The Best Coffee Machine

Or how to quit your daily café-coffee habit (by enjoying it at home instead).

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November 28, 2019
Best coffee machines

Coffee Machines

Although some things are best left to the pros – like any type of electrical work in your home – a decent cup of coffee should be achievable to everyone. If you want to enjoy café-quality coffee without the café price, consider a coffee (or espresso) machine. The best coffee machine is easy to use and quickly and consistently delivers great coffee. Here are the best espresso machines in Australia, chosen from hours of research. This includes independent testing and real Aussie consumer insights.

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Our top picks

Breville The Barista Express
Best Overall

Breville The Barista Express

See price on Amazon
The perfect cup of at-home coffee is in your hands with the Breville the Barista Express, thanks to 1-touch buttons, manual or semi-automatic operation and a built-in grinder. Create latte art with the steam wand or simply enjoy a custom coffee. It’s well-loved by Aussies and comes in under $1,000.
Shop Now
Sunbeam Mini Barista Espresso Machine
Also Great

Sunbeam Mini Barista Espresso Machine

See price on Amazon
Whipping up café-style coffee at home needn’t be difficult, as the Sunbeam Mini Barista Espresso Machine proves. With 1 dial and 2 pre-set shot sizes, it has everything you need, including a steam wand. Loved by Aussies, it has a small RRP to match its small footprint: just $299.
Shop Now

Coffee Machines

Although some things are best left to the pros – like any type of electrical work in your home – a decent cup of coffee should be achievable to everyone. If you want to enjoy café-quality coffee without the café price, consider a coffee (or espresso) machine. The best coffee machine is easy to use and quickly and consistently delivers great coffee. Here are the best espresso machines in Australia, chosen from hours of research. This includes independent testing and real Aussie consumer insights.

Coffee Machines
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How we picked

Turns out Aussies are obsessed with coffee. This was reflected in the huge number of coffee machines that CHOICE, Australia’s leading consumer advocacy group, has tested. We started there and chose the models that were easily available in Australia.

To narrow our long list down, we turned to ProductReview.com.au, Australia’s first consumer opinion website. We wanted to see which coffee machines are most loved by Australians. Normally, we struggle for multiple reviews. Not this time. A lot of coffee machines have well over 100 reviews which meant we were spoilt for choice.

We took a quick look at Canstar Blue, an Australian consumer review and comparison website. They’d recently run a coffee machine brands survey. This gave us an idea of the brands Aussies trust and rate, but not specific models.

Armed with all this information, we set about selecting our shortlist. We did this by focusing on certain functionality. The machines needed to be simple to use and quick – we know that for most people, it’s about grabbing a quick coffee on the way out of the door. We were less focused on technology as that doesn’t always equate to better results for you – anyone understand what a 15-BAR pump does? 

We wanted a range of types, from manual to semi-automatic and automatic, to cater to different types of coffee lovers. We also aimed for a range of brands and prices, from the affordable to the blow-the-bank. You’ll note that we haven’t covered the pod coffee machines in this guide – you’ll find these in their own dedicated guide. 

With all this in mind, we decided on the 7 top home coffee machines.

Important features to consider

Regardless of the price, these are the features every decent coffee machine should be packing. Our research shows that the biggest thing that impacts on the quality of the coffee a machine makes is the coffee beans. It’s less about the features and technology. This means you should be prepared to invest in top quality beans. Supermarket ground beans might not be fine enough for machines and could damage them. 

A note on different coffee machine types

Our guide includes 3 types of coffee machines:

  • Manual.
  • Semi-automatic.
  • Automatic.

We haven’t covered coffee pod machines – there’s a separate guide for that – or drip / filter coffee machines. We haven’t found much demand for them in our research, but we might cover them in the future: get in touch to tell us you want this. 

Manual and semi-automatic espresso machines let you get more hands-on. They work by you putting in the right amount of ground coffee into the group head then the machine does the rest. A semi-automatic stops the flow once it’s reached a pre-set amount. With a manual, you need to stop the flow yourself. 

Although you get more control over your coffee, they can be harder to learn how to use them and you’ll need to grind the coffee before use.

An automatic espresso machine does everything for you, from grinding the beans to frothing the milk. This makes them easier to use than manual and semi-automatic ones, but more expensive. 

Controls

The controls should be clear and simple to understand. This might be a digital display, 1-touch buttons or the use of easily read labels. 

Steam wand

Every coffee machine we reviewed had a steam wand. Which makes sense as most of us enjoy the café-style frothy foam, so we’d like to recreate that at home. 

Cup warming tray

By warming your cup, your coffee should stay warmer for longer. Most of our reviewed models offer this feature. 

