10 of the best manual coffee machines for using at home
with links to the best buys now, in the UK and Europe, Australia, the U.S. and Canada.
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Definition of manual espresso machine.
Wikipedia rightly and simply defines an espresso machine as one that “Brews coffee by forcing pressurized water near boiling point through a “puck” of ground coffee and a filter in order to produce a thick, concentrated coffee called espresso.”
Manual espresso machines are also generally regarded as coffee machines that do not grind the beans. I would say this is the only major downside for absolute coffee lovers. But you can grind your own in a separate machine– to your own perfection again ! That’s what we used to do… but it does take up a bit of counter space and makes it look like a café !
How does it work ?
So you start with your pre-ground ( best just freshly ground) coffee and put it in the porta-filter, tamp it down and level it, and you’re then ready to add hot water under pressure.
The grind, the temperature, the speed and pressure all combine to create the perfect dark thick espresso with a nice caramel crema on top. Manual espresso machines might require you to add the boiling water yourself and the pressure by hand, but most help you out with boilers and pistons, pumps, or levers to push ( or pull ) the water through the coffee and into your cup below.
Which manual espresso machine would suit your needs and your budget ?
Manual coffee machines have, for a long time, been the most popular choice for would be baristas and coffee connoisseurs because you get to be most involved in the art of pulling the perfect espresso. Anyone serious about the process and the coffee grounds could want one.
The entry level models here are great little machines that will suit you if you want to simply make a proper espresso with your own choice of coffee grounds, or perhaps even use shop bought coffee pads, You probably aren’t too concerned with the barista style tweaking, or don’t want to spend as much money.
In the mid to top level range, the more manual and costly the espresso machine, the more solid and metallic and perhaps commercial grade it gets. It also means you can tweak and craft your perfect espresso to the finest detail… till your heart’s content .
The most serious people will probably have a mid-level or top-level machine at home, and some might have a portable one to take on their travels.
Best middle level manual espresso coffee machines: La Pavoni, Rancilio
Best top level manual espresso coffee machines: Rocket, Breville, Sage
Best entry Level pump espresso machines: De ‘Longhi, Smeg, (Gaggia)
Best portable, espresso by hand, coffee makers: Flair, (Aeropress)
Conclusion (what does this tell us about the brands, how did we decide on the top 10, which 4 did we actually buy over the years, and which 2 do we still have now !
BEST MIDDLE LEVEL MANUAL ESPRESSO MACHINES
Ready to learn the barista craft ?
Then you will want one of these fine espresso machines.
La Pavoni – Europiccola
La Pavoni Professional 16 cup
Rancilio – Silvia
Runner up – Sage / Breville Barista Express
Silvia Espresso Machine, by Rancilio
If you fancy being a barista at home but want the pump style over the level style pull. But you aren’t ready to spend on the Rocket Giotto, then this is another favourite. It’s smaller and less expensive but another legendary, very sturdy manual model loved by coffee connoisseurs.
It has an iron frame and stainless steel side panel, measures 23.37 x 28.96 x 33.78 cm and weighs a nice 13.97 kg. Powered by 1,100 watts, again, all the parts for this prosumer domestic model come from the Rancilio commercial line made in Italy. For example, the heavy 58mm porta filter handle and group head, and the professional steaming wand to precisely control steaming pressure.
Conclusion: Why you would choose the Rancilio Silvia
Okay this one is for you if you want to have the benefits we outlined for the Rocket machine but neither have the space or the budget for that one … yet. In fact, if you get this, you will probably never sell it, and if you do, by all accounts online you will live to regret it !
No plastic involved – none at all !
Amazing that this is now available on Amazon, and you’ll find a great user community online oozing advice on how to use it.
One strange extra feature is that there is an optional pod and capsule adaptor kit available !
Not so fast to first heat up, maybe 15-20 mins !
LA PAVONI EUROPICCOLA
La Pavoni Europiccola lever espresso machine – 8 cup
This is where you really get to ‘pull’ your own espresso. This stainless steel machine is classic, and should last you a lifetime – but you have to take care of it. It can come with a stainless steel base, a black base or a steel base with black drip tray.
