Brewing perfect espresso at home is both a glorious luxury and a shrewd investment. Of course, the perfect machine for one person won’t necessarily be ideal for the next. Coffee lovers come in all varieties and some of us prefer simplicity while others adore advanced functionality. That’s why our buyer’s guide below approaches your purchase from multiple perspectives with recommendations suited to every kind of consumer.
Whichever way you choose to proceed, it’s an economic no-brainer to prepare delicious espresso from the comfort of your own home when the cost savings are so huge. In fact, research published in the Financial Times revealed recently that just 4% the price of a typical cup of coffee purchased in a café goes toward the cost of the beans themselves.
We tested and sifted through dozens of espresso machines to select the 11 best across a range of different criteria. You’ll find the winner in each category profiled below along with a detailed review of each machine.
Best Espresso Machines
Best-in-Category Espresso Machines: Comparison Chart
|Image||Espresso Machine||Award||Rating (Amazon Avg.)||Cost||Key Features|
|Nespresso Essenza Mini by De’Longhi||Best Single-Serve Pod Espresso Maker||4.6||Single-serve pod machine, Bundled Aeroccino milk frother, Capsule welcome gift|
|Breville the Barista Express Espresso Machine||Best Features and Functionality||4.4||Highly customizable, Feature-rich, Professional steam wand|
|Jura ENA Micro 1||Best Design||4.2||Compact and elegant design, Durable build, Versatile and intuitive settings|
|Nespresso Creatista Uno by Breville||Most Convenient||4.6||Rapid heat-up (3 seconds), Self-cleaning steam wand, Value for money|
|Nespresso Essenza Mini by Breville||Best Budget Choice||4.4||Budget price, Simple to run, Can be used with third-party pods|
|Nespresso Vertuo Espresso Machine by Breville||Best Overall||4.5||5 different cup sizes, Bundled Aeroccino milk frother, Aesthetic design|
Best Single-Serve Pod Espresso Maker: Nespresso Essenza Mini by De’Longhi
While marginally more expensive than our similar pick for best budget choice, the Nespresso Essenza Mini by De’Longhi is convenient, reliable, and great value for money.
Its sleek, geometric design compares favorably to the boxier design of Breville’s equivalent Essenza Mini unit. The compactness of the machine makes it ideal for cramped kitchen spaces and its intuitive operation is suited to convenience-seeking home espresso consumers.
De’Longhi’s Essenza Mini is bundled with the Aeroccino 3 milk frother. Pricier machines with in-built automatic steam wands offer greater versatility in terms of milk temperature and texture, but these typically cost around double the price of the Essenza Mini. In this regard the Aeroccino is a cost-effective substitute for the preparation of milk-based coffee drinks like the cappuccino or latte.
We were pleasantly surprised by the Aeroccino 3 in quality testing. The two whisk heads included make it possible to create milk froth and foam in a short period of time. Pushing the button once will heat the milk and holding for two seconds provides the cold milk necessary for iced coffee preparations.
While not as advanced as machines with an in-built steam wand, De’Longhi’s Essenza Mini is ideal for budget-oriented consumers and those with limited need for expensive added features. The machine is capable of producing delicious espresso (1.35 oz) and lungo (5 0z) in characteristically convenient fashion. Just enter your capsule, push the button, and wait approximately 25 seconds for heat-up and your coffee preparation will begin.
- Nice assortment of 16 Nespresso branded complimentary capsules are included.
- Good build quality and pleasing design.
- Pleasant tasting espresso.
- Bundled Aeroccino milk frother works seamlessly.
- This entry level single-serve pod machine sacrifices expensive add-ons like the in-built steam wand.
- 25 second heat-up is somewhat cumbersome in comparison to the 3 second heat-up of pricier Nespresso models.
How to use the machine:
- Insert your espresso capsule.
- Select your cup size.
- Optionally, add milk foam hot or cold using your Aeroccino.
- Empty used capsule container every 5 cups.
