Coffee is a drink of many wonders. You can drink it black, loaded up with cream, on the rocks, covered with an artsy foam tableau, or even in an after-dinner cocktail. It has sizzled, steamed, and sweetened its way into our daily lives, with a Starbucks for every corner and a Central Perk for every TV show. Nearly everyone you know has tasted it, and nearly no one is apathetic about it. So it stands to reason that the mocha market is bursting with products promising to deliver cafe-quality concoctions right to your kitchen table, especially that big Italian beverage in a teeny tiny package: espresso.
At-home espresso can be a delicate art, and complicated professional-grade equipment is hardly helpful if you’re just looking for an easy shot to pick you up once in a while. Fear not, because the best home espresso machines out there that can satisfy your fix without requiring five-plus years barista experience. We’ve gathered up five of our favorites to suit the needs of travelers, apartment-dwellers, traditionalists, and aspiring cafe-owners alike.
Delonghi Alicia Espresso Maker – $50
Sometimes it’s nice to go old school and just get back to basics. The Moka Pot was originally patented in 1933, and there’s a reason the design has stuck around in the homes and cafes of coffee connoisseurs for nearly a century. Delonghi embraces the Italian tradition with the Alicia, an espresso maker that combines the sweet simplicity of the Moka Pot with a hint of modern flair. The boiler is made of durable aluminum, with a clear pot so you can keep an eye on your brew. An automatic shut-off feature kicks in when you remove the pot from its base (or after 30 minutes of warming), and the cool-touch, swiveling base makes it easy to sit, fire up, and move around anytime you need to get your daily shot.
Prismo Aeropress Attachment – $20
If you’re already an Aeropress fan, there’s a new little wonder on the market you should know about. The Prismo is a clever cap that clips right onto the Aeropress and uses a resistant valve to create enough pressure for a rich espresso brew topped with a healthy layer of foam. Equipped with its own metal filter and boasting a molded design that fits snugly over a standard espresso cup, once the Prismo is attached to the Aeropress, it requires no special extra steps: Simply use the Aeropress just as you normally would, and prepare for a dark, delicious jolt of java. We can’t say this cuppa is going to whisk you away to Italy the way a top-of-the-line machine might, but for a quick $20 add-on to your favorite coffee press, it’s pretty damn good.
Wacaco Minipresso GR – $50
For an all-in-one, espresso-on-the-go experience, Wacaco’s got ya covered with the Minipresso GR. This sleek little machine, equipped with a built-in water tank, coffee scoop, and espresso cup, is built for travel and delivers a perfect shot of espresso with just a few clicks of a button. Weighing in at under a pound and with a length of less than seven inches, the Minipresso easily tucks away in a pocket or pack so you can take it wherever life leads you. A semi-automatic piston hidden away inside helps build up the pressure needed for a brew with enough kick to put a little hair on your chest, and a variety of available water tanks make it easy to experiment with different espresso types.
ATMOS Cold Drip Espresso Maker – $120
Cold brew has been gaining in popularity recently, largely because it produces a coffee that is sweeter, smoother, and less acidic than hot brew. Atmos Coffee is aiming to bring the benefits of cold brew to the beloved Italian java shot with their ATMOS Cold Drip Espresso Maker, currently in its last week of fundraising on IndieGoGo. The ATMOS is composed of just a few simple elements: glass bottles to contain water and finished brew, a stainless steel filter, a valve to harness the power of atmospheric pressure, and a handy cleaning brush, all in a compact package that’s as easy to carry as it is to use. Just fill this baby up with fresh grind, screw on two bottles (one filled with water and one to catch the finished product), flip the whole unit water-side-up, and await your prize: a bold, delicious espresso with a decadently sweet bouquet and silky smooth texture that simply can’t be achieved with traditional hot brew. Perfect if you’re looking to enjoy espresso not only on its own, but also on the rocks or thrown into your favorite coffee combos and cocktails.
Breville Barista Express – $550
For a good countertop cuppa, the Breville Barista Express is a popular choice for good reason. First of all, it’s oozing handy features, including a built-in fully adjustable grinder, digital temperature controls, interchangeable filters, both automatic and manual operation options, and a steam wand that gives you complete control over your cream (and is a real boon if you’re looking to practice your latte art). What’s more is that it delivers all of this with a price tag that, though it still sits at a hefty $550, is less than half the cost of most comparable machines. If you’re a true espresso aficionado, it doesn’t get much better than this.