Best Espresso Machines for Home Use.

Best Home Espresso Machines UK.

Best Home Espresso coffee Machines UK.

Are you trawling the web trying to figure out which are the perfect home espresso coffee machines in the UK, or which espresso machine is perfect for home work with? If so, you’re not alone – and if not, then how the heck did you end up here?? ;-).

While the past couple of years seems like a strange dream, and thankfully we’re not still in that same situation of being trapped at home awaiting Bojo’s next perplexing statement, I don’t think we are or will ever be “back to normal”. It seems to me that we’ve stepped out of our partial captivity and into a brand new world, and this includes (but obviously isn’t limited to) home espresso machines, and workplace espresso coffee machines too, which I’ll get to shortly though this article is generally about espresso machines for home work with.

There were two huge developments throughout this period (I’m sure there were more than that literally) that are proving to be permanent changes, which are the massive growth in Zoom (and other video conferencing platforms), and the massive and seemingly permanently increased popularity of home espresso machines.

Before March 2020 I’m fairly certain that many people were aware that they could buy an espresso machine and make their own espresso and espresso-based coffees, including latte, Americano, flat white, cappuccino, etc., from home. What I think people came to realize, but, is that home espresso coffee is far more accessible than they previously thought, and that not only is it affordable, nevertheless it can lead to saving money!

This rise in popularity of espresso coffee machines isn’t limited to home work with, the number of home workplace and workplace espresso coffee machines being purchased has gone through the proverbial roof, too.

The growth of home workplace coffee machines won’t come as a surprise to you given that so lots of people are continuing to work from home either partially or full time, but what you may be surprised by is the rise in companies opting to install high-end coffee machines for their staff.

While some businesses, in certain industries, have realized that keeping a lot of of their team working from home the majority of of the time just works for them, there are particular industries and kinds of companies that need/want their team back in the building, and installing a capable espresso coffee machine has suggested to be a fantastic way to tempt people back into the workplace.

If you’ve ended up on this article due to the fact that you’re searching for a machine for an workplace, and it’s a bigger office so you may be looking at something like 20-30 coffees each day or more, you’ll probably be looking for a commercial machine – drop me an email, and I’ll point you in the right direction.

What type of espresso coffee machine user are you?

I know you’re probably chomping at the bit, and you may be thinking “Kev, shut it, just show me the machines”, I will do shortly, but you’ll thank me for providing you this food for thought, first, about ensuring you learn what kind of espresso coffee machine user you are, so you can make sure you’re buying the right kind of machine.

The thing is, there’s a heck of most choices, as you’ll already be aware of – truly you probably ended up here because you necessary some help choosing, and you thought I may be the person to help you with this, and I am :-), nevertheless what numerous people don’t get (as it’s not obvious to the uninitiated) is that this isn’t just a option in machines, it’s a preference in machine types.

If you were looking for a car, for example, you’d probably learn what gearbox you want – manual or auto? Can you imagine searching for a car, and only finding out when it’s delivered that you’ve bought a manual however you drive auto, or vice versa? While this probably doesn’t happen often with cars, it occurs fairly regularly with espresso coffee machines, as I know from some of the emails I get.

So here’s an really quick way to make sure you’re going to end up with the right type of espresso machine:

The bean to cup espresso coffee machine user

If you want espresso and espresso-based cafe favourites (cappuccino, latte, etc) brewed 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 utilizing fresh coffee beans, then you’re a bean to cup machine user.

Bean to cup machines have integrated grinders, and they produce the espresso with something known as a brewing unit, vs traditional espresso machines which have a group and a portafilter (filter holder).

Removable Brew Unit on Gaggia Anima.
That’s a Brewing Unit. They’re not my fingernails!

The cup quality isn’t likely to be rather on par with that of a home barista machine in the hands of a seasoned home barista, nevertheless the average coffee drinker is usually more than happy with the cup quality of the majority of bean to cup machines.

The good news is that you have most option, the entry-level is relatively low cost, and the machines towards the entry-level are usually simply as good where espresso coffee quality is worried. The much more expensive options tend to be loaded with features but are usually no better for cup quality.

The home barista

The polar opposite of the bean to cup user is the home barista. Home baristas are people who want perfection where coffee is worried, and being a home barista is a hobby, it’s not simply a indicates to an end, it does require quite a bit of investment of time, effort, and money.

If you’re a home barista, you’ll either want an espresso coffee machine with a stand-alone grinder – or you’ll want an integrated grinding machine espresso coffee machine, like the Sage Barista Express and Barista Pro, both of which feature below.

Basically keep in mind that an integrated coffee grinder espresso coffee machine isn’t the same as a bean to cup espresso coffee machine, because while they do have an integrated coffee mill, they don’t have a brewing unit, and the espresso side of things features the traditional group and portafilter.

The middle ground

If you don’t in truth see yourself as a home barista, you don’t fancy weighing your coffee beans, the thought of coffee as a hobby brews you pull a funny face (unless that’s your regular face, in which case, apologies) then there are other options in between bean to cup and traditional espresso coffee machines. Which option you’d go for would depend on your palate and your budget.

Pressurized Basket Domestic Espresso Machines

If you’re on a tight budget, from around £80-£200, which would rule out bean to cup machines, then pressurized basket home espresso machines are a way to make home espresso and espresso coffee based coffee shop favourites which will be extremely similar in quality to the majority of domestic bean to cup machines.

These machines aren’t usually sold specifically as “pressurized basket” machines, nevertheless nearly all of the machines at this sort of price will be this type of machine, and a tell-tale sign is that the phrase “15 bars of pressure” is used as a boast in the sales blurb.

