If you're like me, you've found yourself staring down the list of impressively (and intimidatingly)…
Before we look at some budget espresso machines, let’s see what we need to know
This is a controversial one. What type of coffee you use and consider the best, that’s the best espresso you want to use. Espresso is a way of extracting, squeezing out the good flavors of coffee.
Traditionally, dark and strong. My best buddy and I like our coffee black. But I like an organic single origin from Malawi, very pricey, and he likes the cheapest blend you could buy.
Who’s drinking the best? We both are.
About 97 percent of coffee is water. So we need our water to be the “right” temperature. In a budget espresso machine, we’ll aim to reach at least 180 degrees.
Why is this so important?
Because we want to “squeeze” out the good flavors out of our coffee. There are other flavors in those beans that are not that tasty. But if our water is too cold…. I’m sure you get it.
Technically we don’t need milk to drink espresso. But milk is in all those tasty and sweet drinks we like. So we need to be able to heat and foam milk to the perfectly. Our bubbles also should be the right size. Not too big but not too small.
Those were the most basic details. But there are others: coffee grind size and the bars. Bars? Pressure when extracting espresso is measured in bars. Ideally you want to do this at 9 bars. One bar equals 14.5 lbs.
It’s just the force that’s applied to the water through the coffee grounds. That’s why you see the baristas timing their coffee when pressure, is applied. When buying an affordable espresso machine, that’s something you want to look at.
When buying store-bought espresso you have no control over the size of your grind. Sometimes it’s labeled as fine or extra-fine. Unless you have a grinder this would have to do.
Choosing the right budget espresso machine it’s important. You have a few choices: pump-driven, steam-driven, and hand-driven. Hand-driven? You’ll see it soon.
If using very fine espresso you’ll want a budget machine with a pump. With a steam-driven machine, you must be careful to only use a coarser fine grind. 3.5 bars are not great, but, you’ll extract espresso at a higher temperature than any other model, so that’s a plus (or a minus).
Let’s take a look at 10 budget espresso machines for your home. Most under $100.
Sleek and sophisticated for an espresso maker at this price point, the De'Longhi 15 Bar Pump Espresso Maker (EC702) is a metallic, lightweight machine that is pump driven and, as the name suggests, has 15 bars of pressure. Manufactured by De'Longhi - a brand with a good reputation for making high quality kitchen machinery - this is one of the best budget espresso machine models on the market right now.
What's cool about this device is that it is compatible with an electric stovetop. If you are one of those people who prefer to brew yourself a nice espresso shot using your electric stove, then this might just be the right machine for you to buy since it offers you that capability.
With this De'Longhi espresso maker, you can brew a single or double shot of espresso, feeling like a pro all the while. You can also brew up a nice latte or cappuccino if you'd like. There is a manual frother that mixes the steam and milk into a deliciously creamy and rich froth, making for remarkably evenly textured drinks and giving you a high degree of customization. This machine features professional 15-bar pressure that delivers high quality results with each and every use. What's more, the adjustable controls let you to modify the settings in order to meet your unique taste preferences.
The De'Longhi machine will consistently brew espresso or cappuccino at the ideal temperature with the use of its two separate thermostats. These two individual thermostats make it so that the water and steam pressure are separately controlled. You also will not have to wait between cups thanks to the Rapid Cappuccino System. This system stays at the optimal temperature, allowing you to simply brew cup after cup without having to wait for the machine to get back up to the ideal temp.
Whenever you need to, simply remove and refill the 1.3-liter water tank. Be sure to clean as needed, but cleaning itself is quick, easy, and painless. You can also choose whether you want to brew grounds or pods due to the design including a patented filter holder.
Another popular choice for the best cheap espresso machines is the Breville ESP8XL Cafe Roma Stainless Espresso Maker. This espresso and cappuccino maker has a stainless steel body design and 15-bar thermoblock pump for that professional feel you want from your machine.
The dual-wall filter system creates some seriously superb crema, and you also get a froth enhancer and cup-warming plate along with this model. Accessories that come along with it - such as the stainless steel frothing pitcher and multi-use tamping tool/measuring spoon/cleaning tool - make utilizing this machine all the more easy and efficient.
The selector dial takes the guesswork out of operation, indicating in clear imagery that when the dial is turned to the right, you will extract espresso. When slid into the left position, the steam wand gets activated for texturing the milk. As far as the espresso extraction itself goes, you get three stainless steel filters: single shot (7g), double shot (14g), and pod. Each of these filters utilizes Breville's special dual wall crema technology to deliver smooth, rich flavor.
This is a very good option when it comes to affordable espresso machines.
