Making a first class espresso requires patience and the willingness to learn…
Or, you could slash that learning curve and invest in an espresso machine that does all the hard work for you.
Whether you want a manual espresso maker, a fully-automatic model or something in between, we’ve got a great selection of Italy’s finest for you today.
We’ll walk you through the half-dozen brands we’ll be showcasing and then highlight the best espresso machines in their respective ranges. To round out, we’ll give you plenty of handy hints so you can make espresso the Italian way.
So, before you think about the type of machine you want – and we’ve got something for everyone today – it’s time to familiarize yourself with the major Italian players.
I. Our Top 5 Picks for Italian Espresso Machines
- DeLonghi ESAM3300 Super Automatic Espresso Machine (Made in Italy) at Amazon Our #1 Pick
- Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine (Made in Italy) at Amazon
- Gaggia Classic Pro Espresso Machine (Made in Italy) at Amazon
- Gaggia Brera Super-Automatic Espresso Machine (Made in Italy) at Amazon
- Nuova Simonelli Oscar II Espresso Machine (Made in Italy) at Amazon
II. Top Italian Espresso Machine Brands
We’ll be reviewing the machines from the following Italian stables today:
- Nuova Simonelli
- La Pavoni
DeLonghi has been in business for well over a century and started out producing portable AC units and heaters.
Over the years, the company aggressively expanded into all categories of home appliances. Their gelato makers and espresso machines are among their most popular products.
Headquartered in Treviso, Italy, DeLonghi coffee machines have a rich heritage and continue to fly off the shelves the world over.
Build quality is exceptional while pricing remains competitive. An inbuilt advantage of all DeLonghi products is the company’s sharp focus on design. You’ll get an appliance that looks great but is also built to stay the course.
Back in 2001, DeLonghi acquired the British company Kenwood. Part of the deal included access to Kenwood’s Chinese factory. If you spot DeLonghi products imported from China, rest assured that design and engineering still take place in Italy.
If you’re looking for a precision engineered espresso machine from a company that trades on the Milan stock exchange, DeLonghi will bring the coffee shop into your home at pocket-friendly prices.
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- The 10 Best Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
- The 15 Best Nespresso Machines
Nuova Simonelli is an Italian firm that’s been making espresso machines since as far back as 1936. If you’re looking for an OG of the Italian espresso machine, Nuova Simonelli’s heritage is rich.
The company introduced the first espresso machine with a hydraulic pump action. This changed the way in which espresso was poured and remains in force today.
By the 1980s, Nuova Simonelli launched the ISX, an espresso machine in both electronic and semi-automatic variants complete with volumetric pumps and dosing.
As a company, Nuova Simonelli is never shy of pouring cash into R&D. Resultantly, they still continue to dominate the higher end of the espresso market today.
Machine of choice at The World Barista Championship, whether you want to spend five figures on the finest commercial espresso machines for your coffee shop or you want something rugged and reliable for your home kitchen, Nuova Simonelli is the obvious choice.
The company provides training for its commercial machines so you’ll be able to get your barista’s up to speed in no time.
No list of the best Italian espresso machine manufacturers would be complete without Gaggia.
In addition to small kitchen appliances, the company retains a tight focus on espresso and cappuccino machines even now it’s a Philips company under the Saeco umbrella.
Gaggia’s founder patented the first steamless coffee machine back in 1938. The way in which this machine – which Achille Gaggia used in his own coffee shop – forced water over the grounds at high pressure created the crema that modern espresso continues to prize.
The Gaggia company was formed in 1947 and started by producing commercial machines.
Gilda was the first Gaggia machine intended for home use, a tradition still fully in force today.
Gaggia now has 4 core product lines:
- Manual espresso machines
- Automatic espresso machines
- Coffee beans
You can get everything you need from Gaggia from bean to cup.
Since being taken over by Philips, Gaggia espresso machines now come with stainless steel boilers in place of the older aluminum style.
The company is starting to thin out the number of models it offers, too. The new Cadorna line is intended to gradually phase out older machines.
Saeco’s is named for its founders Sergio Zappella and Arthur Schmed who created the company as Sergio, Arthur e Compagia.
The company won the race to bring the first fully automatic espresso machine to market back in 1985. This legendary machine was named Superautomatica.
In 1999, Saeco acquired the iconic Gaggia and, a decade later, the company was itself purchased by Dutch giant Philips.
