You have come to the right place for a review of the best budget espresso machines on the market. In this guide, I will help you find the right machine in this class without spending a fortune. If you are looking for an entry level appliance to make delicious gourmet coffee drinks at home, read on!
In order to help you find just the right machine for your needs, I have organized this review into the following categories:
All Around Top Pick: Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista
Runner Up: DeLonghi EC702
Best Capsule Style: Nespresso Pixie
Best Espresso Machine Under $100: De’Longhi EC155
Best Manual (Also best in durability!): Flair Manual Press
Before jumping into the reviews, here are some tips to consider for making the most of inexpensive espresso makers:
Grind Your Own Beans
Perhaps the most important factor determining the quality of your finished product when it comes to great espresso is your beans. Espresso machines for less than $200 typically do not have an integrated grinder.
A grinder gives you the power to freshly grind your beans which has a huge impact on the flavor of the finished shot. In addition, for a richer brew that is pulled at a high pressure, go for an extremely fine grind. For a milder flavor, grind a bit coarser.
If you are looking for a burr grinder that offers a premium steel grinding disk, excellent adjustability for fine tuning your grind, and a large bean hopper for convenience, all at a very reasonable price, check out the Gourmia GCG185.
Compromise on Adjustability
One of the features that you have to be prepared to give up at this price point is adjustability. For the real espresso aficionado, the process of pulling that perfect shot can be akin to an art form. Playing with the brewing temperature, pressure of the pump, and the firmness of the tamp are all part of the fun of learning to pull the perfect shot.
The espresso machines in the under $200 price point just won’t offer much in terms of customizable options. If you want to be able to play with your machine, you will simply have to spend a little more money. (See my review of the under $1000 class for some excellent options for the home barista.)
Instead, I have focused on finding automatic machines that will produce reliable pressure and give fast recovery times for multiple shots. If you want to be able to fully control temperature and pressure in this price range, I recommend a manual press.
What to Expect: Longevity
I am going to give it to you straight:
There is no magic bullet when it comes to finding an espresso machine in this price range that you can expect to last for more than a few years with regular use, unless you are prepared to go for a manual espresso maker.
Unfortunately, to turn a profit on entry level machines, manufacturers cut corners when it comes to components at this price point.
Instead of looking for a machine that will last forever, focus instead on a machine that will give you the pressure you need for a reliably fantastic shot while it lasts, and save up for a higher end machine when you are ready for an upgrade in a few years.
The Importance of Pressure
High-pressure brewing is what makes the difference between an ordinary cup of coffee and a shot of espresso. Without high pressure, you just can’t get the thick and foamy crema and extraordinarily rich flavors that high-pressure extraction makes possible.
That is why every single espresso machine in this review can achieve a full 15 bars—anything less is a waste of your money!
Best Espresso Machine Under $200
Pressure: 15 bars
Power: 1040 W
Water Reservoir: 54 Oz.
Dimensions: 8.86” W x 11.22” D x 12.6” H
Packed with useful features, this is my top choice in the under $200 category. Although it does not have the adjustability that some home baristas are looking for (pressure and temperature are preset), it makes up for it with fully automated, touch of a button functionality.
In terms of making authentic espresso with a rich and full crema, this machine is capable of a full 15 bars of pressure, critical for top-notch gourmet drinks. The removable water reservoir is huge, adding significant convenience for home or office use. Just fill and tamp the single or double portafilter basket, press the button, and go.
Unlike most others in this price range, the café barista comes with milk frother that is integrated into the machine. Touch a button to add steamed milk to your latte or cappuccino. When you are done making your morning brews, easily detach the milk container and stick it in the fridge until you are ready to make more tomorrow—a very thoughtful design feature.
In terms of style, choose from three color profiles for a machine that works with just about any kitchen décor. However, if you are excited to make latte art on top of your drinks, move on, because the integrated frother pours the milk directly into your cup.
- Full 15 bars of pressure to extract full flavor and rich crema
- Large 54 Oz. water reservoir removes for easy filling
- Milk container pops in and out easily for cold storage when not brewing
- Single and double shot options with separate filters
- Easy to use control panel
- Froth milk optimized for either cappuccino or latte
- Takes a few minutes to get to brew/steam temp as well as a few minutes recovery time before a second brew
- Cannot adjust temp or pressure
- Cannot make latte art because the milk frother automatically pours froth into your cup
Runner-up 15 Bar Espresso Machine Under $200
Pressure: 15 bars
Water Reservoir: 44 Oz.
Dimensions: 11” W x 9.1” D x 11.6” H
Another excellent choice in a semi-automatic espresso machine is this choice by De’Longhi, long trusted name in the espresso world. The pump can achieve pressure of up to 15 bars, absolutely required for delicious espresso capable of competing with expertly pulled shots at high-end cafes.
A big plus of this machine is that it can brew either grounds or capsules, a major versatility advantage that most machines don’t offer. Choose between single and double portafilters so that you can get the perfect dosing every time.
Another important feature that sets this espresso maker apart are two separate thermostats for brew and steam—this allows you to brew or steam without wait times in between. It may not sound like much, but when it comes time to make cappuccino for more than one person, you will quickly understand what a big benefit this is.
Latte art? No problem. Foam your milk in the provided stainless steel jug to the consistency you like for gourmet drinks that please the eye and the taste buds.