This is nothing to boast about ;-), and I think in the majority of cases this is in fact a mistake. Among these brands (and I’m unsure who did it first) listed 15 bars of pressure as a pro in the blurb, and many the others followed suit. The fact is, but, this is literally the capacity of the pump, and you wouldn’t usually want to create 15 bars of pressure in the basket.

Whether or not these machines really lack an over-pressure valve so they are in reality delivering 15 bars of pressure, I’m uncertain. It would seem a strange thing to do, to want such high pressured water to blast the coffee to oblivion, nevertheless some of these machines do appear to blow craters in the centre of the puck of coffee, whether this is purely pressure related or a combination of this plus poor temperature regulation, I’m unsure.

Anyway, if you see an espresso machine selling for somewhere between £80-£200, and you see “15 bars of pressure” being used as if this is a selling point, then you’ll be looking at a pressurized basket domestic espresso coffee machine. 

They are based on traditional espresso machines, but they’re cheaper, and they have pressurized baskets, vs the fundamental baskets that traditional home barista machines would have. This is a harmful where cup quality is concerned, vs a representative machine with a capable grinder in the hands of a skilled barista or home barista, but it’s a positive where ease of utilize and practicality are worried, as using a machine like this in truth doesn’t require many skill.

It’s worth keeping in mind that the entry-level home barista espresso machine below including the Sage Bambino Plus and the Gaggia Classic pro, comes with both standard baskets and pressurized baskets, so the user can decide which way to go.

I’m not going to include the cheaper domestic pressurized basket espresso coffee machines in this article, however for the perfect of that kind of espresso coffee machine see:

Perfect Cheap Espresso Machines

The Sage Oracle Range

If you have the palate of a home barista nevertheless want the convenience of a bean to cup machine, then the Sage Oracle was brewed for you.

Home barista-quality with almost bean to cup practicality does sound like a marketing slogan, and marketing can usually be taken with a large pinch of salt, but I can tell you from personal experience that it’s basically a fair assessment of these machines, and this originates from fairly extensive experience with the Oracle machines.

They’re just about as quick and convenient to utilize as pushing a button on a bean to cup machine, they’re based on the brilliant Sage Dual Boiler (which features below), and the cup quality is an awesome given the convenience.

Sage Oracle & Sage Oracle Touch Review

They don’t give you the same sort of precision as you’d have with the Dual Boiler and a capable espresso coffee specialist coffee grinder, just because integrated grinders don’t give you that same level of precision, but they’ll get you dialed in close enough for many people, to deliver cup quality that most of “normal” coffee drinkers would be over the moon with. 

I generally utilize the Sage Dual Boiler as my home espresso machine, however I’ve had the Oracle & the Oracle Touch for a while, for review purposes, and while I won’t be all that sad to see the Oracle Touch go back (truly due to the reality that I’m not a big fan of touch screen coffee machines, give me analogue buttons any day, it’s what I’m used to) I’ll definitely miss the Oracle. 

If I have time to dial in using either the Eureka Mignon Specialita or the Niche Zero, then yes I can get a much more precise extraction with the Dual Boiler, but when I don’t have the time for that and I opt to let the Oracle do it for me, the cup quality vs ease of utilize is simply quite something.

At times I’m not sure if I’d have in truth noticed any difference in cup quality spending the time to dial in, especially when making flat white which is what I tend to ingest the majority of of the time. So if you have a fairly decent palate and you think a bean to cup machine won’t cut the mustard (weird saying, who wants to cut the mustard?) I’d have a look at the Oracle.

So with all that said, I’ll now introduce you to what I think are the perfect options within each category, if you understand which sort of user you are, you can just focus on that particular category.

Best Home Espresso Machines – Bean to Cup

Just before I get into the individual machines, I want to make sure you’re aware of the different kinds of bean to cup machines, due to the reality that knowledge this can help you to avoid spending more than you extremely need to. There are three forms of bean to cup machine, and they differ primarily where the milk is concerned.

Fundamental machines, usually spoken about actually as “auto” in the states, are one-touch as far as the espresso coffee is anxious, nevertheless the milk steaming is done manually, via a steam wand. These machines are the cheapest type of bean to cup espresso machine.

On the other side of the price range, we have the one-touch milk, or “one-touch cappuccino” or “milk carafe” machines, which are usually referred to as super automatics in the States. You basically press the cappuccino or latte button or icon, and the coffee and milk are delivered into your cup.

Somewhere towards the middle of the price range you’ll find cappuccinatore or “cap in cup” machines, these are similar to the one-touch machines, and some of them do have at least some one-touch milk options, however instead of having an integrated milk carafe, you just fit the milk frother onto the steam pipe, and you put the milk pipe into your milk bottle.

It’s important to keep in mind that while the one touch milk carafe machines are usually the most expensive, this doesn’t mean they’re the best where the espresso coffee quality is worried.

In reality, often if you were choosing between the cheapest fundamental machine or the most expensive carafe machine from the same brand, the grinder, and the brewing unit are the same, so there would be no difference in espresso coffee quality.

I’ll explain a little more about every time of machine as we go through the suggestions, but remember that the cheapest machines have a steam wand, and these truly give you the best control over milk temperature and milk texture.

Here are the machines I’d many recommend if you’ve decided on bean to cup.

Check Price - Amazon UK

Features:

Water Tank: 1.2L (front accessed)
Dimensions: 28cm Wide x 40cm Deep x 36cm Tall
Weight: 10Kg
Milk Texturing: Panarello steam wand
Controls: Modest buttons and dials
Coffees: Espresso coffee one touch, all other coffees manually

My Observations:

The ESAM 4200 has been around for quite a while, it’s been among the best selling bean to cup espresso coffee machines on Amazon UK for years, not surprising given the price you can get it for!

