If you love the taste of a good espresso, chances are you’ve considered buying a machine to make your own at home – in our guide to the best Italian espresso machines, we may be able to help you find one that suits you.
Italy is known for its excellent coffee, popularizing the use of Moka pots to brew coffee at home in the 1950’s. Now, people all over the world buy coffee from Italy, because they want good-quality coffee every time – and you can find Italian coffee in just about every grocery store. Many companies have now invested in creating at-home coffee machines as well as professional-grade machines for cafes and restaurants.
If you want to save some money on your daily takeout coffee trips, you might want to invest in an espresso machine for your home. There are many different types to choose from, even if you’re on a smaller budget. If you want creative control over your coffee, you can find machines that allow you to customize each stage of the process. Or, you might prefer a machine that does everything for you at the press of a button, or even a small stovetop coffee maker to save space in your kitchen.
We’ll take a look at some of the best Italian espresso machines out there in detail, so you can find the right one for your home. Firstly, let’s have a quick overview of each one.
Best Italian Espresso Machines – an Overview
|Model||Size||Color Options||Coffee Types||Water Capacity|
|Bialetti 06800 Express Moka Pot||4 x 4 x 9in||Stainless Steel, Red||Any type (grounds)||Up to 12 cups|
|Delonghi ESAM3300||17 x 13 x 18in||Stainless Steel||Single/Double Espresso, Cappuccino, Latte, Hot Water, Americano (beans or grounds)||60oz (water) 8.8oz (beans)|
|Delonghi EC680M||13 x 5.9 x 12in||Stainless Steel, Black, Red||Single/Double Espresso, Cappuccino, Latte||33oz|
|Gaggia RI9380/46||9.5 x 8 x 14.2in||Stainless Steel||Single/Double Espresso, Cappuccino, Latte, Americano||72oz|
|Illy Francis Francis X7.1 Iperespresso Machine||11.4 x 10.2 x 12.6in||Red, Black, Stainless Steel||Espresso, Cappuccino, Café Latte, Lungo||40oz|
What Should I Look for in an Espresso Machine?
There are a few things you might want to look for when buying an espresso machine.
Manual or Automatic (or Something In-Between?)
You can choose between different types of espresso machines. Manual espresso machines (otherwise known as lever machines) give you a lot of control over elements like water pressure, full time, and temperature.
This allows you to get creative with your espresso making. They’re on the cheaper end of the price scale, compared to fully automatic machines. However, they do require a bit more work.
Super-automatic espresso machines are better if you don’t feel the need to experiment with your coffee – if you’re after a good-tasting coffee without much hassle, these are the better option for you.
The prices vary, but they tend to be more expensive than manual options – they can go up to $2,000 (but that is the most expensive option available).
Fully automatic machines give you a bit more control over certain things, like the pressure of the water, but do most of the work for you, so they’re a good in-between option.
Semi-automatic machines (yes, these are different than super or fully automatic machines!) give you much more control but involve much more work on your part (you’ll have to grind the beans, attach filters, etc).
Capsule espresso machines use small capsules and a water tank to make a fresh espresso. They’re cheaper than some of the other models, but the capsules themselves can add up. You’ve obviously got the environmental impact of the pods to think about, too, although some manufacturers have a special recycling program for them.
Stovetop machines work, as expected, on the stovetop. However, they’re less predictable – you’re much more likely to ruin a coffee on a stovetop than you would for a dedicated machine. They are cheaper, however, so if you can master the art of stovetop espresso-making, you could save a bit of money.
What Coffee do You Want to Make?
Obviously, if you’re buying an espresso machine, you’ll probably want to make some decent espressos. However, most machines can make more than just one type of coffee. Many espresso machines make other drinks too, including cappuccinos, lattes, macchiatos, mochas, and more. Some machines are also multi-purpose and can heat water for hot chocolate and tea.
Espresso machines vary in shape and size. If you’ve got a particular space you want to put it, it’s always a good idea to check the measurements first. Plus, make sure to check the length of the cord, so you know it will reach the outlet you want to use.
There are lots of colours and styles available – you should be able to find one to suit your kitchen easily. Some coffee machines are created by designers or architects, so they look beautiful as well as serving your all-important morning coffee.
Some machines are built to last for longer than others. Your average espresso machine designed for the home can be expected to last a good couple of years before breaking down, but if you’re using it in a kitchen at work, you might want to look for something that’s going to last a little longer – professional-grade models are good for this.
