Home espresso machines don’t tend to be cheap. If you want to make espresso in the comfort of your own kitchen, you’re probably looking at a machine that costs £300 or more. But the Morphy Richards Espresso Coffee Machine (172020) has an RRP of £119 – less than some of the pod coffee makers in our round-up of the best coffee machines we’ve tested.
The machine certainly looks the part. Narrow and streamlined, it has a small countertop footprint (32cm x 30cm x 17cm) and a sleek, stainless steel-effect finish. You don’t want to be dragging your espresso maker out from the cupboard every time you use it, so it’s best to have a machine you can leave in place: this one will be an attractive addition to your kitchen and, crucially, not take up much space.
The top of the appliance functions as a cup warmer that can comfortably fit two cups. There’s space under the filter so you can brew straight into your favourite, full-size mug, and the drip tray has a float to let you know when it’s time to empty it. The 1.1 litre water tank is a reasonable size and can be removed and refilled or topped up in place.
Altogether, it’s thoughtfully designed and its appearance is impressive for something in this price range.
But look a bit closer and you’ll see why this is an entry-level appliance. The stainless-steel effect is very much an effect as it’s almost entirely made of plastic. This leaves it a bit light and wobbly on its suction pad feet. You’ll need a firm hand on top of the espresso maker when you attach the portafilter and use the milk wand.
It’s also very basic, in terms of options and features. There’s a four-button control panel on the top of the machine with an on/off switch, one and two shot keys and a steam button. The coffee and steam symbols will flash when gearing up and illuminate when they’re ready to use.
The machine can brew one or two cups of espresso at a time and you can alter the volume of water in each shot by holding down the cup button while the machine is dispensing. It will then set this volume as the default. That means you can choose to have your espresso a little weaker or stronger, or brew an Americano in one go.
Apart from this, there’s not much you can do to tweak the taste of the coffee you make, apart from changing the fineness of the grounds you use in the first place.
It’s an appliance to use if you want a quick, drinkable espresso, not one to buy if you’re looking for a machine you can tinker with to produce the perfect shot.
It comes with three filters: for one shot of coffee, for two shots and for ESE pods. The ESE compatibility is a nice touch, meaning you can keep pods to hand and make a quick coffee if you don’t have time for a fussier brew.
It uses pressurised (double wall) baskets in its portafilter, as many straightforward machines do. This means you don’t need to be as picky about using a perfect espresso grind. So, if you don’t have a great grinder, or are unsure about the fineness of the coffee you should be using, you should still wind up with a decent cup.
So, what’s it like to use?
Espresso brewing is straightforward and the coffee looked good, with a decent crema. But I found that results were slightly inconsistent, even when the ground coffee I used was the same. I thought I’d found a fineness that worked with the machine but the next brew would be slightly bitter and I’d try again.
On the whole, though, I felt that it made a good espresso for the machine’s price.
The portafilter that comes with the machine is a bit lightweight and doesn’t feel especially great in the hand. There’s a useful catch on the handle to keep the basket in place when emptying the portafilter – otherwise, you can easily fling it across the room when emptying the grounds. I kept forgetting to click it into place, though, and had to fish the basket out of the bin more than once.
The steam wand was straightforward enough to use, with a combination of button and dial. The machine doesn’t come with a stainless-steel milk jug, so you’ll need to get one of your own.
I did struggle to get the machine to produce either a really velvety or frothy milk. But as I make coffee in the morning when at my lowest ebb and find that the screeching and hissing of milk preparation is a bit de trop, I tend to revert to my trusty Lavazza milk frother. So, my milk steaming skills are less than stellar and the problem could well have been me.
Price and availability
The Morphy Richards 172020 Espresso Coffee Machine is currently available at its RRP of £119.99 from Morphy Richards and Amazon. At the time of writing, it has temporarily sold out on Amazon, although it should be back in stock soon. We’ve also spot a new one for sale on eBay for just under £113.
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly espresso maker to deliver a morning beverage that’s one step up from a pod machine, this isn’t a bad bet. It looks good and makes a decent coffee. There are few options to customise your espresso but that also means it’s simple and straightforward to use.
However, we think you’ll have to look after it well to get your money’s worth, as it’s not the most robust appliance.
To see more home coffee-making options, have a look at our round-up of the best coffee machines we’ve tested.
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