In the years between that pioneering fully automatic and being bought out by Philips, Saeco introduced 3 notable pieces of tech that changed the game for espresso making:
- The Cappuccinatore for automatic milk frothing
- SBS (automatic brewing pressure adaption)
- Bluetooth-enabled coffee makers
The rich history of Saeco means it still merits its place on today’s list despite its buyout by Dutch buyers. Ultimately, if any company epitomizes Italian espresso at its most innovative, Saeco stands up there with the best of them.
Another key player in the Italian espresso vertical, Rancilio was established in 1927 by Roberto Rancilio.
The company’s first espresso machine used a vertical boiler. Shifting focus to horizontal boilers by the 1950s, styling had become more modern but the forced-steam method was dated.
In 1953, Rancilio started using the same lever piston tech Gaggia had introduced. By 1957, the company had automated the lever with the HL/Automatica.
From the late 1960s through to the the 1990s, a number of Z-series machines designed by Marcus Zanuso dominated the market. These were replaced by the equally popular S-series.
As more and more people wanted top-tier espresso at home, by 1997, Rancilio launched a residential espresso machine based on their outstanding commercial models. This machine – it was to become the Silvia that still goes strong today – was initially given as a thank you to importers and vendors of their commercial machines.
The 2000s saw Rancilio strengthening and deepening their bench with the Epoca and Classes lines.
The classic Rocky grinder also flies off the shelves worldwide.
It would be safe to call Rancilio a genuine legend in the espresso industry.
La Pavoni sprang to life in 1905. Founder Desiderio Pavoni acquired a patent from Luigi Bezzera for the first ever espresso machine.
Named Ideale, the early iterations of this machine were vertically developed. A gas stove was employed to keep the boiler under pressure.
Initially selling at the rate of one a day, La Pavoni soon started producing this machine en masse and was largely responsible for the appreciation of espresso spreading far beyond its Italian origins.
The classic Europiccola Professional machine has resided in New York’s Museum of Modern Art since 1974 and rightfully so. A thing of beauty and precision, the machine is an institution.
Today, the company still produces lever machines and semi-automatics while also delivering the most advanced electronic models with volumetric doses.
Whether you want an involved and hands-on approach to making espresso or you prefer push-button simplicity, La Pavoni has the perfect machine for you.
With that outline of the industry titans in place, it’s time to guide you through the best machines they have to offer.
III. List of 8 Best Italian Espresso Machines
1. Our #1 Pick: DeLonghi Super-Automatic Espresso and Coffee Machine (Made in Italy)
If you want the ease of a super-automatic, this direct to brew system from industry legends DeLonghi is a versatile workhorse. Design is striking but is it a case of form over function?
Absolutely not. This intelligent machine will remember your favorite settings so streamlining operation further. Combining rotary dials with push-button simplicity, making espresso has never been easier.
The grinder has 13 settings so you’ll get the consistency you need for espresso or any other type of coffee without needing a third-party grinder.
The manual frother requires a little effort but in return you’ll have the freedom to create longer, milkier coffees just the way you like them.
From espresso to cappuccino, from latte to macchiato, this DeLonghi is capable of making drinks for the whole family with push-button ease just the way the Italians enjoy their coffee.
2. Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine (Made in Italy)
Rancilio produce a number of industrial espresso machines. The Silvia borrows from that and brings you a pro-grade machine for home use. What’s not to love?
Get your drink started with a single or double shot of espresso. If you prefer your caffeine fix in longer form, use the milk frother and your espresso base to create the latte or cappuccino you prefer.
You’ll benefit from a scoop, tamper and a pair of filter baskets bundled giving you great overall value despite the fairly stiff price tag.
A series of simple switches along with a single dial ensures this machine is a breeze to use even if you’re not the greatest tech-lover.
If you’re looking to combine build quality, durability, ease of use and a wide choice of coffee at your disposal, you’ll struggle to find a stronger machine than the Rancilio Silvia. Check one out and you’ll never look back.
3. Gaggia Classic Pro Espresso Machine (Made in Italy)
Much like the Rancilio above, the Gaggia Classic Pro borrows heavily from the manufacturer’s commercial arm. You’ll get a 3-way solenoid valve normally only seen on industrial units. The brew group and wand are also in line with the kit you’d find on a commercial espresso machine.
