Adam holds a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in Linguistics, and creative writing has always been his greatest passion. For more than 25 years he's been working for several well-known automobile and travel magazines as an editor and expert consultant, but when Adam started his writing path here, at WisePick, it turned out that he's capable of writing practically anything about everything.
Initially being an engineering specialist, Tom has never stopped learning and acquiring other knowledge and skills. Now he’s involved in technical support for a well-known household appliances manufacturer, so no wonder he knows everything about almost everything you buy for your home.
Last updated: April 12, 2021
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Are you considering buying an espresso machine for your home? Espresso machines have always been a staple for coffee shops but are making the move into mainstream homes as well. Many offices even have espresso machines. Owning an espresso machine for your kitchen can open the door to a world of new coffee possibilities like making your own frothy cappuccino, enjoying a milky latte, or simply gulping down a piping hot and fully caffeinated espresso. The market is pretty saturated with electric machines, and finding the best manual espresso machine can be a challenge – so we’ve created this guide to help you find the perfect one for your needs!
Standard electric espresso machines can often be a bit pricey, but owning a manual espresso machine can be much more affordable. On top of its affordability, manual espresso machines also don’t use electricity, are much more portable, and provide a great experience for people who love making their own coffee. We have combed through all the manual espresso machines to bring you the best manual espresso machine. Our editor’s choice is the Flair Signature Espresso Maker, but there are a few others we felt were notable as well.
While searching for the best manual espresso machine, we had a few top priority features that we took into consideration. Things like how many cups of espresso can be made at one time, size, weight, and whether the espresso machine comes with a warranty. We’ll describe each espresso machine in our detailed reviews, and walk you through the features you need to keep a look out for in our handy buying guide. By the end of this article, you can have confidence that the espresso machine you buy will be the best manual espresso machine for your particular needs.
Our Editor’s Choice for the best manual espresso machine is the Flair Signature Espresso Maker. Though this espresso machine can only make one cup of espresso at a time, the machine also only clocks in at six pounds and is very compact.
According to its manufacturer, Blair Espresso, this machine is an upgrade from their original Flair Signature and has an all-metal build with a glossy, (hand!) polished finish. This upgraded version also features a stainless steel tamper, as well as a bottomless portafilter which is claimed to produce a hotter espresso shot.
The Flair Signature Espresso Maker also comes with a 5-year warranty, is easy to clean, completely portable, and environmentally friendly because it doesn’t use any pods or plugs to brew the espresso. For those looking for a manual espresso machine, this model is an excellent choice: the user has total control over the entire espresso-making process, with the clean-up being painless as well, thanks to the portafilter which holds the grounds and makes for easy dumping.
This manual espresso machine does have some drawbacks, however. Firstly, the system is not pressurized so it can be temperamental when it comes to the consistency of the grounds. If the grind is not consistent, the taste of the espresso could also be off. Another issue that some users noted is that the portafilter can sometimes be difficult to attach and remove from the machine.
Overall, the consensus appears to be that even the cons are not enough reason not to buy the Flair Signature Espresso Maker, and it is relatively affordable at only $200, which is why this is our Editor’s Choice.
What we liked:
This espresso machine is beautifully crafted, very sturdy and easy to assemble
Flair has great customer service
Easy and quick clean-up
What could be better:
Potentially inconsistent grind and therefore taste of espresso
Some difficulties in attaching and removing the portafilter
The process of making an espresso can feel a tad laborious for those accustomed to pushing a button and an espresso appearing
The La Pavoni PPG-16 Professional Espresso Machine is our pick for the best manual lever machine. This is part because it can brew up to 16 cups. It is arguably one of the best espresso machines on the market – manual or electric – and one of the oldest. In fact, the La Pavoni Professional Espresso Machine would have made our Editor’s Choice if it wasn’t for the cost of this incredible espresso machine. This manual espresso maker costs $1,699, but it also is quite durable and there are customers who have used this machine for over 20 years. This machine, unlike the Flair Signature Espresso Maker, also can make lattes and cappuccinos with its dual frothing system.
