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Coffee machines to avoid buying

We spill the beans on the worst performing coffee machines that will leave a bitter taste in your mouth.

generic coffee machine thumbs down
Last updated: 18 July 2023

Need to know

  • We've tested more than 70 popular models from brands including Breville, Sunbeam, Kmart, DeLonghi, Nespresso and more
  • Our experts rate key factors including taste, ease of use and milk frothing, on manual, automatic and semi-automatic machines
  • Consider joining CHOICE to access our full reviews and best performers

Whether you're working from home more or trying to cut down your cafe spending, a coffee machine can be a very smart buy. We've shown they can be cheaper than takeaway coffees in the long run – unless, of course, you buy a bad one and end up not using it. 

Given that some cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, it's a mistake that can leave a hole in your pocket and a bitter taste in your mouth. 

To avoid such a coffee calamity, our experts have reviewed more than 70 pod/capsule and espresso machines (manual, automatic and semi-auto) from brands including Breville, Sunbeam, Smeg, DeLonghi, Kmart, Aldi, Nespresso and more. 

coffee machine test

We enlist industry experts for our coffee blind taste test.

We use an expert panel of barista veterans to score taste (based on crema, aroma, flavour, mouthfeel and aftertaste) in combination with factors including ease of use, milk frothing and temperature consistency. Learn more about how we test

So you don't get burnt, these are the models that rated lowest in our tests. 

Lowest rating pod machines

1. Nescafé Dolce Gusto Piccolo XS 9781


Nescafé Dolce Gusto Piccolo XS 9781.

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 41%
  • Taste test score: 30%
  • Price: $89

Keen for quality coffee? Keep looking. This little machine came last in our test with an unforgivable CHOICE Expert Rating of just 41%. 

Not only did it rate terribly for taste and milk frothing, you have to work for it too – you'll need to stop the flow of coffee yourself and then ditch the pod immediately, as it has no storage for empties. Cancel that coffee order. 

Read the full Nescafe Dolce Gusto Piccolo review

2. Breville Nescafé Dolce Gusto Genio S Plus

breville nescafe dolce gusto genio s plus

Breville Nescafé Dolce Gusto Genio S Plus.

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 46%
  • Taste test score: 30%
  • Price: $179

If you're counting on this machine for your morning cuppa, you might want to hit snooze instead. In our tests, it delivered poor-tasting coffee with a bitter flavour, watery mouthfeel and thin crema. Plus, it rated just average for milk frothing and the coffee temperature consistency was OK at best.

Our experts did find positives – it boasts customisable drink settings and is easy to clean and use – but they can't atone for its bigger sins of bad coffee. Read the full Breville Nescafe Dolce Gusto Genio review.

Lowest rating manual and semi-automatic machines

1. Sunbeam Café Barista EM5000

sunbeam cafe barista EM5000 compressed

Sunbeam Café Barista EM5000.

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 47%
  • Taste test score: 30%
  • Price: $299

When you spend hundreds of dollars on an espresso machine, you'd expect to get great coffee in return. Sunbeam make some impressive models – our experts found this just isn't one of them. 

This semi-automatic model is great at serving up espresso at very consistent temperatures. But it scored a deal-breaking 30% in our blind taste test and rated only OK for milk frothing. That's a big cost for bad coffee. 

Read the full Sunbeam Café Barista EM5000 review.

2. Sunbeam Barista Plus EMM5400SS

sunbeam barista plus emm5400ss

Sunbeam Barista Plus EMM5400SS.

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 53%
  • Taste test score: 40%
  • Price: $749

While this coffee machine scores slightly higher overall than the other Sunbeam machine, it costs more than twice as much, which is a lot to pay for a dismal-tasting cup of coffee (it scored just 40% on our taste test, after all). 

With features such as digital controls and an in-built conical burr grinder, it scores a decent 72% for ease of use but falls down on coffee temperature consistency which means it's not reliable when pumping out more than one or two cups of coffee.  

Read the full Sunbeam Barista Plus EMM5400SS review.

