Wednesday, Feb 28, 2024

Best Espresso Machines for Home Use.

If you've been trawling the web trying to figure out which are the best espresso machines in the UK or which espresso machine is best for home use, I'm about to end that search for you. That may seem like a bold statement, but it's one I strongly believe.

You'll probably be very happy to hear that what you're about to read is NOT yet another list of options, all of which are apparently the best espresso machines, leaving you to read between the lines to figure out which might be the best choice for you, and not really giving you that much help.

What you are about to read begins with a very simple guide that will lead you to discover exactly what kind of espresso machine you're really looking for, to narrow down the search & make things much easier for you.

You'll then be able to simply jump to the relevant section based on what best fits your needs, and there you'll find “warts ‘n all” reviews on each machine, written by someone who makes their living from messing about with espresso machines (that's me), so you'll know exactly what the pros and cons of each espresso machine I suggest.

This will make it far easier for you to make a well-informed decision. 

Who The Heck is This Coffee Kev Bloke?

Me! ;-). OK, you knew that, but I just wanted to start out giving you just a quick bit of info about me, so you feel more comfortable in investing your precious time reading my coffee machine waffle ;-).

Given that you're investigating buying an espresso machine, you're part of a revolution taking place at the moment as an ever-increasing percentage of the UK population are looking for better quality espresso and espresso-based coffees at home, while saving money at the same time.

I'm someone who did exactly what you're doing now, a while back.

I decided to up my home coffee game and at the same time to stop wasting good money on mediocre coffee from big cafe chains every day, and I ended up falling into the “home barista rabbit hole”, and somehow ended up reviewing espresso machines and other coffee gear as my “job”!

Fast forward about 10 years, and somehow I've gone from being a normal coffee lover who wanted to be able to drink better coffee at home, to being a full-time blogger and YouTuber, spending most of his time standing on a soap box shouting passionately about coffee and espresso machines!

I found my calling where I was least expecting to find it, and now I see it as my mission to help other people who want to up their home coffee game, to do the best they can in that regard, with the budget they have to spend. 

The difference between my content, and a lot of the much bigger commercial websites that publish espresso machine reviews and so on, other than not being hit in the face by a wall of ads ;-), is that this is my passion. It's what wakes me up in the morning, I really care about what I'm doing – which with this post is to help people end up being matched with the right espresso machine for them and to help people avoid mistakes and disappointments.

So let's get going :-).

After reading the very simple explanation below of the different types of machines, just click on the type that you're most interested in finding out more about, to go straight to that section of the post, starting with a more in-depth explanation of these types of machines to make sure you're looking at the right kind of machines for you.

You'll then find what I've shortlisted as the best espresso machines in that specific category, so you don't have to waste your precious time reading about machines that just aren't of interest. 

Types of Espresso Machines

Bean to Cup Espresso Machines: Fresh beans in the top, espresso out of the bottom.
Main pros: Simple to use, no learning, fast & convenient
Main Cons: Espresso isn't quite the same as “true” traditional espresso.

When it comes to traditional espresso machines, I've split them down into further categories:

Fully Assisted Espresso Machines: The best of both worlds, bean to cup convenience with home barista cup quality.
Main Pros: Simple to use, almost no learning, fast & convenient, “true” espresso, great milk texture & control over texture & temperature.
Main Cons: Price

Partly Assisted Espresso Machines: Traditional espresso machines with partial guidance/assistance.
Main Pros: Easier to use & less learning than with traditional machines, “true” espresso, great milk texture
Main Cons: Price, in some cases. More learning and user effort than bean to cup.

Pressurised Basket Espresso Machines:  Traditional espresso machines with pressurisation in the basket or portafilter.
Main Pros: Simple to use. Price. 
Main Cons: Espresso quality.

Integrated Grinder Espresso Machines: Traditional portafilter espresso machines with built-in grinder. 
Main Pros: Price & space saving (compared to standalone setups)
Main Cons: Lack of grinder choice or upgradeability

Traditional Espresso Machines:
Main Pros:
Potential espresso quality
Main Cons: Price, in some cases

Sage Discount Code

If you're thinking of buying any product from Sage Appliances, I have an active discount code that works (UK & most of EU) so you might want to drop me an email. Click here to join my “Brew Time” mailing list, and then email me ([email protected]).

Sage's January Sales are still live (they've just been updated), the discount code applies on top of these deals, PLUS there's currently up to £200 cashback available!

Bean to Cup Espresso Machines

If you want espresso and espresso-based cafe favourites (cappuccino, latte, etc) made from fresh coffee beans and convenience is high up on your list of requirements, but not to the degree that you'd want to go for a pod machine vs using fresh coffee beans, then a bean to cup machine is probably the right choice.

So let's just very quickly explain what differentiates a bean to cup coffee machine from a traditional machine. 

Bean to cup machines have a built in coffee grinder of course, but that's not it, as there are traditional espresso machines also that have integrated grinders. What qualifies a machine as being a bean to cup machine, is the presence of a brewing unit and the lack of a portafilter.




Removable Brew Unit on Gaggia Anima.


That's a Brewing Unit. They're not my fingernails!

With traditional machines, dosing which means loading the filter basket (which is held by the filter holder, known as a “portafilter”) with ground coffee & tamping which means applying pressure to compact the grounds into what is referred to as a “puck”, is done manually by the user, who then knocks the used puck of coffee into the knock box. 

With bean to cup machines, all of this is done with a small, clever bit of engineering known as a brewing unit.

The brewing unit delivers the ground coffee from the grinds chute into the filter basket, tamps, the pump is engaged, the shot is pulled (we call it “pulling” the shot because traditionally baristas would pull a lever instead of pressing a button) & the puck is expelled internally into the grounds bin.

So bean to cup machines are basically like small coffee vending machines, and they've been the mainstream of the coffee market until now in terms of machines that make espresso-based coffees from fresh coffee beans. They still represent the mainstream, and I think they deserve to, in terms of value for money, at least where the entry-level side of the market is concerned.

If you're looking at spending under £500, and you want espresso based coffees made with freshly ground whole beans, with minimal effort, then bean to cup machines are very difficult to beat.  For the money, not only do these kinds of machines produce comparatively decent cup quality (compared to higher priced bean to cup machines I mean), the machines I'm recommending here are real workhorses that will just keep on going for years.

If your budget is a bit more “spenny” (yes, I'm down with the kids…), though, then you might want to look at the in-between machines, simply because these machines in my humble opinion, are a way better investment where cup quality is concerned than most similarly priced premium bean to cup machines, which tend to only deliver more features the more you spend and not necessarily better espresso or overall cup quality.

De'Longhi Magnifica S Ecam E22.110




Best Espresso Machines for Home Use.


Best Espresso Machines for Home Use.

Check Price - Amazon Check Price - DeLonghi

Features:

Water Tank: 1.8L (front accessed)
Dimensions: 23.8cm Wide x 43cm Deep x 35cm Tall
Milk Texturing: Panarello steam wand
Controls: Simple buttons and dials
Coffees: Espresso one touch, all other coffees manually

My Observations:

If you purely want the best value for money bean to cup espresso machine, this is probably it, at the time of writing at least, as it's available for not much more than £300.

For a long time, the best value for money bean to cup machine was the older sibling to this, the Magnifica ESAM 4200, and this newer model (it's been around for over 10 years, but the 4200 has been around a few years longer) was usually a bit pricier. This appears to have switched around now, presumably because stocks are running lower of the 4200 and resellers are competing less to sell it. 

Magnifica is DeLonghi's entry-level range when it comes to their bean to cup machines, and this is one of the older models, if you look at the latest Magnifica models, the “Magnifica Evo”, they look fancier, they have slightly fancier features, but guess what? The espresso quality and overall cup quality is almost identical. 

Here's the thing with espresso, the quality is mainly about the grinder. So you can do whatever you like when it comes to features, if the burrs are the same and the number of grind adjustments is the same, the espresso is going to be more or less the same. Even if they update the brewing unit, or do other things concerning temperature stability, pressure and so on, the grinder will always be the weakest link, so all of that stuff makes very little impact if the grinder is the same.

Most bean to cup machines will deliver very similar cup quality, maybe an ex barista champion with an amazing palate may be able to detect a slight improvement in the cup from one machine to another, but when it comes to us mere mortals, most people won't be able to detect any real difference in espresso quality from one bean to cup machine to another, from the very entry level to the premium end, with only a couple of exceptions. 

On the milk frothing side of things, a Panarello is a Panarello (Panarello wand: the chubbier steam wands that are very simple to use, most of the lower priced machines have these)  to a certain degree, so they're all going to do a very similar job of milk frothing, except for the S Smart version which has the really clever Panarello with 2 froth settings. If that version is available for not much more than £300, by the way, then it's a great deal in my opinion. When it's only available at RRP, though, then personally I wouldn't pay an extra £200-£300 just for the fancy steam wand, as that's the only real difference.

Overall this is a great bean to cup machine for the price, they tend to be a really good workhorse machine that will keep on kicking out coffees for several years. The only thing I'm not keen on with these machines is that they don't do a true double shot from one touch of a button. When you choose the 2 cup option, you'll get double the volume with just slightly more ground coffee, which isn't a true double shot. 

If you want a double shot made from double the amount of coffee beans, it'll do that but you have to make two consecutive shots. If this wasn't the case, these would be almost perfect for the price, but they're cheap enough (at the price you can currently get them for) and they do everything else well enough to make this a compromise worth making, in my humble opinion.

For my in depth “warts ‘n all” review on this machine, see:

De'Longhi Magnifica S Review

De'Longhi Magnifica S Smart, ECAM250

Best Espresso Machines for Home Use.

Check Price - AmazonCheck Price - DeLonghi

Features:

Water Tank: 1.8L (front accessed)
Dimensions: 24cm Wide x 44cm Deep x 36cm Tall
Weight: 9.2Kg
Milk Texturing: Panarello steam wand
Controls: Simple buttons and dials
Coffees: Espresso and Americano one touch. All other coffees manually

My Observations:

There are a few very similar models of this machine, including the Magnifica S 21 & the Magnifica S 22, it's hard to keep up with all of DeLonghi's various versions, but they mainly differ only aesthetically, or where the steam wand is concerned.

The “Smart” version, mainly differs due to the aforementioned smart Panarello steam wand. While the S 21 & 22 have the standard steam wand, the S Smart features the clever (or Smart…) Panarello wand that only features on a few of the DeLonghi machines.

This is the best Panarello wand I've ever used, it allows you to close the steam holes, which means you have similar control over the texture that you'd have with a pro steam wand, it's very clever.

I don't really see much improvement in this machine over the Ecam E22.110, other than it looks a bit flashier, there's a bit more metal and a bit less plastic, and it has the smart wand. At the time of writing there's no deal on for this machine and there is for the others, so given the similarities I'd personally go for whichever is available for the best price, if the S Smart is available for £30 – £50 more, for example, then maybe I'd pay that for the better steam wand and the slightly nicer look, would I pay a few hundred quid more, nah!

Philips 2200 Series EP2220/10

Best Espresso Machines for Home Use.

Check Price - Amazon

Features:

Water Tank: 1.8L (front accessed)
Dimensions: 24.7cm Wide x 43.4cm Deep x 37.4cm Tall
Milk Texturing: Panarello steam wand
Controls: Touch
Coffees: Single & double espresso, single & double long coffee both one touch. All other coffees manually

My Observations:

This is Philips version of the DeLonghi Magnifica range, essentially, and for me, they did a couple of things better, a couple of things slightly worse, so which is better for you depends on your priorities, although we're splitting hairs really.

The Philips will pull a true double, whatever 1 cup you choose, espresso or “coffee”, when you ask for double it'll produce double the volume of espresso or coffee using double the amount of ground coffee, by grinding & pulling consecutively. 

If you're wondering what “coffee” means, this is long coffee. At the factory default it's really what I'd call a cafe crema, and I think it does a good job of that style of coffee, which is possibly why this machine is so popular in Germany where this style of coffee is the morning staple. 

If you're a bit confused by the lungo/long coffee/cafe crema thing, it's actually quite simple.

What is usually meant by a “lungo” is a bigger ratio shot, without changing the grind size to tweak the extraction, in other words it's the same as a “normale” espresso only longer, and usually a lungo would be pulled at a 1:3 – 1:4, so if a 7g dose then roughly a 20-30ml or gram (the same) shot.

Cafe creme or cafe crema on the other hand, is usually regarded as a bigger ratio (anything from 1:4 upwards really) but pulled faster, so using a coarser grind. Because bean to cup machines grind courser anyway, compared to traditional espresso machines, anyone who loves cafe crema will usually be happy with bigger ratio cups of coffee from a bean to cup machine, as that's really what this coffee is closest to. 

The other plus for the Phillips is the Acqua Clean water tank filters, they're probably the best water tank filters I've seen, and if you live in a hard water area they mean you can make upto around five thousand coffees without descaling! They don't come with the Acqua Clean filters though, they're an add-on, unless of course you can find a deal that includes them.

It's also a bit easier to know how much coffee you're selecting to be ground for each strength selction with the Philips vs the DeLonghi machines. The Philips machines as with Gaggia (Gaggia are owned by Philips, in case you weren't aware) have dose settings that relate to an approx dose in grams, 7g, 9g, or 11g – and double these if you go for a double.

