As many of us continue to work from home or move to a hybrid working model, a coffee machine is an excellent investment that’ll benefit you through the working week as well as lazy weekend mornings.
But it’s important to find the machine that best suits your lifestyle. We’ve reviewed some of the top machines from brands including Smeg, Nespresso, Lavazza and Gaggia.
Apart from price, there are other factors to consider. How important is convenience? How quickly do you want your coffee in the morning? Are you an espresso drinker, do you like a long filter coffee, or a latte?
If you want to kick off with some advice on what kind of machine to go for, check out our buying advice after the top ten list, where we break down the different categories of coffee machines and their pros and cons. Otherwise, read on to find out why these are the best of the machines we’ve tested.
Best coffee machine reviews
Breville Barista Max – Best value overall
Large kitchen counter footprint
The Barista Max is an espresso machine with an inbuilt conical burr grinder. This alone makes it quite unusual. But at this price point, for its quality, it’s extremely rare.
Beans go into the hopper on top and can be ground straight into the portafilter. It’s not quite as simple or convenient as an automatic bean-to-cup machine such as the Gaggia Naviglio, but if you enjoy the coffee making process – even a little bit – it’s very satisfying to use.
As it comes with an inbuilt milk wand, plus milk jug and tamper, you won’t have to shell out for any other coffee-making accessories. That’s a good thing as this is a large machine that will require a dedicated spot on your kitchen counter. But it’s solid and well-made and should give you very good coffee for a long time to come.
Read our full Breville Barista Max VCF126 review
Smeg Espresso Coffee Maker ECF01 – Most stylish
Compatible with ESE pods & ground coffee
The Smeg espresso coffee machine is a manual coffee maker, which means it takes a bit more time and effort to use than a pod machine or an automatic bean-to-cup machine. In our opinion, it’s well worth it.
It takes ground coffee or ESE pods and has a number of adjustable settings, including water hardness and temperature, so you can get your coffee exactly the way you want it. The inbuilt milk frother doubles as a hot water dispenser, which means you can make anything from a Cappuccino to an Americano.
This is a beautiful machine that’s a pleasure to use and we’d recommend it to anyone who wants to explore the art of coffee making at home.
Read our full Smeg ECF01 Espresso Coffee Maker review
Gaggia Naviglio – Best value bean-to-cup
Makes high quality coffee
It might not have upmarket features like a digital display, but the Gaggia Naviglio has enough functionality for the average coffee lover. Most importantly, it’s very high quality for its price.
This stylish machine is a little on the loud side and has an annoying blinking power light, but it makes excellent coffee with simple and intuitive controls. You can customise the strength and volume of the coffee, and there’s an inbuilt milk frother for cappuccinos and more.
If you want great quality bean-to-cup coffee without breaking the bank and you don’t need extra features, then the Naviglio ticks all the boxes.
Read our full Gaggia Naviglio review
Lavazza Voicy – Inbuilt Amazon Alexa device
Built-in Alexa speaker
No milk tank/ frother
Smart coffee options limited
There are few smart coffee machines on the market – and with good reason. As yet, there’s no way to go completely hands-free. You’ll still need to pop in a coffee capsule and ensure the water tank is full.
But this Lavazza collaboration machine has an ingenious solution to make the most of its smarts. Instead of relying on limited app control, it has an inbuilt Amazon Echo device, including a speaker, so you’ll get full home assistant functionality alongside your coffee.
You can, of course, ask Alexa to make you an espresso and if the machine’s set up, it will. But really, it’s a clever way to incorporate an Alexa device into your kitchen counter set-up, and in this respect, it works.
The machine is compact and easy to use but as there’s no frother or milk tank, it makes black coffee only. However, you can at least request some upbeat tunes while you enjoy your morning espresso.
Read our full Lavazza A Modo Mio Voicy review
Lavazza Deséa – Most versatile pod coffee maker
Easy to use
You’re tied to A Modo Mio capsules
The Lavazza Deséa is certainly the best pod/capsule-based coffee machine we’ve tested so far, even though it’s not the most expensive.
It’s stylish and well-made but more importantly, it makes a wide range of coffees from espresso to macchiato. The complexity means it takes a little while to get used to, but it’s pretty much a one-touch operation once you get the hang of it.
