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Originating in Italy, the cappuccino—one or two espresso shots topped with a layer of steamed milk and a top layer of milk foam—has had a presence in the American coffee-drinking sphere for many years. And yet, it wasn't until the rise of a little Seattle-based coffeehouse known as Starbucks that “cappuccino” turned into a household name.
Nowadays, a cappuccino at the aforementioned Pacific Northwest juggernaut (or at any number of trendy cafes throughout the country) will set you back a pretty penny, so some budget-conscious cappuccino fans with an interest in the barista arts instead opt to make their very own version of this milk-and-espresso classic. While a top-of-the-line espresso machine doesn’t come cheap, the savings over time (compared to a lifelong habit of getting cappuccinos to-go) more than outweigh the expense.
We’ve rounded up the best cappuccino makers to have at home, each guaranteed to set you up for espresso-brewing and milk-frothing success.
Best Overall: Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine
What We Love: Good water pressure, digital temperature controls, easier to clean than other models, easy to operate
What We Don't Love: Expensive, heavy, reservoir requires frequent refilling
For a professional-grade cappuccino maker specially designed for the home kitchen, the Breville Barista Express edges out its competition with its optimal water pressure, user-friendly features, and sleek interface. To help you become a latte artist, it does come with a stainless-steel milk pitcher to use with the attached steam wand.
"The Breville Barista Express offers an all-in-one solution in an espresso machine," says Tim Sutton, founder of CoffeeGeek. Sutton points out the mechanical advantages of the Breville Barista Express: "The Barista Express has an integrated conical burr coffee grinder that produces consistent dual-size ground coffee optimal for brewing espresso." He also lauds this machine for "allowing you to manually monitor everything from the grind size to the pressure bar, perfect for coffee lovers who want to take things into their own hands."
One of our at-home reviewers Nick Evans tested the Barista Express for a week and concurs with Sutton. There is a learning curve to the machine, especially if you've never worked with a pressurized espresso machine before. "I frequently find that my shots are slightly under-pressured and the coffee is still very good," says Evans. Definitely be prepared to practice and know that your first few lattes might need a do-over. "Ultimately, anybody can learn how to use this machine with a little patience," says Evans. "In fact, even my 6-year-old has mastered the basics of the machine and can pull a decent shot with little help from me."
Dimensions (LxWxH): 12.5 x 12.6 x 13.1 inches | Wattage: 1600 W | Frother Type: Wand
Best Budget: Mr. Coffee Café Barista Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
What We Love: Affordable, many dishwasher-safe parts, quick-heating
What We Don't Love: Smaller water tank, brewing process can be noisy, no included grinder
Mr. Coffee has a well-earned reputation as a staple brand for inexpensive but well-made coffee machines, and its Café Barista model, which brews espresso and froths milk for cappuccinos and lattes, is no exception.
The Café Barista’s 15-bar pump produces enough pressure to extract bold and flavorful espresso. Meanwhile, the automatic milk frother creates a luxurious texture that allows you to make an espresso that feels like a real treat, even on a humdrum weekday morning. Irvin Lin tested out this model in his home kitchen and found that, once you put it together, it makes drinks reminiscent of his 1990s bookstore coffee shop. Like the Barista Express, there is a learning curve at first. "You do need to know a little bit about what you are doing, including making sure your coffee is the right grind, tamping it tightly into the porta-filter, as well as tightly pulling it into the slot, all of which are clearly explained in the instruction manual," says Lin.
During testing, Lin was able to quickly learn the nuances of the Café Barista and realized it's a great espresso and cappuccino machine for many. "The machine even gives you an option to press and hold the cappuccino button to manually add how much hot milk you add to the drink," says Line. "This is great for those folks who want to pull an espresso shot, then add a smaller amount of milk for a stronger short latte, cortado, or flat white or even add more milk if they prefer a hot milk beverage with a touch of coffee flavor."
