When it comes to choosing a machine, it can be difficult. Have you ever walked into a store and seen over 20 machines lined up with no clue where to start? And when a team member talks you through a machine, have they even tried them all? Likely not, so how do you trust them when you are spending your hard earned dollars?
This guide will make it easy for you to find exactly what YOU need. A machine worthy of a space on your bench top to make one of the most important drinks of your day! Be informed for your next purchase.
*This blog post is written from an individual barista’s perspective and as such cannot be use as a sole recommendation for purchasing any equipment as we are not aware of your individual needs and wants in purchasing any equipment for home. We are also not affiliated with any brands mentioned nor are we associated.
The first thing to consider is price point- how much are you willing to spend?
Coffee machine pricing ranges greatly from a small pod machine at $50 to a single group head slayer for $14,000. So how much do you have to spend? Also factor in the purchase of a grinder, you wouldn’t buy a machine without one!
The second thing to consider is whether you want it semi automated or fully manual.
Semi automated will suit people who don’t know much about coffee and don’t want to spend the time learning. That’s okay, that’s why these machines are on the market. But if you want to be involved in the process, you want to be able to control the variables and you are keen to learn, I would recommend a fully manual machine.
From here the rest gets a bit easier. Each machine will have a different capacity water tank, it may be a dual boiler or single boiler, have a different amp requirement, the grinder may be in the machine or you may need to buy one separately. I am going to make some recommendations in this post just for people who want manual machines and a quality grinder.
The number one reason I suggest manual coffee machines, is because after training customers on all types, I see no area for growth and progress with an automatic machine. You invest a considerable amount of money to make coffee at home and after a year of drinking sub par coffee, the only option is to buy a new machine to improve said coffee. Why continually spend more money on new machines, when you can just get a great one to start with that will last you years!?
Before I get into recommendations I want to take you through the few features I am looking for to classify a machine as being worthy of this list.
- You need a deep basket to make a flavoursome coffee. 18-22g of coffee should fit in the coffee basket for extraction. If you don’t have that, you wont be able to extract enough flavour.
- You should always have a manual option for brewing as this allows you to stop the shot when it starts running watery. If you include the watery part in your cup, you once again reduce flavour.
- The steam wand should also be manual and have a proper opening at the tip – anywhere from 2 to 4 small holes. If you can’t steam milk to be silky with quality micro-foam, your coffees won’t taste as creamy as they potential could.
- All machines listed have a 15 bar pump, a decent sized water tank that is removable and a thermoblock heating system and no built in grinders (keep reading to understand WHY)
So here are my recommendations, ranked in order of price $ – $$$$ only!
Breville Compact Café Espresso Machine
Cheapest price found at The Good Guys $219
This machine is great entry level machine for anyone who wants to have an espresso machine at home, but won’t be using it daily. It has a thermoblock heating system which is featured in all the Breville machines, which just means that your coffee will be extracted at the correct temperature for optimum flavour. It has manual option only for extracting espresso, giving you full control over the shots! It has the standard 15 bar pump, 2.75L removeable water tank and is compatible with pods, if that is a feature that appeals to you.
The downsides to this machine in my opinion is that the size of the coffee basket is a little bit too small (7g and 14g) to get a full flavoured shot and that the steam wand has to be ‘activated’ before use, meaning you have to wait for it to reach the correct temperature before steaming. The steam wand also doesn’t have an ideal tip on it, it has quite a wide opening and you won’t have as much control in steaming milk as you may like. Now at a price point of $200, these are all manageable and not a reason to not purchase the machine, just things to take into account. For weekend coffees, the odd coffee while entertaining or making espresso martinis for your wild weekends, this will 100% do the job!
