1. Expert reviews

The Best Espresso Machines of 2021

Katarina Stenskytt

Updated October 13, 2021

We have tested five different espresso machines available on the market right now and name the DeLonghi Dedica EC 680 as the best choice. It is an extremely compact espresso machine with a high performance that can brew your coffee swiftly. It is perfect for those who want a machine that is easy to use and requires little maintenance. Another espresso machine which stood out in our test was the DeLonghi Magnifica S, a simple espresso machine a with large capacity that doesn't take up much space in the kitchen.

The Best Espresso Machines of 2021

How we did the espresso machines test/review

We tested all the espresso machines ourselves just like they are supposed to be used. Our tests were carried out by a coffee enthusiast who is used to using slightly larger manual espresso machines every day. The bar was high for the subject machines to see if they could measure up against proper manual espresso machines.

As an espresso forms the basis of most types of coffee, such as the cappuccino, lungo or latte, we have particularly focused on testing the espresso produced by these machines. The key to making a great espresso is having perfectly ground coffee, brewing at the right temperature and using the right quantity of coffee and water. The smallest deviations within these parameters can separate a good espresso from a bad one. Our test products consisted of simpler manual machines and slightly more advanced fully automatic machines. While some machines could cope with coffee pods, the majority used whole coffee beans. In order to make an impartial assessment as to which is the best machine, we tested with the following parameters:

  • Flavour: Did the espresso taste good? Is the flavour comparable with espresso ade with larger manual espresso machines?

  • Temperature: Nobody wants a lukewarm coffee – does it produce coffee at the right temperature? Are there major temperature differences when brewing several cups in a row? Can you set the temperature when brewing?

  • Use & Time: Does the machine have clear buttons or a complicated menu system? How simple is it to froth the milk? Does the machine clearly show when the water or coffee needs refilling? How long does it take to produce the first cup? Could the machines cope with our high stress test of producing eight cups of coffee in a row?

  • Maintenance: How often do you need to empty the grounds drawer, clean out the drip tray or top up the machine with water and beans? How often do you need to clean the machine and its parts? Is cleaning a fiddly process?

We tested the coffee machines in a domestic environment and brewed everything that the coffee machine can produce. While we used a number of different types of coffee beans for our review, all the machines were tested using the same types of beans. Our score and final review are based on our overall experience with the machine in relation to its price.

1. Melitta Barista TS Smart - BEST CHOICE ESPRESSO MACHINE 2021

Time until first cup: 72 sec Cups until water used up: 13 Cups until drip tray full: 12 Water tank: 1800 ml Coffee varieties: Coffee beans, ground coffee Cup warmer/storage: Yes/Yes Coffee container: 270 g (2x135) Auto off: Yes Width: 259 mm Height: 372 mm Depth: 467 mm

Melitta Barista TS Smart Black

Melitta’s Barista TS Smart is a stylish coffee machine that produces good coffee both quickly and easily. The machine isn’t the smallest and does require quite a lot of space, especially in terms of depth. The 1.8 litre water tank is located at the rear on the left side, which isn’t entirely optimal if you want to place the machine on a surface beneath a cabinet. It’s also not suitable for siting with the left side against a wall. Melitta themselves describe their machine as “quiet as a whisper”, which seems a bit of an exaggeration. However, despite its power and speed, the machine is actually relatively quiet. It’s also quite fast, and from the time you turn it on until you have a cup of coffee, it only takes 1.12 minutes.

At first, the display might seem difficult to understand. The different symbols that represent coffee varieties aren’t completely self-evident, and it would have been easier to be able to choose a drink from a menu list. In addition to choosing from 21 coffee variants, the display also allows you to change settings such as strength and quantity. You can also save up to four people's favourite drinks to avoid changing settings before each cup. Are there two of you? Then you can make two cups at the same time. The drip tray and the sump are emptied easily enough, and it doesn’t feel like you have to do it too often either.

The Barista TS Smart handles both whole coffee beans and pre-ground coffee, and if you choose coffee beans, the grinding is very fast. The machine is also equipped with the Automatic Bean Select function, which means that the machine automatically selects the right type of beans from the bean hopper (which has two chambers). So you can use different types of beans depending on your preferences. The coffee is really good, and even when you brew several cups in a row the coffee maintains an even temperature.

By downloading the Melitta Connect app, you can control and program personal settings directly. The app also allows you to create your own coffee recipes where you can adjust the amount of coffee, milk froth or the order in which the ingredients are poured into the cup. The app works well and also gives you tips and advice on how to maintain and clean the machine. It’s also quite fun to surprise your guests by making a cup of coffee directly from your phone, although it often feels easier to change the settings directly on the machine.