It might take a little while to get used to it but when you know what you’re doing you’ll love this, and get so much pure joy from making a really perfect espresso. The consistency is down to you !
It’s a very small neat machine and you make the coffee end to end. Attach the portafilter with the coffee grounds in it neatly into the head. Pour the water straight into the boiler and heat it up. The lever rests in the up position as it uses a spring piston.
To pour your coffee, ‘pull’ the lever to allow the water to begin to enter the coffee head area, and then pull it fully down, slowly, and the water begins to soak the coffee grounds. With sheer manual force, the water pushes the pressurized water through the coffee grounds to create the perfect espresso.
It’s a single boiler with 800ml water capacity. It uses just under 950Watts of power and has a safety thermostat.
Paul advises making a dummy coffee first thing in the morning to warm the group, or leaving the machine on for a while so that the heat conducts to the group head – that way it isn’t cold when you push the water through. You could also run the portafilter under the hot tap to get it warmed up. You need both the boiler and the group head to be hot to make a better espresso. It needs to be a consistent 92C so its best to have your metal all hot and ready to conduct a consistent temperature.
Conclusion: Why you would choose the La Pavoni Europiccola
Choose La Pavoni Europiccola and join a huge community world-wide that did the same for an entry level machine. We had a few and finally sold these as we simplified life – and miss it to this day. A perfect and simple way to learn the craft… if a little more to pay than the other entry level models. But tt’s unique, and pulling the lever with the help of the piston creates memories !. It has a special place in espresso coffee history, and in our own. Long live ( and it does) the Europiccola !
The sheer simplicity and quality of the design.
It looks beautiful on any counter, so you won’t want to ever leave it. It isn’t very big ( 200 x 320 x 290mm) weighs just 5 kg, so you can easily move it around. We ( I mean Paul) even took it on holiday once in our hand luggage !
Immediately identifies you as a serious espresso maker !
It’s for serious use so be careful with hot metal parts.
LA PAVONI PROFESSIONAL
La Pavoni Professional lever espresso machine – 16 cup
We had both La Pavoni machines and loved both, however when Paul got the 16 cup version he preferred it. Why? Well, with this version you are getting a larger boiler, and a pressure gauge so you get more idea of whats going on.
People also say the Pro version is also a better steamer. We certainly found it easier and faster to move from brewing to steaming.
So, consider how many cups of coffee you want and also have a look at the price difference as sometimes it’s well worth it to go for the Professional version.
Whichever Pavoni you go for, it will be great value, great fun, and great to look at, and most importantly a great experience and great espresso !
Conclusion: Why you should buy La Pavoni Professional espresso maker
Let’s be honest, the La Pavoni professional version is more practical – if you get the simpler looking Europiccola you might eventually want to add a pressure gauge anyway. So, of the two, we found this one more useful in the end. But then, as Paul did his Barista courses, we were already moving up to the Rocket machines so this was a great machine to learn all about the pressure at home, whilst the Europiccola and this became our portable machine on holiday … sign of a mad espresso lover !
BEST TOP LEVEL MANUAL ESPRESSO MACHINES
Ready to be the best barista – at home, or in a small commercial capacity ?
Then you’ll love these.
Breville – the dual boiler / ( a.k.a. Sage – the dual boiler )
Rocket – Evoluzione V2 Giotto Espresso Machine
THE DUAL BOILER MANUAL ESPRESSO MACHINE BY SAGE (SES920…) , and BREVILLE (BES920…)
Sage The Dual Boiler (UK, Europe), Breville The Dual Boiler (Australia, USA, Canada)
Now this is a serious machine – sold as having commercial features in a domestic footprint ! It’s more square than it looks in the pictures. Sage machine in mm = 360H x 370W x 360D , Breville in inches = 14.7H x 14.8W x 14.7D
Gorgeous in brushed stainless steel or matt black, ( and possibly red in the USA), it has two boilers that work independently, and a commercial steam wand. It’s the first of our manual espresso machines that has 2 boilers, which is also one of the main reasons the price goes up. The reason for two boilers here is so that you can brew an espresso and steam a frothing milk both at the same time – and so, even if you are only making coffee for one or two people, you don’t have any time delay at all between each task.