The Thermoblock heating gets the Gaggia up to temperature in 5 minutes or so. You’ll then be free to pour single or double shots of rich espresso to get your day going. If you prefer milkier coffee, the manual steam wand affords you complete control over your latte art.
Switches are laid out so you have power, steaming, and brewing segregated. Despite such powerful functionality, this espresso machine is a real cakewalk to use.
For a stainless steel gem from an industry heavyweight, the Classic Pro deserves a place on any shortlist of the best Italian espresso machines.
4. Gaggia Brera Super-Automatic Espresso Machine (Made in Italy)
Another Gaggia up next with the Brera. This super-automatic is priced in line with the Classic Pro and offers a broadly comparable experience in terms of both design and functionality.
Brew using either whole beans with the ceramic burr grinder or hit the bypass doser to use your favorite pre-ground or decaf. You’ll get 5 settings which could be improved but still covers all main bases.
Cleaning couldn’t be much less hassle. The brew group comes away completely and you’ll also be able to remove the drip tray to simplify clean-up further.
Quick to heat up, you’ll enjoy steam on demand in seconds flat with the Brera.
From basic staples through to custom specialty drinks, nothing is more than a couple of button clicks away.
5. Nuova Simonelli Oscar II Espresso Machine (Made in Italy)
Nuova Simonelli don’t make cheap coffee machines but they do make some of the very best. If you’ve got a more fluid budget and exacting tastes, the Oscar II won’t disappoint.
You’ll benefit from commercial-grade components and an aggressive stainless steel finish that will set off any kitchen counter.
Auto-refill tops up the boiler with more water once it hits a certain level. This is a precious safety feature not available on the competition.
Stash up to 12 cups on top of the machine. The ambient temperature from the boiler will keep them hot and ready to accept your next shot of espresso.
This is a back-to-basics semi-automatic so expect to put in a little effort and be prepared for an espresso-only ride.
6. La Pavoni Professional Espresso Machine (Made in Italy)
If you fancy getting back to the roots of making espresso the manual way, this lever machine from the stellar La Pavoni looks amazing and delivers exceptional espresso, too. If you’re looking for push-button simplicity, this is not the model for you. If, however, you’re prepared to invest a little time and trouble into making your morning shot, you’ll be glad you did.
Available in a range of finishes, this elaborate espresso machine comes with a steam jet interchangeable with the automatic cappuccino maker if you prefer your coffee longer and creamier.
Not for the lighthearted and not ideal for beginners, if you take a chance on this classic machine, you’ll end up with espresso the Italians would envy.
7. DeLonghi Digital Super-Automatic Espresso Machine (Made in Italy)
Another superb bean to cup machine from DeLonghi next with this super-automatic.
There’s a burr grinder onboard so you can get your espresso started on the proper foundation.
Punch in the variables of your drink and the intelligent machine will remember your settings making your life easier.
With a pair of heating elements, you can prepare espresso and milk simultaneously. You’ll have a huge choice of drinks from basic espresso and macchiato through to cappuccino, latte, and Americano. There’s something for all the family here.
The digital interface is easy to navigate even if you’re not the biggest tech-fan. For variety of drinks, quality and affordability in one attractive unit, this DeLonghi super-automatic is well worth a place on your shortlist.
8. Saeco PicoBaristo Automatic Espresso Machine (Made in Europe)
A European-made machine from the hard-hitting Saeco, this automatic gem gives you a bean to cup experience second to none. While this model is not cheap, if you act quickly, you can capitalize on a steep discount.
The ceramic burr grinder gives you the grind you need for the drink of your choice. 7 programmed beverages give you much more than espresso so you’re covered for all-day drinking. You can get both hot water on demand and milk to widen your repertoire further.
You can tweak settings with ease using the push-button system so you’ll get top-tier espresso while barely needing to lift a finger. What’s not to love?
With those reviews put to bed, you should have no shortage of great machines to shortlist. Before we round out today, we’ll walk you through how to enjoy your espresso like an Italian.
IV. How To Drink Espresso Like a True Italian
Whether you’re heading to Europe on vacation or you simply want to enjoy your espresso as authentically as possible, the more you learn about espresso, the more easily you can see through the myths and drink your short shot as the Italians intended it.
Understand the true essence of espresso
You might be forgiven for believing there’s a dedicated espresso roast. This is actually nothing but marketing hype.