If you think coffee with milk is essential, you’ll appreciate the Barista TS Smart's milk system. Choose between either putting the hose for the milk frother directly in the milk carton, or storing the milk container in the fridge between uses. The milk system is self-cleaning so you don’t have to worry about milk residues, and you can wash the external milk container in the dishwasher. The system can be connected on both the left and right side of the machine, so you can choose the side that fits best in your kitchen. The milk drinks are good, the milk quickly rises in temperature and forms a light and fine foam layer over the coffee. Of course, you can’t compare it with a manual foamer, but it is absolutely fine for this type of machine.

In summary, the Barista TS Smart is a really good, high-quality espresso machine that will fit well in most homes. It is one of Melitta's premium models, which also explains the slightly higher price. The app is a fun extra function that can also be quite useful. If you’re not an app fan, you shouldn’t be discouraged by this function as the coffee machine can be used very well without the app.

Good milk frotherquietsmart app fast
Poorly placed water tankslightly unclear display

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Melitta Barista TS Smart 6764549 Bean to Cup Coffee Machine - Black

£749.00
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Melitta Barista TS Smart F850-102 Black Bean To Cup Coffee Machine

£749.00
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Melitta Barista TS Smart 6764549 Bean to Cup Coffee Machine - Black

£799.00

2. DeLonghi Dedica EC 680

An extremely compact espresso machine that's a rapid performer for home use!

Time to first cup: 1.21 min Time for 8 cups: approx. 7.30 min Water lasts for (cups): 10 Coffee types: Pre-ground espresso coffee, E.S.E. pods Cup warmer/storage: Yes/Yes Auto off: Yes (Adjustable, 9 min, 30 min, 3 h) Size: 149 x 330 x 305 mm Water tank: 1100ml (1000ml usable)

DeLonghi EC 680

The DeLonghi Dedica EC 680 really stands out amongst other semi-automatic espresso machines due to its extremely compact design. It may be the best grinder for those not in an office or café. Its lower section is slightly broader in order to increase the machine’s stability, but in general, its size is similar to even the smallest capsule machines. The machine uses a classic portafilter, with filters included for single and double espresso and for E.S.E. pods. On the top of the machine are three buttons with clearly indicated functions – single espresso, double espresso and steam. As well as steam, you can also get hot water through the steam wand, which is neatly angled out from the right-hand side. On top of the machine is space for three espresso cups, which are warmed up via indirect heat from the machine. At the back of the machine is the water tank which is topped up through a lid on the top. Alternatively, you can remove the entire water tank in order to fill it directly from the tap.

The espresso machine can be left on after using it as it automatically turns itself off after a set period. The next time you use the machine, you can simply press any button to wake it up again. The three buttons flash as the machine wakes up. Once the lights remain lit, you can brew your first cup of coffee. If you are half asleep or stressed out, you will appreciate the quickness of the machine; we hadn't even inserted our E.S.E. pod into the portafilter and it had already warmed up. Just like other espresso machines with portafilters, you make the espresso first, then add hot water via the steam wand for an Americano or lungo - or add frothed milk with the steam wand for a cappuccino for your morning dash to work.

The machine is quick to heat when producing steam and the steam function is sufficiently powerful. Using the steam nozzle is so simple that no prior knowledge is required in order to froth milk. The texture of the foam is thick, and the wand produces just the right amount for a cappuccino. However, when the steam function has been used, the machine does need to cool down for a while before the next cup can be brewed. So if you're making several cups of coffee, you might need to plan ahead a little so that if someone wants a cappuccino they get their coffee last. The size of the DeLonghi Dedica did have some impact on the coffee when we brewed several cups in a row during our ‘stress test’. It didn’t always manage to reset to the correct temperature – instead the coffee got hotter and hotter with every cup and the temperature of the eighth cup reached an extremely high 80°. While this isn't likely to be a problem for a normal household, it could be more problematic in a small office where everybody wants to use the coffee machine in their coffee break, particularly if you're the last person in the queue! That’s why this makes a better machine for home use rather for business environments. Thankfully, other than having to empty the drip tray, the machine doesn't need much maintenance. After each use the pods or coffee grounds can be thrown in the compost bin, meaning that you don't have to do much major cleaning.

The DeLonghi Dedica is perfect for anyone looking for a compact espresso machine that requires as little maintenance as possible. We'd have preferred the drip tray to be slightly larger, but other than that, the DeLonghi Dedica exceeded our expectations in many ways. This machine's size, speed and the perfect espressos it produced – and above all its price – make this a fantastic and affordable espresso machine.