So the Philips does have a lot going for it, I think they look slightly nicer too, although that's very subjective. On the negative side I think the Philips machines feel slightly cheaper in some ways, the brewing unit feels a bit more flimsy, and the internals tend to need a bit more cleaning than the Delonghi Magnifica range.

Melitta SOLO & Perfect Milk E957-103

Best Espresso Machines for Home Use.

Check Price - Amazon Check Price - Currys

Features:

Water Tank: 1.2L (top accessed)
Dimensions: 20cm Wide x 45.5cm Deep x 32.5cm Tall
Weight: 8.1 Kg
Milk Texturing: Cappuccinatore
Controls: Simple buttons and dials
Coffees: Espresso one touch. All other coffees manually

My Observations:

Melitta is a brand with a lot of history, their founder Mrs Melitta Bentz invented the first coffee filter back in the early 1900s. They expanded into other brewing methods in the meantime, of course, including now having a number of bean to cup espresso machines on the market.

This is a very interesting machine for the price, it's similarly priced to the De'Longhi machines, above, but it will deliver a true double shot if you press the shot button twice in quick succession (as with the Gaggia Brera, below) and it has simple dose settings for one bean, two beans, and three beans.

I do wish that they would tell you (as Gaggia does) how many grams of coffee each bean setting equates to, though, as this would give users the ability to aim for a particular ratio.

For example with the Gaggia machines, it's easy to select an 11 gram dose for example, and then aim for about 30 ml of espresso for an approx 1:3 extraction if that's what you like, and then to just press the button twice in quick succession for a double shot. With the Melitta machines, pressing the shot button twice in quick succession will deliver a double shot as with the Gaggia machines, it's just a bit more difficult to know what dose you're using.

I will get one of these machines at some point and I'll try to work out the dose for each bean setting.

The only other thing I can say about it that you may see as a negative is the depth of the machine. It's a very slim machine at 20cm wide, and it's nice and short at under 33cm tall, but it's quite deep at 45.5cm and will stand proud of most wall cupboards, for example.

This is a cappuccinatore machine, and I think it's about the cheapest of this kind, most machines at this kind of price tend to be steam wand machines. You can slide the frother off and use the steam wand as a steam pipe if you like, for more control over the milk texture, but there is some level of control over froth so you may find you can get your perfect milk texture, if not just pull the frother off and use the steam pipe as a steam wand.

Steaming with a pro steam wand or using the steam pipe as such, does take a bit of learning, there's a knack to it, but it's possible with some practice to get great milk texture from most machines of this type by using the steam pipe as if it were a steam wand.

Gaggia Brera

Best Bean to Cup Coffee Machine? Gaggia Brera.

Check Price - Gaggia Direct

 

Features:

Water Tank: 1.2L (front accessed)
Dimensions: 25.6cm Wide x 42.5cm Deep x 33cm Tall
Weight: 8.5 Kg
Milk Texturing: Panarello steam wand
Controls: Simple buttons and dials
Coffees: Espresso & lungo one touch. All other coffees manually

Gaggia Discount Codes!

Gaggia Direct have given me discount codes exclusively for coffeeblog readers, PLUS they're all currently subject to an EXTRA automatic 5% discount at checkout.

You can find them all here:

My Observations:

Gaggia needs little introduction, they invented espresso machines – well, modern espresso machines, anyway – steam powered espresso machines were already around, but modern espresso has its roots in patent number 365726 in 1938, for the “steam-free coffee machine”.

The Gaggia invention was also responsible for what we now know as crema, and this was a stroke of Genius by Gaggia given that this was initially seen as a negative “espresso scum” symptom of espresso made this way.

The Gaggia Brera is one of the most obvious machines for me to recommend whenever I get an email asking which bean to cup espresso machine they should go for under £500, in fact, I'd usually say the Brera if they need a short machine to push under wall cupboards, or the Anima below if that's not an issue, simply because the Brera has a front accessed water tank while the Anima is top accessed.

It's a great little machine for the money, it's nice and short at just 33cm tall, so you have plenty of access to the bean hopper, and the water tank is front accessed too as I've mentioned, so this is a good machine for putting under kitchen wall cupboards.

As with the DeLonghi Esam 4200 above, this is a Panarello wand standard bean to cup machine as far as the milk goes, and this is the perfect example of what I was saying about machines lower down in the price range not necessarily being any different where cup quality is concerned.

If you look at the most expensive machines in Gaggia's wide range, they have the same grinder and virtually the same brewing unit. In fact, I think they're exactly the same where quality is concerned, there are only minor differences from one to the other such as on what side the pump connects, etc.

You get more features the further up the Gaggia range you go, and some of them are good features such as having five dose settings on the Anima vs three on the Brera, and the personalisation on the Cadorna. Plus they've recently brought out a couple of machines with proper pro steam wands, but still, this is an example of what I mean re the pricier machines not necessarily being better where espresso quality is concerned.

As far as bean to cup machines go, for around £400, I don't think you can ask for much more than what the Brera delivers in terms of espresso quality right out of the box, which as I've said is just as good as the much more expensive machines in the range.

The Brera scores highly from me when it comes to ease of use, a really simple machine to use – it also impressed me when it comes to size & easiness on the eye.

It's not a particularly loud machine, and the drip tray is a good size, it doesn't appear to be the case as it's a low level drip tray (which is good in terms of up clearance) but the drip tray goes all the way to the back of the machine, which makes it a fairly decent size.

Warranty with the Brera, if you buy it from Gaggia Direct (the UK distributor for Gaggia Milano), is 2 years as standard, but you can extend it to 3 years for just £20 – and it's a solid warranty offered by a UK company with an in-house service department, which is quite rare for warranty on machines at this kind of value.

With the Brera, and all other Gaggia machines, I recommend going directly to Gaggia Direct – either order online from their website or once things are back to normal, you can visit their showroom in Elland, near Halifax – or from one of their shops, they've got one at Junction 32 in Castleford & one at Freeport Outlet Village in Braintree, Essex.

I recommend this by the way because I know from experience that they're a really good company when it comes to aftersales support, and I also know that if you buy a Gaggia machine online from Amazon & other websites, there's a good chance you're actually unknowingly buying directly from Italy, without a UK warranty.

There are firms selling the Brera and other espresso machines slightly cheaper, but if you look at the trust pilot reviews, etc., you'll often find reviews from annoyed customers who realised they'd actually bought from Italy not from within the UK, and have to get the machine sent back there if it needs repairing under warranty.

Gaggia Anima

Gaggia anima bean to cup espresso machine.Check Price-Gaggia DirectCheck Price - Amazon

 

Features:

Water Tank: 1.8L (Top accessed)
Dimensions: 22.1cm Wide x 43cm Deep x 34cm Tall
Weight: 8.5 Kg
Milk Texturing: Panarello steam wand (there's a cappuccinatore version and a carafe version)

My Observations:

Gaggia Anima is one of Gaggia's best bean to cup coffee machines when it comes to value for money, in fact, I'd go so far as to say it's one of the best among all brands at under £500 (the base level version, that is).

The base level isn't much more money than the Brera, it has a bigger water tank, 5 strength settings vs 3 on the Brera, a bigger capacity dreg draw, and while the top filling water tank isn't perfect if you need to slide it under wall cupboards, if you don't it means that if you're running out of water you can top the water up while your shot is pulling. Also, the Anima gives you the ability to input the water hardness for a personalised descale schedule.

Gaggia has released many newer models, but for me, the Anima and the Brera are two of the most tried and tested bean to cup machines on the market, which have continued to be manufactured for quite some time now with little or no changes simply because “don't fix what ain't broken”.

They have to keep releasing new models to keep up with the competition, deliver things like fancy displays, personalisation, and so on, but if you're not bothered about that, and if like me you're a fan of tactile buttons that move when you press them, I'd have a look at the Anima.

I think it's one of the best bean to cup machines on the market, all things considered. If you like bells, whistles, and fancy-sounding features, then there are always newer models being released, but if you want simplicity, reliability, and value for money, the Anima may be for you.

See:

Gaggia Anima Review

 

De'Longhi Magnifica Evo ECAM 292.81

Best Espresso Machines for Home Use.

Check Price - AmazonCheck Price - DeLonghiCheck Price - John Lewis

Features:

Water Tank: 1.8L (front accessed)
Dimensions: 24 cm Wide x 44 cm Deep x 36 cm Tall
Weight: 9.6 Kg
Milk Texturing: Carafe milk frother (with this version)
Display: Colour touch screen
Coffees: 6 one-touch coffees. Latte, latte macchiato, cappuccino, espresso, coffee, long coffee + hot water.

My Observations:

This is one of the newest bean to cup machines from Delonghi in the UK, and it looks like they've got the mix of features right for this price point, as it's selling incredibly well, and it's an impressive-looking machine overall. The reason I say “with this version” re the milk option above, is that they have a Panarello steam wand version, too which is about a hundred quid cheaper at the time of writing.

I'm saying that this machine produces 6 one touch coffees, simply because I think the official “7” includes hot water, and I'm not sure about you, but I don't think hot water counts as coffee…

I don't think I've ever seen an espresso machine with quite so many Amazon reviews before, the number of ratings this machine has had so far is ridiculous, clearly, a heck of a lot of people have bought the Magnifica Evo. I don't see a review from Brad Pitt though, which is a surprise ;-).

Gaggia Cadorna

Gaggia Cadorna, bean to cup home espresso machine.

Check Price - Gaggia Direct

 

Features:

Water Tank: 1.5L (front accessed)
Dimensions: 26cm Wide x 44cm Deep x 38cm Tall
Weight: 9.5 Kg
Milk Texturing: Style & Plus – Panarello wand. Barista – pro steam wand. Milk – cappuccinatore. Prestige – milk carafe.
Controls: Colour display with simple buttons and dials
Coffees – Style, Plus & Barista: One-touch Espresso, lungo, coffee, Americano – all other drinks manually
Coffees – Milk:
One-touch ristretto, espresso, caffe, lungo, americano, cappuccino, latte macchiato, cafe' Au Lait
Coffees – Prestige:
Above + flat white, cortado, cappuccino XL, latte macchiato XL.

My Observations:

The Cadorna is a very clever new range of bean to cup espresso machines from Gaggia, the main feature separating this from other Gaggia machines being the drinks personalisation with four programmable personalised user settings.

This means everyone using the machine (up to 4 users) can have their name set up as a user, with their coffees set up exactly how they like them, including strength, how much milk, and temperature.

So you can continually tweak the settings for your latte, for instance, and when you're happy with that – it'll be the same each time regardless of who else is using the machine, as long as they don't prank you by messing with your settings ;-).

There are five versions of the Cadorna.

The newest version is the Cadorna Barista, which features a pro steam wand – one of only a couple of domestic bean to cup machines with a proper steam wand.

The “Milk” version has a cappuccinatore, while “style” and “plus” both have Panarello steam wands, and “prestige” is a milk carafe version. Both Milk and Prestige offer one-touch milkies.

All except style can take taller cups, and feature a cup tray that pulls out of the machine so you can pull the shot into a smaller cup if preferred. There may be some other subtle differences between the models, click here for a more thorough rundown of the different models.

I'm going to leave it there for bean to cup suggestions, simply because I've got another dedicated bean to cup coffee machines post, with a lot more suggestions, so if you haven't found a bean to cup machine here that you think is perfect for you, see:

Best Bean to Cup Coffee Machines

Fully Assisted Espresso Machines

I usually refer to these as “in-between” machines, but I've been looking for a better, more helpful description for them, and I think “fully assisted” is probably the best phrase. These are traditional espresso machines with assistance and user interfaces that deliver the pros of both categories, without the cons of either.

So if you're someone who wants true espresso, and better control over the espresso and the milk side of things, but without the same learning and daily faff as with using a traditional espresso machine, then this is probably the category for you. 

The good news is that if this is the case, this is quite simple, as there are really only two machines on the market right now that I believe truly address this market, and one is half the price of the other, so it's really quite simple and easy to choose!

As you'll see this is a niche that Sage Appliances currently dominate, and that's because it's them who have pioneered this category.

Sage Discount Code

If you're thinking of buying any product from Sage Appliances, I have an active discount code that works (UK & most of EU) so you might want to drop me an email. Click here to join my “Brew Time” mailing list, and then email me ([email protected]).

Sage's January Sales are still live (they've just been updated), the discount code applies on top of these deals, PLUS there's currently up to £200 cashback available!

Sage Barista Touch Impress

Best Espresso Machines for Home Use.

Check Price - Sage Appliances

Features:

Grinder: Etzinger 38mm conical burrs, 30 grind settings.
Hopper: Locking hopper (for easy beans removal) with UV protection & gasket
Portafilter: 54mm stainless steel portafilter (single and double baskets, standard + dual walled)
Assisted Espresso: Intelligent machine learning dosing + assisted 10Kg calibrated tamp + dialing in guidance
Boiler: Sage ThermoJet® 
Milk Steaming: MilQ hands-free microfoam with 4 presets, full control over texture and temperature 
Menu: Pre-sets for all the usual plus babyccino, hot chocolate, tea with 2 temp options & 8 customisable drinks
Water tank: 2L, with water filter. Top (rear) accessed with quick-release handle 
Drip Tray: Large capacity drip tray with hidden storage space
Dimensions (w x d x h): 33cm x 33cm x 42cm
Adjustable brew temperature: Yes from 91- 95C in 1C increments
Preinfusion?: Yes, pre-set

My Observations:

This category of machine, fully assisted manual espresso machines, didn't exist until recently. I think some people thought that it did, because people often bought the partly assisted machines assuming they were more assisted than they were, but it was really the Sage Oracle Touch, below, that was the first true fully assisted manual portafilter espresso machine, and while the barista touch is great, I think the touch impress is the better option for most people. 