Best Features and Functionality: Breville the Barista Express Espresso Machine
Sometimes the one-size-fits-all approach of pod machines is simply not enough to meet your needs. Advanced users often opt for a powerhouse machine to exercise greater control over the finished product. Capsules can be expensive and limiting, while the machines used to make them come with just one or two cup size settings.
Choosing the right machine is even more critical for advanced users because prices can range from the hundreds into the thousands of dollars. Since this buyer’s guide is aimed at home users, we factored compactness into our decision. Commercial grade machines are typically expensive, large, and intended for almost constant usage.
The Barista Express by Breville offers unbeatable control, quality, and value for money in this category. Its compact size makes it ideal for virtually any kitchen, even those with limited counter space.
The machine’s customizable dose control offers the chance to choose the grind size and quantity of coffee in each cup. This gives users a seamless bean-to-cup experience with precise control over strength and flavor. With a high-grade, built-in grinder, the machine makes for a satisfyingly simple solution to crafting espresso.
Many veteran users of espresso machines will be all too familiar with unreliable steam wand performance. In our testing the device worked perfectly, producing great tasting micro-foam milk.
Ultimately, we all judge our morning coffee by its taste. In this regard the espresso produced from the Barista Express is an instant success. Cup after cup emerges with a deliciously smooth texture at the perfect temperature for immediate enjoyment.
- Compact and well built.
- Automatically grind your beans to the perfect size.
- Dose control each cup for the ideal strength.
- Great tasting espresso.
- Steam wand produces silky micro-foam milk.
- Barista Express lacks a few of the advanced milk settings of other Breville machines.
- Heat up takes somewhat longer than other machines tested, but the machine still produces great tasting espresso in roughly a minute.
How to use the machine:
- Fill the burr grinder with your beans.
- Select grind size and dose.
- Opt for single or double shot strength.
- Clean the machine regularly for best results.
Best Design: Jura 13626 Ena Micro 1 Automatic Coffee Machine
Elegant appliances can be critical if you’re looking to maintain consistency in a sleek and modern kitchen. Jura’s line of coffee machines fit the bill without sacrificing the quality of its brewed espresso.
The ENA Micro 1 has a compact (9 x 12.7 x 17.5 in) and svelte design, ensuring it doesn’t look out of place on any kitchen counter. Thankfully, Jura’s design expertise extends to both the build quality and intuitive brewing process of this machine.
Simplicity can be a blessing when you’re seeking an excellent espresso with the minimum amount of hassle involved. This is where the ENA Micro 1 excels. Set your grind consistency then choose from one of three cup sizes and two “aroma levels”. The stronger aroma level offers a noticeably more intense cup of espresso, perfect for shaking you out of a morning slumber.
This machine has been built with energy efficiency in mind. It produces better quality espresso at lower power than larger machines. It also comes with automatic switch-off functionality. The water tank is a more than reasonable size for home brewing and when finished, used coffee grounds are deposited in an internal and easy to clean bin.
- Energy efficient.
- Compact and elegant design.
- Intuitive brewing process will satisfy casual and passionate espresso drinkers alike.
- Durable build quality.
- Multiple grind settings, aroma levels, and cup sizes.
- Lacks some features of more complex machines (e.g. steam wand for milk-based drinks).
- More expensive than entry level machines.
How to use the machine:
- Fill the grinder with your beans and select a grind consistency.
- Use the intuitive panel to select a cup size and aroma level that suits your needs.
- Clean the machine regularly for best results.
Most Convenient: Nespresso Creatista Uno by Breville
We understand that Nespresso-line machines aren’t suited to everyone’s tastes. Legitimate criticism has been leveled at the wastage caused by single-use espresso pods and at Nespresso’s aggressive efforts to suppress competition in this fast growing market.
Nevertheless, the brand has pioneered innovative recycling methods and pods from third party suppliers are readily available in stores and online. Convenience and quality is the ethos that has driven Nespresso’s popularity worldwide and there can be little dispute that the Creatista Uno by Breville fits this bill.
The machine exceeds the entry-level Nespresso line with its comprehensive, all-in-one functionality. We were particularly impressed with the ability of the Creatista Uno to produce a range of café quality coffee styles, especially those incorporating milk.