Compactquickeasy to cleanaffordable
Risk of splashing when drawing off steam/hot watersmall drip tray

3. DeLonghi Magnifica S Ecam 21.117B

A simple machine with grinder options and is space conscious, despite its large capacity!

Time to first cup: 1.55 min Time for 8 cups: approx. 7.00 min Water lasts for (cups): 12 Grounds drawer full after (cups): 14 Coffee types: Pre-ground coffee, whole coffee beans Cup warmer/storage: Yes (low heat)/Yes Auto off: 30 min Size: 238 × 351 × 238 mm Water tank: 2000 ml

DeLonghi Magnifica S ECAM 21.117.B

The DeLonghi Magnifica S isn't particularly big given that it's a semi-automatic espresso machine. Despite the compact dimensions of the machine, the manufacturer has managed to find space for relatively large coffee, water and grounds containers. The result is a machine that can handle several cups of coffee in a row without having to be emptied or topped up. The Magnifica S also has a water container that you can take out from the front, making it one of the easiest machines to top up with water. It boasts a simple display that shows you what to do by means of a few red symbols. Below the display are buttons for a single or double espresso and for one or two cups of coffee. If you want a drink with milk, like a latte or cappuccino, you have to use the manual steam nozzle located on the left-hand side of the machine. While the steam nozzle may make you look like a professional barista when you froth the milk, the nozzle actually froths and heats the milk without requiring any previous practice – ideal for café use maybe? It's quick too, we found that we could make two cappuccinos faster than when using many fully automatic coffee machines. The results of the milk frothing are impressive, with a good texture and few large bubbles. If you need hot water, you can also get this through the steam nozzle.

The espressos from this machine tasted perfect and the machine could deal with brewing cup after cup without any major temperature differences. You can use a knob on the front to set how strong you want the coffee almost effortlessly, and the bean grinder has a number of settings if you want to make finer adjustments. You can also store five normal espresso cups on top of the machine. Unfortunately, these cups are only heated up by the waste heat from the machine, so they don’t feel very warm when you come to use them. However, being able to store the espresso cups on the machine is handy and makes the machine feel more like something you would find in a café or for office use rather than a coffee machine for apartment needs.

Overall, we had a very positive experience with the DeLonghi Magnifica S. Despite its relatively low price, the machine delivered great tasting espresso in the simplest possible way. The fact that you have to froth the milk manually isn’t necessarily a disadvantage – in fact it's often a useful feature as you can adapt the amount of milk you use to each cup size. It also gives you the opportunity to step into the world of latte art and perhaps surprise your partner with a beautiful heart on their coffee first thing in the morning! The Magnifica S does require a little maintenance, but its large containers mean that you will rarely need to top up the water and beans or empty the grounds drawer. This allows you to enjoy more cups without interruption. Combined with a fantastic price, this high performance gives the DeLonghi Magnifica S an almost perfect review.

Cup warming functionlarge container for waterbeans and coffeeeasy water top-up process from the front
Splashes a bit when you draw off water from the steam nozzle

4. Philips Latte Go series 5400

Time until first cup: 95 sec Cups until water used up: 11 Cups until drip tray full: 8 Water tank: 1800 ml Coffee varieties: Coffee beans/ground coffee Cup warmer/storage: No/Yes Coffee container: 275 g Auto off: Yes Width: 246 mm Height: 372 mm Depth: 433 mm

Philips Series 5400 EP5444

The Philips Latte Go Series 5400 is one of the most attractive espresso machines in our test and it’s clear that Philips have chosen to invest in the design. The machine is stylish and solid, but without giving a large or clumsy impression. It will fit in most kitchens and can be placed on most surfaces. The display is nicely designed and very easy to understand. In addition to the six beverage selections displayed with both image and text, you can also use the “More drinks” button which takes you to a list of six more drink choices.

The touch buttons work really well and without problems. The combination of images and a digital display with text makes the machine very easy to use and understand. Once you’ve selected the drink you want, you can also adjust the aroma and size of the drink. If you want to change additional settings, such as the temperature, a setting button is visible on the left side of the display.

Starting up the machine is quick and it takes less than half a minute before the heating and rinsing process is complete. If you want to drink a coffee after that, you don’t even have to wait half a minute more before your cup is ready. And on top of all that the coffee tastes very good! Cleaning the machine is also very simple, as both the milk jug and the drip tray can be washed in a dishwasher. The automatic descaling function also tells you when it is time for this job to be done. According to Philips, thanks to the Aqua Clean filter it should be possible to make up to 5000 cups of coffee before the machine needs to be descaled.

