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Best Espresso Machines For Beginners

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Last updated: December 20, 2023

Quick Answer: The best espresso machine for beginners is the Breville Bambino Plus as it can allow you to make a good espresso and steam milk beautifully with a minimal learning curve. You can pair it with a good espresso grinder (I’d recommend the Baratza Virtuoso+) for under $800.

After years of messing around with over a dozen “entry-level” (sub $1,000) espresso machines, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you’ve never owned an espresso machine before you should get either a:

  • Breville espresso machine if you want a traditional espresso machine with a portafilter (better quality espresso, but with a bit more of a learning curve to it).
  • Philips espresso machine if you want a super-automatic espresso machine that lets you brew an espresso and steam milk at the press of a button (poorer quality espresso, but no learning curve to it at all).

Other espresso machines I’ve researched or tested either:

  • Require modifications before you can get consistent espresso shots. The Gaggia Classic Pro is particularly guilty of this. If you’ve never made espresso at home before then you want to be able to pull consistently good shots before you get into the weeds with modding.
  • Are too expensive. In my books, if you’re going to drop more than $1,200 on an espresso setup then you should already have a good idea of what you want. I’ve excluded anything over $1,200 from consideration.

Here I’m going to go through the four best espresso machines for an espresso newbie based on your budget, whether you want to make black or frothed milk drinks, and how much work you’re willing to put into getting the perfect espresso shot.

Top Picks

Best overall espresso machine for beginners
  • Has automatic shot volume dosing.
  • Has an automatic steam wand for hands milk steaming.
  • Switches from brewing to steaming milk in under ten seconds.
Cheapest espresso machine that’s still good
  • Can be paired with a decent grinder for around $500.
  • Suitable for pre-ground coffee and freshly ground coffee beans.
  • Three-second heat up time and ten-second transition from brewing to milk frothing.
Best for a group of beginners
  • Has a touch screen for easy use.
  • Has five pre-programmed drink options and six customisable menu options.
  • Has an automatic steam wand for hands for hands milk frothing.
Best if you want no learning curve at all
  • Can pull a shot and steam milk with one button press.
  • Self cleaning.
  • Has five menu options including espresso and cappuccino.

Before I get on with reviewing each of these espresso machines, I want to talk a little bit about how your budget and the drinks you want to make affect which espresso machine you should buy.

Best Espresso Machine for Beginners by Budget and Drink Preference

Deciding how much money to pay for your first home espresso machine is complicated for two reasons:

  • You’ll ideally want an espresso grinder to go with your machine. These aren’t cheap and should be factored into your budget. As a general rule of thumb, if you are a black espresso drinker then your grinder is more important than your espresso machine. If you’re a milk drink drinker then vice versa.
  • Cheaper machines are generally harder to use than more expensive ones. If you’re an espresso beginner and you’re on a tight budget then you need to get the balance right between finding an affordable machine that also won’t take weeks and weeks of messing around with before you can pull a decent espresso shot. This isn’t easy as the features that make home espresso machines easy to use often increase their price tag.

Here are your best espresso maker options depending on your budget and preferred coffee drink:

<$200: Stick to a Moka Pot

Unfortunately, any espresso machine under $200 takes such effort to get consistent shots that they just aren’t suitable for beginners.

At a bare minimum, the best espresso machine for beginners needs to be able to brew consistent shots if you get the basics of espresso making (grind size, weight of ground coffee in, and weight of liquid espresso out) correct.

No espresso machine under $200 does this.

This includes the Flair Neo manual espresso maker and the Delonghi ECP3420 – two espresso machines that I often see being recommended to beginners.

Machines at this price point have their place. They’re for people who already know what they’re doing with espresso but who are also on a tight budget. 

They’re just too finickity to be someone’s first espresso machine.

<$350: Breville Bambino and Pre-Ground Coffee

Your best option for under $350 is to get the Breville Bambino and use pre-ground coffee with it.

Cheapest Espresso Machine That’s Still Good
Breville Bambino
$299.95 $284.99
The Breville Bambino is the cheapest espresso machine that can pull consistent shots.
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02/27/2024 05:32 pm GMT

The Breville Bambino uses pressurized portafilter baskets meaning that it can make a good (albeit not great) espresso with pre-ground coffee.

Most specialty roasters will sell pre-ground coffee grounds specifically for espresso. 