Like cheaper Nespresso units, this machine brews espresso from capsules at three different cup sizes: the ristretto (0.5 oz), the espresso (1.35 oz) and the lungo (5 oz). However, thanks to the in-built, automatic steam wand it’s also possible to whip up delicious milk-based drinks like cappuccino, café latte, macchiato, and flat white.
Indeed, the Creatista Uno excels in its highly customizable steam wand settings. With three temperature settings and three texture settings respectively, it is a breeze to create drinks that incorporate micro-foam milk.
In addition to its versatility, one of our favorite features of the machine is the ability of the steam wand to self-clean. This ensures that no milky residue builds up inside the wand in a manner that could compromise the performance of the unit.
In conclusion, the machine exceeds competition at its price-point and earns its title as the most convenient option thanks to its range of options, sleek and compact design, and effortless self-cleaning options.
- Energy efficient due to auto shut-off.
- Easy to dispose of capsules and self-cleaning milk wand make maintenance a breeze.
- Multiple intuitive settings for cup size, milk temperature, and milk texture.
- Reasonably priced.
- Ideal for casual and intermediate home brewers alike.
- 3 second heat-up compares favorably to entry-level Nespresso machines which typically take approximately 25 seconds.
- Elegant yet sturdy build.
- Although a stainless steel milk jug is included for seamless pouring, milk-based drinks still must be poured manually.
- Experienced espresso drinkers may prefer the more “hands-on” brewing experience offered by a machine that isn’t reliant on disposable capsules.
- Environmental concerns have been raised by those who object to the waste from used pods. Nevertheless, Nespresso do offer multiple, innovative recycling options.
How to use the machine:
- Fill the 20 oz tank with water. Some drinkers prefer to fill the tank before each cup to maximize freshness.
- Select your cup size. If brewing a small espresso shot, use the higher tray closer to the pump.
- If using milk in your creation, choose from the temperature and texture settings.
- Wait approximately 3 seconds for heat up and your cup will begin brewing.
- Dispose of the contents of the used capsule container every 5-6 cups.
Best Budget Choice: Nespresso Essenza Mini by Breville
Single-serve pod machines are ideal for beginners and rushed professionals alike. Hassle-free, aesthetic, and compatible with pods in a vast range of different flavors and strengths, the Nespresso Essenza Mini by Breville is a sensible and inexpensive choice that performs extremely well in testing.
The machine runs seamlessly with two buttons for two different serving sizes: the espresso (1.35 oz) and the lungo (5 oz). Nespresso’s range of capsules is broad, seemingly growing by the day, but the quality remains exceptional. Your choices are broad, however, with many other brands supply Nespresso-compatible pods. This makes it a breeze to find capsules that suit your budget and flavor preferences.
Only machines costing $150 or less qualified for consideration for our award of best budget espresso machine. Ultimately, we chose the Essenza Mini model by Breville because the machine offers strong value for money and is backed by Nespresso’s two year warranty.
It also comes with a pleasant welcome gift of 14 different Nespresso pods with coffee from various different origins. This offers a great introduction to the world of capsule espresso and a chance to begin finding your favorite pods early.
While the coffee connoisseur might find themselves rather under-served by the machine’s limited functionality, beginners and causal consumers will appreciate the Essenza’s intuitive simplicity. The convenience, sleek design, and space-saving size of the machine make it our winner in the budget single-serve pod category.
From our point of view, the two most obvious drawbacks of choosing the Essenza are the cost of capsules and the environmental implications of using disposable aluminum pods. Making your espresso with a single-serve pod machine inevitably leads to a lot of used pods destined for the trash. After all, that is essentially the concept to begin with!
Nespresso has come under serious scrutiny for this over the years. However, it’s worth digging beyond the headlines to get a more nuanced view of the situation. While Nespresso is the market-leader in single-serve pods, they are far from the only manufacturer of them.
Indeed, many consumer products have taken heat for using excessive packaging and many instances of this troubling trend are far more worrisome than Nespresso’s fully recyclable pods. Just remember to be a responsible consumer and recycle the contents of your used capsule container!
