The UK has become a nation of coffee connoisseurs and anything other than fresh coffee simply won’t do – even when we are just making a quick brew at home. Luckily, you don’t need to have a wealth of barista training to make a great tasting coffee at home and the best espresso machines will even do most of the hard work for you. With more options available then ever before and with technology improving all the time, there has never been a better time to plunge in to the world of espresso making – and don’t worry – the amount of hard work on your part is completely up to you.
We are going to be looking at the best espresso machines in the UK and in order to do so we have drunk our way through over 100 cups of coffee and have tested over 20 different appliances. We have managed to whittle it down to 9 of the best espresso machines and have even managed to cover a range of budgets as well as all three of the different styles of espresso machines.
What Is An Espresso Machine?
Espresso machines are also commonly referred to as bean to cup coffee machines as that is essentially what they are. They are designed to take you through the whole process of obtaining drinkable coffee from beans or in some cases from ground coffee.
This results in the freshest possible coffee every time as opposed to instant coffee or pre-ground coffee. The latter being a good middle ground but the difference between pre-ground and freshly ground coffee is quite staggering and some would even describe it as life changing when they make the switch to fresh barista style coffee.
There are many different brands of espresso machines and we will be talking through our favourites. However, there are are three common distinctions when it comes to the style of machine and which one is right for you will come down to how hands on you want to be with your coffee as well as how much you are prepared to spend.
Espresso Machine Styles Explained
When it comes down to which style of appliance is best for you it really does pay to consider how you plan to use your machine and how it will fit in to your lifestyle. If you are looking for a quick fresh daily cup before you go to work (and find yourself pushed for time in a morning) then you may prefer machines that will make you a fresh cup at the touch of a button.
However those who want to take some time over their brew and get a bit more hands on or those who want to learn more about the art of coffee making might prefer something a little less automatic.
The three main types are fully automatic espresso machines, semi-automatic espresso machines and manual machines. Let’s take a look at the main differences between these so you can make an informed choice from our top 9 list below.
Manual Espresso Machines
Manual espresso machines offer the true artisan coffee shop experience in the comfort of your own home as they allow you to control and tweak every little element that goes in to making your coffee. There are those people that believe manual espresso machines are the only way to go if you want to achieve a truly authentic barista style coffee and whilst that may be a somewhat extreme view, for those that have the necessary skills required to create fresh coffee using a manual machine, it is hard to authentically match this with a fully automatic machine.
The downside that comes with manual machines is that they do require a certain level of skill to operate and so we only really recommend manual machines for those people who have a burning desire to learn (as well as having time to do so) or those that are looking to take up coffee making as a dedicated hobby. The rewards are well worth the effort in terms of the physical taste but also in relation to the sheer joy you will feel at making your own fresh coffee exactly the way you like it.
Manual machines are not for everyone, and the semi-automatic and fully automatic appliances do get very close to a fully manual machine – so really it comes down to your lifestyle whether to opt for one of these or one of the next two styles.
Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
As the name implies, semi-automatic machines are a good middle ground between manual and fully automatic appliances. They are the most common type of home espresso machines and most people who come here after searching for ‘best espresso machines uk’ are likely to be considering this type of machine for their home coffee making.
They are an excellent middle ground and don’t require any training to use. That being said, you will likely improve your coffee making skills over time as you learn how to better adjust your process and how you control the variables that these kinds of appliances allow you to alter. Typically, semi-automatic machines will allow you to control the amount of water used, change how much coffee you use and allow you to tamp the coffee grinds to the appropriate pressure.
Semi-automatic machines tend to be a little bit cheaper than their fully automatic siblings although many manufacturers are starting to turn more towards fully auto espresso machines as busy lifestyles dictate this as is evidenced through consumer buying behaviour.
Fully Automatic Espresso Machines
As you might have guessed by now, fully automatic machines take care of pretty much everything for you. These true bean-to-cup models allow you to simply make a fresh coffee at the touch of a button. The more expensive models will still allow you to create different types of coffee and change various settings to give you exactly the drink you crave but the whole process is done for you.