While you’ll get a duller tasting shot than brewing with freshly ground coffee, this setup should allow you to still make decent (and, more importantly, consistent) espresso and learn the ropes of espresso making while you save up for a grinder.

<$500: Breville Bambino and Baratza Encore

With a budget of $500, you should be getting an espresso machine and a grinder. The Breville Bambino paired with the Baratza Encore are your best options here.

Cheapest Espresso Machine That’s Still Good
Breville Bambino
$299.95 $284.99
The Breville Bambino is the cheapest espresso machine that can pull consistent shots.
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02/27/2024 05:32 pm GMT
Cheapest espresso grinder I’m happy to recommend
Baratza Encore
$199.95

The Baratza Encore can grind finely and evenly enough for espresso brewing and can be paired with the Breville Bambino for under $500.

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02/27/2024 06:15 pm GMT

You’ll also want to buy a 54 mm unpressurized portafilter basket to go with the Bambino when you start grinding your own beans.

Unpressurized portafilter baskets raise the quality of espresso you can make with freshly ground coffee (they don’t work well with pre-ground).

If you’d like to find out more about how these baskets differ then please see my article comparing pressurized vs non pressurized portafilter baskets.

It’s a bit annoying that the Breville Bambino does not come with unpressurized baskets, but they only cost around $20. Make sure you get a 54mm diameter basket rather than a 58mm or 51mm as the latter two won’t fit in the Bambino’s portafilter.

<$800: Breville Bambino and Baratza Sette 270 or Breville Bambino Plus and Baratza Virtuoso+

With a budget of $800, your options start to grow. I’d recommend pairing the Breville Bambino with the Baratza Sette 270 if you’re mainly going to drink plain espresso and Americano or the Breville Bambino Plus and the Baratza Virtuoso+ if you’re mainly going to be drinking frothed milk drinks.

Your espresso grinder quality makes more of a difference to your espresso’s taste than your espresso machine.

If you have a budget of $800, and you’re mainly going to be drinking black espresso drinks (espresso and Americano), then I’d recommend sticking with the Breville Bambino and going for a better grinder, namely the Baratza Sette 270.

Premium, precise espresso grinder
Baratza Sette 270
$459.00 $399.95
The Baratza Sette 270 can grind far more precisely than the Baratza Encore or Virtuoso, allowing you greater control over your espresso’s flavor.
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02/27/2024 09:25 pm GMT

If you’re mainly going to be making milk-based drinks (latte, cappuccino, flat white, etc) then I’d recommend pairing the Breville Bambino Plus with the Baratza Virtuoso+.

Best Overall
Breville Bambino Plus
$499.95
The Breville Bambino Plus can pull consistent shots and has an automatic steam wand for hands-free milk frothing.
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02/27/2024 09:11 pm GMT
Easiest to Use Espresso Grinder
Baratza Virtuoso+
$249.95

The Baratza Virtuoso+’s digital timer makes it easier to repeat your coffee dose than the Baratza Encore.

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02/27/2024 06:29 pm GMT

Your espresso shots won’t quite be as good as if you grind with the Baratza Sette 270, but you’ll be getting a machine that assists you with milk steaming, allowing you to make superb milk drinks without any real learning curve.

You can also get a good super-automatic espresso machine for this price if you want to make espresso drinks without having to dose and tamp a coffee puck.

The Philips 3200 LatteGo would be my recommendation if you want to go down this route.

Best if You Don’t Want Any Learning Curve
Philips 3200 LatteGo
$999.99 $753.35
The Philips 3200 LatteGo can make a passable espresso without any need to dose or tamp ground coffee.
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02/27/2024 11:58 pm GMT

$1,000+: Breville Bambino Plus and Baratza Sette 270 WI or Breville Barista Touch

If your budget is around $1,000 I’d recommend pairing the Breville Bambino Plus with the Baratza Sette 270 WI if you’re primarily a black espresso drinker or getting the Breville Barista Touch if you’re going to be making a lot of milk drinks.

Combining the Bambino Plus with the Baratza Sette 270 Wi will give you a setup that’s easy to get started with but which has a seriously high-quality ceiling if your espresso passion takes off.