- Simple and fast to use.
- Good value for money.
- Backed by a 2-year manufacturer guarantee.
- Vast range of compatible pods offering good flavor.
- Pods are relatively expensive with the equivalent quantity of ground coffee always coming in cheaper.
- Single-serve pods create more waste than other brewing methods.
How to use the machine:
- Fill water tank close to capacity (0.6L). Some drinkers prefer to pour fresh water for each cup.
- Select your cup size.
- Wait approximately 25 seconds for the water to reach heat and for your cup to begin brewing.
- Dispose of the contents of the used capsule container every 5-6 cups.
Best Overall: Nespresso Vertuo Coffee and Espresso Machine by Breville
There are a multitude of quality home espresso machines available today and some that are less than desirable too. Making our selection for the best overall unit is inherently difficult because, naturally, people vary in how much weight they attach to any given criteria.
Nevertheless, in making our selection for this category we equally balanced all of the different important factors from our earlier picks to find an overall winner. To recap, they are as follows:
- Features and functionality
- Value for money
The Nespresso Vertuo by Breville comes bundled with the Aeroccino 3 milk frother and exceeds expectations as a versatile and highly convenient espresso machine while remaining around $200.
The Vertuo’s matte black and silver body is svelte, compact, and easy on the eye. Meanwhile, the machine is surprisingly robust and durable for a product that sits at a highly affordable price-point.
Unlike cheaper machines, the Vertuo is compatible with two different capsule sizes: larger pods are used to brew Coffee (7.7 oz) and Alto (14 oz) while smaller pods go into Espresso (1.35 oz), Double Espresso (2.7 oz), and Gran Lungo (5 oz) creations. For those counting, the Vertuo offers 5 different cup sizes to suit any number of tastes.
This versatility makes the bundled Aeroccino milk frother an ideal and obvious companion. With its two whisk heads and hot and cold settings, the Aeroccino is capable of delivering milk of the ideal texture and temperature for cappuccino, café latte, flat white, and more.
Another stand-out advantage of opting to go a step higher than the cheapest Nespresso machines is the 15 second heat-up — this delivers your cup noticeably quicker than entry-level offerings and will satisfy even the most rushed professional.
One criticism frequently leveled at Nespresso line machines is the cost of capsules and the issue of excess waste created by single-use pod materials. However, most consumers will find themselves satisfied with the extensive availability of recycling options.
Unfortunately, non-Nespresso capsules aren’t available for the Nespresso Vertuo, but this shouldn’t be cause for concern as the Nespresso capsule range offers great depth and quality.
An excellent, versatile machine offering numerous delicious cup size and serving options at a highly affordable price.
- 5 cup sizes and swift heat-up.
- Bundled milk frother allows for a wide range of creations.
- Attractive and compact design.
- Affordable price.
- Lacks features (e.g. steam wand) that may appeal to advanced users.
- Single-serve pods are not to everyone’s taste due to waste and expense.
Other Recommended Choices
Choosing a winner in each category is a difficult process with so many high quality espresso machines available today. The recommended machines below made our judging shortlist and have been included to showcase “the best of the rest”.
Nespresso Creatista Plus Coffee and Espresso Machine by Breville, Stainless Steel
The Creatista Plus by Breville is an advanced Nespresso machine with an incredible range of features. It is the cream of the crop among the field of more powerful single-serve pod espresso machines and far exceeds the possibilities of entry-level units.
Its slick stainless steel exterior makes it perfectly suited to the modern kitchen. The machine is both aesthetic and pleasingly robust. Most remarkable is the way in which the Creatista Plus packs advanced functionality into such a small tabletop unit. While other state-of-the-art machines offer a more barista-like experience, their size also makes them unsuitable for many home kitchens.
The Creatista Plus is especially well suited to lovers of milk-based drinks like the cappuccino, latte, and flat white. The machine’s automatic steam pipe is a stand-out feature, offering remarkable precision in milk temperature (11 adjustable options) and texture (8 different froth settings).
Unlike cheaper Nespresso units the Creatista Plus by Breville has a digital interface that allows you to seamlessly switch between recipes and begin brewing with the touch of a button.
