If you're like me, you've found yourself staring down the list of impressively (and intimidatingly)…
You already know the luxury of a good latte or cappuccino. But if you drink them every day, the cost can add up. If the coffee shop is wreaking havoc on your wallet, it might be time to invest in a home latte or cappuccino maker. You may be surprised at the variety on the market. You can even find an iced latte maker if that’s what you prefer. We made this list to help you wade through the possibilities.
It might be confusing when you start looking into purchasing a latte machine for home. The range in price is staggering. Some machines have enough features to fill a book while others only have a few buttons. Here’s some information to help you make sense of what’s out there.
A cappuccino or latte machine is a device that can make espresso and can froth milk. A regular coffee maker can’t make espresso no matter how much grounds you use. To make espresso, you need a machine that can generate a lot of pressure. Cappuccino and latte makers open a whole world of at-home café-style drinks.
Once the exclusive domain of experienced baristas, now anyone can make a perfect latte at home. With a little help, of course.
A semi-automatic espresso machine takes a lot of the guess work out of making a coffee drink. You still have to measure the grinds into the portafilter and secure it in the machine. But the machine automatically heats the water to the right temperature and forces the water through the grinds. Latte machines also have a steam wand so you can froth and foam your milk like at the coffee shop.
With the super-automatic, the machine does everything for you. It grinds the beans, measures the espresso, and tamps it down. Once you adjust the settings, the machine knows how much water to push through and for how long. Then, these 21st-century machines deliver the frothed milk straight into your cup. Nothing could be simpler.
So how do you choose? The beauty of the super-automatics is that you push a button and can walk away. You come back to your preferred espresso drink. But semi-automatics give you control of the process. This is especially important if you you’re particular about your espresso or plan to use non-dairy milks. You won’t get a perfect froth and foam with something like almond milk in a super-automatic machine.
Making a perfect cappuccino requires a little bit of art and a little bit of science. While a super-automatic espresso machine has all the science you need, it lacks the art.
It’s all about the foam. No matter how good, a machine can’t replicate the delicate touch of a barista when frothing and pouring the milk. There is a bit of a learning curve to get the froth and foam right, but the human touch makes all the difference. So, if you want to serve coffee shop quality espresso drinks, you’d be better off with the semi-automatic.
Our roundup includes five semi-automatic and five super-automatic latte machines. We detailed the pros and cons of each so that you’ll be satisfies with your purchase.
If you want more control your coffee experience, check out the Breville Barista Express. You can fine-tune both grind size and grind amount. The grind size dial lets you make espresso with almost any type and size of bean. You can set the grind amount for the machine to measure the coffee, or you can use the manual over-drive.
The powerful steam wand swivels 360-degrees. This means you can get the exact angle to create perfect milk froth and foam. The separate hot water dispenser makes it easy to preheat your coffee cup or make tea and other hot beverages.
This machine still offers loads of convenient automation. A touch of a button sets the machine to deliver either a single or double shot of espresso. The onboard-grinder delivers evenly ground coffee directly into the portafilter. This means less mess for you.
We love the look of this machine. The sophisticated brushed stainless-steel body is durable and practical. It features easy-to-understand dials and controls with a modern look.
Besides the cost, the biggest drawback for this machine is its size, especially its height. The machine itself is about 13.5 inches tall, but the bean hopper on top adds another 2.5 inches.
This machine offers commercial grade features in an at-home machine. As a result, it weighs a whopping 30.8 pounds!
The user interface could not be simpler. Besides the power button, the machine has three buttons. One is to make the espresso, one is to dispense hot water, and one is to generate the steam. The hot water dispenser it nice for making Americanos, tea, and other hot beverages.
This machine does not include a grinder. You need to either buy a grinder or buy pre-ground coffee. If you want fresh tasting coffee, we don't advise using pre-ground. We do recommend using a quality burr grinder for a uniform result. If you don't like either of these options, you can purchase an optional pod and capsule adaptor kit.
You have ultimate control with the steam wand. First, it is fully articulating. This means that you can adjust the wand to any angle to get perfect froth and foam. The steam want has a control knob. This knob allows you to control the pressure of the steam. While you might need to practice a bit, soon you'll appreciate the freedom it gives to perfect your foam.
As far as aesthetics, this machine does have an industrial look. The buttons remind us of the old-fashioned commercial drip coffee makers.
If you don't have a lot of counter space, the Breville Bambino Plus may be a good option. Speed is another virtue of this portable unit. The ThermoJet heating system heats water to optimum temperature in 3 seconds. Then, the digital temperature control optimizes extraction.
You can choose to make a single or double shot of espresso. This machine does not have a built-in grinder. You'll get the best results if you use a quality burr grinder.
The fact that this machine is lightweight is both a plus and a minus. It weighs 3 pounds, so it's portable and can be stored off-counter if needed. However, because it is lightweight, it can slide around. That can make securing the portafilter somewhat difficult. You may have to hold onto the unit to get the portafilter inserted securely.
