The 6 Best Espresso Machines Under $500- Review & Guideline
Finding an espresso maker that fits your needs and your budget can feel like an enormous task. There are so many aspects that go into a good cup of espresso that sometimes we may be tempted to leave it up to the professionals. But rest assured, once you find an espresso machine that works for you, you will never go back. In fact, you may even be able to make espresso drinks that are better than those at your local coffee shop. And when you add up the costs of all those fancy drinks or shots of espresso, finding the best espresso machine under $500 will save you money and pay for itself in no time.
When looking for an espresso machine, perhaps the most intimidating factor is the terminology. The average homebrewer may not know exactly what they need in an espresso maker. The search can seem overwhelming, the prices can seem high, and the reviews can start to run together. This article will help you differentiate between machines and help you to find the best espresso machine under $500.
Here are a few things you should consider before beginning your search:
- What is the ease of operation? Different machines can require different steps and amounts of effort to brew your cup of espresso. Your preference towards simplicity or a machine with a lot of bells and whistles will help you to determine which machine is right for you. When looking at the best espresso machines under $500, you will see a multitude of machines that will fit your needs.
- Is there any necessary additional equipment you will need to purchase? Extra equipment may be needed such as a coffee grinder, tamper, milk steamer, and cleaning accessories.
- How much counter space are you willing to allocate to your new machine? The size of home espresso machines can vary greatly, with some machines being compact and small, while others (particularly those with built-in grinders) are very large.
- What is your budget? You don’t need to spend a fortune to create delicious espresso drinks from the comfort of your own home. Many factors besides the machine play an important role in the perfect cup of These include bean quality and freshness, and grind consistency. While even the lower priced, entry-level machines create a quality cup of espresso, the pricier the unit, the better materials, style, and features you will gain. While we’ve rounded up the best espresso machines under $500, you may spend more or less depending on the features we will discuss.
You will generally find two different types of the machine when looking for home espresso makers. These machines are semi-automatic espresso makers and super-automatic espresso makers. Both types offer different capabilities, pros, and cons. The first step in finding the perfect espresso maker is to decide whether semi-automatic or super-automatic fits your needs better.
Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine:
The most common type of home espresso machine is the semi-automatic. This machine features an electric brewing pump which is turned on and off by the user. While these machines are pretty simple to operate, they require more manual interaction from the user than super-automatic machines.
Semi-automatic machines do not have a built-in coffee grinder, and therefore require the additional purchase of a grinder. This is something to keep in mind when comparing prices between semi-automatic and super-automatic machines. A good grinder can cost upwards of $300 extra. A separate grinder does offer more flexibility. However, as many separate grinders feature multiple grind settings, while super-automatic grinders typically do not.
Because the grinder is not built into semi-automatic machines, the process of grinding, tamping, and extracting espresso can be messier. Also, these variables will also require a bit of practice and experimentation with grind and tamp pressure in order to create the perfect cup of espresso for you.
Once you get the hang of using this machine, you can create an authentic espresso with a beautifully thick crema at home.
Semi-automatic machines are simpler than super-automatic machines. They don’t have the extra circuit boards or internal mechanisms required of a machine with a built-in grinder.
Why Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine:
Because the grinder is not built into semi-automatic machines, the process of grinding, tamping, and extracting espresso can be messier, and these variables will also require a bit of practice and experimentation with grind and tamp pressure in order to create the perfect cup of espresso for you. Once you get the hang of using this machine, however, you can create an authentic espresso with a beautifully thick crema right in your own home.
Semi-automatic machines tend to be more simple than super-automatic machines, as they don’t have the extra circuit boards or internal mechanisms required of a machine with a built-in grinder.
Super-Automatic Espresso Machine:
Super-automatic espresso machines are very easy to use and require little to no practice or skill. When using a super-automatic espresso machine, you simply fill up the water and coffee beans, press a button, and let the machine do the rest of the work for you. These machines contain a built-in coffee grinder that automatically grinds the coffee. The machine then fills, tamps, and brews your espresso for you, eliminating the hassle and mess that comes with a semi-automatic machine. Once your espresso is brewed, the machine dumps the grounds into an internal waste container. This whole process typically takes about 2 minutes to complete. It is comparable, or even faster, then what is possible with a semi-automatic machine. Most of these machines will also steam milk to use in espresso drinks.