At 2200Watts, it only takes a few minutes to heat up. From experience, we would say always use the top to pre-warm the cups, and use the hot water tap to pre warm the group head too. This machine also has an automatic pre-infusion function when it makes the espresso, by starting the pressure slowly so as to expand the grinds to get an even extraction.
The water tank is 2,5L (84oz) and comes with a water hardness test strip, and an integrated filter. The boilers and heated group head are controlled to +/- 1⁰C by a digital temperature control (a professional PID controller ) so you can adjust the resting temperature of the water to have simultaneously your perfect temperature espresso ( one or two shots) and your perfect steaming frothing jug of milk to go with it. As well as adjusting the brewing temperature, you can also adjust the pour time until you find your ideal espresso.
So, by all accounts it delivers exceptional espresso coffee and steams milk fast ! The steamer is a traditional type as opposed to the Panarello type on the Oracle machine so it’s a good one to learn your barista craft.
It has several plus points too – it has a cleaning / decalc alert (it comes with a cleaning kit and it’s easy), a pressure gauge so you can watch and learn, a 58mm portafilter ( the latest industry standard ), a pre-infusion function, two programmable buttons, and a shot timer.
The dual pumps are Italian and work at 15bar pressure to deliver the perfect espresso and crema. It has something that we always strived for in our own restaurant – it’s high end, consistent and flexible. An over pressure valve stops you over doing it and producing bitter coffee, and under pressure valve allows you to pre-soak the coffee to get a more perfect result. Australian Barista Champion Craig Simon deemed it “Ridiculously good. 24.5 out of 25.”
Conclusion: Why you would choose the Dual Boiler
It certainly looks the part, is really well made with professional level parts and built in a semi commercial way, so if you want something high end that works and teaches you the craft at the same time – this is it ! Somehow, I think it feels safer and easier to enter at this level. The dual boiler is a real winner, and Breville and Sage have really thought thought the user experience. We would choose this if you want a real (luxury) barista experience but have any fear about jumping into the Italian made machines that seem a little daunting for a first – timer.
A manual machine – but with two programmable buttons !
It as wheels ! So you can move it and access the back part easily t0 fill up the water tank.
The tamper is magnetic so it attaches to the machine when you aren’t using it !
Lots of extras included so you can get going straight away… a 480ml / 16oz milk frothing jug; 4 filter baskets (aka portafilters), 2 for bought coffee, 2 for home ground coffee; a metal card to level off your coffee; a tamper to press your ground coffee into the portafilter.
You can buy a matching Sage / Breville bean grinder here
It doesn’t have a sleep mode.
It’s expensive but you effectively have a coffee shop on your counter once you add in a decent burr grinder. It’s an upgrade of the Barista Express, so if budget is an issue check that still very popular model out here.
ROCKET “GIOTTO EVOLUZIONNE”
Giotto Evoluzione espresso machine, by Rocket Luxury Espresso
Made by hand by a small team of craftsmen in Italy, this is the most commercial type of prosumer machine you’re going to get, and you can start using it straight out of the box. Classic, quiet and understated, it’s a real workhorse. We also love that it’s named after ‘Giotto’ – considered the greatest Italian painter prior to the Renaissance !
They produce only commercial or premium domestic machines and so you are getting features on this machine that have all the benefits of the superior technology normally only found in full size commercial machines. For example, it uses the 50 yrs old but still amazing commercial E61 group head … other modern machines tend to use a heavily modified version of the E61 which may not incorporate all the old and useful commercial features.
It feels really solid, angular looking metal machine made of steel, chrome and copper… made with a lot of care and attention to detail ( we love that !). It’s 432mm x 343mm x 381mm, mostly stainless steel and weighing in at a hefty 27.8 kilos. Paul knows that only too well, I can’t believe he shifted it up into his parents attic on his own !!