3. Breville Duo-Temp Pro BES810BSS


Breville Duo-Temp Pro BES810BSS.

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 59%
  • Taste test score: 45%
  • Price: $529

This model rates much better than the previous Sunbeam, but still lags well behind the top scorers in our tests. It does score very well for milk frothing and consistent coffee temperature, and also packs handy features such as a drip tray with full indicator, cup-warming plate and onboard tamper. 

Unfortunately, it earned a woeful taste score – our barista experts awarded it just 45%. No amount of well-frothed milk can make up for that. 

See the full Breville Duo-Temp Pro review

Lowest rating automatic machines

1. Gaggia Anima Prestige

gaggia anima prestige

Gaggia Anima Prestige.

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 51%
  • Taste test score: 40%
  • Price: $1599

For $1599 it's reasonable to expect a delicious coffee at the right temperature. Sadly, this Gaggia doesn't deliver on either front. 

It scored a poor 40% on the taste test, and when we made four coffees in a row, it couldn't maintain a consistent temperature. So despite the price, you'll never quite know what you're going to get: a hot coffee that doesn't taste great, or a lukewarm coffee that doesn't taste great. Neither option is particularly appealing!

Read the full Gaggia Anima Prestige review.

2. Saeco Royal OTC SUP060

saeco royal otc sup060

Saeco Royal OTC SUP060.

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 55%
  • Taste test score: 40%
  • Price: $1999

This machine delivered far more consistent temperatures than the Gaggia, but still produced poor-tasting coffee. 

It's somewhat redeemed by its froth-making abilities, which our experts rated as 'Good', and it's easy to use, offering an extensive range of settings (though its digital display menus do take a bit of getting used to). 

If you've got $2000 burning a hole in your pocket, you can do better than this Saeco machine – a number of automatic machines recommended by our experts cost around the same or even less. 

Read the full Saeco Royal OTC SUP060 review

3. Beko Fully Automatic Espresso Machine CEG5311X

beko fully automatic espresso machine ceg5311x

Beko Fully Automatic Espresso Machine CEG5311X.

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 58%
  • Taste test score: 55%
  • Price: $569

The cheapest machine in our test, this Beko is priced well below most other automatic machines. Unfortunately, it's not great value for money even at this price. 

It fared slightly better on the taste test than the Saeco and Gaggia models, but with a score of 55%, it is only just considered 'OK' rather than 'Poor' by our experts. 

And it's lacking a lot of the customisation features that make an automatic espresso machine convenient: it only makes a single shot of coffee at a time and you can't adjust the water temperature or the coffee strength. Plus, the manual milk frother flushes water out when it's heating up and is easy to turn off by accident. 

For well over $500, you're better off buying a semi-automatic machine. It'll take a bit more effort to make a coffee, but since many of the processes are automated it's not too difficult to get the hang of. And $500 or so can buy you a great machine – a number of semi-automatic machines recommended by our experts fall in the same price range. 

Read the full Beko Fully Automatic Espresso Machine review.

Top tips for buying a coffee machine

If you're tossing up between a pod/capsule coffee machine and a manual, semi-automatic or fully automatic espresso machine, there are a few factors to consider. 

  • Pod or capsule machines are much easier to use and need very little cleaning. 
  • Manual espresso machines are more work but generally have a better depth of flavour and let you make your coffee the way you like it. 
  • Automatic machines require the least amount of effort: simply press a button and they'll deliver your coffee just the way you like it. But keep in mind that they don't always let you change things like grind, tamp and dose. 
  • Semi-automatic machines sit in between manual and automatic machines: some functions are automated, but you'll still need to do some things manually, which means that you can still control some aspects of the coffee making. 

Read more about how to buy the best coffee pod machine

Remember, a poor-quality espresso machine can deliver mediocre flavour, and a badly designed pod or capsule machine can be tricky to use. So always make sure you do your research before committing. 

If price is a big consideration, check out our list of the best coffee machines for less than $600.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.