This machine features a brass boiler as well as an in-built thermostat, and is pretty much a piece of art. Those who are into manual espresso machines and coffee-lovers will definitely appreciate this machine (if not its price).
The steps required to create the perfect espresso include the right temperature, the hydraulic pre-infusion, and the right pressure. With La Pavoni’s PPG-16 Professional Espresso Machine, you get all those qualities and then some to create the perfectly artisanal espresso.
The la Pavoni manual espresso maker would appear to be the perfect espresso machine, but there are however, some pros and the cons that need to be weighed up carefully. Overall, it appears to be that though the machine is quite expensive, it’s a worthy investment and will last for many years with minimal additional maintenance.
What we liked:
With some practice, you can make the perfect espresso with this machine
Very easy to keep clean because it has no internal mechanisms
Although the price tag is a bit steep, it is worth every penny and cost-effective in the long run
What could be better:
Requires a nice grinder which can cost upwards of about $700, making the total investment a little over $2,000
Steam wand is poorly placed.
A potentially steep learning curve that some buyers won’t be interested in overcoming
The ROK EspressoGC is our pick for the best home manual espresso machine. This espresso machine by ROK is affordable, and even comes with a 10-year warranty. The ROK EspressoGC only brews one cup at a time but is also small and very portable. The entire machine only weighs 3.5 pounds and measures a modest 5.1 x 8.6 x 11.8 inches. Included with this espresso machine is a single spout portafilter, a detachable double spout attachment, and a measuring cup.
The company prides itself in having perfected a no-fuss delicious espresso. Simply add hot water to your coffee, raise the machine’s arms and press down slowly to make your perfect cup. There isn’t as steep a learning curve as with the La Pavoni model, for example, and so you can be drinking great coffee pretty soon after you’ve received this manual espresso maker. The machine also comes with a milk frother, which many customers have praised.
Like every coffee machine, the EspressoGC is not perfect, but has all the important qualities of a good manual espresso machine for home – and it’s affordable. The pros and cons appear to be consistent amongst nearly every reviewer, so they give you a clear idea of what it’s like to own and work with this machine daily.
What we liked:
The ROK EspressoGC makes a good, affordable and high-quality espresso drink, when done properly
Easy to use
Milk frother works well
What could be better:
The machine can be a bit unreliable and the plastic can break
Although the product comes with a 10-year warranty, customer service can be a bit difficult to get a hold of
The Leverpresso Pressurized Espresso Maker is arguably the best portable manual espresso machine you’ll be able to find on the market. Because this is a portable espresso maker, the two most important things are size/durability and the quality of the espresso. The Leverpresso weighs just 1.2 pounds and also features pretty compact dimensions, meaning you can pack it up in your bag, should you need it when you go on trips.
Although the product description online does not mention whether there is a warranty, the machine is affordable enough that it wouldn’t be too difficult to replace – however, this should not be an issue anyway, as according to the reviews, it is also durable.
The Leverpresso is a very low fuss espresso maker and makes a good espresso in three minutes. It uses up to 9 bar pressure to extract just the right amount of espresso flavor, but the machine also features manual pressure profiling which means that you can enjoy various types of coffee without pressure control. It can make up to two shots of espresso and is even BPA-free.
Take this portable espresso machine with you on your next camping trip and enjoy the most artisanal espresso possible.
What we liked:
The pressurized filter makes it easier to make a consistent shot of espresso
Very affordable and produces great-tasting espresso
Comes in four fun colors: white, grey, mint, and pink
Lightweight and very portable
What could be better:
Due to its compact size, it can only make one single or double shot of espresso at a time – not suitable for multiple batches
Our budget pick for the best manual espresso machine is the STARESSO Portable Espresso Machine.
This is the perfect machine for those new to the world of manual espresso makers, and is perhaps the easiest one to use from all the manual espresso machines we found, although the instruction manual that’s been included is a bit vague. Nevertheless, the STARESSO is pretty intuitive when it comes to making that perfect cup of espresso. Like the Leverpresso model above, it is also very portable, and you can take this compact unit with you if you find yourself craving a great shot of coffee when you’re on trips or at work!