The EC155 from De’Longhi is another great machine from another well-known company. It also has a 15 bar pump and compact option. If you want to have full control of your milk frothing this is the one. All you have to do is fill a milk pitcher or cup, halfway, set the steam wand in the right angle, and submerge it. Don’t let it touch the bottom. That swirl will do the trick. No need to go up and down. Save the energy for your workout.
One downer for this machine is that it is a bit noisy. They all are. But this one shakes a bit and you might have to keep an eye on your cup. I like it and maybe it is the #2 best affordable espresso machine.
When it comes to affordable espresso makers, the Nespresso ENV155BAE VertuoPlus ranks high on the list of what is on the market right now. You can easily pull a good shot of espresso from this machine, but it is also perfectly capable of serving up a delicious hot cup of coffee. For looking like such a simple machine, it allows for a high degree of customization. You can craft either 5 oz and 7.77 oz coffees as well as a single or double shot of espresso. Included with this machine is a free set of Nespresso Vertuo capsules for you to try out.
Nespresso's Centrifusion technology utilizes barcodes to serve up surprisingly great results. The rotating water tank design is neat and ultimately makes the device more efficient. Brewing parameters are automatically adjusted and adapted so that each capsule yields a best-in-cup result. The capsules themselves are actually reusable, which is a vast improvement over the not-so-environmentally-friendly single-use pods.
The downside? These machines are known to eventually break down, and when they do, trying to troubleshoot them can be frustrating. Users have also pointed out that the Nespresso website is essentially useless for providing help with troubleshooting these issues.
This model is one of the best affordable machine from our list. Its greatest feature is that froths milk by itself. Imagine getting up in the morning, heading to make your perfect morning cappuccino, and realizing you need froth the milk. Anyone can learn (don’t tell my barista friends), but, who wants to learn half asleep? This machine does it for you. It’s a favorite with home baristas. It’s a well-known and reliable brand. The 15 bar automatic pump makes an excellent espresso. That feature is not automatic. You still have to put the coffee in the basket, but it’s deep enough for you to enjoy a strong cup.
If the silver finish is not for you, you have a choice of colors. The machine is mostly plastic. But the boiler is stainless steel. Even like that, it weighs a little over 10 lbs. I think it’s the best affordable espresso machine.
Don’t worry too much about the plastic. Even fancy, high-end home espresso machines, use a lot of plastic. A plastic piece of equipment doing something useful is a good thing. A landfill full of plastic, that’s another thing, a bad thing. And of course this is a great budget espresso maker option to go for
With this next machine, we enter a different category, the steam-driven espresso machine. Instead of having a pump to push water through the coffee, it uses steam at 3.5 steam pressure. It works pretty much like a Moka pot with the advantage that it has a steam wand. It’s very easy to take to the office or class. You have to move quickly, though, after it’s ready for steam. You’re sharing your steam for milk and coffee.
I would go with a lighter roast of coffee with this type of machine because the flavor of the espresso might taste a bit burnt. You have to learn to use it safely. But overall, it’s a good budget espresso machine.
Our next budget espresso machine at almost $100 is the Nespresso built by De’Longhi. It takes N capsules. So you’ll be able to enjoy the whole catalog of Nespresso’s blends and flavors. This model is exclusively an espresso maker. You can’t froth milk. I think for those of us who simply like coffee by itself, it’s perfect. It’s super easy to use. Pop in the capsule, and press a button.
You don’t have to use Nespresso capsules. (Sorry Nespresso!) You could find refillable capsules from many vendors online and put any coffee you like in there. I think this is a well deserved spot in the best espresso machines list under $100.
The Wacaco Nanopresso is similar in concept to the Staresso. You pump, but from the side. Extraction, is excellent also, at 18 bar pressure. One feature I like over the Staresso is that the coffee is kept inside an insulated compartment. A degree here and there make a big difference. Remember you are pumping air and creating pressure. That will lower the temperature of the water a few degrees. It weighs a little over 11 ounces. Ideal for backpackers and anyone on the go. I consider it the best cheap espresso machine of the bunch, although not the cheapest.
These two espresso machines focus on the simplicity of making a cup of espresso. You can use capsules also, but you need to buy an additional adapter. Just like the Staresso, you need to heat up water.
Before we move on to our last budget machine, let me tell you that both of these units claim to make cold brew. If you think, that pumping cold water through coffee is making cold brew, then we’ll have to agree to disagree. Cold brewing is for another day.
Now we come to the point when espresso sounds like it’s hard work: the hand-pump. But in reality the Staresso makes it simple. You need to boil water, fill the chamber, and pump. It claims to extract at 15 bars. It’s very light to carry and take anywhere.