Firstly, it's only just more than half the price of the Oracle Touch, and I think it's affordable to a bigger percentage of the market than the Oracle Touch, although I do realise it'll be out of the budget of many people who're thinking that even £200-£300 is a lot of money to spend on a coffee machine. 

But in addition to this, it has even more things going for it than the Oracle Touch, in my opinion. 

The Oracle Touch is a very premium machine, it's a dual boiler so you can make latte, cappuccino etc., faster by steaming milk while the espresso is being produced.

The touch impress won't do that, but it's best non dual boiler machine in that regard given that you can queue up the shot to pull once the milk has finished steaming (or vice versa if you prefer) so you don't have to hover over the machine.

The Oracle Touch, being based on the Dual Boiler, is really difficult to compete with where temperature precision and stability are concerned, but given the importance of the grinder and the fact that the Touch Impress has the exact same burrs as the Oracle Touch, in reality, the cup quality isn't going to be hugely different even if you have the palate to detect the difference.

When it comes to the overall user experience and simplicity thanks to the barista guidance, the Barista Touch Impress is the best machine I've ever used, and to me it trumps the Oracle Touch, although I suspect they'll change the touch screen on the Oracle Touch in the future or create an impress version.

The Impress Puck System in combination with the next-level barista guidance including grind size suggestion, make it difficult not to produce amazing cup quality, regardless of user experience. 

Literally from taking the machine out of the box, the screen instructs you on what to do at each stage including where to find the accessories, cleaning them, checking the water hardness, filling the water tank, installing the included water filter, putting the beans in the hopper and priming the machine.

The machine then asks you what kind of coffee beans you're using, freshly roasted or store bought so it knows which basket and what grind size to suggest, and it'll then take you through a tutorial for making your favourite coffee, and you can go back into the menu and go through this tutorial again at any time.

It detects if the shot runs too fast or too slow, and it'll recommend a new grind size based on this. What amazed me about this is how accurate it is! When I switched beans over (from my Cworks chocolate fondant blend to chocolate brownie blend), for example, it told me to change the grind size to 8 from the grind size 12 I was previously using, and it was spot on. I really wasn't expecting it to do that good a job at guiding the user on dialing in the grind size!

No coffee machine is perfect, but when it comes to “normal” coffee machine users wanting true espresso and barista-quality milkies with no learning and almost no user effort, this is as close to perfect as I've ever seen. 

To me the only thing it doesn't quite do as I'd expect it to, is you can't currently edit the main menu items. You can add 8 new coffees, which is great, but I'd expect to also be able to save tweaks to the menu items. I also think in the long term they should consider making it possible to delete menu items and/or give the ability to replace them.

If I know I'll never have a need to make certain drinks, then I might choose to delete them from the menu to make it easier to get to the drinks I do want on there, in the knowledge that I can always just go to the main menu and re-set it to factory defaults to get these settings back.

I do feel they need to give a bit more control over the water volume options for Americano/long black, to me the “small” is really a medium, so I'd prefer the ability to be able to reset the water volume as low as I want to, even if I just want 30-40ml for a 1:1 long black, I feel like I should be able to set that in the menu instead of having to stop it manually.

I also think it would be nice to have just a little bit more control over the espresso volume, the 5ml increments are good but I'd prefer 1ml, then again – most people using this machine aren't going to be as nerdy as I am about espresso. 

These are very small things though, I'm nitpicking because there's just so little I can say about this machine that isn't praise! For the in-depth review see:

Sage Barista Touch Impress Review

Sage Oracle Touch

Best Espresso Machines for Home Use.

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Features:

Grinder: Etzinger 38mm conical burrs, 45 grind settings.
Hopper: Locking hopper (for easy beans removal) with UV protection & gasket
Portafilter: 58mm stainless steel portafilter (single and double baskets, standard + dual walled)
Assisted Espresso: Automated dosing and tamping 
Boiler: 950ml steam boiler + PID controlled 450ml brew boiler + heat exchanger
Milk Steaming: Hands-free microfoam with 4 presets, full control over texture and temperature 
Menu: Espresso, Long Black, Latte, Cappuccino + 8 customisable drinks
Water tank: 2.5L, with water filter. Top (front) access and removable from rear.
Drip Tray: Huge 1.2L capacity drip tray with hidden storage space
Dimensions (w x d x h): 41cm x 38 cm x 45cm
Adjustable brew temperature: Yes from 86 – 96C in 1C increments
Preinfusion?: Yes, pre-set (adjustable) & manual, control over power and length

My Observations:

The Oracle Touch was Sage's first fully assisted traditional espresso machine, and it's based on the Dual Boiler, so it's a serious machine, and it'll produce faster (and better quality) flat white, cappuccino & latte than most bean to cup coffee machines.

You'd expect a lot for this amount of money, and you really do get a lot, this is a heck of a lot of espresso machine, with the kind of features you'd usually only find with high end home barista espresso machines and commercial machines.

It's basically the Sage Dual Boiler, which is one of the best home espresso machines on the market for the price, probably THE best in my opinion, but with an integrated grinder, automation and touch screen barista guidance, to deliver the best all-round coffee machine user experience and cup quality until the Touch impress came along. 

As I mentioned earlier, the Touch impress has taken the barista guidance and the user experience to a different level, but the Oracle Touch still has some tricks up its sleeve vs the Touch Impress, although whether they're worth it to you for the extra cost, is another matter.

The main thing really is the ability to steam milk and produce espresso at the same time. The Touch Impress can queue these up so you don't have to stand in front of the machine, but you'll have your coffee faster with the Oracle Touch.

The Oracle touch has 15 more grind settings, so you have slightly more ability to finely tune the grind size, also there's more space on the drip tray for cups, which means if you have two wider cups you want to split one shot into, you'll have no problem fitting them on the drip tray with the Oracle Touch, but you may find the drip tray of the slightly smaller touch impress a bit cramped depending on the size of the cups. 

The Oracle touch produces what I'd really call a triple shot, vs a double shot, as they dose 21-22g of coffee in the basket, so if you want big shots and the ability to produce really intense flat white and so on, this may be a plus. 

Where cup quality is concerned though, someone with a well-trained palate may be able to detect a slight difference in the cup, but they'll both produce very good cup quality, and as I mentioned earlier they both use the same burrs, which is what really governs shot potential.

Partly Assisted Espresso Machines

This is a market that has been developing for longer, so there are a few more options when it comes to partly assisted, and by “partly” I mean that there is some assistance, guidance and/or automation to take away some of the learning requirement & some of the day to day effort.

DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio

DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio.

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Features:

Grinder: 40mm conical burrs, 8 grind settings.
Hopper: Removable, with gasket, isn't locking (can't lock it to remove beans)
Portafilter: 51mm stainless steel portafilter (single and double baskets) pressurised
Assisted Espresso: Sensor grinding technology for precision control, allegedly…
Boiler: Thermoblock
Milk Steaming: Manual steam wand with single hole steam tip
Water tank: 2.5L. Top (rear) accessed 
Drip Tray: Decent-sized drip tray with metal tray
Dimensions (w x d x h): 36cm x 33 cm x 40cm
Adjustable brew temperature: Yes 2 settings, 2C difference
Preinfusion?: Yes

My Observations:

De'Longi is a HUGE firm, the biggest coffee machine manufacturer in the world, and they've had a lot of success in the mainstream coffee machine market, which is where they've mainly focused, as you'd expect for such a mammoth-sized firm. 

So you'll probably know DeLonghi for their bean to cup coffee machines, and their low-priced pressurised portafilter or pressurised basket espresso machines, but they're also now trying to get themselves a slice of the comparatively small but fast-growing home barista pie.

I'll start out by clearing up a common misconception I've seen, which is that Sage copied De'Longhi. Sage released the Barista Express in 2013, and most of their other integrated grinder machines including the Barista Pro, Barista Touch, Oracle & Oracle Touch were released between then and 2019.

The La Specialista range was introduced in 2021.

Yes, the La Specialista does have a tamp lever which Sage's earlier machines didn't have, but anyone who thinks Sage copied DeLonghi there, clearly hasn't used both machines, as the tamp levers are hugely different. 

In fact, these machines are so different, it's easier for me to list how they're similar – which is: They both claim to have some barista assistance, they're both integrated grinder machines, they both have a tamp lever.

The difference at their core, though, in my opinion, is mainstream vs speciality. 

Delonghi are a mainstream manufacturer, and that comes through for me in a big way in the La Specialista. They're clearly focusing on marketing and branding  and focusing much less on all of the very intricate and niche details that a speciality focused brand would hone in on.

Namely:

8 grind settings, and pressurised portafilter. 

When it was initially released, the Specialita machines had 8 grind settings and pressurised baskets. People who had bought into the DeLonghi brand name (many, many people, as they've done a great job with their branding over the years) who were getting into the home barista hobby, and saw that this machine was clearly targetting this market, were initially disappointed by the fact that it appeared to be a machine for this market, but it only came with pressurised baskets. 

The machines were updated to standard baskets, seemingly in an attempt to fix this issue, but the 8 grind settings remained, which seemed an odd choice because 8 grind settings and standard baskets aren't two things that would appear to go together.

On closer inspection, though, it appears (and this is only my opinion from looking at the machine and using it, although I've seen others saying the same) that they simply moved the pressurisation from the basket, into the porafilter. 

This is the main letdown of this machine, for me. They've marketed this machine at the home barista/speciality coffee niche, but in my opinion it hugely misses the mark because of the grinder and the portafilter. My disappointment of this machine didn't end there, though.

“Sensor grinding technology” surely implies that it has a dosing sensor, and therefore controls the dose as the Barista Express Impress and Barista Touch Impress do? When I used it, I couldn't find any evidence of such a feature. If I turned the dosing dial too low, the tamper didn't even touch it, if I turned it too high, it was completely overdosed, so what the chuff is the “sensor grinding technology” doing?

The tamp lever just feels weird to me, you have to take it through a big range of motion, and I couldn't find any definitive end to the tamp, I sometimes felt like I was just going to snap the thing right off. When I did some experimenting, it actually seems like the tamper makes full contact with the coffee only half way through the movement of the lever, and the effort of the user to push it from there the rest of the way through the range, appears to be completely wasted, I could be wrong of course, but anyway, I didn't enjoy using the tamp lever. 

The hopper doesn't lock to keep the beans in when you unlock the hopper from the machine. This seems like a very obvious feature if you're aiming a machine at speciality coffee, but not so much if you're aiming it at the mainstream market and thinking that people will just empty all their coffee into the hopper and leave it there. 

Trying to re-set the shot buttons to deliver a specific volume, I found to be a  difficult task, and the general user interface in general I just didn't enjoy using at all. 

Now to talk about the steam wand…

When they first released it, they used the smart Panarello wand that is on some of their other machines including the Decida EC685. I would have preferred them to leave that one, than to switch to a pro steam wand just to achieve the home barista look, which is what they appear to have done.

The DeLonghi adjustable Panarello wand with the two settings, is the best Panarello wand I've used, it enables microfoam from a Panarello wand, really easily with very little learning. 

To say I dislike the steam wand they've now got on the La Specialista, would be an understatement. It may look really nice, in fact on first inspection I thought they had nailed this, it looked more pro than the wands on the Sage machines, but the steam power I got from it was just pants, and when I removed the steam tip, I found that this lovely looking steam wand is essentially just a cover over a thin plastic pipe, which is why I assume the power is lacking.

Where looks are concerned, I commend DeLonghi, I think it looks ace, but sadly I think it completely misses the mark if they're going for the home barista market. 

Don't get me wrong, this isn't me being a Sage fanboy and having a thing against DeLonghi, you'll see I've said very nice things about some of their bean to cup coffee machines, and the DeLonghi Dedica, I have no issue with DeLonghi at all, but when it comes to the La Specialista Prestigio, in my opinion they've promised a home barista machine with really helpful barista assistance, and I just don't agree that they've delivered that, at all, with this machine. 

I'm not commenting on the La Specialista Maestro yet, by the way, simply because I've not used that machine yet, but I will be doing in the near future.

Sage Barista Express Impress

Barista Express Impress.

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Features:

Grinder: Etzinger 38mm conical burrs, 25 grind settings.
Hopper: Locking hopper (for easy beans removal) with UV protection & gasket
Portafilter: 54mm stainless steel portafilter (single and double baskets, standard + dual walled)
Assisted Espresso: Intelligent machine learning dosing + assisted 10Kg calibrated tamp
Boiler: Sage Original Thermocoil
Milk Steaming: Manual steam wand with single hole steam tip
Water tank: 2L, with water filter. Top (rear) accessed with quick-release handle 
Drip Tray: Large capacity drip tray with hidden storage space
Dimensions (w x d x h): 36cm x 33 cm x 40cm
Adjustable brew temperature: Yes from 91- 95C in 1C increments
Preinfusion?: Yes, pre-set & manual

My Observations:

The Barista Express Impress is, in my opinion, the best partially assisted traditional espresso machine on the market at the time of writing, at this price point.