Double shot

You should be able to choose a single or double shot option. Most machines make 2 espressos at once, but they might only grind one dose of beans, making for a weaker coffee. If you’d like to make 2 cups, avoid machines that make 2 at the same time. You want a fresh dose of beans for each cup.

What you get if you spend more

As we mentioned above, the biggest impact on the taste of coffee from a machine is the quality of the beans. Pay more and you’ll get more customisation and convenience, but not necessarily better tasting coffee.

Automatic coffee machine

A fully automatic coffee machine is more expensive than other types. Although it might not deliver a better cup of coffee, you’ll have to work less hard for it – you might press 1 button. 

Built-in grinder

Rather than having to buy ground coffee or a separate grinder, the most expensive models have a grinder built-in. This delivers you freshly ground coffee exactly when you need it.

Adjustable grinder

If it’s got a built-in grinder, it might be adjustable. This means you can change the size of the grind to best suit the bean.

Best Overall: Breville The Barista Express

See price on Amazon
Outbound Icon
Breville The Barista Express
The perfect cup of at-home coffee is in your hands with the Breville the Barista Express, thanks to 1-touch buttons, manual or semi-automatic operation and a built-in grinder. Create latte art with the steam wand or simply enjoy a custom coffee. It’s well-loved by Aussies and comes in under $1,000.
Shop Now

Breville the Barista Express lets you make café-quality coffee at home, quickly and easily. It promises from bean to espresso in under a minute – ideal for those busy mornings. Even better than that, you have full control over how your coffee tastes and how much work you want to put in.

That’s because it’s a semi-automatic coffee machine, which allows you to choose semi-automatic or manual operation. It’s packing some high-end features. This includes an integrated burr grinder which grinds on-demand to deliver the right amount of coffee for your taste. It has a grind size dial, which gives you control over the grind size, whichever bean type you’re grinding. It also boasts a steam wand so you can indulge in some latte art. 

It doesn’t skimp on the basics either, like the cup warming plate and hot water function to prewarm your cups. It can handle large cups, so you don’t always have to use espresso ones. 

You can produce single or double shots, and it has a generous 2L water tank capacity and 250g bean hopper capacity. The labelled touch buttons are user friendly and easy to use.

It has almost 600 reviews on ProductReview.com.au – the largest amount we’ve seen so far – giving it an impressive 4.4 stars. It’s also been tested by CHOICE and Breville is the 5th most popular Canstar Blue brand, with Aussies loving its taste quality.

All this, for under $1,000.

Why buy the Breville The Barista Express

Easy to use – thanks to its 1-touch labelled buttons.

Quick – Breville reckons it’ll whip up your coffee in less than 1 minute.

Single and double shot – whatever type of caffeine fiend you’re feeding, you’re covered with both single and double shot options.

Cup sizes – you’re not limited to espresso cups, it’ll handle much bigger ones too.

Manual or automatic operation – you can either let the machine do all the hard work, or you can get increased control by choosing manual operation.

Built-in burr grinder – to deliver the right amount of coffee, whenever you need it.

Steam wand – create café-quality barista art at home – or just enjoy beautifully frothy coffee.

3 colours – it’s available in stainless steel, red or black to suit all tastes and kitchens. 

2L water tank capacity – which means you won’t be constantly refilling.

Consumer reviews – it has almost 600 consumer reviews, making it a well-loved bit of Aussie kitchen kit.

The not-so-good bits

1-year warranty – for almost $1,000, we’d expect to see a better warranty than 1-year. At least it’s a repair one, and not a replace. 

In summary 

The perfect cup of at-home coffee is in your hands with the Breville the Barista Express. Choose manual or semi-automatic operation and enjoy 1-touch buttons for quick and easy coffee making. The built-in burr grinder delivers the right amount of coffee for your tastes and the generous 2L water tank capacity avoids constant refills. You can create latte art with the steam wand or simply enjoy a custom coffee. It’s well-loved by Aussies and comes in under $1,000.

Also Great: Sunbeam Mini Barista Espresso Machine

See price on Amazon
Breville The Barista Express
Whipping up café-style coffee at home needn’t be difficult, as the Sunbeam Mini Barista Espresso Machine proves. With 1 dial and 2 pre-set shot sizes, it has everything you need, including a steam wand. Loved by Aussies, it has a small RRP to match its small footprint: just $299.
Shop Now

For a simpler espresso machine, try the Sunbeam Mini Barista Espresso Machine EM4300. It’s packing less features than our winner but has a much lower price, just RRP $299.

Because of the lower price, it’s much easier to use with just 1 dial. Its biggest selling point is its auto shot control. Pre-set 1- and 2-shot measures means you get the right amount of coffee, every time. Plus, you can make 2 cups of coffee at once. 

