The Complete Guide to Choosing the Best Budget Espresso Machine

As a passionate home barista on a budget, I understand the struggle of finding an affordable espresso machine that can still brew cafe-quality espresso without breaking the bank. Over the years, I‘ve tested my fair share of budget espresso machines to separate the gems from the junk.

In this comprehensive guide based on first-hand experience, I‘ll share everything you need to know to find your perfect budget espresso buddy.

Who Should Buy a Budget Espresso Machine?

Budget espresso machines are a great option for:

  • Beginner home baristas just getting into espresso
  • Espresso enthusiasts on a tight budget
  • College students and young people setting up their first apartment
  • Office and shared workspaces wanting good coffee without a huge expense

The key is having realistic expectations. A sub-$200 espresso machine simply won‘t have the power and precision of a commercial unit costing thousands. But with some savoir faire, these humble machines can produce surprisingly decent espresso that beats Starbucks or your local cafe.

Pros and Cons of Budget Espresso Machines


  • Affordable price point
  • Compact size great for small spaces
  • Allow beginners to learn skills without a huge investment
  • Produce good enough espresso for most casual drinkers


  • Build quality and durability issues
  • Temperature regulation not as precise
  • Require more effort and skill to extract good espresso
  • Small water reservoirs require frequent refilling
  • Lower steam wand power challenges milk frothing

The biggest tradeoff with budget espresso machines is convenience and ease of use for affordability. You‘ll need to put in more effort upfront with dialing in shots, refilling water, and frothing milk. But with some patience, practice and the right techniques, these machines can absolutely produce tasty homemade espresso.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Budget Espresso Machine

Here are the key factors I evaluate when reviewing budget espresso machines:

Type of Machine

There are manual, semi-automatic and automatic budget espresso machines. Manual requires the most effort but gives you the most control. Automatic takes care of nearly everything but offers less customization. Semi-automatic strikes the best balance for beginners.


Look for pump pressure of at least 15 bars, which is the minimum for proper espresso extraction. More pressure is better.

Temperature Control

Having control over water temperature is critical for espresso, though budget machines rarely have precision PID temperature control. Look for multiple brew temperature settings.

Milk Frothing

Entry-level machines often have weak steam wands that struggle producing microfoam. Prioritize machines with hot water frothing if milk drinks are important to you.

Build Quality

Look for stainless steel and metal components over plastic. Removable, dishwasher-safe parts also make cleaning easier.

Water Reservoir Size

Small reservoirs under 30 oz capacity will require frequent filling. Larger is better for convenience.

Ease of Use

Beginner-friendly budget machines have simple controls, while more advanced users may want features like programmable shot volumes.

The Top 10 Budget Espresso Machines

Based on the above criteria after extensive personal testing and research, these are my picks for the 10 best budget espresso machines under $200.

1. DeLonghi EC155

With over 9,000 Amazon reviews and 4+ stars, the DeLonghi EC155 is arguably the most popular budget machine out there.

Key Features:

  • Pump Pressure: 15 bars
  • Manual milk frother
  • Removable water tank and drip tray
  • Multiple brew temperature controls

Why It‘s Great: Time-tested workhorse utilitarian design, easy to use controls and excellent value. Capable of making legitimate espresso.

Downsides: Build quality not as sturdy as more expensive models. Small water reservoir. Frothing wand could be more powerful.

Bottom Line: Tried and true crowd favorite that consistently overdelivers for the price.

2. Mr Coffee Cafe Barista

Most affordable automatic machine with one-touch customization.

Key Features:

  • Fully automatic one-touch operation
  • Customizable drink options
  • Integrated milk reservoir frother
  • Removable milk reservoir and water tank

Why It‘s Great: Ultimate convenience for beginners who don‘t want to fuss with settings. Large removable reservoirs minimize refilling needs.

Downsides: Bulkier footprint. Automatic machines offer less control for experienced baristas. Durability issues over time.

Bottom Line: Best "set it and forget it" budget model ideal for beginners.

3. Calphalon Temp iQ Espresso Machine

Sleek modern design with attractive stainless steel finish.

Key Features:

  • Pre-Infusion mode for optimal flavor extraction
  • 30 oz removable water tank
  • Steam wand frother
  • PID temperature control
  • Temp iQ Technology automatically adjusts water temp

Why It‘s Great: The PID temperature control is exceptional for a budget model. Useful brewing modes and large tank size are added conveniences.

Downsides: Frothing wand could deliver more power and microfoam quality. Some reliability complaints over time.

