Having an espresso machine in your home is a luxury that was unimaginable 10 years ago unless you were incredibly wealthy. As technology has caught up with demand, more and more people have been able to afford one, but there was still one problem – they were often huge machines that took up a lot of space in your kitchen.
That’s not the case anymore though – there is now a huge range of small espresso machines available in the UK. In fact, there are so many that it can be difficult to know which one is the best one for you and your kitchen.
Don’t worry though, because that’s where we come in. We have done the hard work for you, and in this article, we will take a quick look at what you can expect from a small espresso machine, before highlighting the best small espresso machines on the market. We are confident that your next espresso machine is on our list.
With all that in mind, let’s take a look at the best small espresso machines available today:
Nespresso Creatista Plus
It seems appropriate to kick off our list of best small espresso machines with a product from Nespresso – surely the kings of the domestic coffee industry. The Swiss company, which is part of the Nestle group, has been at the forefront of innovation and growth in the coffee market for decades – particularly when it comes to pod coffees.
The Creatista Plus is the first of three Nespresso machines that will feature on our list, and represents their ‘high-end’ entry. This is one of the most expensive machines that we will feature today – does it justify the price?
Obviously, it makes a great espresso – the absolute minimum you would expect from a machine on this list. But there is so much more. First of all there is a three-second heat up time – as soon as you turn on the machine, you can load your pod and you are good to go. No hanging around.
You will have noticed straight away the long milk steam wand on the right-hand side of the machine. This is fully automatic and will prepare your milk to the exact texture (8 different options) and temperature (11 different options) to suit whichever drink you are making. All you need to do is place your milk jug, with milk in, under the wand.
All of that happens at the touch of a button as well – all you need to do is load in your capsule and select one of these drinks – Ristretto, Espresso, Lungo, Cappuccino, Café Latte, Latte Macchiato or Flat White. Then the machine will kick into life and everything happens. Your espresso will be poured into your cup, while the milk is being frothed. All you need to do is then pour the milk into your cup – giving you the opportunity to create amazing latte art, if that is something you’d like to try.
This machine is an absolute pleasure to use, and creates some fantastic coffees with very little effort on your part. If you like to drink great coffee, but prefer it when the machine does the majority of the work, then this could be the machine for you. If the price is within your budget, there isn’t much I can say to put you off – it’s wonderful.back to menu ↑
Sage Bambino Plus
Next up we have another high-end product, this time from Sage. This is a company that has established itself as one of the most highly regarded kitchen appliance companies in Europe. Owned by the Breville group, Sage was originally launched in the UK in association with chef Heston Blumenthal, which emphasises their commitment to quality and innovation.
The Bambino Plus is another example of a machine that makes great coffee very simply. This time though, it is more of a traditional espresso machine, in that it uses fresh ground coffee, rather than pods.
They sell it as ‘like a commercial machine’ and that is where they put their emphasis – giving you the same sort of experience as you would get using a machine in a coffee shop, but on a much smaller scale.
It measures just 32×19.5x31cm and weighs just 4.9kg, so it definitely passes the test when it comes to fulfilling the ‘small espresso machine’ criteria. Like the Creatista above, it also has a heating system that is ready to be used in just 3 seconds, so there is very little waiting time when you are ready to make a coffee.
Some people are put off traditional coffee machines because they think that you have to be a trained barista in order to use them – that could not be further from the truth when it comes to the Bambino Plus.
All you need to do is fill up the portafilter with the required amount of coffee (19-22g should do it), and tamp it down. Then all you need to do is choose how many shots you would like – one or two (they will both be poured into the same cup) and press the corresponding button. If you would like milk with your coffee, while your coffee is pouring you can place your milk jug under the steam wand, and press the milk button – adjusting the foam and temperature settings as required.
That’s it – everything is automatic from there, so you’ll just need to add the milk to the coffee once everything has been prepared.
There are fewer options when it comes to milk texture and temperature than there are with the Creatista above, but that may be preferable to some people – more choice could just lead to more things that you can get wrong!
The best thing is that the coffee is delicious. They employ a low-pressure pre-infusion technique which means that the water passes through the coffee quite slowly, to begin with, meaning there is a smooth, even extraction and as a result, a more flavoursome coffee.
As another one of the most expensive products on our list, you need to make sure that you will get the most out of this before you decide to buy it – but as a small espresso machine that makes delicious, fresh coffee and automatically froths milk, this machine takes some beating.back to menu ↑
Another Nespresso machine now, this one is something a little bit different, and at a much lower price than the other two that we have looked at so far – the Essenza.
