Choosing the right home espresso machine can be tricky, having to make decisions about price vs quality, features you need to make good espresso, and if your purchase is supported with a full UK warranty. Luckily at Machina Coffee we’ve made the decision as easy as possible for you, with a full rundown of each model we stock, with our honest appraisal on each machine.
You can generally sort home espresso machines into three categories: Single Boiler, Heat Exchanger, and Dual Boiler. Each boiler type of espresso machine affects price, function and features, so is a good place to start when you’re thinking about buying or upgrading your home espresso setup.
Single Boiler Espresso Machines
These espresso machines have only one boiler which provides hot water for brewing espresso and steam for milk – but cannot do both at the same time. As you switch from espresso to steam, the boiler needs to increase in temperature, and vice versa.
Single boiler espresso machines traditionally come with internal water reservoirs, with no mains water connection option. These machines are the cheapest models you can get that are capable of pulling great espresso. The single boiler means that it takes time to learn how to pull the perfect shot, but with the help of certain features in the latest machines, this is becoming much easier.
- Low cost: delivers high quality for less
- Easy to use
- More compact
- Lacks the temperature precision of higher priced machines
- Unable to brew espresso and steam milk at the same time
- No automatic boiler refill
We only offer one single boiler espresso machine, the Profitec GO. This is for a number of reasons. It's simple, effective and very well built. Read on >>>
The Profitec GO is a bit of a rare breed, in that it's a single boiler that can actually deliver very good espresso and milk texture for the price. This was never previously possible, as single boilers were produced as cheaply as possible and resulted in solution too basic to satisfy most buyers. Think Rancilio Silvia, Gaggia Classic, Dual, CUBE, Baby, Di-Longhi.
You cannot brew espresso and steam milk at the same time, as it's not possible with a single boiler. BUT, you can get pretty close with the GO.
Sure the Profitec GO is a little bit more expensive that most of those just listed, but what you get for the extra money is huge. It's very well built, is reassuringly heavy and comes with some features you have never seen in a single boiler machine ever before, such as a PID for great temp control and a very decent steam wand that can generate excellent quality milk texture.
The GO is the best single boiler on the market, by a country mile.
We hold them in stock in Black, Red, Yellow & Blue, priced at £769 (Black) & £795 (Colours).
Heat Exchanger (HX) Espresso Machines
Heat exchanger espresso machines are a clever hack that allows one boiler to heats water for brewing espresso and hot water/steam – and does allow you to use both functions simultaneously.
The water in the boiler is superheated to create steam. When a shot of espresso is pulled, that water comes from a coiled HX pipe which sits within the boiler. Additional cold water has been pulled into the pipe so that its temperature is cooler than the main section of the boiler. This design results in two separate temperatures to meet the demands of brewing and steaming at the same time.
Most HX's offer gauges showing boiler and/or pump pressure, and many models offer the ability to adjust these parameters. HX's come with a mix of connection options (model dependent) including internal reservoir, mains water connection or both.
They are more expensive than single boilers, but provide good value due to their higher grade build, quality components (often commercial grade), convenience and most importantly - reliable temperature control.
- Higher quality piece of equipment.
- Improved temperature stability (quicker to pull a great shot).
- Water source options (Reservoir or mains connection)
- The ability to prepare espresso and steam milk simultaneously.
- Automatic boiler refill.
- Perfect if you drink milk-based coffees (latte/cappuccino/flat white).
- Higher cost than single boiler machines.
- Larger in size.
- Not as accurate as dual boiler machines for temperature control; requires techniques such as ‘cooling flushes’ to get the right brewing temperature – so slightly less convenient than a dual boiler machine.
We are due to offer two HX espresso machines later this year, available to preorder now:
These options are all traditional (manual) 'Leva' activated machines, where you activate the espresso shot by lifting the chrome arm upwards to open up the valve to allow water to be pushed onto your espresso puck. They are all driven by the iconic E61 group head, which provides amazing temp stability (via thermal mass), one of the two essential elements (Beside pressure) behind great espresso.
They are all exceptionally well built, Profitec from Germany - and have been producing high quality espresso machines for many years. Solid metal chassis, frames in steel panels (Some are chrome plated), with excellent attention to detail.
The Profitec PRO 500/510
The PRO 500 is a slightly larger machine than other heat exchangers on the market, which is due to the larger boiler size and chunkier body / frame. Further, it includes a full PID (Precision Temp Control) instead of a three way switch, so more control and options.
It also includes sprung knobs for activating the hot water and steam outlets, which means you only have to turn them a quarter turn to fully activate them. A simple yet highly functional feature that makes them very easy to use. Just like most machines at this level, it comes with ECO mode and pre-infusion and internal reservoir only. Priced at £1595.00.
The PRO 510 comes with all these features, plus joysticks instead of dials.
Dual Boiler (DB) Espresso MachinesTwo boilers - one dedicated to providing hot water for brewing espresso and one for hot water/steam. This means you can prepare espresso and steam milk simultaneously.
Many dual boiler machines also come with a ‘PID’. This is a digital temperature controller that allows you to accurately change the temperature of espresso extraction to suit different coffees.
The build quality of these machines is usually very high, with excellent design and high-grade components. Dual boiler espresso machines offer ultimate convenience and are feature-rich, leaving the user able to control and adjust as they please. They come with a mix of connection options (model dependent) including internal reservoir, mains water connection or both. They are typically at the top end in terms of price, due to their multiple boilers and high-grade components.
- High build quality and components.
- Extremely solid temperature stability.
- Water connection options.