As the name implies (‘Mini’), it has a smaller footprint than our winner. To compensate for this, it has a 58mm size group head like you’d find in commercial coffee machines. This larger size accepts more grinds and helps ensure an even extraction for great tasting coffee. 

Like our winner it has a steam wand for perfectly frothed milk, a cup warming plate and a 2L water tank capacity. It’s a ProductReview.com.au award winner 2018, which means it’s been well-rated by the ProductReview community. Currently it has over 160 reviews, where it’s got 4.2 stars. Aussies love how easy it is to use and how good the coffee it makes is.

It’s also been tested by CHOICE and Sunbeam is the 6th most popular coffee machine brand, according to Canstar Blue. It got 4 stars for taste quality and ease of cleaning, and 3 stars in all other categories including value for money and reliability.

Why the Sunbeam Mini Barista is worth considering

Easy to use – simply turn the 1 dial to what you need, and the machine will do the rest.

Pre-set measures – it prides itself on its ability to deliver 1 or 2 shots perfectly, every time.

58mm size group head – which is commercial coffee machine size, even though it’s a ‘mini’ machine. This allows for a good range of grinds.

Smaller footprint – which means it takes up less space on your benchtop.

Steam wand – for producing frothy milk. 

2L water tank capacity – to avoid constant refills. 

Price – RRP $299 makes this a very affordable at-home coffee machine.

Loved by Aussies – so much so, it’s a recent ProductReview.com.au award winner. 

The not-so-good bits

No built-in grinder – which means you’ll need to buy ground coffee or a separate grinder, rather than freshly grinding your beans. 

1-year warranty – it only has a 1-year warranty and no repairable parts. 

In summary 

Whipping up café-style coffee at home needn’t be difficult – that’s what the Sunbeam Mini Barista Espresso Machine proves. With 1 dial and 2 pre-set shot sizes, it has everything you need for quality coffee, including a steam wand. Loved by Aussies and tested by CHOICE, it has a small RRP to match its small footprint: just $299.

The Competition

Because CHOICE and Aussie consumers have reviewed and rated so many coffee machines, it was tough to narrow the competition down. These are all worthy alternatives to our 2 top picks. 

Sunbeam Café Series EM7000

Type – semi-automatic

If you’re happy to splash out on more than our runner-up, a good Sunbeam alternative is the Sunbeam Café Series EM7000. It’s RRP $899, making it about $50 less than our Breville winner. For the extra money, you’re getting extra good looks. It’s stainless steel and looks highly professional.

The functionality is like our Sunbeam runner-up. But rather than a dial, you have 1-touch labelled buttons which allow you to choose manual mode or from 3 pre-set programmes. Like our runner-up, it offers 1 or 2 shot options and a steam wand. For coffee geeks, it has milk temperature and pressure gauges so you can get it just right. It also offers an energy saving eco mode. 

Even though it’s bigger than our runner-up, it still has the same 58mm commercial size group head. It does have a larger water tank though, at 3L compared to our runner up’s 2L. Plus it’s over double the price of our runner-up but it still only has a 1-year warranty, although it is repairable.

It’s been tested by CHOICE and has over 200 happy Aussies on ProductReview.com.au, who give it 4 stars. 

Choose this if – you want a professional-looking coffee machine with a large water tank capacity and 1-touch button functionality for under $1,000.

The Little Guy Home Barista Kit

Type – manual

If you want to get hands-on with your coffee making, meet the Little Guy Home Barista Kit. It’s a compact and portable coffee machine, making it ideal for travel, especially camping trips. Because of its simple design, it has no moving parts meaning very little servicing is required. The Little Guy reckons this is a ‘lifetime investment’. Which isn’t bad for the price: $699.

There’s no 1-touch functionality, buttons or dials here. Instead, you fill the boiler with water, add your ground coffee and pop it on the induction top (more on that in a bit). Eight minutes later, your espresso will be ready – so it’s not quick. Even though it’s small, it has a built-in steam wand too. Which means it’s got everything you need for good coffee.

The Little Guy states that it doesn’t work reliably on standard induction cook tops. Instead, you’re urged to consider buying the Little Guy Induction Top instead, which is an additional $199. This brings your total investment to $900. The Little Guy is keen to point out that this induction top is multi-functional, with 5 heat settings. It could be handy for small kitchens or when travelling. 

CHOICE has dedicated an entire article to the Little Guy with the key outtake being: “Our out-of-the-box verdict is that while The Little Guy produces OK to good espresso, its taste won't quite blow you away. And although it looks good, it's quite an expensive piece of gear.” 