The Café Barista’s affordability and compact, lightweight profile make it a smart buy for anyone looking to reduce their coffee costs without sacrificing practicality or overall cappuccino quality.
Dimensions (DxWxH): 11.2 x 8.9 x 12.6 inches | Wattage: 1040 W | Frother Type: Automatic
Best Pod Machine: Keurig K-Café Single Serve Coffee, Latte & Cappuccino Maker
What We Love: Fast and compact, several dishwasher-safe parts, controls for brew strength and cup size, digital descaling alert
What We Don't Love: Not self-cleaning, pricey
If you don't want to worry about how many bars of pressure you need, or whether or not your espresso is ground correctly, there's still hope for a good espresso from a pod machine. Those who long for the path of least resistance to great at-home cappuccinos will find plenty to love about the Keurig K-Cafe.
This capsule-based machine makes cappuccinos one at a time, and its ease of operation applies to both the espresso-brewing process and the milk frothing process, which happens using a proprietary Keurig milk frothing cup. The water reservoir holds up to 6 cups, reducing the need to constantly refill, and you can use any Keurig-friendly coffee or espresso pods to make your drink. For those who take their morning coffee to go, this machine can accommodate travel mugs up to 7.2 inches tall, with the drink size topping out at 12 ounces. It does have an alert for when it's time to descale the machine.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 11.7 x 15.3 x 12.5 inches | Wattage: 1470 W | Frother Type: Automatic
Related: The Best Keurigs
Best with Grinder: EspressoWorks 7-Piece All-In-One Espresso Machine & Cappuccino Maker Barista Bundle Set
What We Love: Easy to clean, easy to operate, quick-heating, small and lightweight
What We Don't Love: Grinder is a blade grinder, no temperature controls
While some cappuccino makers come with integrated grinders, amateur baristas devoted to quality often choose separate grinders that are easier to clean and use their own power source. For these fastidious cappuccino fans, a grinder that stands alone but is specifically designed to pair with a particular cappuccino maker can prove ideal. That’s what you’ll get with the EspressoWorks All-in-One Espresso Machine and Cappuccino Maker.
This device comes with a powerful electric coffee grinder that produces the perfect consistency for the brewing process. Other features include a thermoblock heating system, a 15-bar pump, LED indicator lights, and a milk frothing wand with an included frothing cup. The removable water tank can hold up to 1.25 liters, so you can make enough espresso for a round of espresso martinis without having to refill.
In addition to the grinder, this comes with two porcelain demitasse mugs making this setup work for both newcomers to the cappuccino-making arts and seasoned experts.
Dimensions (DxWxH): 9.75 x 9 x 11.5 inches | Wattage: 1350 W | Frother Type: Wand
Related: The Best Coffee Grinders
Best Stovetop: Bialetti Moka Express
What We Love: Affordable, easy to store, no voltage needed
What We Don't Love: Need a stove to brew, no automatic functions
For the lowest cost cappuccino makers, you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and get acquainted with manual models designed to be heated over a stovetop. Generations of Italians have sworn by the Bialetti Moka for their espresso-making needs; it’s small, it’s easy to use (once you get the hang of it), and it can brew strong, deeply-flavored espresso in just 5 minutes.
Similar to percolators, moka pots work by forcing boiling water up into your coffee grounds, and then up into the upper chamber. Just be sure to turn off the flame once the coffee begins flowing or you'll have an espresso geyser in no time. To craft a cappuccino with your Bialetti Moka Express-made espresso, you’ll also need a separate milk frother, and Bialetti (view at Amazon) makes a version that will whip the milk to the proper texture using a manual plunger. These devices represent an old-school spin on cappuccino-making that will appeal to budget-conscious java fans and to those who prefer a more hands-on approach.
