The key difference between espresso machines and more traditional coffee makers is that espresso machines use high pressure to run water through the coffee. Standard coffee makers, on the other hand, rely on gravity for this task. This means that espresso machines turn out their cups of coffee much quicker. Models with built-in milk frothers are even better, especially if you’re a fan of drinks like lattes. Be your own barista, and check out these espresso machine options for a delicious coffee made from the comfort of your own home.
We sorted through dozens of different espresso machines, making sure to only consider options with milk frothers. We reviewed manufacturer listings and claims and considered their respective reputations as well.
After that, we turned to real-life consumers. We read their user reviews to get a better idea of the sorts of features consumers want from their espresso machines, what they liked and didn’t like about each product, and how well they functioned at home. This also allowed to compare various espresso machines to one another.
Once we narrowed our selection down to 10 items, we sought out expert advice. We spoke directly with several former baristas to see what they found most useful when working with espresso machines with milk frothers. Thanks to their input, we were able to narrow down the selection to the top five products.
Why buy an espresso machine with a milk frother?
If you’re a frequent or daily coffee drinker, an espresso machine is worth the investment for the long-term savings alone. Even when accounting for buying pods, coffee beans or grounds, and milk and sugar for your home machine, owning an espresso machine can save you hundreds a year.
A model with a built-in milk frother allows you to create a wider range of drinks than just plain espresso. And since frothy, milky beverages like cappuccinos and lattes tend to cost more at your local coffee shop, an espresso machine with a milk frother can help save you even more money in the long run. They also allow you to use the milk of your choice, such as lactose-free, oat, or almond milk, which can be a lifesaver for people with allergies or dietary restrictions.
What should you look for in an espresso machine?
- Capacity: Espresso machines come in a variety of sizes. Most espresso machines nowadays will offer at least two or three different cup size options. (Note that these will be measured in ounces, as not everyone’s idea of a “cup” of coffee is the same.) If you drink coffee daily or if more than one person in your household is a regular coffee drinker, look for models that can produce higher volumes of espresso at once.
- Compatibility: Not all espresso machines will work with coffee grounds, beans, and pods alike. Some do, but some have more specific requirements. For instance, not all models have a built-in grinder, which means that they might work with pre-ground coffee but not with whole beans. Some are compatible only with pods, and in certain cases, only with certain types or brands. Be sure to check a machine’s requirements before you buy to ensure that it will work with your preferred type of coffee. Most espresso machines function with all kinds of milk, but it’s worth double-checking if you prefer less common types of milk.
- Features: Some have a single knob or button operation that makes them one-touch and extremely easy to operate. A built-in grinder lets you grind coffee beans to your preferred texture rather than relying on store-bought grounds. A steam wand can be used for steaming milk and creating art in the foam. Others have adjustable pressure gauges, temperatures, and infusers. Some even have pre-programmed drinks, which beginners will find useful.
How much do espresso makers cost?
Espresso makers are not an inexpensive investment for your kitchen. On average, the lower-priced espresso machines cost somewhere between $150 to $300, depending on their features, functions, brand, and capacity. However, they won’t give you great results. Mid-tier, more premium units will cost somewhere between $400 to $900, with extremely high-end, professional-style machines costing over $1,000.
Espresso machines are definitely one type of kitchen appliance that’s worth spending the extra money for a reliable model. If you want a truly quality cup of espresso, you should plan on investing in at least a mid-tier model. The difference in the quality of both the espresso maker itself and the coffee it produces is quite staggering between the cheaper and the premium machines. And many mid-tier and high-end espresso machines are quite versatile, which adds to their value. We’ve focused mainly on mid-tier models for our picks.
How does the milk frother work?
Milk frothers work one of two ways when attached to an espresso machine. Both methods involve some sort of wand, almost always made of metal. The wand will either have a whisk attached to the end or will shoot hot, pressurized steam out the end. Either way, this aerates the milk and creates bubbles, which causes a thick, creamy foam to form atop your coffee. A built-in milk frother operates automatically, either by pushing a button or turning a knob of some sort.
The nice thing about milk frothers, besides creating a light, creamy foam for your coffees, is that they work for many types of coffee, not just lattes and cappuccinos. You can use them on cold brew, combination drinks, teas, and more. And even though you can’t use the milk frother to create latte art per se, the foam they create is the base for said art. You wouldn’t be able to make latte art at all if it weren’t for milk frothers.
