The 6 Best Italian Espresso Machines

Espresso-machine-working-with-bar-interior-background

Choosing the best Italian espresso machine might initially seem confusing, but we’re here to help today.

Since the first espresso device was patented by an Italian back in 1884, these machines have been honed over the years with the addition of steam wands, pressure release valves, and portafilters.

By the time Gaggia invented an improved method of control with the spring-piston lever, the art of espresso was perfected.

Whatever type of machine you choose, making espresso is straightforward. All you need is water heated to between 190F and 200F pumped through a disc of coffee at a pressure of at least 9 bars.

All of the espresso machines we review today enable you to do all this and more, so how do you determine which is the right type of espresso machine for your needs?

Well, focus on the following pointers and you’ll have no problems finding the most effective Italian espresso machine for your needs:

  • Type of espresso machine: There are 3 broad categories of espresso machine: semi-automatic, fully-automatic, and super-automatic. Semi-automatic espresso machines require more user input. You need to manually pump the machine after grinding and tamping your beans. These are the machines you’ll see in most commercial coffee shops, often featuring multiple group heads, enabling the barista to pour multiple shots. Fully-automatic espresso machines spare you from tweaking the brew time manually. This makes it easier to pour a great shot, but you’ll lose the control afforded by semi-automatic machines. Super-automatic espresso machines come with onboard conical burr grinders, giving you a bean-to-cup experience. Some of these machines also include automatic milk frothers for longer coffees
  • Build quality: The best espresso machine is never cheap so it pays to look closely at build quality and durability. Most machines are finished in stainless steel or aluminum. They come with varying degrees of plastic components. As with most things in life, you normally get what you pay for. If you’re buying in at the lower end of the market, you can’t expect an espresso machine fit for a commercial coffee shop so keep your expectations reasonable or dig a little deeper
  • User-Friendliness: If you consider an espresso machine as a labor-saving device, the last thing you want is an appliance that’s a bind to use and ends up costing time or even worse, discarded and unused. Think hard about controls and how easy it is to navigate menus. Whether you want a tech-driven super-automatic or a more basic push-button bean-to-cup machine, it’s got to be a pleasure to use
  • Customization: Although super-automatic espresso machines certainly have many advantages, being forced to rely largely on pre-sets is one of their chief drawbacks. Many straight-up automatic models will afford you much more leeway. You’ll be able to manipulate the water temperature and coffee strength as well as the type of drink. Many machine also offer you a frothing feature for longer coffees. If you’re looking for ease of use above all else, a super-automatic is hard to beat. For maximum customization, roll with a semi- automatic espresso machine
  • Cleaning and Maintenance: Cleaning espresso machines can be a mucky, tedious business. Most of the best machines will offer at least some degree of auto-cleaning to take the sting out of things. Look for machines with detachable parts that simplify cleaning. If it’s important to you, check that the unit is dishwasher-friendly. Most of the popular and effective espresso machines on the market demand relatively minimal upkeep
  • Choice of beverages: If you’re a died-in-the-wool espresso fan, get a machine that caters for this type of coffee only. It’s senseless to pay out for things you won’t use. If, on the other hand, you have a larger family and everyone takes their coffee a different way, look for a multipurpose machine that serves up latte and cappuccino alongside your favorite short shots. Many machines even offer hot chocolate and with hot water on demand functionality you’ll also be able to enjoy tea or infusions. Think closely about what drinks you need on your home coffee menu and choose accordingly

OK, if you bear these elements in mind on the buying trail, you should have no problems finding the right espresso maker for your needs.

Enjoy!

Madibarestaurant.com is reader-supported. When you buy via the links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you.

