Nothing chases away the cobwebs of sleep or a recurring nightmare of having bees for teeth like a good cup of morning coffee. If you fancy yourself as a caffeine connoisseur or feel like instant coffee doesn’t quite cut it, then you should consider investing in a home espresso machine. Getting the best barista-quality coffee in your home doesn’t have to break the bank, especially with our list of the best espresso machines for under $500.
Brewing coffee beans can be an enjoyable and even artistic skill to learn, but many things can determine the difference between a perfect cup and a silt-heavy brown mess. Knowing what you want out of your coffee maker machine is key. Fortunately, there are many different options and features across all the espresso machines on our list, so you can make the best choice and start every morning with the latte, espresso, and cappuccino of your dreams.
View The Best Espresso Machine Under 500 Below
1. De’Longhi EC155 Espresso Machine
The De’Longhi EC115 is a diverse and compact little espresso machine. It’s one of the best espresso machines for those who want to take their first steps towards becoming a home barista. You have the option of using either pods or grounds to make your espresso. Using espresso pods is ideal if you’re in a hurry, and thanks to the self-priming start-up function, there’s no waiting around for the EC155 espresso machine to heat up.
If you’ve got time to put the personal touch in, though, you can tamp your ground beans into the easy-clean filter and adjust the water and stream pressures to get the perfect espresso taste. With the 15-bar pressure rating, you can extract even more flavor from your grounds for a great espresso. The external milk frother and the steam wand will allow you to practice getting a silky-smooth texture for cappuccinos and lattes that will have your friends and family calling round for a De’longhi brew almost daily.
+ Highly adjustable and versatile.
+ Real Italian espresso.
+ Easy to clean and dishwasher machine safe components.
Why We Liked It – There’s a reason why we have this espresso machine the best. We love the fact that you can use grounds, or even pods if you’re in a rush, to make your coffees. This is a great versatile machine.
2. Breville BES870B5XL Barista Express
What’s better than freshly brewed coffee? Fresh coffee beans! The Barista Express espresso machine has a built-in burr grinder that dumps your fresh grounds directly into the filter. This ensures you capture all the flavor and density of your beans in every cup. You can adjust the size and amount of grounds that get dumped and tamp it to your desired density. Then all you have to do is let the water flow. The Barista Express espresso machine uses an automatic temperature control to ensure you never burn your beans and get the best roast every time.
The 9-bar pressure rating is lower than some of the other espresso machines on our list, but higher doesn’t necessarily mean better. By using pre-infusion technology, the Barista Express espresso machine uses a lower pressure rating to ensure even coverage of your grounds that extracts even more flavor into your espresso. The external steam wand comes pre-set with the best stream pressure for delicious micro-foam froth that, when combined with your rich espresso, makes for a truly magnificent cup of coffee. The Barista Express machine may earn you some of the best espressos around.
+ Built-in grinder for minimal mess.
+ Freshly ground beans for the best flavor.
+ Pre-set pressure ratings for those who are less experienced with espresso machines.
Why We Like It – We particularly love the automatic temperature control on this premium device. Who wants burned coffee beans? Yuck!
3. Breville Nespresso USA essenza mini espresso machine
The Nespresso USA espresso machine is one of the best beginner and easy to use coffee machines on our list. The lack of any milk frother means this machine can operate and produce rich espresso with only a single touch. Simply insert an espresso pod, choose from either the espresso or lungo sizes, and the Nespresso USA does the rest. With its 19-bar pressure rating and super-fast heating time, this compact machine is best for espresso enthusiasts who are on the go and need a quick caffeine boost to help them power through their day.
It also features an easy to use power-saving eco-mode, ensuring that you keep your home energy cost low, even if your bodily energy is high from all the espresso! Purchasing an additional milk frother machine or device is necessary if you want to enjoy a broader range of espresso-based hot drinks, such as lattes or cappuccinos. There are tons of options and methods available. The most important part of any cup of coffee is the espresso itself, and Nespresso USA Essenza Mini Espresso machine takes care of it all for you.