- Ability to prepare espresso and steam milk simultaneously.
- Perfect if you drink milk-based coffees (latte/cappuccino/flat white).
- Easier to use than an HX and Single boiler - they provide maximum control.
- Higher cost.
- Larger in size than single boiler machines.
We offer a very comprehensive range fo Dual Boilers from La Marzocco, Victoria Arduino and Profitec. They range lots in terms of additional features and style, but they all offer dual boiler technology and have a PID (for controlling the coffee brewing temperature). Just like the HX range, they all offer independant gauges showing boiler and group pressures and offer pre-infusion. But across the range we offer, they do have differences across pump type and the way they actually activate the espresso extraction (manual or automatic).
Here's the key groups and differences:
Semi automatic (Non programmable) machines that have switches to activate shots. Semi Auto machines are manual (The opposite of automatic) that activate shots via switches instead of levers or paddles. The PRO300 is a little unique, in that it offers some very advanced features for one of a semi auto machine. PID, shot timer, ECO mode, pre-infusion and the ability to turn boilers on / off independently.
Paddle machines, that have a small paddle above the group head to activate shots.
Automatic / Programmable machines to activate shots. Similar to commercial machines that can have shot times programmed to specific buttons. These machines tend to be high in features, offering pre-infusion, compatible apps (iOS & Android). These machines are geared towards coffee enthusiasts, but could the Linea Mini often finds it's way to bars and small spaces too.
Price - what you actually get for your money.
In the world of espresso machines, the more you pay the easier it gets to pull a great shot, because the lower end machines have much less control and rely on guess work (Or luck). This seems a little unfair, as those with smaller budgets face a bigger battle / learning curve. Here's the breakdown in low / med / high spends.
Single boiler machines are the cheapest as they have only one boiler which dramatically lowers the cost of manufacturing. You can buy single boiler machines for as little as £80 in high street department stores (Dualit, Di-Longhi, Morphy Richards etc). If you are looking to make half decent espresso - don’t waste your money as they are not worth the time or investment (they are cheap for a reason). If you have a budget less than £500, we highly recommend buying a filter machine, as you will get far better coffee this way.
These machines are usually not capable of delivering consistent and stable temperature levels, which need to be achieved for great espresso. The lowest cost SB that can actually produce decent espresso (with minimal knowledge) is around £750 (The Profitec GO).
Who's it for: Those on a budget or those looking to try out their first serious espresso machine without breaking the bank.
HX machines can be bought for between £1100 – £1800, depending on brand, build and additional features. They tend to look more impressive and elegantly designed than single boilers. Many people opt for HX machines, as they offer virtually all that dual boilers provide including better build quality / components, temperature stability, etc - without the higher cost. Ideal for espresso and milk based drinks – but they do not offer quite the level of control over steam and brewing temperature, that the dual boilers do.
Who's it for: Those who know they want something with a bit of power, convenience and control and are willing to spend the extra money to get there.
Lastly, domestic dual boiler machines cost between £1800 – £5000, depending on brand, build and additional features. DB's are traditional, beautifully crafted machines designed for those that want ultimate performance and maximum control. They contain a digital system that monitors temperature (PID) and enable complete stability. They are highly convenient – there’s no waiting, no cooling flushes, and they allow you to make coffee to rival that of the best coffee shops around.
Who's it for: Those who want the best available in terms of precision, features and style and are willing to pay for the luxuary.
Features and prices - the facts.
Across all types of machine there are a number of other key features that may contribute to your final decision.
Manual (E61) group heads
These use a lever to allow water to enter the group (offering pre-infusion of the coffee) before activating the pump and delivering your shot as normal. Pre-infusion is where water is in contact with the coffee for a short period of time at a very low pressure before that pressure increases and full extraction starts. It allows subtle flavours to shine through, and also is more forgiving if your tamping isn’t 100% perfect.
Manual (Traditional Lever) group heads
Traditional Lever machines have a large handle protruding from the top of the group head. Pulling down on the lever allows water to fill the group, and releasing it engages a piston which forces that water down through the coffee, delivering your shot as normal. Lever machines offer both pre-infusion and post-infusion. This means a gradual ramp UP in pressure at the beginning of the shot, and a gradual ramp DOWN in pressure towards the end of the shot, allowing different flavours to develop. Shots from a lever often taste very unique.
Semi Auto (ON/OFF Brew switch)
Semi automatic machines have a switch/button on the front panel that starts or stops the extraction process. The Rancilio Silvia is an example of this type of machine.
Automatic (programmed keypad)
Some machines have an automatic extraction process. This means that once you’ve done your perfect tamp, and inserted the portafilter into the group-head, you only need to select the correct preset button to pull the type of shot you want (single or double).
PID Temperature Controller
Shows you the temperature of the boiler and allows you to control that temperature digitally.
Adjustable brewing pressure
Allows you to adjust it to suit your coffee.
Adjustable steam temperature
Allows you to adjust it to suit your milk/steaming technique for good micro-foam.
Boiler pressure gauge
Displays the pressure of the steam boiler.
Brewing pressure gauge
Displays the pressure at which your shot is being extracted.
Used in commercial and high-end domestic machines such as the Rocket R58. Rotary pumps offer a more stable pressure for extraction. They are quieter and adjustable. They do cost more to replace, but they also have a longer lifespan.
Vibratory (or Vibe) pumps
Commonplace in most low- to mid-range domestic machines. Vibratory pumps are the noisier of the two pump types, but can only be heard when water needs to be pumped into the boiler. They do need replacing more often than rotary pumps, but are reasonably priced (under £40).