The wide selection of drinks is very good, and for those who like drinking their coffee with milk, there isn't much more to be desired. Using the “My Coffee” function, you can save up to four different coffee profiles, so instead of adjusting the settings for each cup you can save your favourite drink and only need to press a button when you want a coffee. If you have guests or want to drink something other than your favourite drink, there’s also a guest profile available. The starting point for the machine is to use the profile that was last used before the machine was switched off, which is a sensible approach.

The water tank is on the right side of the machine, and because you remove it from the front you don’t have to think too much about where you can site the machine. The tank holds 1.8 litres of water and you can make about 11 cups before it’s time to refill. The drip tray is easy to pull out and empty, but it has rather low edges, which also makes it easy to spill on the way to the sink. The drip tray also fills up fairly quickly, and needs to be emptied quite often.

The machine handles both coffee beans and ground coffee and the bean container is generous in size at 275 g. Like several other Philips models, the lid of the bean hopper is what they call “aroma sealed”, so the beans retain their aroma longer. However, you mustn’t try to replace the lid too quickly, as it takes a little care and effort to fit properly.

The Latte Go Series 5400 isn't a very quiet machine and you need to be prepared for the grinder to make some noise. It isn’t exactly deafening, but still loud enough to be heard throughout the house. The process of milk frothing is also quite noisy. However, the milk drinks are really good, both in terms of taste and appearance. The milk heats up properly, foams nicely for a fully automatic coffee machine, and the drink tastes really good. For the larger household where many people might want milk drinks, however, a larger milk jug would have been preferable, because otherwise you have to refill it a little too often.

To sum up, the Philips Latte Go Series 5400 is a really good espresso machine. The coffee is tasty, and the machine is nicely designed, user-friendly and works without problems. There are some disadvantages such being rather noisy and the drip tray needing to be emptied quite often. On the whole, however, this is a very good espresso machine for home use.

Good coffeeextremely user-friendlyattractive designaffordable
A bit noisy not optimal drip tray

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5. Gaggia Classic

A powerhouse in mini format that focuses on producing an authentic espresso

Time to first cup: approx. 3 min Time for 8 cups: approx. 8.20 min Water lasts for (cups): 17 Coffee types: Pre-ground espresso coffee, E.S.E. pods Cup warmer/storage: Yes/Yes Auto off: Yes (9 min) Size: 230 × 360 × 240 mm Water tank: 2250 ml (2150 ml usable)

This machine from Gaggia is described as a "Classic Manual Espresso Machine" on its packaging, which proves to be a fitting description. With this machine there is no pre-programmed coffee selections or automatic milk frothier. Instead, the Gaggia Classic offers a perfect espresso made pretty much as well as your local café could make it. The design consists mainly of stainless steel with a few plastic parts. The 58mm wide portafilter is the same as those found in larger espresso machines, and in a similar vein the steam nozzle provides the same steam power as that of a larger machine. The drip tray size is ample and allows space for up to half a litre of water. On the top of the machine there is space for around four espresso cups, which are warmed up indirectly from the heat given off by the machine. Behind the cup storage is a hatch that allows you to easily top up the espresso machine without removing the water container. You can also remove the water container if you prefer to top it up this way or clean it if necessary. The size of the water tank is impressive – more than two litres – meaning you don't have to top it up as often. Despite having such large containers, the Gaggia Classic doesn't take up more space than a normal coffee machine.

The machine is simple to use but requires a little practice, which the manual hints at. There are only two buttons, one for brewing and one for steam. If you want to make the process as easy as possible, you can use the filter for E.S.E. pods. You insert the pod in the filter holder and start brewing by simply pressing a button - after a few seconds, you will have a perfect cup of espresso. However, the machine has no automatic water dispenser so you will have to choose for yourself how much water you want in the espresso. The espresso can then easily be made into an Americano or lungo by topping it up with hot water via the steam nozzle. If you want a cappuccino or latte, you prepare the steam function on the Gaggia Classic by pressing a button on the front. After around 15 seconds it's ready to froth the milk. The steam is in a class of its own and is extremely impressive as it froths the milk quickly and perfectly, with a great deal of power. The resulting froth has a fine texture and no large bubbles, which you can use to make a great decorative heart if you've practised a little latte art.

The machine can be used in a manual mode and with coffee pods. A filter insert for espresso grade ground coffee is included, which is perfect if you want to learn to make espresso in the classic way. You simply add the ground coffee to the filter and press it down with the included tamper. The espresso machine then brews a double espresso with perfect crema. The Gaggia Classic is the perfect machine if you prioritise brewing an authentic espresso but don't have enough space in your kitchen for a big machine. While a long start-up time and the lack of programmable water dosing means that we can’t give the machine full marks, its power and solid construction simultaneously make it an obvious choice for an espresso enthusiast.

