Snapping up a reasonably priced coffee machine in the Boxing Day sales is a smart way to save money on buying barista-made coffees – after all, if you buy a large coffee every day from your local cafe, you could be spending up to $1500 a year just to keep yourself caffeinated.
But having your own machine at home is only a better option if it does a decent job and gives good value for money. Some of the models we've tested performed so poorly they'll have you running straight back to your favourite cafe, KeepCup in hand.
We review capsule and espresso coffee machines from brands such as Breville, DeLonghi, Kmart, Aldi, Nespresso and Sunbeam. We use an expert panel to rate the taste of the coffee, while our experienced kitchen testers score the machines on other measures such as ease of use and temperature consistency.
Experts agree: you're better off leaving the following three models on the shelf.
1. Sunbeam Café Barista EM5000
This barista-style espresso machine is great at serving up cup after cup at very consistent temperatures, but unfortunately the coffee is lacking in taste – our expert tasting panel rated it an appalling 30%. If you're looking to perfect your latte art, you'll also be frustrated by this machine's mediocre milk-frothing performance. At $299, with an overall score of just 47%, the Sunbeam Café Barista is definitely not the smartest way to get your morning fix.
2. Nescafe Dolce Gusto Lumio NCU600
You don't always need to spend a fortune on a coffee machine to get a good cuppa (the $89 Kmart espresso machine is a case in point), but in this instance, you get what you pay for. The $99 Nescafe Dolce Gusto Lumio delivers poor-tasting coffee, poor milk frothing and inconsistent temperatures, contributing to an overall score of 49% in our review. It's also awkward to use, as the coffee can splash during delivery and the unit has no waste storage, meaning you have to remove every capsule by hand once you've finished with it.
3. Espressotoria Capino
Despite using a different capsule system, this machine bears an unpleasant resemblance to the Nescafe Dolce Gusto, with a price point of $99 and an overall score of 49%. Just like the Nescafe system, the Espressotoria coffee machine produces poor-tasting coffee at inconsistent temperatures. The machine doesn't come with a milk frother, but we bought the optional Veloce milk frother for $35 and – surprise, surprise – it also did a substandard job.
Read our full review of the Espressotoria Capino.
Top tips for buying a coffee machine
If you're tossing up between a pod or capsule coffee machine and a manual espresso machine, there are a few factors to consider.
Pod or capsule machines are much easier to use and need very little cleaning. On the other hand, espresso machines are more work but generally have a better depth of flavour and let you make your coffee the way you like it.
But remember, a poor-quality espresso machine can still deliver mediocre flavour, and a badly designed pod or capsule machine can be tricky to use, so make sure you do your research before committing. Read more top tips on how to make the perfect cup of coffee.