Espresso machine vs coffee maker — the pros, cons and working out which appliance is right for you

We break down the key differences between an espresso machine and a coffee maker

Espresso being brewed
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're caught in the espresso machine vs coffee maker debate, we have some info to help find which appliance is right for you. 

We asked pro baristas and coffee experts about the differences between the end-result beverages. We have plenty of info about the pros and cons of each machine, including the features and sizes options. 

As we've tested plenty of the best coffee makers on the market, the Real Homes team has the know-how to weigh up all your options.

Espresso machine vs coffee maker

Trying to decide between an espresso machine and a coffee maker? If you're new to the world of barista brewing, you may be a bit taken aback by all the options out there. From small coffee makers to pod coffee makers, there's a lot to choose from.

We've broken down the key differences between an espresso machine and a coffee maker, with some help from industry experts. Plus, we included some of our favorite picks so you're guaranteed to snag a top-performing device.

Prices were correct at the time of publishing.

Coffee being brewed in machine

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The coffee

When it comes to weighing up an espresso machine vs a coffee maker, the main difference is the end result they produce. It mostly comes down to the water-to-coffee ratio

Typically, a coffee maker refers to a device that brews drip coffee or pour-over coffee. Gravity pushes a large amount of water through coarsely ground coffee beans, resulting in a slower, slightly weaker brew. "A ratio of 1 gram of coffee to 15 grams of water is typically recommended for drip coffee. This provides a balance that is neither too strong nor too diluted," says Kayla Stavridis, a former Starbucks barista and the current Head of Marketing at

Espressos, on the other hand, are a much more concentrated coffee, either served as they are, or used as a base to create other drinks such as lattes, cappuccinos, and flat whites. Espresso machines use pressure to shoot a small amount of water through finely ground coffee beans. 

An espresso is made up of the heart (bottom layer), body (middle layer), and crema (top layer). 

"Expresso is a rich, concentrated shot of coffee that’s the base for a variety of drinks. The quick extraction process preserves many of the delicate flavors in fresh coffee. Due to its concentrated nature, espresso uses a much tighter ratio, often around 1:2, which means one part coffee to two parts water," says Kayla.

So the first thing you need to consider when using a coffee maker is which type of drink you'd like to end up with. If you're looking for a smooth and mellow cup of drip coffee, consider a coffee maker like the Nespresso Vertuo Plus (available on Amazon) which just so happens to be Kim Kardashian's favorite coffee maker

But if you're looking to craft a variety of coffee drinks from a strong shot of espresso, look for a top-rated espresso machine, like the De'Longhi Stilosa Manual Espresso Machine with over 10,000 reviews on Amazon and shoppers complimenting its value for money.


There are plenty of things to know before buying a coffee maker and one of the top factors in your decision should be the features of the machine. Typically, drip coffee makers are pretty simple — they brew one type of fuss-free coffee. For example, the Black and Decker Digital Coffee Maker (available on Amazon) has some programmable features for the brew time but only makes one type of coffee.

Meanwhile, espresso machines tend to come with a few more bells and whistles like milk frothers or bean-to-cup models which grind the coffee right in the machine. This Philips Series 4400 Fully Automatic LatteGo Espresso Machine (available on Amazon) makes 12 different coffee drinks, has a milk frother attached, and grinds the beans using 100% ceramic grinders.


A little stressed about where to store appliances in a small kitchen? Size is a major factor when deciding between an espresso machine vs coffee maker.

If you're looking for a tiny option, a single-serve coffee maker may be your best bet. Coffee makers come in all shapes and sizes but smaller machines like pod coffee makers and single-serve options can be pretty slim and can be wedged into narrow slots on your counter top. The Keruig K-Mini Coffee Maker (Amazon's #1 bestseller in single-serve brewers) is less than five inches wide and weighs 4.6 pounds.

Espresso makers on the other hand can be a bit cumbersome. They rely on heavy-duty materials to endure the pressure of the steam and heat. "Espresso machines typically employ stainless steel for durability and heat consistency, which is crucial for achieving optimal extraction pressure and temperature," says Kayla. 

They can also run quite large — the Philips Espresso machine is over 17 inches wide and weighs 17.63 pounds. 

The verdict

So which machine is right for you? It all depends on what you're looking for. Comparing options like single-serve vs bean-to-cup will help you prioritize which features you're looking for and which machine is right for your lifestyle.

If you like the taste of drip coffee and prefer a simple machine with easy functions, a coffee maker will be the better option for you. It's also a good choice if you're in a tiny kitchen as coffee makers tend to be smaller than espresso machines. 

But if you prefer the bells and whistles of a professional barista-style coffee maker, an espresso machine is the way to go. You'll have the freedom to experiment with drinks and make all kinds of coffees.

Finding the right brew for you, including pods vs. ground coffee, is all about experimentation. "Understanding the impact of different brewing materials can greatly enhance your coffee-making skills. Feel free to adjust the materials and ratios based on your personal taste and the specific beans you are using, as coffee is a deeply personal and customizable experience," says Kayla. 

Emily Lambe
Deputy Editor

Hey! I’m Emily and I’m the deputy digital editor at Real Homes. I’m here to bring you the latest decor trends, inspirational ideas, informative how tos, the latest celeb homes style and the best budget-friendly buys. I live in a rented apartment, making the most of small spaces and using accent pieces to make things pop. When I’m not writing, I’m usually doing yoga, eating chocolate or working on my skincare routine.