Technically you could froth milk with the pump but your best results would be with cold milk. Even if you pumped hot milk, your milk won’t be hotter. Hey, Fredo cappuccinos are delicious! You can also use a capsule. They recommend the original Nespresso capsules because any other might damage the housing on the machine.
Our final pick for the best of the cheap espresso machines is the Flair Espresso Maker. This machine looks different than everything else you see on this list, evoking more of a classic design with a manual lever. All you have to do is add 60 ml of boiled water and up to 18 grams of espresso to craft a 40 ml shot complete with delicious and delightful looking crema on top. You will need to have a burr grinder available for use with this maker.
What's unique about the Flair is that it is the only manual espresso maker on the market right now with a fully detachable brewing head. This creative and patented design lets you totally remove the brewing head, separate all of the parts, and rinse them underneath cool water. Removing some of the parts can be challenging.
The base is stronger than ever before, featuring new upgrades that reflect this added strength. A 3-year warranty backs this device. Although it is labeled as portable, this isn't the most travel-friendly machine out there. One of the best and cool options among budget espresso machines.
Choosing the best budget espresso machine is easier said than done. What makes the espresso makers detailed in this review so stellar? Espresso making is an artform, so let’s dive into how to choose the right maker to fit your needs.
How much do you actually know about making a shot of espresso? Have you ever tried it before? There is a lot of trial and error involved in this process, even with a fully automatic machine. Making espresso isn’t the same as making coffee, as the process is quite different and yields its own unique results.
If you’re totally new to making espresso shots, consider getting one of the simpler but at least partially automatic espresso machine models. You will quickly learn the importance of using tightly packed ground coffee to extract as much flavor as possible into the espresso shot.
You will also want to get a machine that heats the water to the desired temperature. This is important because the hot water will emulsify with the oil from the coffee grounds in order to generate the crema floating around on the top of the drink. You will want your drink to have a proper amount of crema on the top.
Budget espresso machines can pull a good quality shot, but some of the lower end models don’t do a thorough job. This is why it is important to read through what other users have to say about each model.
Also, you will want to find a machine that is able to generate enough pressure so that the water will shoot through the densely packed coffee grounds you use. A serious lack of flavor is what you get without enough pressure, which is why getting something with 15 bars of pressure is ideal.
Bars of pressure can vary by machine, but try to aim for 15, as this echoes what you will find on some pro-grade machines.
If you are able to save up for one of the more expensive espresso makers, it might be worth doing, especially if you have already owned a cheaper model and are looking to upgrade.
The more high-end models offer more features but are often more complex to use. They do have the benefit of temperature dials, but with the budget machines, you get the more budget-friendly easy-to-use pods.
A good espresso machine should have enough pressure to shoot the water through the packed grounds as well as the ability to get water heated to a desirable temperature.
It is entirely possible to make a good shot using a budget espresso maker. Many cheaper models can pull shots with a decently rich and smooth crema.
Plan to spend around $300 for a cheap machine, but know that those in the $500 ballpark tend to have the better features on them.
It can be worthwhile to buy one, especially if it is your first foray into making your own espresso shots. They have a shorter learning curve.
While they offer more features, the expensive machines can be more difficult to use. Of course, most of them pull a great shot, but some of them struggle to do so.
Cheap machines will have fewer features equipped on them and tend to have stainless steel designs intermingled with some plastic parts while high-end machines have sturdier build qualities and more features.
Buying your own machine can end up paying for itself within a few months of ownership, especially given the rising costs of buying a drink from Starbucks or Biggby.
Buying a good espresso machine does not necessarily mean having to spend a small fortune. In fact, shelling out a couple hundred bucks can yield some great results, as demonstrated by the De’Longhi 15 bar Pump Espresso machine.
Having those 15 bars of pressure makes all the difference when it comes to pulling a delicious, aroma-ridden shot. And having the ability to pull a double shot is definitely a bonus.
The De’Longhi has a professional look and feel to it that other budget makers simply do not possess. Pair it with your electric stovetop or just use it as-is – you have options.
The manual frother makes for a nice, milky froth on top of your drink, which is essential for making a stellar cup of cappuccino. And, of course, this device is one that is easy to use and efficient to clean.
All in all, buying an espresso drink maker can save you a lot of money in the long run. All those dollars that you fork over for that pricy Starbucks drink can be put to good use with a budget machine bought and placed right in the comfort of your own home.
You get control over the quality of your drinks and how you wish to customize them, all the while feeling like a barista yourself.
Save that cash you would be shelling out for an expensive drink at a coffee shop and cultivate your own barista skills with one of these budget espresso machines.