Are there any other factors worth considering in an espresso machine with a milk frother?
Keep an eye on how easy an espresso machine is to clean. Is the water reservoir detachable for easier cleaning and filling? How many, if any, of its parts are dishwasher safe? Are there any small openings or hard-to-reach nooks that will make hand washing more challenging? Can you wipe down the exterior to get rid of splatters?
Think about how large the espresso machine is and how much countertop and/or storage space it needs. Extra gadgets and attachments add to the amount of space they take up. There are some more streamlined and compact models, but they will usually only have a reservoir for 3 or 4 cups. Think about how much kitchen countertop space you have to spare and try to find the right balance between size and capacity.
|Our Reviews of the Best Coffee Makers|
|Drip Coffee Makers | Single-Serve Coffee Makers | French Press Coffee Makers | Cold Brew Coffee Makers | Nitro Cold Brew Coffee Makers | Stovetop Coffee Makers | Siphon Coffee Makers | Espresso Machines with Milk Frothers|
Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine
For the most precise beverages, this machine gives you control over the bean grind and includes a latte art function.
Pros: This espresso machine provides a great-tasting beverage in less than a minute. It has interchangeable filters and a manual or automatic operation. You receive complete control over the coffee bean grinding size, while the steam wand allows you to micro-foam milk, enhancing flavor and giving you the option to create latte art. This machine functions primarily hands-free, allowing an at-home barista to grind directly into the espresso port filter. The bean hopper capacity is half a pound, and the water tank capacity is 67 ounces, larger than most espresso machines. It’s surprisingly lightweight for its size.
Cons: While not as expensive as the most premium models, it’s definitely not ideal for the budget-conscious. It’s bigger and bulkier than most. And as handy as all the features, functions, and customization options are, they also make this espresso machine more confusing for some users. Anticipate a little bit of a learning curve and time spent experimenting with this machine before you get a good feel for it.
Bottom Line: For the coffee connoisseur, this espresso machine provides the ultimate handling via dose control grinding, precise espresso extraction, and micro-foam milk texturing. You’ll feel like a real barista in the comfort of your own home. However, beginners and more casual coffee drinkers might find the learning curve to be too steep for their liking.
Gaggia Classic Pro Espresso Machine
A classic, easy-to-use espresso maker known for its long service life, high quality, and overall dependability.
Pros: This classic espresso machine is known for lasting for years and years without breaking down or acting up. The stainless steel provides excellent durability, too. Even if it should break, it’s generally a pretty easy fix. This machine is known as an excellent entry-level choice, too. It’s pretty straightforward. There are only three buttons: the power button, a button for brewing, and a button for steaming; plus, a knob for controlling the steam wand. As a bonus, this is one of the more compact espresso machines out there; it won’t take up as much countertop space as some. And it’s available in seven different colors to more easily match your kitchen.
Cons: While easy to use, it lacks certain bonus features like a built-in grinder, pod adapter, latte foam art capability, and other similar functions. It’s not the most versatile of espresso makers. Its compact size means it has a smaller boiler than many comparable models.
Bottom Line: This is a straightforward yet effective machine that’s ideal for those coffee drinkers new to the world of espresso making. Gaggia was one of the earliest home espresso makers, and to this day, their espresso machines have a reputation for quality, reliability, and long service life. If you want an excellent cup of espresso and don’t need any fancy bells and whistles to make it, this is the machine for you.
Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine
A top-notch espresso maker priced slightly lower than most top-tier models.
Pros: Though the price of this espresso maker is on the higher end of mid-range machines, you actually get good value for your money. This is a commercial-grade, high-end espresso maker that will make high-quality coffee at a more mid-range price. You’ll be amazed at the flavors this machine will extract from your coffee grounds. It offers quite a few useful high-end features, including an ergonomic handle, a full range of motion milk steaming wand, and precise control over temperature and steam pressure. This espresso maker can make other coffee drinks like lattes and even some latte art.
Cons: Cleaning this machine is an in-depth, high-maintenance, all-hands-on-deck sort of experience. You can’t simply throw all the parts in the dishwasher and call it a day; you have to be thorough to care for it properly. If you’re new to the world of espresso making, this is another espresso machine where you should expect a bit of a learning curve before you master the technique and temperature level.
