Best Prosumer Espresso Machines For 2023

BY BORIS POVOLOTSKY - 13 Sep 2022[updated on 27 Aug 2023]

If you’re a true coffee lover and love to make the best coffee at home, You’ve probably considered purchasing an espresso machine, and you might have got yourself a budget entry-level machine or bought a used one. There’s a high probability that you’ve dabbled with buying yourself a better, bigger, and more expensive prosumer espresso machine, in which case, this post is exactly what you need to help you decide.

In this post, I provide an overview of what is a prosumer espresso machine and the best prosumer machines for you. In case you’re in a hurry, here’s a quick list of the best espresso prosumer machines.

  1. Best Luxury - La Marzocco Linea Mini
  2. Best Overall - Lelit Bianca
  3. Best Value - Lelit Elizabeth
  4. Best Heat Exchanger - Lelit Mara X

What Is A Prosumer Espresso Machine?

Most coffee lovers and hobbyists fall into the consumers category, they’re perfectly happy with instant coffee or a Nespresso pod machine at best. Prosumers are more involved and passionate about coffee origins, brewing, roasting, tend to invest more money in higher-quality espresso machines, grinders and other equipment.

Espresso prosumer machines are usually much more expensive and of higher quality in terms of durability, design, features and performance. Thankfully, the range of prosumer espresso machines has enough to offer for almost every budget.

How To Choose The Right Prosumer Machine

There are numerous factors to consider as you begin researching the best machine for your needs. Those include budget, space, performance and other features. Bigger boilers will be more expensive, take more space, and take longer to heat up, but will provide better performance. So let’s go over some factors in more detail.

Budget

Naturally, most prosumer espresso machines cost more than consumer and entry-level machines. You have to plan your expenses carefully, because the cost of the machine itself is probably not the total price you’re paying, you must account for accessories (knockbox, tamper, WDT, shower screen, etc.) and a grinder if you still don’t own a good one.

Additionally, your coffee habits and requirements may influence the required budget. For instance, if you’re hosting a lot and need consistent and endless steam pressure, you need a dual-boiler machine with a lot of power. Not only a dual-boiler but preferably bigger boilers, too.

If your needs do not go beyond making straight espresso daily, you can settle on a fairly cheap prosumer machine like a manual-lever machine (Flair) or an ECM Puristika and purchase accessories with an extra budget. There’s no need to get a dual-boiler monster for espressos only.

Space

Bigger boilers take more space, period.

Take a look at your future machine’s place in your kitchen, or wherever it’s gonna be and choose a machine accordingly. If you’re into a lever machine, make sure there’s enough vertical space because the lever is quite tall.

For instance, The Lelit Bianca has a neat feature that allows you to set your water tank on the side, and The Mara X, has a very narrow design. Another factor that goes with dimensions is weight. A heavy machine is going to be difficult to transport for service, sale, or just simply moving it from one place to another on your kitchen counter. My Pro 800 weighs too much to be comfortable moving it around.

Performance

When you get into prosumer-level espresso machines, you begin to care about how fast you steam your milk, or how temperature consistent your consequent shots are. And rightfully so!

You’re going to spend $1,000 and north on a machine, might as well set your expectations higher, right? There’s nothing worse than spending that amount of money and being utterly disappointed.

When considering temperature stability, a machine with PID will be favorably compared to a pressure stat machine. It’s easier to set a desired temperature with a couple of clicks. However, HX machines with PID isn’t the same as a dual-boiler machine with a PID because the temperature of HX fluctuates due to the design of the HX machine. Ultimately, HX is still a single boiler. Similarly, a tiny boiler like that of a Gaggia Classic Pro’s won’t provide consistent temperature because there’s always cold water entering the boiler due to its small capacity. Bigger boilers tend to be more temperature-stable but also take more time to stabilize.

In the steaming department, there are exceptional machines like the Lelit Elizabeth with phenomenal steaming pressure over time. You can easily steam milk for two consequent shots. However, it won’t manage a party of people. Remember, smaller boilers also mean you must refill more often.

