Buying the best espresso-cappuccino machines

Shopping for the best in espresso-cappuccino?
You have come to the right place...

This is a very out of date page that requires some updates - better yet, e-mail me with some sense of what you are looking for - with your general location and your budget and I will give you a personal assessment!

Optional reading - At a glance espresso spec comparison page over here.

Please Note: We do not sell any coffee equipment so please do not ask. We are a consumer review web page only! If you are in the middle of making a big decision about an espresso machine or coffee maker, send me an e-mail and maybe I can help you with that decision.

Are you looking for coffee equipment for your kitchen or office? The Coffee Crew play with a lot of equipment, provided by some of our vendors. Sometimes we gave it back. We are always looking for a beat-up demo of whatever we have missed in these reviews and if you sell machines and want some unbiased reviews of gear, there are several of us scattered around Canada that would gladly take a machine for a minimum of 2 weeks or so. If you are interested in any of these machines and you live in Canada or the USA, I can gladly connect you with a variety of vendors that offer the best price and the best after sales service. Everything you see here, the coffee crew has used in their lab.

You can e-mail me directly for more information on any of these coffee solutions.

The machines reviewed and tested here are advanced home and semi-commercial units, reasonably priced, and reliable, suitable for any cafe or kitchen application.

All the product on these pages were graciously provided by:
  • EspressoTec.Com
  • Baratza U.S.A.
  • WholeLatteLove.Com
  • QualityCoffeeSystems.Com

Rancilio Rocky Grinder
alt Sturdy die cast housing finished in porcelain enamel features precision ground burrs, and precision indexing for consistent degree of grind. The first grinder ever, for me, that made immediate sense out of the box. With quick setup and a few handfuls of fresh-roasted coffee, It took about 5 or 10 minutes to zero in on the right grind for whatever machine I was using. This quality grinder has a 10.5 oz. bean hopper and 7 oz. doser capacity. I use this unit with a Rancilio Silvia as a bench mark for testing and evaluating other units! Around $325 from vendors

The Baratza Grinder series

People talk. Baratza listens. That would be my buy-line for Baratza U.S.A. if I had any say in it. This is the perfect example of a company listening to what people want and need in their coffee kitchens. Let us start at the top. The Hopper. It holds beans and beans aplenty. Of course you would only put the quantity in there that you need, but if you are having a party, there is plenty of headroom in there. Next: A hopper that is pretty much clog proof regardless of coffee roast type. Conical burrs and gear reduction make for ultra-precise grinding and minimizing the heating that can damage coffee during grinding. Wait!

There is a timer on the side and a micro-switch on the front for grinding precise amounts into a portafilter!  There is also a clear grind calibration on the top of the housing for quick, no mistake, coffee grinding and grind recalling each and every time. The unit is easy to clean and strip and appears to have the bases covered whether you are looking for the right grinder for your new espresso machine, drip pot, flip-top, stove top, vacuum or, gasp, perk coffee machine. We review the Virtuoso at length and review it over here - Price: around $300 from all vendors.

The Saeco Talea Ring Plus Super-Auto Coffee Machine

In the World of super-auto espresso and cappuccino, it is an entirely different place - machine wise. In ten years we have witnessed an extraordinary evolution in design and engineering from the brewing perspective.

On one hand we have manual espresso makers, the designs of which go back 50 to 100 years. And on the flip side we have these fairly new counter-top all in one units that make pressure brewed coffee, espresso, latte and cappuccino at the push of a button. You add water and beans, power up, warm up, make a selection, press a button and enjoy your beverage... your way

Evolution is good! Space age plastics and crafty Swiss design and engineering have brought the Saeco line of Super Automatic coffee makers to fruition.

We played with one for a couple of weeks in our lab and sadly, we quickly fell into the habit of depending on hot pressure brewed Swiss coffee on demand. It was just a little to easy to program the Saeco Talea with its iPod touch style menu system (several sizes of beverages, with an infinite amount of variety in temperature, brew time, coffee grind and dose and so on! Brilliant!) to meet our needs. Add water, beans - press and brew and we review the Talea Ring Plus by Saeco over here!


The Gaggia and Pavoni Levers

Love them or hate them, the classics are here to stay. The Gaggia and Pavoni lever powered espresso makers are more than just a pretty face in the kitchen.

When it comes to espresso, with these units it is you against the elements. There is no pump to assist you. There are no gadgets to compensate for bad grind, coffee freshness or air pressure and humidity with lever powered espresso makers.

When the stars are aligned and you have perfectly ground fresh espresso and a strong arm, it is you and the machine.

There are single and double thermostat units to be had. That means that there is a thermostat for setting brew temperature and one for steaming temperature. Units with one thermostat, to me, seem to run somewhat hot.

These units get hot, boiling hot, on the outer skin of the boiler and scalding burns are always a risk. If you can live with a potentially lethal and hot boiler in your kitchen and are willing to take some risks, these units reward disciplined operators with rich espresso and spectacular foamed milk for 'out of this world' cappuccinos.
Price - $700 and up! All vendors.

There is a more advanced reviews of this unit here and other units on the Equipment review pages here

Gaggia Classic

Built like a tank, with composite aluminum boiler, brass group and portafilter, three-way solenoid Gaggia Classicvalve and four-choices of finish, the Classic is the Coffee Experts pick for sheer staying power, brute strength and for those that desire their kitchen cafe to be anchored with this cement mixer of a machine. I find the three button Classic, like the Gaggia Baby with similar configuration, very straightforward to use 'out of the box'. It is quick to warm up, easy to keep clean, and performs consistently if given the loving kindness it so justifiably deserves. I suggest a diet of filtered water for all Gaggia's (as well as all pump driven machines) as scale buildup in these machines and exposure to chlorinated water is a potential death threat to the internals of most machines.
1370 Watts-Nickel Steel- 9 to 15 Bar- Pressure.
We review the Gaggia Classic over here!

