Best Beginner Espresso Machines

Getting into the world of espresso can be thrilling, but choosing the right machine can be daunting. Let’s break down what makes a good beginner espresso machine and look at some key options.

This is NOT sponsored or full of affiliate links where we earn commission, this is an honest look at the machines I purchased and have used.

What to Look For in a Beginner Espresso Machine

When you’re new to making espresso, simplicity and ease of use are crucial. Here are some essential features:

Ease of Use: Look for machines with straightforward controls and minimal settings to adjust.

Durability: A good beginner machine should be well-built to handle regular use.

Consistency: Consistency in temperature and pressure is vital for good espresso.

Steam Wand: If you enjoy milk-based drinks, a decent steam wand for frothing milk is necessary.

Price: As a beginner, you may not want to invest too much initially. Balance cost with the features offered.

Thermoblock and Other Heating Systems

Understanding heating systems helps in making a more informed choice. Here’s a brief overview:

Thermoblock Heating: This system heats water quickly and on demand, rather than storing it. It ensures fast heat-up times and consistent temperature, making it great for beginners.

Boiler Systems: Larger and more expensive machines use boilers, which provide excellent temperature stability but take longer to heat up.

Thermocoil: Similar to thermoblock, but usually offers better temperature control and longevity.

Recommended Beginner Machines

These machines share many of the same parts, indeed the way you program them, the settings and layout are identical.

These allow temperature of shot, hardness of water, and auto shut off time to be easily set to one of 3 levels. As a plus you can exactly control the shot duration and set this easily.

DeLonghi EC680

The DeLonghi EC680, also known as the Dedica, is an excellent choice for beginners. Here’s why:

  • Thermoblock Heating: Ensures quick heating and consistent temperature.
  • Slim Design: Takes up minimal counter space.
  • Manual Control: Offers the ability to refine your skills without being overwhelming.
  • Decent Steam Wand: Suitable for frothing milk for lattes and cappuccinos.
  • Reliability – I had the EC680 from 2018 to 2024 – it reliably made 15,330 to 20,000 shots of coffee in that time (7-9 cups per day).

Smeg ECF01

The Smeg ECF01 is another great option, combining style with functionality:

The ECF01 shares pretty much all parts with the EC680 from portafilter, to steam want and even water tank and cup holder, it just looks posher and feels more solidly built. It meant I could reuse my bottomless portafilter and spare water filters.

  • Thermoblock Heating: Provides quick and consistent heating.
  • Retro Design: Adds a touch of style to your kitchen.
  • User-Friendly Interface: Easy to operate, making it ideal for beginners.
  • Good Steam Wand: Allows for decent milk frothing capabilities.

Budget Options

If you’re on a tight budget, there are machines that simply push steam through the portafilter. While not as high-quality as the ones mentioned above, they can still make a decent cup of espresso.

These are effectively electric Mokka Pots but still produce nice tasting coffee, you just don’t get the same degree of control over them.

Example Models:

  • Mr. Coffee ECM160: Very basic and affordable, but it uses steam pressure, which can lead to inconsistent results.
  • Krups Espresso Maker: Another budget option with steam pressure. It’s easy to use but doesn’t offer the same quality as thermoblock machines and tends to over extract in my opinion.

For beginners, the DeLonghi EC680 and Smeg ECF01 offer a great balance of ease of use, functionality, and style. Understanding heating systems like thermoblock can help you appreciate why these machines are recommended. If budget constraints are a concern, simpler steam-based machines like the Mr. Coffee ECM160 or Hamilton Beach Espresso Maker can still serve as a starting point, though they may not provide the same consistency and quality.

Tip: When the water reservoir runs dry the pump is doing extra work and will start to degrade quickly. Always check the machine has water and it will last a long time, I’ve seen too many machines with noisy or failing pumps just because of user neglect.