Many espresso machines come with latte or cappuccino-making functions but they can cost thousands of dollars. Which ones can prepare a decent milk-based beverage? This list has you covered.
Here are our top picks for the best latte machines you can buy right now.
What is a Latte Machine?
Caffè e latte is an Italian word that means “coffee and milk.” It is popularly known for its shortcut name latte. This drink is the creamiest among the coffee beverages made with espresso and hot steamed milk.
Latte and other espresso drinks can be prepared using latte machines that come in manual and automatic models. A latte machine can be a separate appliance you can use after pulling a shot from your coffee maker or an integrated part of an espresso machine.
Espresso machines that can prepare a latte, cappuccino, and other espresso-based drinks are more favored than single latte machines because of their compactness and ease of use. Aside from these facts, espresso machines also allow you to control your espresso and your milk froth.
Coffee lovers know by heart that a decent latte is created by a machine that can handle the milk well. So if you’re shopping for the best coffee machine, you might consider its functionality as a latte machine as well.
What’s the Difference between a Cappuccino Maker and a Latte Machine?
Aside from the capability to make better milk froth for cappuccino drinks and lattes, there isn’t much difference between a cappuccino maker and a latte machine. These are similar machines as they can prepare both lattes and cappuccinos, they are just marketed differently.
To create a decent latte and cappuccino drinks in one machine, you have to look for high-tiered espresso machines, but worry not! We’ve searched for the best latte machines to help you prepare these two drinks.
What is the Difference Between Cappuccinos, Lattes, and Other Espresso-Based Drinks?
If you pay attention to the components that make cappuccino and latte, you’ll realize they are similar because both coffee beverages consist of:
- Steamed, hot milk
- Milk foam (or froth)
Yet, these two milk-based drinks differ in one thing: the milk proportions. Cappuccino drinks have meringue-like milk foam at the top while latte beverages have an observable thin layer of microfoam at the surface, which serves as the canvas for latte art.
If we were to deconstruct cappuccino, latte, flat whites, and macchiato by parts, the image below best describes it.
Semi-Automatic Vs Automatic Latte Machines
Now that you’ve identified the differences between espresso-based drinks, it’s time to find out which is more convenient, the semi-automatic or the automatic latte machines.
The semi-automatic latte machine for coffee is different from manual latte machines in terms of operation. To operate the latte machine manually, you have to pull down a lever to trigger the piston. The manual steps you have to do with a semi-automatic latte machine is grinding the coffee beans, loading the grounds in the portafilter, and operating the machine to make the shots.
With semi-automatic, the electric pump does this for you. Afterward, you press a button or two to pull the espresso shot. With a semi-automatic, you’re the boss of your espresso drinks. You’re in control of the grind size to load, the amount of coffee to use, and when to stop the espresso shots.
Yet, some people still find semi-automatic latte machines too daunting, so many prefer using an automatic latte machine. There’s not much difference between semi-automatic and automatic latte machines, but the latter offers many conveniences:
- You no longer need to repeatedly press a lot of buttons to control the flow of water.
- An internal timer that helps in cutting off the shot in a certain period.
However, since you allowed the device to decide when to pull out the shots, it takes away your control over the shot timing relevant to making a flavorful coffee.
To really appreciate the benefits of having your own machine, you should perfect your skills using the steam wand. While an automatic machine can certainly perform some functions, steaming your own milk is satisfying and can drastically affect the flavor and quality of your latte.
Our List of the Best Latte Machines in 2023
After hours of searching for the best latte machine, we’ve come up with a list that Big Cup of Coffee highly recommends for that velvety espresso drink you desire. These are:
1. Breville The Barista Express (BES870XL) Espresso Machine – Best in Class
The Barista Express by Breville is a semi-automatic espresso machine that has a built-in conical burr grinder. It utilizes a bean-to-cup system; that’s why you won’t need any separate devices to brew coffee. You can control the temperature, dose, grinding, as well as grind size through its digital control panel.
The Breville Barista Express also features a steam wand that can do microfoam milk texturing that enhances your coffee flavor. Likewise, the texturized micro-foam allows you to create the latte art of your choice.
The Barista Express is a home espresso machine that grinds, doses, and extracts coffee to create third wave specialty coffee. It features an integrated conical burr grinder with precise temperature control and a manual steam wand for microfoam milk, essential for latte art.
It also features a 54mm stainless steel portafilter, PID temperature-controlled Thermocoil heating system, and an easy-to-use interface with volumetric shot control.
2. Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista Espresso and Cappuccino Maker – Best Entry-Level
Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista is your 3-in-1 semi-automatic espresso machine that can also serve as your home cappuccino maker and latte maker. It uses a 15-bar pump system to produce a delicious espresso with shots you can control in a button’s touch. This espresso machine also froths milk automatically and can be adjusted with a control knob. It’s a savvy cappuccino maker as it can determine the amount of milk needed to make a foam.
The product is a semi-automatic 3-in-1 machine capable of making espresso, cappuccino, and latte, featuring a 15-bar pump system for brewing espresso.
