Baristas the world over have dedicated themselves to the craft of extracting the most flavor out of coffee, coming up with some incredible drinks in the process. It’s only natural that coffee lovers would want to replicate that level of deliciousness at home. And if you crave cappuccino —espresso layered with steamed or frothed milk—it may be time to step up from your standard coffee maker to the kind of specialty machinery that will let you brew like a pro.
There are different types of cappuccino machines, however, and you’d be wise to invest in one that you’ll really enjoy using. So read on to learn what to look for when shopping—and why these models are considered among the best cappuccino makers available.
- BEST OVERALL: Breville BES870XL Barista Express
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: De’Longhi EC155 Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
- BEST FOR BEGINNERS: Gaggia RI9380/46 Classic Pro
- BEST SEMI-AUTOMATIC: Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine
- BEST SUPER-AUTOMATIC: Philips 3200 Series Fully Automatic Espresso Machine
- BEST POD COMPATIBLE: Nespresso Lattissima Pro Original Espresso Machine
- BEST MANUAL: Flair Espresso Maker
- BEST PORTABLE: STARESSO Portable Espresso Machine
Types of Cappuccino Makers
Pulling a good shot of espresso can be an art form, but not everyone feels creative first thing in the morning. Fortunately, from push-button super-automatics to manual machines that allow aficionados to control every aspect of the process, there’s a broad spectrum of quality cappuccino makers on the market.
Manual machines allow for the most control of your cup: amping, grinding, timing, even pressing the grounds is up to the brewer. For the espresso itself, users manipulate a lever to generate pressure that blasts nearly boiling water through a device called a group head. The boiling water must reach a minimum of seven bars of pressure as it moves through the coffee grounds resting in the portafilter. Some baristas believe nine bars of pressure (about four times as much as what’s used in a car tire) is ideal, though others claim the higher the pressure, the finer the product.
It takes a little practice to develop the technique to extract the most from your machine. What’s more, cleaning and maintaining the machine is a must: a wipe-down with each use, rinsing out the filters, and regular descaling should keep most manual machines in top shape. Specialty coffee bars often use manual machines for their highest-end coffee, and these machines tend to be great to look at as well. Of course, once the espresso is made, if your goal is cappuccino, you must create the steamed or frothed milk to finish your masterpiece.
Semi-automatic cappuccino makers give home-brewers the ability to make a mostly hands-free cappuccino. A combination of customizability and convenience, semi-autos are a good choice for those who want some control over their cappuccino experience without the hassle of a fully manual machine.
Some semi-auto models feature automatic grinders, milk frothers, steamers, and multiple fineness and time settings. Beware, though, that these added conveniences add up to a little extra work in the maintenance department. Automatic grinders need to be cleaned of grounds to maintain optimal operating conditions, and steam wands and milk frothers may become clogged with milk from previous use.
Super-automatic cappuccino makers do it all: grind the beans, pull the shot of espresso, and steam the milk. Some models have displays that let you change some settings, but for the most part, this is a machine for the person who wants to push a button, head for the shower, and return to a tasty cappuccino.
Super-autos are often found in traditional coffee shops because of their guesswork-free delivery. They tend to be a little more expensive but offer convenience and consistency in return. Like semi-autos, super-automatics need to be maintained, and because they automatically perform the entire process, their grinders, frothers, and other accessories require cleaning after use.
Coffee Pod Machine
With a pod brewer, the entire product is wrapped up into a premade aluminum and plastic pod. The home-brewer simply loads the pod into the device, presses a button, and the machine does the rest.
Efficient and consistent pod machines offer the ultimate in no-fuss cappuccino. Prep time is down to nothing, and cleanup is a snap because the pod is self-contained. Every pod is a piece of trash, of course—so not the greenest way to make cappuccino—and pods are not universal; not every pod fits in every maker, so owning a coffee pod machine may mean committing to a specific manufacturer.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Cappuccino Maker
Cappuccino machines come with a variety of parts and attachments that critically impact the brewing and drinking experience. Consider the following factors, features, and options when shopping for the cappuccino maker that will suit you best.
