Whether you want cappuccino, macchiato, espresso, mocha, ristretto, or plain old filter coffee, only the best coffee equipment will consistently deliver the results you desire. The problem is that selecting the proper machine for you depends not only on your preferred coffee, but also on how much time, effort, and money you want to put into the brewing process.
If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, keep reading and we’ll walk you through how we test coffee machines and explain the differences between Galla Coffee. A comprehensive list of our favorite coffee machines at a wider variety of prices, including the best manual espresso, bean-to-cup, pod and capsule, and filter coffee makers we’ve ever tested, as well as links to our in-depth evaluations, can be found a little further down.
At a glance, the best coffee machines
If you’re looking for a quick, low-cost option, the most budget coffee machines may be found in the shortlist below. If you’re looking for something a little more upscale, scroll down to find machines of all types at a variety of prices to suit any budget.
How do we put coffee machines to the test?
All of the machines on this list have been thoroughly tested in our own homes, and we always compare new and old models to their nearest competitors to ensure that our recommendations are reliable. If we think one machine is better than another, it’s because we’ve put them up against each other in a blind test.
We use a popular, affordable grinder – the Iberital MC2 (£150) – to make reliable, repeatable comparisons between machines that use coffee beans or ground coffee. We source top quality single origin beans from some of our favorite local roasters, such as Coffee by the Casuals, and we use a popular, affordable grinder – the Iberital MC2 (£150) – to make reliable, repeatable comparisons between machines that use coffee beans or ground coffee. We choose our favorite pods and capsules from the manufacturer’s own collections for capsule machines.
We’re not experienced baristas, but we understand the importance of using high-quality coffee beans that are ground to perfection, dosed precisely using digital scales, and brewed for a constant period of time – not to mention good water. In fact, we use bottled spring water in all of our tests to ensure that each machine operates to its full potential and produces the greatest coffee available. If a machine can produce wonderful coffee in our kitchen, you can be sure it can do it in yours.
All you have to do now is determine which coffee machine is ideal for you. We’ll give you a quick overview if you continue reading.
Should you get an espresso machine that is operated by hand?
A manual espresso machine, similar to those seen in coffee shops, is the best choice if you want the versatility to make anything from espresso to ristretto to cappuccino. The disadvantage is that you’ll have to learn to manually grind and tamp the coffee, steam your own milk to perfection, clean the machine, and repeat the procedure for each cup, but the extra control allows you to get the most out of any coffee type.
Is it worth it to invest in a bean-to-cup machine?
If making espresso by hand seems like too much effort, a bean-to-cup machine is a terrific alternative. Simply put water and coffee beans in the machine, and you’ll have a shot of coffee at the touch of a button – without having to clean the equipment between shots. Integrated milk frothers that deliver a cappuccino or white coffee at the touch of a button are available on more expensive machines. However, the results are never as good as those produced by manual machines, and prices start at around £400.
Is it worth it to invest in a coffee pod or capsule machine?
This is the most basic option of them all, with basic machines starting at roughly £50. Each pod or capsule includes the ideal amount of coffee, so you may choose the intensity and flavor that you prefer. They’re hard to top for no-fuss, no-mess coffee that tastes consistently fantastic. Some machines include built-in milk frothing, allowing you to make a latte or cappuccino with a single touch of a button. However, the results aren’t as good as manual espresso or bean-to-cup machines, and pods can be expensive.
Should you invest in a filter coffee maker?
A filter coffee maker is a terrific choice whether you just want plain and uncomplicated coffee to fill a mug, or if you want to be able to produce enough coffee for several people at once. Although most of these require ground coffee (although a handful do have built-in grinders), they’re a fantastic choice for making straightforward, fuss-free black coffee.
What are the best manual espresso machines to purchase?
The best under £200 is De’Longhi Dedica Style.
Are you looking for a basic espresso machine for under £200? The top rank has been restored by the De’Longhi Dedica Style. It’s a simple machine with few bells and whistles, but its thin design allows it to fit into even the tiniest kitchens, and it makes a decent espresso to boot. Its price has risen slightly, but not dramatically, during the pandemic — it’s the sub-£200 machine to beat.
The Dedica is quite easy to use, which is critical for espresso newbies. You may use store-bought ground coffee or grind your own, and the Dedica’s pressurised baskets are forgiving if the grind is too coarse or fine, or if the proportions aren’t just perfect.
Is it flawless? No. The Sage Bambino (£329 – see below) lacks shot-to-shot consistency and flavor depth, and it’s a far cry from the Gaggia Classic or more expensive Sage machines. If you’re serious about espresso, you’ll need to invest more money. (However, don’t waste your money on the Smeg ECF01, which some sites promote – it’s basically a rebadged Dedica for double the price.)
