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The Best Espresso Machines for the Home Barista

The Best Espresso Machines for the Home Barista

There’s always room to up your game, and there are quite a few additional tools that can help you make the best espresso you can. These ones are all tools you’d employ before the brew, setting the stage for the perfect extraction.

Fellow Atmos Canister for Coffee Beans

A vacuum canister is a great way to store your coffee beans. By vacating the chamber of all air every time you close it, the Fellow Vacuum Canister slows down the degradation of all those flavorful oils and chemical compounds inside your (hopefully locally roasted) favorite coffee beans.

OXO Conical Burr Grinder

This is one of our top picks in our Best Coffee Grinders guide, and it’s a good choice for espresso. Espresso requires a fine and consistent grind, the likes of which you can easily get out of a burr grinder. Just be sure to get in there and give your burrs a sweep now and then—maintenance which the OXO makes easy, with a bean bin that snaps apart without any fuss.

Bezzera Bottomless Portafilter

Nothing will improve your espresso brewing like a bottomless portafilter. Not because it will make your coffee better, it’ll make you better by making you more aware of your mistakes and inconsistencies. Bottomless portafilters are finicky, and when your grind is off or you’ve over-tamped your grounds, the bottomless portafilter lets you see that in how the espresso coats the bottom of the filter and pours down into the cup. Be sure to double-check the circumference on your espresso machine’s group head though (the place the filter attaches). There are a number of standard sizes, so you need to make sure you order the right one. The most common are 53 mm and 58 mm, and almost every bottomless portafilter comes in each of these sizes.

WPM Tamping Mat

Tamping mats are just a thick, soft piece of rubber or silicone, but they make it much easier to maintain a consistent tamping pressure (and a clean tamping space so you won’t stain your kitchen table with coffee or scratch it with the bottom of your tamp). You can also use a folded kitchen towel, but these are easy to rinse off.

Crema Distributor & Tamp

Once you put your grounds into your portafilter, the next step is giving them a good, even tamping. You want to use about 30-40 pounds of pressure, and while you can use a scale to determine exactly what that feels like, I find it’s better to just press with your upper body, then extract a shot and see how it went. If it’s too bitter, you tamped too hard, if it’s too watery you didn’t tamp hard enough. A distributor (also called a leveler) makes it easy to get an even surface for you to tamp, and this one has a tamp on one side and a distributor on the other so you can level off your beans, then flip this tool over and give ’em a good tamp. Just make sure you get one that fits the circumference of your machine’s portafilter!

Duralex Picardie Shot Glasses, Set of Six

These are my favorite shot glasses in general, but they’re also great espresso shot glasses—tall and narrow enough to allow a wonderfully aerated crema to form on top, and made of tempered glass so they can stand up to the heat. They’re also great for serving up smaller drinks like macchiatos—a shot of espresso with a dollop of froth on top.

Breville’s Dual Boiler Is Nearly Perfect for Coffee Tinkerers

Breville’s Dual Boiler Is Nearly Perfect for Coffee Tinkerers

I don’t like big kitchen appliances. I have a small space, so I like to keep surfaces as clear as possible. More work surfaces mean more room to get up to weird stuff, whether that’s brewing my own dye from black walnuts, mixing up dozens of varieties of fermentables, or just making a cup of coffee. If an appliance takes up any of that real estate, it really has to be worth it. 

For my household, that means our stand mixer, food processor, rice cooker, and electric kettle all have permanent homes on our countertops. The Breville Dual Boiler is bigger than all of them. If you glued all those countertop appliances together into a monstrous ball of plastic and metal, the Breville might still be bigger. But after several months with it, there isn’t an appliance in my entire kitchen that has earned its keep more. It’s big, it’s expensive, and it’s worth every penny.

Instant Boil

The Dual Boiler is a $1,500 coffee pot. Let’s just get that out of the way. It’s the price of a MacBook Pro, a 65-inch OLED TV, 600 cups of drip coffee, or 300 lattes. It’s a commercial-grade espresso machine built for at-home use, and I’d wager most people don’t need commercial-grade kitchen equipment to get them through the day. It is not a machine any household needs—but it’s really nice to have.

As the name suggests, it has two internal boilers. The boiler is a metal chamber where the water is heated up and turned into either hot water or steam. Most at-home espresso machines have just one that does double duty. Having one boiler means you have a smaller amount of water available for espresso shots, steam (for milk frothing), or hot water (for tea). When you use all that water, the machine needs to pull more into the boiler and heat it up again. It’s not a big deal for most homes, it just takes a few more minutes than usual. Unless you’re making more than a couple of cappuccinos in short order, you probably won’t have any issues with having just one boiler.

Commercial-grade machines usually have at least two boilers. That means you can pull a couple of shots of espresso, steam up that milk, pour a cup of tea, and have hot water to spare. You never even have to think about the capacity of your boilers. My partner and I drink a lot of coffee and tea throughout the day, and we’ve never had to stop and wait for the Dual Boiler to heat up. It’s always ready to go. 

That’s compared to a single-boiler machine I was testing recently, which kept us waiting for hot water so long that we just put the kettle on instead of trying to use it for coffee and tea at the same time.

Built to Last

espresso machine parts
Photograph: Breville

The front face of the Dual Boiler has four tiny buttons under its LCD display, and four big buttons around it—a power button, one to automatically brew one shot, one for brewing two shots, and one for manual control. It’s a nice, clean interface.