As with the semi-automatic espresso machines, quality of the espresso depends on the quality of the beans used. However, a super-automatic espresso machine ensures freshly ground beans every time. Some super-automatic espresso machines do not produce an espresso as thick or creamy as a semi-automatic machine.
This could be because the super-automatic machine does not allow for experimentation or customization as a semi-automatic does. While flexibility can sometimes be limited, each super-automatic machine will have different features and adjustments, and these should be considered when comparing models.
Ease of Use
A super-automatic espresso maker should be considered if you are looking to create espresso drinks, rather than make the best shot of espresso you can. These machines are good for beginners and for those who are on a budget and do not desire to buy a separate grinder. While results from a super-automatic machine may not be as good as the results from a semi-automatic machine, a good quality coffee can still be enjoyed.
Super-automatic machines are more complicated internally than semi-automatic machines and typically rely on computer boards within the machine. This added technology can be both a pro and a con, as it removes the manual interaction for the user, but allows for more technological mishaps.
It is important to consider all of these variables and keep them in mind as you compare the best espresso machines under $500 below.
The Breville BES840XL: The Infuser Espresso Machine
The Infuser is Breville’s mid-priced option. While it is not the most expensive espresso maker Breville offers, it does have many of the features that home-brewers are looking for. It is a semi-automatic machine, meaning that it is relatively easy to use and will consistently produce some great quality coffee (depending, of course, on the beans you use). This also means that a grinder is not included with the machine and you may want to consider this additional purchase.
This machine features a 1600w stainless steel Thermocoil which helps to control water temperature, meaning your espresso grounds won’t get scorched by any too-hot water. The 15 bar pump is typical in a machine of this quality and provides consistent pressure to extract high-quality espresso shots.
A key feature that this machine offers is pre-infusion. But what exactly is pre-infusion? It is the process of saturating the coffee grounds (under low pressure so as not to extract any espresso) before actual extraction begins. Pre-infusion helps with the distribution of the espresso grounds, allowing insurance against inconsistencies due to air channels or pockets. This ensures that water will be passed through all of the grounds evenly, creating a higher quality extraction and a more balanced flavor. Typically, pre-infusion takes only 7 seconds longer than a normal espresso extraction, so it won’t slow down the process.
The Breville Infuser has a single boiler for both the espresso extractor and the steam wand, meaning you will need to switch dial in order to select which part of the machine you would like to heat. This is something to consider if you plan to make a large number of drinks, as it will take longer to switch between extracting espresso and steaming milk, and you will be unable to both steam milk and brew espresso at the same time.
Accessories included with the purchase of this machine are two filter baskets (single & dual wall), 1 coffee scoop, 1 stainless steel jug used to steam milk, a cleaning disc & tablets, 1 cleaning tool, and a water filter with holder.
- This machine may not be good for a large volume of espresso drinks.
- Users claim the machine doesn’t have great longevity and needs repairs after the first few years of continuous use.
- Steam wand takes about a minute to produce drinking-temperature milk, reducing speed in which cafe drinks can be made.
- The built-in coffee tamper is very light, which may not produce the right amount of weight to consistently tamp the grounds. An additional tamper may need to be purchased.
The Gaggia 14101 Classic Espresso Machine
Gaggia is a well-known and trusted Italian manufacturer, and this machine lives up to the standards the company has become so well known for. While the warranty is much shorter than many other machines on this list at only 30 days long, this espresso maker tends to last longer than its similarly priced counterparts, and the quality and reputation of the company speak volumes for its products.
The Gaggia Classic is a semi-automatic espresso maker, and the user will need to switch between espresso extraction and milk steaming each time they brew coffee. Users have complemented the milk steamer, claiming that it creates frothy, quality foam and that the foam head is a good ways off the counter in order to fit large milk pitcher’s underneath. If you’re making a large number of drinks, steaming enough milk for a few drinks at a time is definitely an added bonus.
This machine comes with three filter baskets, allowing you to choose the perfect amount of espresso each and every time you brew. The filter baskets include a single shot, double shot, and pod basket. The pod basket allows you to use espresso pods, which are more convenient and less messy than using espresso grounds. This product also includes a tamper, a measuring scoop, and an instructional CD. Users have mentioned that the tamper is poor quality, so you may want to consider investing in a new, heavier duty one.
