How to Pick a Great Affordable Espresso Machine
With so many questions to ask, where shall we even begin? Well first and foremost, what exactly is your espresso budget? If you’re just starting to learn the art of espresso making, then aim for a machine that is below $100. However, the higher you are able to stretch the amount you can spend, the more features the device will come with. These features are targeted at giving you more customization in your brew as the price goes up. And as we all know, the higher your level of control is, the more consistent your results will be. Though sometimes, starting out with so many features is not the most user-friendly situation.
Uses Coffee Grounds
Time for question number two, coffee grounds or pods? Using espresso coffee grounds isn’t hard to use, but you are likely to have some residual fluid on your grounds until you figure out how to tamp, or pack, at just the right amount. You are going to want to fill up to the point there is a small mound of excess grounds on the top, and then tamp it down lightly so that they are tight, but not too hard. Tamping can be done with a tamper, that usually comes with the machine as an accessory, or anything rounded and close to the size of the grounds cup, such as the back of a spoon. After you master this first skill of espresso making, there is really no more cleanup than you will have with a regular coffee machine.
Uses Coffee Pods
What about pods? Well, these come pretamped and ready to use, and then after brewing they can be popped out and tossed in the trash, or recycled. I recommend pod using machines for those with tighter schedules. Of course, you could also ground your own beans and tamp them into pods if you so choose.
Includes Milk Frother
Well, now that we have a grasp on how the grounds work, do we need a milk frother? This is a simple question. Do you like foamed, heated, or steamed milk in your espresso? Maybe you know these drinks better as cappuccinos, lattes, or macchiatos. If you are a fan of these delicious drinks, then you are in luck. Many machines come with built-in frothing wands for your convenience, even for a bargain.
Okay! Now that the frothing situation is handled, we need to take a look at pressurizing. What about pressurizing, you ask? Well, the atmospheric pressure that we live at is 1 bar. The sweetest, most aromatic espressos are brewed at a minimum of 9 bars. This means that it is essential to check if the machine you are looking at is pressurized before you buy. Without pressure, it will not be an authentic espresso.
Water Tank Capacity
Alrighty then! Now for a bonus round. How many cups are you making at a time, and what is the amount of shots each cup will take? This is important to know so that you can assess how large you need your water tank to be. It is also wise to check and see if the tank is removable to keep cleanup and fill up as easy as enjoying the sweet fruits of your labor.
Best of Bests – DeLonghi EC155 15 BAR Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
Lightweight and small, this machine packs a 15 bar pump, making DeLonghi best of the semi-automated class. Its size, only 9 pounds with dimensions of 8″ x 11″ x 10″, allows it to make the perfect addition to any home or office. Because what breakfast is complete without a delicious, steaming cup of your favorite brew?
Also, for your convenience, this brewer uses either pods or grounds, with it’s patented filter. Like your coffee with milk? Then the user-friendly swiveling jet frother was made just for you.
Hate having to choose between waiting an hour or burning your tongue? With a dual thermostat system, this machine ensures you enjoy your espresso at your preferred temperature, and a cup warmer so that your coffee stays your favorite temperature while you tend to your daily chores.
Another fantastic feature is the self-priming option, which makes preparation easier since the device will do it for you.
Adding even more adoration to this machine, cleanup is a breeze with a 35 oz capacity removable water tank, and drip tray. As well, this machine can be expected to have an excellent life expectancy since the 15 bar pump is housed in a stainless steel boiler.
Alas, every machine has some faults, as some users do report some issues with this machine. Some users report water being left in the grounds basket, leaving a bit of a soupy mess, and that the frothing wand is a tad shorter than they prefer. Other users say that the tray and grounds basket are slightly too close together.
I believe that some of these are likely to be user errors caused by over packing the coffee grounds and unfamiliarity with traditional Italian coffee since this machine is an Italian brand. Many American home brewers prefer larger coffee servings than their Italian counterparts, which can explain why they find the frothing wand small. And, we have already discussed the issue of improper packing when using loose grounds.
The DeLonghi has received and maintained the out of this world 4-star rating on Amazon, even with almost 5,000 reviews. It is a top seller of the semi-automated class brewers, earning its spot on this list.
Best Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine – Mr. Coffee Café Barista Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
Looking for affordability that comes with smooth and effortless performance? This is the machine for you. With an automated milk frother, Mr. Coffee makes it even easier to create a unique and delicious breakfast drink. The BVMC-EMP1000 model also includes a delightful recipe guide to 20 coffee treats you can try.
The indicator lights on the control panel make this machine extra user-friendly, especially for beginners. They make it easy to understand exactly what you are getting from start to finish so you can end up with your favorite brew every time.
15 Bar Pump Pressure
Even with the smaller price tag, the Mr. Coffee Café Barista still has a pump that can pack a punch. At an incredible 15 bars, this machine ensures you have a full, rich flavor and a sweet layer of crema, every time.