I’ve used this machine a couple of times (once for a couple of weeks in the run-up to my blog post review, and again to reacquaint myself with it for my YouTube video review), and I’ve spoken to a number of people over the years who have one of these or have had one, and the majority of people are usually extremely impressed with it.

So this is a fundamental bean to cup machine, with a steam wand. So while the coffee is just a case of slapping the cup on the drip tray and pressing a button, for the milk you have to pour milk into a jug, and stick the steam wand in it – to manually steam the milk.

As I’ve referred to, while this may not be as sophisticated as the one touch milk carafe machines, it offers you a lot more control over the milk texture and the milk temperature. If you’ve had a milk carafe machine in the past and you weren’t happy with the temperature or the texture, you may want to try a fundamental version with a steam wand.

These, and most other bean to cup machines, come with what’s called a Panarello wand, which implies the air is automatically injected via holes on the side of the Panarello, which is a sheath on the steam pipe.

They don’t allow much control over texture, however they’re fine for what I call “old-school cappuccino” foam. If you want more modern “silky milky” microfoam, although, you can simply slide the Panarello off and use the steam pipe as a pro steam wand, there’s a knack to it nevertheless once you’ve got it you’ll be able to create wonderful milk texture this way.

There are slightly newer Delonghi machines which feature in this article, however this is usually the cheapest, and it’s such a robust and reliable machine, the newer versions have some mildly more modern features and so on, nevertheless when someone emails me to tell me they just want a reliable workhorse bean to cup machine on a budget, the Esam 4200 is the first machine that springs to mind.

The only things I don’t like about these machines, that I would class as “cons”, are the lack of a true double shot setting, and the strange “Aroma Strength” setting.

Where double shots are concerned, their 2 cup shot button (on all the Magnifica range as far as I’m aware) doesn’t deliver what I would call a double shot, as it uses only a couple of grams more coffee beans. It’s not a deal breaker, if you want a true double shot you can press the single cup button, let the shot finish pulling, and then press it a second time.

If you press the 2 cup button, although, you’ll get double the volume made from only a slightly higher dosage of coffee, so it’s a bigger weaker shot, not a double shot in my opinion.

Likewise with this and the other Magnifica range, I’m not quite sure what the Aroma Strength setting is all about. I’ve heard from customers about this who have had replies from DeLonghi support telling them that the aroma strength button is not a way to change the dose, (dose: the amount of coffee ground) and that instead, it changes the contact time between the coffee and the water.

From the tests I’ve done, even though, I’ve found that this knob does alter the dosage, however it’s really difficult to understand how much you’re changing it by with the dial, and I much prefer the really humble bean icon settings on Gaggia and Melitta machines.

For my in-depth review on this machine, see:

De'Longhi ESAM 4200 Review

Check Price – Amazon UK

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: Humble 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 generally differ only aesthetically.

The “Smart” version, generally differs due to the Panarello steam wand. While the S 21 & 22 have the basic 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 indicates you have similar control over the texture that you’d have with a pro steam wand, it’s extremely clever.

Compared to the ESAM 4200, this is a newer and mildly more modern machine from DeLonghi, but it’s almost identical where performance is anxious. It has a bigger water tank while being in a 4cm slimmer footprint (although it is 4cm deeper, and the same height, so about the same overall footprint) and it has the aforementioned smart Panarello steam wand.

As with the 4200, all of the machines in the Magnifica range are the same where the double shot button is anxious, where you don’t get a double shot but instead, you get double the volume crafted from simply slightly more ground coffee beans. They’re the same where the aroma strength setting, too.

Check Price – Amazon UK 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 coffee one touch. All other coffees manually

My Observations:

Melitta is a brand with the majority of history, their founder Mrs Melitta Bentz having 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 coffee machines on the market.

This is an exceptionally interesting machine for the price, it’s similarly priced to the De’Longhi machines, above, however 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 humble dosage settings for one bean, two beans, and three beans.

I do wish that they would tell you (as Gaggia does) how most 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 coffee for an approx 1:3 extraction if that’s what you like, and then to simply 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 little more difficult to discover what dosage you’re using.

I will get among 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 harmful is the depth of the machine. It’s an extremely 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 many wall cupboards, for example.

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

Steaming with a pro steam wand or utilizing 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.

Best Bean to Cup Coffee brewing device? 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: Modest buttons and dials
Coffees: Espresso & lungo one touch. All other coffees manually

My Observations:

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

The Gaggia innovation was likewise responsible for what we now understand as crema, and this was a stroke of Genius by Gaggia given that this was initially seen as a adverse “espresso scum” symptom of espresso coffee crafted this way.

The Gaggia Brera is among the a lot of obvious machines for me to suggest each time I get an email asking which bean to cup espresso coffee machine they needs to go for under £500, literally, 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 due to the reality that the Brera has a front accessed water tank while the Anima is top accessed.

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

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

If you look at the many expensive machines in Gaggia’s wide range, they have the same coffee grinder, and virtually the same brewing unit. Actually, I think they’re exactly the same where quality is anxious, 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 dosage 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 coffee 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 practicality, literally humble machine to utilize – it likewise 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 degree drip tray (which is good in terms of up clearance) however the drip tray goes all the way to the back of the machine, which steeps 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 fundamental, nevertheless you can extend it to 3 years for literally £20 – and it’s a solid warranty offered by a UK company with an in-house service department, which is rather rare for warranty on machines at this type of appreciate.

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 regular, you can visit their showroom in Elland, near Halifax – or from among their shops, they’ve got one at Junction 32 in Castleford & one at Freeport Outlet Village in Braintree, Essex.

I suggest this by the way because I discover from experience that they’re a simply good company when it comes to aftersales support, and I also learn 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 mildly 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 requires repairing under warranty.

Gaggia anima bean to cup espresso machine.

Gaggia anima bean to cup espresso coffee machine.£75 off with discount code: COFBLAN22

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 perfect bean to cup coffee machines when it comes to appreciate for money, actually, I’d go so far as to say it’s among the best one of all brands at under £500 (the base extent version, that is).

The base extent 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 fantastic if you need to slide it under wall cupboards, if you don’t it suggests that if you’re running out of water you can top the water up while your shot is pulling. Likewise, the Anima gives you the ability to input the water hardness for a personalised descale schedule.

Gaggia has released a number of newer models, however for me, the Anima and the Brera are two of the the majority of tried and tested bean to cup machines on the market, which have continued to be manufactured for rather some time now with little or no changes just because “don’t troubleshoot what ain’t broken”.

They have to keep releasing new models to keep up with the competition, delivery things like fancy displays, personalisation, and so on, nevertheless 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 among 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, however if you want simplicity, reliability, and appreciate for money, the Anima may be for you.

See:

Gaggia Anima Review

Check Price – Amazon UK

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 among 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 preference 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, just due to the reality that I think the official “7” includes hot water, and I’m unsure about you, nevertheless I don’t think hot water counts as coffee…

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

Gaggia Cadorna, bean to cup home espresso machine.

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 modest buttons and dials
Coffees – Style, Plus & Barista: One-touch Espresso coffee, lungo, coffee, Americano – all other drinks manually
Coffees – Milk:
One-touch ristretto, espresso coffee, 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 an 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 implies 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 whenever regardless of who else is utilizing 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 – among 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, basically due to the reality that I’ve got another dedicated bean to cup coffee machines article, with a lot more suggestions, so if you haven’t found a bean to cup machine here that you think is fantastic for you, see:

Perfect Bean to Cup Coffee Machines

Best Home Espresso coffee Machines – Traditional

OK so now we’re on to traditional espresso coffee machines, or if you learn you’re looking for a machine of this type you might have saved yourself the time of reading the bean to cup section, which is fair enough, time is money so they say. Uncertain who “they” are, but apparently they say that.

So I’m going to do this roughly in price order as I did with the bean to cup section, some machines are extremely similarly priced, and some machines will be priced differently at different times when a certain retailer or brand has a promotion, etc., so they’re not going to be in perfect order by price.

Sage Bambino

Sage Bambino

Check Price - Sage Appliances

Features:

Water Tank: 1.4L
Dimensions: 19 cm wide x 30.4 cm deep x 31 cm tall
Weight: 4.5 Kg
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 extent 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 coffee machine on the market.

It’s among the most compact espresso coffee 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 fundamental height kitchen cupboards. It’s also among the fastest espresso machines on the market, reaching steam temperature within literally a few seconds, and dropping back down to espresso coffee temperature equally quickly.

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

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

The Bambino (all Sage machines, literally) 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, nevertheless this is literally the pump capacity. 

Many entry and mid range espresso machines have vibration pumps, and a lot of these deliver up to 15 bars of pressure. Sage machines, however (and the majority of of the other home barista espresso coffee machines I’ll be talking about in this section of the article) 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 coffee 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 mildly cheaper version, and even though there are a couple of steps down from the Plus to the base extent 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 an amazing thing for a machine of this cost to have, and it means that the brew temperature is stable, and this is extremely important, however it isn’t something that can be said of all espresso coffee machines as we’ll talk about when we get to the Gaggia Classic Pro and the Rancilio Silvia.

Vs the Bambino plus, as I pointed out there are a few cons, one is that there’s no 3-way solenoid valve. What this suggests is that the puck of coffee will usually be mildly wetter when you knock it out.

People tend to make a big deal about the solenoid valve, however it’s not actually a huge deal, there’s still a valve (a brew valve) it truly 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, even 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 extremely 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, nevertheless manual only.

The other is that the water tank is slightly smaller, 1.5L vs 1.9L, so you’ll have to fill it mildly 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 offers you more flexibility over the steaming position.

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Click here to join my “Brew Time” mailing list, and then email me ([email protected]) to see if I have a current discount code to Share. Sage Appliances sometimes share codes with me, I can’t publish them – and there’s no point as they’re usually time-limited anyway, nevertheless they do allow me to share them with subscribers via email.

Which Grinding machine?

For the Bambino, the Sage Dose Control Pro is a popular option, they’re a best match in terms of looks, the same is true of the Smart Grinder Pro and they’re both a good pairing for the Bambino. If you wanted a future proof grinder that will pair well with other espresso machines if you catch the dreaded “upgraditis” then look at the Eureka Mignon, Sette 270 or Niche Zero.

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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 rather 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, a lot 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 benefits and drawbacks to both, and this isn’t the right article 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 image, not basically the boiler or water heater.

Anyway, having the newer thermojet implies 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 explained, the plus has the auto steaming preference, 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 little bit more steam power, making steaming milk mildly 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 question after a while, nevertheless I do think this is in reality 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, nevertheless 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 necessary to work with 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 Coffee mill?

Again, the Sage Dosage 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 wonderful setup, I’ve used the smart mill pro with various machines truly, it’s a versatile coffee mill which will pair well with a lot of entry-level machines.

As I explained for the Bambino, even though, if you’re wanting an espresso coffee specialist grinding machine that you could pair with espresso machines rather a little higher up the range as you end up contracting upgraditis, then the  Eureka Mignon, Sette 270 , Niche Zero or even the Baratza Vario would be worth considering.

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 however 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 the majority of well-known creations and you’ll get it ;-). 