This espresso machine has the unique ability to froth milk to make a cappuccino or latte and can take cold water to make a cold brew. Another unique feature for this coffee machine is that it is also compatible with Nespresso pods, but users can also put in their own coffee grounds.
The STARESSO comes with a 2-year limited warranty and has a normal working pressure of 15-20 BAR. With minimal parts, this espresso machine is also highly simple to clean.
What we liked:
Very affordable, and doesn’t compromise on taste
Compatible with Nespresso pods
The process for making an espresso is very simple and intuitive
What could be better:
This machine can be a bit taxing to clean, especially after frothing milk in it
The instruction manual is a little bit vague, but there are plenty of demo videos online
Finding the right amount of grind for the coffee beans can be a bit of a challenge
With so many wonderful manual espresso machine options, it can feel overwhelming to decide on the right one to pick. Let’s look at some of the many benefits to having a high-quality espresso machine, as well as the features you should look out for when making your decision.
Benefits of having a high-quality manual espresso machine
A manual espresso machine is the original way to brew an espresso. They require a small amount of manual labor to pull a shot – this is typically done by pumping a lever. Manual enthusiasts claim that once a person has nailed down the brewing process, a manual espresso machine will give you the best tasting espresso because you are in control of every part of the process. The closest alternative to a manual unit is a semi automatic espresso machine, which combines manual and automated functions.
In a more superficial light, manual espresso machines also typically have a more unique look to them that help create an aesthetic and good conversation.
Features to consider when choosing a manual espresso machine
When using a manual espresso maker, because the barista is involved in every part of the brewing process, there are many things to consider when purchasing a manual espresso machine. When taking these things into consideration, it helps make the entire manually-crafted espresso experience much smoother.
Espresso quantity: how many cups can you make?
The first thing to consider when choosing a manual espresso machine is the quantity of cups that the machine can make at a time. If you’re single and not planning on making multiple cups, then a single cup machine is great for you. However, if you’re making two or more cups of espresso at a time, choosing an espresso maker that can make multiple cups at once would be the better choice for you. In general, the more cups it can make, the more expensive the machine will be. Check out our lineup of the best espresso machines under $300 if you’re shopping on a budget!
Another thing to take into consideration is the pressure of the manual espresso machine. The amount of pressure that a machine produces can determine the quality of the espresso.
A good espresso should be brewed with about six bars of pressure or more.
Ensuring that your new manual espresso maker can sustain and brew an espresso shot at nine bars of pressure is crucial if you’re interested in having an espresso that tastes good.
Pretty much any machine that produces an espresso is going to have a few of the same basic parts including a water reservoir, portafilter, lever/pump, and a pressure gauge. As we stated before, espresso requires a certain amount of pressure to taste good and be fully extracted. The pressure is created by the push and pull of the lever or pump while making the espresso. Therefore, it can take so many failed attempts when you are first trying your hand at manual espresso making. Coffee makers tend to be much simpler to use, so if an easy-to-use machine is important to you, take a look at some of the best thermal coffee makers.
Dimensions and weight
Another important factor to consider when choosing the best manual espresso machine is the dimensions and weight. This is going to vary per person and whatever their espresso machine needs might be. For example, if you’re looking specifically for a large, sturdy espresso machine that you would keep on your kitchen counter, then you would likely be happiest with something like the Flair Signature Espresso Maker or the La Pavoni PPG-16 Professional Espresso Machine. If you’re more interested in having a delicious espresso while traveling the world and then throwing it in your backpack, then something smaller like the Leverpresso Lever Espresso Maker or the Staresso Portable Espresso Machine would be your best options. If you’re looking for something that falls right in the middle of both needs, then the ROK EspressoGC is perfectly sized for your needs.