Most cappuccino machines do not make standard coffee; they are dedicated to the specialized concoction that may be described as wet, dry, or bone-dry, depending on the ratio between espresso, steamed milk, and milk froth. Control over those ratios gives brewers the opportunity to try different things. The best cappuccino machines will have attachments for preparing the milk.
Cappuccino makers offer a number of other attachments and features.
- Water filters protect both the taste of the coffee and the internals of the machine.
- Steam wands super-heat the milk to the ideal temperature.
- Milk frothers add more air to the milk for a fluffier foam.
- Programmable displays allow you to adjust settings.
Most cappuccino machines are too big to conveniently store away, so it’s important to get one that complements your kitchen decor. Fortunately, designs run the gamut from sleek spaceship cockpit to ornate work of art. Many cappuccino makers have some metal parts, especially to create the required pressure. Higher-end machines opt for all-metal construction, which lends itself to durability as well as appearance.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Cappuccino makers generally require more cleaning and maintenance than standard coffee machines. Because of the engineering and process needed to make cappuccino, keeping the machine clean and maintained is essential to prolonged use.
Machines should be cleared of grounds, rinsed, and wiped after every use. Internally, limescale is the enemy. Even if a home-brewer uses bottled water or does not have hard water, descaling should still be performed. Because cappuccino machines build so much pressure, keeping the internals clear is crucial to safe, effective operation. Hard water from the tap creates a hard scale inside the machine that can damage function. Even machines that run on distilled water should be descaled at least twice per year by running a solution of hot water and vinegar through the machine.
Our Top Picks
The best cappuccino makers give brewers their desired level of control, look good on the kitchen counter, are easy to clean, and offer attractive features—at the right price point. Those criteria were employed in the selections below so that brewers of varying skill levels, budgets, and cappuccino goals can find the best machine for their requirements.
Breville’s Barista Express is a semi-automatic machine that offers an excellent mix of customizability, quality, and convenience. The discerning coffee lover can choose from 16 levels of fineness from the built-in grinder, while a milk frother attachment makes short work of turning espresso into cappuccino.
The machine measures 12.5 inches by 12.6 inches by 13.1 inches, and its stainless steel over plastic body gives the Breville a look, if not the total durability, of a more expensive machine. Maintenance takes a bit of elbow grease, but regular descaling and a weekly washing regimen will help guarantee full function for a long time.
For a blend of capability and affordability, take a look at the De’Longhi semi-automatic espresso and cappuccino machine. The EC155 can produce 15 bars of pressure for ultrahigh-quality espresso, and it’s compatible with both grounds and pods. A swivel jet frother guarantees frothy milk, and automated systems allow some control for the user.
Accents of stainless steel enhance the De’Longhi’s modern styling, and removable, dishwasher-safe pieces make maintenance easy. While the 12.2-inch by 19.3-inch by 15-inch machine lacks a grinder and doesn’t offer the full control of a manual machine, its combination of features and convenience makes it a capable pick, especially for those on a budget.
Both setup and operation for the Gaggia RI9380/46 are straightforward, making this model a wise choice for wannabe baristas. This semi-automatic cappuccino maker can pull a double shot of espresso in less than 30 seconds, and those who wish to delve deeper into brewing may do so, thanks to such control features as an auto switch-off and a three-way automated solenoid valve to release pressurized water from the grounds after brewing. There’s also a sizable water reservoir for multicup brews, a cup warmer, and a pressurized filter basket that forces grounds into a reservoir before running water through it.
The Gaggia’s 9.5-inch by 8-inch by 14.2-inch dimensions mean it takes a reasonable footprint on the kitchen counter, but the brushed stainless steel finish is sturdily attractive. Maintenance is standard: Wipe down after each use, rinse the drip tray and water tank, and be sure to blow steam through the steam wand to banish vestiges of dried milk.
