In the market for a new espresso machine? It’s understandable if you don’t want to spend a fortune on it. However, you’ll be doing yourself a favor if your budget for an espresso machine is in the $500 range, as this is where the quality increases sharply. While the truly inexpensive machines are often made of plastic and produce a drink that barely passes as an espresso, a budget with a little higher cap will result in a drink worthy of the name.
There are many choices out there, but we’ve done the research for you and made a list of eight of the best espresso machines under $500. Read on for our in-depth reviews and buyer’s guide that will help you find the best espresso machine for your needs.
|Delonghi EC680M DEDICA|
(Best Budget Buy)
|Breville 'Duo Temp Pro'||1 Year||4.50/5|
|Gaggia Brera||1 Year||4.40/5|
|Nespresso EN560B Lattissima||1 Year||4.20/5|
This is the newer model of Breville that replaces the 830, and Breville made sure this time that the heating system would accurately control the water temperature. It uses a 1600-watt thermocoil heating system to ensure that your espresso comes out hot. You can make both single and double shots, and the machine has extra-tall cup clearance to brew directly into travel mugs. The removable water tank has a large capacity of 61 ounces, and there’s a dedicated hot water faucet. We especially liked the pre-infusion function, which pre-wets the grounds to enable full extraction. This machine is also equipped with power-saving modes that put it to sleep after one hour and auto shut-off after three hours. There’s an included steam milk frother capable of making creamy micro-foam.
The only problem we encountered with this model is that if parts do break, particularly after the one-year warranty is up, Breville charges a flat fee of $249 to repair the machine. This is obviously pretty pricey. However, the most common part that needs to be replaced is the steam ring, which simply wears down over time, and the cost to replace it yourself is only $2.99.
Delonghi’s Dedica Espresso Machine is a great choice if you’re on a budget and need a machine that won’t take up a large amount of countertop space in your kitchen. It’s only six inches wide but uses 15 bars of pressure. It’s made of quality materials — stainless steel instead of plastic — and is easy to use. Despite this model’s small size, it includes a milk frother and has an adjustable drip tray to accommodate taller cups. The filter holder can hold enough grounds for one or two shots, or you can use an espresso pod.
Unfortunately, there are a few problems with the quality of this machine. It doesn’t last long before the water pump fails or begins to leak, so buying an extended warranty might be a good idea to protect your investment.
This is a more affordable version of our top pick, as this model of Breville espresso machine doesn’t include quite as many options. It’s made of stainless steel and uses 15 bars of pressure to create an espresso with a good amount of crema. The precise PID temperature control ensures that the water is kept hot, and this machine also has the pre-infusion feature to wet the grounds before extraction. The water tank has a fairly large capacity of 61 ounces, so you don’t have to refill it as often. It can produce a single or double shot of espresso and comes with an attached steam wand.
On the negative side, this model does not include a dedicated hot water faucet or pressure gauge. It can also be difficult to figure out how to pull the best shot of espresso for your tastes due to the variability in grind size, amount of grounds, and the inability to tell what pressure the machine is using.
If you’re looking for a fully automatic espresso machine, this is a great choice. The Gaggia Brera Super Automatic grinds whole beans with its ceramic burr grinder, so all you need to do is add the coffee beans and water. It also accepts ground coffee, so you can bypass the hopper. The brewing is fully programmable and allows you to choose two sizes. You can adjust the height for larger cups. Pre-infusion gives the coffee a chance to bloom, which allows for a sweeter shot of espresso. This model includes a frothing wand that doubles as a hot water dispenser, and it has steam on demand. We also appreciate that both the water reservoir and dreg box pull out from the front of the unit for easy access.
We did encounter a few problems with this machine, however. First, it’s high maintenance. It needs to be descaled often, and you’ll find yourself refilling the water tank every day. It can also leak out on the countertop, which can be frustrating to clean up. Also, it only has one boiler, so you can’t steam milk and pull a shot of espresso at the same time.
If you love Nespresso and lattes, this is the machine for you. It not only has a built-in milk frother but a milk carafe as well, so you can make latte after latte with the push of a button. It can make six different espresso drinks, including macchiatos and cappuccinos. This model uses 19 bars of pressure and is ready in less than 40 seconds. It has a sliding drip tray to accommodate different cup sizes, which is a much-needed feature when you’re making lattes. It also has a descaling alert and cleanup is fairly easy.
However, this machine only uses Nespresso pods, which can be restrictive for coffee types and brands. The pods are also pretty expensive, so that’s an ongoing cost to be aware of. You also can’t adjust any of the settings for brewing like you can with a semi-automatic espresso machine. If you’re not a fan of milk and espresso, then you might want to look at other options that don’t include a dedicated milk carafe, as it’s just a waste of your money.
If you’re not into making lattes or cappuccinos with your Nespresso, then this is the better choice for you. It comes with a milk frother, but it doesn’t have a dedicated milk carafe like the Nespresso Lattissima. It’s available in a variety of colors to match any kitchen theme and has a small footprint, so it doesn’t take up much room on your countertop. There are six pre-programmed settings for brew strength and an adjustable cup shelf to accommodate different sizes.
There are a few downsides to this machine. Although KitchenAid is a fantastic brand, it doesn’t seem to make espresso as well as Nespresso does. The water reservoir is also difficult to remove and clean. Lastly, this machine only uses Nespresso pods, which can be pricey.
This is another fully automatic espresso machine option that has an adjustable grinder with five settings. For easy cleaning, the brewer part of the machine is fully removable. It also includes a milk frother.
Unfortunately, this machine is made up of mostly plastic, so the quality is questionable. It’s also excessively sensitive and high maintenance. Many times, it senses that the water tank is empty when it’s not, or it senses no beans in the hopper when it’s actually full. Lastly, the drip tray tends to leak.
EspressoWorks offers another budget buy option with a machine that comes with numerous accessories and a built-in milk frother. It’s ready to use in only 45 seconds and has a 15-bar pressure pump. The water tank is removable and allows you to easily see how much water is left.
Unfortunately, this machine has quite a few problems. One is that the espresso it produces just isn’t that high quality. The unit itself also leaks and seems to push the water through the coffee grounds too fast. Because there are so many adjustable settings, it can be difficult to figure out how to make the best cup for you. The grinder, although nice to have, clogs easily. The overall durability of this machine is questionable, as it seems to have longevity issues.
When you’re shopping for the best espresso machine, regardless of budget, there are a few important things to consider. We’ve included a list in our buying guide below:
To be considered an espresso, the water must be pushed through the coffee grounds at least at nine bars of pressure. The higher the pressure, the faster you can pull a shot. Many of the machines on this list offer 15 bars of pressure, so espresso can be made very quickly and with a thick crema.
Because of the pressure requirements of espresso, you want a machine made of quality parts. Ideally, that means it will be made of stainless steel. Or if it has plastic components, it will be the superficial parts, like the outside of the machine or the water tank. Important components like the pressure pump and the heating coil should be made of metal.
Espresso should be hot. You want a machine that can heat water fast and keep it hot as it is pushed at high pressure through your tamped-down coffee grounds. Make sure the heating elements are of high-quality materials and won’t easily break down over time.
If you like to have control over the way your machine pulls a shot of espresso, then you should choose a semi-automatic machine. This way, you can control the amount of grounds, tamp them yourself, and possibly even adjust the brew strength, depending on the machine.
If you’d rather add the coffee and water — or even whole coffee beans into a hopper to grind — and have the machine do the rest, then an automatic machine is your best option.
Many of the machines on our list include the ability to accommodate different cup sizes, which is important if you like cappuccinos or lattes — you’ll need a bigger cup for the milk. However, if you prefer a single or double shot of espresso without milk, then this feature might not matter as much to you.
Most espresso machines have a built-in milk frother to turn the espresso into a creamy cappuccino or latte. If you prefer your coffee drinks to have milk, then this is an important feature to have.
If you’re short on countertop space in your kitchen, then the size of the machine is critical. Many of the models on our list are slimmer, but the negative of that is the water tank usually being smaller. Even if you have plenty of space in your kitchen, you may not want a unit that takes up a great deal of room. Be sure to check out the specifications of each machine to ensure that it fits on your countertops.
Many of the machines on our list include extra features like a dedicated hot water faucet, multiple accessories, or a pre-infusion function to allow the coffee to bloom. If you’re on the higher end of the under-$500 budget, then you may prefer a model that can do it all.
This may be a machine that you use daily, so it’s best if it’s easy to clean. Features like front-loading water tanks or removable parts that come into contact with the coffee grounds make cleaning easier.
Some machines can be complicated to use, especially if you’re unfamiliar with tamping the grounds in a portafilter. Other machines offer a fully automatic experience, where all you have to do is push a button. It just depends on your comfort level and willingness to learn.
Our top pick for the best espresso machine under $500 is the Breville BES840XL/A the Infuser Espresso Machine because it has so many great features. One of the best is the pre-infusion function, which makes sure the grounds are given the chance to bloom before you pull a shot. It’s powerful enough to keep the water hot and has plenty of pressure for a superior cup of espresso. We also appreciate the smaller features, like the dedicated hot water faucet, included accessories, and built-in milk frother.
The Delonghi EC680M DEDICA 15-Bar Pump Espresso Machine is our best budget buy because of its small footprint and powerful 15 bars of pressure. Though small, it comes with a milk frother and an adjustable drip tray for different cup sizes. It also allows for using coffee grounds or espresso pods.
We hope that our reviews of the best espresso machines under $500 and buying guide has allowed you to narrow down your list of options. Most importantly, we hope it has helped you find the best espresso machine for your needs.
Featured image credit: Rita E on Pixabay.
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