One element that is important to consider with fully automatic machines is the milk. The better machines will allow you to control the amount of steam that is output from the steam wand and this is important to have full control over the drinks you make – meaning you will be making lattes and cappuccinos with ease.
9 Best Espresso Machines In The UK
Having drunk copious amounts of coffee (most of which was great so it was hardly a traumatic experience) and having unboxed and re-boxed over 20 different coffee machines, we have concluded that the following are our top 9 espresso machines. There should be something for everyone here irrespective of budget or experience level.
Sage Barista Express
Best Budget Semi-Automatic Machine
Sage are one of the leading players when it comes to home espresso machines and the Barista Express is actually their entry level model – but don’t let the cheaper price tag put you off as this machine punches well above its weight and as a semi-automatic model it is an ideal choice whether you are a complete novice or an experienced barista.
One aspect that is important to consider when choosing a coffee machine for home kitchens is the amount of surface area it requires. The footprint of the Barista Express is relatively compact in comparison to other models and takes up just 330mm (w) x 300mm (d) of surface space and sits at a height of 400mm.
Despite its diminutive appearance, the Barista Express from Sage is a fully operational bean to cup machine and is ideal for making espressos as well as milk based coffee drinks including cappuccinos and lattes. It has a 2 litre water tank which means you won’t need to refill the tank too often, it operates at a power level of 1850 watts and has a 15 bar water pressure.
The Barista Express can take care of all the hard work for you but also provides a good level of control for the user with the option to control the dose as well as coming with a razor dose trimming tool for even greater precision.
The Barista Express has an integrated grinder which might lead you to think it is a full automatic machine, but it does still require some basic knowledge and whilst it is quick and easy to start making good coffee with this machine, to get truly great coffee will require a little more effort on the users part. We think this is a good thing as everyone likes their coffee slightly differently so having that extra bit of control (with a shallow learning curve) shouldn’t really be much of a barrier for most. Sage have pitched this machine from beginner to advanced users and it really does suit all.
The built in grinder has 16 settings and although this is less than Sage’s more expensive models it is more than sufficient for all but the most ardent of coffee drinkers. The bean dispenser can hold 250g of coffee beans which is a decent amount and the conical burr grinder does an exceptional job of grinding.
There is a hot water and steam wand which makes it easy to create coffee shop style milky coffees when creating perfect micro-foam milk texturing. The machine takes care of temperature control and makes the coffee at the perfect temperature so the coffee is not scorched at 100 degrees or more. There is a separate temperature controlled milk jug which again makes it ideal for controlling every aspect of your brew.
Sage The Oracle
Overall best semi-automatic espresso machine
There are two versions of The Oracle by Sage, one of which is a touch screen variant (and is aptly named The Oracle Touch) and the other is the standard model and that’s the version we are talking about here. We did indeed test both but we prefer the semi-automatic nature of the standard version and it’s not easy to justify the additional £500 that the touch screen version costs.
The Oracle is a big step up from the Barista Express and this is of course reflected in the price. Although The Oracle is not what we would consider a cheap espresso machine, it does offer excellent value for money when you consider exactly what you are getting. Additionally, when most coffee drinkers work out their weekly or monthly spend on coffee pods or drinks from coffee shops, it soon becomes apparent that as a long term investment a top quality coffee machine is well worth the initial spend.
This machine is ideal for all levels of users and is about as close to being a fully automatic espresso maker as you can get without taking away some level of autonomy. The Oracle takes care of the grunt work with a 3 part temperature control system that heats the water to within a single degree of accuracy as it targets the optimal 93 degree centigrade temperature and ensures you never end up with scorched coffee or coffee that isn’t hot enough. This temperature control is key to producing the best quality coffee possible.
You will find dual stainless steel boilers and both benefit from the PID digitally controlled temperature system. In short, this means you can make one or two cups of coffee at a time and can be sure the temperature is spot on each time.