Some companies offer good warranties for their espresso machines – take a look at the manufacturer’s website to check.
Most espresso machines hold enough water in their tank to make 8 cups of espresso. That’s usually plenty for one day for most people! Professional grade machines may be able to connect to a water source, but most home machines are designed to be refilled using a jug of water.
Do you want to be able to program your machine to come on at a certain time? This is a great feature if you want to wake up to a freshly brewed coffee in the mornings. You might have to pay extra for this, but you might decide the convenience is worth it.
Also, consider how easy it will be to clean. Some are more fiddly than others, so if that puts you off, choose a model that reviewers say is easy to keep clean.
Some machines require you to buy certain cups to fit. Others come with an adjustable shelf, so you can use your own cups and mugs without having to buy new ones.
You may prefer to buy from a well-known Italian brand – this is especially useful if you want to use a certain type of capsule coffee, as some coffee machines are brand-exclusive and don’t allow you to use a different type of capsule. Here’s an overview of some of the best Italian brands:
Based in Treviso, Delonghi manufacture many small appliances. They make coffee machines, filter coffee, grinders, and coffee kits.
Illy is based in Trieste. They are a specialist coffee company, producing coffee machines, coffee, and accessories. They even have a coffee subscription service.
Based in Robecco sul Naviglio, Gaggia is a company that makes espresso and cappuccino machines and other small kitchen appliances.
Bialetti creates coffee machines and cookware. They specialize in stovetop coffee makers.
Bialetti 06800 Express Moka Pot – Best Stovetop Espresso Maker
If you want to perfect the quiet ritual of making an espresso on the stovetop, this is a good choice. This model looks nice in stainless steel, with an angular design and the Bialetti mascot on the front.
It comes in a variety of sizes – 1-cup, 3-cup, 6-cup, 9-cup, and 12-cup. Designed to create rich, strong coffee, this model is made in Italy and comes with a generous two-year warranty. It has a patented safety valve and takes less than five minutes to brew – so you can still get coffee quickly.
To use it, you add water, add the ground coffee (without tamping), tightly screw the upper part of the pot onto the base, and then put it on the stove. When it begins to gurgle and coffee starts to bubble out of the center post, you know it’s ready to go. You can then remove it from the stove, give it a stir, and then pour it out.
You can use different types of coffee in a Moka pot. The espressos you make may not be as strong as other types of coffee machine, so it might not give you the same energy boost as a coffee-shop espresso. Users say it is durable, and if you can get it right, it can last for years. You can check the latest price for it here.
- Type: Stovetop
- Coffee type: Coffee grounds – any type of coffee
- Size: 4 x 4 x 9in (6-cup version)
- Capacity: 1-cup – 12-cup
- Versatile – can make different types of coffee
- Comes in a variety of sizes
- Two-year warranty included
- Easy to burn coffee by mistake
- Espressos are not as strong as other machines
Delonghi ESAM3300 Super Automatic Espresso Machine – Best Semi-Automatic Machine
A super-automatic machine takes care of every stage of the espresso-making process for you, and this model is no exception. It’s on the pricey side, and it’s pretty big, but it looks professional, with a stainless-steel finish.
It has a ‘cappuccino system’ frother – this mixes steam and milk to create the kind of rich froth you get in coffee shops. It grinds beans instantly using their ‘direct-to-brew’ system, and the grinder has 13 settings that you can adjust. Or, you can use pre-ground beans if you prefer in the second chamber.
This machine is designed to create consistent espressos each time – it automatically brews to the perfect temperature, and you can even customize the settings so you can keep making your espressos exactly the way you like them – the machine will remember everything from espresso strength to the size of beverage you prefer.
You can adjust the spigot length, meaning you can use different cup sizes, plus it has a cup warmer. The brew unit is extractable, meaning you can remove it for easier cleaning.
Users generally praise how easy this machine is to use, finding it to be durable and long-lasting, and they enjoy the luxurious extras (like the cup warmer and customizable settings). They do say that sometimes beans can get stuck in the machine, so that’s something to be aware of. It comes with a limited 2-year warranty. You can check the latest price for it here.
- Type: Super Automatic
- Coffee type: Coffee beans or grounds – single espresso, double espresso, cappuccino, latte, hot water, Americano
- Size: 17 x 13 x 18in
- Capacity: 60oz (water), 8.8oz (beans)
- Very easy to use
- Remembers your preferences
- Cup warmer included
- Does all the work for you, including tamping and grinding
- Beans sometimes get stuck in the machine
- On the more expensive side
Delonghi EC680M – Best Capsule Machine
If you want a capsule machine, this could be a good choice for you. This is a sleek, compact model, taking up little room on your worktop.
You can enjoy espressos, cappuccinos, or lattes of good quality. Features include flow stop – this automatically measures 1 or 2 shots depending on your preference – and a manual frother to create a creamy froth for your drinks (this allows you a little more customization).
It accommodates tall cups as well as small ones, as the bottom tray is easy to adjust. It also has adjustable controls. This allows you to create coffee that meets your exact preferences.
Users enjoy how easy it is to make coffee using this machine, given a decent price point. They do say that cleaning and descaling can be difficult. You can find the latest price for it here.
- Type: Automatic
- Coffee type: Pods – single or double espresso, cappuccino, latte
- Size: 13 x 5.9 x 12in
- Capacity: 33oz (water)
- Easy to use
- More affordable than some of the others on this list
- Adjustable controls
- Manual frother
- Can be difficult to clean and descale
Gaggia RI9380/46 – Best Semi-Automatic Machine
If you want a professional machine at home, this is a good one. It looks the part, with a classic rectangular design and brushed stainless steel casing.
There are several commercial-level elements included here. The steam wand steams and froths milk, creating tight microfoam – this will allow you to create coffee-shop style latte art.
The filter basket gives consistent quality for each cup – or you can use the commercial basket with your own grinder to create fresh coffee. It has a professional style chrome filter – the same size and shape as ones used in coffee shops.
Lastly, it has a 3-way solenoid valve – this relieves pressure off the coffee, so you can easily discard the puck (the disk of coffee that is created when coffee is pressurized into the basket).
It also has improved pump mounts – this makes brewing a little quieter. It’s also fast – it takes about five minutes to heat up, and around 30 seconds for the steam to be ready.
Users have described this as the best coffee machine they’ve tried, praising how durable it is thanks to the professional-grade components. On the downside, some were concerned about how sharp the drip tray is. You can check the latest price for it here.
- Type: Semi-Automatic
- Coffee type: Coffee grounds – single espresso, double espresso, cappuccino, latte, Americano
- Size: 9.5 x 8 x 14.2in
- Capacity: 72oz (water)
- Professional quality
- Fast brewing
- On the pricier side
- The drip tray is sharp around the edges
Illy Francis Francis X7.1 Iperespresso Machine – Most Aesthetically Pleasing
If you want something that looks great on your worktop, this is it. The Francis Francis X7.1 was designed by the Italian architect Luca Trazzi, and its curved design makes it stand out from the others on this list.
It uses illy capsules, which have been designed to have the maximum flavour possible using a special two-stage process (the coffee is infused with water under high pressure, and then emulsifies to create a richer flavour).
The machine itself is really easy to use – essentially, just press the button and go. It has a steam wand to create froth. Users enjoy how simple it is to operate. It lacks a display to show if you’ve switched from manual to automatic mode, which is a bit of a pain.
- Type: Semi-Automatic
- Coffee type: Pods – espresso, cappuccino, latte, lungo
- Capacity: 40oz (water)
- Size: 11.4 x 10.2 x 12.6in
- Beautiful design
- Easy to clean
- Simple to operate
- No display to show if in automatic or manual mode
- My Illy Coffee Review [2020 UPDATE]: What Makes it Special?
- Best Illy Espresso Machines – The Ultimate Guide
Our Verdict: Which is the Best Italian Espresso Machine?
All the machines on this list have their own merits. For example, the stovetop method may not be for everyone, but the Bialetti Moka Pot is a great choice if you want to give it a go – and it’s a good budget-friendly choice. It may take some practice, so be prepared to waste a little bit of coffee in that process.
On the other end of the price scale, the Gaggia RI9380/46 is brilliant. Using professional-grade materials, it is a luxurious choice for true espresso enthusiasts – and you can expect it to last for a long time, giving you consistently good coffee every day.
Having said that, our best choice today has to be the Delonghi ESAM3300. It ticks all the boxes for us – you can use whole beans or pre-ground, you can customize the settings so it remembers exactly how you like your coffee, and you can even warm the cups beforehand – it’s packed with features and, in our opinion, it’s totally worth the money.
It does take some of the creativity out of the espresso-making process, so if that’s your thing, it may not be for you – but for most people wanting a decent espresso in the mornings, it’s a really good choice.