This machine, made by German manufacturer Krups but utilising Nespresso pods and technology, is the epitome of a small espresso machine. Measuring just 8.4cm wide, this would fit on almost any kitchen counter without any bother.
With the small size, and the small price, you are obviously not going to have all of the features of the bigger and more expensive espresso machines. The big thing that is missing compared to the other machines that we have looked at so far is a milk frother.
This won’t be a problem for some people, particularly those that prefer black coffee anyway. For everyone else, you can always buy a separate milk frother, perhaps if you weren’t going to use it every day and would rather keep it stored away than take up space on the counter.
What it does allow you to do is to make two different sizes of coffee, either espresso or lungo, and the results are really good. You get a delicious drink with a thick and creamy crema on top.
It is also low on power consumption and has an eco-mode which kicks in after two minutes, and the machine will turn itself off after 9 minutes of inactivity. This really won’t cost you much to run.
As with most pod coffee machines, the results only tend to be as good as the pods that you put into them, so it is usually worth spending that little bit extra there – you will be able to taste the difference.
All in all, the biggest selling point is its size – it is tiny. It is perfect for a small kitchen, perhaps in a small flat, student house or an office. It won’t take up much space, and it will produce great coffee every single time – such is the nature of a pod coffee machine.
At this price, it is a great option, and could even work as a second coffee machine if you already have, say, a filter coffee machine and wanted another option to experiment with.back to menu ↑
Smeg Espresso Maker
Back up to the higher end of the price market now with this effort from Smeg. These Italian giants of the home appliance world have long been held in the highest regard for their luxury kitchen appliances – most notably their fridges.
It can be no surprise that a Smeg machine features on this list. First of all, they are Italian – the home of the espresso. Then you have the Smeg ethos – combing the retro with the modern, which just seems to fit perfectly with the domestic espresso market.
To emphasise that point, this is a traditional pump espresso machine, rather than a pod coffee machine. It is the machine that is more like a commercial espresso machine than any of the others that we have looked at so far – it puts you in full control of your drink.
There is a stop flow function that allows you to control exactly how long your coffee is – all you need to do is select either one shot or two shots, and then you do the rest.
Similarly, you can choose to steam or froth the milk, and then you control the density and temperature. This takes a little bit of practice, but once you master the technique you will be able to create your perfect coffee every time. Fresh coffee and fresh milk, just how you like it.
There is an indicator on the machine for when you need to descale, which is very helpful and means you can get to the problem before it starts to impact on the taste of your drink. There is also an indicator for when you are running low on water.
The Smeg Espresso Maker is excellent at making coffee and puts the onus on you to make it just how you like it. I would say the biggest selling point of it though is the way it looks. It is a fantastic looking machine that really just oozes style and class. Measuring just 15.5x33x33cm as well means that it will fit nicely into most kitchens, and instantly become the centrepiece!
The price may put people off, as will the lack of automation, but this is perfect for people that want to perfect their barista skills while owning a truly beautiful machine.back to menu ↑
From one of the most expensive small espresso machines to one of the cheapest small espresso machines now as we look at this dinky little effort from Salter. The Salter name has been around since the mid-1700s, starting out making scales in the West Midlands. These days they make all kinds of kitchen equipment and proudly boast that they are the UK’s oldest houseware brand.
First of all we should cover the price – this is around a tenth of the price of some of the other espresso machines that we have been looking at, which is important to keep in mind as we go through its features.
It is more in line with the traditional espresso makers, rather than the pod machines, so it uses fresh coffee grounds as opposed to pods. To make an espresso, you simply load the portafilter with coffee, lock it into position and turn the dial on the side of the machine to the ‘coffee’ setting.
Your drink is poured into a nice little glass carafe, with markings there to show you how many cups’ worth of coffee you have made – up to 4 cups. It uses 5 bar pressure, which is less than most other espresso makers that usually have a minimum of 9. The result is that you get a coffee that is somewhere between a filter and a true espresso.
The milk frother on the side of the machine is great – again controlled by the dial on the side. It can froth or steam your milk, and it is up to you to control and stretch the milk – again, this takes a little practice, but it is well worth your time to perfect your technique.
You can make some great drinks with this machine, and measuring just 16.5×23.5x30cm, it is a neat little machine that will fit in to your kitchen comfortably.