Automatic self-cleaning, 3 second heat-up, and a 2 year warranty as standard make this machine ideal for Nespresso lovers seeking a broader range of features and possibilities than what they’ve come to expect.
- Self-cleaning steam wand offers stunning milk froth precision.
- 3 second heat-up.
- LCD digital interface for recipe selection.
- Wonderful tasting coffee.
- Significantly more expensive than entry-level Nespresso units.
- Nespresso machines lack some of the versatility of bulkier, cafe-style machines available at a similar price.
AICOK Espresso Machine
Pitted against machines made by major brands you’d be forgiven for thinking this budget espresso maker was, well, far from glamorous. Give it a second glance, however, and you realize it has more going for it than meets the eye.
The machine performs surprisingly well in testing, harnessing just enough pressure to extract a satisfying espresso. At just over $100, an AICOK machine won’t burn a hole in your pocket either. Furthermore, its compact size is comparable to that of a typical Nespresso machine and therefore won’t consume too much valuable counter space.
However, what makes it especially attractive to those not seduced by Nespresso’s silky marketing is that you are not limited to single-use coffee pods. A basic Nespresso machine can still prove to be costlier than a conventional manual espresso maker in the long run because of the money shelled out on capsules.
While Nespresso fans rightly point to a wide range of delicious coffees available in convenient disposable pods, there are also serious advantages to brewing espresso with your own ground beans. Most notably, the fact that it can offer more choice and an altogether cheaper and more environmentally-friendly method of brewing.
In terms of features, the AICOK machine also punches above its weight. For instance, it is generously equipped with an in-built milk frother that is typically only found on much more expensive units. While you won’t enjoy the same range of carefully calibrated milk temperatures and textures found in other machines, the AICOK milk frother is capable of producing enjoyable cappuccino and latte.
- Great for budget-conscious shoppers.
- Equipped with in-built milk frother.
- Compact design.
- Doesn’t rely on single-serve pods.
- Lacks the convenience of an automatic Nespresso machine.
- Limited range of milk froth settings.
Gaggia Anima Coffee and Espresso Machine
The Anima is a versatile, compact, and well-built machine from Italian company Gaggia. It is a great choice for anyone searching for an all-in-one espresso and coffee maker. In terms of features and price, it is comparable to the Nespresso Creatista Plus discussed earlier.
The critical difference is that the Gaggia Anima doesn’t rely on single-serve pods, instead coming equipped with a ceramic burr grinder and bypass doser. The grinder is ideal for anyone wishing to seamlessly feed their espresso machine with their own roasted coffee beans. Five automatic grind settings allow for precise customization of grind. Meanwhile, the bypass doser allows the machine to quickly brew using your pre-ground coffee.
Many espresso drinkers prefer to select and brew espresso with their own coffee beans because it offers great diversity of choice and has some notable budgetary and environmental advantages.
The Anima’s LCD digital interface makes the machine incredibly intuitive to operate. It can be used to program the in-built steam wand for milk frothing; to set aroma strength; to program your shot size, and to select the ideal temperature for your espresso or coffee. It also generates notifications to remind you when, for instance, to refill the sizeable water tank or empty the bean hopper.
The milk foam generated by the Pannarello steam wand is sumptuously light and ideal for latte and cappuccino drinkers.
- Extremely compact machine with reliable build quality.
- Brew espresso and coffee with your own beans.
- Straightforward LCD interface for option selection.
- Pannarello steam wand delivers hot water and delicious milk foam.
- Although the steam wand delivers good milk froth, it lacks customization options.
- The machine also lacks the extensive temperature settings of similarly priced Nespresso models.
Nespresso Vertuo Evoluo Coffee and Espresso Machine by De’Longhi
The Vertuo Evoluo is a great budget option for Nespresso lovers who want the versatility of both small and large cup size settings. Coming in at under $200, the machine is only slightly more expensive than entry-level units but has plenty of additional capability for the money.