The Bambino Plus has an auto-froth option. Place the pitcher of milk under the wand and the machine delivers silky-smooth frothed milk. Simple push-button controls allow you to adjust the temperature and texture of the milk. For advanced baristas, you can choose to manually froth and foam your milk.
This machine is loaded with features that make life a little easier. To start, you can brew directly into your serving mug. You can place any mug up to 12-inches tall under the espresso spout. For smaller cups, this machine features a drop-down ledge to preserve the rich crema. Other convenience features include the option to brew one or two shots and the removable water reservoir.
You'll appreciate the built-in burr grinder. The grinder features sensor grinding technology to insure proper grind size with any type of bean. Plus, a sensor alerts you when the beans are low so you don't run out mid-grind.
While this machine can do a lot, it does have a steeper learning curve. The buttons and dials are a bit hard to decipher. You'll probably have to read the instructions more than with other machines. Once you do figure out what everything means, then it is fairly easy to operate.
La Specialista heats water in 1 second! It has a double-boiler system, which is somewhat rare in the semi-automatic category. This means that you can froth your milk and brew your espresso at the same time. This machine also automates the milk-heating process. The frothing wand has a simple switch to make either flat, frothy milk or the taller milk foam.
You can make an Americano with the touch of a button. The hot water dispenser is positioned to pour directly into your cup while it's positioned under the espresso spout. You can also use the hot water dispenser to make tea and other hot drinks.
If you want to make espresso at home but don't want to spend a ton of money, then this Gevi model might be for you. It's affordable and very easy to use.
The biggest worry you'll have is making sure you get a fine, even ground of coffee, as it doesn't include a grinder. If you can't invest in a quality burr grinder, you might want to go with pre-ground. Please make sure that it is the fine grind that espresso requires. Regular grind coffee will fail in an espresso machine.
The machine comes with a measuring scoop. On the opposite end is a plastic tamper. This will work, but you might want to spend a few bucks to get a higher-quality metal tamper to get the right compression.
Although the frothing wand does rotate, it's a little awkward to use. It's in an odd location and relatively short. If you're particular about the quality of foam, this might not be great for you. This machine does not include a metal frothing pitcher, so you'll want to get one for the best possible results.
Short on space? Tight budget? Want to just push a button for a perfect latte? Then this machine is for you. It's great for the beginner who wants to make café-style drinks at home without all the fuss.
This machine is capable of producing more than enough pressure to create a rich, bold shot of espresso. Unlike most super-automatics, this machine does not include a grinder. We suggest using a high-quality burr grinder to get the uniform fine-grind you need.
A push of a button delivers a single or double espresso, latte, or cappuccino. You can also manually choose the size of shot and amount of frothed milk. A dial above the milk reservoir lets you choose how much or how little foam you want. It also has a single push button to clean the machine. The cup tray is adjustable to accommodate taller mugs.
Both the milk and water reservoir are removable. It makes the water easy to refill and you can store unused milk in the fridge.
The machine comes with a coffee measure which has a tamper on the end. You might want to get a higher quality tamper for best results.
This is a capsule-based espresso maker. That means that it only uses coffee capsules you have to buy pre-filled.
While it's the ultimate in convenience, the capsule system means higher operating costs. But it is still much less expensive than going to the coffee shop every day. The capsule system also limits what kind of coffee you can brew. Also note that you have to use pre-ground coffee, which by definition will not be as rich as fresh ground.
The Lattissima does have settings for four types of drinks: macchiato, espresso, cappuccino, and latte. The sliding drip tray lets you use taller mugs. It also features removable milk and water reservoirs to make cleaning and refilling easy.
While this machine offers five pre-programmed drinks, it also allows you to customize your drink to suit your taste.
Three of the drink options, espresso, coffee, and Americano, allow you to choose a single or double shot with the touch of a button. Also, you can customize the strength, volume of coffee, and amount of foam on your drink.
Phillips has a patented LatteGo system. It has a frothing chamber that whips the milk and air to get silky-smooth frothed milk. Because it doesn't need tubes or wands, it is easier to clean than most other frothing systems. And, it only takes 15 seconds!
This machine is easier to clean than some other super-automatics. The entire brewing group is removable to get the oils and build-up off. A cleaner machine gives better tasting coffee. The AquaClean filtration system means that you won't have to descale the machine as often as you do with other machines. It also means the coffee will taste better.
The Philips 3200 has a long-lasting burr grinder. It has 12 settings from super-fine to coarse. It also gives you the option of using pre-ground coffee.
This premiere machine from Italy can satisfy even the picky espresso drinker. The ceramic burr grinder and stainless-steel details means this machine should last a long time. With the touch of a button, you can brew a latte, cappuccino, macchiato or espresso. You will notice a lot of similarities between this and the Philips 3200.
The Optiaroma brewing system lets you tailor the strength of your espresso with five settings. The easy-to-use buttons also feature memo functions to remember your preferences.
The built-in ceramic burr grinder offers five grind size settings, and you have the option of using pre-ground coffee. For convenience, this machine has reminders for low water levels and an empty bean hopper. The automatic milk frother produces the silky, frothy milk for lattes as well as the airy foam for cappuccinos.