The water reservoir on the Gaggia 14101 Classic Espresso Machine is one of the most impressive on this list (holding 72 oz of water at a time), meaning you will spend less time refilling the reservoir and more time enjoying your espresso. This product also has a traditional 5-cup cup warmer, allowing you to pour your espresso into a pre-warmed cup, which helps to control the temperature of your drink.
Finally, the Gaggia Classic’s group head filters and brewing groups are made of heavy-duty chrome plated brass. This, too, helps maintain the stability of the espresso temperature, unlike other espresso machines in this price range which cannot always provide consistent temperatures of espresso.
While not the flashiest of options on this list, the Gaggia Classic is sturdy and durable, made of stainless steel and high-quality components.
The Saeco HD8645/47 X-Small Vapore Espresso Machine
This machine is designed specifically with homebrewers in mind, as it is easy to use and small enough to fit on your countertop without taking up too much space. While the user interfaces of super-automatic machines can sometimes be complicated, this machine has an easy to use interface that beginner brewers are sure to understand.
Ease of Use
Unlike the previous two machines listed, the X-Small Vapore is a super automatic, meaning you simply pour in whole beans and let the machine do the grinding and brewing for you. This machine has a built-in quality ceramic grinder and 5 grinder settings to create a perfect, customizable cup of coffee. The ceramic grinders won’t overheat, meaning your beans are safe from being burnt or scorched as they are being ground. It also grinds the beans to order, so you can be sure you will always have the freshest grounds to create the best espresso possible. The X-Small Vapore also has a milk frother, so you can create cafe drinks in no time at all, with much less effort than a semi-automatic machine requires.
The brew group, which is the portion of the machine that grinds, tamps, and brews, is easily removable so you can keep it sparkling clean, ensuring a spectacular cup of coffee every time. The coffee circuit automatically cleans itself upon being turned on or off, so your coffee will taste fresh every time you brew it.
There is a low clearance under the espresso dispenser of 3.7 inches. The users have complained that they are not able to use tall cups with the machine. This may not be an issue, however, as you can always transfer the brewed espresso to a larger cup once extracted, though it does require an extra step. If you are busy and are looking for a quick drink on the go, consider the extra time this may take.
- The machine grinds coffee beans for fresh use each time, meaning your coffee will taste fresh and delicious each day.
- The featured ceramic grinders don’t overheat, so your coffee beans won’t get burnt. The taste will be great every time you brew.
- The product’s sleek design and easy to use interface look stunning on any home brewer’s counter.
- The product’s milk frother creates a creamy and delicious foam.
- The product is easy to clean, as the brew group is removable with one click. The coffee circuit is automatically cleaned upon powering the machine on or off.
- There is a low clearance under the espresso dispenser.
- This machine is slightly noisier than its similarly priced counterparts.
- This product is only available in one color (black) which may not suit everybody’s tastes.
- While the product does allow for some customization, it will not allow for personalization at the same level that a semi-automatic espresso machine does.
The Breville ESP8XL Cafe Roma Stainless Espresso Maker
One of the less expensive espresso makers on this list, the Breville ESP8XL Cafe Roma espresso maker still makes quality drinks for you to enjoy daily. It is also one of the more compact machines on this list. You will have plenty of room on your counter or at your coffee station, even while displaying your new machine.
Though this machine is small. It delivers the complex flavors you can find in quality espressos made with larger, more expensive machines.
This machine is jam-packed full of features and has a warming tray for your espresso cups, a 40 oz removable water reservoir, a dual-wall filter system to help create excellent crema, and a steam wand with a froth enhancer. The removable water reservoir has a window. It allows you to see water levels without removing the container, which is a convenient feature many similar machines lack. The Breville Cafe Roma also includes a stainless steel frothing pitcher, a tamper, a measuring spoon, and a cleaning tool. Two filters are included as well.
Easy to Clean
A removable drip tray helps alleviate messes and catches any drops that may fall before you place your cup on the tray or after the espresso is extracted and you remove your cup from the tray. An added bonus with this machine is that the drip tray extends under the steam wand. So any drips from frothing your milk can be caught and easily cleaned up later.
The stainless-steel espresso machine looks sleek and high-quality on the outside, but the inside is just as good. The Breville Cafe Roma uses a 15 bar thermoblock pump to extract espresso. This thermoblock pump takes water from the reservoir and heats it quickly. Also, it means you don’t have to wait as long to make your espresso or steam your milk. Because this machine is semi-automatic and you will have to flip a switch depending on whether you are steaming milk or extracting espresso. But the thermoblock technology ensures that this won’t take long. The drawback to the thermoblock technology is that your temperature for steaming milk. Brewing espresso may not always be consistent. Hence the user complaints that this machine occasionally does n’t make hot enough beverages.
