So it seems you are in the market for a new cappuccino maker - but not just any old rubbish. You want the best cappuccino machine money can buy! Well not quite, I mean we aren't all multi-millionaires!
Finding the best cappuccino maker is a lot like buying a car - let me explain why:
If you think of some cappuccino makers like a Toyota, then you would expect a solid build and reasonable performance at a mid-level price. Something that gets the job done but without any excitement.
If you think of some cappuccino makers like a Lexus, then you would expect a well crafted car with some sweeeeeet features but not the performance of a top end sports beast. It will get you from A to B and it may turn some heads along the way, but nobody is going to be super impressed if you start bragging about your ride.
Finally some cappuccino makers like a Ferrari - you expect a sexy sleek design which will give you a TON of performance and excitement. However just like an actual Ferrari, your wallet will feel a lot lighter.
This guide is our attempt at compromising between the three so you can find a match to suit your budget, wants and needs. Think of it this way - by the end of this guide you should be ready to slap down some hard earned cash on either a Toyota, a Lexux or a Ferrari.
Breville Barista Express
This is our top pick mainly because it is the perfect compromise between price, features and durability.
Its beautiful stainless steel body is jam packed with pretty every feature imaginable.
If however the Heston doesn't quite meet your cappuccino making needs please read on to check out my picks for the best cappuccino makers. Not only do I have some in-depth reviews, but there is a detailed buyers guide covering everything you need to know about cappuccino makers.
Brace yourself its about to get technical!
What to consider when buying the best cappuccino maker
Before you start looking at steam wands and boiler sizes, the first think you will need to consider when buying a cappuccino maker is what "type" is best suited for you.
There are three main types and each one has its pros and cons:
The main difference between all three types is automation. If you're a bit lazy and would rather the cappuccino maker do most of the work then a "pod" or "super-automatic" is what you would choose. If you want to have a little more control and mess around extracting espresso and steaming milk, then a "semi-automatic" is the one you would choose.
It important you understand that fundamental difference before we get into in the details 🙂
Pod Cappuccino Makers
A pod cappuccino machine is for us lazy people. They are super low maintenance and easy to clean up afterward. You simply slip in your favorite pod, press start and enjoy that sweeeeet brew.
Aside from the maintenance and lack of mess there is another distinct advantage: Consistency. Each shot will be almost identical to the last. A little bonus: You don't have to worry about buying a coffee grinder! The machine simply takes the coffee from the pod and uses an automatic milk frother.
There is one downside though - you are going to be locked into using coffee pods. Yes I know that is kinda self explanatory, however some machines are only able to use certain branded pods which can be expensive. Luckily the majority accept pods from third party vendors that are often cheaper and have a lot more variety.
"Get a machine that accepts 3rd party pods as these are usually cheaper"
Semi-Automatic Cappuccino Makers
If you are already an avid coffee drinker but would love to replicate the barista style coffee you get in a cafe at home, then a semi-automatic cappuccino maker would suit you.
As mentioned above they require the most user input - meaning you actually have to manually make the coffee just like a barista would. If you didn't already know, that means grinding your coffee, extracting your espresso and frothing your milk.
Sometimes it is difficult to differentiate semi-automatic machines but usually it comes down to the boiler and general build quality. As you would expect, the more the machine costs the better the espresso produced.
Make sure you use a good grinder to ensure top quality coffee.
The semi-automatic machines make the best tasting coffee by far, however keep in mind that perfection takes a lot of practice.
"Make sure you use a good grinder to ensure top quality coffee."
Super-Automatic Cappuccino Makers
If you are looking for something between a pod machine and a semi-automatic machine then a super-automatic is the choice.
However having the convenience of a pod and the freedom on a semi-automatic comes at a price which is why a super-automatic is usually the most expensive type of machine on the market.
As the same suggests, a super-automatic will automate nearly all of the coffee making process. As a rule of thumb, the higher the price, the more automation.
High end machines will literally grind your beans, froth your milk, extract your espresso and pour your drink - all with the touch of a button.