A real prosumer machine with commercial features. It has a single (copper) boiler with a 1.8 litre heat exchange, lead-free brass end-plated insulated boiler for energy savings and increased thermal stability. Now also with PID temperature control keeping temperature within +/- 1⁰C, the insulated boilers, and the Rocket Espresso 9 mm boiler end plates, the stability and temperature control is even further enhanced.
The pump is a Rotary style pump with external pump pressure adjustment. It’s practically silent, yet robust, and allows the user to have the machine draw the water from the internal 2.9Litre machine reservoir, or alternatively, you can even plumb the machine directly to the water supply with a supplied braided water pipe !
From experience, we would say always use the top to pre-warm the cups, and use the hot water tap to pre warm the group head too. The fact that the hot water tap is separate makes it easy to make an Americano ( my usual tipple when I want a long hot drink). This machine also has an automatic pre-infusion function when it makes the espresso, by starting the pressure slowly so as to expand the grinds to get an even extraction.
Conclusion: Why you would choose the Giotti Evoluzionne
So, you’re a barista, or you’ve just done the course, or you’re just confident, you know the basics, and are ready to jump in with the big boys. Then this will be your absolute pleasure ! By the way, this is the one proper espresso machine that we kept when we simplified our lives – even though it was the biggest, most bulky and heaviest ! Ah, the eternal love triangle between coffee, machines, and their baristas.
made by hand… in Italy.
has features you would only find in large commercial machines
It’s heavy, but you’d still carry it anywhere.
Expensive but worth it.
BEST ENTRY LEVEL MANUAL ESPRESSO MACHINES
Small less expensive coffee machines that brew a proper espresso with an electric pump.
You are happy to buy a great pre-ground coffee, and maybe move on at some point to grinding your own. You don’t want the Nespresso style pods or capsule machines, but maybe you’re happy to have a machine that has ESE espresso PADS as a backup to use when you’re in a hurry.
Then you’ll want one of these ! They are all essentially the same great machine from De longhi underneath . We felt it was the best but wanted to show you a few options with styling etc.
De’Longhi Scultura Coffee Machine
Smeg ECF01 from coffee grounds or ese pads
De’Longhi Dedica EC685.M: ground or ese coffee pads
* Also ran – Gaggia Classic
Gaggia also make a few popular entry level machines, which we are still checking out for you – the Gaggia Classic and the Gaggia Gran Prestige. The new Classic they have brought out is causing some bad reviews about the quality of the build so until the dust settles and we can decipher better information about these entry level models, we’d avoid this model.
DE ‘LONGHI SCULTURA
De’Longhi Scultura ECZ351 Traditional Pump Espresso Machine
It uses De ‘Longhi Cappucino systemThis has a nice curvy vintage look about it and comes with a glossy finish in black, white or beige / champagne – with chrome details. It has stainless steel elements but the main body is actually plastic !
It’s very simple to operate with just 3 buttons ( on/off, espresso, cappucino) and does the espresso making and milk frothing very well.
The machine controls the temperature and pour length to make an excellent espresso. It uses thermoblock technology to ensure the temperature is maintained consistently.
Water tank:Transparent 1.4L water tank which you can either remove to fill, or just fill it up in situ.
Boiler: Single boiler, but has two separate thermostats to control water heating, or steam for milk.
Pressure: 15 bar
Milk frother: manual steam wand. After espresso making , once it heats up it makes a great frothy milk fast, using the De’Longhi Cappucino system.
Energy saving: auto shut- off feature
Coffee holder: Comes with 1 or 2 cup ground coffee holder, or it can take the ESE pods.
Dimensions: Nice and compact at 305 x 242 x 382mm 29 x 26 x 31.5 cm.
Cup heater: Yes, you can heat your cups up on the top of the machine.
Hot water: Yes ! A big plus for us is that you can use it just to dispense hot water too.
Conclusion: why you should buy the de Longhi Scultura
Choose the de’Longhi Scultura or Icona Vintage models for a vintage retro look, with a large water tank, the ability to use ESE pods, and a great price for entry level manual espresso machine that works brilliantly and looks unique too.