Its only real rival as far as I'm concerned is the Oracle, if we're talking purely about partially assisted machines and not fully assisted.

When I say “partially assisted” I'm referring to actual assistance, which is why the Barista Express isn't in this category, or other machines that are often considered as having some form of assistance or automation simply due to the presence of the integrated grinder. 

It has the same Impress Puck System that features in the Barista Touch Impress, which is one of the reasons that these machines produce such good and consistent espresso. This system comprises of the auto dosing with machine learning, and the tamp lever which produces a consistent tamp pressure. 

They might sound trivial, but they're really not. Consistent and precise dose volume and tamp pressure are the most important elements of puck prep after achieving the right grind size.

The machine guides you to getting the right dose volume, and once this has been achieved, it learns by calculating the total grind size to achieve that dose, and from then on you'll get the correct dose each time, and you just need to tweak it again when you adjust the grind size or change beans.

Sage state that the tamp is 10Kg, I can't confirm that as I have no way to test it, but the tamp pressure doesn't really matter all that much, it's the consistency of tamp pressure that is important, and in combination with the very precise dose volume (which I have tested, and is extremely consistent), I can't see any evidence that the tamp isn't incredibly consistent. 

Would it benefit from WDT if it was being used by someone trying to get the very best from the machine in terms of marginal improvements in shot quality, I'd say yes, and if that's you – you can do this, by using the machine in what I refer to as geek mode. 

There are a couple of options if you want to use the machine for home barista hobbyist type use, one is to go full geek mode, set it to manual, don't use the auto dosing or tamping, just use a bottomless portafilter or remove the splitter and use the Sage dosing funnel to enable you to manually dose the basket without having to tamp it to remove it without spilling ground coffee on the drip tray, then WDT, tamp, and pull the shot. 

The other way is an in-between method that involves using the auto dosing, but just tamping partially so you can remove the portafilter without properly tamping, then do DWT, and either tamp manually if preferred or insert the portafilter back into the grinds cradle to use the tamp lever, then pull the shot. 

So this is one of the great things about this machine, for me, the flexibility in users. 

It's very common for me to get emails & comments from people who're looking for a machine that they can use for developing home barista skills, but their partner just wants a “normal” coffee machine, and they're asking if there's one machine that suits both, this is one of the best of both worlds machines in my opinion. 

It's also great for anyone who thinks they might want to go down the home barista route but who isn't sure if it'll just be a bit too much faff for them, and it's also a great option for people who might want to geek out when they have the time, but lean on the assistance of the machine when they're in a rush and just need fast coffee.

Until the Touch Impress was released, this is the machine I was hearing from readers about the most, in terms of readers telling me what espresso machine they'd decided on, so I wouldn't be surprised if it's come close now in terms of popularity with the Barista Express, which has been the best selling integrated grinder espresso machine for several years.

For more in-depth info, see:

Sage Barista Express Impress Review

Sage Barista Touch

Sage Barista Touch.

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Features:

Grinder: Etzinger 38mm conical burrs, 30 grind settings.
Hopper: Locking hopper (for easy beans removal) with UV protection & gasket
Portafilter: 54mm stainless steel portafilter (single and double baskets, standard + dual walled)
Assisted Espresso: No
Boiler: Sage ThermoJet® 
Milk Steaming: MilQ hands-free microfoam with 4 presets, full control over texture and temperature 
Menu: Espresso, Long Black, Latte, Cappuccino + 8 customisable drinks
Water tank: 2L, with water filter. Top (rear) accessed with quick-release handle 
Drip Tray: Large capacity drip tray with hidden storage space
Dimensions (w x d x h): 33cm x 33cm x 42cm
Adjustable brew temperature: Yes from 91- 95C in 1C increments
Preinfusion?: Yes, pre-set

My Observations:

Given that the Sage Barista Touch Impress is currently among my favourite Sage espresso machines, it may surprise you to discover that the Barista Touch is one of my least favourite Sage machines, in theory at least.

I could just never quite wrap my head around the point of producing a machine that had assistance only for milk steaming, and didn't assist on the espresso end of things. Sage are clearly far more clever than I am, though, and know their market better, as this machine has sold incredibly well, and most people who have it have told me they love it.

Sage are really good at segmenting their market and understanding who they're targeting with a particular machine, and who in the market they're not currently targeting with any of their machines, and continuing to develop machines that are perfect for all niches of people. This is very different to the “shotgun” approach taken by most of the mainstream brands, who basically just make machines that they know the majority of the market will like, or at least market them as if this is the case.

I think with the Barista Touch, they identified that some people want a touch screen experience, they want some on-screen guidance, they want perfect milk texture, control over the milk texture and temperature but hands off, and for these people the Barista Touch goes down a storm. 

So just be aware that where espresso is concerned, this is a traditional espresso machine, it doesn't have the Impress puck system or dialing in assistance that the Touch Impress has, so if you're happy with manually dosing, tamping and pulling shots, but you want hands off microfoam with an auto steam wand that does a flipping good job of it, you may have found your perfect espresso machine.

Sage Oracle

Best Espresso Machines for Home Use.

Best Espresso Machines for Home Use.

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Features:

Grinder: Etzinger 38mm conical burrs, 45 grind settings.
Hopper: Locking hopper (for easy beans removal) with UV protection & gasket
Portafilter: 58mm stainless steel portafilter (single and double baskets, standard + dual walled)
Assisted Espresso: Automated dosing and tamping 
Boiler: 950ml steam boiler + PID controlled 450ml brew boiler + heat exchanger
Milk Steaming: Hands-free microfoam with 4 presets, full control over texture and temperature 
Menu: One touch espresso & long black
Water tank: 2.5L, with water filter. Top (front) access and removable from rear.
Drip Tray: Huge 1.2L capacity drip tray with hidden storage space
Dimensions (w x d x h): 41cm x 38 cm x 45cm
Adjustable brew temperature: Yes from 86 – 96C in 1C increments
Preinfusion?: Yes, pre-set (adjustable) & manual, control over power and length

My Observations:

The Sage Oracle was the first espresso machine I ever used at home, and if that makes me sound like Richard Gere in Pretty Woman telling Julia Roberts that his first car was a Limo, I'll bring it down to earth by explaining that I only had it for a week or two, on loan from Sage, for review purposes ;-).

As I've said I have absolutely nothing against any of the other brands, including DeLonghi, but I do very much like Sage as a speciality, home barista focused brand that clearly want people like me to put their machines to the test and honestly review them. 

When this blog was brand new, and boasted a readership of roughly four (one of which was my mum), I contacted Sage, telling them of my plan to do completely honest warts ‘n all reviews of espresso machines, and about a week later, they sent me the Oracle! They didn't ask me for anything in return, there was nothing for me to sign, there wasn't even any mention of telling them what I thought of it first, they were literally just happy to see my honest review when I published it. 

That to me paints a picture of a firm who have faith in their products!

What did I think of it? I loved it!

This was several years ago, though, before I knew what I know today about espresso machines – before I did professional barista training just to improve my home barista skills, and before I'd spent countless hours playing around with all of the espresso machines I could possibly get my hands on (which has been quite a few so far!).

I started the YouTube channel more recently, and I got hold of one again in order to review it there, and spent about a week using it as my main machine in order to see what I thought of it now I know so much more about espresso machines, and – I loved it!

It's based on the Sage Dual Boiler, which is my home espresso machine. I have two of them, actually, one standard configuration and one modded for playing around with, and again if I'm starting to sound like Richard Gere's character, I'll bring things back down to earth by explaining that they're both very well used, beat-up machines that my espresso engineer friend reconditioned for me. 

In case you're not familiar with the Dual Boiler, jump down to the traditional espresso machines section of this post to find out more, they're a very capable home barista espresso machine, capable of great espresso quality and milk texture. 

So the fact the Oracle is based on this machine is a very good start. 

Does this mean that the oracle has the same shot potential as the Dual Boiler, though, not quite – and this is just a limitation of integrated grinder machines.

Where shot quality is concerned, the Oracle is very similar to pairing the Dual Boiler with the Sage Smart Grinder Pro, which is a decent little grinder for the money, and is a common pairing for Sage's entry level machines including the Duo Temp Pro, Bambino & Bambino Plus.

You'll get decent espresso with that pairing, but if you wanted outstanding espresso of the level the Dual Boiler is capable of, you'd need to pair it with a much pricier grinder, something with much more premium burrs and much finer grind adjustment. 

Would the majority of people be amazed with the cup quality the Oracle will produce, though, yes, in my opinion.

When I talk about shot potential, I'm talking about people who're developing their coffee palate though years of of making and tasting espresso. Nearly everyone reading this post, anyone who sees themself as more of a “normal” coffee drinker, I think would taste a flat white, cappuccino, Americano or espresso made with the dual boiler and conclude that it's one of the best coffees they've ever had!

For a more in-depth review, see:

Sage Barista Oracle Review

Pressurised Basket Espresso Machines

The cheapest traditional espresso machines on the market are pressurised basket machines, which means they're machines that are designed to work with pressurisation in the basket. This kind of machine will typically use 14-15 bars of pressure to force espresso through a small hole, usually in the basket but sometimes in the portafilter itself, underneath the basket.

When you see machines like this with blurb boasting “15 bars of pressure” or sometimes 19 bars, you can take that with a huge pinch of salt. This is simply the pressure capability of vibration pumps, usually even with this kind of machine, there will be some form of pressure limitation to reduce the pressure in the basket to around 13/14 bars which appears to be the desired basket pressure for this kind of machine.

A great tasting shot of espresso comes from optimal extraction, which means extracting the right amount of the solubles. A great looking shot of espresso has crema as a result of the extraction, and this doesn't mean that any espresso with crema is well extracted, but a well-extracted shot will have a nice amount of crema.

Basket pressurisation mimics the look of a well extracted shot of espresso by forcing the espresso at high pressure through a small hole in order to make it look the part. So instead of creating the required pressure in the basket by getting the grind size right, pressurised baskets are essentially a cheat code to crema, bypassing the need for decent extraction. 

Gaggia invented this kind of basket which they call “perfect crema” baskets, and that name kind of makes sense, as they're really all about the crema. I say “kind of” because for me pressured basket espresso often doesn't look exactly like natural crema, it often looks synthetic. They don't do anything when it comes to mimicking the taste of a well-extracted shot of espresso, though.

Having said that, it really doesn't matter whether I would enjoy the espresso these kinds of machines make, or that anyone else would, it's all down to you. Many people have this kind of machine and are delighted with them.  If you're not sure, then a quick rule of thumb for you: If your home cappuccino would usually be instant coffee with microwaved milk, a pressurised basket machine is probably going to be an upgrade, and it'll be easier to use than a traditional espresso machine with standard baskets.

If you currently have a bean to cup coffee machine, I wouldn't recommend a pressurised basket machine as an upgrade, it's really a side step rather than a step up, unless you're planning on using them as very low cost entry level home barista setups, and see the Delonghi Dedica, Gaggia Carezza and Gran Gaggia if that is the case.

Swan Retro

Swan Retro Espresso Machine.

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Features:

Portafilter: 51mm, pressurised portafilter. Aftermarket standard basket portafilter available.
Milk Steaming: Panarello, can be removed.
Water tank: 1.2L, top filling.
Dimensions (w x d x h): 20cm x 28.5 cm x 31.5cm
Special Feature: Thermometer

My Observations:

The Swan Retro espresso machine is a low priced pressured basket espresso machine that has sold all over the world, under various different brand names, including the Aldi Ambinao espresso machine, K Mart Anko, Cookworks espresso machine & Klarstein Espressionata Gusto. As far as I'm aware all of these machines (and more) are this same machine at least internally.

For the money, and it really is cheap… it's really not that bad a machine. 

OK it's not great, but you're really not going to get great for this price. The good things about it, though, are:

It has a thermometer, so although the temperature isn't very stable (same is true of most cheaper machines) you can see roughly what the brew temp is, which helps with temperature surfing (pulling the shot at the optimum temp).

The Panarello is easy to use, but if you slip it off, there's a stubby but perfectly usable steam pipe that will work the same as a single tip steam wand. It's not as long or as well positioned as the one on the Gaggia Carezza, below, but you'll get used to it. 

You can easily buy an aftermarket portafilter if you want to use this as a standard basket espresso machine. You can mod the portafilter but I wouldn't bother, most people have told me that this has split the gasket after not very long, so they've had to buy another portafilter anyway.

51mm Bottomless Portafilter Compatible with Swan Retro

Best Espresso Machines for Home Use.

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Are you going to win the world barista championships using this machine, possibly not, but in my humble opinion it's one of the best espresso machines under £100.

For a more in-depth review, see:

Swan Retro Review

 

Gaggia Espresso Style / Deluxe

Best Espresso Machines for Home Use.

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Features:

Portafilter: 53mm,standard portafilter with pressurized basket, very easy to replace the basket. 
Milk Steaming: Panarello, with basically a slim pro steam wand underneath.
Water tank: 1.2L, side accessed.
Dimensions (w x d x h): 20cm x 25.5 cm x 30cm
Special Feature: PID

My Observations:

This is Gaggia's newest range of machines, I'd heard of it, I wasn't really that excited about it – until I got hold of it! 

This is BY FAR the best low cost espresso machine, at the under £200 price point, in my opinion, in fact, I think it's probably the best until we get to about £300, and I think it's just as good for the “normal” home espresso machine user, using “standard” supermarket coffee, as it is for the beginner home barista.