Solid construction with genuine portafilterpowerful steam functiongood cup warmer
good cup warmerslow to heat up

6. Philips Latte Go Series 2200

Time until first cup: 123 sec Cups until water used up: 11 Cups until drip tray full: 10 Water tank: 1800 ml Coffee varieties: Coffee beans/ground coffee Cup warmer/storage: No/No Coffee container: 275 g Auto off: Yes Width: 246 mm Height: 371 mm Depth: 433 mm

Philips Series 2200 EP2231

The Philips Latte Go Series 2200 is a stylish and fully automatic espresso machine that fits well on most surfaces thanks to its relatively compact design. The machine also feels robust and gives an exclusive impression. The display has the same stylish design as the rest of the machine and comes with touch buttons. However, it’s rather difficult to understand. Each symbol has a light below it that lights up when it’s possible to press the button, but it takes some time before you understand how it works. But the touch technology does works perfectly every time. One big question mark, however, is why they have chosen to name the machine “Latte Go”. Although it’s quite possible to make a latte by first making an espresso, then choosing a cappuccino and cancelling it before the espresso arrives, there’s no actual “latte” choice. Instead, you can choose between cappuccino, espresso, coffee and hot water. Which is pretty limited. With the “My choice” buttons you can also adjust the strength and size of the coffee.

The water tank holds 1.8 litres of water and is strategically located on the right side of the machine. Because you pull the container out forwards, you never have to worry about where the machine can be placed. The drip tray is easy to take out and empty, but it is quite small and doesn’t have very high edges, which makes it difficult to get to the sink without spilling it. The lid for the bean container has an “aroma seal”, which means the beans aren’t exposed to air and so retain more of their aroma and taste better. Unfortunately, the lid isn’t easy to put on properly, which on stressful days can mean it isn’t fastened very well. In addition to whole coffee beans, you can also use coffee powder in this espresso machine.

Start-up of the machine is relatively slow and you have to wait over two minutes before you can drink your coffee. Although two minutes isn’t very long, there are other models in our test that are significantly faster. If you’re making a drink with milk, it will take even longer. This machine isn't the quietest on the market. The grinder is very noisy, so don’t be surprised if you get complaints from the rest of the household if they are still in bed.

But on the other hand the coffee tastes really good! You get that really deep taste of brewed coffee. The machine also maintains an even temperature even when you make several cups in a row. You can also prepare two cups at the same time (without milk) – however, the machine still makes one cup at a time with fresh grinding between each cup, which means that efficiency is lost. The Latte Go Series 2200 comes with an Aqua Clean filter that prevents limescale deposits and filters the water to maintain the aroma of the coffee. This should see you make up to 5000 cups of coffee before the machine needs to be descaled. When it’s time for that to be done, the machine also tells you, so you can start the automatic descaling program.

In terms of milk systems, this machine does a really good job when it comes to milk drinks. The cappuccino tastes very good and the foam function gives a nice and thick frothy layer over your coffee. One disadvantage is that the location for the milk system isn't really optimal. You have to make sure to use a fairly wide cup so the outlet for both coffee and milk can fit into it. This could have been avoided had the milk outlet been moved inwards slightly. The amount of milk used for a cappuccino is also rather generous – almost enough to make it a little more reminiscent of a latte. The milk heats up quickly and the temperature of the milk is perfect with almost every cup. Both the milk system and the drip tray can be cleaned in a dishwasher.

The Philips Latte Go Series 2200 is a good choice of coffee machine if you want really good coffee but don’t want too many choices and extra functions. The machine is nice looking, doesn’t take up much space and works very well. Ease of use isn’t top notch, but this is a very affordable espresso machine if you have a slightly lower budget.

Really good coffeeattractive designaffordable
Loud and somewhat slowcould have been more user friendlyunnecessarily small drip bowl

7. Philips HD8829

A compact design that can hold tall glasses and wide cups

Time to first cup: 1.50 min Time for 8 cups: approx. 9.30 min Water lasts for (cups): 9 Grounds drawer full after (cups): 10 Coffee types: Only whole coffee beans Cup warmer/storage: No/No Auto off: 30 min Size: 215 x 330 x 429 mm Water tank: 1800 ml (1500 ml usable)