Bringing the apex of customization right to your countertop, Mr. Coffee allows you to set the water to espresso ratio that you prefer. Allowing for you to experiment away from the factory settings until you find your perfect balance.
Automated Milk Frother
Okay, so if you had a definite yes to whether or not you wanted the milk frother, this machine has a surprise for you. Once you set your desired froth level, Mr. Coffee does all the work. No messing around with a frothing wand and guessing when it’s done with this machine. Even better? When you’re done, the milk reservoir is removable! So, you can place it in the fridge, and it is ready to go for next time. Want more options for better milk frother, we have a post for you.
Removable Water Reservoir
The water reservoir, located on the back of the machine, is removable. However, the size of both this and the milk reservoir was impossible to track down, even after searching Google and the Mr. Coffee website. We will update the article as soon as we find the exact measurements, though both seem to be large enough for at least 2 or 3 cups based on customer reviews.
Adjustable Cup Clearance
Making this machine even more convenient and user-friendly, the height of the cup tray is customizable. You can pull out a little step for small, Italian cups, or push it back in for larger cups.
Dishwasher Safe Parts
Almost all of the Mr. Coffee parts are washable in the dishwasher. The only exception is the portafilter, saving you loads of time on handwashing.
Best Pod Espresso Machine – Nespresso Inissia Espresso Machine by DeLonghi
Designed exclusively for the use of Nespresso pods, the Inissia offers consistently fresh and high-quality coffee. An example of how a traditional Italian brand such as DeLonghi understands that control over the process leads to consistently delicious results. The Inissia is the machine for busy people who just need a quick cup before starting their day.
Environmentally friendly, lightweight, and sporting an ergonomic handle, the Inissia also comes in a variety of colors. This makes it the perfect addition to a stylized room.
A Tiny Machine with a High-Pressure Pump
Tiny but mighty, the Nespresso Inissia packs a 19-bar pump. This provides a coffee shop quality espresso every time it is used. With that and the one-touch operation, this original extraction system will have your taste buds believing that a little barista lives inside this magical machine.
Two Buttons for Espresso and Lungo
The Inissia has two settings, both customizable. We all know espresso and the lungo. This is basically an espresso, made to fit an American coffee cup. Delicious!
A Great Refreshing Taste
Nespresso makes their pods from recyclable aluminum to maintain the same fresh aroma from packaging to use. This produces not only a fantastic cup of sweet Italian coffee but retains a low impact on our planet.
Can’t seem to find your favorite flavor in Nespresso? Don’t worry, other brands make Nespresso compatible pods!
- Space saving design
- Easily maintained
- Quick brewing
- Variety and experimentation possible
- Made with durable plastics
- 2.6 ft power cord
- Excellent value for the price
- Quite loud for its size, but fast despite the noise
- Single serving brewer
- No power button, must be unplugged to turn off
Light, small, and so user-friendly even the most novice users are able to make a delicious drink. It is a definite winner for a low price and delightful consistency.
Steam Based Espresso Machines vs. Pump-Driven Espresso Machines
What is the difference really? Steam-based espresso makers are cheap in comparison, but you aren’t getting an authentic espresso shot. The resulting drink of a steam espresso is about the same as that of a Moka pot coffee. It’s close to espresso, but due to the low-pressure brewing, it just can’t get all the way there. These machines can work for someone who just enjoys a variety of coffees, but not for an espresso connoisseur. You can expect to spend around $50 on steam-based equipment. However, if you want an authentic daily espresso without paying an average of $1056 a year, assuming you get a $3 coffee at the shop, higher-priced, pressurized equipment is the best choice.
Low-cost espresso machines are the perfect way to start your journey into the realm of espresso and save time and money from daily trips to a coffee shop. Even the DeLonghi EC155 can produce delicious espresso results. Sure, you need to learn how to operate the unautomated features, but this is true for any new equipment.
An affordable, high quality, pressurized pump espresso machine will ensure you have the right amount of pressure for the perfect shot so that it shines like a diamond on your taste buds in the golden morning sunrise, without breaking the bank.
What You Don’t Get With Affordable Espresso Machines
Alright, so I know what you’re asking now. Why are there expensive machines if the affordable ones are so incredible?
Well, even though they are fantastic for beginners or those who just want a quick cup of coffee in the mornings, they do have some limitations that make them unappealing to more advanced baristas at heart. With a lower price, there are of course cheaper materials that will wear down a bit faster, smaller boilers. It is also impossible to brew at an exact temperature, which is essential for some higher quality brews.
The more expensive machines have higher automation and more control options, allowing you to customize every aspect of your espresso in ways that the lower level machines are just unable to. That is why this is just the beginning of your espresso journey. For best espresso machines, we have a post of best latte machines for home use.