I predict this will become one of the best selling home espresso machines, certainly at the under £300 side of things, for many years to come. If I was on the market for an espresso machine now, knowing what I know, and I had about £200 available, this is what I'd go for, without a doubt.

Yeah it's “plastic fantastic” as was the original “Gaggia Espresso” in the 80s & 90s, but I actually think it looks ace, and it looks and feels well built. It's made in Italy, and for me that shows, both in the design and in how nicely made it feels.

It has a PID, a temperature controller, making it far more temperature stable than than other machines at a similar price.

It features the same 1900W stainless steel thermoblock heater as the Carezza, it heats up in 25 seconds, and steam is ready in about 25 seconds from selecting steam.

The portafilter is nice, it feels nice and balanced in the hand in terms of weight, it's the first portafilter I've ever encountered sub £400 I'd say, that hasn't made me shudder. Yeah I wish it had a metal splitter instead of the stubby spouts, but still, can't have everything.

It's not a pressurised portafilter by the way, it's a standard basket with a pressurised basket, and there are 53mm standard baskets that will fit it.

It has a programmable shot button (memo function), the drip tray slides out to reveal a flat plastic base perfect for brew scales and for increasing max cup height, and it has a really decent & consistent steam power, thanks to the 1900W thermoblock.

The water tank is at the side, so you don't have to remove the drip tray to fill it, and you don't have to pull the machine out from under wall cupboards to access the top of the machine.

If you're fixed at around the £200 mark, I really don't think you'll get better than this for that amount of money.

If we're looking for negatives, as I've said, I'd prefer a metal splitter on the portafilter, but it's the nicest portafilter I've seen at this kind of price point, and it's not pressurised so you can easily swap the basket for a standard, for dialling in with freshly roasted coffee beans. 

I'd prefer a solenoid valve, but you don't even get this with the Sage Bambino (you do with the Bambino Plus) or the Duo Temp Pro, and it's really not a massive deal. It mainly just means that if you choke the machine with too fine a grind (no espresso flows), you have to wait a minute or so before removing the portafilter from the group, or you may encounter “portafilter sneeze” which isn't particularly pleasant.

I'd also prefer the low pressure pre-infusion you get with all the Sage machines, but I do think this kind of pre-infusion (short flow or water at full pressure, followed by a pause) is better than nothing, and a 53mm puck screen is a good shout here for preventing the initial pre-wetting from disturbing the puck too much.

I haven't been able to test this, but I suspect the machine is delivering about 13-14 bars of pressure into the basket, and I'd prefer this to be 9 bars, or to be able to dial this down as you can with the Gaggia Classic (with a cheap and fairly simple mod).

But for a machine available for about £180, I'm really splitting hairs here! You can even get it as a bundle with the Gaggia MD15 grinder (with shims in the box for making it capable of grinding fine enough for standard baskets if that's your intention) for about £260.

Please click on the button below to read my full review:

The Gaggia Espresso Style & Deluxe Review

DeLonghi Dedica EC685M

DeLonghi Dedica Style EC685M.

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Features:

Portafilter: 51mm, pressurised portafilter. Aftermarket standard basket (bottomless) portafilter available.
Milk Steaming: Panarello, can be removed.
Water tank: 1.21, top rear filling.
Dimensions (w x d x h): 15cm x 30.3 cm x 33cm
Special Feature: Best panarello wand I've used

My Observations:

When it comes to this kind of espresso machine, the DeLonghi Dedica has been around for a long time, and has been one of the most popular machines, and I think it deserves to be, as although it's definitely not perfect, it's probably about as good as you'll get for the price it's usually available for these days, and they're very reliable machines.

I used to say that the Dedica was just a bit over priced for what it was, and that I just didn't understand why anyone wouldn't just spend a little bit more on a better espresso machine, but these days it's usually available at a price that makes it very difficult to compete with, without spending roughly double the price or more.

My opinon about the newer Dedica Arte', by the way, is currently similar to what my opinion used to be on the standard Dedica EC685, which is that it's not a bad machine but it seems overpriced for what it's usually available for, but it might be worth grabbing if you can find a great deal, if you want a pro steam wand. 

If you don't want to use a pressurised portafilter, then you can get a bottomless aftermarket portafilter and use it as a standard basket machine, pairing it with an espresso capable grinder, the only slightly annoying thing about that is that I've never been able to find a compatible normal portafilter, only bottomless, so you're forced to use a bottomless portafilter. 

Bottomless or naked portafilters as they're sometimes called, are fine, they're really useful as a training tool, but they can be a bit messy when you're getting dialed in, as even fairly insignificant channels in the coffee, often just caused by too coarse a grind, can lead to espresso spraying all over the place.

Breville One Touch Coffee House

Breville one touch coffeehouse

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Features:

Portafilter: 51mm, pressurised basket portafilter. 
Milk Steaming: Milk carafe frother
Water tank: 1L, top rear filling.
Dimensions (w x d x h): 23cm x 28 cm x 32.5 cm
Special Feature: One touch cappuccino and latte (kind of)

My Observations:

Breville coffee machines cause a bit of confusion in the UK given the fact that most people are aware that Breville is the other name for Sage, as the Breville brand name was sold in Europe in the 80s so they can't use it. So just keep in mind, if you buy a Breville machine in the UK, this isn't the same as Sage coffee machines, they're a completely different manufacturer.

The one touch coffee house (which is sold under different brand names in different countries, for example in the States it's also sold under the “Mr Coffee” brand) is a pressurised basket espresso machine with a twist, that twist being that it has a one touch milk carafe instead of the usual Panarello steam wand. 

I have to be honest and say that I completely ignored this machine for a while.

I got one a couple of years ago, I looked at it once and just left it in the box, deciding it was much less interesting than most of the other machines I wanted to review. A friend of mine then told me that he had this machine, and he'd been using it for a few years before it gave up on him, and he was after another one, so I gave him the machine I'd initially intended to review. 

He then told me he was happy with it, he said something along the lines of “I make a couple of cappuccinos with it at the weekend, it does the job & it's really easy to use”, so I did a bit of investigation and I was really surprised by just how many people buy this machine! So just a few weeks after giving the machine away, I bought another one so I could review it, great timing ;-).

The verdict is, it's OK, some people will love it. 

When I say “some people”. If you like really hot latte and cappuccino, and you want a simple way to make them, you'll probably love this.

Is it for home barista use, nah, but someone who wants to save a bit of money on going for a bean to cup machine will get very similar cappuccino and latte from this using pre-ground coffee, or grinding their own coffee using a basic grinder, vs a much more expensive one touch bean to cup coffee machine, with one major difference – milk temperature.

The main complaint of one touch bean to cup machines is they often produce latte and cappuccinos that some people don't think are hot enough. I'd have the opposite complaint with the one touch coffee house, it heats the milk to 75C.

That's perfect for some people, I personally don't like this, to me it makes the milk taste burnt, but each to their own. If you're someone who asks for your cappuccino or latte “extra hot”, this may well be the machine for you.  

I'm not a huge fan of the “one touch” name, though. To me, a one touch machine is a coffee machine that delivers coffee from one touch. This is a portafilter machine with a one touch milk carafe, it's not a one touch affair, and even when it comes to pressing the buttons to choose a latte or cappuccino, if you want a large – that's two touches I think you'll find ;-).

Also, I'm not a big fan of the fact that it's milk first, espresso second. To me, this is latte macchiato, it results in a layered drink that tends to taste like hot milk unless you give it a stir.

But if you want a simple way to make cappuccino and latte, and you don't mind the fact that you have to dose the portafilter with ground coffee, and you like very hot milk drinks, you may love this.

Gaggia Carezza Deluxe

Gaggia Carezza Deluxe Coffee Machine.Check Price - Gaggia DirectCheck Price Amazon

Read my review:

Gaggia Carezza Deluxe Review

Watch my review on youtube:

Features.

Portafilter: 53mm pressurised portafilter. Available with standard basket portafilter or bottomless portafilter
Milk Steaming: Panarello steam wand + pro steam wand
Water tank: 1.3L (front accessed)
Dimensions (w x d x h): 28.2cm x 30cm x 32cm 
Special Feature: Preinfusion (kind of)

My Observations:

The Carezza is a machine that has been around for many years, and I just kept ignoring it because it didn't particularly appeal to me, as I've done with other machines in the past until readers and viewers have prodded me enough to get my lazy arse in gear ;-).

I became a bit more interested in the Carezza, though, when Gaggia Direct (the official UK distributor for Gaggia) started offering it as a deal with the Gaggia MD15 grinder and standard portafilter for a price that made it one of the lowest priced entry level home barista setups on the market.

Gaggia Carezza Deluxe

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I wasn't expecting much, though. I wasn't a big fan of the way it looks, at least not online, and I just couldn't see that it really had anything special going for it. I was proven wrong.

Once I got past my disgust at the abomination they're calling a portafilter ;-), I reached for the Edessia Espress standard basket portafilter that they sell it with (optional, you can have it with the horrible spring loaded portafilter if you prefer, each to their own) and my blood pressure returned to normal. 

I made an espresso with the MD15 which I shimmed to grind fine enough for using standard baskets (they include the shims in the box along with fitting instructions, it's ridiculously simple to do) and I frothed the milk using the panarello the first time around. All good, if I was into the bigger bubbled foam Panarello wands produce then I'd be happy with that.

I prefer microfoam, so I slipped off the panarello to use the plastic part underneath that the panarello fits on to, as a steam wand, and I was really happy with it. Something about the angle of the pipe just made it easier, less of a faff than doing this on most Panarello machines. 

But then something happened, I did a quick Google and found a Carezza review from Whole Latte Love on the Carezza, in which Marc said that it also comes with a pro steam wand. I thought it must be an attachment, so I checked the box, couldn't find anything, and assumed it was a US special or just something WLL do themselves. 

I then thought “wait, it's not under there is it?” and I pulled the black plastic part off that I thought was just fitted onto the end of the seam pipe, to find that this connector for the Panarello was actually covering the hidden “secret” pro steam wand!

OK it doesn't have a screw on steam tip, it's a one piece steam pipe that rounds off at the end to form a single hole tip, but it's no different to any other single hole tipped wand other than the tip is part of the pipe, not screw on.

So I used that, and I was very pleasantly surprised!

Gaggia Carezza Latte Art.

The steam power is really good, and very consistent, and I was able to produce great milk texture, although I do need to point out that I've had years of practise at steaming milk, there really is a knack to it, so please don't be too disheartened if you don't find you can create perfect texture straight away, just keep at it and you'll get there, you just might have to drink a lot of coffee ;-).

The espresso quality with the standard portafilter, is really quite good. I think it's probably about on parr with the shot quality of the Gaggia Classic pro paired with the same grinder, without any modding. The main difference with the classic pro is that you can mod the basket pressure, fit a PID, and various other things to upgrade the potential shot quality.

It has some form of preinfusion, which is something the classic doesn't have, and I say “some form of” as from what I can tell, it's not low pressure preinfusion, it's more like running the pump at full pressure for a second or two, pausing, and then starting the shot, which isn't quite what I'd think of as pre-infusion, but probably better than nothing.

The thermometer didn't impress me a great deal, there are no numbers on it so it's not the most helpful thermometer 😉 but it does the job of showing you where it is in the range of the temperature swings, so it does act as a helpful guide to temperature surfing (pulling shots at the same temp each time).

The drip tray is quite big, 300ml capacity, and the metal tray is held in via a magnet, and I know that's insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but I thought it was a nice little touch, and it makes the drip tray feel more solid. 

The water tank is front accessed which makes it very handy for anyone who uses their espresso machine under wall cupboards, as it means you don't have to pull the machine out each time you need to fill the tank. This is common with bean to cup machines, not common at all with traditional espresso machines.

Overall, I was very pleasantly surprised by the Carezza, I think anyone wanting to get into the home barista hobby on a very low budget should probably have this on their shortlist, especially the bundle deal including the standard portafilter and the MD15 grinder. The only thing I would say is that now they've released the new Gaggia Espresso, above, personally I think that's better, and cheaper.

Integrated Grinder Espresso Machines

This is simply a traditional espresso machine with an inbuilt grinder. The presence of the grinder is a precursor to assistance, in other words all assisted machines including bean to cup machines, have integrated grinders, but that doesn't mean that all integrated grinder machines have some form of assistance.

The classic example of this is the Barista Express. This was the first commercially successful integrated grinder machine, and lots of people bought it thinking it was a bean to cup coffee machine, because of the grinder.

Retailers didn't help with this as many of them advertised this machine as a bean to cup machine, some still do, but other than the fact that the grinder is integrated, there's really no difference between using the Barista Express or using a similarly capable espresso machine paired with a stand-alone grinder. 

There's nothing wrong with integrated grinder machines in my opinion, as long as you understand the kind of machine you're buying and why, so you can weigh up your options.

If you're going for a machine like this because you want to save space, for example, that's great as long as you're aware of how much space you're actually going to save vs the alternatives. If you're making this choice to save cash, again no problem as long as you're comparing relatively like for like and you know what compromises you're making for that saving. 

The main con of using an integrated grinder machine is the lack of upgradeability, so as long as you know that going in, all good.

