Budget espresso machines are one of our favorite subjects: they never fail to surprise us with how packed they are with these cool features and with how innovative they can be. That said, looking for the best budget espresso machine can get you surprised as well.
Knowing what a delicate craft making espresso is, we are convinced that every machine that can be called an espresso machine deserves our respect. In honor of all these little espresso makers and in honor of the values behind making espresso affordable to everyone, here’s Morning Call Coffee Stand’s list of the best budget espresso machines.
#1 Gaggia Classic Pro
The Gaggia Classic Pro is one of the most successful, classy entry-level machines and its performance is often compared to the more expensive Rancilio Silvia. This affordable espresso machine strives to bring you barista-quality espresso and milk-based drinks with a commercial-style wand, group head, and portafilter, and its popularity proves that the machine, in fact, does that way too well.
- Three rocker control buttons
- Three-way solenoid valve
- Commercial steam wand
- Steam dial
- 71-ounce water tank
- Commercial 58mm portafilter
- Commercial group head
Coffee grounds are perfectly dry, not soupy, and espresso extracts on time thanks to the reliable three-way solenoid valve
Super durable, commercial-style components for a commercial-grade espresso
The largest water reservoir on the list for an easier and effortless coffee time
Incredibly intuitive and easy to use with no more than three rocker dials that have indicator lights
Nothing that we consider to be a downside
#2 Gaggia Brera
Compact, affordable, and durable, the semi-automatic Gaggia Brera is a serious suggestion for anyone who is watching their budget and likes espresso. With features that make it absolutely ready to froth and with programmable settings for the coffee, this machine can make you fall in love with coffee over and over again.
- Bean hopper
- Bypass doser
- Programmable coffee strength and volume
- Panarello steam wand
- Rapid steam technology
- Gaggia Adapting System
- Height-adjustable coffee system
- Push button controls
- LED display
Super-automatic, yet affordable, which is amazing because it saves you money and it makes the coffee for you with the tiniest bit of effort on your side
So flexible, that it lets you use whole-bean and pre-ground coffee; never again will your coffee options be limited
Incredible for frothing due to the rapid steam technology that prepares the machine for frothing fast
The grinder adapts to the coffee beans you’re using in the machine to produce better ground coffee
Some consider the water reservoir to be small
#3 Breville the Infuser
The Infuser by Breville is a remarkable entry-level espresso machine that lets you both supervise and have control over the espresso-making process. With this machine, you can customize the coffee dose, play with the temperature of the water, and see what the brew pressure is. The Infuser is, indeed, a great machine to teach you about some basic, but important espresso-making skills. You can also check out the Infuser on our list of best espresso machines under $500.
- 15-Bar pump
- Volumetric control
- Manual override
- PID controller
- Pressure gauge
A 15-bar pump to put the ground coffee under the right pressure for proper espresso extraction
Pre-infusion wets the coffee in the portafilter to improve the extraction even more
The volumetric control and the manual override feature will help you create a shot of espresso in tune with your specific preferences by varying the dose of the ground coffee
Temperature is extremely important for espresso, and the Infuser lets you get some control over it with the adjustable PID temperature controller
You’ll need to buy a grinder, that might be a bit expensive considering the price of the machine
#4 10 Pc EspressoWorks All-In-One Barista Bundle
The one-touch All-In-One espresso machine by EspressoWorks, third on our best espresso machine under $300 list, is everything its name says: a part of an all-in-one bundle that includes the machine, a separate grinder, cups, and more cool things! The bundle is absolutely affordable considering everything that it includes, and it meets a lot of the needs of newbie espresso enthusiasts. When it comes to the espresso-making process, the machine uses a solid 19-Bar pump and an advanced heating system to guarantee a nice espresso extraction even for a machine at this price.