The Deséa produces consistent coffee and with the option to boost temperature and foam if needed. It also operates more quietly than any other coffee machine we’ve used.
Read our full Lavazza Deséa review
Russell Hobbs Chester Grind and Brew 22000 – Best filter machine
Easy to use
Grinds its own beans
Timer can’t be adjusted once it’s set
For a very reasonable price tag, you’ll get a capable machine with the Russell Hobbs Chester Grind and Brew 22000. Whether you want to use beans or ground coffee, you can get a strength and smoothness to suit your taste.
It may not be smart – and may only be suitable for producing black filter coffee – but what it does, it does very well. It’s a great starter coffee machine.
You can keep your coffee warm for up to forty minutes, and schedule the machine to start brewing at a certain time so you have a pot ready and waiting first thing in the morning. The fact that you can’t change the timer once it’s started was a minor annoyance, but it didn’t detract from the fact that this is a reliable coffee maker at a good price point.
Read our full Russell Hobbs Chester Grind and Brew 22000 review
Genio S Plus – Most brewing options in the Dolce Gusto range
Versatile brewing options
You’re tied to Dolce Gusto capsules
If you’re looking for a Dolce Gusto machine, this is the best one available. Not only is it as compact and straightforward as the other machines in the range, but it has more brewing options, so you can tailor your coffee to your preference.
It’s fully automated and easy to use. You can choose from three drink temperatures, precisely calibrate the amount of water in your beverage, plus there’s the option of an espresso boost.
Read our full Nescafe Dolce Gusto Genio S Plus review
Dualit DCM2X 3-in-1 espresso machine – Most versatile overall
Compatible with Dualit and Nespresso capsules, ground coffee & ESE pod
Lightweight plastic build
If you’re after the convenience of a capsule-based coffee machine but also want to be able to make a ‘proper’ espresso from ground coffee when you have the time, Dualit’s 3-in-1 coffee machine is one of your only choices.
It’s a decent machine, too, and not overly expensive. If you’re wondering why it’s called 3-in-1, it’s because it also accepts ESE pods as well as Nespresso capsules (and Dualit’s NX capsules, which are Nespresso-compatible).
Read our full Dualit DCM2X 3-in-1 espresso machine review
De’Longhi Dinamica Bean to Cup – Best for convenience
May be too hands-off for home baristas
If the main thing you want from a coffee machine is convenience, the Dinamica is for you. It’s conveniently sized, conveniently designed and convenient to use, offering you freshly ground espresso in less than a minute, with just a couple of button presses.
Serious baristas will want to look elsewhere for more in-depth controls and customisations, but if you just want to get a good cup of coffee without having to think too much at 7 in the morning, this is a great choice.
Read our full De’Longhi Dinamica ECAM 350.35.W Bean to Cup review
Dolce Gusto Piccolo XS – Simplest to use
Good for hot or iced coffee
Few options to tailor your coffee
The Piccolo XS is a streamlined capsule coffee maker that can be used for both hot and iced coffee. It’s petite, sleekly-designed and inexpensive.
If you want a capsule coffee maker, you don’t want to spend a lot on it and you don’t mind a lack of features, this could be the machine for you.
Read our full Nescafe Dolce Gusto Piccolo XS review
Russell Hobbs Buckingham – Best budget filter machine
Easy to use
Hot plate only stays warm for 40 mins
The Buckingham is a straightforward coffee maker that allows you to prep in advance, set a timer and wake up to fresh filter coffee.
The machine takes filter papers or a reusable filter basket and will prepare 1.25 litres of coffee. You also have the option to brew smaller amounts with the same strength – which again, you can adjust according to taste.
The carafe and filter are dishwasher-friendly, while the machine itself has a self-cleaning programme.
Our only real criticism is that the hot plate will only stay warm for 40 minutes.
Read our full Russell Hobbs 20680 Buckingham Coffee Maker review
Morphy Richards Espresso Coffee Machine – Budget-friendly espresso
Wobbly, lightweight build
Home espresso machines are expensive. If you’re looking for an espresso maker on a budget, this is a well-priced appliance. It’s an incredibly stylish, compact machine that makes a decent espresso and is easy to use. It’ll take ground coffee or ESE pods.