+ Easy one-touch usage
+ Compact and portable use.
+ It comes with up to 16 complimentary espresso pods.
Why We Liked It – This machine is, perhaps, one of the best for beginners. You don’t have to worry about anything – make good drinks with a simple push of a button. Once you up your game, you can purchase a milk frother to make a whole range of drinks!
4. Keurig K-Cafe Coffee Maker.
If you’re someone who likes to have people round for a brew, then the Keurig K-Cafe should pique your interest. It has a 6-cup capacity water tank reservoir, meaning that you can create a full round of hot and cold beverages without needing to refill. What those beverages are is up to you!
With an incredible four sizes to choose from and a stronger brew feature, this machine can offer you and your guests a massive range of drinks. The automated milk frother makes preparing multiple cups even easier as it heats your milk to the perfect temperature – whether it’s skimmed milk or dairy-free – with a single press of a button.
The frothing jug even comes with guide markings for each beverage amount to ensure minimal waste. Its fully washing machine safe so you can spend less time cleaning and more time with your guests. It even features a maintenance reminder to ensure your filters stay clear, and your coffee always tastes great.
Keurig does stress that this machine only uses K-cup pods, and these are only deemed as espresso-style beverages. However, if you want real espresso, you can use the K-cup reusable filter to brew your own choice of ground coffee.
+ Wide and diverse range of drinks
+ Automatic milk frother for those intimidated by steam wands.
+ Massive water tank reservoir capacity.
Why We Liked It – We love the fact that you can create such a wide and diverse range of drinks with this machine. It’s perfect if you can never stick to just one.
5. Breville BES880BSS Barista Touch Espresso Maker
This espresso machine is the only one on our list of espresso makers that features a truly innovative touch and swipe screen display. The easy to use digital interface allows you to use specified options to fully customize your drink before it has begun to brew and lets you save the settings required to make your best ever cup of espresso.
The Barista Touch espresso maker combines technological interfacing with the best of your hands-on barista skills. The built-in burr grinder dumps the optimal amount of your grounds straight into the filter for mess-free tamping. You can then select the intensity of your brew, and the Thermojet heating system will have the best of gorgeous espresso flowing into your cup in seconds.
The external steam wand is adjustable in temperature and pressure so you can get the best, silky consistency to make lattes smoother than butter (we don’t recommend putting butter in your lattes though). The Barista touch espresso machine is made from stainless steel, and its elegant design brings a look of professionalism to your kitchen or wherever you want to get brewing. The Barista touch will give you a real touch of barista and help you make the perfect espresso.
+ Saveable espresso machine settings for personalized drink consistency.
+ It gives you the ability to be as hands-on or automated as you feel like.
+ It’s an excellent choice for those who want to practice latte-art.
Why We Liked It – This lovely, stainless steel design looks so professional. It’ll be a great addition to your kitchen and your morning routine.
6. Mr. Coffee Espresso and Cappuccino maker
The Mr. Coffee brand claims this to be one of the fastest prepping and best espresso machines in their line of products. With a 15-bar pressure rating, this machine can produce real espresso with one touch of your selected brew. Simply fill and tamp the filter with your favorite coffee grounds and choose from single espresso or double shot espresso. The Mr. Coffee machine uses a milk reservoir, meaning your desired level of frothing can be easily set using a single dial gauge.
No need to tangle with a steam wand or milk frother, as the Mr. Coffee machine does all your frothing for you with the best crema results. Cleaning is a breeze as the reservoir is fully removable, and the frothing tube is easily wiped down, which you will need to do between uses to keep that cafe-quality taste in every cup. The Mr. Coffee machine doesn’t offer quite as much in terms of drink versatility as other espresso machines, but for those who are keen on their lattes and cappuccinos, it might be the best espresso machine to invest in.