"As a rule of thumb, the higher the price, the more automation"
Other Things To Consider
Now that you know the difference between the three main types of machines, you're on your way to becoming a cappuccino pro! However there are still a few things you need to consider before making a choice:
- Boiler Type
- Build Quality
Cappuccino Maker Budget
When you start looking for a cappuccino machine it is super easy to get caught up in price. Just like everything in life, some brands offer the same features and other brands yet charge a heck of a lot more. It's important to keep that in mind when you are looking at price - I mean why would you spend $500 on a machine that does exactly the same as a $300 machine.
So typically how much is a consumer level cappuccino maker? The answer is a very unhelpful - anywhere between $100 and $2000. You can find even more expensive machines that cater exclusively to the 'prosumer' market - think the kind of people who own multiple Ferrari's.
Aside from the price differences per brand, the main things that impact price are: boiler types (more on this later), build quality and features. Generally the more expensive, the more features. When you decide on a machine you will need to balance these three things and come to a compromise. Maybe you could do with a single boiler and more features rather than a double boiler and less features.
As stated above, usually pod machines are the cheapest, then semi-automatics and super-automatics are the most expensive. However we have some handy tips to get the best bang for your buck:
- Single or Double?
While it is nice to have a commercial-looking, completely stainless cappuccino machine, if you choose one that is made of both plastic and stainless steel, the price is usually a lot lower.
Another consideration is: how many coffees do you actually drink a day. If it is just one before work and one in the evening then you probably don't need a dual boiler. Save money by picking a single boiler which you can use to improve the features.
Finally you should consider if you are happy to manually do certain aspects like extracting your own espresso, or frothing your own milk - remember the less automation the cheaper the price.
Cappuccino Machine Boiler Type
There are three different types of boilers that you can choose from for your cappuccino machine - each with its own benefits and disadvantages. Its important to know the difference so you can make the most informed decision. The main difference between all three is the price because a better boiler allows for better performance in terms of speed and temperature stability.
Below is a little more information about each type from cheapest to most expensive:
1. Single Boiler
Single boilers are usually the cheapest boiler type and are commonly found in the entry-level cappuccino machines. As the name suggests there is only one boiler for all functions meaning you can't froth milk and extract espresso simultaneously. For the average user this isn't an issue as the main compromise is speed. You will have to wait until the temperature is high enough to steam the milk and then let the boiler cool before extracting your espresso - failure to do so will result in burnt coffee YUK!
2. Single Boiler (Heat Exchange)
Heat exchange boilers are a more complex version of the single boiler. They make use of a 'thermoblock' mechanism which allows the water to heat up rapidly via a series of coils. It is rare that a heat exchange boiler will have just one thermoblock - the standard is two. This allows simultaneous steaming and espresso extraction. Because of this you will tend to find these type of boilers in the more mid-level cappuccino machines.
3. Dual Boiler
As the name suggests, this type has two boilers - one dedicated to steaming milk and the other for extracting espresso. It is similar to the heat exchange boiler in that it will save you time however a dual boiler allows superior pressure output and temperature control. As mentioned previously, there is a steeper learning curve with the higher end machines but once you master it you are able to get instant steam and awesome pressure to extract your espresso. These type of boilers are almost exclusively reserved for the higher end machines. If you are short on budget but speed is an important feature then you should choose a heat exchange boiler.
The final think you should consider when choosing a cappuccino machine is the quality of build. As with most things in life - the more expensive the machine the better quality. This is usually because the raw materials used are of a higher standard.
When it comes to cappuccino machines this means one thing: what material is the exterior made of. There are three main choices: plastic, aluminum or stainless steel. Typically you would find the lower level machines to use plastic. The mid level machines to use a combination of plastic and aluminum / stainless steel. The high level machines to almost exclusively use stainless steel.
Unfortunately this is not an area where you can forgo budget and decided to forgo stainless steel in exchange for more features - the features are tied to levels and only the higher level machines with all the features come in stainless steel.