New gaggia classic 2018 19

New gaggia classic 2018 19

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Ends at the end of July. Includes the Gaggia Classic pro (standard stainless steel version) and all of the Gaggia Classic Pro + Coffee mill bundles.

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 alter)
Interface: Rocker switches & rotary steam dial
Preinfusion?: No
Adjustable brew temperature: No

My Observations:

The Gaggia Classic is one of the the majority of popular home espresso machines in the world, the majority of of home baristas during the 90s and early 00s started out with a representative, lots of 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 nevertheless with a pro steam wand.

One of 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, nevertheless they occupy an exceptionally similar position in terms of popularity and price point, so I do find out this question being so widely asked.

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

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 brewed the way they used to make things, you’ll probably have the machine for numerous years as long as you maintain it.

It’s not 9 bars out of the box, and I must admit I’m not totally 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 basic 9, I don’t actually learn, however this is an exceptionally simple and cheap (about a tenner) mod to do.

It has a steam boiler, it’s an incredibly small boiler however it’s likewise powered by a high powered aspect, 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 among the reasons it didn’t go down well).

It doesn’t have bells and whistles, it indeed 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.

Which Coffee grinder?

The Smart Grinding machine Pro pairs well with the Classic pro, but if you want to be able to up the potential shot quality, the Eureka mignon with its step-less grind adjustment simply provides you a slight edge when it comes to dialing in, in particular the Mignon Specialita, which has the slightly bigger 55mm burrs and the two programmable doses. 

Gaggia is truly bundling the Mignon Specialita with their limited edition version of the classic at the moment: 

Gaggia Classic and Eureka Mignon La Specialita.

Gaggia Classic and Eureka Mignon La Specialita.

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The specialita will pair with a number of other single boiler espresso machines, and with heat exchanger and dual boiler espresso coffee machines, too, so it’s not a bad option if you do end up upgrading your machine, or if you’re smart, putting the Classic pro (even more so if you have the Acrobat) away safely in its box to pass down as a family heirloom, if/when you decide to try a different espresso machine.

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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 rather 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 little more potential for espresso quality, if paired with a capable enough grinding machine.

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

The main con for the Silvia vs the Classic, even 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 most 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 modest 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 steeps sense as Rancilio usually brews 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 factor.

My personal opinion of the Silvia is that it’s an exceptionally powerful machine, it’s a little 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 enjoy the portafilter, feels in fact high quality, and it does feel a bit more like using a commercial machine to me, than the classic, however as I’ve said, I did find it a little harder to tame, out of the box without any modding.

Rancilio Silvia Review

Don’t forget, though, even the very perfect espresso coffee machine will only produce decent espresso if you utilize 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 choice, nevertheless personally, for the Rancilio Silvia I’d be looking at the Eureka Mignon Specialita , Baratza Sette 270 or Niche Zero if you’ve got the budget for it.

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Features:

Water Tank: 2L
Dimensions: 32 cm wide x 35 cm deep x 41 cm tall
Weight: 10 Kg
Boiler: Thermocoil
PID?:
Yes
3 Way Solenoid?:
Yes
Portafilter Size: 54mm
Pump Pressure:
9 bars
Interface: Buttons & steam dial
Grind settings: 18
Preinfusion?: Yes, pre-set (adjustable) & manual
Adjustable brew temperature: Yes

My Observations:

The Sage Barista Express is an integrated mill espresso machine from Sage (or Breville, as they’re discussed as everywhere except Europe, as the Breville brand name was sold in Europe in the 80s).

As I mentioned earlier, having an integrated grinding machine doesn’t make this a bean to cup espresso machine – it has a portafilter and a group, so it’s a regular espresso coffee machine, though using integrated grinder machines isn’t rather the same as using a stand alone espresso machine and grinder setup.

Integrated coffee grinder machines tend to have less grind settings than the espresso specialist grinders, and bigger increments, which brews the dialing in what I refer to as “ball-park” dialing in, meaning that you’ll get somewhere close however it’s unlikely you’ll get wonderful extraction. The Barista Express has 18 grind settings, its newer sibling the Barista Pro has 30, which is better but still not best.

There’s no problem with the grinding range with the Express or the pro, as I’ve seen some people suggesting there is. There are internal grind adjustments on the top burr, as well as the external adjustments, so you can go extremely fine with them, extremely, you can end up with the burrs touching each other (don’t do that) which you’ll understand you’ve done as the coffee mill when running empty steeps a slightly alarming metal on metal sound.

The Express features the original thermocoil, not the newer thermojet, so the Express isn’t quite as fast at steaming milk (it also has a single hole tip which doesn’t deliver quite as much power), and doesn’t reach steam temp or drop back down to shot temp quite as quickly, but there’s not a huge amount in it as you’ll see in my comparison video.

You have the same 9 bars of pressure, pre-set and adjustable pre-infusion, 3 temperature settings, and on the express, there’s a pressure gauge, while on the pro there’s no pressure gauge however there’s a digital display with a shot timer, which I would take any day vs a pressure gauge.

They’re an exceptionally popular machine, and it’s no wonder given the price and the features and performance. In my humble opinion, if you’re on a relatively tight budget (and this is a low price considering it includes the coffee grinder), and you’re not too fussed about precisely dialed in, they’re a valid choice.