It includes an automatic milk frother for easy milk frothing and a one-touch control panel for selecting drinks. Key practical aspects include easy-fill, removable water, and milk reservoirs.
3. Breville Oracle Touch (Fully-Automatic)
The Oracle Touch is Breville’s next-generation super-automatic espresso machine. It makes brewing any cafe-quality gourmet coffee as simple as grind, brew, and milk — simple steps that will make you fall in love with Breville Oracle Touch every time you brew coffee.
The Oracle Breville allows you to customize the coffee strength, temperature, and milk texture to satisfy your coffee preference. You can personalize each coffee setting you make by creating and saving up to 8 personalized coffees. It has digital temperature control (PID) technology and Over Pressure Valve (OPV) for more precise brewing.
The Breville Oracle® Touch is a super automatic espresso machine that simplifies coffee making through its automated touch screen operation.
It features a dual boiler heating system, a professional 58mm stainless steel portafilter, and a fully integrated conical burr grinder with 45 grind settings. It also includes hands-free milk texturing capabilities, an easy 3D interactive setup, and customizable settings for up to 8 different coffees.
4. Breville Cafe Roma (ESP8XL) Stainless Espresso Maker
The Breville Cafe Roma is a classic-looking espresso maker that can create a creamy, velvety milk foam with its full 15-bar pump pressure. You can enjoy a coffee with its Thermoblock heating system, which extracts the coffee beans at a perfect temperature. With this stainless steel espresso maker, you can brew coffee, froth, and foam milk effortlessly.
This is recommended for people who have little kitchen space. Usually, this coffee machine is offered to beginners and baristas-in-training because it’s user-friendly and comes at an affordable cost.
The Breville Cafe Roma espresso machine features a stainless steel finish, a Thermoblock heating system for optimal temperature extraction, and a 15-bar pressure system for rich espresso.
It includes two stainless steel filters for single and double shots, a professional-grade adjustable steam wand, and a warming tray that heats six cups.
5. Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine
The Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine is a semi-automatic espresso machine that is built to last. The machines’ linearly designed housing is made with iron frame wide side panels made of stainless steel. It can produce a perfect latte quality with its articulate stainless steel wand that can perform a complete range of motion when steaming milk. Ultimately, you can control the texture of the milk foam with its steam knob.
The Rancilio Silvia is a semi-automatic espresso machine with a strong, linear design, featuring an iron frame and stainless steel side panels.
It includes a commercial-grade group head for heat stability and quality extraction, and a patented 58mm ergonomic portafilter, both utilized in Rancilio's commercial machines. This machine also boasts a large-capacity single boiler and an articulating steam wand for versatile milk steaming.
Nespresso Lattissima Pro Original by De`Longhi
The Nespresso Lattissima by De`Longhi features an automatic cappuccino system that allows you to create a perfect layered espresso drink. Every cup is guaranteed to top with dense, rich, and long-lasting foam you’ll love from start to finish.
Among our list, it’s the only espresso machine that uses Nespresso pods to brew espresso that provides ultimate convenience. The Nespresso capsules are reusable pods, which are made from recyclable aluminum.
The Nespresso Lattissima Pro Espresso Machine by De'Longhi features an Automatic Cappuccino System for creating dense, rich foam in espresso beverages and utilizes a convenient Nespresso capsule system.
It offers one-touch operation for making espressos, cappuccinos, lattes, and macchiatos with ease. The machine includes a patented espresso extraction system for optimal flavor and an integrated, adjustable milk carafe that is both removable for refrigeration and dishwasher-safe.
6 Things to Consider Before Bringing Home a Latte Machine
To ensure that you’ll land with the best deal, there are things you should consider as you shop for a home latte machine. These are:
1. Machine Size
Appliances vary in shapes and sizes, and latte machines, too. Whether you’re living in a campervan, a studio-type flat, or you have a small kitchen, picking a compact-sized latte machine can help you save kitchen countertop space.
Some espresso machines come in numerous features despite their size, while other bulky espresso makers exhibit the essential elements. When you shop for a latte machine, it’s best if the device’s compactness can give more or less than its assigned value.
Are you a casual coffee drinker who only needs coffee for a morning kick, a hardcore coffee drinker who drinks more coffee than water in a day, or a social coffee drinker who shares your favorite beans with your friends and family? To know if the espresso maker is the right machine for you, look for the prospective espresso machine’s water tank capacity.
Some espresso machines can brew 8 to 15 cups of coffee and prepare milk froth for your latte and cappuccino drinks, while others can prepare just 4 to 6 cups of coffee.
3. Milk Frother
When you window shop for espresso machines to make espresso and milk-based coffee drinks, look for the ones with a milk frother. It’s an essential component of an all-around espresso machine as some machines are only good for making regular coffee.
Check if the machine has a built-in steam wand with a decent pressure capability to ensure that the espresso machine can create good milk froth for your latte and cappuccino. Again, this will point back to the water tank capacity. Does the machine have just one or a special tank just for creating steam?
Another factor is the number of holes on your steam wand. While most steam wands have 1-2 holes which already work great, you can also buy steam wand tips with 3, 4, 5, or even more holes. The more holes, the faster you can froth milk. Just remember that the number of holes should also be supported by the steam boiler.
