Espresso is a strong, concentrated type of coffee. As well as being enjoyed as is, espressos also form the base of cappuccinos, lattes, and other popular specialty coffee drinks. Whatever your preferred coffee-based beverage, getting the espresso right at the beginning of the process ultimately determines the quality and enjoyment of the final drink, which makes buying the best espresso machine essential.
Whether you’re a purist who likes to manually press your espresso or a modernist that prefers a more uniform and automated process, there is a wide range of machines to cater to your espresso-making whims. Read on for reviews of 10 of the best.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favourites in 2022
The 10 Best Espresso Machines in the UK
1. Sage Bambino Plus – Best Overall
|Type:||Bean to Cup|
|Tank capacity:||1.9 litres|
|Dimensions:||32cm x 19.5cm x 31cm|
The Sage Bambino Plus is a bean-to-cup espresso machine. It grinds, portions, brews, and pours espresso. It also has a steaming wand, which allows you to texture and froth milk for the top of cappuccinos and other coffee drinks.
The coffee dose is controlled to a precise 19 grams and the pressure is gradually increased throughout the brewing process, allowing for greater extraction of flavour. The digital temperature control ensures that water is delivered at exactly the right temperature. Your espressos will taste the same and have the same flavour with every shot. If you do use the milk steamer, it can be used automatically or manually. Automatic operation means selecting your preferred temperature and texture. Alternatively, you can use the manual setting to create your own latte art.
The machine itself is a reasonable size and has an attractive stainless steel look. The buttons are easily identified and clearly marked, making operation easy. Although not the cheapest espresso machine option, the Sage Bambino Plus is reasonably priced for a bean-to-cup machine with the level of precision it offers.
There isn’t much wrong with the Sage Bambino Plus, hence our selection as the best available espresso machine in the UK. But, if we were to pick holes, the espresso is sometimes delivered unevenly between the two delivery funnels, which means pouring two shots at once can lead to disparity. And, because Sage uses a lot of proprietary parts, it can be expensive if something goes wrong.
2. Nespresso Essenza Mini Coffee Machine – Best Value
|Tank capacity:||0.6 litres|
|Dimensions:||8.4cm x 20.4cm x 33cm|
The Nespresso Essenza Mini Coffee Machine is a pod machine that uses Nespresso pods and is made by Krups. It is a compact design, just 9 centimetres wide, so is suitable for most kitchens, even where space is at a premium.
It is easy to add pods and to operate by replacing the pod and pressing the button for either a single espresso shot or a lungo, which is an espresso with a bit more water and ideally suited to those that prefer a milder flavour. The Nespresso Essenza Mini Coffee Machine is energy efficient, switching to an energy-saving mode after 2 minutes and automatically switching off after 9 minutes.
The low cost and ease of use make the Nespresso Essenza the best espresso machine in the UK for the money, and its space-saving design will also appeal to many potential buyers. But this is a basic machine with just two drink options, and while the machine itself is inexpensive, the purchase of Nespresso pods can prove more expensive than buying coffee beans or ground coffee.
3. Melitta F85/0-102 Barista TS Smart Coffee Machine – Premium Choice
|Tank capacity:||1.8 litres|
|Dimensions:||37.2cm x 46.7cm x 25.9cm|
The Melitta Barista TS Smart Coffee Machine is a smart bean-to-cup espresso machine with a double cup pouring feature. There are also touch controls to manage water temperature, milk, and other settings. Choose from a selection of 21 espresso-based drink options.
It is also a Bluetooth-enabled device that can be used with the Melitta Connect app. The app lets you control settings from another Bluetooth device and means that you can prepare your coffee while sitting on the sofa. There’s also a milk frother, which can be removed and placed in the fridge or for convenient washing. The smart features and touch control do make this a premium device, and it carries a premium price tag, although there are certainly more expensive coffee machines and espresso makers on the market.
Although some of the smart features are useful, such as being able to easily create and save your own coffee creations, they could be greatly improved. Even offering a Wi-Fi connection rather than a very limited Bluetooth connection would make the device smarter. However, the somewhat lacklustre smart features do not take away from the Melitta Barista TS Smart Coffee Machine, which makes flavourful drinks and has a wide variety of options and settings.
4. Gaggia Classic Pro
|Tank capacity:||2.1 litres|
|Dimensions:||24.13cm x 20.32cm x 36.07cm|
The Gaggia Classic Pro is a reimagining of the original Gaggia Classic, which was beloved by home baristas for years because it included a number of commercial, high-quality features. Further iterations of the Gaggia Classic replaced these with what was viewed as being cheaper, standard features, and the Classic lost its way in many people’s eyes.
However, the Gaggia Classic Pro goes back to its roots. It has rocker switches, a three-way solenoid valve, and a proper boiler. The one big difference between this and the original is that Gaggia has replaced the traditional steamer wand with a professional steam wand that gives total control over frothing and the texturing of milk. The Gaggia Classic Pro is, then, arguably better than the Classic was.
