Home espresso service is not our forte. We’ve learned and deferred over the years from friends, home coffee enthusiasts, and especially from the experts at CoffeeGeek and HomeBarista.com, two of the internet’s liveliest forums for espresso equipment minutiae. Discovering more about this little subsection of the coffee world has been an ongoing education for us, and luckily we’ve got an industry pro right here in Portland – Mark Hellweg, the founder and owner of Clive Coffee.
Open since 2008, Clive Coffee is a seriously deep resource for making great coffee at home, with a focus on espresso. Their showroom is a palace of one-groups; writing for Eater PDX, our own Jordan Michelman described Clive’s interior aesthetic as if “Don Draper and Bash from Bunheads opened a shop together.” Their showroom is gorgeous, and this focus extends to their curated selection of home espresso machines, every one of which have been battle-tested and vetted to make the cut.
Mr. Hellweg and his staff at Clive have taken a good, hard look at the one-group home espresso machine market, and whittled the available choices down to seven for the purpose of our guide. With prices that range from $600 to $6000 there’s a machine out there for every level of interest, from the casual home user to the tech-boom startup office (we really missed the boat on that stuff).
Here’s 7 great home espresso machines, with help from our partners at Clive Coffee.
Rancilio Silvia V3 Espresso Machine $629 The Honda Accord
The Silvia is the only machine offered by Clive for less than $1000, and you’re definitely going to sacrifice some functionality for that price. The drip tray for the Silvia is really shallow and gross to handle when full, and the machine’s single boiler requires you to brew coffee and steam milk separately. It’s a great option for the casual, entry-level user, but might be frustrating for someone with cafe experience or serious home entertaining plans. More from Clive:
[quote style=”boxed”]In our opinion this is the best espresso machine available for under $1,000. Silvia is a solid, commercial grade machine offering reliability, clean design, and no cheap plastic parts. With a little bit of practice you’ll be pulling beautiful, thick espresso shots with ease.[/quote]
Breville Double Boiler BES900XL Espresso Machine $1199.95 The Hyundai
The folks at Clive are clearly enamored with this machine, although it does have its drawbacks – it’s made in China, and can’t be serviced here in the United States. It’s also not the most glamorous looking home espresso machine, but its functionality rivals top-end models in terms of temperature stability (a statement Mr. Hellweg has backed up with exhaustive testing). More from Clive:
[quote style=”boxed”]Espresso perfection requires precision temperature and pressure control, consistently, every time. At the heart of this machine is its Dual Stainless Steel Boiler heating system. The brew boiler, for the espresso shot, extracts to within 1’C and a separate steam boiler, which offers instant and powerful steam on demand. So you can extract your shot, at the right temperature, delivering optimal flavour and steam your milk to cafe quality at the same time.[/quote]
Quickmill Andreja Premium Espresso Machine $1795 The Mercedes S Class
It’s worth mentioning that this machine is gorgeous, with a classic Italian bistro feel and a certain ineffable sprezzatura. This is a best bet for the user who wants milk drink options but needs to stay within a mid-range price. If $2100 or so is in your budget, get the Andreja Premium and spend money on a great grinder, like the Baratza Vario W. More from Clive:
[quote style=”boxed”]Quickmill’s Andreja Premium is a compact, commercial-quality espresso machine with classic lines and a high-sheen stainless steel exterior. With its Ulka 52-watt vibratory pump, insulated copper boiler and E-61 commercial brew head, you’ll have all the power necessary to make velvety espresso and smooth foam for your cappuccinos and lattes. The pump and copper boiler work in tandem, allowing you to brew coffee and steam milk simultaneously while minimizing recovery time.[/quote]
Quickmill Dual Boiler QM67 Espresso Machine $1899 The VW GTI
Also from Quick Mill, the QM 67 is great for straight espresso. It has a double boiler and digital display PID, but the boilers are fairly small — if you plan on entertaining and making multiple milk drinks at once, this might not be the best choice. But that’s not to fault the machine itself; if you want to pull straight shot after straight shot, the QM 67 takes those turns nicely, and the price point still keeps you at around the $2200 sweet spot with a nice grinder. More from Clive:
[quote style=”boxed”]Quickmill’s new QM67 Double Boiler machine is a compact, commercial-quality espresso machine with classic lines and a high-sheen stainless steel exterior. With its Ulka 52-watt vibratory pump, dual copper boilers and E-61 commercial group head, you now have all the power necessary to make velvety espresso and smooth foam for your cappuccinos and lattes.[/quote]
Izzo Alex Duetto II Espresso Machine $2250 The 7 Series
Mark Hellweg described this machine, paired with a Baratza Vario ($449), as being “a rock star set-up” and it’s his favorite for brewing espresso shots in the Clive showroom. This machine has solid components, precise temperature control with PID, a very satisfying manual lever pull, and can be directly plumbed into a water line or tank. If you enjoy entertaining at home and want something to show off in your kitchen, this machine makes a great choice.
La Spaziale Vivaldi II Espresso Machine $2295 The Audi A6
The Vivaldi II has a great mid-century look and would be right at home at your Richard Neutra Palm Springs ranch house (just ignore the unfortunate Comic Sans type on the buttons). Featuring a good sized boiler and a non-insulated steam wand, this machine does great with milk, steaming up nice and easy and producing microfoam in around 15 seconds. Plus it’s volumetric: “The Vivaldi II gives you programming features without the machine taking over too much control”, quoth Mark. Over the years, the functionality of the Vivaldi has continually impressed the Clive staff.
The model we’re showing here has the custom woodworking panels option, available as an optional add-on from Clive. All the wood work is done locally here in Portland; the walnut is domestic urban salvage, and the exotic woods are sustainable and responsibly sourced.
La Marzocco GS/3 Paddle Espresso Machine $6,495 The Porsche
[quote style=”boxed”]The La Marzocco GS/3 dramatically resets the gold standard for performance among all espresso machines. Its performance meets and surpasses the finest high volume machines on the market today. In surprisingly small footprint, with water reservoir or plumb-in options, the GS3 suits high-end home use and has sufficient steam power and performance for many commercial applications including restaurants, catering, and professional offices.[/quote]
Ahh, the GS3. It’s the grand dame of home espresso machines. We’ve long dreamed of owning one, in the same way we dream of having one of those dot-com tech-boom offices with like, a ball pit and a silly slide and lots of Nerf toys. But the GS3 is not merely the stuff of dreams; lots of people have these machines at home or in their offices, and we’re super jealous of them. You can get your GS3 from Clive with total matching wood customization – modern birch, classic walnut, exotic zebra wood, you pick, and they’ll do up your side panels and portafilter handle in matching customized glory.
This is the perfect machine for your event-specific seasonal pop-up / stay-put walk-up nanocafe.