At this time of year, it's hard to wake up and even harder to get out of bed. Being able to make a good cup of coffee at home will seriously improve your mornings. But it’s important to find the machine that best suits your lifestyle. We've reviewed some of the top machines from brands including Smeg, Nespresso, Lavazza and Gaggia.
Apart from price, there are other factors to consider. How important is convenience? How quickly do you want your coffee in the morning? Are you an espresso drinker, do you like a long filter coffee, or a latte?
If you want to kick off with some advice on what kind of machine to go for, check out our buying advice after the top ten list, where we break down the different categories of coffee machines and their pros and cons. Otherwise, read on to find out why these are the best of the machines we've tested.
Best coffee machine reviews
1. Breville Barista Max - Best value overall
The Barista Max is an espresso machine with an inbuilt conical burr grinder. This alone makes it quite unusual. But at this price point, for its quality, it's extremely rare.
Beans go into the hopper on top and can be ground straight into the portafilter. It's not quite as simple or convenient as an automatic bean-to-cup machine such as the Gaggia Naviglio, but if you enjoy the coffee making process - even a little bit - it's very satisfying to use.
As it comes with an inbuilt milk wand, plus milk jug and tamper, you won't have to shell out for any other coffee-making accessories. That's a good thing as this is a large machine that will require a dedicated spot on your kitchen counter. But it's solid and well-made and should give you very good coffee for a long time to come.
Read our full Breville Barista Max VCF126 review
2. Smeg Espresso Coffee Maker ECF01 - Most stylish
The Smeg espresso coffee machine is a manual coffee maker, which means it takes a bit more time and effort to use than a pod machine or an automatic bean-to-cup machine. In our opinion, it's well worth it.
It takes ground coffee or ESE pods and has a number of adjustable settings, including water hardness and temperature, so you can get your coffee exactly the way you want it. The inbuilt milk frother doubles as a hot water dispenser, which means you can make anything from a Cappuccino to an Americano.
This is a beautiful machine that's a pleasure to use and we'd recommend it to anyone who wants to explore the art of coffee making at home.
Read our full Smeg ECF01 Espresso Coffee Maker review
3. Lavazza Deséa - Most versatile pod coffee maker
The Lavazza Deséa is certainly the best pod/capsule-based coffee machine we've tested so far, even though it's not the most expensive.
It's stylish and well-made but more importantly, it makes a wide range of coffees from espresso to macchiato. The complexity means it takes a little while to get used to, but it's pretty much a one-touch operation once you get the hang of it.
The Deséa produces consistent coffee and with the option to boost temperature and foam if needed. It also operates more quietly than any other coffee machine we've used.
Read our full Lavazza Deséa review
4. Gaggia Naviglio - Best value bean-to-cup
It might not have upmarket features like a digital display, but the Gaggia Naviglio has enough functionality for the average coffee lover. Most importantly, it's very high quality for its price.
This stylish machine is a little on the loud side and has an annoying blinking power light, but it makes excellent coffee with simple and intuitive controls. You can customise the strength and volume of the coffee, and there's an inbuilt milk frother for cappuccinos and more.
If you want great quality bean-to-cup coffee without breaking the bank and you don't need extra features, then the Naviglio ticks all the boxes.
Read our full Gaggia Naviglio review
5. Russell Hobbs Chester Grind and Brew 22000 - Best filter machine
For a very reasonable price tag, you'll get a capable machine with the Russell Hobbs Chester Grind and Brew 22000. Whether you want to use beans or ground coffee, you can get a strength and smoothness to suit your taste.
It may not be smart - and may only be suitable for producing black filter coffee - but what it does, it does very well. It's a great starter coffee machine.
You can keep your coffee warm for up to forty minutes, and schedule the machine to start brewing at a certain time so you have a pot ready and waiting first thing in the morning. The fact that you can't change the timer once it's started was a minor annoyance, but it didn't detract from the fact that this is a reliable coffee maker at a good price point.
Read our full Russell Hobbs Chester Grind and Brew 22000 review
6. Genio S Plus - Most brewing options in the Dolce Gusto range
If you're looking for a Dolce Gusto machine, this is the best one available. Not only is it as compact and straightforward as the other machines in the range, but it has more brewing options, so you can tailor your coffee to your preference.
It's fully automated and easy to use. You can choose from three drink temperatures, precisely calibrate the amount of water in your beverage, plus there's the option of an espresso boost.
Read our full Nescafe Dolce Gusto Genio S Plus review
7. Dualit DCM2X 3-in-1 espresso machine - Most versatile overall
If you're after the convenience of a capsule-based coffee machine but also want to be able to make a 'proper' espresso from ground coffee when you have the time, Dualit's 3-in-1 coffee machine is one of your only choices.
It's a decent machine, too, and not overly expensive. If you're wondering why it's called 3-in-1, it's because it also accepts ESE pods as well as Nespresso capsules (and Dualit's NX capsules, which are Nespresso-compatible).
Read our full Dualit DCM2X 3-in-1 espresso machine review
8. De'Longhi Dinamica ECAM 350.35.W Bean to Cup - Best for convenience
If the main thing you want from a coffee machine is convenience, the Dinamica is for you. It's conveniently sized, conveniently designed and convenient to use, offering you freshly ground espresso in less than a minute, with just a couple of button presses.
