Are you a coffee lover who wants to enjoy a cup of espresso in the morning? We have tested several different models of espresso machine to guide you in your choice, and have chosen Melitta Barista TS smart as the test winner. It brews quickly, is quiet and has a great milk frother.
Our tests are independently conducted and reflect the test editor's honest and objective opinions. Selection of products and test results are in no way influenced by manufacturers, retailers or other internal or external parties.
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.
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’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.
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
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.
Time until first cup: 110 sec Cups until water tank is empty: 7 Cups until the drip tray is full: 8 Water tank: 1400 ml Coffee varieties: Coffee beans Cup warmer/storage: No/No Coffee container: 150 g Auto off: Yes Width: 180 mm Height: 433 mm Depth: 337 mm
SMEG BCC02 gives you a stylish and fully automatic espresso machine that suits slightly smaller households. This is because the machine is also slightly smaller. This means that it can fit on most kitchen counters without taking up too much space. In general, SMEG focuses a lot on design when making their products, and this espresso machine is no exception. It has a matte white finish combined with a silver polished front. The machine parts are completely hidden under white lids and give it an exclusive look.
The machine’s water tank holds 1.4 litres of water, which is on a par with other smaller machines. The water tank is located at the rear of the machine, and to remove it, you need to lift it upwards. It is easy to fill and put in place. Like the water tank, the bean container is hidden under a white lid and holds 150 grams of beans. The grinding level of the beans can be adjusted to your wishes.
The sound level on the machine is normal, neither high nor low. When the machine is switched on, and while it's grinding, it emits a slightly plastic sound – you almost start to wonder if something is broken. The machine does not have a display, which is usually the case with this type of machine. Instead, there is a simple control panel with buttons and associated symbols. The machine offers four buttons for four different drinks: Ristretto, Espresso, Americano and hot water. The coffee drinks are available in either a normal or slightly weaker strength. And the coffee tastes good! In addition, the drinks have a very good temperature, despite brewing several cups in a row.
In addition to the buttons with the various beverages, there are also lamps with associated symbols. The lamps light up when the water tank is empty or when the drip tray needs to be emptied. The buttons are somewhat unclear, so it is important to read the manual carefully. If you want to adjust the settings, such as the water hardness or the size of the cup, it can be somewhat complicated. You then have to press different buttons at the same time, and it is actually difficult to remember how everything works. The manual is therefore crucial for this – and one tip is to save the manual so that it is close at hand until you learn how everything works.
The drip tray comes in two parts and is easy to empty. The outer part is loose under the machine and can be removed if, for example, you want to use a cup that is higher than usual. The inner drip tray contains a container for the coffee pucks, which can be removed to make emptying even easier.
The espresso machine's milk frother is located on the front right side of the machine. It takes some time to understand how to change from the hot water to the steam function, and once you understand how, it takes a little practice to get the right amount of steam. Once that's in place, it’s relatively easy, and the foam is nice. Remember to wipe the steam arm immediately after use to prevent the milk from sticking. One thing we were disappointed about was that no milk jug was included with the machine. This must be purchased separately if you want one. Considering the high price that you pay for this machine, you expect it to be included.
SMEG BCC02 is suitable for those who value design and who like to pay a little extra for it. The model works best in a smaller household, and you simply have to assume that it takes some time to understand how the machine works. But once you have do, SMEG offers the user a good espresso machine with good coffee.
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
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.
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)
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.