It is the price, though, that makes this so appealing. It is one of the cheapest traditional espresso machines that I have ever come across, and it does an admirable job. Perfect for student houses or as an extra little machine to complement another. The milk frother is worth the money alone.back to menu ↑
De’Longhi Dedica Style
Our penultimate small espresso machine comes from another Italian company, this time coffee giants De’Longhi, who have been making quality coffee products for over 100 years.
The Dedica is priced in the middle of the range of prices from the machines that we have looked at today, and it is another traditional espresso maker – it uses fresh coffee grounds, but is also compatible with ESE pods.
The first thing to note is that it looks great. Maybe not of ‘Smeg’ levels of attractiveness, but it does look really stylish – sort of what you would hope and expect from a traditional espresso maker.
There is substance to that style though – the Thermoblock technology means that your water is heated to the correct temperature in seconds. Once it is loaded with coffee, you have the option of one or two-shot espressos, which you activate at the touch of a button. With the up to 15 bar pressure, you have more than enough here to pour perfect espressos every time.
There is an adjustable drip tray, which means you can fit taller cups and glasses under the spout without having to compromise on size – this is such a compact little machine, but that does not limit its performance.
The milk frother is manual, but it also is incredibly easy to use – with Cappuccino or Hot Milk settings, it is easy to navigate, but you remain in full control over the texture and temperature of your milk.
The result is that you get fantastic coffees, just how you like them.
It is also incredibly easy to maintain with the drip tray, cup-filters and some of the internal parts easily removable for cleaning, as well as having a manual descaling system.
The Dedica is a great mid-range espresso machine – it does everything you could want, it looks nice and won’t break the bank. Use this as your base, and see if you can beat it – I’m not sure you will.back to menu ↑
Nespresso Vertuo Plus
We’ll finish this list of the best small espresso machines how we started it – with a Nespresso machine. This one, the Vertuo Plus, is made by French kitchen appliance producers Magimix, who are best known for their food processors but have certainly made their mark on the domestic coffee market recently.
This is another pod coffee machine, obviously, but this one is only compatible with the Vertuo pods. These are larger than the standard Nespresso pods, and produce some fantastic results. They use a patented ‘Centrofusion’ technology, which spins the coffee around while it is being brewed, leading to a fuller extraction and a deeper flavour.
There are four cup sizes to choose from: Classic Coffee, Gran Lungo, Double Espresso and Single Espresso. This will be dictated by which pod you are using, as they will all come with a recommended size. The clever thing about this machine is that it will instantly recognise which pod it is, and set the brewing parameters accordingly.
When it comes to quality coffee from a pod, made quickly and simply, you will do well to find a machine that performs better than this. There isn’t a way to froth milk, so that should be considered if you prefer to drink milky coffees, but for a quality black coffee, this produces fantastic results.
This is priced quite reasonably as well, so should be worth considering if you are in the market for a pod coffee machine that makes wonderful espressos.
Small Espresso Machines – The Concessions
Obviously, when you opt for a small espresso machine over a regular espresso machine, you are going to have to compromise a little on its functionality and performance. We thought it would be helpful to list a few things that you can expect from a small espresso machine vs a regular espresso machine.
Smaller water tank
This is an obvious one, but almost all small espresso machines will have a smaller capacity for water than bigger ones. The only real drawback of this is that you will have to fill it up more regularly, so it is a good idea to look at how accessible a water tank is on the smaller ones.
One shot at a time
One of the biggest advantages of a larger espresso machine is the ability to make two shots of espresso at once. This won’t be possible with small espresso machines – there simply won’t be space. If you are making lots of drinks at the same time, this will slow you down, but if you only tend to make a couple of coffees, you won’t really notice.
Each one will differ, but a small espresso machine is unlikely to be all-singing-all-dancing. You will have to compromise on a milk frother, an inbuilt grinder, whether you can use fresh coffee grounds or the amount of automated drinks options. It is important to think about which features you would prioritise with a small espresso machine because it is unlikely that you’ll get all of them.
In the list above we think we have provided something for everyone. There is a huge range in terms of budget, from some of the most expensive espresso machines on the market to some of the cheapest. With a range of options you can have as much control over your drink as you would like, from the controlling exact strength and length of your espresso and the density of your milk to just pressing a button and letting the machine do the rest.
What you need to decide is what you want to get out of your small espresso machine, and how much you are going to use it. If this is to supplement another coffee machine, then it is probably harder to justify a big outlay, but if this is going to be used every day, then it is probably worth spending that little bit more to ensure you get the best results.
Use this list as your guide though – we are certain you will be happy with your choice if you do.