This is a machine aimed at the keen home barista. There are no real presets for coffee drinks and no automatic milk steaming option. The high-quality parts also mean that it is more expensive than a lot of similarly semi-automatic models, but to the purist, the extra cost is worth it.
5. Wacaco Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker
|Tank capacity:||80 millilitres|
|Dimensions:||15.6cm x 7.1cm x 6.2cm|
Useful for camping or day trips, the Wacaco Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker is a compact espresso maker that is manually operated, which means that there is no need to add batteries or charge the device before use. The machine takes ground coffee, which should be compactly tamped for the best results.
Once you’ve added coffee and hot water, a pump springs out of the side of the unit. After a few hand pumps, espresso will start to pour into your cup beneath. It can take a little getting used to because optimum results are enjoyed when you get the pump speed just right, as well as the amount of coffee and water, but once you do master the technique, it makes a surprisingly good espresso. Once you’ve brewed, it takes a few minutes to clean, and the whole thing comes apart into several pieces so that it can be thoroughly cleaned.
The device also comes with a soft carrying pouch, so it is even more suitable for camping trips, but if you want longer cups of coffee or you want to use coffee pods, you will need to buy the available accessories. The Wacaco Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker is as portable as it can be, the hand pump is surprisingly easy to use, and the espresso it produces is of very good quality once you get to grips with it.
Related Read: Our Full Review of the Wacaco Nanopresso
6. Sage Barista Express Espresso Machine
|Tank capacity:||2 litres|
|Dimensions:||33cm x 31cm x 40cm|
The Sage Barista Express Espresso Machine is a semi-automatic coffee machine that automates a lot of the process but does require some manual intervention.
The beans are ground automatically according to your grind preference, and the grounds are delivered to the filter, but you do need to tamp them yourself. While this will deter those that want something fully automatic, it does give a sense of satisfaction when you get it right, and it also allows you some control over how exactly the espresso turns out. Once tamped, the machine brews and pours the coffee before you can steam and texture the milk. Again, the milk wand is manual, but once you get the hang of frothing your own milk using the wand, it allows for a much better microfoam texture that gives a more authentic coffee shop experience.
Although more expensive than some other semi-automatic machines, the Sage Barista Express Espresso Machine is a good choice for those that want all their coffee-making apparatus in a single unit but still want to retain control over their espresso formulation. One big issue with this machine is that it uses a specific water filter in the water jug, which is only available through Sage themselves and can prove costly to replace every 3 months.
7. De’Longhi Eletta Bean To Cup Coffee Machine
|Tank capacity:||2 litres|
|Dimensions:||26cm x 46cm x 36cm|
The De’Longhi Eletta Bean To Cup Coffee Machine is a bean-to-cup coffee machine that fully automates the espresso and coffee-making process. It grinds the beans, and it also tamps, brews, and pours the coffee. If you prefer your espresso with frothed milk, the automatic milk frother also supplies textured warm milk for the top of the drink. It can make anything from espresso to cappuccino and long coffees, and the Eletta allows you to customise the different elements of the drink according to your tastes.
This is the most expensive on the list, and while the machine does have a self-cleaning function, the milk frother can be a pain to clean because you need to remove the straw and try and get in there. Overall, however, if you’re willing to put up with some extra cleaning, it does automate the process of making long coffees.
8. Sage Barista Pro Espresso Machine
|Tank capacity:||2 litres|
|Dimensions:||40.6cm x 35.4cm x 40.6cm|
The Sage Barista Pro Espresso Machine is a step up from the Sage Barista Express. It costs a little more and has most of the same basic functions. It grinds coffee, requires tamping, and it has a professional steam wand that you can use to create perfectly textured milk for the top of your coffee drinks.
Primarily where it differs, however, is in the display that it uses. While the Express has an analogue design, the Pro has a digital display and smaller buttons. This makes it easier if you have to create a series of different drinks to different requirements but may be unnecessary for a lot of home users. The other big difference is that the Pro heats up sooner than the Express, despite the latter’s name. Overall, this is a very good quality coffee machine, but for most home users, the difference between this and the Express may not be worth the extra investment.
9. De’Longhi Dedica Style
|Tank capacity:||1 litre|
|Dimensions:||32.99cm x 30.28cm x 14.9cm|
The De’Longhi Dedica Style is a decent espresso machine, but it is expensive for what you are buying. It uses a thermoblock heater rather than a proper boiler. That’s common in cheap espresso machines, but this does cost a little more. Similarly, the milk frothing wand is a Panarello wand, which isn’t as good as the professional Rancilio wand. It can be modified, but this adds to the cost, and if you are adamant that you need better quality frothy milk, it might be better to look for a different machine with a better feature.
You will also need a good supply of freshly ground coffee or a good grinder because the Dedica Style doesn’t include one of its own. However, it is a slim machine that will fit neatly on most countertops. It looks attractive, too, and it does make a decent espresso.