Best Overall
Breville Bambino Plus
$499.95
The Breville Bambino Plus can pull consistent shots and has an automatic steam wand for hands-free milk frothing.
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02/27/2024 09:11 pm GMT
Best Espresso Machine and Grinder Under $1,000 (Grinder)
Baratza Sette 270Wi
$599.95

The Baratza Sette 270Wi is the best espresso grinder that still costs under $1,000 when paired with the Breville Bambino.

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02/27/2024 07:33 pm GMT

The Breville Barista Touch can make a good espresso and fantastic milk drinks, but most importantly it can do both these things with far less effort or trial and error on your part than with the Bambino Plus.

I’d therefore recommend the Barista Touch if you have a budget of around $1,000 and:

  • You’re primarily going to make milk-based drinks.
  • You don’t see yourself getting into the technicalities of espresso making but still want to brew consistently good espresso.
Best for Groups of Beginners
Breville Barista Touch
$999.95

The Breville Barista Touch lets you program every aspect of your espresso brewing with a touch screen.

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02/27/2024 08:46 pm GMT

As I mentioned earlier, I wouldn’t recommend paying much more than $1,000 for your first espresso machine.

Ultimately, you don’t really know what you want until you’ve tried it. 

It’s better to start small and upgrade slowly than to splurge and be left with a white elephant on your counter.

Anyway…on with the reviews.

Best Overall: Breville Bambino Plus

Best Overall
Breville Bambino Plus
$499.95
The Breville Bambino Plus can pull consistent shots and has an automatic steam wand for hands-free milk frothing.
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02/27/2024 09:11 pm GMT
Specification Breville Bambino Plus
Type of machine
Automatic
User interface
Buttons only
Milk system
Automatic steam wand (can be used manually)
Heat up time
3 seconds
Steam wand heat up time
<10 seconds
Dimensions (width x depth x height)
7.7”x 12.6” x 12.2”
Cup clearance
4.5”

Espresso Quality

The Breville Bambino Plus can pull very good espresso shots if you use a non-pressurized portafilter basket with it.

The Bambino Plus has superb temperature stability, meaning that if you keep your ground coffee dose, shot volume, and grind size consistent, you should be able to get consistently good espresso shots from it.

If you’re brewing with freshly ground coffee, then you’ll need to use a non-pressurized portafilter basket to get the best possible shots with the Bambino Plus. The Bambino Plus does not always come with non-pressurized baskets, so you may need to buy these separately (they cost around $20).

The Bambino Plus’s brewing pressure is set on the low side, meaning that it cannot work with incredibly fine grinds. This lowers its espresso quality ceiling if you’re brewing with lighter roast coffee.

Its pressure is intentionally set this way to make the espresso maker easier to work with for beginners (working with higher pressures means your puck prep needs to be more precise). 

You may outgrow the machine if you want to brew with lighter roasts, however, this is not a problem that an espresso beginner has to think about.

Espresso Quality Rating: 9/10

Milk Steaming Performance

The Breville Bambino Plus can steam milk well in automatic mode, and steam milk really well if you use its steam wand manually.

The Breville Bambino Plus has an automatic steam wand that allows for hands-free milk frothing. If you opt for hands-free milk steaming then you can get good, but not amazing milk foam with the Bambino Plus.

If you want cafe-quality silky microfoam for latte art then you’re going to have to steam your milk manually. The Bambino Plus is more than capable of creating this when its steam wand is in manual mode.

Milk Steaming Performance: 9/10

Ease of Use

The Breville Bambino Plus’s automatic shot volume dosing and automatic steam wand make it easier to use than any espresso machine in its price range.

The Bambino Plus is especially easy to make milk-based drinks for because of its automatic steam wand. Watch this video if you want to see how its automatic steam wand works (the only way you can mess it up is by not putting its milk jug fully on its heat sensor).

The next cheapest machine with an automatic steam wand like this is the Breville Barista Touch, which is over twice the price of the Bambino Plus.

The only tricky bit of using the Bambino Plus is dialing it in. 

The machine doesn’t have a pressure gauge or shot timer, so to dial it in you need to be both weighing out your liquid espresso output and timing your shot at the same time.

This is tricky, but since it has automatic volumetric dosing, you only need to get this time/output weight right once and then the machine will repeat this dose automatically going forwards.

Ease of Use Rating: 8/10

Value for Money

The Breville Bambino Plus is excellent value for money especially if you are going to make a lot of milk-based drinks.