Philips Serie 3000 HD8829

The Philips HD8829 resembles Philips' premium machines, yet its design lacks some premium functions, such as a display. This needn't be a disadvantage. In fact it can mean that the machine is both simpler to use and slightly cheaper to buy. The machine has three large and clear buttons, one for espresso, one for cappuccino and one for normal coffee. The buttons light up when the espresso machine is started and runs a short cleaning programme before heating up, and the machine is ready to serve coffee when the lights stop flashing. Whether you choose espresso or cappuccino, the built-in grinder grinds the beans with a single press of a button. You can order two cups of any type of coffee by double pressing the coffee selection buttons. The steam function consists of a nozzle which you attach to the machine's hot water tap, and the nozzle has a hose which you can connect to a milk container placed next to the machine. Thankfully, this positioning takes away no space from the cup tray, meaning that you still have room for your favourite cup. The frothed milk had a perfect temperature and a good texture without larger bubbles. However, as we expected, the coffee and milk did form layers when served, which is the norm in simpler and fully-automatic espresso machines. A quick stir with a spoon easily fixes this though. The flavour of the coffee it can produce is this machine's major advantage. Even using the basic settings, the flavour is pleasant and well balanced. Every cup of espresso has a fine layer of crema. There are many settings to experiment with if you'd like to adjust something. The grinder can be adjusted to five different settings and the quantity of water can be set and saved for each type of drink. If you are the kind of person who always uses an extra scoop or two of coffee when making your brew at home, there's an "Aroma Plus" button on the front which makes stronger coffee.

This espresso machine doesn't take up much more room than a large drip coffee maker. It has a squarish design in black plastic, highlighted by a chrome coffee nozzle and a stainless-steel drip tray. Other than the buttons on the front, there are four indicator lights that show what maintenance needs to be done, such as topping up the water or emptying the grounds drawer. These will light up often, which means that the machine frequently needs a bit of attention. Unfortunately, its compact design also doesn't give much space for water, beans or grounds. Milk frothing requires cleaning, but there is a quick cleaning system that's activated manually using a button when you've finished preparing your cappuccino.

It's clear that Philips has prioritised making a machine with compact design over one with high capacity, making the HD8829 an espresso machine best for a small kitchen and not for an office full of frequent coffee drinkers. The score we gave this machine also dropped a little as a result of the frequent maintenance, topping up and cleaning that the machine required - and because of the high noise level when frothing milk. However, the great coffee aromas and the perfect espresso that this machine can produce make this machine one to properly consider.

Simpleclear buttonscompact designcan cope with tall glasses and wide cups
Frequent cleaninghigh noise level during milk frothing

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8. DeLonghi Dinamica ECAM 350.55.B

Time until first cup: 89 sec Cups until water used up: 10 Cups until drip tray full: 5-10 Water tank: 1800 ml Coffee varieties: Coffee beans, ground coffee Cup warmer/storage: Yes/Yes Coffee container: 300 g Auto off: 15 mins/30 mins Width: 236 mm Height: 348 mm Depth: 429 mm

DeLonghi ECAM 350.55

This coffee machine from DeLonghi is a fully automatic espresso machine with a built-in latte system. The machine is relatively neat and doesn’t require very much space – making it practical for the smaller or cluttered kitchen. Despite the smaller size, you still get fairly generous containers for water, coffee and grounds. The water tank is located on the side of the machine and is removed vertically from the front, so the machine can easily be placed on a surface where there are cupboards above it. If you tend to be short of time in the morning, you’ll probably appreciate the fact that the machine warms up very quickly. Nor do you have to worry about waking up the whole house in the morning because the machine is quite quiet, even when grinding beans.

This coffee machine has an attractive, stylish and simple design, but the display does leave something to be desired. It feels a bit plasticky and gives the machine a slightly cheap impression. However, the display is easy to understand and the touch buttons are easy to navigate via their various symbols. You can choose from a number of different drinks and adjust the strength, degree of grinding and temperature.

You can also save your favourite drinks and thus avoid having to redo the same settings time after time. The machine handles both whole coffee beans and pre-ground coffee and comes with a “Tubeless” system. This means that the coffee is transported directly to the brewing unit and leaves no residue behind, meaning you get freshly ground coffee at each brew. And the system seems to do its job too, as the coffee tastes really good!

The coffee is easy to refill and the container holds as much as 300 grams. However, the lid of the container is loose and is unnecessarily difficult to put on properly. And if you don’t put it on properly, the coffee risks losing some aroma and taste because the beans are then exposed to oxygen. The lid also feels far too light and plasticky. The drip tray is easy to take out and empty, but what is annoying is that the machine says it’s full when it actually isn’t. This results in you emptying it too often.

The cappuccino system makes it possible to enjoy a latte, cappuccino or macchiato at the push of a button. The milk jug is completely external, and that means you don’t have to put any milk in the machine, which is a definite hygienic plus. The so-called “LatteCrema” system also has an automatic cleaning function that works very well. The two separate heating elements for coffee preparation and for milk frothing and hot water also mean that the DeLonghi guarantees a more accurate temperature and efficient heating. The milk is heated each time to the perfect temperature along with the coffee. It’s also a pretty quick machine.