Materials and finish
The materials and finish of your new manual espresso machine are also more personal preference than anything; however, the material can determine the longevity and sustainability of the machine. Some manual espresso machines come in chrome, like the Professional Espresso Machine by La Pavoni, while others are made with stainless-steel and plastic like the Staresso. The material won’t necessarily affect the quality of your espresso, but customers have been able to keep their products by La Pavoni for decades, whereas the machine by Staresso might only last a few years. The price difference also lends to that truth – a higher quality material will cost more and last longer than a cheaper material.
From a cost and compatibility perspective, you want to make sure that your espresso machine either comes with all the necessary parts and accessories, or that it is compatible with enough of the generic parts that it’s not too much of a hassle to buy the remaining parts. Additionally, some of the accessories included might only be included to enhance the package but might not actually be the highest quality accessories for the machine. The accessories are something that you want to do your research on and read the reviews of what others are saying they’ve had trouble with or loved when using the accessories included with their manual espresso machines.
How to make a great espresso using a manual espresso machine
Finally, it’s imperative to understand how to make a great espresso using a manual espresso machine. Of course, every machine has its own individual quirks, but we’ll walk you through the basic steps to brewing the perfect manual espresso.
Many espresso aficionados recommend pre-heating the machine as well as the cup by filling them with hot water and letting them sit for a minute or so before brewing.
While the cup is warming is a good time to grind the coffee beans.
Grinding the beans to make a perfect espresso can be tricky. This is because you want the beans to have a specific coarseness. If they’re ground too much or too little, it can affect the outcome of your espresso. You essentially want your grounds to be right in the middle: so ground, but still relatively coarse.
The next step is to tamp or compress the coffee grounds. This is essentially packing the grounds into the portafilter. If the grounds are too tightly packed, no espresso can come through and if the grounds are not packed tightly enough, there will be no crema and you’ll have a weak espresso.
The next step is easy, but still requires a bit of practice to really nail it. Once you’ve got your coffee grounds in the portafilter and it’s attached to the machine (how it attaches varies per machine), all that’s left to do is pump the lever until the espresso pours out. Try to go at a mid-speed for this step, and don’t rush! After some experimenting, you’ll be able to come up with your perfect speed and technique.
Typically for a single shot of espresso, you’ll want to use anywhere from six to eight grams of espresso coffee grounds. For a double shot, you’ll want to use double that at about 15 grams of espresso coffee grounds.
A manual espresso machine does not make a lot of noise. Typically, electric espresso machines are known for making a little bit of noise, but that’s because it’s a machine! A manual espresso maker will typically hiss towards the end of the brew process, but that noise is minimal. Models such as the La Pavoni espresso maker might make a little more noise when making drinks like cappuccinos, however.
Making an espresso with a manual machine should take between 3-6 minutes from prep to finish. Making the actual espresso is relatively quick once the grounds are ready. With an automatic espresso machine, it typically takes around 17 seconds for the perfect espresso to pour, but it will take one minute or so to pull the shot with a manual machine.
Ultimately, there are so many different types of manual espresso machines on the market that it comes down to personal preference and cost. The Flair Signature Espresso Maker is small enough to be portable (even though it wasn’t designed with this as the key distinguishing feature in mind), and brews a delightful espresso. It is easy to clean while also being very sleek and modern in design. If you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars but are still looking for a high-quality espresso machine, the Flair Signature Espresso Maker is the one for you.
The La Pavoni PPG-16 Professional Espresso Machine is arguably one of the best manual espresso machine on the market because of its beautiful design, incredible durability, and user friendliness. However, because it can cost thousands of dollars, this makes it a worthy investment only for those who are seriously passionate about coffee and see espresso making as somewhat of an art form! If this model fits within your budget, you’ll be able to make an espresso each and every time you use this machine.
If you’re looking for a simple-to-use and affordable manual espresso machine model, we recommend the ROK EspressoGC, because it is versatile, lightweight, compact, and still pulls a deliciously frothy espresso shot.
If you’re looking for the best manual espresso machine, any of the ones mentioned in this article are sure to keep you fully caffeinated and content!