As I said earlier, the next cheapest machine with a similar automatic steam wand is the Breville Barista Touch which is twice the price of the Bambino Plus.

This makes the Bambino Plus a steal in my books, especially if you’re going to use its automatic steam wand often.

Value for Money Rating: 8/10

Breville Bambino Plus Pros

  • Easy cappuccinos and lattes
  • Can be paired with a good grinder for under $800
  • Compact size

Breville Bambino Plus Cons

  • Its drip tray fills quickly
  • You get better value with the Bambino if you won’t use its automatic steam wand

Cheapest That Still Good: Breville Bambino

Cheapest Espresso Machine That’s Still Good
Breville Bambino
$299.95 $284.99
The Breville Bambino is the cheapest espresso machine that can pull consistent shots.
Get it on Amazon
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02/27/2024 05:32 pm GMT
Specification Breville Bambino Plus
Type of machine
Automatic
User interface
Buttons only
Milk system
Manual steam wand
Heat up time
3 seconds
Steam wand heat up time
<10 seconds
Dimensions (width x depth x height)
7.7”x 12.6” x 12.2”
Cup clearance
4.5”

Espresso Quality

The Breville Bambino can make a good espresso, but you’ll need to buy non-pressurized portafilter baskets with it to get the best out of freshly ground coffee.

The Breville Bambino uses the exact same brewing system as the Bambino Plus, meaning that it’s capable of producing tasty, consistent espresso shots, but might struggle with lighter roast beans.

Unlike the Bambino Plus, the Bambino always comes with pressurized portafilter baskets. You’ll have to buy non-pressurized baskets separately (make sure to get 54mm diameter ones) to get the most out of freshly ground coffee.

The machine can still make an okay espresso with pre-ground coffee. The limiting factor here is the pre-ground coffee rather than the machine.

Espresso Quality Rating: 8/10

Milk Steaming Performance

The Breville Bambino’s steam wand can make excellent milk froth that’s suitable for latte art.

Although the Bambino does not have an automatic steam wand (like the Bambino Plus), its steam wand is relatively gentle which makes it great for a beginner to learn with.

It’s capable of producing superb steamed milk as its gentle milk frothing gives you the time to roll and texture your milk before it gets too hot.

Milk Steaming Performance: 8/10

Ease of Use

The Breville Bambino is the least easy to use of the machines listed here.

The machine doesn’t have any unusual automation, unlike the other best espresso machines for beginners.

It’s still relatively easy to use given its price, due to its automatic volume dosing and (in particular) its high level of temperature stability. 

Most espresso machines in the Bambino’s price range require you to manage its temperature which makes pulling consistent shots considerably more difficult.

So well the Bambino is the trickiest machine to use in this list, it’s still easier than most espresso machines.

Ease of Use Rating: 6/10

Value For Money

The Breville Bambino offers incredible value for money.

It’s the most affordable espresso machine I know of that’s capable of pulling consistent shots if you use the same coffee grounds dose and grind size.

Using shop-bought coffee grounds with the Bambino (rather than buying a grinder) is the best beginner espresso setup if you’re on a tight budget, in my opinion.

Value for Money Rating: 10/10

Breville Bambino Pros

  • Can be paired with a decent grinder for less than $500.
  • One of the slimmest espresso machines available.
  • Excellent performance for its price.

Breville Bambino Cons

  • Less automation than other models listed here.
  • You’ll need to buy non pressurized portafilter baskets separately.

Best for a Group of Beginners: Breville Barista Touch

Best for Groups of Beginners
Breville Barista Touch
$999.95

The Breville Barista Touch lets you program every aspect of your espresso brewing with a touch screen.

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02/27/2024 08:46 pm GMT
Specification Breville Barista Touch
Type of machine
Automatic espresso machine with a built in grinder
User interface
Touch screen
Milk system
Automatic steam wand (can be used manually)
Heat up time
3 seconds
Steam wand heat up time
<10 seconds
Dimensions (width x depth x height)
12.5” x 12.5” x 16.1”
Cup clearance
3.9 inches

Espresso Quality

The Breville Barista Touch cannot make quite as good an espresso as the Breville Bambino & Bambino Plus due to its built-in grinder not being amazing.