Ideally the milk frothing would work better than it does, however. The milk often sprays all over the place, as the machine steams a lot and you end up with an extremely small amount of milk. The froth is also virtually non-existent.

The DeLonghi Dinamica ECAM 350.55.B is a great espresso machine which quickly gives you a good cup of smooth coffee. Coffee without the hassle! This machine has many good functions and is practical in terms of both design and use. But for the latte enthusiast, the machine still leaves something to be desired.

Separate milk containerfast heatingeasy to use
Poor milk frother not a great lid for the coffee containerincorrect drip tray function

9. Saeco HD8916

A compact, fully automatic machine with an attractive design and shortcut buttons for the available coffee choices

Time to first cup: 1.44 min Time for 8 cups: approx. 9.30 min Water lasts for (cups): 8 Grounds drawer full after (cups): 14 Coffee types: Whole beans, pre-ground coffee Cup warmer/storage: No/No Auto off: 215 x 429 x 330 mm Water tank: 1550 ml with water filter installed (1200-1300 ml usable)

Philips Saeco Incanto HD8916

The Saeco HD8916 prioritises compact design, which means that this fully automatic coffee machine is also one of the most straightforward. Its smaller outer dimensions make it easy to find it a home, even in a small kitchen. The chromed details give the machine a premium feel, a feeling you’ll also experience when you use it. A clear display shows what needs to be done or what the machine is doing, such as warming up or that you need to attach the milk frother. When the machine starts, it carries out a quick self-clean and heats up to the correct brewing temperature. You can then start making the coffee in the easiest possible way by using the pre-set buttons on the front. Here you will find everything the machine can produce, and you simply need to press a button for a great tasting espresso, espresso lungo, cappuccino or latte macchiato. Despite the slim design of this coffee machine, the milk container clicks neatly onto the front. While the design of the machine doesn't leave much room for wider cappuccino cups, we found tall glasses fit perfectly.

The Saeco machine easily makes cups of great tasting coffee. A lovely crema topped our espressos and we feel that for the straightforward coffee drinker, no settings need to be changed. If you are an enthusiastic home barista however, you can play with the settings, including water temperature, degree of coffee grinding and quantity of water used. You can easily adjust the strength of the coffee to one of five levels using a button on the front. While the strongest setting may leave your hair standing on end, we found our older testers to be extremely happy with it. This coffee machine can make coffee for the whole family.

Unfortunately, the coffee machine needs relatively frequent maintenance as its dimensions leave limited space for water, coffee beans and a coffee grounds. The good news is that this process is quite simple. The display changes to red and the cleaning processes which need to be completed are shown using simple images. The water container and beans can be topped from above, but if you have the machine below a wall-mounted cabinet, you will need steady hands to not spill anything behind the machine. The well-designed grounds drawer can be pulled out forwards from the machine and has separate sections for water and coffee grounds. If the milk container is installed, you must remove it before you can empty the grounds drawer.

The Saeco HD8916 is perfect if you don't want to do anything more than press a button when you zombie your way to the coffee machine in the early hours. But regardless of how much you want to avoid cleaning the machine or topping it up, the machine will go on strike if you’ve ignored its pleas to top up the coffee or empty the grounds drawer. This means that every couple of days you will need to spend a little bit more time maintaining the machine. While great tasting coffee and easy coffee selection is on offer here, the frequent maintenance it requires prevents it from hitting the bullseye.

Clear display shows what the machine is doingcompact designshortcut buttons for all your coffee choices
Frequent maintenancenoisy milk frothingno cup storage/cup warmer

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10. Melitta Caffeo Passione OT

Time until first cup: 117 sec Cups until water used up: 9 Cups until drip tray full: 6 Water tank: 1200 ml Coffee varieties: Coffee beans Cup warmer/storage: No/No Coffee container: 125 g Auto off: 9 mins/30 mins/1 hr/4 hrs/9 hrs Width: 253 mm Height: 390 mm Depth: 380 mm

Melitta Caffeo Passione OT

The Caffeo Passione OT is a user-friendly, fully automatic espresso machine from Melitta, which is perfect for the slightly smaller household where there isn’t too much demand for design. The machine is compact and cube shaped and therefore doesn’t take up much space. Unlike several other models in our test, this coffee machine is also not very deep, which means it can stand on most surfaces. If you ignore the display, this is a pretty attractive and stylish model, but unfortunately the buttons do reduce the style score significantly. Instead of the touch buttons we’re used to seeing nowadays, the Caffeo Passione OT comes with classic buttons. These feel plasticky, sound rather loud and unfortunately make the machine feel cheap. Its worth adding, however, that this is one of the cheaper machines in our test.

