Best Espresso Machine Under $100, $200, and $500

Budgets aren’t fun. They’re one of those things that universally sucks.

But, if you play your cards right, you can work with just about any dollar amount you can spare towards the true, unfailing love of your life — espresso. What compares to a steaming shot of the bold stuff served in a stylish demitasse

This is a serious plight, and I’m here to lay out your options, based on your budget, and help you get the most bang for your buck.

Let’s count them down, from most affordable to most indulgent, the best espresso machines under $100, $200, and $500.

What Espresso Is — And Isn’t

Despite what’s often marketed, espresso isn’t a type of roast. There’s not a specific bean or blend that “is” espresso.

Espresso is a preparation method, and it’s far more rooted in chemistry than the automatic machines of today let on.

In layman’s terms, for those us who haven’t read anything more prolific about science than a Bill Nye meme since high school, it’s when highly-pressurized, very hot water is forced through tightly packed coffee grounds. Hot water plus pressure plus grounds equals a shot of espresso. It’s 30ml of pure joy. One ounce of get-up-and-go.

Angelo Moriondo is the Italian (of course) man who patented the first espresso machine way back in 1884.

Moriondo claim ownership, but a woman named Martina actually built his prototypes, an interesting tidbit there.

Neither of them likely would’ve imagined how popular the espresso machine would become a hundred years hence. In fact, Moriondo jealously guarded the first machines, tinkering with them until he died, but never mass producing them. 

After Moriondo, Bezzera stepped in and improved on his designs by adding multiple brewheads, the portafilter, and finding a way to reach the ideal espresso temperature — 195 degrees F.

At Bezzera’s bequest comes Desiderio Pavoni, a man who knew what to do with the improvements that Bezzera had made.

He added the first pressure valve, which is actually largely where the term “pulling a shot” comes from — the motion of pulling the level to express the water through the coffee.

Does that just get you all worked up for a good shot of espresso or what? Then let’s talk about what exactly we’re looking for in all of these machines: consistent pressure, perfect temperature, and indulgent crema topping each velvety ounce.

Best Espresso Machines Under $500

Under $100

DeLonghi EC155

You don’t need to drop mucho dolares to get a top-notch espresso machine, and the DeLonghi EC155 really goes to great lengths to prove that.

The 3-in-1 filter holder is notable for its ability to hold enough fine grounds for one or two espresso shots, or you can opt to use a pre-made pod.

The large, 35-oz water tank is removable for easy filling and the manual frother takes your simple (albeit marvelous) espresso shot to something even more — like a cappuccino!

PROS

  • check
    35-oz tank is removable for refilling
  • check
    3-in-1 filter holder
  • check
    Manual frother
  • check
    Stainless steel
  • check
    Rapid Cappuccino system
  • check
    15-bar pump pressure
  • check
    Two separate thermostats to monitor the steam and water at different temperatures

CONS

  • Only room for demitasses beneath the spouts
  • Manual froth (yeah, yeah, it’s on the pro list, too, but well...it’s nice to have but you still have to learn how to do it.)
Mr. Coffee ECMP50

Mr. Coffee may have given himself that name, but he does know a thing or two about a smooth, velvety shot of espresso — even two.

Imagine this: two demitasse cups, 15 bars of pressure, and two caffeinated ounces. Time on the porch watching the sunrise, sipping your favorite morning drink, with your amor.

Alright, this may be more a scene from a movie than a typical daily routine in your household, but the Mr. Coffee Automatic Dual Shot Espresso/Cappuccino Machine is real — and it’s the real deal.

The thermal block heating system means you can have your morning dose as soon as you want it and the built-in frother makes a cappuccino a little bit of milk away. 

PROS

  • check
    Removable drip tray
  • check
    40-oz water reservoir
  • check
    Tamping tools included
  • check
    Built-in frother
  • check
    Can create two shots at the same time
  • check
    Thermal block heating system
  • check
    User-friendly system

CONS

  • Frother is manual, so you do have to learn how to craft your own mixed drinks
  • Reports of loud/interesting noises from machine

Under $200

Mr. Coffee ECMP1000

Believe it or not, the $101-$199 budget is a sweet range to be in for an espresso machine.

When it comes to your daily kitchen needs, this price range really adds on some luxurious features that will really make your cozy counter feel like a professional barista bar.

The Mr. Coffee Barista Espresso and Cappuccino Maker (ECMP1000) is a true testament to that statement. Just look at it. It’s semi-automatic and pushes out 15 bars of pressure to deliver your favorite coffee drinks — espresso, cappuccinos, and lattes — with ease.

Take note of the built-in milk tank, and think about what that means.

It means that it automatically froths your milk-based beverages for you. Let the excitement of that sink in.

PROS

  • check
    Automatic frother
  • check
    Built-in milk tank
  • check
    15 bars of pressure
  • check
    Room for single or double shots
  • check
    Fits larger cups
  • check
    Automatic cleaning

CONS

  • You have to read the manual. Clean out with white vinegar before using.
  • Reports of loudness
Nespresso Inissia Espresso Machine by Breville, Titan

This little trucker pushes out 19 bars of pressure to deliver you a steaming demitasse of deliciousness. You can even have that midday pick-me-up in two different sizes, lungo or espresso.

If you’re new to the coffee connoisseur game, lungo is a popular way to enjoy espresso in Italy — it’s a larger shot, typically with twice as much water, and has a more bitter taste to it. Use that option at your own discretion.

This machine’s middle name is “immediacy,” no matter which option you choose. With one button tap and 25 seconds, you’re ready to enjoy a caffeinated beverage before rushing out the door for that 9 to 5. 

