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Top 4 Home & Portable Espresso Machines

Updated: Jan 26, 2023

Finding the right espresso machine can be a minefield of confusing jargon and daunting prices, so knowing how to navigate the market for your needs is essential for finding an espresso ritual you love the most. Semi-automatic, fully automatic, and manual lever machines all serve their purpose well but what matters is how much time, energy and budget you have towards great espresso. Let's explore some of the best different types of espresso machines the market has to offer.

 

Fully Automatic


Sage Barista Pro - £599

The Sage Barista Pro is undoubtedly one of the most iconic and recongisable espresso machines in the past decade. Initially entering the market as Sage by Heston Blumenthal, the brand quickly picked up attention for producing great espresso at a reasonable cost. The main selling point is ease of use. Everything from the nice tactile feel of the portafilter, to the click of the putting the portafilter in the grinder, makes the whole experience pleasent and professional feeling.


As a bean to cup machine, you can customize a variety of factors like grind size, brew time, drink recipes, and the real star of the show the milk frothing wand. All you have to do is select whatever type of froth you want, latte, cappuccino, flat white, position the wand in the jug with a certain amount of milk, and let the the wand do the rest. No manual attention in the hissing or movement of milk.


This is one of many pleasantries the Sage offers, owning one myself, I can't recommend this machine enough for ticking so many boxes. Your certainly get what you pay for!

 

Semi-Automatic


Gaggia Classic - £429


Having been on the market for several decades, Gaggia are a renowned and trusted coffee machine brand known for being built to last, and producing exceptional espresso. The key distinction with semi-automatic is the manual aspect of producing espresso. Ease of use is not as great as say the Sage Barista Pro, however, you are rewarded with better quality espresso if you put in a little time testing and mastering some variables.

Firstly, there is no built in grinder. Whilst this may be frustrating, it's a blessing in disguise. For top quality espresso, a burr coffee grinder is more important than the machine. Getting a quality burr grinder alongside this machine allows you greater control and precision over uniform grind size, so you can really dial in the perfect espresso. We highly recommend this for the geeky coffee and espresso enthusiast!

 

Manual

Flair Classic - £179


The past decade has seen some radical new inventions in the world of coffee, in particular are manual lever pulled espresso makers. Whilst the principles of this design are routed in the late 40s and 50s being in commercial espresso bar settings, the past decade has brought this phenomenon to the domestic market. Compared to automatic and semi-automatic, this design comes with several benefits and setbacks. First off, it's certainly more eco-friendly with regards to energy usage compared to espresso machines. The only external energy required here is for boiling water. The brewing of espresso is 100% human strength!


Unfortunately brewing with the flair does, at most, take a few minutes more time for a double espresso, and of course more physical effort requiring a modest amount of grip and push down on the lever. That being said, it does provide a certain level of satisfaction drinking espresso from a an engaging tacticle experience. Check out our Flair Espresso Tutorial for more info and a brewing guide!

 

Portable


Wacaco Picopresso - £119


Ever reached the summit of a mountain and thought 'a fresh espresso would be great about now....' Enter the world of portable espresso makers! One of the better portable espresso makers is the Wacaco Picopresso. Whether you believe this product is novelty, there's certainly a growing niche for easy espresso in the great outdoors. Of course the quality of the shot won't match that of a Gaggia, but for the size and form factor, you can still get surprisingly great espresso pretty much anywhere!


Brewing is fairly straight forward, simply fill the basket with coffee, the rest of the chamber with hot water, seal the equipment, and keep pressing the lever for a nice even flow of espresso. For outdoor and camping trips, we can't recommend this enough as a suprisingly great little espresso brewer!

 

Final Tip


Whilst you can buy new espresso machines under £150, you ultimately get what you pay for, often flimsy plastic parts, not built to last and poor brewing. If on a budget under £150, we highly recommend buying one of the above brands 2nd hand. For example, a Gaggia classic you can easily find under £150 on facebook marketplace, gumtree, and ebay. Of course, check the seller and model are legitimate!

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