I. The 6 Best Italian Espresso Machines

1. Our #1 Pick: DeLonghi Magnifica Espresso and Coffee Machine

De'Longhi-ESAM3300-Magnifica-Super-Automatic-Espresso

Features

  • Type: Super-automatic
  • Drinks: Espresso, latte, cappuccino
  • Dimensions: 11 x 5.3 x 14.4 inches

If you’re looking for an espresso machine for less than 4 figures, you don’t have a great deal of choice, but the DeLonghi Magnifica should certainly be on your shortlist. You’ll get a great bargain without needing to compromise on quality.

You obviously can’t expect the rugged and heavy-duty nature of a commercial machine at this price point so be aware of your intended usage and expect 2 to 3 years of service before encountering any meaningful problems.

There’s a conical burr grinder onboard with 13 grind settings or you can switch to using pre-ground coffee when the fancy takes you. There’s no substitute for grinding your own beans but there’s also a place for pre-ground.

With both rotary and push buttons, the Magnifica is a classic given a modernist tweak. You alter the intensity of your drink using the main dial while surrounding buttons allow you to choose between long and short shots along with attending to various other settings.

Programming your Magnifica is a breeze. With dual output, you can save time and effort by pouring a pair of espresso simultaneously.

If you enjoy longer drinks, the manual steam arm will help you conjure up the perfect froth.

For a compact, pocket-friendly espresso machine from a household brand, the DeLonghi Magnifica is of one of all-time favorites.

Things We Like Things We Dislike
  • 13 adjustable grinder settings
  • Easy to use and clean
  • Milk frother
  • Customer services issues flagged

2. Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine

Rancilio-Silvia-Espresso-Machine

Features

  • Type: Semi-automatic
  • Drinks: Espresso (single and double)
  • Dimensions: 9.2 x 11.4 x 13.3 inches

The legendary Rancilio Silvia, a staple in many households the world over.

Encased in stainless steel and packing brass components, the Silvia can handle a few knocks. Lifespan is exceptional so consider this an investment that will deliver a fantastic return.

This commercial-grade espresso machine is ideal for the home but also man enough for duty in a small coffee shop.

The single boiler gives you all the power you need for lip-smacking espresso at the push of a button.

Extraction is smooth and consistent so you can enjoy gourmet coffee without stressing yourself about getting the variables right.

If you like longer drinks as well as your espresso, the steam wand helps you expand your repertoire by topping your drinks with froth.

For a heavy-hitting espresso machine at a great price from a brand you can trust, the Rancilio Silvia is a must-try if you’re a real coffee hound. This machine is a superb option if you’ve always fancied treating yourself to the iconic Rancilio Classe but can’t quite stretch to that price tag.

Things We Like Things We Dislike
  • Commercial-grade group head
  • Stainless steel and iron
  • Articulating steam wand
  • Not the cheapest espresso machine

3. Gaggia Classic Pro Espresso Machine

Gaggia-RI9380/46-Classic-Pro-Espresso-Machine

Features

  • Type: Semi-automatic
  • Drinks: Espresso
  • Dimensions: 11 x 5.3 x 14.4 inches

Gaggia is a powerhouse brand with a deep bench of authentic Italian espresso machines. How does the Classic Pro shape up, then?

Well, this is one of the most affordable ways to buy into the Gaggia brand, but you still get that rugged brushed stainless steel build married to impressive performance. Choose from a handful of vibrant colorways to mesh with your kitchen décor.

This is a semi-automatic espresso machine, so it makes a smoother fit for more experienced practitioners than absolute beginners.

Running very quietly, you’ll find the Gaggia super-simple to use with some simple rocker switches in place of a complicated interface.

As you would expect from this eminent brand, you get many commercial-grade parts on this machine, even though it’s intended for the home kitchen.

A rotating steam wand allows you to finish off your espresso with complete control.

The only gripes we could unearth among predominantly positive user reviews concerns build quality issues developing over time. We feel you need to keep your expectations reasonable when you’re buying any entry-level product. Overall, you’re getting one of the best budget Italian espresso machines out there from a brand you can rely on.