2. Sage Bambino: A little but powerful espresso machine
Sage’s latest entry-level manual espresso machine may be more expensive than most, but it more than makes up for it. It looks excellent, has a thoughtful design, and a small size that makes it easy to fit into small kitchens.
It also helps that it produces excellent espresso. You don’t get the automatic milk texturing options that we enjoyed on the Bambino Plus (see our complete review here), but you do get a smaller, cuter machine that fits into even the tiniest of kitchens.
The Bambino, like its larger brother, struggles to extract all the nuance of superb single origin coffee – taste-tested alongside the more expensive espresso machines here, the Bambino struggles to do so. The £429 Gaggia Classic (see below) is significantly better than the De’Longhi above, but it’s simply in a different league.
However, the Bambino outperforms lesser machines by consistently offering consistent results in a small package. It’s a great choice if you want a small, capable espresso machine.
3. Gaggia Classic Pro: Best value for money under £500
Around £400, you had two options: Sage’s outstanding Barista Express or Gaggia’s fantastic Classic. That’s all changed now, thanks to the global pandemic. Many of the Sage machines have seen their prices rise, and the Barista Express is now closer to £600 than £400. As a result, the Gaggia Classic is the clear winner in the sub-£500 category.
The Classic lacks the Sage’s integrated burr grinder – and keep in mind that even a simple one will set you back at least £50 – but it makes far superior coffee. It may take a bit more effort to get the most out of the Classic, but when it’s at its best, it’s unbeatable for the money and capable of producing coffee that rivals or exceeds that of many more expensive machines.
This is the machine to buy if you really want to get the most out of high-quality coffee beans. The espresso machine’s metal appearance, clunk-click buttons, and straightforward, basic engineering combine to create a machine to aspire to.
4. Sage Barista Pro: Best value for money under £750
The Barista Pro is hard to beat if you’re searching for an all-in-one manual espresso machine. While less expensive all-in-one machines can brew a passable espresso, the Barista Pro can extract practically every last drop of flavor from the finest coffee beans.
It’s also significantly more consistent than cheaper machines, with an integrated burr grinder that consistently provides the same amount of ground coffee every time, and a volumetric sensor that pumps the same amount of water through the beans every time, for a consistently excellent cup of espresso.
The Pro is a fully manual machine, unlike other of Sage’s recent models, but it’s well worth taking the time to dial in the exact settings – do so, and the coffee quality is remarkable. You won’t have to wait long, either, thanks to the thermojet technology, which heats up in just three seconds.
The greatest high-end manual espresso machine is the Sage Dual Boiler.
The Sage by Heston Blumenthal Dual Boiler is a serious equipment for those who want the full coffee shop experience at home. It’s really well-made, with industrial-grade components and two boilers that allow you to steam milk and pour espresso simultaneously. What’s more, it makes fantastic coffee. It’s pricey, but it’s the best for true enthusiasts. If you want (or need) a little more help but still want the best espresso, Sage’s Oracle Touch is the way to go: it has the same coffee-making capabilities as the Dual Boiler but adds a touchscreen to help you brew the ideal cup of coffee every time (read our full review here).
6. Sage Oracle Touch: A high-end manual machine with a twist of automation.
If Sage’s Dual Boiler is too intimidating, but you still want a high-end espresso machine, the Oracle Touch could be the machine for you. The Oracle Touch replaces the conventional Oracle’s variety of buttons and LCD displays with a welcoming, bright, colorful touchscreen. The Dual Boiler demands a good dose of talent, while the standard Oracle batters you with an array of buttons and LCD displays. Choose one of the pre-programmed drink varieties, and it will whisk you away from the coffee bean to a delectable cappuccino, latte, flat white, or other beverage without leaving you befuddled.
This is the Sage Dual Boiler with a friendlier face at its core. It, too, features a dual boiler design that allows you to steam milk and draw espresso at the same time, with equally excellent results. The distinction is in how simple it is to use. The Oracle Touch grinds and tamps the precise amount of coffee, as well as warming and frothing milk to perfection. You can still adjust and perfect each recipe using the on-screen settings or experiment with manual control, and once you’ve nailed it, the Oracle Touch will preserve your work as a preset drink that you can re-create at any time.
The Oracle Touch is a fantastic machine if you want far better coffee than any automatic bean-to-cup machine can provide – and no, even the £2,800 De’Longhi Maestosa comes close. Just don’t blame us if it sends you down the path of full-fledged manual espresso addiction.