Cleanup is fairly easy. It features an automatic rinsing cycle and automatic quick clean of the milk circuit. The milk carafe is removable for storage and is machine washable. The brew group is also removable for cleaning.
Despite the fact that this is not a true espresso machine, we still wanted to include it on our list. True espresso requires brewing under pressure. This machine does not pressurize the water, but you can alter the brew strength to something similar to espresso.
The simplicity of this machine has few rivals. Just pop in a K-cup, select your strength and cup size, and you're off.
Instead of a steaming wand, this machine has a milk frother cup. The Keurig also serves as an iced latte maker. It can froth milk at a low temperature for your cold beverages. You can also choose your ratio of frothed milk to foam. The frothing cup can handle skim, almond, and soy milk. Again, while the texture won't quite be what you would expect at a coffee shop, the price and convenience go a long way to make up for that.
In addition to the shot size, you can choose to brew a 6-, 8-, 10-, or 12-ounce coffee. The amount of milk you froth depends on how much milk you pour in.
No matter how good a latte maker is, if you don’t use it, it’s not worth anything. Here’s a few things to think about when deciding which machine will work best for you.
Look at not only whether the machine has a grinder, but also what kind of grinder. All of the machines with grinders on this list do use burr grinders. That produces a much more uniform grind than a blade grinder.
But not all burr grinders are created equal. Ceramic grinders tend to last longer that stainless steel ones. Also, not all beans are created equal. Some might need more grind time than others. If you like a variety of beans, you might want a machine that has variable settings on the grinder.
How much time do you want to spend each day hovering around the latte machine? The beauty of the super-automatic is that you can press a button and walk away. You then return to a properly frothed and foamed espresso drink. A semi-automatic demands some tending, especially in frothing the milk.
With a semi-automatic, you control a lot of what goes into the process. To achieve that café-quality drink, you may have to do some trial-and-error work to get your intended result.
Frothing milk is a biggie, especially if you want to make latte art. It’s not just about warming the milk, but getting the micro-bubbles incorporated to achieve that silky smoothness. And getting that airy milk foam will take a bit of practice.
Preparing the espresso itself also takes some skill. Some semi-automatics have helpers to get the proper grind and tamping, but others leave the process completely up to you. To get the proper extraction, the grind needs to be uniform and quite fine. You also need the proper compression in the portafilter basket.
So, ask yourself, “How much do I want to have to think about when making coffee?” If you have no interest in learning the finer points of latte making, then you might prefer the super-automatic.
If you already have knowledge and skill, or are willing to learn, they you will probably get much pleasure out of a semi-automatic. Of course, not everyone is especially concerned with the finer art of making espresso drinks. If you’re in that category, you can still get a reasonable espresso drink from a semi-automatic without too much fuss.
While there is a price range within each category, in general, semi-automatics will be less expensive than super-automatics. You might experience some sticker shock with the higher-end models. But, be sure to calculate how much you spend each month on buying coffee. The daily stop at the coffee shop certainly adds up. That might make the cost of a latte machine for home seem more reasonable.
First, make sure that you’re using high-quality, fresh coffee beans. You don’t need to use a dark Italian roast. Many medium roast coffees make a delightful espresso. The main thing is that the beans are fresh. That means the least amount of time since roasting and brewing coffee immediately after grinding.
Second, you need an even, finely ground coffee. A burr grinder will deliver a much more uniform grind than any blade grinder. You then need to measure your coffee, level it, and tamp it down in the portafilter basket. The packed coffee is called a puck.
Milk selection is also important. You want to use very cold milk, but not frozen. Fat and protein content also make a difference. You can get into the science of steamed milk. But most coffee shops use 2% milk, so you can go with that.
When you’re done, be sure to clean the machine, especially the milk frother. Also, make sure to follow the suggested maintenance schedule. This not only helps the machine last longer, but will also make better tasting coffee.
It's all about the ratio of coffee, milk, and foam. A cappuccino has equal amounts of coffee, milk, and foam. A latte has much more milk than coffee with a light layer of foam on top.
If not included, you will want to use a stainless-steel frothing pitcher. The shape and material of the pitcher will affect the quality of the froth and foam.
No. Not all espresso machines can steam milk. To make a latte or cappuccino, the machine needs to be able to froth and foam milk. An actual steam wand on the machine delivers the best results.
Our overall top pick is the Breville Barista Express. While much is automated, you still have control to customize the strength of your espresso. The high-powered steam want lets you create perfect frothed milk just like at the café.
If budget is your primary concern, check out the GEVI 5403 espresso machine. It can create enough pressure to get proper extraction. While it may not be the best steam wand, for the price, it does an adequate job for an at-home machine.
It’s very rare to find an affordable super-automatic latte maker, but the Mr. Coffee One-Touch CoffeeHouse is exactly that. The one caveat is that it does not include a coffee grinder. On the plus side, it has a surprisingly small footprint and delivers excellent expresso. Also, the frothing device works very well.
There’s a lot to think about when choosing the best latte machine. Before you know it, you can impress your guests with home-crafted espresso drinks. And, you can get your caffeine buzz started before you leave the house!