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Espresso Maker Performance

There's no going back to the costly coffee bar routine, according to scores of espresso maker reviews. Consumers who have made the switch to the home brew using one of our top picks are well pleased with the results: They get a satisfying espresso drink in a matter of minutes and can put the pennies saved toward other small indulgences.

There are a few grumbles about shots that aren't hot enough or strong enough, but for the most part, espresso maker reviews crow about the overall value of these entry-level machines.

Legions of espresso maker reviews prime the pump for the DeLonghi EC155 (starting at $82), particularly given its low price. Users rave about the crema and the drink itself on sites such as Newegg, where some assert that the resulting brew from this starter model is superior to what you get at many coffeehouses. Even the milk frother gets a shout-out. A European-born and -bred spouse is perfectly happy with the output, according to an espresso maker review on QVC. That sentiment is not universal, however, and some espresso maker reviews consider the brew weak.

The Nespresso Citiz C110 (starting at $230) also earns accolades from espresso drinkers who crave the consistent -- some espresso maker reviews say, perfect -- results each time you pull a shot through the brand's custom capsules. Consumers who have commented on Williams-Sonoma laud the uniformity and dependability of the brew; one even crows about converting a tea-drinking spouse to the espresso life. Although users of this machine are obliged to buy the single-serve coffee capsules from Nespresso, they don't seem fazed by the limited choice of 16 beans and roasts. Several espresso maker reviews at Amazon approvingly note the range of options. There's no milk frother on this model, so reviews suggest the microwave as an alternative if latte and cappuccino are your thing.

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With the Saeco Aroma 00347 (starting at $219), espresso maker reviews assert that even loose grinds can produce a uniform cup after cup if you follow the directions. At Seattle Coffee Gear, consumers report that the machine compensates for less-than-perfect grinds, and a fast recovery time ensures that making additional shots is a quick affair. On other sites, however, some espresso maker reviews say the espresso is only so-so and, given the small boiler, heat is hard to maintain after the first shot. A few consumers find the steam wand hard to adjust and one gripes that frothed milk is too bubbly. Generally, though, reviewers consider this model a step up from starter espresso machines in terms of results and overall quality.

Another budget contender, the Capresso EC100 (starting at $135), produces a good-tasting brew, according to espresso maker reviews. The consensus on this model isn't as strong as for our other top picks, however. Reviews posted on Amazon say the key to a luscious end product is a very fine grind made from beans that are not over-roasted (i.e., not burnt) and strict adherence to the directions. Some consumers report that the brew comes out hot -- scalding, says one -- but others say, not so much. Still, they like being able to choose between steamed and frothed milk, depending on the position of the wand.

Although the espresso and crema produced by the Cuisinart EM-200 (starting at $179) pass muster with many consumers, lukewarm temperatures mar the experience. Espresso maker reviews on Amazon say that steaming milk and brewing espresso as the base for a latte or cappuccino are incompatible unless you're willing to wait several minutes between each activity so the boiler can recover and ramp up the heat level.

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