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The Best Automated Espresso, Latte, & Cappuccino Makers

A good latte or cappuccino is like a rich, milky mug of heaven. Just writing about these delicious, warming drinks makes us want one. Sadly, creating the perfect cap or caffe latte at home can be a hassle. Making a barista-worthy espresso is tough enough, but adding the right amount of milk and foam, perfectly heated and combined, is surprisingly daunting.

That's why we've put together a list of machines that make excellent milk-based or alternative-milk-based beverages at the touch of a button (or a couple buttons). The machines here differ from the picks in our Best Espresso Machines roundup in a couple of important ways. Here we're gathering machines that make it easier, specifically, to make milk-based or alternative-milk-based drinks. That includes machines with built-in containers for milk, or machines that effectively do the steaming for you. In that way, these machines are automated or semi-automated and are great for anyone who wants a device that specializes in dispensing coffee at the touch of a button. 

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Updated December 2022: We've adjusted the picks on this guide to focus on automation and ease of use, we've also revised the Q&A section and checked prices throughout. 

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Best Overall

Mr. Coffee One-Touch CoffeeHouse$300 at Amazon$300 at Target

This Mr. Coffee machine sits at a comfortable intersection where ease of use, automation, and affordability. It can extract a flavorful espresso from almost any beans and grind, and its milk reservoir will automatically mix a cappuccino or latte for you.

This is basically a sturdier, better-designed version of the Mr. Coffee Café Barista, our affordable pick, with a nicer portafilter basket that takes ESE espresso pods and a larger milk reservoir that snaps in more firmly. Like the cheaper version, you have to load coffee into the portafilter basket and twist it on (use a fine grind and tamp it down with some pressure for the best taste), but the machine can mix a cappuccino or latte macchiato for you at the press of a button. It has two sizes of each and a manual mode that will just keep foaming or extracting espresso until you tell it to stop.

On the downside, you'll need to clean the milk canister at least once a week. (You can keep it in the fridge.) It also won't extract quite as much rich espresso flavor as the Breville machines below, but it is a lot easier to use. One day, for fun, I (Jeffrey) put standard Maxwell House coffee into it. The result was definitely Maxwell House-like espresso, but it was still an acceptable Maxwell House espresso—good to the last drop™. It pulls as nice an espresso as it can from almost anything.


Best Machine for $200

Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista$200 at Amazon$200 at Target

The Café Barista is a downgraded version of our top pick, the Mr. Coffee One-Touch Coffeehouse. It's perfect if you want pure espresso and a machine that mixes the milk for you without much fuss, but it's also more plasticky and lightweight, which means you really have to steady the machine with your hand as you twist the portafilter into place. But other than that it makes fairly rich single or double-size espressos, cappuccinos, and lattes with the push of a button.

Like the One-Touch Coffeehouse, this machine's integrated milk container has its pros and cons. You will have to remember to remove and refrigerate it each morning and clean it every few days or it could clog up—cleanup is easy, thankfully. Milk tends to come out a little foamier than I (Jeffrey) prefer for a latte, and it took me some time to understand what size glass I needed for each drink. (A double latte, for instance, is 15 ounces, but a double cappuccino is only 10 ounces.) The slide-out booster is nice for smaller glasses.


Better Taste, High Learning Curve

Breville Barista Pro$680 at Amazon$680 at Bed Bath & Beyond

The Breville Barista Pro is a coffeehouse in a box. The built-in pressure-activated conical burr grinder gives you fresh grounds however you like them, and the pressure gauge and options let you adjust the water temperature and shot amount. You have to froth your own milk, and the steam wand makes it easier than the competition, with a handle and the ability to tilt in any direction. It cleans itself, and you can get hot water from the machine to brew tea or make an Americano.

Previously we recommended the Express model because it's cheaper, but it was also more difficult to use. The Pro has revamped the controls, and operating it is much simpler and more intuitive. All the accessories you need are included here: a stainless steel milk jug, magnetic tamp, trimming tool, and more.

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The Barista Pro isn’t cheap, and it's probably overkill if you already own a burr grinder, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a sturdier, more authentic latte and cappuccino machine that doesn’t cost thousands of dollars. 

Tip: Use the double-walled filters—they deliver better crema—and when heating your milk, try to position your steam wand just below the surface. If you have it right, the milk will spin as it's heating. Slowly lower the jug to add foam.

Cheaper Alternative: Breville Bambino ($280)

Breville also makes a slightly pared-down version of the Bambino Plus, called the Bambino. It's nearly as capable as its more expensive sibling but lacks a manual brew button, and it's a bit lighter. That means you're essentially stuck with Breville's one- and two-shot settings. You can time your own espresso shots, but it's fiddly and requires holding one of the brew buttons. If you're not careful, that new shot timing can overwrite the original one- or two-shot setting. If you're only ever going to use the one-or two-shot options and don't really mind not being able to easily pull your espresso by hand, the Bambino is a great pick and saves you a bit of cash. 


Best Super-Automatic Machine

GE Cafe Affetto Automatic Espresso Machine$500 at Amazon

The Cafe Affetto is one of the few automated machines that we've enjoyed. Usually they come with a high price and some hassle. The Affetto features a built-in steaming wand, produces 20 bars of pump pressure to ensure your espresso is fully extracted, and is a slick little machine. It's very slim and fits comfortably on a small apartment countertop without having to rearrange everything. Because coffee production is automated, you just need to fill the water tank and put whole beans in the hopper, and you're good to go. You can brew one or two shots with just the press of a button, and there's a programmable button to create your favorite drinks (like an Americano with just the right amount of water). 