Other Features

Most machines in the low-mid range usually rock the same features, most are E61 groupheads, with similar quality and operations. Towards the higher end of the spectrum, some machines begin to stand out interestingly. For example, we can see Lelit Bianca’s out-of-the-box flow control and wooden accents, whereas in other machines (Profitec 700, ECM Synchronika) it’s an extra add-on. We can see decent volumetric capabilities, pressure profiling, and better engineering overall.

It’s easy to get caught up in thinking you need the absolute best, however, if you’re just starting out or even if you have some experience, chances are you won’t need most of the features. It takes a long time to master the fundamentals and having too many bells and whistles can be very distracting. As much as people love Lelit Bianca’s built-in flow control, most people don’t use it.

Word Of Caution

Home coffee brewing is a universal joy, but for those who delve deep into the world of coffee, the allure of a prosumer espresso machine becomes irresistible. The journey into the realm of passionate home brewing is as diverse as coffee itself. However, one fact remains still: once you embrace this journey, the path ahead is a one-way street, always leading forward into the pit of upgraditis. Naturally, this path often requires both dedication and persistence, ultimately leading to a higher level of coffee craftsmanship.



Single Boilers, Entry Level Espresso Machines

A common misconception is that a Single Boiler machine is the best beginner espresso machine.

Those machines often require mastering various hacks like temperature surfing, cooling flushes, and waiting longer times between brewing espresso and steaming milk. Single boiler machines are great if you’re mainly drinking espresso and only seldom need steaming capabilities for hosting guests, for example.

Speaking of single boiler machines, a couple of machines are worthy of serious consideration come into mind. There are the Gaggia and Silvia which are quite similar in some areas and different in others but I’d still group them together, and then there is the ECM Puristika which is an entirely different beast. Let’s go over them quickly.

Gaggia Classic Pro Vs. Rancilio Silvia

Both machines are known as great entry-level machines across all espresso communities. Rancilio Silvia released a newer V6 version in 2022, while Gaggia’s latest release was in 2020. The Silvia has a larger boiler which means it takes slightly more time to heat up, but arguably, provides better steaming capabilities. The operation of both machines is very intuitive with switches up front for power, brewing, and steam warm-up. Temperature stability on both machines isn’t something to brag about and usually would send hobbyists on a path of upgrading the machines by adding a PID which takes some tinkering and costs money. Personally, owning a Gaggia Classic Pro I did not install the PID and didn’t want to spend money and time on upgrading it since I knew I’d end up selling the unit and upgrading to a better machine sooner or later.

If you’re prone to upgraditis, you might want to pass on the Single Boiler altogether and jump straight to HX or DB machines and enjoy a significantly better quality of life. Many would argue it wouldn’t be much about the taste of the cup as it would be your joy and QOL. It’s up to you.

You can check out my in-depth review of the Gaggia Classic Pro.

ECM Puristika

It isn’t a machine for beginners who are looking to make the perfect cappuccino, latte, or americano at home. If you’re a strict espresso drinker and don’t need steaming at all, this is worth a strong consideration.

It’s worth getting for the unique look and design only. It features an external 2L water reservoir. It has no steam wand and no water tap. The Puristika has a classy E61 group mounted on a chunky and sturdy machine.

The Puristika is a small machine and the external reservoir doesn’t stand as an annoyance, it can be simply hidden behind your grinder. It’s narrow, compact, and has an extraordinary, compelling view that compliments any kitchen.

Key features (taken from iDrinkCoffee):

  • 0.75L Single Boiler
  • Commercial E61 Grouphead
  • Vibratory Pump
  • Adjustable expansion valve
  • External glass water tank
  • PID that doubles as a shot timer
  • Exceptional German Engineering

You can control the maximum brew pressure within a narrow range between 8 and 10 bars. It is not to be mistaken with flow profiling. There should be an optional flow control valve available, although I’m not sure how much you’d be adding to the total costs.

The machine goes for approximately 1,000 euros.

Heat Exchangers Espresso Machines

Heat exchanger machines have a large steam boiler and a special copper tube that goes through the steam boiler and into the brew group head. The copper tube draws water from the water reservoir and runs it through the boiler’s high temperature, thus flash-heating the water to a proper brewing temperature. This isn’t the most temperature-stable design by nature but it’s a great solution for many. There are many more engineering elements and aspects to it, feel free to explore further if you’d like a more in-depth explanation of how HX design works.