Takes both ground coffee or Easy Serving Espresso pads
Transparent water holder
Excellent value for money
You can get matching kitchen appliances ( toaster, kettle )
De’Longhi tell us it can take mugs up to 120mm same as the Dedica, but some reviewers say it doesn’t take more than 77mm !
Not available in the USA, Canada but never fear – there is an equivalent model , similarly priced, with a slightly different but still vintage look which we’ll take you to when you click through.
De ‘Longhi ECO310 Icona Vintage Espresso Maker.
The Icona Vintage model is what the Scultura is based on. It’s still available and most popular in the North America, so we will take you to this model in the Amazon US and Canada regions.
We love the bar detail at the top to hold your cups … just like cafe espresso machines. The Icona Vintage comes in red, white, or a classy ‘black piano’ as shown above, an ‘Olive green’ and a ‘Dolce green’. Very Italian ! You can also get matching vintage toaster and kettle.
DE ‘LONGHI DEDICA
De’Longhi Dedica EC685 Traditional Pump Espresso Machine
This is my favourite entry level pump machine, and I then later thrilled to see that it was also the highest rated in the Which guide along with this Beko machine in the UK.
I do like the Smeg machine design, but it’s essentially the Dedica engine underneath.
(The Smeg design and quality parts deservedly put it’s price higher though. )
These first three machines in this category are very similar – in fact it’s mostly the look or quality of the body that is the difference. So let’s just look at similariies and difference between the Dedica and the Scultura.
Like the Scultura ( and the Smeg !) , it takes a 1 or 2 cup ground coffee holder, or can take the ESE pods.
As it’s all metal, it feels much more sturdy than the Scultura. It comes in silver or a nice matt black or red.
The clever two layer drip tray means you can take the top one out to fit larger mugs in ( which the Scultura cannot do ).
Single boiler, with a 1 Litre water tank. So it’s smaller and more compact than the Scultura – great for small kitchens.
You can also pre-heat your cups on top. The machine controls the temperature and pour length to make an excellent espresso. It uses thermoblock technology to ensure the temperature is maintained consistently.
There are some reports that the Scultura does a better job at frothing the milk , but in fact De ‘Longhi tell us it’s the same machine so that should not be possible.
And… it can dispense hot water as well – yay for long watery drinks !
Conclusion: Why you should buy the De’Longhi Dedica
This is not a model to be ignored – many other more fancy models are based on it ! (The Delonghi Scultura and the Smeg ESF01 are two great examples ).
So if you want a good looking entry level model, with a matching bean grinder, and in a compact size – this is the ideal choice. Oh, and let’s not forget, it is only perfect because it also consistently turns out the best espresso with a beautiful golden crema.
Takes both ground coffee or Easy Serving Espresso pads
So slim ! It’s even slimmer than the Scultura at just under 150mm wide (330x149x303mm) !
You can buy a matching burr coffee grinder !
There are a few comments on the steamer being a bit slow to heat up or can literally run out of steam when warming a larger jug of milk – but for most it does that job perfectly well.
Smeg ECF01 Espresso Machine
Smeg ECF01 Pump Espresso Machine
This typically vintage looking machine is a beauty in cream, red, blue or black + chrome. It looks good and also does what it is meant to , very well and consistently !
It gets a great rating for producing excellent espresso with crema – even two at a time. But we now know why ! It is essentially the De’Longhi dedica machine in a smarter, higher quality shell and that along with a few more bells and whistles. All that and the Smeg brand & design of course puts it’s price up.
With its 1350W, it’s fast to heat up with its thermoblock heating system ( about 40secs), fast to produce the coffee , and fast to change over from coffee making to steam producing functions (about 10 secs) . 15 bar
So, it has all the features of the dedica and more. For example, the water filter takes 1 Litre and is removable. It also warns you when you need to decalc the system, but you can still top it up easily without removing it.
The drip tray also warns you when it needs emptying by popping up a little red button when it fills up.
We like that you can fit cups or mugs under it by easily removing the reservoir bowl, and the warming plate on top allows you to have your cup pre-heated like in all the best coffee shops !
