Espresso making is an art! With so many variables influencing the outcome, many could be excused for shunning home made espressos in favour of barista produced beauties from their local coffee shop. For those of us looking to deliver perfect espressos at home though, there is a wide range of machines available. Keep reading to find out the best espresso machine with grinder for your home.
Product: Breville Barista Express
Available from: Amazon
Best for: If you truly love coffee…there I said it. Learn the art, stop being lazy…I jest (kind of) this machine is my love and you can take it from my cold dead hands!
Worst for: A busy house with people who don’t want to spend time creating art but just need a caffeine hit in the morning (or any time of the day).
Product: De’Longhi La Specialista
Available from: Amazon
Best for: The americano drinker with a small countertop
Worst for: Someone who wants to really play with all of the espresso variables
Product: De’longhi ESAM3300 Magnifica
Available from: Amazon
Best for: Small office settings full of coffee lovers or a busy home
Worst for: Those who like silence and more control over their coffee
Product: Breville Oracle Touch
Available from: Amazon
Best for: Convenient coffee in your home, but not at the cost of a well made latte or cappuccino
Worst for: Luddites who enjoy tinkering around with each variable to create their personal espresso but can’t handle a touch screen
Product: Gaggia Anima Prestige
Available from: Amazon
Best for: People who want a good cappuccino at the touch of a button day, night, in the office, wherever
Worst For: The espresso aficionado
I think everyone agrees that a good espresso machine with a bad grinder is a waste of your energy, and in fact many would say the grinder is more important than the machine. Breville is known in the coffee world for building great burr grinders and many coffee lovers purchase the Breville stand alone burr grinders for this reason, I myself have one. The Breville Barista express’ grinder is no different, it delivers a consistently uniform grind with 16 different grind settings.
This is a semi-automatic machine, meaning you’re going to have do some of the work! One of the things that sets the Barista express above many other similar machines is the fact that it caters to both entry level and intermediate coffee lovers through providing both the capacity to individualise, or standardise many of the key espresso variables.
I favour machines with manual controls over touchscreens, this is of course a personal preference. It feels like tinkering with a science project and I enjoy that proprioceptive feedback I get from twisting and turning and pushing and pressing.
Pressure is the one thing that you can really play with in the Barista Express, more than with many other machines in the same class. This is because the Barista express provides you with 4 different basket options, 2 each for either a single or a double shot; 1 pressurised and 1 non pressurised.
With the non-pressurised basket the pressure is created when the hot water is forced through the grinds, the smaller the grinds and the harder the tamp, the higher the water pressure has to be to get through it. This can be hard to dial in but the espresso, with the texture of joy and the crema that looks like it will last forever is a glory to behold. The pressurised basket is for those users who want a consistently good espresso without playing around too much with tamping, grind size and pressure. The pressurised basket also allows you to scoop in pre-ground coffee which means you can add decaf to your repertoire, if you lean that way (trying to not sound judgemental here, I know there’s lots of reasons people might want a decaf).
Don’t be put off if you’re not experienced though, the manual really will give you what you need to get started and I imagine, once you’ve tasted the coffees you can create from this you will want to spend more and more time with it.
Making a good espresso is enough for me but I understand that other coffee lovers might want an americano or a Latte. The Barista express has a functional steam wand. It doses 8oz of water if you’re looking to turn your espresso into an americano. The milk frothing does require practice, the steam wand can only do so much for you. There are other machines that will assist you with this and make that job easier, the Breville Barista express is not one of the those machines.
As a side note, the tamper is magnetic, which is, well, I just can’t believe I haven’t come across this before.
This is another semi-automatic espresso maker with a burr grinder. For the at home espresso lovers be warned, it’s not only wide but high, and when you start trying to fill the water tank you’re going to need even more room. This is not for the small flat city living coffee lover, you need both counter space and height to make this work without it being clumsy and awkward. Given that this is a big enough machine I had expected that it would be adapted to suit the home user, unfortunately it’s not. To access the water tank you have to drag the machine over to you and unplug. This is not ideal if you are not fit, healthy or…just a bit clumsy.
As opposed to the Breville Barista express the De’Longhi La Specialista has fewer grind settings. Given that this is a key component in the pressure (which produces the crema), I was interested to see how this would pan out. The La Specialista only comes with the pressurised baskets, meaning that a lot of the hard work of figuring out the pressure is done by the machine. There are a great number of people who would prefer this as it takes the guess work out of the espresso for them.
