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There are few things more satisfying than enjoying a coffee shop-quality espresso in the comfort of your own home. For some reason, upping your at-home latte game feels like you're getting away with something. It feels a little like your favorite barista (we all have one) passing the secrets of the trade on to you. And that's the beauty of having an espresso coffee machine in your home—you get to serve your own barista-quality drinks in your favorite mug, at the exact temperature you like, with as much foamed milk as your heart desires. For those in search of a home espresso machine, these are a few of our favorites—plus, a quick tutorial on how to use an espresso machine.
Breville Barista Pro Espresso Machine
The Breville is praised for its three-second heat-up time and the in-machine grinder. Essentially, you can start with whole beans, and the machine will grind them immediately before you pull your shot of espresso, to ensure a fresh (and therefore richer-tasting) drink every time. The machine itself is easy-to-use, with an LED screen such that you can learn on the at-home barista job. Finally, you'll use the stainless steel milk jug and "360° swivel steam wand with frothing nozzle" to prepare your milk, be it skim, almond, or oat, exactly how you like it. In terms of aesthetics, this machine looks great on a kitchen island or marble countertop, particularly when purchased in their stainless steel with "polished-chrome accents."
To buy: Williams Sonoma, $899.95.
LaPavoni Stradivari Europiccola 8-Cup Espresso Machine
LaPavoni is known for their gold-standard Italian espresso machines and they last a lifetime. This particular machine was designed by Carlo Gallizi and was "inspired by world famous violin maker Antonio Stradavari." The lever allows you to easily pull dynamic short, medium, or long espresso shots. And the surprising 20-ounce reservoir capacity means this machine can brew up to eight cups of espresso before you need to refill. The machine also offers "two interchangeable frothing systems (which) guarantee powerful cappuccino frothing." The design and materials are sleek and particularly attractive as espresso machines go, with a brass boiler and nickel-plated base, and of course the design work of Carlo Gallizi done specifically for LaPavoni's 100-year anniversary.
To buy: Bed Bath & Beyond, $999.99.
Nespresso De'Longhi Lattissima Pro Espresso Machine
This Italian-made Nespresso is entirely automatic. And most notably, it fuses "Nespresso's legendary capsule brewing technology with DeLonghi's patented Rapid Cappuccino System." With a touchscreen and seamless brewing from Nespresso coffee capsules, the machine has pre-programmed options for cappuccinos and latte macchiatos. Both the hot water tank and the frothing system are easily removed, so you can store your milk in the fridge when the machine is not in use. Perhaps best of all, you don't have to move your cup between pulling the espresso shot and adding the machine's frothed milk.
To buy: Williams Sonoma, $599.95.
SMEG Espresso Machine
This is the iconic SMEG aesthetic—that 50s-chic vibe—now delivered in an espresso machine. The semi-automatic machine utilizes a "thermoblocking heating system" and comes with several customizable features, including water temperature and length of espresso shot. While the machine is equipped with an espresso basket such that you can grind your own beans, pack the espresso, and pull the shot yourself, it also accepts ESE pods—you have both options with this machine. It has a manual milk frother as well; you just press the "steam" button and when it flashes, you can begin frothing your milk.
To buy: Quench Essentials, $489.95.
Breville Nespresso Creatista Plus Coffee Espresso Machine
Across the board, at-home baristas love Breville machines and Nespresso machines. So, it stands to reason that the machine harnessing the powers of both brands is so popular. The espresso part of the machine is fully streamlined and automatic—it starts with an espresso pod, and you can push a button to produce a ristretto (0.5 ounces), espresso (1.35 ounces), or lungo (five ounces). Next comes the frothed milk—this machine has a distinctive milk frother that automates the cappucino or latte-making process as well. The frother has eight texture levels and 11 temperature options to create exactly the flat white or latte macchiato you prefer.
To buy: Amazon.com, $449.99.
How to Use an Espresso Machine
The final part of the at-home barista equation, of course, is effectively using your at-home espresso coffee machine. First, if you're using an automatic machine with pods, you can skip the step of actually packing the espresso and manually pulling the shot. For those with a manual or semi-automatic machine, you'll start by grinding your beans (on the finest setting) and scooping your grounds into the espresso basket, using the tamper tool to pack the basket tightly. Before tamping, making sure the grounds are evenly spread throughout the basket, and then tamp the grounds and attach the basket to pull your shot of espresso. If your machine has a pressure gauge (which the Breville ones tend to), take note of the pressure for the sake of consistency in your next shot.
Next comes foaming the milk—and the process for this depends entirely on your machine. Some of our selections above have an automatic milk frother. For those who have a steaming wand and the ability to froth manually, you'll have to work on your technique to find the balance for your foam preferences (some prefer a more airy foam, others prefer a denser, richer foam). Keep in mind that different milks with froth differently—historically, whole milk, 2%, oat, and soy milk froth best. Finally, once you've made your perfect espresso beverage, thoroughly clean the machine, especially the espresso basket and the steaming wand, with hot water.