It comes with three portafilter inserts that sit neatly in the group ( ie the handle that carries the coffee) – 1 cup portion of ground coffee, a 2 cup version and one for shop bought coffee pads ( ESE pads).
Apart from the same reasons to choose the Scultura or Dedica machines by de ‘Longhi – you pay a little more but add in the quality of the parts and extra user experience consideration that Smeg give to it’s machines. You should choose Smeg also if you already had their appliances and wanted a matching set. Then of course you choose Smeg because of the name being synonymous with ultimate Italian kitchen design and quality.
Takes both ground coffee or Easy Serving Espresso pads
Has it’s own anti-drip system
Smeg style, quality, and all the kitchen accessories to match
You can’t just use it for a hot water tap for tea etc – its for espresso producing only
BEST PORTABLE COFFEE MAKERS
Totally manual…make it with your own hands !
No need for pods or pads or pumps or electricity ! Pop your freshly ground coffee in the top, and your cup at the bottom… and push the lever down !
Somewhere between instant coffee and coffee brewing or ‘espressing’ machines, you’ll find many totally manual coffee makers that make the coffee with water under pressure. The Flair, Rok, Robot and the Aeropress. A real espresso with the crema that the pressurised water produces is 9 bar so you need some strength – but not so much that will break them if they’re made of plastic.
Winner – Flair Espresso Maker – manual press
If you like the classic Italian style of La Pavoni, then also check out this reasonably priced Flair signature espresso maker in chrome. There are four models, and we’ll detail our two favourites – the classic and the Pro-2. (Bear with us as we write…)
Runner up – Aeropress – ?espresso? coffee maker
The Aeropress which has been around for nearly 15 years now and has a solid following but it only has runner up place here because we don’t personally think it’s an espresso maker. It makes a nice heavy rich coffee there isn’t enough pressure to get a crema, or a thick tar like espresso. We have one ourselves, and love the coffee it makes but please do comment or email us directly if you know how to make an espresso with it. Seriously, you cannot get enough pressure bars to make that cream, but you do get something unique we feel. Somehow the aeropress coffee allows you to really explore the flavours of your bean, but I wouldn´t say it suits éspresso only´ lovers. It´s not for Paul, but Aoibheann loves it. So this is why it´s included here, but we’ll leave it here for you as runner -up but with all the details you need to know, should you wish to purchase one.
We have the latest Aeropress go version.
FLAIR ESPRESSO MAKER
Flair Classic model Espresso Maker
It’s only 300 x 150 x 250mm when assembled, and has a water reservoir of 60ml. It´s lightweight but not flimsy.
If you want to learn the craft of making espresso manually then this is a great asset. It’s 100% human controlled, so it takes minutes rather than seconds to get to the end result. Just put the coffee grounds in the filter pot, pop the dispersion screen on top, and add water to the water chamber above it, then pull the lever !They say you get a 6 to 10Bar pressure pushing that large lever down. The piston helps you create exactly the right pressure to get a nice creamy espresso. You will learn to create your own perfect espresso, but you can upgrade to models that have a pressure gauge.
Upgrade to the signature model to get the pressure gauge, or a choice of black, white, and a copper portafilter base, a stainless steel dispersion screen. Otherwise the classic manual press version comes in a sleek all black.
Upgrade to the Pro version for a chrome version with a bottomless portafilter, and an added lever grip to make pulling easier, and more !
The Classic version is the basic entry level version one we would go for but you don’t have a pressure gauge so you’re pulling ‘blind’. Once you get the hang of it you don’t really need the gauge if you’re pulling enough coffees ! But, it’s really useful. if you want the gauge, go for the signature or the pro version.
It’s well advised to make sure your coffee is perfectly and freshly ground before using it, so that you get the best and easiest results with your espresso and crema. So check out our Burr coffee grinders in the accessories section – no other will do! You’re also going to want a thermometer to make sure your water is the right temperature. In fact, for simple models like this, accessories are key – grinder for when you’re travelling or can’t buy ground coffee, micro (coffee) scales, and a thermometer.
This simple, classy looking machine can even break down into a gorgeous carrying case, so you can take it with you on your travels!