The machine takes care of the coffee bean grinding and features a conical burr grinder with automatic tamp to get the perfect dose each time. The automatic milk steamer will create the perfect micro-foam milk dependent on how you want it with the controls on the front of the machine very intuitive to use for all settings. The steamer will also self clean itself which leaves you free to enjoy the drinking of your coffee rather than worrying about cleaning the machine.
As you might expect, this machine is a little larger than the Express version but it is sure to make a statement in any kitchen. In terms of worktop space you will need at least 373mm (w) x 368mm (d) and it sits at a height of 447mm. It can hold 280g of beans and the water tank can hold 2.5 litres of water – both being a little more than the entry level model. However, it is important to state that this machine is not about water tank size or bean capacity (or indeed coffee making speed), it is all about the overall quality of coffee that you get as a result of using it – and that is something that this machine excels at – the coffee is simply divine.
If you are looking for an espresso machine that creates the out and out best coffee and gives you some control as part of the process then in our experience the Oracle is it. The only problem with this appliance is that your coffee intake may well go up considerably as a result of buying it.
De’Longhi Magnifica S
Best Budget Automatic Espresso Machine
De’Longhi are our second most featured brand for espresso machines and this is the first fully automatic machine to feature on our list. The Magnifica S is an ideal choice for anyone who is either new to the world of coffee machines or who wants a simple no-fuss machine that isn’t going to break the bank.
In fact, the De’Longhi Magnifica S is perhaps the most budget friendly of all the machines that made our top 9 list and is ideal for making great coffee from beans or from ready ground coffee in a quick and easy way.
Some people will tell you not to bother with cheaper espresso machines (and by cheaper we mean sub £350) and for the most part that is true. But this model sits right around that threshold at the time of writing and delivers way more than its price tag would suggest.
Aside from the simple one-touch operation there are a few features that really help the Magnifica S to stand out. It has a dual cup filler so you can make two cups of coffee at the same time or you can of course select one cup mode for a single fill.
There is a built in coffee bean grinder with the Magnifica S and this is badged as being a silent grinder. We found it to make a very small amount of noise but when compared to other models it is exceptionally quiet and perhaps it was the beans that we were using that meant it wasn’t silent. For anyone looking to make a cup of coffee early in the morning without waking the whole house up can do so with this machine – you can also opt to make coffee from a ready ground blend if you prefer.
The grinder has 13 settings in total and it does a very good job of grinding fresh beans for a very good cup of coffee.
The Magnifica S doesn’t have a huge footprint but isn’t what we would describe as compact either. In terms of surface space you will need 238mm (w) x 430mm (d) to house this machine and it is 351mm tall.
The capacity of the bean hopper is 200g which is a little below average and the same can be said for the water tank which holds 1.8 litres. These are small concessions to make considering the price saving when compared to other models.
There is a steam wand with manual control for the steam output and this can be used to create a variety of different coffee types including cappuccinos and lattes. This does take a little bit of getting used to and means there is some level of input you need make when making your coffee – this will suit most casual users very well though.
All in all, it is hard to fault this machine and there are thousands of user reviews to make testament as to the overall coffee quality and the longevity of this machine and so for anyone looking for a automatic bean to cup espresso machine on a budget simply cannot go wrong here.
De’Longhi Dedica Style
Best Traditional Barista Pump
The De’Longhi Dedica Style is the second De’Longhi appliance to feature on our list but it couldn’t be further from the Magnifica in its style and in actual fact it is further from any of the other machines on this list. This is a traditional barista pump style coffee maker but it also has some semi-automated functions that make it accessible to all.
The one major difference between this machine and others listed here is that it does not have a built in coffee grinder so you couldn’t class this as a bean to cup machine. You can of course grind your beans yourself and go down that route or you can opt for pre-ground coffee. It even accepts coffee pods if you really want to make things easy on yourself but there will be a significant quality difference if you do this.
This is by far and away the cheapest option out of all 9 that made our best espresso machine list (with the exception of the Swan Pump) but for the reasons listed above it is probably unfair to directly compare it to some of the models that cost upwards of £1500 when this costs around 15% of that. However, what we can say is that in its own right, the Dedica Style performs very well and has a few neat functions that set it apart from others in its class.