Things We Like Things We Dislike
  • Great entry-level performer
  • Not too much noise
  • Ergonomic rocker switches
  • Some build quality issues reported

4. Gaggia Brera Espresso Machine

Gaggia-Brera-Super-Automatic-Espresso-Machine-in-Black

Features

  • Type: Super-automatic
  • Drinks: Espresso, latte, cappuccino
  • Dimensions: 10 x 15.5 x 11.5 inches

Next up in our quest for the best Italian espresso machines is a surprisingly inexpensive offering from the legendary Gaggia.

Although there’s a lot of steel, the plastic diminishes the Brera somewhat. Rest assured, though, build quality doesn’t suffer and the overall feel is solid rather than cheap. This model is available in either black or silver to suit.

Another bean-to-cup machine, you’ll get a ceramic burr grinder allowing you to adjust the grind to suit your palate. This type of grinder prevents too much heat and friction which can scorch and spoil your beans. It also spares you from needing yet another accessory in your crowded kitchen.

Make no mistake, you’ll get perfectly drinkable coffee using the grinder although results are rather disappointing. If you bypass this and pop in some pre-ground, though, the Brera returns a genuinely excellent espresso so we recommend this approach.

You’ll get automation and tech without usability suffering.

If you want to branch out beyond espresso, you can top your longer drinks with some first-rate froth.

There’s a double-up option if you insist on your espresso super-strong.

If you’re looking to buy an entry-level super-automatic espresso machine and you don’t want to be stiffed in terms of quality, check out the Gaggia Brera and you’ll be visiting Starbucks less and less, but without missing out on your favorite brew.

Things We Like Things We Dislike
  • Brushed stainless steel panel
  • Rapid steaming
  • Compact footprint and front access
  • Not the easiest machine to use

5. Nuova Simonelli Oscar II Espresso Machine

Nuova-Simonelli-Oscar-II-Espresso-Machine

Features

  • Type: Semi-automatic
  • Drinks: Espresso
  • Dimensions: 16 x 12 x 16 inches

As we near the end of our Italian espresso machine reviews, we have a first-class offering from Nuova Simonelli in the form of the Oscar II. How does this model shape up, then?

Well, as you would expect from this upscale brand, you’ll need to dig deeper for the privilege. While it’s not as expensive as a commercially-rated unit, it’s not cheap either.

This uprated version of the outgoing classic comes with a new and improved chassis. Improvements are also evident in the steam wand, the timed dosage function, and the steam lever.

Under the hood, you’ll benefit from a commercial-grade group head built to withstand plenty of sustained use.

If you frequently make a wide variety of coffees, both long and short, you’ll find this machine leaves you wanting. If you are a committed lover of espresso, by contrast, you’ll wonder why you didn’t treat yourself to the Nuova Simonelli years ago.

To get the most from this machine, you will need a third-party grinder. Grinding your beans directly before brewing will give you the freshest tasting coffee. The minimal effort returns huge dividends.

Although you could hard plumb this unit into your kitchen, most consumers prefer to use the onboard water reservoir.

Compact and space-saving, you can easily slot this espresso machine under your kitchen cabinets.

As long as you can stretch to the price tag, you’ll be rewarded with one of the best Italian espresso machines out from one of the most reputable brands in the industry.

Things We Like Things We Dislike
  • Uprated steam wand
  • Great brand heritage
  • Pro-grade boiler and group head
  • Pretty pricey

6. DeLonghi Espresso Machine

De'Longhi-Eletta-Digital-Super-Automatic-Espresso-Machine-

Features

  • Type: Super-automatic
  • Drinks: Espresso (single, double, or pod)
  • Dimensions: 12.99 x 5.9 x 12.99 inches

To round out our showcase of the best Italian espresso machines, we have a sleek super-automatic from kitchenware specialist DeLonghi.

As with all super-automatics, you get a conical burr grinder onboard, giving you a true bean to cup experience, even if you’re a complete novice at pulling shots.

