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Home espresso coffee machine reviews

With so many designs, features and technologies on offer, which espresso machines will deliver the perfect cup of coffee at home?
 
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01 .Introduction

Nuova Simonelli Oscar Professional manual coffee machine

We have test results for more than 35 home espresso machines – manual, semi-automatic and capsule – priced from $70 to $2499.

On this page, you'll find:

Through our rigorous testing, we reveal which coffee machines:

  • make the best-tasting coffee
  • are easiest to use
  • make the best-frothed milk
  • are able to maintain consistent coffee temperature over consecutive cups.

Australians love our coffee – possibly a little too much. According to Appliance Retailer magazine, a staggering 36% of us consume five or more cups of coffee a day. But regardless of how much coffee we drink, we certainly like to drink good coffee, and that's where these machines come in.

With so many designs, features and technologies on offer, you need to make time to research before buying an espresso machine. Think about what kind of coffee you're after and which model will give you the results you want.

We cover four types of coffee machine in our testing:

  • Capsule machines are designed to capture and convert the hearts of instant coffee lovers as well as those who value ease of use. With a variety of brands available at a range of prices, and the emergence of these machines in supermarkets, this category has gone from strength to strength – in July 2013 it was worth $100 million according to GFK sales data. These machines use a coffee capsule filled with enough coffee for a single shot. Simply insert the capsule and the machine pierces it to allow hot water to flow through and make the shot.
  • Manual and semi-automatic machines are for people who want the hands-on experience of making their own coffee exactly how they like it. Semi-automatic machines will automatically cut off the flow of coffee once a preset amount has been poured into the cup, while with a manual machine you have total control and need to cut the flow of coffee yourself.
  • Hand pump machines We've tested one hand pump machine, which works on the same principles as a manual machine except that you need to use a pump action to push the water through the ground coffee.

There are also automatic machines for those who want convenience with the ability to experiment with their own beans. We've tested these machines separately.

A 30mL shot of espresso forms the basis of any coffee. You should use fresh coffee beans and grind them just before use, and for that you'll need a coffee grinder.

Video: How we test espresso machines

CHOICE takes a close look at the next generation of espresso machines and talks about what to look for in a good machine. For more information see our latest test results.

Models tested

  • Breville Café Venezia BES250
  • Breville The Barista Express BES870
  • Breville The Dual Boiler BES920
  • Breville The Infuser BES840
  • Breville The Oracle BES980
  • Breville Duo-Temp Pro BES810BSS #
  • Breville Nespresso Inissia Bundle BEC200XR #
  • Breville Nespresso CitiZ &Milk BEC600MR #
  • Breville Nespresso Umilk BEC300MW #
  • Breville Professional 800 Collection 800ES
  • DeLonghi Dedica EC680.M #
  • DeLonghi Nespresso Lattissima Pro EN750.MB #
  • DeLonghi Nespresso Lattissima+ EN520.S
  • DeLonghi EC860.M
  • DeLonghi Nespresso & Aeroccino 3 EN110BAE
  • DeLonghi Icona ECO310.W
  • DeLonghi Nespresso Pixie & Aeroccino 3 EN125.RAE
  • Electrolux Lavazza A Modo Mio ELM5250S #
  • Espressotoria Adesso #
  • Espressotoria Capino #
  • Electrolux Lavazza A Modo Mio ELM5400S
  • Expobar Office SA
  • Expressi Capsule Machine
  • Gaggia Classic II 2013
  • Gaggia New Baby 06 Class RI9301/01 #
  • KitchenAid 5KES2102 #
  • La Pavoni Stradivari Lusso V230 STL
  • Lavazza A Modo Mio Minu #
  • Map Luna Caffitaly System
  • Nuova Simonelli
  • Sunbeam Café Series EM7000
  • Sunbeam Café Crema II EM4820
  • Sunbeam Café Espresso II EM3820 (some models recalled)
  • Sunbeam Café Series EM6910
  • Rancilio Miss Silvia V3
  • Sunbeam Piccolo Espresso EM2800
  • Woolworths Caffitaly S20 #

# Newly tested models.

Product recall

The Sunbeam Cafe Espresso II EM3820, sold between February 2013 and March 2014, has been recalled. Check the three-digit product code which appears on the label. Only product codes 033, 103, 113, 153, 293 and 323 are being recalled. If you have one of these machines stop using it and unplug it from the wall. Contact Sunbeam on 1300 882 570.

Defect details: Movement of the milk-frothing wand may cause abrasion of wiring inside the machine, resulting in failure of insulation. This may cause electric shock.

How we test

Our tester Peter Horvath scores each of the coffee machines on the following:

  • Taste (rated in a blind taste test by three coffee experts). Peter uses a premium coffee for our taste test.
  • Ease of use (including ease of programming, controls, group handle/filter and refilling with water and coffee).
  • Frothing milk, for lattes and cappuccinos.
  • Coffee temperature consistency over consecutive cups.

To remove any factory smells and tastes, Peter pumps a litre of hot water through each of the machines, then makes 12 cups of espresso coffee (not for testing), one after another.