It looks every inch the the part, with a stainless steel-effect finish and good features. There’s a cup warmer on top, 1.1 litre water tank and a milk wand. It can brew one or two cups at a time and you can opt to add more water by holding down the brewing button.
However, because it’s largely made of plastic, it’s very light and wobbly and we worry that it won’t be the most robust addition to your kitchen.
Read our full Morphy Richards 172020 Espresso Coffee Machine review
Buying advice: which one is right for you?
There are four main categories of electric/ electronic coffee makers. They all have their pros and cons. We list them below, so you can decide which type is right for you.
Manual espresso machines
If you love espresso, these machines are the best. You can make proper coffee that’s every bit as good as a cup you’d get from your favourite coffee shop. They use highly pressurised steam to produce shots of espresso, which you can mix with milk or water to make longer drinks.
They typically include a milk wand, so you can make cappuccinos and lattes and won’t have to worry about heating milk separately.
While some (more expensive) machines may include a bean grinder, most won’t, so you’ll either need to invest in a separate grinder or buy your coffee pre-ground. While the latter option is easier, the ground coffee will quickly begin to oxidise and you’ll swiftly lose the magic taste of freshly ground beans.
These machines are also not the simplest to use. Making a couple of coffees is a few minutes’ work and will create a reasonable amount of mess. It’s extremely hard not to spill at least some coffee between container, scoop and portafilter when you’re half asleep in the morning.
It’ll also take a bit of trial and error, so a manual espresso machine is best suited to people who love their gadgets as much as their coffee.
And, while not as expensive as a bean-to-cup machine, an espresso maker is likely to be much more so than a pod or a filter coffee maker.
A bean-to-cup machine automates the process. It’s basically an espresso maker without the work. Put beans in. Press buttons. Coffee comes out. You drink coffee. All is well in the world.
They typically have a number of settings, so you can get your coffee exactly the way you like it. Some even have programmable profiles, so each member of the household can press a single button to get their favourite coffee prepared perfectly.
There’s just one con: price. Good bean-to-cup machines start at around £400/$400 and often climb to £1,000/$1,000 and more.
They’re quick. They’re mess-free. And they’re better than instant.
If you want a pod coffee maker that makes a decent espresso, go for a Lavazza or a Nespresso machine. If you like mixed drinks, like lattes, cappuccinos and more, a Nescafe Dolce Gusto machine is probably right for you. The latter also sells milk pods, so you can easily make blended beverages – although higher end pod machines from other brands may have a milk wand.
If you go down the pod route, you’ll find that there’s now a huge variety of flavours and strengths, as well as hot chocolates and even teas you can make with your machine.
These machines also tend to be the most budget-friendly, with prices starting at about £30 when they’re on sale.
Once you buy, you’re committing to buying the pods or capsules for as long as you have the machine. These can work out to be more expensive than ground coffee, so although your machine is cheaper, you may end up paying more in the long run. But that depends on the brand. Dolce Gusto capsules typically work out at about 20p per cup, although you can often find deals on branded and compatible capsules that’ll help to bring the price down.
There’s also the question of taste. They are not a patch on a home espresso maker but if you sample different brands, you’ll find that some coffees are more appealing than others.
Finally, there’s the issue of waste. Pod machines aren’t the most environmentally friendly, although you can use manufacturer schemes to recycle used capsules. You can find out more about this in our article.
Filter machines have had a bad rap, but with pour-over coffee coming back into fashion, they’re on their way up again. If you put fresh ground coffee into your machine, you should get a really delicious beverage that’s lighter than espresso but with plenty of flavour.
They’re perfect for making a batch of coffee for a group of people and you won’t have to hang around the machine making individual cups.
They strike a great balance between pod and manual machines, in terms of price, taste and ease of use.
If you’re buying, look out for how long the machine can keep coffee warm after its brewed, how many cups it can make at once, and whether it has the option to schedule coffee to brew at set times.
A filter machine is really best for plain black coffee – or with a splash of milk from the fridge. Forget lattes and cappuccinos: they are not on the menu.
Check to see if the filter machine you’re considering buying has a grinder. If not, you’ll need to use pre-ground coffee, or invest in a separate machine. The quality of the coffee you use will make a real difference.
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