The longevity of your espresso machine relies on how well it’s maintained and the ease with which it can be cleaned. Choose a latte machine that is easy to clean and maintain but can still prepare you a drink after a long day.
Added features have a direct effect on the price of the machine, but this should not discourage you from considering them. More elements aligned with proven technology are a plus for creating a decent coffee drink. Do the math and be honest about how much you spend on espresso drinks at the coffee shop and how much you are saving by making your own.
Likewise, higher-end products guarantee longevity as the materials used to create them are durable, aesthetically stylish, and sustainable. Best of all, home latte machines allow you to enjoy barista-quality coffee drinks with unlimited refills at a cheaper cost.
Warranties for latte makers ensure that you will be able to use the machine longer. You don’t have to spend much for a broken part when there’s a warranty that you can use to get it repaired. If you want to get the most of your money from buying latte and coffee-making machines, look for a device that offers 2 to 5 years of warranty.
If you’re aiming to buy a latte machine so you can prepare espresso-based drinks for your family and friends, one feature you should look for is the machine’s ability to create milk foam. Milk frothing is as vital as grinding and tamping your coffee grounds before you brew it.
Understanding the science and art behind creating froth out of milk enables you to optimize your coffee drinks’ overall taste and flavor. Aside from this, you should be able to understand what a latte machine can do for you and how to operate it properly.
Do the machines froth the milk for you?
Yes, but the frothing capability of an espresso machine depends on the technology integrated into the device. Most espresso machines that can create a decent milk froth often feature Panarello-style steam wands and milk frothing technologies such as Lattissima +, LatteCrema system, HP3 Milk Delivery System, Professional Fine Foam Frother G2, etc.
Likewise, some espresso machines can perform simultaneous milk frothing after brewing coffee, while others ask you to wait for the brewing process to finish before you can use the steam wand to froth milk. Although espresso machines can automatically froth milk for you, the process still requires your intervention to achieve that smooth, layered microfoam.
How to Froth Milk Quickly? (Steps)
The type of milk to use is essential in milk frothing. If you desire a thick, creamier foam for your coffee, the most recommended is whole milk. For a milk foam with large air bubbles, you’ll need either low-fat or skimmed milk in significant quantities to make it. Yet, if you’re a vegan, the alternatives don’t stop with almond or soy milk. You can read the full review here.
Now that we have identified the right milk to use in milk frothing, below we’ll show you how to make foam, froth, and textured milk.
To foam milk, what you need is fresh, cold milk and the following steps:
- Pour the fresh milk into the belly or straight-sided jug. Fill the container a third of the way up, allowing enough room for the milk to expand.
- Turn on the steam and purge it to remove any water left and build pressure before using it.
- Position the steam wand with its tip touching the surface of the milk.
- Turn up the steam arm to its full power.
- Listen closely to the sound it creates. If the sound you’re hearing is splattering, it means you’re positioning the steam arm too high.No sound indicates that the steam arm is too low, while a high-pitched, chirping sound means you’re hitting the sweet spot.
- Pay attention to the features of the milk. As it froths, slowly lower the jug but keep the wand’s tip just underneath the milk’s surface.
- Once your gauge hits a temperature between 40 to 45 degrees Celsius, it’s time to switch to milk texturing.
To add texture to your foamed milk, you’ll need to do the following:
- Position the steam wand near the milk jug’s side by raising the pitcher for a few centimeters and making sure that the tip is underneath the milk’s surface.
- Break down the bubbles by slightly moving the jug into an angle position. Such positioning will create a whirlpool effect, which will create a denser and smoother foam.
- Turn off the steam when the temperature of the milk hits 60 degrees Celsius. It will eventually reach 65 to 70 degrees Celsius since thermometers register the temperature a bit late. Yet, rest assured you’ve got the correct temperature for the textured milk.
- Break any surface bubbles by giving a firm tap to the base of the jug.
- To avoid milk build-up on the steam wand, wipe the steam arm with a damp cloth. The arm is too hot to touch, so don’t hold it.
These processes are much easier to execute with a semi-automatic espresso machine because you still control milk froths. Yet, we advise NOT steaming the milk for a second time as it will create a low foam.
It is the same reason why semi-automatic and automatic latte machines are highly praised for their ability to determine the right amount of milk to use for frothing. Thus, milk spoilage is prevented.
Our Verdict: What’s The Best Latte Machine?
Each latte machine in this list has promising features for you to consider:
- Breville Cafe Roma allows us to enjoy a tasty espresso, which is extracted at an adequate temperature.
- Breville Barista Express can prepare a flavorful, texturized microfoam that adds character to the espresso drinks.
- The Rancilio Silvia promises longevity with its sturdy build of stainless steel and iron frame.
- Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista gives you full control over making milk froth.
- Nespresso Lattissima offers us a sustainable way to enjoy a delicious espresso with reusable coffee pods.
Overall though, we declare the Breville Barista Express as Best in Class, and the Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista as the Best Entry-Level machine.
How’s your milk foam experience with your coffee? Share your experience in the comments below.