The closest machine to the Barista express however without the integrated mill, by the way, is the Duo Temp Pro, which I decided not to feature here extremely because there would be too several Sage machines in this post. It’s more or less the same as the Barista Express but without the integrated mill, and without shot buttons. For more on the Duo Temp Pro and all the other Sage machines, see:

Best Sage Coffee Machines

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Features:

Water Tank: 2L
Dimensions: 35 cm wide x 41 cm deep x 41 cm tall
Weight: 9.2 Kg
Boiler: ThermoJet
PID?:
Yes
3 Way Solenoid?:
Yes
Portafilter Size: 54mm
Pump Pressure:
9 bars
Steam wand: Pro steam wand with single hole steam tip
Interface: Buttons & steam dial
Grind settings: 30
Preinfusion?: Yes, pre-set (adjustable) & manual
Adjustable brew temperature: Yes

My Observations:

I won’t spend too much time explaining the Barista pro, I’ll tell you how it differs from the express, above, and that needs to suffice. As mentioned, the pro has the newer thermojet, so slightly faster warm up, faster steam ready time, slightly faster steaming, and faster to get back down to shot temp after steaming.

It has more grind settings, so you have slightly more ability to dial in, still not excellent even though. I don’t think you’ll ever get great dialing in with integrated coffee grinder machines. The perfect thing about the pro vs the express for me, is the digital display, as it steeps it so much easier to do things like re-programming the shot buttons, changing the brew temp, and so on, and I truly like the shot timer on the digital display.

There’s also the Barista touch which is the touch screen version, of course, but that’s not the only difference. The Barista Touch has the same touch screen & personalisation, and more or less the same auto steam wand that you get with the Oracle Touch.

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Features:

Water Tank: 2.8L
Dimensions: 21 cm wide x 37 cm deep x 38 cm tall
Weight: 14 Kg
Boiler: 400ml brass boiler
PID?:
No (but brew group type steeps it really 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 an very nice looking home barista espresso coffee machine from the extremely well-known German espresso coffee machine manufacturer, ECM (sister company of Profitec, by the way), who mainly produce heat exchanger and dual boiler espresso coffee machines, but they do make a couple of single boiler options, with the Casa V being the most inexpensive.

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 factor), and its ring group which is (kind of) a saturated brew group, it’s the majority of machine for the money.

It doesn’t have a PID, nevertheless it has a group that I think to all intents and purposes can be regarded as a saturated group, and I find out some will take question with this as every time 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 an incredibly similar way and this gives it perfect temperature stability regardless of the lack of a PID.

If you were thinking of going for a Rancilio Silvia however 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 simply spend a little bit more money on a machine that doesn’t need taming, then the Casa V is worth a look.

Which Grinding machine?

I’d be considering the Eureka Mignon (Specialita is my favourite, though the new Mignon Oro Zero is also very interesting, as it’s based on the Mignon XL with the big 65mm flat burrs), Baratza Sette 270, 270 wi, or Niche Zero .

ECM Classika PID Espresso coffee Machine

ECM Classika PID Espresso coffee Machine

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Features:

Water Tank: 2.8L
Dimensions: 25cm wide x 44.5cm deep x 39.5cm tall
Weight: 18.5 Kg
Boiler: 750ml stainless steel boiler
PID?:
Yes
3 Way Solenoid?:
Yes
Portafilter Size: 58mm
Pump Pressure:
9 bars (adjustable)
Interface: Brew lever & rotary steam valve.
Grind settings: 30
Preinfusion?: Yes, pre-set (adjustable) & manual
Adjustable brew temperature: Yes

My Observations:

Another single boiler machine from ECM, the Classika PID I reckon is aimed at the people who want all of the features of ECM’s higher-end machines nevertheless on a single boiler basis.

While you tend to get some of the perfect features at the highest end, which are usually dual boiler machines, what if you’re fine with single boiler – for example, you generally make espresso coffee and will only occasionally be steaming milk, but you want a machine with similar specs and features you’d find on one of the higher-end ECM dual boiler machines? Well, you’d probably be looking at the Classika PID.

It has the same E61 group head as ECM’s flagship machines, it has a PID for temperature control (in one-degree increments), a shot timer, pressure gauge, a 750ml stainless steel boiler, shot lever vs having a shot button, and the same really modest method for tweaking the brew pressure as with the ECM Casa V.

The only harmful of using this machine over a heat exchanger or dual boiler machine is where milk is worried. It takes a few minutes for the steam boiler to be up to steam temp, so if you’re going to be doing a lot of milkies, this might not be the perfect machine for you, nevertheless then again if this is the case you’d probably be looking for a dual boiler.

Which Coffee mill?

As with the Casa V, I’d be thinking of the Eureka Mignon Specialita or Baratza Sette 270, or if you have the budget and want to go the single doser zero retention route, the Niche Zero or new Mignon Oro Zero.

The Baratza Forte is also worth a look, some would view it as a bit too much to spend on a coffee grinder, but it’ll pair well with many of espresso machines, so if do get the aforementioned upgraditis where the espresso coffee machine is worried, you probably won’t need to worry about upgrading the grinder.

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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 among the the majority of popular dual boiler espresso coffee machines in the UK, and in a number of other countries, and from my experience with this machine, I’m truly not surprised. This is remarkable espresso coffee 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 coffee machines the price of the Sage Dual Boiler might not seem low, but it simply is for a machine of this quality.

In terms of performance, and particularly where temperature stability is concerned (obviously very important for espresso coffee) 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, 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 great machine for working with lighter roasts.

Lots of people spend somewhere between four thousand to ten thousand pounds for machines that give enough control in these areas to get excellent impacts with light 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 utilize light roasted coffee beans, and with an extremely humble completely reversible (virtually free) mod, you can utilize 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 article ;-), so if you want to discover 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, however I wouldn’t work with the Smart Mill Pro with the Dual Boiler.

The reason I’d buy that package is it gives you the (£210) Smart Mill Pro for £50, and it’s a ideal grinding machine – for £50, I’d definitely want it, either as a backup coffee grinder or as a grinding machine for manual brew methods, or if you’ve no interest in grinding for other brew methods I’d still buy this package, sell the coffee mill brand new in box for a couple of hundred quid when Sage are out of stock (it’ll sell fast when that happens) and put this money towards a more espresso specialist grinder.