When it comes to upgrading espresso quality, generally speaking, the best bang for buck comes from upgrading the grinder. For example, just a £100 – £200 jump in grinder choice can yeild big improvements in the shot, while to get similar improvements from upgrading the espresso machine would usually involve a much bigger jump in investment. You can start out with an integrated grinder, and upgrade to a higher quality grinder in the future of course, this isn't that uncommon, but if you know this is likely to be the case, starting out with separates might be the wiser option.

Breville Barista Max

Breville Barista Max + in black

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Features:

Grinder: 40mm conical burrs, 30 grind settings.
Hopper: Removable hopper, not locking, but “anti-spill gates” do a similar job
Portafilter: 58mm stainless steel portafilter (single and double baskets – dual walled, pressurised) 
Boiler: Thermoblock
Milk Steaming: Manual steam wand with single hole steam tip
Water tank: 2.8L. Top (rear) accessed 
Drip Tray: Decent-sized drip tray with metal tray
Dimensions (w x d x h): 35cm x 33cm x 41cm
Adjustable brew temperature: Yes, 88°C – 96°C in 2°C increments
Preinfusion?: Yes

My Observations:

I just want to make sure before I continue, that you don't think these machines have anything to do with the Sage Barista range, as this is a common misunderstanding. 

Sage espresso machines are sold under the Breville brand everywhere else but Europe, as they're made by Breville Worldwide, but the Breville brand name was sold in the 80s which is why they can't sell their machines as Breville in the UK, they use the Sage Appliances brand name here. 

So the Breville espresso machines in the UK are completely different.

The Breville brand in the UK is owned by Newell Brands, who also own SunBeam coffee machines in Australia, who released the SunBeam Barista Max and Barista Max Plus there. They were then released in the UK under the Breville name, and understandably this has caused some confusion amongs people who know that Sage espresso machines are also sold as Breville espresso machines in some countries.

So hopefully that clears up that confusion.

You're getting two for one in this review, as you can take what I'm saying here for both the Barista Max, and the Barista Max +, which is almost the same machine but with standard baskets not dual-walled, and the digital display & shot timer.

breville barista max coffee machine in stainless steel

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There's about £50 difference, and for that you get a slightly different look (the plus looks slightly nicer in my opinion) and the standard single walled baskets, and the digital display for the grinder and the shot timer, and for me it's well worth the additional £50 for these things, I really like having a shot timer.

Just beware the blurb, as in various marketing blurb I've seen the Barista Max Plus blurb being used when it comes to the baskets, indicating that it comes with single walled standard baskets, as far as I'm aware it's only the plus version that does, the standard version has dual walled baskets, but it's a 58mm portafilter so you can always swap out the baskets anway, 58mm standard baskets are very easy to get hold of.

If you're looking for an integrated grinder espresso machine and the Sage machines are just out of your budget, my recommendation would be the Breville Barista Max or Max Plus. They're not on the same level as the Sage machines, but the compromises you're making if you go for one of these machines vs. a Sage aren't as big as with any of the other options I've tried.

In other words although these definitely aren't Sage machines, they come closer where it matters than other options. 

For the money, I'm really impressed with the Breville Barista Max & Barista Max +, they're really cheap given how good they are. No, I don't believe they're as good as Sage machines where build quality or cup quality is concerned, but given how cheap they are, I'm surprised by how bad they're not ;-), if that makes sense?

The only thing that annoyed me about them is how messy the grinding is, that would really annoy me if I was using it every day, but all I'd do is find a 58mm dosing funnel/collar thing  and fudge it some way so that I could grind via the funnel to reduce the mess.

Also, the “tap and go” feature is over sold, I reckon, it's really not tap and go at all, as you have to hold it down! It you tapped and went, you'd come back to an empty basket! 😉

Plus, the cradle is a bit flimsy so if you're a bit heavy-handed like me, you may find yourself pushing the portafilter out of the cradle, leading to a chuffing big mess and some very naughty words (again, if you're like me).

Would I buy one of these over any of the Sage machines, nah, they're just not quite in the same league – BUT, if I was on a really tight budget and I couldn't afford a Sage espresso machine, I'd probably choose one of these two over any of the other non-Sage integrated espresso machines on the market. 

De'Longhi La Specialista Arte

DeLonghi La Specialista Arte.

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Features:

Grinder: 40mm conical burrs, 8 grind settings.
Hopper: Removable, with gasket, isn't locking (can't lock it to remove beans)
Portafilter: 51mm stainless steel portafilter (single and double baskets) pressurised
Boiler: Thermoblock
Milk Steaming: Manual steam wand with single hole steam tip
Water tank: 2.5L. Top (rear) accessed 
Drip Tray: Decent-sized drip tray with metal tray
Dimensions (w x d x h): 27.5cm x 36.5cm x 40cm
Adjustable brew temperature: Yes 2 settings, 2C difference
Preinfusion?: Yes 

My Observations:

This is clearly De'Longhi's answer to the Sage Barista Express, and for anyone who thought that Sage copied De'Longhi, who didn't see the section above on the assisted machines, this isn't the case, which becomes obvious when you discover that the La Specialista machines were launched in 2021, vs 2013 for the Barista Express.

In a nutshell, I like the look of this machine, I like the look of the portafilter and the portafilter stand and the tamper, and I like the dosing funnel. 

It all screams “home barista”, and this is clearly the market they're going after with this machine, but unfortunately I just don't  think they nailed it where performance is concerned, mainly because of the grinder. 

As with the Prestigio and Maestro versions of the La Specialista, the La Specialista Art only has 8 grind settings, and I didn't detect pressurisation in the portafilter on this one (which I did with the Prestigio) which is good, but I just couldn't get on at all with the grinder, it behaved strangely. 

There was loads of play in the adjustment, and at the courser end of the range the grind size didn't appear to change much, but then at the fine end from 1 to 2 for example, there appeared to be a huge jump in grind size. This could of course just be an issue with the model they sent me to review, or they may have updated the grinder since – a comment on the video above from someone who has the machine seems to suggest they have.

That aside, though, this machine loses me at 8 grind settings. A grinder with 8 settings is for “set and forget” type use, not for dialing in, but this appears to be a machine for home baristas, that's how it's marketed, so in my opinion the marketing and the performance just aren't a match. Similarly to the Prestigio version, it strikes me as a main stream coffee machine marketed as a home barista machine. 

If you love the De'Longhi brand, and you really like the look of the machine, and you're not really fussed about throwing yourself into the home barista hobby, then you might really enjoy this machine, but if you're looking for an espresso machine as the core of your new home barista hobby, this isn't the machine I'd recommend, personally.

Sage Barista Express

Sage Barista Express.

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Features:

Grinder: 38mm conical burrs, 18 grind settings.
Hopper: Locking hopper (for easy beans removal) with gasket
Portafilter: 54mm stainless steel portafilter (single and double baskets, standard + dual walled)
Boiler: Sage original thermocoil
Milk Steaming: Pro steam wand with single hole steam tip
Water tank: 2L, with water filter. Top (rear) accessed with quick-release handle 
Drip Tray: Large capacity drip tray with hidden storage space
Dimensions (w x d x h): 34cm x 32cm x 40cm
Adjustable brew temperature: Yes from 91- 95C in 1C increments
Preinfusion?: Yes, pre-set & manual

My Observations:

The Barista Express is the original integrated grinder traditional espresso machine, or at least the first commercially successful one.

It's been the best selling espresso machine with built in grinder for several years, and it still sells very well now, possibly because it's now the cheapest in Sage's range. 

Overall I think the Barista Express is great, and when it comes to literally any other integrated grinder traditional machine on the market, I think it usually wins, but if you're keen on getting into the home barista hobby, I think you'll probably find the Barista pro to be a bit more up your street.

The reason for this probably isn't what you'll think. 

Yes it has the original thermocoil heater so it takes a bit longer to heat up, but we're talking about 30 seconds, so that's really not a huge deal. 

It has less grind settings than the Barista pro and the other Sage machines, and that's partly the reason but that's not a massive deal either really, it has the same grinding range, it's just that you can't dial in as precisely. 

The main reason I'm saying this, is that I think the Barista Express is geared up slightly more to lean towards the more mainstream market, than specialty. 

The Barista Express is the only machine in the “Barista” range that doesn't have the OPV (over-pressure valve) set to fire off at 9 bars, which means it's the only machine in the range that doesn't include all four of their “four keys formula”.

If they think that people are going to mainly be using the Barista Express with the dual walled pressurized baskets and supermarket commodity beans, then this would probably make sense, as most pressurized basket machines seem to have the OPV set to about the same 13/14 bars. The Gaggia Classic is the same unless you fit the (very simple) 9 bar spring mod.

The Barista Express is also the only machine in the Barista range at the time of writing that still features the original “Fullnice” burr set and not the European Etzinger burrs. Again, if they think most people using this machine will be using older mainstream beans rather than freshly roasted beans, it probably makes sense, as the Etinger burrs probably cost more.

So if you're more like the “normal” coffee drinker, and you'll be using bags of beans from the supermarket, you'll probably get on absolutely fine with the Barista Express. I'd just say that if you're really wanting to get into the home barista hobby, you might find the Barista Pro a bit more of a match.

Sage Barista Pro

Sage Barista Pro.

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Features:

Grinder: 38mm Etzinger conical burrs, 30 grind settings.
Hopper: Locking hopper (for easy beans removal) with gasket
Portafilter: 54mm stainless steel portafilter (single and double baskets, standard + dual walled)
Boiler: Sage original thermocoil
Milk Steaming: Pro steam wand with single hole steam tip
Water tank: 2L, with water filter. Top (rear) accessed with quick-release handle 
Drip Tray: Large capacity drip tray with hidden storage space
Dimensions (w x d x h): 35cm x 41cm x 41 cm
Adjustable brew temperature: Yes from 91- 95C in 1C increments
Preinfusion?: Yes, pre-set & manual

My Observations:

The Barista Pro is very similar to the express, but it has a slightly bigger footprint, a slightly more modern finish, an LCD screen instead of a pressure gauge, 30 grind settings, the Etzinger burr set, 9 bar OPV, and it has the newer Sage Thermojet heater vs. the original Sage Thermocoil, and a four-hole steam tip vs a single hole tip.

What this all means is that it's heated up and ready to go slightly quicker (3 seconds, but you still need to warm up the portafilter, group, and your cup, so not much different when all said and done), the steam ready time from turning on the steam is a bit quicker, and the overall steaming time is a bit faster too. 

It doesn't make as much noise as the Barista Express, not in terms of volume, but the Express just makes noise for longer as it flushes cold water on the bigger thermocoil for longer to cool it down, and the Thermojet on the Pro is almost instantly back down to shot temp without the same drama.

There's no pressure gauge, but you don't really need a pressure gauge anyway, in my opinion.

You can tell roughly what pressure you're getting from what the shot looks like and how fast it's running, so I actually prefer the LCD screen on the pro as I think the shot timer is more useful than the pressure gauge, I also find it easier to do things like re-program the shot buttons and brew temp with the LCD screen than using various button pressing sequences on the Express.

With the Etzinger burrs, the increased grind settings and the 9 bar OPV, the Barista Pro is clearly targeted more towards the home barista side of the market than the Barista Express. If you're not bothered about the home barista thing, though, and you want to use your machine more “set and forget” then you might find the Barista Express a better match, but just keep in mind that set and forget doesn't really work with standard baskets.

Traditional Espresso Machines

If you're wanting to get into the home barista hobby, one of the most obvious options is to go for a stand-alone traditional espresso machine with a separate grinder. 

Yes, in theory, you can us pre-ground coffee with some traditional espresso machines, the ones that come also with pressurised baskets as well as standard, for people who want to do that, but I'd highly recommend against that if you want true, home barista espresso quality.

I'll make grinder suggestions for each machine, but for the big coffee grinders review post see:

best electric burr coffee grinders reviewBest manual coffee grinders review

Sage Bambino

Sage Bambino.

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Features:

Water Tank: 1.4L
Dimensions: 19 cm wide x 30.4 cm deep x 31 cm tall
Boiler: ThermoJet (Sage's new thermocoil)
PID?:
Yes
3 Way Solenoid?:
No
Portafilter Size: 54mm
Pump Pressure:
9 bars
Interface: Buttons
Preinfusion?: Yes, pre-set and manual

My Observations:

A relative newcomer to the Sage Appliances range, in the UK at least, the Bambino is the base level version of the Bambino Plus, below. It's currently the lowest price machine offered by Sage, and it's the lowest priced “true” traditional espresso machine on the market.

It's one of the most compact espresso machines on the market, at under 20cm wide, it's also not too deep at 32cm, and it's 31cm tall so it'll fit under any standard height kitchen cupboard. It's also among the fastest espresso machines on the market, reaching steam temperature within just a few seconds, and dropping back down to espresso temperature equally quickly.

What I mean by “true” traditional espresso machine, is that this is an espresso machine that delivers 9 bars of pressure and comes with traditional baskets, it even features low-pressure preinfusion, which is amazing for a machine at this price!

There are cheaper espresso machines as I mentioned earlier, but these usually come only with pressurized baskets or with a pressurized portafilter (which means the pressurization is not done via the basket itself, but the portafilter), and as I mentioned earlier, whether they have over pressure valves or are delivering full pump pressure is a bit of a mystery.

The Bambino (all Sage machines, in fact) is a 9 bar machine, and I've had a few emails from people questioning this as it's listed as having a 15 bar pump, but this is simply the pump capacity. 