While the Barista Touch has virtually the same brewing system as the Breville Bambino and Bambino Plus, its integrated conical burr grinder is on par with the affordable Baratza Encore.

The Barista Touch can therefore make espresso of a similar quality as the Bambino/Bambino Plus paired with the Baratza Encore.

Once you get a better grinder, then you can make a better-tasting espresso with the Bambino or Bambino Plus than with the Barista Touch.

Espresso Quality Rating: 7/10

Milk Steaming Performance

The Breville Barista Touch has easily the best milk-steaming performance of any espresso machine for beginners.

The Barista Touch has an automatic milk want that can steam milk hands-free to the nearest ten degrees Fahrenheit and to one of ten textures.

This is a crazy level of control and, to top it off, you can use the steam wand manually too if you want even more precise control.

It is, hands down, the best espresso machine for milk-based drinks featured here.

Milk Steaming Performance Rating: 10/10 

Ease of Use

The Barista Touch automates every aspect of your espresso brewing except for tamping. This makes it one of the easiest-to-use automatic espresso machines on the market.

The Barista Touch controls your coffee grounds dose, espresso liquid out, and brew time with its touch screen. This, combined with an automatic steam wand, allows you to make any espresso drink as an absolute beginner.

You can also save up to 11 drink recipes (five come as default with an additional six custom menu items) to the machine’s touch screen menu for one-touch brewing.

The only skill you need to master with this home espresso machine is tamping. This does make it slightly more complicated to use than a super-automatic machine.

Ease of Use Rating: 9/10

Value For Money

The Breville Barista Touch is an indulgent purchase. You’re paying a premium for its incredible ease of use.

While the machine isn’t overpriced, it has a lot of features that aren’t strictly necessary for beginner espresso-making, and this is reflected in its price.

You’ll get the most for your money from this machine if there’s going to be a lot of you using it (its customizable menu comes in handy here), or if you are going to be frothing milk a lot (it’s got the best steam wand of all the best espresso machine for beginners).

Value for Money Rating: 6/10

Breville Barista Touch Pros

  • Best espresso machine for frothing milk.
  • You can control all aspects of espresso brewing with its touch screen menu.
  • You can make and save your ideal coffee drink with its touch screen menu.

Breville Barista Touch Cons

  • Its built-in grinder puts a ceiling on espresso quality.
  • It’s more expensive than the other best espresso machines for beginners

Best if You Want No Learning Curve: Philips 3200 LatteGo

Best if You Don’t Want Any Learning Curve
Philips 3200 LatteGo
$999.99 $753.35
The Philips 3200 LatteGo can make a passable espresso without any need to dose or tamp ground coffee.
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02/27/2024 11:58 pm GMT
Specification Philips 3200 LatteGo
Type of machine
Super automatic espresso machine
User interface
Button operated
Milk system
Automatic milk frother
Heat up time
30 seconds
Milk system heat up time
20 seconds
Dimensions (width x depth x height)
9.7” x 14.6” x `6.9”
Cup clearance
6.9”

Espresso Quality

The Philips 3200 LatteGo makes the worst espresso of all machines listed here.

Super-automatic espresso machines cannot work with fine grinds because of their inability to prep a coffee grounds puck precisely.

This means that the Philips 3200 LatteGo’s espresso will be duller tasting than those made with other espresso machines listed here.

The Philips 3200’s espresso is inferior even to the Breville Bambino working with pre-ground coffee.

Espresso Quality: 5/10

Milk Steaming Performance

While the Philips 3200 LatteGo can steam milk with one button press, it can only steam milk to one texture.

While the 3200’s milk steaming is good by super-automatic machine’s standards, you cannot get the level of temperature or texture control that you can with a steam wand.

So while you can make a latte with one button press, it will be significantly less silky than what you’d get from a coffee shop (and zero chance of latte art as well).

Milk Steaming Performance: 6/10

Ease of Use

The Philips 3200 LatteGo is the easiest-to-use espresso machine listed here.

It’s the only espresso machine in this roundup that doesn’t require you to learn how to tamp a coffee grounds puck.

Tamping is one of the easiest parts of espresso making to mess up, so automating this dramatically reduces the amount of skill or technique you need as an espresso maker.

The Philips 3200 also has automatic milk frothing so you can make a latte or cappuccino with one button touch (it literally has dedicated buttons for these two coffee types).