The Smart Grinding machine Pro is a mega coffee grinder as an all-rounder, and for use with more entry-level machines, but the Sage Dual Boiler is among the best espresso machines on the planet, the shot capability is really high, so I’d pair it with as high level a grinding machine as possible.

At the minimum, I’d say Sette 270 or Eureka Mignon Specialita, however 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 coffee grinder, primarily speaking, but this is like buying a high-performance car and filling it with basic petrol, truly, this analogy doesn’t quite do justice to the importance of the coffee grinder, pairing the Dual Boiler with an entry-level mill is truly more like putting Deisel in a Mclaren.

For more options see:

25 Perfect Coffee Grinders

ECM Mechanica V Slim Espresso coffee Machine

ECM Mechanica V Slim Espresso coffee Machine

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Features:

Water Tank: 2.8L
Dimensions: 25 cm wide x 44.5 cm deep x 39.5 cm tall
Weight: 20.2 Kg
Boiler: 2.2L stainless steel steam boiler with heat exchanger
PID?:
No
3 Way Solenoid?:
Yes
Portafilter Size: 58mm
Pump Pressure:
9 bars (adjustable)
Steam wand: Pro steam wand with 4 hole steam tip
Interface: Brew lever & rotary steam & hot water knobs.
Preinfusion?: Yes
Adjustable brew temperature: No

My Observations

A good example of how the Sage Dual Boiler punches above its weight, the ECM Mechanica V Slim is also a good machine for the money, all things taken into account, but it’s a heat exchanger machine, and it costs considerably more money than the Sage Dual Boiler.

Heat exchanger machines execute similarly to dual boiler machines in that you can pull shots and steam milk at the same time, however they do this with one boiler, the heat exchanger is literally a pipe that draws water from the tank and heats it via the boiler to deliver the hot water for the group, so heat exchangers, having a single boiler, would usually be cheaper than dual boilers.

This is usually the case, to be fair, many heat exchangers cost less than Dual Boilers, however even the Nuova Simonelli Oscar II which is one of the lowest priced heat exchanger machines costs about the same as you can usually get the Dual Boiler for.

Anyway, getting back to the ECM Mechanika V Slim, being an ECM machine we’re talking about serious quality, this would be an Audi or BMW if it were a car, and it packs some big features into an really small footprint.

This very nice looking machine has two pressure gauges, pump pressure and boiler pressure, an E61 group with commercial size 58mm portafilter, stainless steel brew lever, and a stainless steel finish. It comes with two (weight balanced, ergonomic) portafilters, and the pressure adjustment screw is very simple to locate and troubleshoot.

Though this machine doesn’t have a PID, it’s known for its temperature stability – with a cooling flush you must be able to pull numerous back-to-back shots with very little deviation in shot temperature. It has a vibration pump, so it can’t be plumbed in, but the tank is almost 3 litres so this probably isn’t a deal breaker for most people.

While some people wish it had joysticks for water and steam vs the retro looking rotary valves, it is possible to swap the rotary out for joysticks.

For anyone looking for a potent machine in a small footprint, I think the Mechanica V slim is very difficult to beat.

Which Grinding machine?

If you’re looking for a compact mill to go with this slim espresso machine, the Eureka Mignon Specialita or the Niche Zero would be a good call in my humble opinion. If the size of the mill isn’t of much concern, then I’d also think about the Baratza Sette 270, 270 wi, Mignon Oro Zero, Mignon XL, or Baratza Forte

La Spaziale S1 Vivaldi Espresso Machine.

La Spaziale S1 Vivaldi Espresso coffee 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 crafted as a compact single group professional espresso coffee machine for commercial or domestic utilize. 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 likewise offer a plumbed in version of the S1.

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

La Spaziali is an extremely well-known brand of commercial machines, and this isn’t a case of a commercial manufacturer making a machine for home utilize, 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, crafted for the home, which isn’t built to take the same type of commercial utilize that the S1 mini Vivaldi is made for, so I can see why someone would go for this espresso coffee 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 Coffee grinder?

Any of the mid range espresso specialist grinders and upwards should pair well with the S1 Mini Vivaldi, including the Eureka Mignon Specialita, Baratza Sette 270, 270 wi, Mignon Oro Zero, Mignon XL or 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 preference 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 perfect espresso machines post with what is regarded by a number of home baristas as the really best “normal” home barista espresso machine. I say “normal” as this is truly for straight espresso coffee, utilizing more traditional espresso roasts, it’s not a pressure profiling machine brewed for working with lighter roasts.

The brew paddle triggers some confusion here, with people creating the assumption that the brew paddle should give some control over the flow and therefore this ought to be a machine for offering best control over the pressure, while this isn’t the case, it’s a more “straight” espresso coffee machine, and for this, it’s amazing, in my simple opinion.

Nevertheless actually, it ought to be for the money. This isn’t cheap!

This is in fact a user experience machine, it’ll produce excellent espresso coffee of course, however 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 truly, you’ll probably love the idea of having the “LMLM” in your home, if you’re not fussed about working with lighter roasts, and if you can justify the spend.

The only harmful points I picked up when utilizing 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, however I measured it and it’s 2.1L, it seems a little on the tiddly size for such a beast of a machine, nevertheless that wouldn’t bother me as if I were buying among 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, however I did find the position of the water tank, being behind the drip tray, and the truth 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 enjoy it, I’m in the “I’m unsure about the brew paddle” camp, to be honest. If extremely performed any other goal than basically being a giant horizontal on/off switch, such as allowing pressure profiling, then great, but it’s actually just an on/off switch.