- 19-Bar pump
- Built-in, automatic, and adjustable milk carafe
- Advanced thermoblock heating system
- 47-ounce water tank
- Cup warmer
- Separate grinder included
- Includes two espresso cups, two cappuccino glasses, 16 cappuccino art stencil templates, tamper/scoop
You don’t just get the machine, but also the very necessary grinder and some extra accessories that can be really useful
Milk carafe lets you choose the milk texture to better prepare your coffee drinks
The tank is very large so you can avoid the extra effort spent on refilling the machine
All drinks are available to you the quickest way possible— at the simple touch of a button
Some people find the drinks not to be as hot as they like them to be
#5 Nespresso Vertuo
The Vertuo by Nespresso features a smart design with a beautiful balance between the convenience of a small-sized machine and the effortlessness of the one-touch function. The machine’s automatically adjustable brewing parameters turn the coffee inside every Vertuo capsule into the optimal espresso, Alto, coffee, or Gran Lungo. With the Aeroccino 3 milk frother, every coffee drink becomes part of the milky dimension, and you become part of the group of many satisfied Vertuo users.
- Uses Nespresso coffee capsules
- Five cup sizes
- Centrifusion technology
- Barcode technology
- Comes with the Aeroccino 3 milk frother
- Comes with 12 VertuoLine capsules
- Takes 15-20 seconds to heat up
A one-touch machine for one quick and hot cup of coffee
Small, medium, or large – pick your cup size and enjoy the versatility of the many coffee flavors stored inside Nespresso vertuoLine capsules
The barcode helps the machine brew the coffee exactly the way it should be brewed, guaranteeing its optimal flavor
With the Aeroccino 3 milk frother, milk-based drinks are always a button away from you
Decaf Nespresso capsules might be very expensive
#6 Mr. Coffee Café Barista
The Mr. Coffee Café Barista is an espresso machine that’s very popular, and we can see why. With an automatic frother featuring two milk settings, one for cappuccino and another one for latte, this machine can get you to your two favorite milk drinks in a fast and effortless way. This simple one-touch machine is a good choice for you if you are just getting into coffee and want to see what a semi-automatic espresso machine can do for you. Check it out on our list of best espresso machines under $300.
- 15-Bar pump
- Programmable coffee dose
- Automatic and adjustable milk frother
- Cup warmer
15-Bar pump for proper espresso extraction
You can adjust the dose of the coffee so that the coffee can match your standards for coffee strength
The milk frother is automatic with two settings, which lets you keep it simple, but still get the correct milk texture for the latte or the cappuccino
Pre-heating your cups is easy with the cup warmer on top of the machine
Some people complain that the screw in the portafilter gets loose and falls out, which can be dangerous if it ends up in the coffee
Might be a bit loud
#7 Nespresso by De’Longhi Lattissima Plus
The Lattissima Plus by De’Longhi is a highly-affordable and beloved machine between users who enjoy simplicity, automated milk-based drinks, and the coffee variety that comes with Nespresso capsules. This machine is the home of some interesting features, like a tray that adjusts according to your cup size and the automatic milk carafe, and these features give it a well-deserved spot on this list.
- 3 milk-based and 2 coffee-only drinks
- 19-Bar pump
- Programmable amount of coffee and milk/froth
- Adjustable and automatic milk carafe
- Works with Nespresso Original capsules
- 30-ounce water tank
- Adjustable sliding drip tray
With the Lattissima Plus, there’s a nice choice of five programmable coffee beverages, perfect for variety and simplicity
A 19-Bar pump uses its force to create a nice extraction of the espresso
The automatic milk carafe lets you choose the perfect milk froth for one of the three milk-based drinks available
You get 16 Nespresso Original capsules as a free gift to begin your Nespresso journey with full power
Some people find the milk not to be hot enough and they solve this issue by preheating the milk system
#8 De’Longhi EC155
Compact, affordable, and with all the key elements that one needs to make a nice coffee drink, the De’Longhi EC155 really is a solid choice for a first espresso machine. Its design is relatively simple and so are its features. However, it is a generous machine when it comes to getting that cup of milk-based coffee in your hands faster and with just a few turns on the dial on your side.
- 15-Bar pump
- Two thermostats
- Works with ground coffee and pods
- Swivel jet frother
- Cup warmer
A 15-Bar pump makes sure that your coffee turns into good espresso at the right pressure
The waiting time between brewing and steaming is significantly decreased with the two thermostats in the machine, one for the brew water and the other for the steam
It is great that the EC155 gives you more coffee versatility by being compatible with both ground coffee and pods
The machine is simple and makes things even simpler for you with the self-priming operation that prepares it for making coffee faster
There’s a possibility that your espresso cups might not fit under the machine if they’re more than 2.5 inches tall, so you might want to get proper espresso cups
#9 Sowtech espresso machine
The incredibly simple Sowtech espresso machine costs so little, but has one of the smartest designs on this list. This design lets you get your coffee directly into your cup or into a 4-cup coffee carafe, which is something remarkable to see on a machine that costs as little as the Sowtech espresso machine does. Milk-based drinks are also possible and easy to make with the machine’s steam wand, which, again, is very surprising to see on such an affordable machine.