With its highly simplified interface, fully articulated steam wand, and wide-diameter portafilter, this Silvia model has the quality features most users want to see in a semi-automatic cappuccino machine. Even better, descaling this machine is simple and easy to learn.
The Silvia also boasts a water reservoir with the largest volume capacity—two liters—of any home espresso machine in the world, so it’s suited to serve several guests at once. The 30-pound machine has a footprint of 9.2 inches by 11.4 inches by 13.3 inches, and its iron frame and stainless steel construction make for a sleek, durable appliance.
The Philips 3200 Series is a professional-grade super-automatic machine that delivers consistent, delicious cappuccino with push-button convenience. The 3200 offers easy one-touch brewing and short brewing times. The built-in ceramic burr grinder offers 12 settings, and a brewer can choose between espresso, cappuccino, coffee, latte macchiato, and americano.
While operation and cleanup are each a breeze―users only have to descale the machine once per 5,000 brews thanks to a special water filter!―installation is somewhat complicated, so be sure to read the manual before setting it up. The Philips weighs 20 pounds and takes up 19.61 inches by 19.21 inches by 12.28 inches, a sizable spot on the kitchen counter. Its basic modern styling might not be as fancy as some machines, but for complete automatic operation, the 3200 performs.
Nespresso’s Lattissima Pro’s stainless design, good build quality, and wide assortment of drink varieties make it a front-runner in the pod coffee game. The touch control pad allows the brewer to order up a cappuccino, ristretto, espresso, lungo, hot milk, or hot water, and hassle-free delivery means you’ll get a cup of specialty coffee in a scant two minutes. While it can be used only with Nespresso pods, there are dozens of varieties from which to choose.
As a pod machine, the Nespresso is a cinch to clean, and lights and descaling warnings remind the user when it’s time for some care. The die-cast stainless steel body draws attention to itself with classic styling, and with a footprint of 10.79 inches by 7.6 inches by 13 inches, it won’t take up too much space.
While it may not look like a traditional espresso machine, the sleek and modern Flair gives the user complete control of the brewing process. This manual model is worthy of consideration by those looking to learn, experiment, and ultimately become a coffee maestro.
Durably built of aluminum and stainless steel, its space-age aesthetic may make it a conversation starter in the kitchen. The human-powered Flair has no plug and measures a relatively modest 12 inches by 6 inches by 10 inches, so it won’t take up too much space on the counter. It’s also easy to store; indeed, its included carrying case makes it fairly portable. A patented detachable brewing head allows for low-hassle cleaning.
If the pleasure of your travel destinations wouldn’t be complete without home-brewed espresso, take a peek at the Staresso Portable Espresso Machine. The slim device is simple to use and a solid choice for the barista on the go. An included shot glass sits right inside the machine, leaving hands free for manual operation. For cappuccino, swap out the espresso filter for a milk filter and enjoy the froth.
Glass construction where some machines use plastic gives this portable a pleasant heft but heightens its delicacy. Cleanup involves little more than shaking out excess water and spent grounds between uses. However, regular soap and water washing is a good idea.
FAQs About Cappuccino Makers
Brewing cappuccino can be complicated for the budding barista. If you want a bit more info, read on for answers to some frequently asked questions.
Q. What’s the difference between coffee and cappuccino?
Baristas make coffee by dripping steamed water through a filter filled with grounds. Cappuccino is espresso—coffee with nearly boiling water forced through it at high pressures—and layers of steamed milk.
Q. How do you use a cappuccino maker?
Models may have slightly different functionality, but each machine creates espresso with high pressure, and many offer steam or milk-frother attachments for the finish.
Q. How long does it take to make a cappuccino?
The most dedicated manual baristas may take several minutes to make a cappuccino, but some modern super-auto machines can do it in as little as 30 seconds.
Q. What type of milk do baristas use?
Whole milk has the right balance of materials to make smooth micro-foam that’s great for latte art, while skim milk is the best for big froth bubbles.