A perfect latte is hard to come by. It’s a silky blend of rich espresso, smooth steamed milk, and creamy microfoam. Technically speaking, a latte has a single shot of espresso (or double for more flavor and caffeine), eight to ten ounces of milk, and up to a three quarter-inch layer of foam on top, according to Felix Torres, a barista partner with De’Longhi. That precision makes brewing lattes and cappuccinos daunting: Do you really need to invest in both an espresso machine and a milk frother for a latte that rivals your favorite coffee shop?
Bambino Plus Espresso Maker
In our tests, we liked how this easy-to-use machine preheated in under five seconds, brewed espresso in about 30 seconds, and the frother produced hot milk with impressive microfoam in under one minute. This means that you could have a perfect latte in under two minutes! It allows you to set both the temperature and amount of foam in your milk, making it easy to customize your latte. The frother automatically purges the inside with clean hot water so that it doesn’t clog after each use.
The Breville Bambino Plus was not only one of the most compact latte machines we tested, it also had the biggest water reservoir (64 ounces), which means less refilling. Our favorite feature is the double wall basket in the portafilter, which is more forgiving than single wall filters found in most espresso makers — it helps produce a decent espresso even when the coffee is inconsistently ground.
This latte machine is easy to use and it will consistently make a decent latte. For about $90, it is a great value investment. It takes ground coffee for a single shot, double shot, or soft coffee pods (coffee in a tea bag-like round paper filter). The body is made of BPA-free plastic and the removable water reservoir holds about 50 ounces of water. You have to start and stop the brewing of espresso (i.e. it does not stop automatically) allowing you to determine how much espresso you’d like. You can also control the amount of steam released to heat or create foam in your milk with an easy-to-use dial.
Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Machine
For beginners that may feel intimidated by the complicated-looking buttons and dizzying number of options on most latte machines, the Capresso Pump is a great choice. It features an on/off button and one dial that turns left for brewing espresso and right for frothing coffee. That’s it! Also, the double-wall basket in the portafilter is more forgiving — the coffee beans don’t have to be as evenly ground to get a great espresso.
Reviewers love that the frother is relatively quiet (for a newbie, the high-pitched sound of a frother can be scary!) The top of the machine can be used as a passive cup warmer, which helps keep drinks warmer for longer. It features a 46 ounce removable water reservoir and it takes ground coffee and soft coffee pods.
K-Cafe Special Edition Single Serve Coffee, Latte & Cappuccino Maker
This latte machine makes “espresso-style” coffee by brewing a concentrated shot of coffee from your favorite K-cup (or the Keurig reusable coffee filter, which is sold separately). Its removable water reservoir holds 60 ounces of water. Out of all the latte machines we tested, we loved this lidded stainless steel frother the most because it was the easiest to use. It has three settings (cold, latte, and cappuccino) and it automatically froths milk until foamy with a simple touch of a button. The inside of the frother has a clearly marked fill line for lattes (about six ounces). It is quiet, fast, and easy to use. The best part? It’s dishwasher safe!
These are some of the best latte machines to buy.