Bottom Line: This is the perfect espresso machine for someone who is willing and able to spend more money to spring for a high-end model for high-end espresso. That said, while this machine is undeniably quite pricey, it does cost a bit less than many similar top-tier espresso makers. Just make sure you’re willing to put in the time and effort to keep it clean and working properly.
De'Longhi Pump Espresso Maker
A versatile espresso maker that produces good quality coffee without the high-end price tag.
Pros: This is the rare espresso maker that produces quality coffee without a premium price tag. It’s not inexpensive, per se, but compared to what you’d pay for most espresso machines of comparable quality, it’s more affordable. This espresso maker is multifunctional, capable of making cappuccinos and lattes as well as espresso. It’s compatible with both coffee grounds and pod capsules, and there are separate temperature control knobs for temperature and steaming. And, while not dishwasher safe, it’s much easier to clean than many espresso machines. Perhaps most useful is its twin brewing cycle, which allows you to make and dispense two servings of espresso at once.
Cons: This espresso maker is quite sensitive to cold and may not function properly if stored in cold temperatures. The frothing wand is also a bit on the short side. Some people also found this espresso maker to be quite loud when in use.
Bottom Line: While the quality won’t be quite the same as a $1,000+ machine, it still offers an above-average cup of espresso without the massive price tag. And the twin brewing feature is extremely handy for those who drink multiple cups of espresso a day or live with a fellow caffeine addict.
Breville Duo Temp Pro Espresso Machine
A durable, well-made espresso machine that gives you the option to make a single or double shot of espresso as desired.
Pros: This espresso maker is entirely made out of stainless steel (aside from the water tank), so durability won’t be an issue. This machine also has an indicator light that lets you know when it requires cleaning. It has lots of other useful features, like the ability to create latte art and some internal temperature maintenance. It allows you to switch between a single and double serving of espresso, great for those who drink multiple cups of espresso a day.
Cons: This isn’t the speediest of espresso makers. It’s also a bit on the noisy side. And this espresso maker is quite heavy and bulky. Moving it may be a bit of strain for some, and it will take up a decent bit of countertop space.
Bottom Line: Sometimes, you need an extra dose of caffeine in the morning. This espresso maker is perfect for such occasions since it allows you to make a double or single shot of espresso. Just make sure you give yourself enough time in the morning to get it up, running, and foaming.
How is espresso different from regular drip coffee?
Because of the differences in brewing methods, espresso is a lot more concentrated than drip coffee. This means that not only is a cup of espresso generally smaller than a cup of drip coffee, but it’s also more acidic and bitter-tasting. (Using a darker roast to make espresso can help balance this out since lighter roasts are more acidic.)
Besides the taste, the other main difference is in the amount of caffeine. An ounce of espresso has more caffeine than an ounce of drip coffee, so if you really need a quick caffeine boost, espresso is a good way to go.
Are built-in milk frothers on espresso machines better than handheld ones?
A built-in milk frother, the type you find on these espresso machines, is going to be a lot more powerful than a handheld or manual one. Even if the handheld milk frother is powered by batteries or USB, it still won’t be as strong as a milk frother attached to a big, heavy-duty coffee maker. A built-in milk frother is going to froth your milk much quicker; most will have that nice, creamy upper layer forming on your coffee in half a minute or so, sometimes less. They’re also much more versatile.
Can you use skim, Lactaid, or non-dairy milk with a built-in milk frother? What about half and half?
Unless your espresso machine says otherwise, you should be able to use any milk, non-dairy or otherwise, to create the ideal beverage for you. However, keep in mind that the results won’t be the same with non-dairy milk. Some milks simply froth more effectively than others. It’s believed this is related to the fat content within the milk, so half and half should work well. Plant-based milks tend to be the toughest to get to froth properly, so don’t be discouraged if you use almond or coconut milk and can’t get a good froth going at first. It takes time and practice to get it right.
The perfect cup of espresso topped with foamed milk is just a button away with one of these machines. Use them to channel your inner barista and create incredible drinks in minutes.
If one of the models listed here doesn’t have a feature or price you’re looking for, here are a few others we considered and would recommend: