Espresso machines used to be high-dollar investments that only either the wealthy or those really serious about coffee would buy. Great coffee has gotten democratized, though, and espresso makers are now something available to just about anyone.
Making espresso isn’t hard. It just requires that you inject highly pressurized hot water into very fine grounds and leach out the coffee flavor and potency that way. Thanks to advancements in technology, you can also get this on a pretty meager budget.
We looked at a range of espresso makers that you can buy for just a little money. We wrote reviews about them to give you an idea of which ones are the best to buy. If you want a little more, we wrote a quick buyers’ guide at the end to help make your choices much better informed.
|Mr. Coffee BVMC-ECMP1102 Cafe Barista Espresso and Cappuccino Maker|
|Nespresso Essenza Mini Original Espresso Machine||6 lbs||4.55/5|
|Premium Espresso & Cappuccino Maker PEM350|
(Best for the Money)
|Barsetto Espresso & Coffee Machine||13 lbs||4.35/5|
|De'Longhi EC155 Espresso and Cappuccino Maker||7 lbs||4.10/5|
If budget shopping is a vague concept to you, or you’re just a coffee fiend, we give you Mr. Coffee’s BVMC-ECMP1102. It can do it all, and do it all very well. It’s easy to use. Once you’re done, it’s also a snap to clean up, and it doesn’t hog counter space. It’s hard to quibble with making it our top pick. It’s just a fantastic coffee maker that punches above its weight in terms of value.
The one thing that could be a huge turnoff is the price. We’re ranking espresso makers for budget, and this one is definitely not really intended as a budget model. It’s a better price than you’d pay for a much better espresso machine, but you can get one for much less money.
If you’re strictly into coffee pods, the Nespresso Essenza Mini might be your top choice. It’s small, compact, elegant, and designed to make outstanding coffee using Nespresso’s capsules. Compared to the Mr. Coffee, it’s also a lot more reasonably priced. It’s a great alternative if you don’t want that expense.
Be aware, however, that it’s designed for capsules. If you want loose grounds, this isn’t the coffee maker for you. You can use capsules or grounds with the Mr. Coffee, which is one reason we dropped this one to the runner-up slot. Compared to the rest of the field, it’s also pretty expensive. It might make great capsule coffee, but it’ll also cost you a pretty penny.
If you’re looking for the maximum bang for your buck, the Premium Espresso & Cappuccino Maker PEM350 is a great option for an espresso maker. It doesn’t come with features to whip up your double mocha chai latte in a real hurry, but if you’re looking for something to put on the counter to make the occasional cup of espresso, it’ll serve that purpose pretty well.
It’s also got a standard price that’s hard to beat in this class of products, which is why we gave it our best value ranking. You can get much better, but you’d better be willing to pay for much better. Keep in mind that we’re ranking espresso makers as budget gadgets.
Because it’s good for budgets, that means some drawbacks. We aren’t fans of the frothing wand. Those can be tricky, anyway, and can get clogged easily. It can also be a bit difficult to actually work, and the parts wear out quickly if it gets a lot of use.
If you asked us to rank portable espresso makers, the Barsetto Espresso & Coffee Machine would top that list. It might not make as great a cup of espresso as our best countertop units, but it does make a good cup of coffee and does it consistently. We also like its appearance. We’d go so far as to call it the Ferrari of portable espresso makers. It’s also specifically designed to work with K-Cups and coffee capsules, so if you’ve got a Nespresso or Keurig in your home as a primary coffee maker, you can use those pods in it.
One thing that all portable coffee makers have going against them is that you have to boil the water separately. That’s just part of being portable, obviously, but it’s a drawback nonetheless if you want a unit for your home. While it can also brew with loose grounds, using them in this maker can lead to an annoying mess.
Of the budget espresso machines we reviewed, the De’Longhi EC155 might make the best straight-up espresso. If you’re looking for an espresso maker that can compete with more expensive models in terms of quality but that delivers on value, this is a good candidate.
Beyond making outstanding espresso, there are three things that stand out about it. We really like the way it looks. It’s also pretty easy to use, and a snap to clean up when you’re done. You can brew an espresso in a hurry and not stress about the time it’ll take to clean up after yourself.
It does have a tendency to vibrate, so you’ll want to keep an eye on it. It’s also pretty sub-par when it comes to frothing milk. It negates a lot of the value in buying a budget model if you have to purchase a frother separately. Its price also pushes up against the ceiling of what might qualify as a budget espresso maker.
Nespresso sets a high bar when it comes to prepackaged coffee with its capsules, and the Mueller Espresso Machine packs a wallop for something in such a small package. If you’re willing to spend a little more money for a budget espresso machine, it’s a pretty good option.
One thing to like is its size. It’s a compact machine that won’t take up a lot of vertical counter space. It’s also got a sleek, elegant appearance that projects the smooth, rich coffee it turns out.
When it comes to price, however, this one barely qualifies as a budget espresso maker. It won’t break the bank, but if you’re shopping on a budget, this one might be outside of it. It’s also got a bit of a learning curve to it.
The greatest thing about the STARESSO Manual Espresso Maker is its portability. If you’re going for a weekend of camping and won’t have a power source, you don’t have to sacrifice great coffee to start the day. That also helps if a storm has knocked out your power. Even if you have power, you can still use it to make good coffee.
There are limitations to that, however. Because it’s manual, you can’t just relax and listen to the birds as your coffee brews. You have to put in the work. It’s on the messy side and can make enough noise to violate the peace and calm of a quiet morning. It also doesn’t do a great job at frothing milk or making complicated drinks, and you’re limited to making coffee one cup at a time.
There’s a place for portable espresso makers, but the limitations of the STARESSO remind us that if you’ve got the counter space, nothing beats a great espresso machine.
It’s probably obvious to say that if the Hamilton Beach 40715 made a better cup of coffee, it would have gotten a better ranking. But there’s a reason we say that. It does a lot of the ancillary things that separate a really great espresso machine from the merely very good.
It’s inexpensive, takes up only a little space, and is easy-peasy to clean up. For someone who’s tight on money, space, and time, these are important qualities to look for in any kitchen gadget. But this machine is supposed to be for making espresso, and it doesn’t make it very well. The frothing power is pretty weak and takes a long time to heat up. It also doesn’t make a very good cup of coffee compared to the others we looked at, and the construction is flimsy.
SOWTECH’s Espresso & Cappucino Maker is a good-looking gadget. It also makes a pretty decent cup of espresso, full of rich flavor that makes the most out of good beans. Its price is right at the middle point for most of the espresso makers we reviewed, so if you’re looking for something simple, it might not be a bad option.
If you want something that can do more, you’ll want to look at something else. These days, it’s pretty easy to add features so you get the most out of your dollar, but the SOWTECH is a pretty basic machine. Even though it’s not very expensive, it’s still of limited value.
There are two things to watch. The first is that it can get hot, as in too hot-to-touch hot. It also doesn’t turn itself off. If you forget that it’s on and put in a carafe with just a little coffee in the bottom, you could have one heck of a mess to clean up later.
Bella’s Personal Espresso Maker is a gadget that time forgot. It’s the least expensive of the espresso machines we reviewed, so if getting the lowest price is important, there’s a place for it. On top of that, it’s a snap to clean.
However, espresso makers have advanced enough that you can pack a few more features onto the frame for what one costs, and the quality is pretty comparable to what budget models were making 15 years ago. These days, you can get much better coffee for just a few bucks more. We also don’t like its construction.
For these reasons, we have to rate this Bella model as being a poor value, even though in terms of raw price it’s the most affordable.
Coffee makers come in all shapes and sizes, using a range of brewing strategies from presses to pour overs to simple drip makers. Nothing is quite like an espresso maker, however. It relies on small amounts of highly pressurized water. If you’re in the market for one on a budget, you’ll have to sacrifice some bells and whistles and get as much basic espresso making as possible. Here are a few things to look for.
You’re dealing with forcing a pressurized jet of boiling water into a small space. The first thing you’ll want from your coffee maker is knowing that it can withstand this. If your espresso maker can’t consistently produce the right pressure, the coffee’s quality is going to be affected. What’s the point of buying an espresso maker if you aren’t making espresso?
If you’re buying on a budget, you probably aren’t going to get a very sophisticated machine. It might be downright crude. Look for an espresso machine that is pretty simple to use. It won’t have a lot of knobs, dials, or buttons to do this or that. It’ll probably just be a pretty basic, straightforward operation. When shopping on a budget, make sure that operating your machine is a straightforward job.
An underacknowledged thing about making espresso is that it can be kind of messy. That buildup of grounds and residue can hamper performance and maybe even add sour flavor to your coffee. Part of making great coffee is keeping the coffee machine clean. Be sure to look for an espresso machine that is simple to clean.
You’re shopping on a budget for a reason, and that reason is that you don’t want to spend a lot of money. When shopping for a budget espresso machine, keep price in mind. You probably don’t want to just buy the cheapest version that’s for sale, but you’ll want to place a premium on achieving for-dollar value.
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The Mr. Coffee BVMC-ECMP1102 got our nod for the top pick. It does everything, but most importantly, it makes great coffee. It’s just really expensive. Nespresso’s Essenza Mini is a little more affordable and comes with the convenience of pods, but it sacrificed some versatility and got our runner-up rank. The Premium Espresso & Cappuccino Maker PEM350 was an easy choice for the best value. The Barsetto Espresso & Coffee Machine has the most interesting design of any machine in our reviews, but it requires a little elbow grease.
The De’Longhi EC155 Espresso and Cappuccino Maker is a great, solid espresso maker that’s also a little more expensive than you might like. Nespresso’s Mueller Espresso Machine is super-fast, but has too many moving parts and electronics for our tastes. The STARESSO Manual Espresso Maker makes good coffee but is noisy and messy. Hamilton Beach’s Espresso Machine (40715) does a decent job, but its construction leaves something to be desired. We’d advise staying away from the Sowtech Espresso & Cappucino Maker, as it costs a lot of money to do only a couple of things. Bella’s Personal Espresso Maker is cheap, both in price and in construction and performance.
We hope you found value in these reviews and in our buyers’ guide, and wish you the best of luck in getting the right espresso machine to match your budget.
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