- 3.5 – Bar pump
- Steam wand
- 1-4 shots of espresso in the same time
- Coffee carafe
- Espresso filter
This is undoubtedly the most affordable machine on this list
A machine that successfully solves the cup accommodation problem that some other espresso machines might have with a carafe designed specifically for this espresso maker
You can also let the espresso extract directly in your cup with the help of the portafilter that comes with the machine
Not only is this machine unique, but it is absolutely compact
Many agree that this a great low-cost espresso machine, but they wish that it was weighted more for more stability
Are E.S.E. pods the same as Nespresso capsules?
No, they are not.
Easy-serve espresso pods or E.S.E. pods are flat little baggies filled with coffee. You put these pods into the E.S.E. pod filter baskets and you lock the portafilter inside the machine to make espresso.
Nespresso capsules, on the other hand, are coffee capsules used by Nespresso machines and Nespresso capsule compatible machines.
Things to consider when buying a budget espresso machine
Durability and materials
Expect many parts on a budget espresso machine to be made of plastic. Some budget espresso machines are advertised as stainless steel, but, in cases like those, it is usually only one part of the machine that is made of stainless steel, like, for example, the drip tray.
The more the machine costs, the better the materials used in its production will be, but there are many exceptions to this rule. The one rule that you should, however, follow is to always do research on the machine that you like and figure out how durable it is. In general, the best budget espresso machines, like the ones on this list, will be durable enough to last you for a few years or more.
Some espresso machines come with automatic milk carafes and others come with steam wands.
Automatic milk carafes are, well, automatic, and they are convenient because they do the frothing for you. Steam wands can be either automatic or manual, and it is the manual ones that will usually allow you to have better control over the frothing.
Milk carafes that are automated are, however, a bit more difficult to clean if they don’t have a self-cleaning feature; we are not saying that they are too hard to clean, but you’ll have to wash them. When it comes to steam wands, you’ll have to purge and wipe them after using them and you will probably need to disassemble them from time to time (if possible) to rinse them under water.
Automatic carafes also usually let you keep the cup in one place on the drip tray because they let the frothed milk go directly in the cup. With steam wands, this is something that is not possible.
Whether you purchase an espresso machine with a steam wand or with an automatic milk carafe is a choice that’s entirely up to you.
Some budget espresso machines might disappoint you with their lack of cup clearance, so, before you buy a machine, know whether your cups will fit under the spouts of the portafilter.
15-Bar pumps are, among other components, what an espresso machine needs to have to actually make an espresso, or, in other words, to properly extract the coffee. You’ll see budget machines with 19-Bar pumps, but, even though these pumps are usually necessary because of the design of some machines, they actually end up providing a pressure of nine or 10 Bars by the time the water reaches the group head, which is the same pressure provided by 15-Bar pumps. Therefore, don’t think that pumps that go higher than 15 Bars are better than 15-Bar pumps.
Features and programmability
Some features that you’ll see on a typical best budget espresso machine are programmable coffee strength, brew temperature, milk amount, milk texture, coffee volume, etc. You’ll also see rapid steam technology, two thermoblocks, and three-way solenoid valves. Many budget machines will also have passive cup warmers, drip trays and water reservoirs accessible from the front, and easy-to-understand control panels.
As you saw, the only machine we didn’t speak a bad word about was the Gaggia Classic Pro. We’re joking, of course, they’re all great, but here’s something we didn’t quite articulate in this article: the Classic Pro stands right on the edge between the best entry-level espresso machines and the more professional ones.
The rest of the budget espresso machines that we talked about are also very impressive, and you might argue that the list should’ve gone in a different order, which is perfectly fine. You have the right to your own valuable opinion, and this opinion is crucial for turning newbie espresso enthusiasts into prosumers. However, we believe that, if not now, you might one day be challenged by the professional features on the Gaggia, and if that day never comes, well, we hope that some other best budget espresso machine on this list wins your heart.