Bottom Line: Excellent temperature precision in a sharp looking package.

4. Capresso EC100 Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Machine

Compact budget machine great for smaller spaces.

Key Features:

  • Thermoblock heating system requires no warmup time
  • Swivel jet frother for cappuccinos and lattes
  • Removable 46 oz water tank
  • Illuminated control panel buttons

Why It‘s Great: Space saving design with fast heat up makes it fantastic for dorms and offices. Illuminated controls offer visual feedback in low light conditions.

Downsides: Maximum 10 bars of pressure limits espresso quality. Frothing wand could be more powerful.

Bottom Line: Convenient, fast-heating machine perfect to keep around for spur of the moment espresso cravings.

5. Hamilton Beach Espresso Machine with Steam Wand

Most affordable machine with steam wand frothing.

Key Features:

  • 15 bars of pressure
  • Swivel steam wand for frothing
  • Removable water reservoir and drip tray
  • frothing/steaming selector dial

Why It‘s Great: Excellent entry-level budget model with legitimate steam wand frothing capability. Easy to operate and clean.

Downsides: Smaller 24 oz water tank. Lightweight plastic build feels less sturdy. Louder than some models.

Bottom Line: Best budget model for milk frothing on a shoestring budget.

6. Gevi Espresso Machine 20 Bar Semi-Automatic

Feature-packed semi-automatic machine with great specs for the price.

Key Features:

  • Powerful 20 bar Italian pump
  • Fast 25 second heat up time
  • Removable 2L water tank
  • 360 degree swivel steam wand
  • Double wall filter baskets

Why It‘s Great: Rapid 25 second heat up time makes it extremely convenient for quick espresso. Larger water tank is a major plus.

Downsides: Steam wand could still use more power. Double spout portafilter can cause channeling issues.

Bottom Line: Lightning fast heat up highlights an otherwise capable budget semi-automatic.

7. SOWTECH Espresso Machine 3.5 Bar

Most affordable steam wand machine good for beginners.

Key Features:

  • Easy one-touch operation
  • Steam wand frother
  • Removable drip tray
  • Permanent filter
  • 900W heating power

Why It‘s Great: Extremely easy to operate simple dial controls. Brews directly into glass carafe. Excellent starter machine for newbies.

Downsides: Low 3.5 bar pressure limits espresso quality. Materials feel lightweight and cheap. Small water reservoir.

Bottom Line: Affordable way for beginners to practice and understand basics without huge investment.

8. Mueller Espresso Machine for Nespresso Compatible Capsules

No need to buy whole bean espresso if you enjoy Nespresso-style capsule convenience.

Key Features:

  • Designed for Nespresso OriginalLine capsules
  • 19 bars of pump pressure
  • 25-second heat up
  • Removable 1L tank
  • Slide-out drip tray

Why It‘s Great: Perfect for Nespresso fans looking to migrate from original Nespresso machines. Uses standard capsules available nearly everywhere.

Downsides: Restricted to only Nespresso OriginalLine capsules. No option to use fresh whole bean.

Bottom Line: Convenient capsule-based system utilizing widely available capsules.

9. Mixpresso Espresso Machine for Nespresso and Ground Coffee

Best of both worlds with fresh grounds and Nespresso pod brewing capability.

Key Features:

  • Pressure pump system adapts between 7-20 bars of pressure
  • Use Nespresso capsules or fresh ground coffee
  • Slide-out capsule holder for single/double shot capsules
  • Removable water tank and drip tray

Why It‘s Great: Choose on the spot between fresh ground and convenient Nespresso capsule espresso. Ideal transitional machine away from pod dependency.

Downsides: Moving parts increase maintenance needs. Capsule perforating spikes require replacement over time.

Bottom Line: Perfect "bridge" machine for Nespresso drinkers looking to occasionally enjoy fresh beans too.

10. Espressoworks Espresso Machine Barista Bundle Set

Complete espresso starter package with all the accessories.

Key Features:

  • 15 bars of pressure
  • Steam wand frother
  • Portafilter, tamper, measuring scoop
  • Milk frothing pitcher included
  • Pod and ground coffee filter basket

Why It‘s Great: Comes with everything needed to start making espresso and milk drinks. Accessory quality exceeds typical budget packages.

Downsides: Espresso machine itself lacks standout specs or features compared to alternatives.

Bottom Line: Ideal one-stop shop bundle for new espresso enthusiasts.