One area in which this machine excels is its footprint. At less than 15cm in width it is the most compact of all those on this list. Not only that, but it packs a lot in to its small package. The Dedica Style is perfect for those who wish to have more control over the coffee they make and it lets you control everything from the temperature of the water to the length as well as tamping the coffee.
With 15 bar of pressure, this machine has more than enough oomph to create the perfect cup and you will find the milk frother allows you to create perfect coffee shop style coffee. There is a cappuccino setting on the steam wand itself which makes things easier for the less experienced baristas.
Overall, this is a top quality machine and if you can live with grinding your own coffee beans or using ready ground coffee (we prefer the former) then this is a top quality option – especially for those on a tight budget or tight on space.
Melitta Purista Automatic Espresso Machine
Best Slimline Automatic Espresso Machine
The Melitta Purista is a fully automatic appliance that is budget friendly, makes excellent coffee and also has a relatively small footprint. In fact, the Purista sits at just 200mm in width and has a depth of 455mm meaning it will sit perfectly on most kitchen worktops without taking up a whole lot of space.
The Purista has a lot more going for it than just its size though and is a true bean to cup machine with one of the quietest grinders of all the models we tested. It is the entry level model from Melitta but it impressed us so much that we just had to include it in our top 9.
The coffee that the Purista makes is fully automated and is done so at the touch of a button. It is capable of making two cups of coffee at a time if you need it to and it has 3 settings to change the intensity of the coffee as well as a couple of pre-set programmes for speciality coffee.
This model (as the name suggests) is really for the coffee purists as it only makes espressos and black coffee. We wouldn’t really recommend this machine for those who like milky coffees such as cappuccinos or lattes as this isn’t the target market – but for anyone looking for a high quality espresso making machine this is top notch.
There are five grinding modes for the beans and it has a 1.2 litre capacity for water which should be enough to keep you going for a good few days without needing to refill.
There are no frills with this machine, it just simply makes great coffee at a great price. The only downside of this machine is that it does get through a fair few coffee beans when compared to other models so you should factor this in if you a making a decision based on price as this can be quite costly to run when compared to other models such as the Sage Barista Express.
Krups Evidence Automatic Espresso Maker
Best For Those Who Want The Milk Taken Care Of By The Machine
Krups are one of the big players in the coffee machine world and their Evidence Automatic Espresso Maker is our favourite model of theirs. It is a fully automatic bean to cup espresso maker that has a range of features all designed to make your coffee making life easier.
The Krups Evidence can make two cups of coffee at a time and in addition to making standard espresso shots it can make a range of black coffees (7 in total) and 5 different milky coffees. It even has three different water temperature settings to make three different types of tea!
For those who enjoy their milky coffee this model features a handy external milk container that then feeds in to the machine which handles all of the milk preparation for you. It then has a self cleaning mode so you don’t need to worry about that side of things.
One of the things that tends to put people off when it comes to fully automatic espresso machines is the lack of options you have. This is not the case with the Krups model as you get the 15 programmed modes and can even save your favourites. The OLED display is intuitive which makes it easy to use and even if you have 4 or 5 different coffee drinkers in your home that all have different preferences it is easy to cater for all.
The bean dispenser can hold up to 260g of beans and the operation of this is quicker than other models although it is not necessarily quiet. The water tank holds 2.3 litres of water which is impressive considering this machine only takes up 240mm (w) x 372mm (D) of surface space. The milk container can hold up to 500ml of milk.
We found the coffee that the Krups Evidence produced to be on a par with any of the other machines and when using good quality coffee beans it was at least equal to popular high street coffee shop drinks. This is not a cheap model, but you are getting a lot of machine for your money and a super simple coffee making experience day after day.