Serious baristas will want to look elsewhere for more in-depth controls and customisations, but if you just want to get a good cup of coffee without having to think too much at 7 in the morning, this is a great choice.
Read our full De'Longhi Dinamica ECAM 350.35.W Bean to Cup review
9. Nespresso Expert and Milk - Smart functionality
The Nespresso Expert and Milk is a comprehensively featured Nespresso machine with some slightly unnecessary smart functions bolted on. Still, you get a range of coffee styles and a built-in milk frother and it's dead easy to use. Plus, as long as you're organised, you'll get to make yourself a coffee from bed every now and then.
None of the smart features are essential - ultimately they're more a matter of convenience than transformation. Most of the time you'll make your coffee the same old way you would with any other Nespresso machine. But for those rare occasions you're able to plan ahead, prepare a pod and a cup, and wake up to the smell of fresh coffee, it just might all be worth it.
Read our full Nespresso Expert and Milk review
10. Dolce Gusto Piccolo XS - Simplest to use
The Piccolo XS is a streamlined capsule coffee maker that can be used for both hot and iced coffee. It’s petite, sleekly-designed and inexpensive.
If you want a capsule coffee maker, you don’t want to spend a lot on it and you don’t mind a lack of features, this could be the machine for you.
Read our full Nescafe Dolce Gusto Piccolo XS review
Buying advice: which one is right for you?
There are four main categories of electric/ electronic coffee makers. They all have their pros and cons. We list them below, so you can decide which type is right for you.
Manual espresso machines
If you love espresso, these machines are the best. You can make proper coffee that’s every bit as good as a cup you’d get from your favourite coffee shop. They use highly pressurised steam to produce shots of espresso, which you can mix with milk or water to make longer drinks.
They typically include a milk wand, so you can make cappuccinos and lattes and won’t have to worry about heating milk separately.
While some (more expensive) machines may include a bean grinder, most won’t, so you’ll either need to invest in a separate grinder or buy your coffee pre-ground. While the latter option is easier, the ground coffee will quickly begin to oxidise and you’ll swiftly lose the magic taste of freshly ground beans.
These machines are also not the simplest to use. Making a couple of coffees is a few minutes’ work and will create a reasonable amount of mess. It’s extremely hard not to spill at least some coffee between container, scoop and portafilter when you’re half asleep in the morning.
It’ll also take a bit of trial and error, so a manual espresso machine is best suited to people who love their gadgets as much as their coffee.
And, while not as expensive as a bean-to-cup machine, an espresso maker is likely to be much more so than a pod or a filter coffee maker.
A bean-to-cup machine automates the process. It’s basically an espresso maker without the work. Put beans in. Press buttons. Coffee comes out. You drink coffee. All is well in the world.
They typically have a number of settings, so you can get your coffee exactly the way you like it. Some even have programmable profiles, so each member of the household can press a single button to get their favourite coffee prepared perfectly.
There’s just one con: price. Good bean-to-cup machines start at around £400/$400 and often climb to £1,000/$1,000 and more.
They’re quick. They’re mess-free. And they’re better than instant.
If you want a pod coffee maker that makes a decent espresso, go for a Lavazza or a Nespresso machine. If you like mixed drinks, like lattes, cappuccinos and more, a Nescafe Dolce Gusto machine is probably right for you. The latter also sells milk pods, so you can easily make blended beverages – although higher end pod machines from other brands may have a milk wand.
If you go down the pod route, you’ll find that there’s now a huge variety of flavours and strengths, as well as hot chocolates and even teas you can make with your machine.
These machines also tend to be the most budget-friendly, with prices starting at about £30 when they’re on sale.
Once you buy, you’re committing to buying the pods or capsules for as long as you have the machine. These can work out to be more expensive than ground coffee, so although your machine is cheaper, you may end up paying more in the long run. But that depends on the brand. Dolce Gusto capsules typically work out at about 20p per cup, although you can often find deals on branded and compatible capsules that’ll help to bring the price down.
There’s also the question of taste. They are not a patch on a home espresso maker but if you sample different brands, you’ll find that some coffees are more appealing than others.
Finally, there’s the issue of waste. Pod machines aren’t the most environmentally friendly, although you can use manufacturer schemes to recycle used capsules. You can find out more about this in our article.
Filter machines have had a bad rap, but with pour-over coffee coming back into fashion, they’re on their way up again. If you put fresh ground coffee into your machine, you should get a really delicious beverage that’s lighter than espresso but with plenty of flavour.
They’re perfect for making a batch of coffee for a group of people and you won’t have to hang around the machine making individual cups.
They strike a great balance between pod and manual machines, in terms of price, taste and ease of use.
If you’re buying, look out for how long the machine can keep coffee warm after its brewed, how many cups it can make at once, and whether it has the option to schedule coffee to brew at set times.
A filter machine is really best for plain black coffee – or with a splash of milk from the fridge. Forget lattes and cappuccinos: they are not on the menu.
Check to see if the filter machine you’re considering buying has a grinder. If not, you’ll need to use pre-ground coffee, or invest in a separate machine. The quality of the coffee you use will make a real difference.