Lelit Mara X

Most HX machines require a certain workflow on the user end, usually featuring flushes. However, one of the recent machines manufactured by Lelit, is the Lelit Mara X. It’s a modern, top-of-the-line HX machine that features an E61 group with astonishing fast heat-up times and no need for cooling flushes while also providing plenty of steaming power.

The Mara X is a narrow, deep but compact espresso machine that features a stainless steel boiler and overall design. It looks like your traditional E61 machine, with the standard lever-up operation for brewing.

The Mara X has an additional flow control valve that can enable flow profiling capabilities.

Honestly, I won’t be adding any more machines next to the Mara X,

since anything that is a “better’ HX machine than the Mara X will be stepping into bigger Dual Boiler machines and honestly, you may be better off purchasing a reliable DB machine rather than an expensive HX machine. I think this is the best HX machine, and the best bit is it’s relatively affordable.

Simonelli Oscar II - used

Those are old-design machines that were quite popular before modern HX machines came along. Today, I don’t see much reason to get a new Oscar II, maybe only for its volumetric function, but it isn’t good enough to justify the purchase solely upon this factor.

So why is this machine on the list?

Because you can get one used for a decent price. In case you’re on a budget but don’t want to settle on a single boiler, it might be a considerable alternative to a brand new Lelit Mara X.

The Oscar II is quite compact, and has a different look compared to the traditional E61 boxes, which tbh, I quite like it. The Oscar II has great steaming pressure and enough to steam 2 jugs of milk for 2 drinks. It has no PID, hence it relies heavily on cooling flush routines and the cooling flush water can be used to warm your cups.

I also love the steam control knob, you don’t twist or turn, it’s either on or off, 0% or 100% power which beginners might find difficult to control in the beginning.

Dual Boilers, i.e. The Big Brews

Dual boilers don’t need much explanation like the Heat Exchanger or even the Single Boiler machines. Those machines have 2 boilers, each boiler has a separate, dedicated job. A brew boiler is set to brewing temperatures and a steam boiler to steaming pressure. Those machines do not require any sort of cooling flushes and temperature surfing tricks. You simply brew, and steam simultaneously if you want, and you’re done.

Usually, the more expensive the machine, the better the temp-stability features and build quality will be. There are at least a couple of worthy mentions with varying prices, so let’s get to it.

Lelit Elizabeth

The Elizabeth is a very capable machine with one of the cheapest price points for a dual boiler machine. There are countless buying advice discussions over Elizabeth vs. Mara X since their prices are very close to each other.

Lelit Elizabeth is a dual boiler machine with fantastic features that you simply cannot afford to ignore. Let’s go over the advantages, shall we?

PROS

  • Programmable soft preinfusion
  • Programmable shots. After you dial in your espresso, all you need is to click and wait
  • Plenty of consistent and powerful (2bar) pressure.
  • Accurate PID-controlled brew temperature
  • Saturated group, faster heat-up times
  • A relatively quiet vibratory pump, it is said to be more silent than the Mara X.

There are some caveats with this machine, its build quality isn’t Lelit’s top-of-the-line, which is reflected in a couple of ways.

CONS

  • A plastic tamper that is more of a joke than a tamper
  • A plastic steam knob which is an aesthetic turn-off
  • A water reservoir that is inconvenient to refill.
  • Looks. If you like the traditional E61 kind of look, skip it and get the Mara X or Bianca at double the price.
  • Control. If you think you’re going to want that flow control, either get Mara X and install the paddle or as I said, get the Bianca and get it over with for good.

To be honest, not many machines provide enormous value like Elizabeth for such a small price. If you’re looking for the best value, and you are fond of its design, then you have yourself a great coffee machine without a question. Despite the numerous cons listed above, the advantages far outweigh them.

It does not fall short in any area, provides plenty of features and power for espresso drinkers, and cappuccino & latte lovers, and can host a small gathering of guests & friends pretty easily. You should watch Stefano’s videos demonstrating the output this machine manages back to back.