The machine also requires much less cleanup than other espresso machines listed here, with all its parts either being self-cleaning or dishwasher safe.

Ease of Use Rating: 10/10

Value for Money

The Philips 3200 offers good value for money if you specifically want a super-automatic machine.

It’s significantly cheaper than machines of equivalent functionality from Jura and Delonghi (the other two big super-automatic manufacturers).

I also like how the machine comes with a built-in grinder so you are saving on that expense as well.

Value for Money Rating: 8/10

Philips 3200 LatteGo Pros

  • It doesn’t require you to learn how to tamp a coffee grounds puck
  • One touch milk frother
  • It offers very good value for money by super automatic machine standards.

Philips 3200 LatteGo Cons

  • It doesn’t make as good quality coffee drinks as any other machine listed here.
  • It can only steam milk to one texture so you have a lack of variety in your milk drinks.

What Features to Look Out For When Buying an Espresso Machine as a Beginner

As you may have noticed, there’s a lot of technical jargon surrounding espresso machines.

As well as explaining what these technical features are, I’m going to explain:

  • Which features are needed for a beginner-friendly espresso machine?
  • Which features are only important for more advanced users.
  • And which “features” are really just marketing terms that exist solely to make an espresso maker sound better than it actually is?

Manual vs Semi-automatic vs Automatic vs Super Automatic Espresso Machine (Go for Automatic or Super Automatic)

Automatic or super-automatic espresso machines are best for beginners. Manual and semi-automatic espresso machines are too much work for a beginner espresso maker.

If you’ve spent more than a few minutes researching espresso machines, you’ve probably seen machines being grouped together in these terms. This is what they mean:

  • Manual: You have to control the machine’s brewing pressure with a lever or a piston. This is how the first espresso machines were made. I generally don’t recommend manual espresso machines for beginners because they are relatively difficult to get consistent shots from due to a lack of temperature control.
  • Semi-automatic: A semi-automatic espresso machine controls your brewing pressure and temperature, however, you need to manage your shot volume dosing (ie the amount of water you brew with) yourself for every shot you brew. These espresso makers have one switch that you need to turn on and off to start and stop brewing.
  • Automatic: These are similar to semi-automatic machines except they control your shot volume dosing for you. You have to program a certain shot volume initially, but then once that volume is set, every shot will be brewed with that set volume of water. These have shot buttons instead of switches that you just press once to start your brew. Your brew ends automatically once the set volume of water has been dispensed.
  • Super automatic: These brew an espresso at the touch of a button. You just fill them with whole coffee beans and water, and the machine grinds, doses tamp, and brews your coffee internally. This differs from automatic espresso machines which require you to dose and tamp your ground coffee in a portafilter.

I recommend that espresso newbies get either an automatic or super-automatic espresso machine.

  • Get an automatic espresso machine if you want to replicate cafe-quality espresso drinks and accept that this requires an understanding of grind size, dosing, and tamping at a minimum (sorry – but it does).
  • Get a super-automatic espresso machine if you’re happy with a decent-but-unremarkable espresso at the touch of a button and really cannot be bothered with learning about how espresso brewing works.

While I don’t think semi-automatic espresso machines are bad for beginners per se, I do think that all the best espresso machines for beginners happen to be automatic, rather than semi-automatic. 

Higher-end espresso machines, suitable for more experienced espresso makers, tend to be semi-automatic due to their increased control when dialing in.

The table below shows whether the espresso machines featured in this article are manual, semi-automatic, automatic, or super-automatic machines.

Machine name Type of espresso machine
Breville Bambino Plus (best overall)
Automatic
Breville Bambino (best value option)
Automatic
Breville Barista Touch (best for a group of beginners)
Automatic
Philips 3200 (best if you want no learning curve)
Super automatic

Proportional Integral Device (PID) (A Must Have for Beginner Machines)

All the best espresso machines for beginners NEED to have a PID so you don’t have to worry about managing its brewing temperature while learning espresso basics.

A PID allows an espresso machine to self-regulate its brewing temperature.

You need your machine’s brewing temperature to be consistent for you to pull consistent shots.

(An espresso machine with a PID has the added bonus of allowing you to adjust its temperature, however, its ability to maintain a constant temperature is the most important thing for beginners).

If your machine does not have a PID then you’ll have to develop a “temperature surfing” routine to keep it at a consistent(ish) temperature. 