Sunbeam Mini Barista Espresso Machine
Cheapest price found at Bunnings Warehouse $240
This machine, worth $100 more is a small step up in value. It has very similar features; being the thermoblock heating system and 15 bar pump. The size of the baskets are 12g and 20g and the handle is a 58mm, which is the same size for commercial machines, and this stands out to me because you are able to switch out those baskets easily enough for higher quality VST baskets, if so desired and you can also buy a quality tamp to fit. It has pre infusion, which can create a smoother espresso and push button options that are fully programable so you can click on your double espresso button and leave the coffee to extract, although we would recommend to watch these shots to start with to know the setting is extracting the coffee well. The tank is slightly larger, at 2L and is removeable like all home espresso machines.
This machine will serve you a little better for making daily coffees that the Breville above, so think about how you will be using the machine you buy. This machine in comparison also gives you more room to grow as you start to learn how to make better coffee.
Breville The Infuser Coffee Machine
Cheapest price found at JB Hi-Fi $599
The Infuser’s selling feature is that it infuses the coffee at a low, steady pressure before increasing to finish extraction. This feature was available in the Sunbeam and is available in all machines that go up in price point from here. What this machine has though that the previous two didn’t, is a pressure gauge so you can monitor the pressure of the extraction. Although not necessary in extracting coffee, it is a very handy tool to take note of, allowing you to achieve consistency between shots by ensuring every shot reaches a certain pressure.
It has similar features as previous, 15 bar pump, 1.8L water tank, manual and programable shot buttons, good sized baskets and it even features the magnetic tamp which stores in your machine and can be removed for use. This is a feature I love in the Breville range as you will never lose your tamp and it’s not going to get wet sitting on a bench!
We can see that with the price jump you are getting a few more features that the other two machines didn’t have. All are machines worthy of a place in your kitchen, but this extra spend is where you will start achieving great flavour in your coffees.
Sunbeam Cafe Series Espresso Coffee Machine
Cheapest price found at The Good Guys $699
Now here we have a machine that is starting to feature some really cool additions that the previous machines didn’t have. Sunbeam has created a great machine at an affordable price point with everything you could possibly need for the years to come. You can use it as an entry level machine but you will also find as you learn more about making coffee that it has everything you need bundled under the $1000 mark!
I’ll start though with features previously mentioned. We have a 15 bar pump, a 3L water tank, pre infusion, 58mm size handle (commercial size), the same great heating technology and a pressure gauge. What is new at this price point is something I haven’t seen on any other machine, a temperature sensing steam wand. The sensor is built in to the steam wand and there is an easy to read dial on the front of the machine, giving you an accurate reading of temperature. It has 3 pre set pre infusion programs and is fully programable. If $1000 is your price point, this is the machine to buy.
Breville The Dual Boiler
Cheapest price found at Harvey Norman $1699, including the Breville Smart Grinder Pro (worth around $300 alone)
Here we have a top of the range home espresso machine at an affordable price point. The dual boiler’s selling feature is in its name, it has two boilers. One boiler is dedicated to the espresso and the other to steam, allowing you to extract perfect espresso and steam silky milk at the same time. These two functions need to be performed at different temperatures which is why a dual boiler is such a great feature.
It has a 15 bar pump, 2.5L water tank and deep coffee baskets that fit up to 22grams. It is fully programable right down to the time for the pre infusion, the temperature of the espresso extraction and the length of the single and double shot extraction times. It has a shot clock which gives you an accurate reading of the length of time the shot ran for and a pressure gauge to measure the pressure during extraction.
This machine is the largest of the three, meaning it has a larger drip tray and can fit more cups on top for pre heating, but it will also take up more room on your bench space. It has the most consistent positive reviews and you will read that the majority of people who have owned this machine have had it for years and go back to buy the same machine when theirs eventually needs replacing. If you want the best of the best coffee machine from an easy to access store, this is it right here.
As this is the top of the range for Home Espresso machines, the next step is to look into machines designed by companies that create Commercial Coffee Machines.
The following machines will cost you a little bit more, but one of these will be with you for life if you take care of it and regularly get it serviced. Unlike machines made by companies like Breville and Sunbeam, they are made with more attention to detail….. and less plastic. They are designed to last longer and are designed by companies who sell commercial machines, meaning they are specific to the industry. They are also easier to get serviced as most technicians can work on them, unlike Breville and Sunbeam, which you need to find technicians specific to those brands.