For me, a shot timer would be an exceptionally welcome addition, and if they had used fundamental shot buttons rather than the paddle, there would have been plenty of room for a shot timer, however that’s just me, you might enjoy 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 understand if this is literally an matter with the Android app, however it took me many messing about to ultimately get it paired, and when I did, it lost connection and I had to do it all over again. The connectivity does seem extremely 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 excellent, and being able to alter the brew temp is excellent too, and being able to see the brew temperature and various other info is all really good, and I’m sure they’ll enhance 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 utilizing 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 recipe (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 coffee 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 grinding machine, you’ll be fine with the likes of the Eureka Mignon Specialita or Baratza Sette 270, but I simply think that with a machine of this caliber you’d benefit from going as premium as you can with the coffee mill.

Kev’s Perfect 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 ;-), simply drop me an email if you have any questions. Here are my answers to the many widely asked questions, though:

What is the perfect espresso machine

As you’ll know if you’ve read this article, this may seem like a modest matter, but it’s actually not, truly there is no answer to this matter. What you need to be asking is what is the perfect espresso coffee machine for you – and to address that issue, you need to know what sort of espresso machine user you are, so you understand what kind of espresso machine would be best for you. If you’ve landed on this post and have scrolled straight down to the FAQ, I’d suggest reading at least the intro of the article, as it’ll point you in the right direction towards answering this issue. 

How to choose the best espresso machine?

Again, this comes down to understanding what kind of espresso coffee machine user you are, so you know what kind of espresso machine is the right match, and from there you can narrow down the search based on budget and the type of features you need.

For example, if you figure out that you’re a classic espresso coffee machine user, but you rarely make milkies, you probably wouldn’t be looking at a dual boiler, instead, you’d probably be looking for a single boiler machine or thermocoil espresso coffee machine. 

If, on the other hand, you beverage mainly cappuccino, latte, or flat white, and you want to be able to steam milk and make shots at the same time, then you’ll be looking at a heat exchanger or dual boiler espresso machine. 

What is a good home espresso coffee machine?

A good home espresso coffee machine is one that matches your requires, and this begins with grasp the different kinds of espresso coffee machines and choosing the type that suits you. As I spoken about earlier, buying the wrong kind of espresso coffee 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 in fact truly easy to end up creating such a mistake when buying home espresso machines, a number of people do, really. 

I’m only talking about espresso machines that I learn a little bit about, and as you’ll have seen if you’ve read the entire article, I’ve spent time with a lot of of the machines I’m talking about within this article, so any of the machines I introduce via this post can be regarded as good home espresso coffee machines, nevertheless just ensure that you’re getting the right sort of espresso machine by reading the “what sort of espresso coffee machine user are you” section at the beginning of this post.

What is a bean to cup espresso coffee machine?

Bean to cup espresso coffee machines are a more humble and accessible route for creating espresso coffee and espresso-based drinks at home, and in the office. They allow you to walk up to the machine, press a button, and walk off with your coffee, well, to a certain level anyway. If you’re utilizing a “one touch” or “super automatic” bean to cup, it’s a one touch affair for the coffee and for the milk, if you buy a more entry-level version, the cup quality will usually be more or less identical however you’ll have to use the steam wand to steam your milk, and then pour it into your cup. 

Bean to cup machines have what’s called a “Brewing unit” or “brew unit” which replaces the portafilter and group on traditional machines. You press the button, the coffee is ground, delivered into the basket in the brewing unit, tamped, the water is delivered into the basket via the pump, and the espresso coffee lands in your cup and the used puck of coffee is expelled internally into the dreg draw, which you’ll be alerted of the need to empty once full.

Which are perfect for home use, bean to cup or traditional espresso machines?

Bean to cup machines are more hands off, quicker, and far more convenient – nevertheless the cup quality is different with bean to cup vs traditional espresso machines. The espresso is usually less intense, and the mouth feel is usually less full and viscous if comparing utilizing the same coffee beans. People who mainly drink milkies and rarely beverage neat espresso coffee are less likely to find this a problem, while neat espresso coffee drinkers are more likely to go for traditional espresso machines.

Is the grinder important for home espresso coffee machines?

The grinding machine is probably the a lot of important factor of espresso quality, particularly if you’re moving away from the entry-level and investing in a more capable espresso coffee machine.

Buying a mid-range espresso machine and a high-end coffee mill 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.

How to make espresso without an espresso machine?

I understand this matter doesn’t appear to fit with this article, as it’s not a question relating to espresso coffee machines, as such, it’s a issue about making espresso coffee without an espresso machine, but I think the answer to this question makes it a relevant matter to answer here. 

The simple address to this matter is that you can’t.

If you want true espresso coffee, you need an espresso coffee machine, and even the extremely cheapest pressurized basket espresso coffee machine that I mentioned at the starting of this article will deliver way better espresso coffee than you will get using any alternative procedure for espresso coffee without an espresso coffee machine. 

The perfect way to make “espresso-style” coffee without an espresso coffee machine is possible with Aeropress, and you can see me doing this in the video below – but I think you’ll find that even with an £80 cheap domestic pressurized basket espresso machine, you’ll get closer to true espresso than you would with the Aeropress, which does deliver bold espresso, however it’s just not quite espresso. 

I would say that espresso from a pressurized basket espresso coffee machine, or from a bean to cup espresso coffee machine likewise isn’t quite espresso when compared to the espresso coffee made by a time-served home barista using a representative espresso coffee machine, nevertheless I’d likewise say that you’ll get closer to true espresso coffee with any of these machines than with any “espresso style” alternative.

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This article to start with appeared at Coffee Blog – The UK Specialty Coffee Blog – For Lovers of REAL Coffee!