It has over 150 reviews on ProductReview.com.au – 135 of these are 5 stars, giving it an overall 4.6-star rating. This means, regardless of what CHOICE reckons, Aussies love it. They rave about its consistently perfect espresso and long-lasting nature.

Choose this if – time isn’t an issue for you (it takes about 10 minutes to make 1 espresso) and you’re happy with a $1,000 investment on a manual coffee machine that should last you a lifetime.

Breville the Oracle Touch

Type – automatic

Back to Breville again. This time, it’s the most expensive coffee machine we reviewed by a long way and the very opposite of The Little Guy. For RRP $3,799 you’re getting what Breville claims is “the next generation super automatic espresso machine”. 

This means every step is automated, thanks to the touch screen which allows you to select your favourite drink before the machine does the rest. Although it has 5 pre-set programmes, you can adjust the coffee strength, milk texture and temperature to suit your tastes. You can create and save up to 8 personalised coffees and you can have 1 or 2 shots. The steam wand is also automated – select how frothy and hot you want it and it’ll adjust its speed accordingly. Apparently, it also cleans itself. 

The built-in burr grinder does everything for you – grinds, doses and tamps 22g of coffee beans. The dual boiler means you can make coffee and froth milk at the same time, speeding up the process.

As you’d hope for this price, it has a 2-year repair warranty. It currently has less than 50 reviews on ProductReview.com.au, which isn’t too surprising given its price, but it does have almost 5 stars. It’s a ProductReview 2019 award winner and has also been tested by CHOICE. 

Choose this if – you want a coffee machine that’s going to do everything for you, leaving you to simply select the coffee of your choice.

Smeg ECF01

Type – semi-automatic

If space is an issue, or you’re a fan of retro-styling, then the Smeg ECF01 is a good choice. RRP $499, it’s a slimline coffee machine that’s easy to use. It has a 1-cup and 2-cup button and steam button for the steam wand. And that’s it.

Because of its small size, it only has a 1L water tank although it can handle latte-size mugs as well as espresso size. It does have a cup warming plate. If you’d rather have some control, there’s a flow stop function which customises your coffee length.

As it’s a Smeg, it offers a range of classic colours, including black, white, blue, red and cream. It comes with a 2-year warranty. It’s been tested by CHOICE and has 40 reviews on ProductReview.com.au, with 4.3 stars. 

Choose this if – you want to spend less than $500 on a slimline, retro-styled coffee machine that’s simple to use.

Sunbeam Piccolo Espresso EM2800

Type – manual

At RRP $139, this is the most affordable coffee machine we reviewed. It’s also one of the most basic, both in looks and features. It has 1 dial, which you switch to make espresso or steam. It can produce 1 or 2 cups and it has a steam wand and warming plate. The water tank is 1.3L and the group head size is domestic – not the large 58mm commercial size of our 2 other Sunbeam picks. 

Because of its smaller size, it can’t accommodate large cups. It has a 12-month replacement warranty, has been tested by CHOICE and has almost 80 reviews on ProductReview.com.au, where it has 3.6 stars. 

Choose this if – you want to spend around $100 on a coffee machine and are happy with a no-frills model. 

The bottom line

A daily takeaway coffee habit adds up. Enter a coffee machine: café-quality coffee, at home. The best coffee machine is easy to use and quickly produces a decent coffee that’s comparable to what your favourite barista makes. It allows you to get as hands-on as you want, or to push a button and let the machine do all the hard work. You can even indulge your inner barista with some latte art.

We think the Breville the Barista Express is Australia’s best semi-automatic coffee machine. Quick, it promises beans to espresso in under a minute. The labelled touch buttons are user friendly while its built-in burr grinder perfectly grinds your coffee beans on demand. The generous 2L water tank avoids constant refills. It has a huge number of positive Aussie consumer reviews and it’s even been tested by CHOICE. All this, for under $1,000.

If you’d rather spend less, consider our runner-up, the Sunbeam Mini Barista Espresso Machine EM4300, RRP $299. With just 1 dial, it’s incredibly easy to use and it prides itself on delivering the right amount of 1- or 2-shot coffee, every time. Although it’s ‘mini’ it still boasts a commercial size group head, which accepts more grinds. Like our winner, it has a steam wand, cup warming tray and 2L water tank. It’s a ProductReview.com.au award winner 2018 and it’s been tested by CHOICE.

Sarah Idle
Words by Sarah Idle

Sources

1. "Coffee Machines", ProductReview.com.au

2. "How to buy the best coffee machine", CHOICE

3. "Espresso Coffee Machines Reviewed", Canstar Blue

4. "The Little Guy home espresso maker review", CHOICE