Very easy to use
A nice weight for sturdiness and travelling ( 6lbs / 2.72kg ).
Has it’s own sweet carrying case
It comes with a 5 year warranty on the aluminium press stand and stainless steel brewing head.
Beautiful and well designed minimalist appeal
You can buy extra brewing heads too, if you want to stack them up if making coffee for more than one person – that should save you a bit of time.
Gives the perfect minimum pressure (9bar) to make a great espresso and has even been known to go up to 16bar– all by your own hand !
Well made of mostly metal material, + any plastic is FDA approved.
The measuring cup doubles up as a tamper !
Lots of small parts for a portable coffee maker ( the brew head has 4 separate pieces )
Takes longer to make your espresso ( min. 3 mins) a bit like making a pour over
Cleaning up all the parts after each coffee ( but only takes a minute)
Doesn´t heat up the water
AEROPRESS COFFEE MAKER
Aeropress coffee and espresso maker with tote bag
This the probably the cheapest, most manual espresso maker you will find ! In fact, the mostly don’t call it an espresso maker because you probably don’t quite get to the minimum pressure required to squeeze a ‘real’ espresso through, but it’s the nearest thing to it an has a huge following even from baristas for that reason.
Very sturdy and popular with travellers, adventurers and cyclists. You can get the simple model, one that comes with 350 filters or with a tote bag.
It’s designed so that the pressure exerted on the coffee grounds is even all the way from the centre to the edge ( unlike a drip coffee maker that has the emphasis on the centre of the coffee puck only. Using boiling water, you simply exert pressure a bit like with a French press, to push the water uniformly through the coffee.
You can also separately buy fine and superfine stainless steel or rose gold meshes if you prefer to use instead of the paper filters. At the time of writing, it gets an amazing 4.8 out of 5 stars from 841 customer reviews on Amazon !
Tried and tested and loved by almost all people for over 20 years now.
Uses a fine grind but it’s not over fussy how fine !
Easy and fast. It only takes about 20-30 seconds to create a great cup.
Beautiful and well designed to give the perfect minimum pressure (9bar) to make a great espresso – all by your own hand !
You can make it as simple or complicated as you like. There are lots of methods online so you can find the best combination of pressure, grind, time and temperature to suit you. So you can play about with it just like a Barista with and espresso machine.
Not really a true espresso with crema… not got enough pressure bars to do that. However it tastes fuller than a plunge French press type, and sweeter than a cafetiere coffee. So in reality, it produces the nearest thing to an espresso – a nice well balanced and smooth, full, strong black coffee !
Only produces a single cup, then you have to wash up and start all over again.
All plastic, but actually it’s pretty resilient, and lightweight.
So which brands make the best manual coffee machines ?
The winning brands for manual machines actually fall into all the three categories we mentioned in our top 20 brands article ! We’re writing about four types of coffee machine and manual machines is just one ! The obvious winner in this category are the brilliant long-standing Italian coffee machine brands.
So if you didn’t find your perfect coffee machine here, see what the other types can do for you on our main coffee machine page, and then go through the best of each category for more details on the winners. You’ll also see our favourite machines from this category over there too !
If manual is too much work for you, or you want a coffee machine with bean grinder integrated, then you will want a bean to cup espresso machine. If you just want a long black filter coffee, or a quick pick-me-up Nespresso type shot with no mess to clear up, then just click on the links here and read on there.
Good luck !
We live and research our coffee every day, one way or the other, so please add any comments as a user of any relevant coffee machine. Or use the comments also to ask any questions or even to correct or discuss anything we post. It’s useful information for all of us so please join in.
… How did we do our Coffee machine tests and reviews
We’ve always been passionate about our coffee and have plenty of experience domestically and in the hotel and restaurant business. Being in the food and drink business and knowing how we like to always have the best, people kept asking for our recommendations. To be fair, we could only go as far as our own experience so we started making a habit of checking everyone else’s experience too.