Budget Espresso Machine Buying Guide

Beyond the top picks above, keep these essential tips in mind when choosing any budget espresso machine:

Consider Semi-Automatics For Best Control

Semi-automatic machines give experienced home baristas sufficient control over the process without the full manual workload. This allows optimizing variables that automatic machines handle for you.

Inspect Build Quality And Materials

Look for stainless steel components where possible instead of plastic. Check that reservoirs, portafilters and trays feel solid and sturdy when handled. These are weak points on budget machines.

Size Matters

Consider available counter space or storage room when choosing a model. Removable water reservoirs that you can easily refill at the sink are also hugely helpful.

Heat Up Time Makes A Difference

Machines that heat in under a minute are extremely convenient for brewing spontaneous espresso. Slow warm up times over 3 minutes quickly become frustrating.

Milk Frothing Challenges

Be realistic about expectations for frothing microfoam with budget steam wands. Opt for hot water frothing models if milk drinks will be your main use case.

Start With Pre-Ground Espresso

Dialing in a proper espresso grind requires equipment and skill beginners likely don‘t have. Use pre-ground espresso first while learning before upgrading to a burr grinder and fresh beans.

Clean Often

To extend any budget machine‘s lifespan, stay diligent about cleaning and maintenance. Descale regularly, empty trays, wipe surfaces and store properly.

Get The Most From A Budget Espresso Machine

Here are my top tips for maximizing results from affordable espresso machines:

  • Use the pressurized filter baskets included with budget machines. This helps optimize extraction quality at lower pressures compared to commercial machines.

  • Only attempt milk frothing with cold fresh whole milk. Non-dairy and alternative milks usually won‘t froth well in budget steam wands.

  • Buy a kitchen scale to carefully dose ground coffee amounts. Consistent dosing is key to balanced flavor extraction.

  • Upgrade to a quality burr grinder whenever possible. Fresh grinding makes a huge difference in espresso quality, even on budget machines.

  • Descale monthly using citric acid or vinegar solutions to prevent mineral buildup which can damage components over time.

  • Let machines fully heat up before pulling shots or frothing milk. Pulling successive shots too quickly can lead to weak, watery espresso.

  • Experiment with tamping pressure when using fresh ground coffee. Heavier tamping creates resistance for the water to work against, improving extraction.

Common Budget Espresso Machine Mistakes To Avoid

It‘s easy to get frustrated with lackluster results when first using affordable espresso machines. Based on lots of trial and error, here are the most common mistakes I see people make:

  • Not filling the portafilter basket enough before tamping
  • Inconsistent amounts of coffee in portafilter between shots
  • Tamping with inadequate or excessive pressure
  • Attempting to froth non-dairy and alternative milks
  • Not fully tightening portafilter into group head before pulling shots
  • Pulling shots before machine has fully heated
  • Using low quality pre-ground coffee instead of fresh beans
  • Ignoring descaling needs allowing mineral buildup
  • Not cleaning milk residue after frothing leading to clogs

Following the tips in this guide will help avoid these common pitfalls. Patience through the learning curve is key to success with budget espresso machines.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the minimum bar pressure needed for decent espresso?

I recommend looking for machines with at least 15 bars of pressure. 9 bars is technically enough, but more pressure allows some margin of error for budget models.

Do budget espresso machines require special filters or accessories?

Most will include pressurized filter baskets made specifically for lower pressure extraction. Optionally using a coffee distributor tool and tamping mat can help optimize the process.

How fine should coffee grounds be for budget espresso machines?

Using a proper espresso grind is still best, but affordable burr grinders to achieve that fine grind can cost more than budget machines themselves! Pre-ground espresso is an acceptable starting point.

How long should a budget espresso machine realistically last?

With regular cleaning and maintenance, budget models should reliably last 2-3 years on average. Paying more upfront typically gets you 5+ years of service life.

Are budget espresso machines able to make legitimate milk froth foam?

Milk drink quality is the biggest sacrifice made on entry-level machines. Hot water frothing models have an advantage over mediocre steam wands. Expect a learning curve finding what froths best.

Enjoy Your New Budget Espresso Machine!

I hope this guide gives you confidence choosing an affordable at-home espresso machine tailored exactly for your needs and expectations.

While they require some patience and practice, budget espresso makers can be capable little workhorses perfect for home barsitas on a budget. Put in effort upfront getting to know your new machine, embrace some trial and error, and you‘ll be crafting delicious espresso creations in no time!

Let me know if you have any other questions – happy brewing!

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