The Lelit Elizabeth is only available through European Amazon, Bear in mind, that it’s an EU plug, you’d need to get an adapter.

Lelit Bianca

This machine is a beast. It has been praised unanimously on YouTube, by DaveC, Jim Schulman, and many others.

While it is NOT cheap, it is the least expensive among its competitors. Take note that the Bianca comes with a flow control paddle built in. The flow control is a rather advanced feature that beginners are recommended to not bother with too much at the beginning of their espresso journey. The flow control provides you with such control to extract different flavors and use different types of extraction ratios and grind sizes that all affect the result.

The Bianca is still a great fit even for most beginners because it’s a machine that will grow and expand its capabilities along with your skills. Out of the box, the machine does everything one needs to pull a great cup of espresso and steam perfect microfoam milk for their cappuccino or latte. Given you leave the paddle unused, the learning curve on the Bianca is as with all espresso machines, but with the convenience provided by two powerful boilers and excellent engineering for near-perfect temperature stability shot over shot. There’s plenty of power for making back-to-back drinks to host a small party as well. The Bianca is also a beauty to look at with the stock walnut accents and the traditional E61 design. The Bianca is a machine that will serve you right from your first dive into making okay espresso all the way up to the leading edge of experimenting with different brew ratios, grind sizes, and all types of coffees.

The Bianca does cost between €1,800 in Europe and $3,000 in the US.

Some users prefer the German build quality and go with the ECM Synchronika. It’s heavy, sturdy, and overall a great machine. It also has an option for a line pressure preinfusion when you plumb it in, whereas the Bianca can be plumbed in but with no effect on the preinfusion. You couldn’t go wrong with either one.

La Marzocco Linea Mini

The La Marzocco Linea Mini is a distinguished prosumer espresso machine that encapsulates the brand’s legacy of crafting commercial-grade equipment in a compact and home-friendly design. Inspired by the iconic Linea Classic used in cafes worldwide, the Linea Mini brings professional-level espresso brewing to enthusiasts’ kitchens.

Equipped with a dual boiler system, the Linea Mini offers simultaneous brewing and steaming, ensuring optimal temperature control for both tasks. Its integrated brew group and PID temperature control guarantee precise extraction, enabling users to create cafe-quality espresso shots. With a dedicated steam boiler, users can achieve barista-level microfoam for lattes and cappuccinos. This exceptional capability allows the Linea Mini to cater not only to individual coffee enthusiasts but also to gatherings of friends and family, effortlessly providing high-quality espresso and milk-based beverages for groups.

The Linea Mini’s design exudes elegance, featuring stainless steel construction and iconic La Marzocco branding. The machine’s large brew paddle and paddle-activated brewing process offer an engaging and tactile espresso-making experience. This prosumer marvel is a testament to La Marzocco’s commitment to elevating home espresso brewing, bridging the gap between commercial functionality and domestic convenience, while also making it a perfect choice for those who enjoy hosting and sharing exceptional coffee experiences with a group of people.

Let’s Wrap

I am familiar with the great feeling that comes with the decision to purchase an espresso machine and improve your coffee experience at home. It’s a celebration. Until you begin devouring endless threads with a flood of useful information that shortly becomes overwhelming. Truth is, there isn’t one perfect machine. There are a bunch of hard-working manufacturers that produce awesome prosumer espresso machines that we can choose from. If your budget is restricted, the machines I mentioned above can fit almost any budget starting from as low as $500 up to as high as $3,000. While there are plenty more prosumer espresso machines, even more, luxurious like the whole La Marzocco line, I believe it’ll direct you towards what you need to get started/upgraded.

Bear in mind, though, that no matter how good your machine is, it’ll be bottlenecked by a poor-quality grinder. Many life-long espresso hobbyists recommend investing in a good grinder before getting an expensive espresso machine. So in case you intend to spend up to 1,200$ on your espresso equipment, you should probably get a budget espresso machine and a quality grinder like the Eureka Mignon or the DF64 grinder. A poor grinder won’t be able to keep up with your espresso machines and various coffee beans you might want to try.

Feel free to reach out and ask any questions, I’d be happy to answer with my limited knowledge or refer you to information and resources if needed.


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