Most entry and mid range espresso machines have vibration pumps, and most of these deliver up to 15 bars of pressure. Sage machines, however (and most of the other home barista espresso machines I'll be talking about in this section of the post) have an over presssure valve, or OPV, which restricts the pressure, usually to 9 bars.

The Bambino Plus, which I'll get to in a min, is one of the best-selling home espresso machines in the world (sold elsewhere under the Breville brand), they clearly got most things right with that little machine, hence the huge success.

The Bambino is the slightly cheaper version, and although there are a couple of steps down from the Plus to the base level Bambino, there are a couple of steps up, too.

It has a PID, which is a fancy way of saying that it has temperature control, and this is an amazing thing for a machine of this cost to have, and it means that the brew temperature is stable, and this is very important, but it isn't something that can be said of all espresso machines as we'll discuss when we get to the Gaggia Classic Pro and the Rancilio Silvia.

Vs the Bambino Plus, as I mentioned there are a few cons, one is that there's no 3-way solenoid valve. What this means is that the puck of coffee will usually be slightly wetter when you knock it out.

People tend to make a big deal about the solenoid valve, but it's not really a huge deal, there's still a valve (a brew valve) it just doesn't do quite as good of a job of releasing the pressure and moisture as quickly as a solenoid valve does. This is potentially a pro for the Bambino, though, as I'll mention when I talk about the Bambino Plus, as the small drip tray is more practical with the Bambino, given that it's not being constantly filled by a solenoid as is the case with the Plus.

The Bambino doesn't have the auto steaming feature, and that's a good feature for anyone who doesn't want to texture their own milk.

The Bambino Plus is very good for that, it surprised me the first time I used it as I wasn't expecting it to be capable of such decent texture. The steam wand on the Bambino is capable of great milk texture, but manual only.

The other is that the water tank is slightly smaller, 1.5L vs 1.9L, so you'll have to fill it slightly more often. Again probably not a huge deal.

On the plus side, the Bambino has a hot water button (which delivers water through the steam wand) which the Plus doesn't have. You can get water through the steam wand on the Bambino Plus (on some versions, anyway) but through a series of button presses not a single button.

Also, the Bambino Plus steam wand only moves up and down, while the Bambino wand is on a ball joint which gives you more flexibility over the steaming position.

Which Grinder?

For the Bambino, the Sage Dose Control Pro is a popular option, they're a great match in terms of looks, the same is true of the Smart Grinder Pro and they're both a good pairing for the Bambino. The Baratza Encore ESP is also a good entry level option. 

 

 

Sage Bambino Plus

Best Espresso Machines for Home Use.

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Features:

Water Tank: 1.9L
Dimensions: 19.4cm wide x 32cm deep x 31 cm tall
Weight: 5 Kg
Boiler: ThermoJet (Sage's new thermocoil)
PID?:
Yes
3 Way Solenoid?:
Yes
Portafilter Size: 54mm
Pump Pressure:
9 bars
Interface: Buttons
Preinfusion?: Yes, pre-set and manual

My Observations:

So this is the Plus version, the premium of the two Bambino machines, and I've already said quite a lot about this machine while talking about the Bambino, so I'll keep this description relatively short.

The Bambino Plus has been around for a few years now, and it quickly became one of the most popular espresso machines in the UK, which I think was always going to happen when you look at what this machine does and what it costs. Before the Bambino was released in the UK, the Plus was about the cheapest machine in the UK, or maybe joint cheapest with the Duo Temp Pro, and where features and performance are concerned it's such a lot of machine for the money.

As with the Bambino, this features Sage's own version of a thermocoil, which they named “ThermoJet”. So instead of having a traditional boiler, most of the Sage machines (all the way up to the Sage Dual Boiler) have thermocoils (or thermojets) which are on-demand water heaters vs traditional brew boilers.

There are pros and cons to both, and this isn't the right post to go deeply into this, all I'd say is that when you're comparing a thermocoil or thermoblock machine to a single boiler machine, you have to look at the entire picture, not just the boiler or water heater.

Anyway, having the newer thermojet means it has the same super fast steam ready time, the same 3 second warm-up time, and also it cools down fast after steaming so it's ready to pull another shot almost instantly.

As I've mentioned, the Plus has the auto steaming option, and this has three texture settings and three temp settings. The Plus also has a four hole steam tip vs the one hole tip on the Bambino, so this does give you a bit more steam power, making steaming milk slightly quicker, but there's not a huge amount of difference in it.

The only slight niggle with the Bambino Plus that I've noticed and that I've heard from readers is that the drip tray is very small. You do get used to it, so you won't find it an issue after a while, but I do think this is actually an accidental plus for the Bambino having no solenoid.

As the Plus has a solenoid valve, it expels water into the drip tray after every shot, so it fills up quickly. The drip tray is just as small with the Bambino, maybe slightly smaller actually, but as there isn't the constant ejection of water from the solenoid, you don't have to empty the Bambino's drip tray anywhere near as often.

If I was deciding between the two, I'd probably go for the Bambino if it was just me using it and there was no one in the home who needed to use the auto steam wand, but if I was sharing it with people who might benefit from the auto milk steaming then I'd go for the Plus.

Which Grinder?

Again, the Sage Dose Control Pro or the slightly more fancy (LCD controls and slightly bigger motor)  Smart Grinder Pro is a popular pairing, and I used this pairing as my main setup for a couple of years and found it a great setup. I've used the smart grinder pro with various machines actually, It's a versatile grinder which will pair well with most entry-level machines. The Eureka Encore ESP would also pair well.

If you wanted to future proof, to have a grinder that will pair well with higher end machines if you get “upgadeitis”, then look at the the Eureka Mignon Specialita, Sette 270, Niche Zero, DF64, DF83 or Eureka Oro Mignon.

If you're wondering what I'm on about re upgraditis, by the way, this is a pandemic among home baristas for which there is yet no vaccine but Astra Zeneca are probably working on one. Pfizer, too I'd suspect as they tend to give stiff competition. If you don't get that joke, just look up some of Pfizer's most well-known creations and you'll get it ;-). 

Gaggia Classic Pro

New gaggia classic 2018 19

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Gaggia Discount Codes!

Gaggia Direct have given me discount codes exclusively for coffeeblog readers, PLUS they're all currently subject to an EXTRA automatic 5% discount at checkout.

You can find them all here:

PLEASE NOTE: You may find one or two retailers at present offering great deals on Gaggia machines, especially the Gaggia Classic. If you see the Gaggia Classic Pro selling for around £315 – £330, this may not quite be all that it seems. There are companies with websites that appear to be UK based, but they're actually selling grey imports from outside of the UK, which usually take over a week to deliver, and are sold with no UK warranty! 

When you buy from Gaggia Direct (the UK distributor for Gaggia Milano) you're buying genuine UK Gaggia models with a UK warranty, and UK stock, and at present you get a three year UK warranty. 

Features:

Water Tank: 2.1L
Dimensions: 21cm wide x 25cm deep x 35.6 cm tall
Weight: 7 Kg
Boiler: 130mm aluminium boiler
PID?:
No
3 Way Solenoid?:
Yes
Portafilter Size: 58mm
Pump Pressure:
12 bars (can be modded with a simple spring change)
Interface: Rocker switches & rotary steam dial
Preinfusion?: No
Adjustable brew temperature: No

My Observations:

The Gaggia Classic is one of the most popular home espresso machines in the world, the majority of home baristas during the 90s and early 00s started out with a Classic, many still have them. My classic is from 2003, and it is still absolutely fine.

The classic did go astray for a while (in the eyes of home baristas at least) when they were acquired by Philips in 2009, the final straw being the 2015 version which went down like a fart in a lift. Gaggia surprised everyone, though, with the Gaggia Classic Pro, which is pretty much the original classic but with a pro steam wand.

Among the most common questions I get via email, is Gaggia classic vs Bambino plus, and these machines couldn't be more different if they tried, but they occupy a very similar position in terms of popularity and price point, so I do understand this question being so commonly asked.

The simple way to put it is that the Classic is for people who are looking for a very capable workhorse that will require some taming but will probably give them decades of use if well looked after, while the Bambino & Bambino Plus is all about user friendliness and ease of use.

The Gaggia Classic isn't as user friendly, it has some temperature stability quirks that need taming either via workflow (temperature surfing) or by installing a PID (about £100-£130), but once that's sorted, as these are machines made the way they used to make things, you'll probably have the machine for many years as long as you maintain it.

It's not 9 bars out of the box, and I must admit I'm not completely sure why they did that. They added a pro steam wand, so they seem to have aimed it at the home barista, so why they fitted a valve spring that limits the pressure to something like 12 bars instead of the standard 9, I don't really know, but this is a very simple and cheap (about a tenner) mod to do.

It has a steam boiler, it's a very small boiler but it's also powered by a high powered element, and the element is external to the boiler so there's no worries about letting the boiler run dry and potentially breaking it. It has the popular 3 way solenoid valve (which the 2015 model was missing, which is one of the reasons it didn't go down well).

It doesn't have bells and whistles, it certainly doesn't have airs and graces, it's retro in its looks, it's good old-fashioned engineering, and if you like that kind of thing, you'll love the Classic.

Coffee machine gadgets - do you really need them?

Which Grinder?

I really like the Eureka Mignon Specialita as a pairing for the Gaggia Classic, something like the DF64 or DF83 would also pair well,  as would the Niche Zero or Mignon Oro, but if you're on a bit more of a budget, you'll still get fairly decent results with the Smart Grinder Pro or Baratza Encore ESP.

Gaggia Direct are bundling the Mignon Specialita with their limited edition version of the classic at the moment: 

Gaggia Classic and Eureka Mignon La Specialita.

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Rancilio Silvia

Best Espresso Machines for Home Use.

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Features:

Water Tank: 2L
Dimensions: 23.5 cm wide x 29 cm deep x 34 cm tall
Weight: 14 Kg
Boiler: 300ml stainless steel boiler
PID?:
No
3 Way Solenoid?:
Yes
Portafilter Size: 58mm
Pump Pressure:
9 bars
Interface: Rocker switches & rotary steam dial
Preinfusion?: No
Adjustable brew temperature: No

My Observations:

The Rancilio Silvia is a popular single boiler home Barista espresso machine. For quite some time there wasn't a great deal of competition when it comes to single boiler machines, other than the Gaggia Classic.

Silvia has usually been regarded by those with experience of both, as having a bit more potential for espresso quality, if paired with a capable enough grinder.

The classic has been regarded, generally speaking, as the more reliable of the two over the long term, and with less potential for element burnout due to the fact that the boiler is externally heated, and the Silvia has an internal element, although it's really not much of a task to keep it primed.

The main con for the Silvia vs the Classic, though, was cost. For a long time, the Silvia was roughly double the cost of the classic. This is no longer quite the case, the new Gaggia Classic Pro and the new Rancilio Silvia (Silvia E V6 2020) are only about a hundred quid apart.

In many ways these machines are similar, same size water tank, same size portafilter, both have brass groups, both have a 3 way solenoid valve, neither have a PID (but both can be modded with a PID) and they're both operated by simple switches.

They look similar too I think. Silvia is a bit more square, and the steam knob on the Silvia is on the front, and on the Classic it’s on the right hand side of the machine. The Silvia does look a little bit more like a commercial machine, which makes sense as Rancilio usually makes commercial espresso machines, they only made the Silvia initially as a thank you for their distributors, it wasn't intended to be a domestic machine.

The biggest difference is the boilers. The Classic has a teeny externally heated Alu boiler with a 1300W element. The Silvia has a much bigger 300ml Brass/Chrome alloy boiler, internally heated with a 1100W element.

My personal opinion of the Silvia is that it's a very powerful machine, it's a bit harder to tame than the classic, personally I'd want a PID on this machine if I was going to use it as my home espresso machine, but the steam power (once you've got the knack of it) is immense, I love the portafilter, feels really high quality, and it does feel a bit more like using a commercial machine to me, than the classic, but as I've said, I did find it a bit harder to tame, out of the box without any modding.

Rancilio Silvia Review

Don't forget, though, even the very best espresso machine will only produce decent espresso if you use decent coffee – and now for a shameless plug of my own coffee! 🙂

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Which Grinder?

If you want to keep the same brand, then the Rancilio Rocky is an option, but if you're going for the Silvia I'd recommend sticking to the mid range and upwards, I don't think the entry level grinders really do the Silvia much justice. If you can, I'd look at the likes of the DF64, DF83, Sette 270, Mignon Specialita, Niche Zero.

Profitec Go

Profitec Go

 

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Features:

Water Tank: 2.8L
Dimensions: 21 cm wide x 36.2 cm deep x 38 cm tall
Boiler: 400ml brass boiler
PID?:
No (but brew group type makes it very temp stable)
3 Way Solenoid?:
Yes
Portafilter Size: 58mm
Pump Pressure:
9 bars (adjustable)
Interface: Buttons & rotary steam dial
Grind settings: 30
Preinfusion?: Yes, pre-set (adjustable) & manual
Adjustable brew temperature: Yes

My Observations:

This is a very nice looking home barista espresso machine from the very well-known German espresso machine manufacturer, Profitec (sister company of ECM , by the way), who mainly produce heat exchanger and dual boiler espresso machines.

If you've seen the ECM CasaV, by the way, this is more or less the same machine internally, I think it looks slightly nicer though.