The display is clear and easy to understand. If you aren’t sure what the different symbols mean, or if you want a drink other than the four types the product buttons offer, you can choose from the additional six different variants on the menu list. In addition to this, you can also set the desired strength of your drink. The machine doesn’t come with any extra functions, such as saving favourite recipes or choosing the size of cup. It’s therefore a good choice if you are content with good coffee, without any extra fuss or hassle. For those of you looking for an extra quiet model, however, you should perhaps look elsewhere. The grinder is quite loud and there’s a risk that you’ll wake up the whole house in the morning.

As mentioned above, this is a model suitable for the smaller household or for those who don’t mind topping it up with beans often. And emptying the drip tray. That drip tray is simple and easy to empty, but it’s a bit inconsistent when it comes to the machine judging it to be full. Sometimes it complains about this incorrectly. The water container is located at the back on the left side, which isn’t very practical if you want to place the espresso machine on a surface with a cabinet above. However, this isn’t as bad a problem as it is with some other machines because this one isn’t very high. The water container holds 1200 ml, which is enough for a surprising number of cups. Nor does the machine use much water when rinsing, which means that those 1200 ml last longer.

The milk system is a so-called “plug-in”, and the advantage of this is that the milk unit is completely separate from the coffee system. This makes it much easier to keep clean. The milk container can also be washed and can easily fit in the fridge. If you would rather avoid washing up completely, you can just pop the hose directly into the milk carton! The milk supply works mostly without problems, but sometimes it does spray outside the coffee cup. However, it produces a fine frothy layer each time. The cleaning process is simple and the instructions are clearly shown on the display. In addition to automatic cleaning, the machine also has an automatic descaling function, which is also shown on the display when it’s time.

Melitta's Caffeo Passione OT is a simple standard machine that makes good coffee without hassle. For its relatively low price, the machine delivers pretty well and for those who don’t want any extra functions, this machine really does its job. Just keep in mind that the capacity is less than with many other models, but if you live in a small household or don’t drink much coffee, then this espresso machine is a good choice.

Good pricecompactuser friendly
Plasticky buttons incorrect drip tray full warningsometimes sprays milknoisy

Let’s learn more about espresso machines

Never before has the range of espresso machines available been as big as it is today. It's no longer simply professional baristas who can make a perfect espresso. With today's models, every consumer can enjoy delicious coffee just like in a café.

Their prices have also fallen a great deal, and even simpler machines now perform really well. Many people just want a coffee machine that serves up good coffee in the easiest possible way. At the same time, they don't want to be forced to wash lots of accessories, have to empty coffee grounds every day or top up the water in the machine. And this is often what separates the professional machines from the simpler models. When espresso machines get smaller, the containers for water, beans and grounds are reduced. There's a delicate balance between what's best for the consumer: a machine that takes up a bit more space but has larger containers, or a smaller coffee machine that instead requires more maintenance.

Types of espresso machine

There are primarily three types of espresso machine – fully automatic, semi-automatic and manual. Fully automatic machines are often more expensive but can brew an espresso, cappuccino or other beverage through a single press of a button. If you choose a cappuccino or another coffee with milk, you insert a milk container which is stored in the fridge when it's not in use. This is a simple system that requires minimal work to brew coffee, but it needs a little more cleaning than the semi-automatic and manual coffee machines. Fully automatic machines have built-in containers for beans and grind the beans in a coffee grinder when you want to brew your coffee. This way, you get as much of the aroma as possible from your coffee beans.

Semi-automatic machines often have pretty much the same functions as the fully automatic ones, but with a few differences. One difference is how the milk is frothed. These machines usually use a steam wand. You fill a small jug with milk and insert the steam wand. The machine then steams the milk for a few seconds. This method is often quicker, slightly quieter and gives better results than the fully automatic coffee machines. Moreover, there are fewer parts for you to clean, but it does require you to be more involved during the milk frothing stage.

Manual machines can make it possible to use either espresso coffee or pods. They don't have a built-in coffee grinder; they use ready ground coffee for espresso with frother and grinder functions. The coffee is placed in a filter on a handle and is like the classic espresso machines you see in cafés. This requires a little more preparatory work but gives you the most authentic espresso. This means inserting a special filter or using E.S.E. (Easy Serving Espresso) pods, but makes these machines very handy. Just like the semi-automatic machines, manual ones have a steam wand on the side for manual milk frothing.

Choosing the right machine largely depends on how much work you want to do in the brewing and cleaning processes, as well as how much space you have and, of course, your budget.

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