"My treasured Bialetti Moka was handed down to me from my far-traveled uncle. While there is a slight learning curve to operating one—you definitely have to be careful to not melt the handle while also avoiding espresso shooting out everywhere—it's the only way I can make espresso in my small apartment, and I wouldn't have it any other way." — Siobhan Wallace, Commerce Editor
Dimensions (LxWxH): 8.5 x 16.6 x 4.8 inches | Frother Type: Manual
Related: The Best Milk Frothers
It may be pricey and surely needs dedicated counter space, but if you're in it to win it with daily espressos and cappuccinos, you can't go wrong with the Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine (view at Amazon). If you want a great, compact, and affordable machine, you can't go wrong with the Mr. Coffee Café Barista Espresso and Cappuccino Maker (view at Amazon).
What To Look for in a Cappuccino Maker
Type of Machine
When shopping for a cappuccino maker, you’ll discover several different options in terms of machine style. The most common are as follows:
Super-Automatic: This style of machine will take care of all aspects of the cappuccino process, from grinding the beans to brewing the espresso to frothing the milk, with just the press of a button. Because they have such remarkable functionality, they also require regular cleaning and maintenance.
Semi-Automatic: While a super-automatic machine is a total all-in-one device, a semi-automatic machine will do most of the work, but a few parts will be left up to you. For instance, a semi-automatic machine might have an espresso maker and an integrated milk frother, but it might not include a grinder built into the machine itself.
Capsule: A capsule machine brews one espresso serving at a time using pre-filled espresso pods, and the ones specially designed for cappuccinos will also feature integrated milk frothers.
Manual: A manual cappuccino maker doesn’t feature any automation; instead, you must grind your own beans, fill the maker with water, brew your own espresso, and froth your own milk.
In terms of special features, super-automatic and semi-automatic machines might include some combination of digital displays to indicate low reservoir, temperature, descaling needs, and brew time. They can also have integrated bean grinders and/or milk frothers (either automatic or wand), water filters, or programmable buttons for espresso intensity and cup sizes. All of these special features can come at a cost though, so make sure you know what you can, and cannot, live without.
If you’re working with a manual cappuccino maker like the Bialetti Moka, then hand-washing both the espresso pot and the milk frother is ideal. For super-automatic and semi-automatic machines, the cleaning needs will differ based on the model. For quicker cleaning, purchase a version that comes with dishwasher-safe parts. Automatic machines will also require descaling after a certain number of brew cycles, and some models provide alert lights to let you know when it’s time to descale.
How do you make the best cappuccino foam?
Automatic frothers, manual frothers, and wand frothers can all achieve excellent foam textures. For the highest level of control, you’ll want to opt for a wand frother; these devices use a lighter touch to whip up the milk, so you can calibrate your foam to meet your exact preferences. For speed and volume, the automatic frother is ideal. The manual frother will give you more control than the automatic frother, but depending on your arm strength, it can be a tiring process.
Keep in mind that the fat content in the milk you're foaming also comes into play. More fat means creamier, longer-lasting foam. Plant-based milk will foam up differently since many have added oils and higher water contents than dairy milk.
Can you make other espresso drinks with a cappuccino maker?
In general, a cappuccino maker (whether it’s an automatic, a manual, or a capsule machine) can make any espresso-based drink that involves steamed and/or frothed milk. Examples of drinks that you can prepare with a cappuccino machine include:
- Latte: A drink made with espresso and steamed milk. Lattes don’t traditionally include milk foam, so you won’t need to froth your milk.
- Flat White: A drink made with espresso, steamed milk, and a small amount of foam.
- Macchiato: A drink made of espresso with a small amount of foamed milk splashed on top.
- Cortado: An espresso-and-steamed milk drink that’s very similar to a latte, but which usually involves less milk.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Taylor Tobin is a freelance journalist who specializes in recipe testing and deep-dives into popular dishes, drinks, ingredients, and pieces of kitchen equipment. A huge cappuccino fan since she first discover the difference between a cappuccino and a Frappuccino in high school, she considers a properly-calibrated combination of espresso and foam the height of coffee-making skill, and she’s thrilled to recommend these top-of-the-line models.
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