Money Wise--Perking Up an Espresso

It's no big secret, we Americans absolutely love a good meal. And some folks have to have something sweet after they eat. Others may go for a cup of coffee, or even an espresso. If you go for the latter, you can make one yourself very easily that doesn't cost nearly as much as buying one out.

"The hallmark of a fine espresso is a layer of golden foam on top of the coffee," explained Sharon Franke, food appliances director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. "It's called 'crema' in Italian."

And now four machines promise to deliver the finest Italian-style coffee in the comfort of your all-American kitchen. But Good Housekeeping quickly found one of these contenders, the Hamilton Beach Cappucino Plus, ran out of steam in a crucial test.

"We didn't see as much crema consistently as we did with the other machines," reported Franke.

So if crema is the gold standard in testing, which machine produced the most gold? "Our top choice was the Krups; we thought the taste of the coffee was the smoothest, the richest the most delicious from the Krups," said Franke.

In other words, it creamed the competition. Though Good Housekeeping says there was an average American joe that also impressed, also known as Mr. Coffee. "We've found that the European brands that have a long history with cappuccino and espresso make better machines, but you know it was a pleasant surprise to see an inexpensive American brand could deliver a good cup of coffee," Franke said.

That's Italian flare for only about $60.

Rounding out the count: the Delonghi L'espresso at $99 and the Hamilton Beach at $79.99.

And one footnote: if you really want your coffee the way the average Italian joe might have his, Good Housekeeping says you'll have to forgo the haute pump in favor of the humble percolator, like one from Delonghi. "When they drink coffee at home after dinner, they're more likely to use this type of machine," said Franke. "It doesn't produce crema; it just makes a strong, rich cup of coffee."

There is a downside to espresso machines. Good Housekeeping says they have a lot of pieces to wash and you have to wash them by hand.

If you have money questions you'd like answered in Money Wise, email

Reported by: Dmitra Denmark,