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Splurge vs save: the cheaper coffee machines that rival expensive ones

Bigger price tags don't always equal better-tasting coffee, our tests reveal.

coffee machines splurge and save
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Need to know

  • Our testers have reviewed more than 50 popular coffee machines for taste, ease of use, milk frothing and more
  • In this comparison of price vs performance, we rate models from Sunbeam, Breville Nespresso, Smeg and DeLonghi Nespresso
  • Become a CHOICE member to see our full reviews and compare key scores side by side

If you're going to drop some serious cash on a coffee machine, you want to ensure it makes a decent brew. 

In our latest coffee machine reviews, CHOICE experts have lab tested and reviewed more than 50 manual, semiautomatic and coffee pod machines currently on the market. In the process, they've discovered some surprising results that prove you don't necessarily have to pay a fortune to get a decent espresso at home. 

Here, we compare two capsule coffee machine models and two semiautomatic coffee machine models for taste, ease of use, temperature consistency and milk frothing to help you choose the model that's right for you and your budget.

Pod coffee machine comparison

Despite a $470 price difference between these two models, our experts scored them virtually the same overall. In fact, the cheaper DeLonghi Nespresso actually pipped the Breville's final score by one percent and earned CHOICE Recommended status. 

splurge_and_save_breville_and_delonghi

The Delonghi wins out in some key coffee criteria. Vitally, it scored better for taste (70% vs 65%), and was easier to use and clean (84% vs 80%). However, the Breville big spender did froth milk a lot better (80% vs 60%), while both models scored just OK for coffee temperature consistency (60% each). The DeLonghi we tested did drip a little coffee after delivery, too.

For all its bells and whistles, does it make better tasting coffee? No, say our espresso experts

The stainless-steel Breville does look more stylish and solid, and comes with a lot more features, including a digital display interface, milk wand, larger water tank and much quicker warm-up time (three seconds vs the DeLonghi's 23). It also has a wider range of adjustable coffee and milk settings, so you can tailor your cuppa to your taste. 

But for all its bells and whistles, does it make better tasting coffee? No, say our espresso experts.  

To see more pod machine models, check out our full reviews.

Semiautomatic machine comparison

Our experts have tested popular semiautomatic coffee machines ranging in price from $299 to $3799. These two models may vary vastly in price, but both performed very well in our tests and earned CHOICE Recommended status. 

splurge_and_save_sunbeam_and_smeg

In key test areas, they were equally matched, scoring 75% each for taste and 80% for milk frothing. The Sunbeam rated better for ease of use (80% vs 71%), although its coffee temperature consistency score was lower than the Smeg's (90% vs 100%).

Although the Smeg delivers an equally satisfying brew, the Sunbeam does boast more features for coffee buffs. It has twin thermoblock heating (so you can make coffee and froth milk at the same time), a much larger water tank (three litres to one litre), coffee and milk gauges, and a commercial-size filter basket (the Smeg one is smaller and fiddly).

In key test areas, they were equally matched, scoring 75% each for taste and 80% for milk frothing

Whether these features are worth paying hundreds of dollars more for depends on you and how seriously you take your coffee. To see more pod machine models, check out our full reviews.

Please note: Prices listed are what CHOICE paid at the time of testing, and may now vary between retailers.