Now that you fully understand the different types of machines and the difference between the most popular features, we are going to review some of our favorite machines.
Cappuccino Maker Reviews
To help you decide which machine is best for you, we have split this review into three price points:
- Entry level (under $300)
- Mid level (under $700)
- High level (over $700)
Although these reviews are not super indepth - we won't be going into product dimensions or product warranty etc they should be enough for you to convince you to click through and read the full specifications and reviews. I fully believe you have enough knowledge to decided if a machine is right for you after reading this guide 🙂
Entry Level - Best Cappuccino Makers
Nespresso Citiz Milk Frother Combo
The Nespresso Citiz belongs to the pod family and is actually one of the cheapest on the market.
Not only do you get the machine, you also get the Aeroccino Plus milk frother - Nice Bonus!
It is a really simple machine to use. You put in your favorite flavor pod, extract your espresso and pour the milk from the Aeroccino Plus.
Mr Coffee Cappuccino Maker
The Mr Coffee Cappuccino maker belongs to the semi-automatic family - it has an automatic milk frother but you need to manually extract the espresso.
If you have every tried to froth milk before then you know that it is harder than it looks. If you think you have have trouble with this aspect of coffee making then this machine is perfect.
Delonghi 15 Bar Cappuccino Maker
The Delonghi Cappuccino maker is possibly the most popular entry level machine on the market.
As it's name suggests it produces 15 bars of pressure to extract your espresso and features a steam wand to froth your milk.
It is a great machine if you want to get into the home brewing world, however if you can afford it maybe take a look at the mid level machines below.
We have written a more in-depth review of this machine in our Home Espresso Machine Guide.
Mid Level - Best Cappuccino Makers
Nespresso Lattissima Pro Cappuccino Maker
The Lattissima is the deluxe version of the entry level Citiz above.
The compact design is achieved by integrating both the milk frothing and pod extraction system - a great bit of engineering!
As we move into the mid level you will start to see features like its digital touch menu which allows you to make americanos, cappuccions and more with the touch of a button.
We have written a more in-depth review of another Lattissima machine in our Best Home Espresso Machine Guide.
Breville Barista Express
This is our top pick machine. We love it for a number of reasons but the main being it balances features and price perfectly.
It is one of the few semi-automatic cappuccino makers that has an integrated grinder. As you will know from above this is important for consistency.
This machine would suit any coffee geek who wants to make great coffee straight away.
We have written more about the Brevills bigger brothers in our guide, however they fall into the homes espresso machines over $1000 section.
DeLonghi Magnifica XS
At the higher price point of the mid level cappuccion machines, the DeLonghi Magnifica XS is a super automatic.
You will already know that this means it automates the grinding and extraction process. To create your frothy milk there is an assisted steam wand. This machine maybe small but it certainly packs a punch.
We have written more about another of the Magnifica family here: DeLonghi ESAM3300 Magnifica Espresso Machine Review.
High Level - Best Cappuccino Makers
Breville Dual Boiler
The Breville Dual Boiler is at the high end on price and features.
As the name suggests it has a dual boiler - one dedicated to extracting espresso and the other dedicated to steaming milk. You will know from the information above that this greatly increased the machines speed, allows you to produce steam on demand and to extract espresso and froth milk and the same time.
There is a digital display that couples with a PID temperature control system to allow you to set the individual boiler temperatures and program volume settings.
This is the perfect machine for the coffee loving geek.
SAECO EVO Cappuccino Maker
The SAECO EVO belongs to the super-automatic family meaning that it automates the whole process from start to finish.
It starts by grinding your favorite coffee to the perfect consistency. It then steams your milk into a rich and creamy layer. Finally it pours you the perfect coffee every time.
A cool feature which is only found on the high level machines - the EVO automates the cleaning process. No more taking pieces apart to rinse - we did say it automates everything!
There is the option to use the integrated steam wand if you want to show off your barista skills to friends and family.
Overall this machines is ideal for coffee loving families who drink several coffees a day.
The 'Ferrari' of the cappuccino making world. Every feature imaginable.