If you would like specific information on these machines and help in the decision making progress, please contact us. We are able to get you great pricing and help you with your home set up.
Rancillio Silvia Pro
Expobar Barista Minore V4
Wega Mini Nova Classic
La Marzocco Linea
Victoria Arduino Eagle One Prima
Slayer Single Group
You may have noticed that not one of these machines has a grinder built in. A grinder is almost more important to making tasty espresso than the coffee machine itself. If your budget is quite small, find your grinder first and then the rest of your budget can go to the coffee machine.
A major reason why we don’t suggest a built in grinder is that heat from the machine can ruin the quality of your coffee beans. Heat, light, moisture and air are coffee’s greatest enemies and when you have a coffee machine with one or two boilers heating up and the heat rising, this will directly impact the coffee beans. Having a separate grinder is going to be beneficial for many reasons, but this is ultimately the main reason.
When purchasing a grinder you want to have control over all of the variables (grind size and dose) but also have a grinder that is easy to use, easy to clean and can go from espresso to filter, and even better turkish to coarse plunger. If your grinder can grind for many brewing devices, you will have more use for it.
So here are my grinder recommendations. I have kept the list very shot here as I didn’t want to give too many options that came in at such similar pricing. I personally think these are the 4 that you should be considering for home espresso use.
$300 Breville Smart Grinder Pro
Cheapest price found at JB Hi-Fi $289
This grinder is widely available, and easy to use. You have a 1 cup and 2 cup function, control over time of dose to .2 of a second, you can grind for turkish coffee and plunger and all parts are very easy to remove and clean. This is a fantastic entry level grinder that can do it all.
$400 Precision GS2
Available at Sipping Duck Coffee Roasters
This grinder is a very cute a stylish take on a commercial grinder. You can adjust the grind size easily, it has 2 buttons to start the grinding and comes with a dosing cup making an easy transfer into your filter brewing devices or into an espresso basket. The downside to this grinder is that it does not have a built in doser, but if you purchase an entry level set of scales for as little as $19, you can weigh out your dose and grind the exact amount you need. With a set of scales, this is a fantastic grinder for home espresso.
$700 Compak K3 Touch
Cheapest price found at Alternative Brewing when on sale $649
This grinder with a 200g hopper features flat burrs, meaning you don’t need to have a full hopper creating downward pressure to get a consistent grind. It also has automatic and manual grinding options and is the perfect grinder for home at an affordable price. You really don’t need to spend any more than this for a home set up!
$1400 Mazzer Mini Electronic A
Cheapest price found at Alternative Brewing when on sale $999
The Mazzer Mini is a grinder that a low volume café would use. So for home, you really are getting all you need. It has flat burrs and it has a portafilter holder which allows you to grind without holding onto the handle. It has all the features of a full size Mazzer, but is more affordable and compact for your bench top at home.
I currently own the Breville Dual Boiler and the Breville Smart Grinder Pro. I purchased the coffee machine second hand and the grinder brand new with a total spend of $640. This is all I need for a home set up but if I were to purchase again and I didn’t have such a tight budget I might go for a Mini Wega as these machines are built to last and the parts are readily available, and the Compak K3 grinder as it has all the features I would want in a great size. But how many people have almost $5000 lying around to make coffee at home!?
If you are looking at second hand options like I was, I would still recommend buying your grinder new! It really is THAT important in getting consistent and flavoursome coffee!
If you currently own a home espresso machine and you need help with making great coffee on it, I run a Home Barista Course where I can teach you all the skills to get the most out of your machine. If your machine is semi automatic you can still learn all about what differentiates a good shot of espresso from a great shot of espresso and learn a few extra tips for getting great extraction!
The course is 1-1 so we can book at a time that suits you and with 2.5h run time for the course, you are guaranteed to leave having learnt some invaluable skills to perfect your coffees at home.
There really is nothing to loose!