- The Breville Cafe Roma creates 15-bar pressure, which allows for a quality espresso flavor each time you brew.
- The easy and intuitive design is a great feature for beginning espresso makers
- Dual-wall filter allows for espresso and froth to be made easily
- Stainless steel design ensures easy cleaning
- Once a user finds a stamping process that works for them, the flavor and crema produced by this machine are exceptional.
- This product is very affordable, while still offering a quality brew.
- Users claim that the filter clogs easily, particularly if the espresso is not ground to a fine enough consistency. This won’t be an issue unless you use regular coffee grounds or don’t grind your coffee fine enough.
- There may be an inconsistent temperature with the steamed milk or espresso.
- A coffee grinder will need to be an additional purchase, as this machine does not come with one.
The De’Longhi EC680 Dedica 15-Bar Pump Espresso Machine
The 1300w De’Longhi EC680 Dedica stands out from the other machines on this list. As it is much smaller and more compact, it still maintains the same features that many of the other espresso makers have in its range. The sleek stainless steel design of this espresso maker will have you wanting to show it off on your counter. Since it is so compact (taking up only 6 inches of counter space). You will still have plenty of room for your other appliances.
Another machine containing thermoblock technology. But this espresso maker should heat up to the ideal temperature for espresso extraction in about 40 seconds. Because it is semi-automatic and you will have to flip a switch to steam milk. This will again take a little while to heat up before use. Once the milk steamer is heated, it provides a barista quality foam and doubles as a hot water spout for tea or Americanos.
Automatic Flow Stop Feature
With the De’LonghiDedica, you are able to brew the perfect espresso thanks to the automatic flow stop feature. This delivers either single or double espresso shots.
The three-in-one filter can also accommodate espresso pods. Though this machine is small, it features a 15-Bar Pressure that helps create a thick and foamy crema. There is even a convenient cup warmer on the top of this machine, though it only fits about 2 cups at a time.
A built-in alarm will let you know when it is time to clean your machine. The machine will automatically go to standby mode after a certain period of inactivity. This product also provides a coffee scoop, a tamper, a 3-in-1 filter holder, descaling fluid, and a quick-start guide.
Users have claimed that they have experienced clogs with the De’LonghiDedica, particularly when extra-fine coffee grounds are used. They also claim that the machine doesn’t brew light roasts as well as it brews other premium products.
- Consider a different machine if you are looking for volume, as this machine can overheat and become clogged.
- This machine does not have as many settings available to customize your brand is a basic model.
- The tamper included with the machine is low quality, and you may want to consider buying a higher quality one.
- Some users felt the steam wand wasn’t long enough to foam milk.
- The machine only makes 2 oz shots. You will have to extract more than one shot if you desire more espresso.
The Philips SAECO RI9737/21 Vienna Plus Automatic Espresso Machine
The 1250w Saeco Vienna Plus has an adjustable conical burr grinder that is not only durable but doesn’t require any special care. Similar to many others on this list, the pump is a 15-bar pump. Along with the espresso maker, you will receive a cleaning brush and instruction booklet.
This machine is another super-automatic. So all you have to do is press a button and the machine will grind, tamp, and brew your espresso as well as dispose of the espresso puck (the ground remnants) after brewing. Within the machine is a 15-puck capacity dreg drawer, meaning you only have to empty the drawer every 15 uses. You can adjust the amount of espresso you would like, from 1 oz to 8 oz.
Like the Breville Infuser, the optional pre-brewing cycle injects hot water into the coffee grounds to maximize flavor. It ensures a consistent extraction. If you would like to personalize your espresso further. You can adjust the dose of espresso grounds used per cup anywhere from 6 to 9 grams. Other machines with this dose technology are much more expensive than the Saeco Vienna Plus.
Easy to Clean
The Saeco Vienna Plus features a removable 57-ounce water tank; stainless-steel boiler; and a pannarello steam wand that lets you froth your milk perfectly. The removable parts of the steaming wand make it convenient to clean. Which is a great feature as steamed milk needs to be cleaned off immediately and can be quite messy. The steam wand also doubles as a hot water dispenser if you desire to make drinks such as tea or Americanos.