The slick stainless steel finish looks great on the kitchen counter, and it also ensures your machine can withstand some rough and tumble.

You can pull a single or double shot of espresso to taste, or you can choose to use pods for single-serve convenience. Anyone looking for maximum versatility will be delighted with the DeLonghi.

Thanks to the manual frother thrown in, you can make longer and creamier coffees using espresso as the rich base.

Like all the best Italian espresso machines, this model couldn’t be easier to clean and maintain. It’s also incredibly simple to use, making this one of the best all-rounders on our shortlist.

Temperature maintenance is first-rate, so you won’t be faced with any tedious waiting around between brews.

Packing a pump capable of generating 15 bars of pressure, you have more than enough firepower on demand for a truly delicious espresso every time.

Aside from some isolated gripes about build issues and lifespan, the vast bulk of consumers sing the praises of this highly effective Italians espresso machine from DeLonghi. See if it makes the right choice for your kitchen.

Things We Like Things We Dislike
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • 15 bars of pressure
  • Great choice of espresso
  • Lifespan could be improved

II. FAQs

1) How does an espresso machine work?

Espresso machines might look complicated but they are quite simple in terms of design and execution. Hot water is forced through a puck of tightly packed and finely ground coffee under high pressure. The result is a coffee that’s rich and intense but without any bitterness. The best espresso is topped with a very thin layer of foam known as crema. Variables impacting the quality of the espresso in your cup include the amount of coffee, the level of compaction – tamping – as well as the water temperature, length of extraction time, and amount of pressure.

2) What does the term bar refer to on espresso machines?

This refers to the bars of pressure (PSI) needed to produce a great shot of espresso. With a lever-based machine, you pull the lever to apply the correct amount of pressure. Electric espresso machine use an internal pump to generate pressure. These pump-based machines offer pressures from 3.5 bars through to 19 bars. You can monitor the pressure on the gauge to help you pour the best shot.

3) What is the optimum pressure for making espresso?

Most baristas agree that 9 bars is the optimum pressure for a shot of espresso. By delivering 9 times the weight of the air in pressure on water over a minimal area for 25 to 30 seconds is recognized as the gold standard for espresso. As with all aspects of making coffee, though, what counts is dialing in your own preferences and sticking with them.

4) What is the right water temperature for making espresso?

Use bottled or filtered water to make espresso. With 90% of the contents of your cup being water, it makes sense to use the best you can find. In terms of temperature, the best Italian espresso machine should heat your water to between 190F and 196F, ideal for espresso.

5) How can I clean an espresso machine?

If you fail to keep your espresso machine clean, this will impact the quality of the coffee in your cup. As oils and grounds accumulate, the brewing process is impaired. If you use your espresso machine daily, you should clean it monthly. Clean then rinse all the filters, as well as the portafilter, after every use. Use some hot water and a mild detergent. Either detach and clean the group head, ort use a brush to remove any grounds if you cannot remove it. Run some hot water through the machine without using a filter. You should also clean the frothing wand after each use to avoid any milk building up and going sour, tainting your drink and spoiling your espresso.


III. Conclusion

For anyone who pitched up here today at Madiba confused about how to choose the best Italian espresso machine, that should now have changed.

Planning is vital if you don’t want to end up with an espresso machine unsuited to your needs. Consult our brief buying guide to establish which type of machine makes the smoothest fit then start enjoying first-class shots of espresso at home just like the Italians.

As a parting shot, we would recommend against shopping for espresso machines based purely on the bottom line. While you can find the occasional cheap machine that delivers, most of the inexpensive offerings you’ll encounter will let you down sooner or later. Stick with any of the machines we review above and you’re in safe hands, though.

Bookmark our blog before you go today and be sure to head back soon. We add new content daily and we have a busy schedule for the coming months with holiday season already underway. See you soon!

5/5 - (1 vote)

Leave a Comment