While this isn’t super difficult (you can see a video of someone doing it below), it’s just one more thing to think about when you’re still trying to navigate your way around espresso brewing.

All the machines I recommend here have PIDs. Entry-level espresso machine’s that I omitted from this roundup due to their lack of PIDs include:

  • Gaggia Classic Pro
  • Rancilio Silvia (there is a version of the machine with a PID but it costs in excess of $1,200)
  • Delonghi ECP3420
  • Delonghi Dedica E680M

Milk Steaming System (Get a Machine With an Automatic Steam Wand if You’re Going to Make a Lot of Milk Based Drinks)

Learning to steam milk in a controlled way so you get consistent results takes time. I recommend an espresso machine with an automatic steam wand that can also be used manually to lessen the urgency of this learning curve.

The automatic steam wands on the Breville Bambino Plus and Barista Touch allow you to froth milk to a specific texture and temperature in a completely hands-free way. 

They can also be used as a manual steam wand, which gives you even greater control over your frothed milk. This flexibility is nice because it means you can still make a good cappuccino while you’re learning to finesse your milk frothing technique.

As one Redditor says in this thread about the Breville Bambino Plus in this thread:

“I tend to leave it on max froth and medium heat for an auto cappuccino, and manually steam the rest of the time, but with it on medium settings for both I can get some passable latte art”

u/piercehead

Bear in mind that the automatic milk frother on the Philips LatteGo 3200 is a bit different. While this requires no learning curve, it can only steam milk to one temperature and texture (no chance of latte art with this machine I’m afraid).

The table below shows whether the type of milk frothing system that each machine featured in this article has:

Machine name Milk system
Breville Bambino Plus (best overall)
Automatic steam wand (can also be used manually)
Breville Bambino (best value option)
Manual steam wand
Breville Barista Touch (best for a group of beginners)
Automatic steam wand (can be used manually)
Philips 3200 (best if you want no learning curve)
Automatic milk frother (no manual milk steaming)

Portafilter to Drip Tray Clearance Height (Four Inches Minimum)

You ideally want your espresso machine to have at least four inches of cup clearance between its espresso spout and drip tray so you can fit a scale under your cup while brewing.

No matter what espresso machine you buy, you’ll need to play around a bit with your dose (quantity of ground coffee you use), yield (quantity of liquid espresso you produce), and grind size until you get an espresso shot you like the taste of. 

This is what people mean when they talk about “dialing in” your espresso machine.

You’ll need to brew with a scale under your cup to do this. 

If you have an automatic/super-automatic espresso machine (as I recommend) then you’ll only need to brew with a scale under your cup until you get to a shot you like, and then you can save those settings. 

This process is made a lot easier if you have sufficient space between the bottom of your portafilter (or espresso spout in the case of a super-automatic machine) and your drip tray.

My espresso cups sitting on my brewing scale measure 3.5 inches.

You, therefore, want at least 4 inches of cup clearance on your espresso machine to make this “dialing in” process as pain-free as possible.

If your espresso machine has less than 4 inches of cup clearance then you’ll need to remove its drip tray to do this which will make the process messier.

The table below shows the amount of cup clearance that each of the best espresso machines for beginners has:

Machine name Cup clearance
Breville Bambino Plus (best overall)
4.5 inches
Breville Bambino (best value option)
4.5 inches
Breville Barista Touch (best for a group of beginners)
3.9 inches
Philips 3200 (best if you want no learning curve)
6.9 inches

Heating System: Not as Important as You Might Think for a Beginner Espresso Machine

While your espresso machine’s heating system will affect its heat up and milk frothing time, no one heating system is essential for a beginner espresso machine.

Espresso machines tend to have one of three heating systems:

  • Thermoblock/thermocoil: An aluminum block surrounds your brewing water pipe, heating up your brewing water as it passes through it. 
  • Thermojet: This works in the same way as a thermoblock, except your brewing water pipe is surrounded by a thin conductive membrane rather than an aluminum block.
  • Single boiler: A tank sits inside your espresso machine and all the water in that tank is heated.
  • Dual boiler: This is the same as a single boiler except you have dedicated tanks for your brew head and steam wand.