Unless you always use the same bean every time then this lack of options in the grinder may frustrate you, it has only 5. Changing the bean may mean needing a coarser or finer grind to deliver your brew effectively. With fewer options you may just not be able to get the grind that you really need to make the most of that bean.
The La Specialista has an integrated tamp that is operated by a hand lever on the side. This allows you to tamp without having to worry about the mess, and more importantly it creates a solid predictable and uniform tamp. I like the physical motion of tamping myself and I thought that I wouldn’t enjoy this lever function but in fact I appreciated the outcome (a level tamp) more than I thought I would!
Where the La Specialista excels is in the milk frothing and water heating department. It requires much less research and work to get a good milky foam. The steam wand has an adjustable feature where you can move the ring up to make a hot flat milk with almost no bubbles, or move it down to make a rich foamy frothy milky beauty. The hot water required for an americano comes through a different nozzle which is set in just the right location, meaning that once your espresso is poured you do not need to readjust your cup to start making your americano.
A note; you should be aware that there is a known “leaking issue: with the La Specialista. It’s not something I’ve run into myself but there are many who have. I would be reticent to complete this review without mentioning it.
This is one of the few super automatic espresso machine I rate as worth my time and energy. You might also notice that it’s also the also completely constructed out of plastic in contrast to the more high end stainless steel models available, this makes it lighter but it still looks the part.
This is the coffee machine my parents use. They have a busy household with lots of caffeine addicts passing through and they just want to create a variety of good coffees without a lot of fuss. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was born in a house of coffee snobs so I’m not giving this machine shade when I say “no fuss”. The ESAM3330 Magnifica is very much a beginner machine, if you’re interested in developing your barista skills or enjoy playing around with all of the variables that go into creating great coffee this is not the machine for you.
This ESAM3300 Magnifica has a conical burr grinder with 7 different grinder settings. Even though this is a conical burr grinder it is quite loud which limits the locations you’ll want to place it in. This decision is not about counter space as the machine is compact and light, this is about keeping the machine away from office meetings or sleeping babies.
There is a 60oz water tank so you can make lots and lots of coffee before you’ll need to refill, but refilling is easy as the water tank can be accessed from the front. Unfortunately this machine doesn’t have a water filter and isn’t able to accommodate one so you do need to make sure that you pour in filtered water if you live in a hard water area.
My favourite thing about this machine is the cup heater, it’s a bit of a gimmick as I tend to rinse my cups with hot water anyway but I enjoy using it when I visit my parents and miss it when I go home.
The reliability of this machine means it is truly a great option for a small office where you want to make a nice coffee but you don’t want a lot of different people fiddling around with settings or wasting their lunch break figuring out their tamping form! The machine also has a dual boiler meaning you (or your work colleagues) don’t need to stand around waiting for the water to reheat before making another coffee.
The steaming wand can provide you with water for an americano, or hot steam for frothing milk. If you want to make a latte or a flat white you will need to practice frothing your milk, this is just part and parcel of most machines. The wand easily comes apart for cleaning and parts can be found easily if they break or crack because this really is one of the most popular machines on the market.
A note: Using oily beans in a super automatic is not advised as they clog up grinders and brew units shortening the life span of your machine dramatically.
The name “Touch” gives away the reason why the luddite within me wasn’t sure how to feel about this machine before I tried it. The Breville Oracle Touch is a touch screen operated espresso machine. The touch screen is nice actually, it’s not as clumsy as I expected and there’s part of me that likes imagining it’s a replicator on a start trek enterprise era ship. This is a fully automatic machine meaning that you don’t have as much control over the quality of your coffee, that being said, it is designed in such a way that you are getting a quality coffee every time.
I am going to skip right ahead to the frothing milk component of this machine because, for me, this is the real star of the show with the Oracle Touch. It is fully automated! I want to shout this from a roof and have people understand, you don’t have to do anything except for introduce your milk to the steam wand and walk away (almost). The machine calculates the temperature of your milk, and then acts accordingly. Did you just take your milk out of the fridge? Then It will act differently than if your milk has been standing out for 10minutes. Chose the foam type in the display and you get what you ask for, be that a flat white or a cappuccino. This is about as foolproof as you get from an espresso machine!
