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Updated: 20 May 2022

Best espresso machines for 2022

Discover the key features to look out for when buying a traditional espresso machine and see our Best Buy picks for 2022
Sabrina Sahota
Using an espresso coffee machine

A traditional espresso machine uses ground coffee and is perfect for creating that authentic coffee shop experience in the comfort of your own home.

Technically other types of coffee machines are espresso machines too because they make espresso, but here we use 'espresso machine' to refer to traditional manual or pump-style espresso-makers, as well as semi-automatic and automatic espresso machines that use ground coffee.

See Best coffee machines for 2022 for help choosing between a pod, traditional espresso or bean-to-cup machine.

Best espresso machines for 2022

In the table below, we've selected some of the best espresso machines from our rigorous coffee machine tests, which include a blind taste test by our coffee experts.

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  • 77%
    • best buy

    This budget coffee machine makes exceptional espressos and is incredibly easy to use. You’d be hard-pressed to find anything better at a price this low.

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  • 76%
    • best buy

    This beautiful Best Buy brews excellent espressos, and the steam wand whips up creamy cappuccinos. It’s not the cheapest option, but if you want a show stopper for your kitchen counter, this eye-catching coffee machine won’t disappoint.

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  • 76%
    • best buy

    If you're short on counter space, this compact espresso machine delivers hot espressos and foamy cappuccinos quickly and easily. A simple and intuitive design makes for a brilliant Best Buy.

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  • 74%
    • best buy

    This Best Buy ground coffee machine is easy to use and makes a great tasting espresso without keeping you waiting too long. Plus the built-in steam wand allows you to froth milk for a creamy cappuccino.

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  • 70%
    • best buy

    This is a fantastic ground coffee machine, so whether you’re after a clean-tasting espresso or creamy cappuccino, this coffee machine delivers. It’s quick and easy to use, easy to descale, and quieter than most, all of which combine to make it a worthy Best Buy.

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Want to see more machines like this? Check out all of our coffee machine reviews.

How to buy the best espresso machine

There are a few key questions you should ask yourself before you buy a espresso machine:

  • Are you happy to get hands-on to make your perfect coffee? It may take a bit of practice to get used to measuring out and preparing ground coffee yourself, but once you get the hang of it you'll have the freedom to experiment with different blends.
  • Do you need additional features like a milk frother? You can choose an espresso machine that has a manual milk frother built in but you needn’t let that dictate your choice, as you could buy a separate freestanding milk frother. You might also want to invest in a coffee grinder. See our round-ups of the Best milk frothers and the Best coffee grinders.
  • Do you want to be able to use ESE pods? To make cleaning up easier, some espresso machines can take ESE pods (like coffee teabags) as well as ground coffee - we’ll discuss ESE pods in more detail later.

Our guide to Which coffee machine brand to buy in 2022 will help you choose the best brand for you.

Best espresso machine features to look for

Beyond making great espresso, there are a few things you should expect from a good espresso coffee machine:

Traditional coffee machine dispensing coffee

Attractive, practical design

Many espresso machines look for a traditional look, with old-fashioned dials and controls that leave you to decide the length and strength of your drink.

A light-coloured machine may take some extra effort to keep clean, as they can get mucky during coffee making and milk frothing. 

Some of the machine's removeable parts, such as the portafilter or filter basket, may also be dishwasher-safe, so it's worth checking the manual for guidance on this. 

Automatic milk frother and milk tank

These days, most traditional espresso machines have a steam wand for frothing milk so you can make milky coffees, such as lattes or cappuccinos. 

However, some such as the Breville One-Touch have adopted a more novice-friendly design with simple pre-set drink settings and automatic milk-frothing units, so going for ground coffee doesn't have to mean a crash course in being a barista.

Pressure (measured in bars)

This indicates the level of pressure used to push water through the ground coffee to make an espresso. 

Most traditional espresso machines range from 9 to 20 bars, which ensures your coffee is not under-extracted with a sour flavour or over-extracted with a burnt flavour. 

Keep in mind that it's not just the pressure that will affect the taste of your coffee. Other factors, such as the quality of coffee, brewing temperature and the size of the coffee grounds, will all contribute. 

Cup warmer

Some espresso machines use heat from the boiler to warm the plate on top of the coffee machine, where cups can be placed to gently warm them before use.

Double filter basket

If you think you'll often be making coffee for two, look for a machine with a double filter (the small basket that holds the ground coffee and is placed in the portafilter).

Ability to accommodate large cups

If you like to make your latte in a glass or use other non-standard sized cups, look for a machine that can accommodate this through, for example, a removable drip tray.

Use the filters on our coffee machine reviews to find a model with all the features you need.

What coffee should I use with my espresso machine?

Ground coffee in a portafilter

The best type of coffee to use with your traditional espresso machine is a strong, dark roast. It should be finely and evenly ground so that the water can be pushed through it at the correct rate to get the best flavour.

Look out for ground coffee labelled 'espresso' or specifically designed for use in coffee machines - it's the same stuff as the regular ground coffee that you'd use with a cafetiere or drip coffee machine, just roasted longer and ground more finely. Alternatively, you can buy whole dark-roast beans and grind them yourself at home.

If you choose to grind your own beans, take care not to grind them too coarsely or you'll end up with sour, acidic-tasting coffee, caused by the water not being able to extract enough flavour (under-extraction). In terms of consistency, aim for a grind a little finer than table salt.

Read our round-up of the Best coffee grinders including hand and electric burr grinders. 

What are ESE pods?

ESE (easy serve espresso) pod

ESE pods (easy serve espresso pods) are single-use coffee pods that look a bit like teabags filled with coffee.

Normally containing around 7g of coffee, they are designed to do away with the measuring out and tamping of your coffee before making it, and they make cleaning up afterwards easier, too.

ESE pods are manufactured by many brands, so they offer the freedom to try different types of coffee. They can also be used in many brands of machine - check your machine's manual to see whether it's compatible.

You can dispose of used ESE pods in your organic food waste recycling bin.

To find out more about coffee pod recycling, see Recyclable, reusable and compostable coffee pods

Espresso machine troubleshooting

Having problems with your espresso machine? Here's how to remedy the most common issues:..

  • Coffee not dispensing properly: Regularly cleaning the portafilter and filter baskets on your espresso machine will ensure they don't get blocked. This can happen more often if you're using a very fine grind of coffee. Check the user manual to see if the parts are dishwasher safe, which can make the cleaning process a lot quicker. 
  • Milk not frothing: If your espresso machine has a steam pipe, it could be blocked. After you've finished using it, wipe it down with a damp cloth and run steam through it for a couple of seconds to flush out any milk residue that could be left inside. Also consider the type of milk that you're using, as non-dairy milks don't tend to froth as well. 
  • Coffee crema is too light or dark: The perfect espresso should have a golden, creamy top, also known as a crema. If the crema is too light and your coffee is being dispensed too quickly, this could be because the ground coffee is too coarse or hasn't been tamped into the portafilter enough. Alternatively, if the crema is too dark and is being dispensed too slowly, this could be because the ground coffee is too fine or has been tamped too hard. 

Many problems such as leaking, excessive dripping or reduced water flow can also be put down to a build-up of limescale, so it's important to descale your espresso machine regularly - see How to clean your coffee machine for more advice. This is particularly important if you live in a hard-water area. 

For more tips on making great coffee, see our guide to How to make perfect espresso and cappuccino