Although this is a step up in terms of price from the other popular single boiler machines including the Gaggia Classic and Rancilio Silvia, with its 2.8 L water tank, 400ml brass boiler (with a 1200W element), and its ring group which is (kind of) a saturated brew group, it's a lot of machine for the money.

It doesn't have a PID, but it has a group that I think to all intents and purposes can be regarded as a saturated group, and I know some will take issue with this as whenever anyone says “saturated group” some smart-arse will come out with a technical description of what is and what isn't a saturated group.

Anyway, whether or not this group is technically a saturated group, it behaves in a very similar way and this gives it great temperature stability regardless of the lack of a PID.

If you were thinking of going for a Rancilio Silvia but you don't want to do the temperature surfing routine so you think you'd want to fit a PID, but you're thinking you'd rather just spend a bit more money on a machine that doesn't need taming, then the Profitec Go is worth a look.

Which Grinder?

In theory you could pair the Profitec Go with one of the entry level grinders, but if you can I'd highly recommend going mid range upward, so Eureka Mignon Specialita, Smart Grinder Pro Niche Zero, and so on.

 

Sage Dual Boiler

Sage Dual Boiler

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Features:

Water Tank: 2.5L
Dimensions: 40.3 cm wide x 37.3 cm deep x 37.8cm tall
Weight: 15.5 Kg
Boiler: 950ml steam boiler + PID controlled 450ml brew boiler + heat exchanger
PID?:
Yes
3 Way Solenoid?:
Yes
Portafilter Size: 58mm
Pump Pressure:
9 bars
Interface: Buttons & steam lever + digital display
Preinfusion?: Yes, pre-set (adjustable) & manual, control over power and length
Adjustable brew temperature: Yes from 86 – 96C in 1C increments

My Observations:

The Sage dual boiler is one of the most popular dual boiler espresso machines in the UK, and in many other countries, and from my experience with this machine, I'm really not surprised. This is an amazing espresso machine for the money.

You may be surprised by the “for the money” comment because if you're not accustomed to the prices of dual boiler espresso machines the price of the Sage Dual Boiler might not seem low, but it really is for a machine of this quality.

In terms of performance, and particularly where temperature stability is concerned (obviously very important for espresso) the Dual Boiler punches way, way above its weight. As with the ECM casa V the group may not be saturated group (meaning it's one with the boiler, internally) technically speaking, it performs as if it were due to the way it's designed.

You have control over preinfusion power and preinfusion time, which is a rare amount of preinfusion control. The control you have over the brew temperature is also rare, with a range of 10 degrees (86-96C) in 1-degree increments, and these two things (preinfusion control and temp control) make the dual boiler an amazing machine for working with lighter roasts.

Many people spend somewhere between four thousand to ten thousand pounds for machines that give enough control in these areas to get great results with lighter roasts, with machines from the Decent Espresso machines, La Marzocco GS3, and Slayer, but even without any modding, the Sage Dual Boiler has the ability to work with light roasts, and with a very simple completely reversible (virtually free) mod, you can use the water knob to control the pressure, for manual flow profiling!

I could go on and on about the Dual Boiler, but I already have done in my review post ;-), so if you want to find out more about it, see:

Sage Dual Boiler Review

Which Grinder?

The Sage Dual Boiler is sold bundled with the Sage Smart Grinder Pro via the “Dynamic Duo” package. I would definitely buy that package vs just buying the Sage Dual Boiler, but I wouldn't use the Smart Grinder Pro with the Dual Boiler.

The reason I'd buy that package is it gives you the (£210) Smart Grinder Pro for £50, and it's a great grinder for £50, either as a backup grinder or as a grinder for manual brew methods. 

The Smart Grinder Pro is a mega grinder for the price, as an all-rounder, and for use with more entry-level machines, but the Sage Dual Boiler is one of the best espresso machines on the planet, the shot capability is very high, so I'd pair it with as high level a grinder as possible.

At the minimum, I'd say Sette 270 or Eureka Mignon Specialita, but if you have the budget to go for something like the Mignon XL, Mignon Oro Zero, Niche Zero, Baratza Forte, I would do.

People don't put enough thought into the grinder, generally speaking, but this is like buying a high-performance car and filling it with standard petrol, in fact, this analogy doesn't quite do justice to the importance of the grinder, pairing the Dual Boiler with an entry-level grinder is really more like putting Diesel in a Mclaren.

For more options see:

Best Coffee Grinders

La Spaziale S1 Mini Vivaldi II

La Spaziale S1 Vivaldi Espresso Machine.

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Features:

Water Tank: 3L
Dimensions: 42 cm wide x 42 cm deep x 39 cm tall
Weight: 28 Kg
Boiler: 450ml brew boiler & 1.2L steam boiler
PID?:
Yes
3 Way Solenoid?:
Yes
Portafilter Size: 53mm
Pump Pressure:
9 bars (adjustable)
Interface: Buttons & steam lever
Preinfusion?: Yes, programmable
Adjustable brew temperature: Yes

My Observations

This is a serious looking, and serious performing single group espresso machine from commercial espresso manufacturer La Spaziale made as a compact single group professional espresso machine for commercial or domestic use.

For me, this is the machine for baristas or ex-baristas who want a commercial machine at home but can't afford (or justify) the cost of the LMLM, below.

This is the tank fed version, with a big 3 litre water tank. They also offer a plumbed in version of the S1.

It's a dual boiler espresso machine, with an 0.45 litre boiler for espresso, and a 1.2 litre steam boiler, and although it's a commercial machine, it's still relatively compact and is intended for use with a standard domestic electric supply, so don't worry, you won't need to mess about with three-phase ;-).

La Spaziale is a very well-known brand of commercial machines, and this isn't a case of a commercial manufacturer making a machine for home use, it's a compact commercial machine that is often used by home baristas due to the value for money it represents.

You can easily spend more money than this on a prosumer machine, made for the home, which isn't built to take the same kind of commercial use that the S1 mini Vivaldi is made for, so I can see why someone would go for this espresso machine.

If you're a pro barista and you use a La Spaziali machine at work, or if you were in the past and you used a La Spaziali machine, then you'd probably gravitate towards this machine for that reason, in the same way that Baristas who use La Marzocco commercial machines might want the Linea Mini at home.

Which Grinder?

Any of the mid range espresso specialist grinders and upwards should pair well with the S1 Mini Vivaldi. I really wouldn't pair this machine with an entry level grinder, though. I'd be looking at Mignon Oro Zero, Mignon XL, Baratza Forte, or commercial grinders including the Eureka Zenith or Eureka Atom.

La Marzocco Linea Mini

La Marzocco Linea Mini.

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Features:

Water Tank: 2.1L (or get the plumbed option for £84 more)
Dimensions: 35.7 cm wide x 45.3 cm deep x 37.7 cm tall
Weight: 30 Kg
Boiler: 175ml brew boiler (filled via heat exchanger), 3L steam boiler
PID?: Yes
3 Way Solenoid?:
Yes
Portafilter Size: 58mm
Pump Pressure:
9 bars (adjustable)
Interface: Brew paddle & rotary valves
Preinfusion?: No (there's pre-brewing at the full brew pressure, but it's not preinfusion)
Adjustable brew temperature: Yes (via wheel or via app)

My Observations

So we're finishing off this best espresso machines post with what is regarded by many home baristas as the very best “normal” home barista espresso machine. I say “normal” as this is really for straight espresso, using more traditional espresso roasts, it's not a pressure profiling machine made for working with lighter roasts.

The brew paddle causes some confusion here, with people making the assumption that the brew paddle must give some control over the flow and therefore this must be a machine for giving great control over the pressure, while this isn't the case, it's a more “straight” espresso machine, and for this, it's amazing, in my humble opinion.

But really, it should be for the money. This isn't cheap!

This is really a user experience machine, it'll produce great espresso of course, but I think the reason people want this machine is more about the experience of owning and using such an iconic machine.

If you've been a Pro Barista and you've used the La Marzocco Linea Classic or Linea Mini, or any other La Marzocco machine really, you'll probably love the idea of having the “LMLM” in your home, if you're not fussed about working with light roasts, and if you can justify the spend.

The only negative points I picked up when using the Linea Mini, was the app, the brew paddle, and the water tank.

The water tank is stated at a range of different sizes, depending on where you look, but I measured it and it's 2.1L, it seems a bit on the tiddly size for such a beast of a machine, but that wouldn't bother me as if I were buying one of these I'd definitely have it plumbed in.

Again, this wouldn't bother me if I was using one of these as I'd plumb it in, but I did find the position of the water tank, being behind the drip tray, and the fact that you can't fully remove it without disconnecting it from the machine to be a bit of a pain.

The brew paddle is something that seems to split opinions, some people love it, I'm in the “I'm not sure about the brew paddle” camp, to be honest. If actually performed any other purpose than just being a giant horizontal on/off switch, such as allowing pressure profiling, then great, but it's literally just an on/off switch.

For me, a shot timer would be a very welcome addition, and if they had used standard shot buttons rather than the paddle, there would have been plenty of room for a shot timer, but that's just me, you might love the brew paddle – and you can buy brew paddles (have a look on Etsy) which have a built-in shot timer.

The app, what can I say about the app?… Well, to be fair the app was pretty good once I could get it paired, and while the connection lasted, but the problem I had was getting connected. I use Samsung, so Android, and I don't know if this is just an issue with the Android app, but it took me a lot of messing about to eventually get it paired, and when I did, it lost connection and I had to do it all over again. The connectivity does seem very hit and miss, but I'm sure that's something they're working on.

Being able to set an on/off schedule via the app is great, and being able to change the brew temp is great too, and being able to see the brew temperature and various other info is all very good, and I'm sure they'll improve the range of features on the app over time too.

Shot quality I found to be stunning, and the steam power is immense – if you're accustomed to using commercial machines then you'll love the steam power, if you're not (as I wasn't) you may have to go through a slight learning curve, as the initial aeration phase takes a couple of seconds, and the entire steaming process (depending on how much milk you're steaming) will take something like 15-20 seconds.

For more on the LMLM see:

La Marzocco Linea Mini Review

Which Grinder?

With an espresso machine of this level, I'd recommend going as high up the range as you can, as even small improvements in grind uniformity will potentially help you to raise the shot quality further.

Baratza Forte, Eureka Mignon XL, Eureka Zenith, Eureka Atom, Eureka Olympus, or even something like the Ceado E37S, or the single doser version Ceado E37SD, Mythos One, Mythos Two, Mahlkonig E80, or Ceado E37Z Hero.

If you don't have the budget straight away to pair your LMLM with such a grinder, you'll be fine with the likes of the Eureka Mignon Specialita or Baratza Sette 270, but I just think that with a machine of this caliber you'd benefit from going as premium as you can with the grinder.

Home Barista Gear

Looking for a wide range of home barista accessories, including tampers, milk jugs, knock out boxes, manual brewers, manual grinders, brew scales, and loads more?

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Kev's Best Home Espresso Machines What the FAQ

OK, so we've reached the end of the suggestions, if I've left you even more confused than you were when you started ;-), just drop me an email if you have any questions. Here are my answers to the most commonly asked questions, though:

What is the best espresso machine

As you'll know if you've read this post, this may seem like a simple question, but it's really not, in fact, there is no answer to this question. What you need to be asking is what is the best espresso machine for you – and hopefully the intro of this post helped you in that regard. Even once you've narrowed it down to one of the sub types of espresso machine, which one is best for you will just depend on you. 

How to choose the best espresso machine?

It starts out with understanding the various different types of espresso machines available, so you can narrow your search down to the kinds of machines that suite you specifically, and then it's a case of weighing up all of the options within your budget so you can work out which machines have pros that suit you the most and cons that bother you the least.

What is a good home espresso machine?

A good home espresso machine is one that matches your needs, and this begins with understanding the different kinds of espresso machines and choosing the type that suits you.

Buying the wrong type of espresso machine is similar to buying a car and then discovering that you bought a manual yet you only drive auto, oops. While you probably wouldn't make that mistake, it's actually really easy to end up making such a mistake when buying home espresso machines, many people do, in fact. 

Other than this it's just a case of working out which machine that is within your budget has whatever pros you need, and doesn't have any cons that would really bother you.

What is a bean to cup espresso machine?

Bean to cup espresso machines are a more simple and more accessible route for making espresso and espresso-based drinks at home, and in the office. Instead of having a portafilter, filter holder, they have a brewing unit and a built-in grinder.

Some are “one touch” machines, meaning that you press a button and the machine makes the espresso, froths the milk, and delivers it into your cup for one-touch cappuccino & latte, almost like a home coffee vending machine. Some have steam wands, so they're one touch for the espresso, but then you have to froth the milk manually.

Is the grinder important for home espresso machines?

The grinder is probably the most important aspect of espresso quality, especially if you're moving away from the entry-level and investing in a more capable espresso machine.

Buying a mid-range espresso machine and a high-end grinder could be seen as analogous to modifying a mid-range car while buying a mid to high-end espresso machine and pairing it with an entry-level espresso machine would be like buying a performance sports car and putting standard petrol in it instead of performance fuel.

See my video on the importance of grinding your own beans:

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The post Best Espresso Machines for Home Use. appeared first on Coffee Blog.

By: Kev
Title: Best Espresso Machines for Home Use.
Sourced From: coffeeblog.co.uk/best-home-espresso-machines/
Published Date: Sun, 10 May 2020 14:28:11 +0000