So we ask everywhere we go, from homes to foodie businesses, and we set off on our big online research journey. I don’t know why it takes so long but i have to be thorough and have to understand everything perfectly… before I can give you the information. It has to be right, so along the way, I’ve realised how much I learned when I could even discuss corrections with manufacturers on their own sites – something quite rewarding about that – you get the right information and I get the satisfaction . Win win.
There are some really special experts online but quite often they jump into such technical detail too fast. Coffee machines seem to be like car engines to a lot of guys ! It’s not just the scientists that want a great coffee machine. I know it’s a science, but it’s also an art, and a good bit of theatre.
There are also a lot of wanna be baristas, and simple selling sites that compound the issue with too many errors or too little information.
Finally there are many review sites that the public have come to rely on, partly because they have become household names for so many things… too many things in fact. We like to look at what they say, out of interest, but mostly to see what information they may be perpetuating. Usually there is very little real information to go on, but we use these sites to see what it is they are trying to sell to you, and why, and to see what story the public are being fed. Then we also know how to correct things when we need to, in the hope of helping you more.
We looked at all the customer forums, reviews and post-sale customer comments we could find. We interacted with users online, and talked directly with manufacturers to get down to the nitty gritty details. We read the press articles on the most loved models and brands.
We then wrote our own guides to the coffee making process and what to look out for when buying one, and then went back and made sure we checked all our winners against these criteria too.
It took months to digest and decipher the facts, then the story started to form… and it continues as we now have these contacts and update all the time. We can’t put everything down in writing – we probably write too much already, but we get a good feeling over a long immersed time in the subject. We hope you too will comment and discuss with us so that we keep these reviews up to date for everyone.
Our experience with manual espresso machines
Coffee is in our blood – that sounds odd, but probably true as we probably drink too much of it ! Paul is the connoisseur, the trained Barista as it happens, and Aoibheann the dogged researcher that just likes to drink the best brew.
Paul has been on that path of learning to craft the best coffees so for him its both an art, a bit of theatre, and a honed skill. It was only when researching for this article that I, Aoibheann, realised how many manual coffee machine ( toys !) Paul has had.
Anyone that knows us even when we had the tiniest kitchen in the world, knows that at least a quarter of it was taken up with coffee and bean grinding machines. Even our hotel kitchen and restaurant has benefited from the pass- me- downs. As we simplified our life in the last few years, some were sold on, and some left behind in a friendly family attic… to be retrieved again when we settle a bit more.
We’ve had both the Pavoni machines, the Europiccola, and the professional. Pulling the lever was always a beautiful piece of theatre for me to watch. Then we got the Rocket machine and never looked back ! It’s the one we kept when we sold up in the UK. ( we did have one of two commercial machines and grinders along the way but they went off to the hotel in Marrakech… and eventually got broken by the staff of course. I wonder does the new owner know there is one lurking in the attic waiting from some fixing and tlc again one day ! )
For this article we have been researching over the last six months, all the researchers, reviewers, shops, brands and user comments. We check the machines out one way or another everywhere we go.
To be honest, the only type of machine we haven’t personally tested in our time on this earth is the gadget type ones probably because that just hasn’t been our bag – the handy little Aeropress or Ooomph. This may change though with the amount of travelling we are doing, as I can see an Aeropress making its way into the hand luggage ! Family have the Aeropress and like the rest of the world they profess it to be one of the best useful kitchen toys to have around.
Happy shopping !
We're hospitality professionals that have sold up the businesses, gave up the big possessions, and simplified life... but we didn´t give up the good stuff - family, friends, and food & drink.
We've been the demanding customer, and the daily hands-on high end restaurant and boutique hotel owner. We understand food, drink, hospitality, and real customer satisfaction.
So we want to help you find the right tools to cook better, save time, and be able to make restaurant quality food and drinks at home.
There are too many choices thrown at the home cook. We believe that everyone should be able to choose the equipment they really need, not what someone else wants them to buy !
And… so much information online is biassed or confusing.
So we'll cut through it and get the genuine detail to you. Then you can make better choices that suit you.
Join us here for any freebies and our story as we travel.
Our daily mantra is to eat well, cook better, live more.
We want the same for you!