10. The NEO By Flair Espresso
|Tank capacity:||60 millilitres|
|Dimensions:||36.5cm x 24.21cm x 10.01cm|
The NEO By Flair Espresso is a manual espresso maker. It doesn’t require power, and doesn’t do anything other than make single shots of espresso. Add between 12–18 grams of fresh coffee grounds and 60 millilitres of water and press down on the handle. The machine will produce a shot of manually pressed espresso into the cup below. The device is small enough that it can be stowed in the cupboard and portable enough that you could take it away with you. This is a manual machine, which means that you will have to do everything from weighing and grinding the coffee to tamping it properly.
Buyer’s Guide: Finding the Best Espresso Machine in the UK
Espresso machines not only make shots of espresso but form the basis for long coffee and specialty coffee drinks like cappuccinos and lattes. As such, some of the more advanced and feature-rich espresso makers have features like milk frothers and automatic settings that enable you to create your own milky coffee drinks at home.
Espresso Machine Type
Choosing the right machine depends on whether you fancy yourself as a home barista and would benefit from a manual machine that allows the customisation and altering of various settings, or if you just want as close an approximation to a coffee shop coffee without the hassle.
The most common types of espresso machines are:
- Manual Espresso Machines – Manual espresso machines may be powered but are often manual. Some form of pump or press needs to force water through the ground coffee to create pressure and extract the flavour and aroma from the grounds. Hand pumps and hand presses are common. These are a good option for those that travel or can’t guarantee that they will have access to power. But it can take a lot of practice to dial in the volume of coffee, amount of water, and even the amount of pressure applied while squeezing or pressing the machine. Some are not for the faint hearted because they can take a lot of work to press a single shot of espresso.
- Bean-to-Cup Machines – At the other end of the espresso machine scale is the bean-to-cup machine. These definitely require power, and they will, in most cases, do everything from grinding coffee beans to frothing and adding milk. Bean-to-cup machines may also be referred to as automatic espresso machines. For a true bean-to-cup espresso machine, you don’t need a milk frother, but if the reason you want to make espresso is to add frothed milk and make your own cappuccinos, you will need this, too.
- Semi-Automatic Machines – Semi-automatic machines fall somewhere between manual and bean-to-cup machines. Typically, they require that you either tamp the coffee yourself, froth the coffee yourself, or both. However, the machine will still heat the water and pass it through the coffee grounds. These allow some degree of control, and it can take a little getting used to the manual elements of the espresso making process.
- Pod/Capsule – The pod or capsule machine is relatively new, at least in comparison to traditional espresso machines. You typically have to buy a pod that is compatible with your machine, but once you have the pod, you insert it into the machine, ensure there’s water in the tank, and then press the button and the machine will do the rest for you.
Some of the features you will want to consider when buying an espresso machine are:
The fresher your coffee, the better you can make it taste. As well as avoiding commercially-packaged ground coffee from supermarkets, this means grinding your own beans and ensuring that they were roasted as recently as possible. Some machines have a grinder and may even measure the weight of coffee to ensure that you get a uniform amount each time. Otherwise, if you want to benefit from the freshness of coffee beans, you will need to invest in a separate grinder.
Frothed or textured milk is used to make everything from macchiato to cappuccino and latte. Those machines that do include a milk frother can include either an automatic milk frother or a frothing wand. An automatic frother warms and adds air bubbles to the milk before adding it to your coffee. A wand fires bubbles of hot air. You place the wand in the milk to introduce texture and to create a foam. Once you have the hang of using a wand, it does produce better results, but it takes more time and effort.
Consider the capacity of the water tank. Manual and portable machines will typically only hold enough water for a single espresso, or up to about 60 millilitres. Large machines can hold as much as 2 litres or more, but they may also use water to dispense steam for the milk frother and for cleaning cycles. If there are several of you using the machine and you have more than one cup a day, a large tank means that you won’t have to refill it too often.
An espresso is a short, intense shot of coffee, but it is also used to make most of the popular coffee-based drinks that we enjoy from coffee shops and cafes. The better the quality and taste of the espresso, the better tasting the resulting coffee will be. Above, we have included reviews of 10 of the best espresso machines in the UK so that you can find the one that fulfills your needs.
The Sage Bambino Plus is an excellent machine that heats up in next to no time and has a frother that can be used manually or automatically and is the best overall machine. The Nespresso Essenza Coffee Machine is the best espresso machine for the money, and it is not only cheap but small enough to fit most worktops and a good choice for those that want the uniformity and ease of a capsule or pod machine.
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Featured Image Credit: Tyler Nix, Unsplash
Table of Contents
- A Quick Comparison of Our Favourites in 2022
- The 10 Best Espresso Machines in the UK
- 1. Sage Bambino Plus – Best Overall
- 2. Nespresso Essenza Mini Coffee Machine – Best Value
- 3. Melitta F85/0-102 Barista TS Smart Coffee Machine – Premium Choice
- 4. Gaggia Classic Pro
- 5. Wacaco Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker
- 6. Sage Barista Express Espresso Machine
- 7. De’Longhi Eletta Bean To Cup Coffee Machine
- 8. Sage Barista Pro Espresso Machine
- 9. De’Longhi Dedica Style
- 10. The NEO By Flair Espresso
- Buyer’s Guide: Finding the Best Espresso Machine in the UK