Swan Pump Espresso Coffee Machine
Best Cheap Espresso Machine
The Swan Pump traditional espresso machine is an affordable option for anyone looking to test out their barista skills in their own home. It is not the easiest to use but after a few goes you soon get the hang of things and for anyone looking to make coffee their hobby or who has time to spend making their coffee then this is a great option.
The Swan Pump is available in 5 different colours and has a small footprint which makes it an ideal choice to go with most kitchen designs. It can make espressos as well as milky coffees as it comes with a milk frother which will again allow you to hone your barista skills.
There is no built in grinder so like the Dedica Style you will need to grind your own beans if you want truly fresh coffee or you can use ready ground coffee or pods if you so wish.
The pressure of the water heater is up to 15 bar and this can be controlled to ensure you get the perfect coffee each and every time. There is a 1.2 litre water tank which is decent for the size of the machine and you can even make two coffees at once if you wish.
This is a reasonably priced machine that is at the low end of the market so you can’t expect miracles – but if you can grind your own coffee then this makes a great cup and it looks just the part too.
The Barista Touch By Sage
Best Touch Screen Espresso Machine
The Barista Touch provides a good middle ground between the Sage Barista Express and The Oracle. It is pretty much a fully automatic espresso machine but it does provide some room for manual control too. This machine has all the hallmarks of what makes the other two Sage machines brilliant but has the added functionality that comes with a touch screen device.
Now of course, when you bring a touch screen in to the mix you are going to lose some of the style that comes with a traditional looking machine, but the Barista Touch does a pretty good job of blending the old and the new technology pretty seamlessly and if you are concerned about the aesthetics of a touch screen device you needn’t be – as the Barista Touch’s display is pretty discreet.
What you gain from the screen is pretty considerable though and aside from a great method of control you gain the ability to swipe across to quickly select your drink of choice with everything from the bean grinding to the milk preparation taken care of. What we love about this machine is that you have the ability to save up to 6 drink profiles so you can quickly choose your favourite drink with the exact strength and other permutations ready programmed. This is ideal for larger families or for anyone who needs to be able to quickly make their drinks on the go.
The technology behind the mechanics of the machine are what we have come to expect from Sage with PID temperature controlled water creating the perfect coffee every time. The steam wand will create the perfect milk automatically as part of the programme you select but you will need to physically hold it in place when using it. This is the perfect balance for us between fully automatic and semi-automatic as you can still use the steam wand manually if you prefer.
The Barista Touch can hold 2 litres of water in its tank and the bean hopper can hold 250g of beans. In terms of space, you will need just over 322mm x 394mm of surface space which means although this isn’t a compact machine it is also not a space hogger.
All in all, this is a top machine that balances affordability with usability and ultimately it creates excellent coffee.
Ariete 1313 Metal Espresso Machine
Good Budget Friendly Semi-Automatic Option
The Ariete 1313 Espresso Machine is a budget friendly option and is pretty much the cheapest semi-automatic appliance that we included in our top 9 list. Despite its more palatable price tag it has some impressive features and makes really good coffee. If you wanted to make a direct comparison then this is more akin to the Sage Barista Express and although there is a slight difference in the overall quality of build, the components used and the coffee that it produces, if you are on a really tight budget then this machine will do the trick.
The Ariete has some nifty additional features such as the cup warming plate located on top of the machine which is pretty handy for, well you know, warming cups! The integrated bean grinder has 11 different settings which allows you to achieve the style of ground coffee that suits you and the machine can make one or two cups at a time – although not simultaneously. You will need to replace the cup once the first one is filled.
There is a steam wand that is ideal for creating the perfect micro-foam milk and we found this to work well although some users have reported issues with this. The bean hopper holds 200g of beans which is slightly below average but is still adequate and the water tank holds an impressive 2 litres.
Like most of these machines, the Ariete has a water pressure of 15 bar and this is ideal for making high quality coffee. There is also a hot water dispenser if you want to use it to make other hot drinks. If you are really in a rush you can even use coffee pods with this machine which is another nice touch.
The Ariete is not the most exciting espresso machine in the world but it does a good job at a good price and looks pretty decent too. All in all, a good buy.