PROS

  • check
    19 bars of pressure
  • check
    Two cup sizes
  • check
    25 seconds to brew
  • check
    Energy saving system shuts off machine after 9 minutes
  • check
    Folding drip tray allows for larger cups

CONS

  • 23 oz. reservoir is a bit on the small size
  • Only uses capsules, and there’s no reusable one sold by Nespresso. (You can buy compatible ones, of course, though, but no guarantees!)
  • exclamation-triangle
    Plastic body
  • exclamation-triangle
    No built in frother, even a manual one.
Nespresso Pixie Espresso Machine by Breville

This is the Innisia’s big sister (the one that studied abroad and speaks a second language), and it’s stainless-steel casing is the biggest upgrade.

The 24-oz. water reservoir has red backlights to let you know when it’s time to refill so you know exactly what you need for that shot of espresso or lungo.

Top it off with a 25-second startup time, and you can have a dose of the good stuff even after hitting snooze a couple times. Or ten. Beauty rest is important — almost as important as your coffee.

PROS

  • check
    Sturdy stainless-steel casing
  • check
    25 second heat up
  • check
    Two drink sizes
  • check
    Backlights for reservoir refill
  • check
    Adjustable drip tray to fit larger cups
  • check
    Compact design
  • check
    Easy to use
  • check
    Made in Switzerland

CONS

  • Reservoir is small if there are multiple coffee drinkers in the house
  • Doesn’t have the built-in frother like the Mr. Coffee (which also has a smaller price tag)
  • exclamation-triangle
    Again, you need Nespresso capsules. You can buy off-brand reusable pods, but, seriously, no promises.
DeLonghi EC702 15-Bar-Pump Espresso Maker

This is the sort of machine that makes you feel like a professional. It’s insta-worthy, and it’ll make your morning cuppa just as picture-perfect.

The stainless steel boiler and finish make this DeLonghi a chic addition to any kitchen, and you can share the joy with your favorite coffee-loving best friend since it can make two shots simultaneously.

Your fellow espresso enthusiast asking for an upgrade to their drink? Not a problem. The easy-to-use manual frother is located to the left and you can tell them that it’s so simple to operate that they can certainly do it themselves. 

PROS

  • check
    Automatic Flow Stop function keeps even brewing temperature
  • check
    Rapid Cappuccino System means there’s no waiting time between cups
  • check
    Removable 44-oz. water reservoir
  • check
    Stand-by/energy-saving mode
  • check
    Fits larger mugs
  • check
    Built-in frother

CONS

  • Manual frother
  • Reports of dripping after finishing

Under $500

Breville BES840XL the Infuser

Low-pressure pre-infusion. Programmable volumetric controls. Stainless steel frothing mug. 1600W thermocoil. Electronic PID temperature control. I could sit here and keep throwing fancy words at you, but let’s talk about the magic that it drips into your demitasse.

The pre-infusion thing sounds like some fancy hippy term, but it has an extremely attractive perk: it expands the grounds for an even pull.

There’s a cup warmer on top of the machine, the extra water is drained from the filter so the clean-up is easy-peasy, and there’s extra-tall cup clearance that accommodates travel mugs.

When you pay dough like this, you’re paying for the quality of the machine, the luxurious features that add completeness to the experience that is called drinking coffee.

PROS

  • check
    Pre-infusion
  • check
    Volumetric controls (size controls)
  • check
    Cup warmer
  • check
    Tall cup clearance
  • check
    61 oz. removable water tank
  • check
    Easy clean up
  • check
    360-degree steam wand
  • check
    Auto-purge function

CONS

  • You have to cough up the cash for models like this
Gaggia 14101 Classic

It’s the morning. You’re groggy. You need caffeine to wake up. The Gaggia Classic is ready for you, in whatever state of half-asleep you’re functioning at.

This model has a ceramic burr grinder and bypass doser so you can dump full or pre-ground beans into this beaut.

The reservoir is located in front for easy removal and hassle-free refill, and the Panarello steam wand has intake holes that siphon air directly into the milk for a frothy, delicious morning treat before taking a step out of your dwelling. 

PROS

  • check
    Frothing wand doubles as water dispenser
  • check
    Can grind whole beans or use pre-ground ones
  • check
    Front-facing reservoir
  • check
    Removable brew group for simple cleaning
  • check
    1-year warranty
  • check
    LCD screen
  • check
    Programmable brewing

CONS

  • Higher price
  • Reports of small reservoir, but there’s no listing for size
Breville Duo Temp Pro Espresso Machine, Stainless Steel

Make dual shots of espresso, froth milk directly from the built-in container, and manually control the volume of the drinks — it’s all included in the Breville Duo Temp Pro Espresso Machine.

With the 61 oz. water reservoir, refilling is far and few between, and the machine heats up in 25 seconds.

It even starts with low pressure to spread the grounds for an even pull on each and every espresso shot. 

PROS

  • check
    Make two shots of espresso simultaneously
  • check
    Built-in frother
  • check
    Stainless steel
  • check
    61-oz. Reservoir
  • check
    Low-pressure start
  • check
    Quick heat up
  • check
    Energy-saving mode after 15 minutes
  • check
    Razor-dose trimmer tool to check grounds level

CONS

  • Pricier, but not as pricey as other models in the category

In Conclusion

Usually, I have a few answers to the final “winner.” It all depends on what you want from the machine. Out of all of these, though, the Mr. Coffee Barista Espresso and Cappuccino Maker rings the truest to me.

It has a great value for what it offers, which includes automatic cleaning and automatic frothing of milk-based drinks.

The largest complaint was that it can be a tad bit loud which I, personally, will happily live with for a barista-quality drink without changing out of my sweatpants. 


Leave a Comment: