8 Best Espresso Machines 2023: Breville, Diletta, and De’Longhi

Most supermarkets only carry pre-ground coffee and high-volume low-quality whole beans which you should try to avoid if you can. That said, the rise in demand for specialty coffee means that reputable roasters are becoming a more common sight in your local grocery store.

You want to make sure that your coffee is fresh, so pay attention to the roast date. Generally speaking, coffee should be brewed within one to three weeks of the roast date. Once beans are ground, they oxidize and lose flavor rapidly, so you should always try to buy whole beans and grind them right before you brew for the best results.

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Do Not Overlook the Coffee Grinder

Also consider whether or not you want to buy a separate grinder. With most espresso setups, you have to consider also setting aside money (and space) for a grinder. Crabbe says she can wholeheartedly endorse the Breville Barista Express Impress and its built-in grinder, but also says that, “You can get better results out of a $200 espresso machine and a $500 grinder than you can with a $1,000 machine and $50 grinder.”

 All of the coffee experts we talked to said that the grinder is actually more important than the espresso machine. “All the espresso machine needs to do is brew water and push it through the coffee. That’s really it,” Allen says.” Assuming you have high-quality coffee beans (the most important factor of any coffee brewing process), the coffee grinder will have a greater impact on your shots than the machine. Counterintuitively, Elliott Foos, a New York City-based coffee consultant, says that an espresso machine is actually not so complicated. “It really is a simple thing. It’s there to push water through coffee, steam some milk if you want it, and that shouldn’t be super complicated. The grinder should probably get equal billing if not a little more.”

Essentially, coffee grinders break down whole coffee beans into small pieces. A major key in brewing good coffee is having a uniform grind size which produces a more even extraction which translates to a tastier cup. The less uniform coffee grounds are, the more uneven the extraction will be, meaning you’ll get a mix of coffee that’s over-extracted (bitter) and under-extracted (sour). It’s quite difficult to do this, especially at lower price points, which is why most experts will push budding coffee enthusiasts to invest more in your coffee grinder than the espresso machine.

Baratza Encore ESP coffee grinder

Weigh It Out with a Coffee Scale

A coffee scale is essential for making espresso. It allows you to have more consistent brews and also more accurately dial-in your recipe. Coffee scales aren’t so different from the average kitchen scale, but they do come with a built-in timer. Many true bean fiends recommend coffee scales that can weigh to 1/10th of a gram for the best accuracy possible. You can get away with a regular kitchen scale, but you’ll want to time your shots using your watch or phone.

Milk Pitcher, the Latte Artist’s Paintbrush

Sadly, most espresso machines that have a steam wand don’t include a milk pitcher in the box. You don’t necessarily need a fancy one, but if you want to pour latte art like the pros, a milk pitcher with a narrower spout like this one from Fellow will get you closer to those rosetta patterns.

Knock Out the Grounds with a Proper Knockbox

You could totally knock out your coffee puck into the trash can. However, a knockbox like this one is specifically designed with a soft bar to ensure you don’t damage your portafilter while dumping out your coffee. Plus, there are no drips as you carry your spent puck from the machine to the trash.

Dreamfarm Big Grindenstein

Upgrade for Later: Tampers and Portafilter

Espresso machines will always come with a portafilter and a tamper so you can get to pulling shots straight out of the box. That said, these are components that experience the brunt of the cost-cutting measures and will often be made from lower-quality materials like plastic. You can certainly make do with an out-of-the-box setup, but it’s easy to upgrade these components later down the road when you’re ready.

Normcore 58mm Bottomless Portafilter

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