Like buying a new car, trying to find an espresso maker to best suit your needs can be overwhelming. There’s so many to choose from and they all come with different set of bells and whistles.
In the end, assessing your preferences, knowledge, and needs will strongly dictate the best course of action when trying to shift through the quagmire that is the consumer grade espresso machine market.
If you have a budget of over $1,000, then it is especially important to do your research and understand what it is you want from your machine! This largely involves answering one fundamental question: what kind of barista are you?
Do you like to weigh each shot with a gram scale and watch as the perfect head of crema forms in the demitasse? Or do you prefer a low-key but tasty cappuccino derived from just the push of a button?
Not everyone is going to share my barista aspirations, so I’ve also included two other options with varying levels of automation, so you can find a high-end machine for any experience-level.
To drag out my car metaphor, Brevilles are like the Jaguar of espresso machines: stylish, costly, somewhat temperamental, and just as much about the journey as it is about the destination. Plainly, the Breville is for the barista who really enjoys the brewing process as much as the outcome.
As is the case with many semi-automatics, the Breville is a great fit for those who aren’t afraid to experiment with different grind settings or do a little tinkering here and there to find the perfect brew.
This 30 pound pinnacle of engineering is highly regarded by the Amazon community, with nearly 80 reviews averaging a really impressive 4.5 out of 5 stars. It is one of those machines that will impress even those claiming the title of coffee snob.
With dual boilers, you can simultaneously extract espresso, while steaming your milk—the recipe for a perfect cappuccino topped with a lovely free pour design of a heart. The interface of the machine is also easy to use, with two buttons to select espresso size, and another button to manually determine length of extraction. There is also a nifty LCD display that shows the water temperature and shot time, among other things.
A barista is only as good as their machine (and coffee beans), which is why it’s important to get the pump level just right for optimal extraction. The Breville’s designers have added the Over-Pressure Valve, limiting extraction pressure and guarding against channeling (a most unfortunate fate for any espresso shot). This gives the espresso in the portafilter time to become completely wet before maximum pressure is exerted on the puck, providing an even, clean shot of espresso.
Unlike its predecessors, the BES920Xl has a de-scaling feature which can be performed at home. These machines are quite complex and do require a great deal of care to make sure oil and mineral build up don’t damage your machine. For the barista looking for a more casual relationship with their machine, this is not for you, since you will need to become comfortable back flushing this machine weekly at the very least.
I mentioned the temperamental nature of this machine earlier, which does seem to be its only weak point. Breville does its best, but there are a lot of moving parts to the higher-end machines. Luckily, the company loves what they do and have a wonderful reputation to helping customers who are calibrating their machine.
If you don’t mind investing in a separate grinder and getting a little more hands on in the espresso brewing process, then this is a wonderfully down to earth semi-automatic machine for the true coffee enthusiast.
The Gaggia 1003380 takes the second spot on this list because it’s a super-automatic machine with a lot of customizable features—a great compromise for the barista who likes to keep their hands clean but still prefers to control certain aspects of the brewing process.
This machine has a 3.7 out of 5 stars and is a bit of an investment; however, the features of this machine make it one of the more interactive super-automatics I’ve come across thus far.
Built to last, the Gaggia weighs in at a sturdy 45 pounds. Each cappuccino, latte, and espresso come at the push of a button; however, factors like water temperature, serving size, and grind coarseness are all adjustable on this machine.
One of the best design aspects of the Gaggia is how well integrated different systems are on the machine. The sealed bean hopper helps keep a large cache of beans fresh, while the built in grinder helps keep the brewing process internalized and streamlined.
The removable milk pitcher is a great design for those looking to minimize cleanup and extend milk life. When it’s not in use, the pitcher can be detached and popped in the fridge for safe storage until you’re ready for the next round of lattes. And if you’re needing to brew for a larger travel mug, this can be programmed on the machine and the coffee dispenser adjusted to accommodate a taller cup.
This machine is well-regarded as very effective at what it does; however, keep in mind super-automatics are not meant for all bean types: too oily a bean can gum up the grinder, so you’ll want to stick to more medium roasts and less oily beans.
If maintenance and involvement with the Breville was enough to scare you away, the Gaggia is a step in the right direction, with access to a wide selection of drinks being one button away.
Of all three machines, the Jura Impressa F8 is by far the most economically demanding super-automatic; yet, there are so many streamlined features that will appeal to easy going baristas.
Juras are like Apple products, they pack the best tech, the most intuitive design and they deliver the most mind-blowing experience to users.
The 22 pound morning warrior does drive a steep asking price, but in return there are a number of features that make it worth the time and research.
For starters, the Jura offers the same degree of automation and customization as the Gaggia with the added benefit of a color TFT display to peruse the default programmed coffees, like cappuccino, macchiato and ristretto. There are about fourteen to select from, but the F8 also allows you to program custom creations by controlling coffee strength, serving size, and milk frothing. You can even save drinks by family-member name!
The Jura also has an integrated ceramic burr grinder that boasts speed and finesse to produce a smooth, even grind. While decaf may be controversial is some corners of the coffee world, this machine also has a separate chamber to put pre-ground beans if you wish offer a different roast or decaffeinated option, which I find to be a fantastic feature.
A common issue with many super-automatics seems to be milk temperature not quite getting hot enough for larger milk drinks, such as lattes. This seems to have followed the Jura as well. If you are a latte stalwart and like them extra hot, this is something to keep in mind.
The Jura F8 also sits pretty with a 4.1 rating out of 5 stars.
That’s my list for great espresso machines over $1000. I hope this has been helpful to you in your search and happy brewing!
Chatting about coffee is my passion! Leave me a question in the comments, I answer each and every one and would love to get to know you better.
I am a die-hard espresso fan. I love every form of the drink from straight espresso shots to lattes and cappuccinos. I currently use a Breville BES870XL Barista, it is an awesome machine. BUT, my dream machine is definitely an Italian Quickmill Andreja. Those bad boys make badass espresso. I love answering your questions, leave a comment or question below!