinking water or spring water. These types of water usually have the best balance of mineral content for a great tasting cup of espresso and a longer maintenance cleaning schedule.
If the machine is plumbed you’ll definitely want to add a water softener if your tap water has a high mineral content. The ideal situation is for your water to have an approximate hardness of 7-8° dH and a neutral pH balance. Check out this First Alert WT1 Drinking Water Test Kit for $11 on Amazon.com in order to find the right balance.
How often should I clean my espresso maker?
Regardless of the type of water you use in your espresso maker, you will need to descale/decalcify it regularly. As we mentioned above, if you have hard water this maintenance schedule will become more frequent so you don’t break your machine.
A good rule of thumb is to clean your device every 2-3 months. If you have a super-automatic machine that has a digital alert to notify you for when to do this, it makes things easier. For those of you who do not, just mark our calendar in advance.
By descaling/decalcifying your appliance you are removing any mineral and calcium build up. If you neglect this process and too much of this builds up it can destroy your machine. Descaling and decalcifying your machine on a regular basis will keep your machine running smoothly for years to come, because removing limescale build-up allows your machine to maintain constant brew and steam pressure.
And, remember… never use use vinegar to descale espresso machines. Only use a descaling agent as suggested by the manufacturers.
We hope this guide has helped you figure out what the best home espresso machine is for your needs. While there are some key elements to consider when finding the best cappuccino maker for your tastes, it should be a lot easier now that you’ve read this information.
Continue browsing through our website to find the best espresso machine reviews for all types of products!