The milk frother does a lot of the work on its own. Just pour some of your favorite milk into the frothing pitcher, submerge the wand, and hit the steam button. If you're new to frothing milk, you don't even need to move the pitcher to produce a creamy and consistent microfoam. We tested the frother with dairy milk, oat milk, and soy milk. It produced soft and creamy café-grade froth each time.

The Affetto is on the expensive side, and as an automated machine it can be finicky. Just make sure it's topped up with water and beans, and that you clean out the spent grounds container regularly, and it works like a dream.


Most Convenient, Easiest Cleanup

Keurig K-Café$200 at Amazon$200 at Target$200 at Bed Bath & Beyond

We love this machine. It's the best Keurig we’ve used (8/10, WIRED Recommends) and has the best frother of any machine tested for this guide. Despite the fact that the K-Café doesn’t technically make espresso shots (the K-cup system doesn't put its grounds under any pressure), it still makes a delicious “espresso style” 2-ounce shot that can taste almost as strong, though without the crema that you might desire.

The real magic is the frother. It has three settings—cold, latte, and cappuccino—and froths milk to perfection with the tap of a button. When it’s done, simply pour your milk with the spout on the side. The jug is made of stainless steel, and the plastic spinner comes right off, making cleanup as easy as a quick run under the faucet. It was so simple to use and clean that I sometimes frothed milk with it even when I used other machines to make my espresso. I liked it so much, I didn’t even mind that the spout on the frother was designed for right-handed folks. This lefty was happy to adapt.

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Another bonus? While Keurig's single-use coffee-pods used to be hard on recycling systems, they are now 100 percent recyclable. Keurig also makes reusable coffee filters; we suggest sticking to the branded ones, as we've found the cheaper dupes to be unreliable. 


Best Handheld Milk Frother

Subminimal Nanofoamer$40 at Amazon

Sometimes making a whole latte or cappuccino using an automated machine can be a time suck. Not to mention, sometimes all you really want is frothy milk. That's where milk frothers come in. These machines beat air into milk, or milk substitutes, to get that nice creamy froth. 

Most frothers make a stiff frothy foam that sits on top of the milk, which isn't great for lattes or cappuccinos. Properly textured milk is creamy, light, airy, and never stiff or separated. That's why our current favorite is the Nanofoamer from Subminimal. 

A darling on Kickstarter, the Nanofoamer is now a real product. It looks like a very tiny immersion blender, which is more or less what it is. It has two distinct screens that fit over the blade: one for fine-textured milk and another for ultrafine-textured milk. The difference is subtle, but the fine filter creates milk that's a bit bubblier than the ultrafine filter. The filters allow the Nanofoamer to do what baristas do with a steam wand: It textures your milk for that perfect, creamy top. 


Questions and Answers

How did you test each machine?

The key here is automation. We wanted to test machines that make you a cup of coffee with a single touch, or as close to that as possible. So the products on this list are mostly of the automatic and semi-automatic variety. You fill 'em up and they do all the hard work–or most of it anyway. 

Setup and cleanup were especially important, as was durability. The entire point of a device like these is to save time and energy and/or produce a drink of higher quality than can be made without it, so we didn’t recommend any products that didn’t produce tasty espresso and save time.

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Jeffrey Van Camp, Scott Gilbertson, Jaina Grey, and Adrienne So contributed to this guide.

Which beans should you buy? 

Even if you're not making espresso, the first and best thing you can do to dramatically improve your morning coffee is to buy locally roasted beans. Plug your city or region and “locally roasted coffee beans” into Google and you will be glad you did. The reason that your locally roasted coffee will taste worlds better than anything you'd buy from a major coffee roaster (like Starbucks, Illy, or Gevalia) is simple: Coffee grows in only a few regions of the world, and it starts to lose flavor the moment it's roasted. 

Try to avoid brands that advertise their European origins. Coffee does not grow in Italy or France or any other part of Europe, so you will always be buying beans roasted thousands of miles away that spent an unknown amount of time in transit before they reached you. Even if you ordered a bag of killer coffee beans from (and roasted in) a coffee-producing region of the world, it's not going to arrive before those flavors start to turn. Trust me, buy from a local roaster. You won't regret it. For some of our favorite mail-order brands, check out our roundup of the Best Coffee Subscription Services

What else do you need? 

Ground Coffee: If you haven’t made espresso before, and you don't have access to a coffee grinder, we still recommend you buy locally roasted beans. Just ask your barista for a fine (espresso) grind. We tried a lot of pre-ground espresso blends from popular companies like Lavazza, Gevalia, and Café Bustelo. They were all very dark and very bitter, partially because they are all either imported or roasted in big batches and shipped all over the world. Grinding coffee is another thing that makes it start to degrade. Use your freshly ground, locally roasted beans within two weeks or you'll be drinking dark, bitter, acidic, and kind of funky coffee. Our roundup of The Best Coffee Grinders can also provide some guidance here. 

Distributor & Tamp: A lot of machines come with a plastic tamp, but few come with a proper distributor and tamp. You'll need to check the size of your portafilter (it'll say in your machine's instruction manual), but this combined distributor and tamp is a good pick for most machines. 

Stainless Steel Frothing Pitcher: If your latte maker comes with just a steam wand (like the Hamilton Beach machine on this list), you’ll want to invest in a frothing jug. This $13 Star Coffee Frothing Pitcher is nice because it has measurement scales on the inside, which is helpful if you want to get the right coffee-to-milk ratio.

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