Capsule machines Peter chooses the capsule flavour that best resembles an espresso shot. He tries most (if not all) of the flavours supplied for a particular machine before he chooses which capsule will be used for the test.

Choose right: coffee machines

Meet our experts

For our taste test we've recruited the expert palates of David (left) and Matthew (middle) Gee from Barista Basics, and our home economist Fiona Mair (right). They taste a 30mL shot of espresso from each machine in a blind taste test and assess each shot by looking at the colour and thickness of the crema, the aroma, flavour, mouthfeel and aftertaste. We use a reference machine to check the consistency of our taste testers. Peter uses single wall baskets where supplied (double wall if no single is supplied) and an ECM grinder to get the right grind.

ONLINE_EspressoMachines_Expert_DavidONLINE_EspressoMachines_Expert_MatthewONLINE_EspressoMachines_Expert_Fiona

For more information on coffee products, see grinders and coffee roasters.

 
 

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The importance of water

Water is a key ingredient in making coffee, and its quality can impact the quality of your cup. Teaming high-quality coffee beans that are freshly ground to the correct fineness with clean, filtered water should result in a coffee that smells good and has a great flavor and aftertaste too.

The brewing process varies depending on what's in the water, its temperature, how long it's in contact with the coffee and what kind of grind was used in preparing the beans. Always use fresh, filtered water, and keep in mind the best temperature for brewing is around 91–92°C. If the water is too hot or passes through the coffee for too long it can result in a bitter flavour, but if the water is too cold or passes through the coffee too quickly it can be under-extracted, leaving you with a watery coffee that lacks flavour. The correct grind, brewing time and water temperature will help you achieve a full-flavored coffee.

Tamping tips

Tamping compresses your coffee in the filter basket, allowing the pressurised water to flow through the espresso evenly to give you a quality shot. An incorrect tamp can result in a poor-quality shot.

  • Dose the ground coffee into the filter and place the filter on a flat, stable surface. Hold the filter in one hand and gently level the coffee with the other.
  • Apply the first tamp. While holding the filter, hold the tamper firmly in the other hand. Place the tamper on top of the coffee so it's parallel to the surface and press downwards.

The jury is still out on whether you should apply the final tamp. Our tester Peter Horvath says one firm tamp should be enough, followed by wiping the top of the filter basket to remove any loose coffee particles.

Coffee-making tips

  • When you have a new machine, flush about a litre of water through it to remove any factory flavours. Be sure to push a cup of hot water through the steam wand as well as the group head and the filter.
  • Once you've heated up the machine, switch on the pump and see how the hot water comes out without the group handle being attached to the group head. Some machines tend to overheat the boiler, which makes the water too hot and produces too much steam, which can burn the coffee granules. If this is the case with your machine, be sure to let some water out before making your coffee.
  • The standard amount of ground coffee for an espresso is seven grams for 30mL of water. If you like your coffee stronger and with more flavour, try increasing it to eight or even nine grams. Or, try reducing the amount of water to about 20–25mL.
  • If you're making a short black don't run more than 30mL of water through the machine, as it will remove flavour and make the coffee too bitter.
  • Always use fresh water straight from the tap or bottled water that doesn't have a chlorine flavour.
  • During the warm-up period, keep the group handle in the group head so that every part of the machine that comes into contact with the coffee gets hot.
  • A warm cup keeps the coffee hot, which in turn keeps milk coffee frothy. Some machines have an inbuilt cup warmer, but you can also just run some hot water from the machine into the cups instead.
  • Run a small amount of water though the machine after frothing milk to cool the internal parts down. This is important if you're going to make more coffees, as the extra heat from the frothing process can burn the grind.

Milk-frothing tips

Since upwards of 90% of coffee beverages in Australia and New Zealand are milk-based, the frothing technique is an important part in making the perfect cup of coffee.

  • Some machines come with a froth enhancer, and while it's easy to use it often puts large bubbles into the milk, which is undesirable. Generally, a creamy and silky froth is achieved by following the correct technique without using the froth enhancer.
  • Use a small stainless steel jug and cold milk straight from the fridge. Using warm milk won't give your machine enough time to froth. Inject steam until the milk reaches about 65°C; – by then it should be the right texture for pouring. You should aim for the froth to stay stable for at least five minutes. Also, ensure you don't heat the milk beyond 72°C or reheat it down the track.
  • When using the steam wand, ensure you remove all condensation before placing it in the milk. Once you have dry steam, to avoid splattering you should put the tip of the wand into the milk and then raise it so it sits just below the surface. To spin the milk, tilt the jug slightly.
  • A thermometer is a handy tool to have if you're just starting out. But if you don't have one, the milk is generally at the right temperature when you can no longer hold your hand at the bottom of the jug.
  • To break any air bubbles, tap and then swirl the jug around on your bench after frothing. You should then pour the milk into the cup immediately, before its texture changes. Tilt the cup slightly, and pour with a consistent speed.
  • The steam wand should always be wiped clean after use to avoid possible cross-contamination and to remove crusted-on milk.

Video: Making a good espresso

A quick guide to getting the best espresso out of your new coffee machine.

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