- Italian pump with 15 bars of pressure
- Extremely fast recovery time for multiple brews
- Steam and brew temps controlled separately for simultaneous use
- Cup warmer on the top of the machine
- Portafilter converts between double and single shots, grounds or capsules
- Strong customer support from a long-trusted brand
- Home baristas: note you cannot adjust the temp or pressure of this automatic espresso machine
Best Pod or Capsule Style Espresso Machine Under $200
Pressure: 19 bars
Water Reservoir: 24 Oz.
Dimensions: 4.4” W X 12.8” D X 9.3” H
For those that are looking for an excellent cup of espresso delivered consistently and instantly, then a capsule system is the way to go.
Believe it or not, capsules have actually been used to make delicious espresso for quite a while now. The first patent was filed by Eric Favre, in 1976. He was involved in designing the first capsule machines developed by Nespresso from the very start.
Capsules offer the ultimate in fresh grounds since they are vacuum sealed, and the ground size and brewing system are completely in tune—no need to worry about tamping pressure, brewing temp or brew time. It is all worked out for the perfect shot when you go with pods.
This machine delivers despite having a very small footprint. Whether you have a small kitchen or are looking for something to fit on your desk at work, the Pixie packs a lot of punch without being a space hog.
If you enjoy frothed milk for café delights like cappuccino and latte, be sure to check out this that includes the Aeroccino, a compact standalone milk frother with a total budget just a hair over the $200 mark.
- Extremely consistent, excellent quality results
- 19 bars of pressure for thick and rich crema every time
- Fast—25 seconds from cold and this machine will start pulling a perfect shot
- Nespresso capsules come in 16 varieties with a wide range of gourmet quality flavor profiles
- Very small footprint ideal for small kitchens or on your desk at work
- Single and double shot options
- Very easy to use and clean
- Does not include a milk frother for the price, but check out the bundle pricing for a separate frother
- You will need to continue to purchase capsules, which can be pricey over the long haul
Best Espresso Machine Under $100
Pressure: 15 bars
Water Reservoir: 35 Oz.
Dimensions: 7.50″ W x 9.50″ D x 11.12″ H
If you’re on a really tight budget, then you may need to go under $100 for an espresso machine. If this is the case for you, then consider this economically friendly model by De’Longhi. It offers a no-fuss experience with pro-grade pressure to give you reliable results.
This is a relatively compact machine, particularly considering it also includes a milk frother for cappuccinos and latte. In addition, it offers good versatility with the option to use fresh grounds or capsules.
One of the reasons that I like this model for a budget pick is that it has a stainless steel portafilter and boiler, the two most critical components in terms of longevity. Although none of the espresso makers in this budget range are known for outstanding longevity, this option is better than most on that count.
Another feature worth pointing out is that separate thermostats control the steaming and brewing temps which gives you the option to pull a shot and steam milk without annoying wait times in between. A self-priming feature also cuts down wait time before brewing and adds up to extremely fast recovery times between shots.
Don’t expect this (or any other espresso maker) in this price range to last forever. However, in a pinch, this is a nice choice in this price range all the same.
- Offers a lot of features for the price range
- 15 bars for excellent flavor extraction
- Use capsules or grind your own beans
- Trusted name in brewing appliances
- Extremely fast recovery times for multiple shots
- Stainless steel boiler
- Milk frother/steamer feature, a nice option to have at this price point
- Compact construction ideal for small kitchens and tight spaces
- Any espresso machine at this price point is likely going to have durability problems over the long haul
- Lacks adjustability for temperature and pressure
- Consider adding a frothing pitcher to your order since this unit does not include one
Best Manual Espresso Maker Under $200
For the home barista looking for the ultimate in an “analog” espresso experience and the longest lasting machine in this price class, then a manual press is absolutely the way to go. While it is not the right choice for everyone, the Flair Manual Press is the right call if longevity and adjustability are your priorities.
You can control every single aspect of pulling your shot…just like a real barista. Control pressure by timing the pull, usually measured in terms of seconds for the perfect pull with 25-33 seconds considered the sweet spot by many pros. In addition, adjust the tamp pressure and grind coarseness to infinitely play with the flavors you can get from the same exact beans.
One of the latest trends in coffee is cold brewing, and this press will allow you to make deliciously deep extractions using this technique. Using a manual press gives you complete control over the temperature of the brew, allowing you to experiment until you nail that perfect shot.
There are no electronic components or complex machinery to break here. This is an espresso machine that, when properly cared for, can last a generation or more. The bundle comes with everything you need including the perfect sized tamper and an extra brewing head to instantly brew a second shot.
- Built to last a lifetime with almost no moving parts to fail
- Does not require any electricity to operate—perfect for camping or when the power goes out
- Compact storage and carrying case for travel
- Adjust every single aspect of your brew for the ultimate barista experience
- Bundle includes everything you need for professional quality shots
- No fancy cleaning or chemical descaling required
- Manual espresso making requires skill and a rather steep learning curve
- You will need to purchase a grinder and milk frother separately
Conclusion: Best Affordable Espresso Machines
If you are looking to save some money by making delicious gourmet coffee drinks at home, purchasing the best espresso machine for the money is a decision worth making carefully. I hope this review will help you make a choice that fits your lifestyle and desire for excellent tasting espresso, all without breaking the bank.
If you would like to share your experiences with using inexpensive espresso machines, please leave a comment below!