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Best Latte & Cappuccino Machines for the Home Barista
A latte or cappuccino machine is a necessity if you want to experience pure milk-based coffee at home. Here are some solid options for every budget.
Licensed Q Arabica Grader, M.A. Journalism
Frothy, indulgent milk mixed with a perfectly pulled espresso shot. For many people, this is the pinnacle of coffee enjoyment.
And if there’s a bit of latte art on top – well that doesn’t hurt 💁
To make this kind of coffee concoction, however, a couple of things are crucial:
A cappuccino or latte machine with legit steaming capabilities
This is my guide that will teach you how to acquire both. Read on, if you want to learn everything about latte and cappuccino machines.
Top pick: Best value
The Bambino Plus has an automatic frother that also works amazingly well in manual mode. This means that real barista-level latte art is possible with this device. However, you can also just be lazy and get it to auto-froth the milk if you want a foamy cappuccino.
This is a modern twist on the classic Italian espresso maker. It makes espresso and froths milk according to the ancient prescription. However, some advanced technology (such as PID and auto-frothing) has been built in so it suddenly becomes a lot easier to do all these things you previously needed a Barista License to do.
The steam wand is very powerful for such a small machine!
You’ll be able to create the swirling motion – known as the vortex – in your milk pitcher when you’re steaming.
This level of agitation will enable you to make microfoam instead of the chunky and inconsistent big air bubbles that you get from cheaper models.
If you want to get 95 % of the barista experience for a fraction of the price, then this model is a safe bet. Check out my full review for more information.
The Rancilio Silvia is legendary among home baristas. The design hasn’t changed much since it was released in the early 1990s.
It has a correct commercial size 58 mm portafilter, and a powerful steam wand. The look is metallic and classic Italian. It’s almost like having a coffee shop from Florence or Venice on your countertop.
You’ll be able to create professional level cappuccinos and lattes with this machine — no doubt about that. However, this is also a model that requires some practice. Expect to watch quite a few instructional videos on Youtube before you pour intricate latte art.
Okay, by now we all know that Nestle is an evil corporation and that the capsule coffee doesn’t taste that well compared to real espresso. However, for a particular group of people that doesn’t matter. They crave cappuccino but don’t want to deal with loose coffee grounds and all the tamping, twisting, frothing, waiting, it entails.
In that case, Nespresso is one of the most convenient options there is. Honestly, I won’t blame you if this is what you’ll end up with. If you’re going to mix the espresso with milk anyway, I think the quality of a capsule machine is sufficient.
Yes, Nespresso capsules are not that cost effective compared to buying coffee from a real roaster, but it’s still a lot cheaper than getting a takeaway every day.
This machine comes in a bundle with the Aeroccino frother. It creates milk froth by whisking instead of steaming. Purists won’t like it, but plenty of other people do. With more than 2000 review on Amazon and the vast majority at five stars, I dare to say that this a great home cappuccino maker.
Keurig’s approach is similar to Nespresso’s: Make some espresso-coffee with the press of a single button and mix it with some heavily whisked warm milk.
Again, this is not going to win any barista competitions, but if you want a cappuccino in a hurry with minimal effort involved this works.
Should you choose Keurig or Nespresso? That depends on you. With Keurig, there are more options in the US, while Nespresso is the better choice if you’re in Europe or Asia. The former is usually a bit cheaper as well.
The shot isn’t really on a high level with either brand, but if you mix it with gallons of hot milk, it’s not that important in the end.
The bottom line is that this latte maker from Keurig gets insanely good reviews from thousands of customers. So if you’re looking for this exact kind of coffee contraption, the chances are that you’ll be satisfied.
The difference between a cappuccino maker and a latte machine
Before we get into specific latte and cappuccino machines, let’s just briefly talk about what separates these models. It might surprise you, but there’s no real difference to speak of.
A latte machine can make cappuccino and vice versa.
Then why are people talking about latte machines and cappuccino makers like they are two different things?
I guess the main reason is either ignorance or marketing purpose.
You see, lattes and cappuccinos are very similar drinks. They consist of:
The main difference lies in the proportions.
Cappuccino, traditionally had a thicker layer of almost meringue-like bubbles on the top, whereas the latte is known for having a thinner layer of micro milk foam on the surface – a perfect canvas for latte art.
Contrary to what you might think, it’s more challenging to steam milk for a latte than a cappuccino because you need to avoid big air bubbles. It will require a more powerful steam wand on your espresso machine as well as more technical abilities.
If you have a quality espresso machine, you’ll be able to make both cappuccinos and lattes (as well as flat whites, cortados, macchiatos, and whatnot).
A special milk frothing pitcher is required to make latte art micro foam
How to pick the right home latte machine for you
However, today you see many cheaper machines that try to re-think the standard Italian setup (espresso machine + powerful steam wand).
These machines often rely on pods and capsules for the coffee, and different technologies to heat and aerate the milk.
Hence, since they aren’t technically espresso machines, the smart people from the R&D department has invented so-called “cappuccino and latte makers.”
These machines work on the assumption that you don’t need a perfectly pulled barista level espresso shot to get a delicious latte.
Instead, you can get away with a strong cup of coffee. This type of machine is trying to cut some corners, but the upside for you is that it might be a lot cheaper than investing in the old school Italian espresso machine.
Another benefit is that the workflow and learning curve is a lot more straightforward.
I think that there’s infinitely more charm in getting the legit latte made the traditional way. However, at the same time, I also realize that mixing espresso with milk changes the equation dramatically. Suddenly, the job of the coffee is to add flavor to the hot milk, so yes, you can get away with something that isn’t technically an authentic espresso.
So to recap:
If you’re a purist with a big wallet and the patience to learn the barista craft from scratch = get a real espresso machine.
Do you like convenience? Are you on a restrictive budget = maybe you should take a closer look at the latte machines and cappuccino makers.
Can you make latte art with a pannarello steam wand?
If you start looking at real espresso machines, you’ll quickly realize that not all steam wands are the same. There’s a particular type called a ‘panarello’ that’s common when you look at the budget models.
The idea behind the panarello is decent: to make it easier to froth milk. It does this pumping more air into the fluid while steaming it. However, skilled baristas dislike the device. It might be more comfortable at first, but the downside is that you’ll never be able to learn the real technique required to make microfoam. If you want to make latte art down the line, you must have microfoam. The bigger airy bubbles typically produced by the panarello aren’t the best canvas for tulips and hearts.
So it’s worth considering the steam wand. That being said, often you can take off the panarello attachment, and voila, you have a regular steam wand.
The video below is quite frankly the best thing on the internet when it comes to steaming milk. Check it out if you want to learn about the mythical ‘vortex‘
Hello, and welcome! I'm the editor & founder of this site. I have been a coffee geek since I started home roasting more than a decade ago. Since then, coffee has taken me on countless adventures: From ancient coffee ceremonies in Ethiopia to the volcanos of Sumatra. My background is in journalism, and today I'm also a licensed Q Grader under the Coffee Quality Institute.
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