You can still somewhat adjust the variables that you might want to with the Oracle touch, though less manually than with other machines. You can programme in your favourites and save them meaning you can create predictable coffee each time. Cleaning the water tank is made easier by a nifty roller you can engage that raises the machine on a type of small lever so you can turn the Oracle touch around, access the water filter, and then turn it back again. Filling the water filter is even easier given that you pour water in through a lid in the top near the bean hopper.
The real issues for me is that this touch screen is not connected to the internet, meaning ,that if you need an update or something goes wrong with the settings, you have to return the entire machine to Breville to be reconfigured. This seems like a missed opportunity to allow for remote repairs, patches and even allowing updates in terms of different types of coffees available.
I haven’t mentioned the built in grinder yet and my review wouldn’t be complete without it, it is after all one of the most important parts of an espresso machine! The Oracle Touch has a high quality Breville burr grinder as you’d expect. This grinder is conical, rather than a flat grinder which does have some advantages, for me the main one being that it’s quieter. The difference between a flat and a conical burr grinder is that conical burr grinders tend to be cheaper, quieter and more forgiving for the at home coffee lover. This adds to the “don’t worry we got this” vibe of this machine.
In terms of the “not required but I like it” specs, it has built in lights. It doesn’t add anything to my espresso but it does add something to the sexiness of this machine.
My first ever coffee machine was a Gaggia. It’s unlikely, if you are a coffee lover, that you will go your entire life without knowing or owning Gaggia. They make a wide range of coffee machines and you can spot them in both busy high street coffee chains and hipster spots. This is the Gaggia “lazy boy” option, no, that’s not it’s official name but it’s what I call it. Maybe I could even called a “super super automatic super lazy boy”? Too much?
Please don’t think I use the term lazy boy as an insult, it is in fact delivering to a specific niche in the market. Not everybody wants to spend their lives playing with and making coffee, some people just want to drink it!
The Gaggia Anima Prestige does not have the customisability of other espresso machines, it is, after all a super automatic. For me what makes it the perfect “lazy boy” choice is the integrated milk tank that generates a cappuccino with the touch of a button. This means there’s no standing around with your frothing wand trying to get that foam just right!
This is another super automatic machine that I felt deserved a mention for one major reason. I think it has a pretty biggest selling point over the De’longhi ESAM3300 Magnifica as an at home espresso machine. This is the fact that it is quiet while grinding! There are 5 grind settings, and the Gaggia is another conical burr grinder delivering a good, uniform grind every time, but this time with less noise. Preferred drink settings can be stored so multiple users can have their favourites at the touch of a button. But if you, or where you want to place your espresso machine, are sensitive to sound then this might be a good choice over the De’longhi ESAM3300 Magnifica.
Honestly this is not going to fill any budding baristas dreams but it is a solid choice. From switching on to having an espresso in your hands just over a minute is required, and from switching on to drinking your cappuccino you need only wait 3 minutes, that’s far less time and effort than most other machines, and a heck of a lot less effort than going to your local coffee shop!
If you are the kind of coffee drinker who enjoys your beverage with frothy milk but doesn’t want to spend time, and energy perfecting that froth every time, this will deliver what you desire with the push of a button (or two). You aren’t going to get the rich deep warm honey textured espresso that you would get with other espresso machines and you won’t get an instagram worthy micro-foam but you shouldn’t expect to with this level of automatisation.
My preferred espresso machine is not going to be everyone’s favourite by virtue of the fact that we are all, in fact, individuals. So please take my opinion with that fact in mind. I want the full coffee making experience. I want to feel the tamp, I want to play with grind size and see how this affects the pressure. I want play with those variables to try and create an espresso where the crema is breathtaking and I don’t mind the time that it takes for me to learn. I am not a frothy milk coffee drinker so the benefits of the cappuccino, flat white and latte options are wasted on me. The Breville Barista Express delivers what I want and need from an at home espresso maker with a grinder built in. I think often of the Japanese art of Kaizen, the culture of continuous improvement. This is what I want my espresso machine to deliver, the ability for me to continuously improve while enjoying delicious coffee.
I hope this review on the best espresso machine with grinder built-in has helped you to make your decision!
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