The way in which your coffee is extracted is what makes your espresso an espresso not the bean. Where brewed coffee extracts using gravity, espresso introduced extreme pressure.
While everyone tweaks with the variables – and this is all part of the fun – the traditional espresso is made with 7g of finely ground coffee and extracted in 25 seconds.
Many commercial coffee shops have started to use as much as 20g of coffee for espresso while still using the same small quantity of water. The result of this is an espresso that’s over-extracted and resultantly bitter. The espresso will also come with proportionally too much caffeine.
An espresso like the Italians make it should not be bitter and actually contains less caffeine than regular coffee.
Order your shot standing up at the bar
If you’re holidaying in Italy, you’ll be unlikely to encounter any Italians taking their espresso back to the table.
Follow their example…
Espresso, by definition, is not the type of drink you sit and linger over but something to be dispatched quickly at the bar.
If your main intention is to replicate the way this classic beverage is drunk at source, get it down at the counter.
Don’t stand on ceremony
You should finish your espresso while the crema is still on the top. This crema is the coffee’s oils in emulsion form and keeps all the flavors locked in for a short time.
As soon as you espresso is drinkable, get that shot down you if you want to go native.
It’s all about the crema
If you’re offered espresso with no crema, it’s either stale or potentially decaf.
This is the driving reason for coffee purists ordering espresso at the bar. The crema is crucial to the best espresso and, by the time it’s been delivered to your table, it’s probably already gone.
Drink espresso throughout the day but keep cappuccino for the morning
If you’re on a trip to Italy, espresso is widely accepted as an all-day drink.
Cappuccino, on the other hand, should not be consumed after 11am. As with all milky coffees, Italians consider them best reserved for the morning.
We’re not saying here that there’s a hard and fast rule but if you want to fall in line with the Italians, respect the rule of cappuccino before noon.
Keep milk away from your shot
Add milk and your espresso becomes an espresso macchiato.
As a general rule, true espresso is never taken with milk.
Always grind beans directly before brewing
If you’re planning to invest in an espresso machine and you’re making your shots at home, there’s no substitute for grinding your beans directly before brewing. Coffee beans start to degrade shortly after grinding. If you store fresh beans whole and blitz them up just before making your shot, the Italians would be proud.
The choice is yours here…
Some super-automatic machines come with an integrated grinder which is useful if you have a cramped kitchen or you don’t already own a grinder.
You could also invest in a third-party burr grinder. Avoid the cheaper and less effective blade grinders.
Use a scale for measuring out your coffee
If you want consistently great espresso, you need to dial in all the variables so you can replicate them.
Coffee beans come in at varying densities so measuring up by eye or by volume doesn’t work so well.
Get some digital scales then you can kick things off with the 7g of finely ground coffee beans ideal for the best espresso.
Consistency is everything and the last thing you want is a great shot one time then a lousy espresso with your next batch of beans. Consistency is everything.
If you’re using a machine, make sure you choose one in line with your needs
As you’ll have seen clearly from today, you have a wide choice of styles when you’re looking for an espresso machine.
There’s absolutely no right or wrong answer here but, if you want to drink espresso like the Italians, you’ll benefit from getting an appropriate machine.
If you’re quite experienced in the art of espresso and you want to enjoy full control over the brewing process, opt for a manual machine or a semi-automatic where you’ll enjoy plenty of leeway.
Absolute beginners might prefer the push-button ease of a completely automatic machine. While you’ll be more restricted in terms of variables, making espresso this way requires almost no learning curve.
To reiterate, you should focus fully on your own needs and experience level here. Get it right and you’ll be drinking espresso like the Europeans. Get it wrong and you’ll end up with a very expensive hunk of metal in the cupboard.
Well, by now you should be in safe hands if you’re looking for an Italian thoroughbred espresso machine.
We tried to include machines catering to a range of budgets and experience levels. After all, not everyone wants a push-button machine and not everyone can cope with a manual machine so we included both.
Think about whether you already have a grinder or whether you’d prefer a super-automatic with an integrated grinder. Several of the machines above have grinders baked in. If not, you’d be well advised to invest in a third-party burr grinder.
Bookmark La Mano Coffee and come back soon. We’re continuing to build out our site and we hope to become your go-to resource for all things coffee-related. See you soon for more impartial reviews and handy buying guides to make your life easier every step of the way.