It is capable of brewing espresso at five different cup sizes (ranging from a 1.35 oz espresso to the 14 oz alto) using both smaller and larger Nespresso capsules. The Vertuo Evoluo is also one of the most convenient Nespresso machines thanks in part to its extra-large 54 oz water tank and a used capsule container capable of holding 17 finished pods. By comparison, most Nespresso line machines have containers holding anywhere from 5-10 used capsules.
Another distinct advantage of this unit is the 15-second heat-up time — a full 10 seconds quicker than the marginally cheaper Nespresso Essenza Mini.
The Vertuo Evoluo comes bundled with an Aeroccino milk frother, an ideal companion for this machine given its ability to produce large 14 oz cups. The Aeroccino produces excellently textured milk for addition to latte and cappuccino creations.
- Intuitive and attractive design.
- 15-second heat-up.
- Good value for money.
- 5 cup size settings and extra-large used capsule container.
- Complimentary welcome pack includes 12 Vertuo capsules.
- Compatible only with Nespresso’s own Vertuo capsules.
- Lacks the advanced settings and features of pricier machines (e.g. steam wand).
NutriChef Espresso Coffee Machine & Cappuccino Maker
The NutriChef espresso machine is the last recommended option in our list and is unique in being the only non-Nespresso capsule-based unit that we have selected for inclusion.
While Nespresso is clearly the dominant force in the single-serve pod espresso market today, we recognize that the company’s products don’t quite suit the taste of all consumers. Indeed, some individuals enjoy the convenience of capsules but would prefer to take their business to an alternative manufacturer.
Based on extensive testing our opinion is that Nespresso machines offer excellent quality and reliability. However, if you are seeking an alternative then this NutriChef offering deserves its designation as “the best of the rest”.
Costing approximately the same as the cheapest Nespresso machine, NutriChef have packed plenty of functionality into a unit that unquestionably offers great value for money.
NutriChef’s espresso machine is designed foremost to be compatible with Nespresso-branded single-serve pods. The resulting espresso is indistinguishable in quality from that produced by Nespresso’s own machines.
Heat-up is quick at just 15 seconds and there are three cup size settings measuring in at 25 ml (short), 40 ml (regular), and 110 ml (lungo) respectively. Desired cup sizes are selected using the machine’s intuitively designed buttons.
The key advantage of the NutriChef unit aside from quality and compatibility is the overall value for money of the bundled extras. Foremost among these is the milk frother that allows for delicious milk-based creations such as the cappuccino. Nespresso brand machines with Aeroccino milk frothers are slightly more expensive than the NutriChef package but perform the same functions. This machine’s bundled milk frother offers the same versatility in both texture and temperature as you’d expect from the Nespresso equivalent.
Another handy extra is the unit’s integrated pod storage tray that offers space for up to 10 pods and saves the hassle of reaching elsewhere for a fresh pod each time you brew your coffee.
- Compact and well-designed machine.
- 15-second heat-up.
- Intuitive operation and easy clean.
- Strong value for money.
- High quality and customizable milk frother.
- Lacks extensive settings of more expensive machines in terms of cup size.
- No free Nespresso pod “welcome gift” included in the package.
Choosing the right espresso machine can be an involved process because of the huge amount of choice available and the differences each of us has in personal taste. Indeed, for many of us, brewing the perfect espresso is an important daily ritual that we simply wouldn’t be without.
Home espresso machines of today overwhelmingly prioritize convenience over all else. Leading brands, most notably Nespresso, have changed the landscape and converted millions into users of handy disposable pods.
Although many Nespresso machines come at a low upfront cost, the price of single-serve pods accumulates over time, making the long-term operation of the unit more costly than machines that brew espresso from loose beans. And while Nespresso has been at the forefront of efforts to recycle single-use pods, many drinkers feel uncomfortable with the waste produced by these machines.
Although we’ve included several of the best Nespresso-branded machines available today in our list, there are other quality options available for anyone searching for alternatives. These include the ENA Micro 1 by Jura and the Gaggia Anima, both of which offer a seamless, automatic grinding and brewing experience from loose coffee beans.
Meanwhile, the Barista Express by Breville is a great option for advanced users seeking an all-in-one powerhouse with capabilities that are comparable to professional, commercial machines.