The table below shows how each of these systems fares in terms of heat-up speed, transition time between heating and frothing milk, durability, and how they add to the cost of the machine:

Heating system Heat up speed Transition time Durability Cost
Thermoblock / thermocoil
10 – 30 seconds
10 – 30 seconds
Less durable
Affordable
Thermojet
3-5 seconds
3-5 seconds
Less durable
Mid price
Single boiler
30-60 seconds
10-30 seconds
More durable
Depends on size
Dual boiler
30-60 seconds
Instantly
More durable
Very expensive

The key takeaway here is that there is no best heating system for a beginner-friendly espresso machine.

They each have their advantages and disadvantages.

The best espresso machine for beginners all either have a thermojet or thermoblock heating system, but that’s just a coincidence.


The only type of heating system that I wouldn’t recommend to a beginner is a dual boiler. That’s because dual boiler machines start at around $1,000 (and most are far more expensive than that). 

A slightly faster transition between espresso brewing and milk steaming isn’t going to make much difference while you’re still learning these two skills.

The table below shows each of the best espresso machines for beginner’s heating system, heat up, and time to transition between brewing and steaming:

Machine name Heating system Heat up time Transition time
Breville Bambino Plus (best overall)
Thermojet
3 seconds
5 seconds
Breville Bambino (best value option)
Thermojet
3 seconds
5 seconds
Breville Barista Touch (best for a group of beginners)
Thermojet
3 seconds
5 seconds
Philips 3200 (best if you want no learning curve)
Thermoblock
30 seconds
20 seconds

Pump Pressure (Marketing BS)

While pump pressure is important in espresso brewing, every single manufacturer claims that their espresso maker has a 15 Bar/19 Bar pump, so it’s not a differentiating factor bet between machines. Ignore the manufacturer’s pump pressure claims when choosing your espresso machine.

Having a 15-bar (or 19-bar, or whatever) pump doesn’t guarantee that your espresso machine will make a good espresso. This refers to the pump’s maximum possible pressure.

For espresso making you want around 9 Bars of pressure (15 Bars of pressure during brewing would destroy your espresso puck and result in something undrinkable).

Your machine’s brewing pressure is dictated by its over-pressure valve setting, rather than its pump pressure. 

This information isn’t given by the manufacturer, but Breville espresso machines tend to have their over-pressure valves set correctly to consistently brew at 9 Bars.

One of the reasons why the Rancilio Silvia did not make the cut in this list is because its default brewing pressure is set too high and requires you to open up the machine and dial it down before you can get consistently good shots from it.

Best Espresso Machine for Beginners: Final Verdict

The best espresso machine for beginners is the Breville Bambino Plus. I’d recommend pairing it with the Baratza Virtuoso+ for an easy-to-use espresso setup that costs less than $800.

Best Overall
Breville Bambino Plus
$499.95
The Breville Bambino Plus can pull consistent shots and has an automatic steam wand for hands-free milk frothing.
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02/27/2024 09:11 pm GMT
Easiest to Use Espresso Grinder
Baratza Virtuoso+
$249.95

The Baratza Virtuoso+’s digital timer makes it easier to repeat your coffee dose than the Baratza Encore.

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02/27/2024 06:29 pm GMT

If you’d like to find out more about Breville’s offerings, then please see my roundup of the best Breville Espresso machines.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Should I Look For in a Beginner Espresso Machine?

A beginner espresso machine should have a PID to ensure temperature stability, have automatic shot volume dosing so you can pull consistent shots without always needing a scale, and should have at least 4 inches of cup clearance so you have enough room to dial in the machine properly.
You’d ideally want your first espresso machine to be affordable enough that you can pair it with a conical burr grinder for under $800.

Can You Make a Good Espresso With a Cheap Espresso Machine?

Yes you can, but cheap espresso machines do not allow you to make good espresso consistently due to their lack of temperature stability. 
With a cheap (sub $350) espresso machine, you can keep your dose, yield, grind size, and brew time the same and still end up with different-tasting espresso at the end because of its inconsistent brewing temperature.
I think that an espresso machine should be able to produce consistent shots to be worth the money, so I don’t generally recommend espresso machines under $350.

How Much Does a Good Espresso Machine Cost?

A good new espresso machine starts at around $350. 
Bear in mind that to get the best from a good espresso machine you need to pair it with an espresso grinder. These start at around $150, so the minimum you’d need for a good home espresso setup is around $500.

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