Gaggia Baby
alt All the same plumbing as the Classic above except a thermoplastic shell. It is, perhaps, a tad quieter, but only because of the shell construction. Just like the others in the Gaggia family, there is plenty of steaming pressure for endless lattes and cappuccinos and a fast recovery rate for shot after shot of perfectly extracted espresso! I find the Baby very easy to use and moderately forgiving of tamp and grind. As always, use fresh coffee and a good Burr grinder. If this is your method of choice for coffee consumption, you will quickly realize, as I did, that you use precise amounts of coffee and water in the preparation of your drinks making your coffee dollar go a lot further when you are making your own specialty drinks for you and your friends. Gaggia Baby-D reviewed here.

Solis SL70
alt Brilliant Swiss design and quality construction went into, what I consider to be, a good starting point for a serious home espresso-cappuccino machine. Solis has an established history of listening to consumers and finding out exactly what the coffee enthusiast wants for the kitchen and the office. I found, in my tests, that the SL70 is amazingly quiet, intuitive, solidly made and well thought out ergonomically. It comes 'standard equipment' with a pressurized portafilter. But I urge you to insist on a non-pressurized standard portafilter to get the most out of the coffees that you will use! It is very tolerant of tamp, grind and coffee type and has lots of steam pressure and volume for cranking out drink after drink, whether it is Latte, Cappuccino, Milk for Hot Chocolate or steaming cider.

Rancilio Silvia

With the boiler, brew head, delivery group and filter holder being constructed of precision machined forged marine brass, I would suspect that the Silvia will be making a home in your last will and Silviatestament as well as your Kitchen. It is sturdy and well thought out for placement of controls. To get everything right with your relationship with the Rancilio, you need to study the manual carefully as well as do some Internet reading to understand the sometimes-fussy nature of this classic appliance. Once you do, however, you will be rewarded with session after session of perfect espresso and associated beverages. Front panel includes: Ready lights for brewing, steaming, and hot water. This makes everything pretty clear as far as timing is concerned. I find the Rancilio, with the right grinder and fresh coffee, to be the creme de la creme of espresso machines, neck and neck with the Gaggia Classic.

The Newco OCS-8 Thermal CarafeThe Newco OC8-8

A 1400 Watt heating element that brews through a commercial BUNN basket filter. The brew temperature is a perfect 198 - 199 degrees F. producing coffee in a thermos carafe that is 170 degrees. No more tepid coffee for these guys! The brewer makes 40 fluid ounces or 4 big mugs of coffee in an astounding 7 and 1/2 minutes!
Typical price: $149 US.
Available from Newco Coffee and vendors. brewer is now our official office coffee maker for hot drip coffee in our offices and labs. The Newco has an industrial grade

The Reg Barber Espresso Tamper

When you are ready to put your plastic toys away, it is time to bring out the RB Tamper. There is only one RB, it is handmade and there are no altsubstitutes. Now do not cry to me that it is 40$ or so! Would you trust your espresso with anything less? No, I did not think so. Handcrafted custom designs in Steel and Aluminum. Visit his website,

The ECM Giotto

Okay, when you are good and ready for one of the most serious home espresso machines out there, it is time to start thinking about:

  • spending some serious dough (think between 1000 and 2000 dollars)
  • finding a bit chunk of counter space in your kitchen. if you have to ask "How much space, Colin?", don't bother me, you do not have the space!

Yes, the Giotto eats space and electricity but it pays off in awesome espresso and reliable performance. When you need to brew shot after shot and drink after drink, the Giotto will not let you down. This is the ultimate home machine. A Classic E61 Brass brewgroup, altBrass boiler, and a shell of steel that tips the scales at over 65 pounds, the Giotto is a coffee machine for only the most demanding and coffee obsessed. We had one for a week and that was plenty. Any longer and Geir would have had to pry the thing from my coffee stained hands!

Where can you buy one of these behemoths? Go to EspressoTec.Com, WholeLatteLove.Com as well as others..

The Baratza Maestro Plus

Looking for a grinder that will not shake itself off of the table or a grinder that is actually capable of grinding espresso, drip, french-press and perk styles all in the same day? Consider the big brother to the Baratza Maestro, the Maestro-Plus.
The Plus is not only heavier(it feels twice as heavy) than the regular Maestro but it has a significantly higher range of grind settings!

A new the PLUSmetal base and grey enclosure give this new grinder a distinctive look, with physical improvements more than doubling of the weight over the basic Maestro to 7.5 lbs. The additional weight gives the Maestro Plus a professional feel with increased stability and quieter operation. The Maestro Plus design is a product of coffee experts Canada and the U.S.A. wide! Who says no one listens!?

The Baratza series of coffee grinders are the primary coffee grinders in the CoffeeCrew.Com day-lab.

Alongside a Newco OCS-8, OCS-12 thermal carafe brewers, the Baratza grinders chew through an average of 1/4 to a 1/2 pound of coffee beans daily.

We have had a couple of concerns with the durability of some components associated with grind control. These issues are being taken care of. Our unit has been modified(by me) to withstand some serious abuse. Maybe that is part of the problem: The 'crew are a tough lot, but we figure that we are representative of the average consumer.


Credit where credit is due: Machines provided by Baratza.Com - EspressoTec.Com,,, Reg Barber and Dezco-Canada.

Enjoy! Colin Newell - 2016
 Proudly sponsored by...
Planet Friendly Coffees
Lower Level
St. Lawrence Market - Front Street - Toronto
Everyday Gourmet Coffee - Front Street - St. Lawrence Market