Should I Buy a Used Machine?
The build quality of each entry-level espresso machine in our list is strong and therefore durability issues are rare. This is evidenced by Nespresso’s 24 month warranty period. Purchasing a used or refurbished unit is not necessarily problematic, but there are certain issues to consider before making this decision.
Firstly, a used machine may have an expired or nearly expired warranty, leaving you with few remedial options in the event that the unit breaks down.
Secondly, many home users don’t strictly follow Nespresso’s own maintenance advice. This includes regularly running water through the machine with no capsule present to prevent the buildup of coffee grounds and frequent descaling.
If you do opt for a used unit then it’s important to check for signs that the machine has been well looked after. Cosmetic damage to the unit may also be indicative of rough handling.
Because entry-level machines are already suited to budget-conscious consumers, it’s generally worth the cost to simply purchase a brand new machine. However, pricier units like the Breville Barista Express may be substantially cheaper when purchased pre-owned rather than new.
Remember always to do your research and only opt for a used unit when you’re confident that the savings outweigh any potential damage or maintenance issues.
What is the Difference Between Single-Serve, Automatic, and Manual Machines?
Single-serve pods offer the greatest simplicity of any method of brewing espresso at home. They are most closely associated with Nespresso, but they are also used in other machines such as the NutriChef model featured above.
Machines using these pods offer a fully automatic experience with relatively little control left in the hands of the user. Instead, settings such as temperature, pressure, grind, and amount of coffee per cup are left in the hands of your unit.
Many users prefer it this way — the simplicity of operation makes life easy and still leaves users with a degree of control over their cup size. In addition, Nespresso’s capsule line is very extensive and offers the opportunity to discover new flavors all the time.
Other machines can be described as “semi-automatic”. For instance, the Barista Express by Breville offers advanced settings for all elements of the brewing process. This gives you the ability to control dose, grind size, and the texture and temperature of milk froth.
Conversely, fully manual machines are operated with a lever and appeal mostly to niche users. This is because lever machines leave you fully in control of fundamental aspects of the brewing process, including temperature and pressure. They are also less forgiving of poor quality coffee and incorrect grind size.
Do Other Brands Match Nespresso’s Quality?
Nespresso dominate the market for single-serve pod machines and their units are usually highly reliable. This is in part because Nespresso partners only with experienced, high-quality manufacturers such as Breville and De’Longhi.
If you’ve already decided that a pod machine is right for you then you’ll probably be best suited to a Nespresso machine. Although it pays to be cautious when selecting a machine made by another manufacturer, there are a few good options out there, including the NutriChef espresso machine we discussed earlier.
How Do I Clean My Machine?
The most important elements of good upkeep are descaling and flow system maintenance. With repeated brewing cycles any espresso machine becomes vulnerable to the buildup of coffee grounds within the “plumbing” of the system.
This can usually be easily resolved by occasionally allowing the machine to run with no pod (or coffee) present. Many Nespresso machines have an automatic cleaning process that can be started by pushing the “on” button three times within two seconds.
Descaling is an equally important part of proper care and is used to tackle the limescale that accumulates from hard water. Kits are retailed by Nespresso and third-party manufacturers.
Can I use Third-Party Manufactured Capsules in my Nespresso Machine?
Nespresso pioneered the use of pod-based home espresso machines and has worked aggressively to protect its intellectual property in this area. Although many of the Nespresso machines in our list are compatible with third-party pods (e.g. the Essenza), all VertuoLine units can currently only be used with Nespresso-branded pods.
This comes as a disappointment to many users who prefer VertuoLine Nespresso machines but find out after purchase that their alternative pods no longer function.
One of the innovations that went into these machines was their ability to scan the barcode of the capsule in order to optimize each brewing cycle based on the unique characteristics of each pod’s coffee. Unfortunately, this technology also prevents the use of pods manufactured by other parties.
If you do choose to use alternative pods in a different Nespresso machine (e.g. the Essenza), select a manufacturer carefully because quality can vary and rarely matches the taste offered by branded pods.