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 mediocre machine.
Given that some cost hundreds or even thousands, it's a mistake that can leave a hole in your pocket and a bad taste in your mouth.
To avoid such a coffee calamity, our experts have reviewed pod/capsule and espresso machines (manual, automatic and semi-auto) from brands including Breville, Sunbeam, DeLonghi, Kmart, Aldi, Nespresso, Miele and more to sort the good from the bad.
We use an expert panel of barista veterans to score the taste (based on crema, aroma, flavour, mouthfeel and aftertaste). Our experienced kitchen testers rate other factors such as ease of use and temperature consistency. Learn more about how we test.
Here are the models that rated lowest in our tests, separated into pod and non-pod models.
1. Nescafé Dolce Gusto Piccolo XS 9781
CHOICE Expert Rating: 41%
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 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 our full review.
2. Espressotoria Capino
CHOICE Expert Rating: 41%
On the upside, this machine is easy to use and can accommodate large cups. The downside? It scores poorly for taste, so you won't want a large cup. It doesn't come with a milk frother either, so we bought the optional Veloce milk frother for $35 – it also did a substandard job. There are better performing machines out there for the same price or lower, so it pays to shop around. Read our full review.
Nescafé Dolce Gusto Lumio NCU600
CHOICE Expert Rating: 49%
Our tests often prove you don't have to spend a fortune to get great coffee. Sadly, in this case, you get what you pay for. This futuristic unit may look like it belongs on a spaceship, but it crashes and burns with poor-tasting coffee, bad milk frothing and inconsistent temperatures. It can also splash coffee during delivery and has no waste storage either. Eject, eject! Read our full review.
This category includes manual, semi-automatic and automatic machines. See our buying guide to read more about the different types.
1. Sunbeam Café Barista EM5000
CHOICE Expert Rating: 47%
When you spend hundreds of dollars on an espresso machine, you'd expect to get great coffee in return. Sunbeam make some impressive models – 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 review.
2. Gaggia Anima Prestige
CHOICE Expert Rating: 51%
Costing more than a grand, this automatic machine comes with plenty of bells and whistles, including a digital display, grinder, programmable coffee quantity and more. It rated impressively for milk frothing and ease of use, but loses marks where it matters most – delivering a great, consistent coffee. Our experts scored its espresso just 40% for taste and a dismal 10% for temperature consistency. Read the full review.
3. Breville Duo-Temp Pro BES810BSS
CHOICE Expert Rating: 59%
This model performed very well for milk frothing and consistent coffee temperature. It also packs handy features such as a drip tray with full indicator, cup-warming plate and onboard tamper. Unfortunately, it also rated 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 review.
Top tips for buying a coffee machine
If you're tossing up between a pod/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. Espresso machines are more work but generally have a better depth of flavour and let you make your coffee the way you like it. 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.