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How to buy the best espresso (ground coffee) machine

By Yvette Fletcher

Want the satisfaction of making your own coffee the traditional way? Find out how to pick the best espresso machine.

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Traditional ground coffee machines give you the ultimate control over making your espresso. They can require a bit of patience and practice, but for some the ritual is part of the experience. 

If you're looking for a manual coffee machine that lets you make coffee to the strength you prefer, a traditional coffee maker is a good choice. Most use a motor-driven pump to heat the exact amount of water needed for one espresso using a thermo block, then force it through the coffee at pressure, usually 15 bars. You're in charge of the rest, including prepping the machine, dosing the coffee and clearing up afterwards. 

Some machines we've seen are so fussy and complicated they'd test the patience of the most experienced barista. Our guide explains how to pick the right espresso machine for you, so you can make the best coffee at home.

Just want to see our pick of the best espresso (ground coffee) machines? Use the filters on our coffee machine reviews to find the best for you.

How much do I need to spend to get a decent ground coffee espresso machine?

Choosing a coffee maker that takes ground coffee offers you the biggest range of price points. We've found Best Buys for less than £50 in the past, and there are plenty of options available for less than £300. 

There are a small handful of premium models that cost more than £500. These usually have a very traditional Italian look, with old-fashioned pressure and steam dials so you can monitor your coffee-making precisely. They are usually made of die-cast metal, for a luxurious and sturdy feel. 

They don't always excel in our tests, though, so don't buy without checking our independent coffee machine reviews first.

Ground coffee espresso machines: pros and cons

Traditional espresso machines allow you to experiment more and embrace the process of making coffee. This can involve some trial and error, so they aren't as good for time-poor coffee fans.

They're an affordable option, though - ground coffee works out cheaper per cup than using capsules. There's also no restriction on the coffee you can use in a ground coffee machine, as long as it's the right grind. 

Some machines also take 'easy serving espresso' (ESE) pods – these are like tea bags, but packed with coffee instead. They contain enough coffee for one espresso shot and help reduce the amount of cleaning up and guesswork you'll need to do when making a coffee. 

Pros: Any variety of ground coffee can be used. More control over the amount of coffee and water you use - and how the milk is frothed - so your coffee is just the way you want it. Cheaper than using capsules and less wastage.

Cons: Can be fiddly, messy and difficult to clean. More time-consuming than bean-to-cup or capsule models. 

Decided on this type of machine? We've selected the top five best espresso coffee machines to make choosing one for you simple.

Ground coffee espresso machine brands

A lot of coffee machine brands create traditional espresso models, including Delonghi, Dualit, FrancisFrancis, Sage and Gaggia.

Higher-priced models include ones from KitchenAid (£669) and Bugatti, while Delonghi, Dualit and Gaggia have produced models costing nearer £200 or less. 

Visit our guide to the best coffee machine brands to find out whether expensive models are worth the price, or whether you'd be just as well off with a model from a cheaper brand.

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