+ Automatic milk frothing and adjustable gauge.
+ One-touch coffee production.
+ Easy clean.
Why We Liked It – We love the included milk reservoir. You don’t have to bother with frothing, as this machine does it all for you. Those cappuccinos will be effortless to make.
7. Breville ESP8XL Cafe Roma Espresso Maker.
The Cafe Roma espresso maker is what might be considered a standard-issue home espresso machine. It doesn’t go for much in the way of extra, fancy features like some espresso makers, but what it does do is concentrate on nailing the basics to the best of its ability. A 15-bar pump runs through an internal dual-wall filter to ensure a rich and enhanced espresso froth is produced. It doesn’t offer any steaming customization for your grounds. Instead, it provides an excellent all-rounder espresso to cater to all tastes, allowing you to tweak the customization through your own barista skills.
It comes with everything you need, including a filter, tamping tool, milk pitcher, and cleaning tool to keep it in the best working order. The removable drip tray and ground catcher is removable for easy cleaning and even warms cups during brewing to ensure your espresso stays hotter for longer. A 1.2 liter water tank means you can make coffee for many people at once or simply practice those barista skills over and over with this delightful espresso and cappuccino maker.
+ An easy to use, real espresso machine.
+ This is the best espresso machine for barista beginners.
+ It comes with a cup warmer and a drip tray.
Why We Liked It – This is a no-nonsense all-rounder espresso machine that comes with everything you need. Brewing has never been easier.
8. Ninja Specialty fold-away frother coffee machine (CM401)
No other home espresso maker looks quite the Ninja Specialty CM401. Versatility is paramount with this machine as it offers six different drink sizes and a wide range of hot and cold beverages. This is the only espresso machine on our list that comes with either a glass or thermal carafe for huge batches of rich and delicious coffee for multiple cups. It uses your selected coffee grounds and gives them a full and even saturation in the filter basket.
The specialty brew setting transforms your filter coffee into a dense and rich flavor that can be used to create espresso-style drinks such as lattes, americanos, and cappuccinos. A unique feature of the CM401 machine is the fold away milk frother. While the technique for frothing milk is essentially the same as any other steam wand, the fold-away wand keeps the CM401 machine compact and delivers wonderfully smooth milk and froth with ease.
Some experimentation may be required at first to figure out your preferences from the wide range settings available. By specification, this is a coffee maker, not an espresso machine, as no pressure is used in the extraction process. However, it’s more than capable of producing rich and dense flavors than can hold up against real espresso.
+ Espresso machine offers the widest range of brew sizes, from a single cup to a full carafe.
+ There’s a wide versatility of hot and cold drinks.
+ The fold-away frother is unique and works well.
Why We Liked It – We love the versatility of this machine. Don’t just stick to hot drinks; you can make cold beverages too. We also love the fact that it comes with a carafe. Make as many espressos as you like without worrying about running out!
Espresso Machine Under 500 Buyer’s Guide
Knowing which coffee or espresso machines are best for you can be difficult unless you know what you’re expecting from your machine. To start with, there are different types of brewers than require different amounts of user input, and you should consider how much time or manual use you want to be spending each time you want a cup of coffee.
Next, you should consider what your preferred types of coffee are. For example, if you are an espresso fiend, do you need an espresso machine that froths milk if you’re unlikely to use that feature? Our buyer’s guide will break down the elements you need to know to figure out how to make the best espresso and get the most out of your caffeine companion.
Types of Machine
Pump / Bar pressure Machine- Espresso is made by pushing high-pressure steam or hot water through a filter of coffee grounds to extract the flavor from them as a dark and rich liquid. The amount of pressure and how tightly the coffee is packed in or ‘tamped’ can greatly alter the taste and quality of the finished cup of coffee. Pump or bar pressure espresso machines are widely considered to be the best for getting coffee-shop quality beverages, as this is the most commonly the method they use.
It also offers the most amount of personalizing and experimentation when creating your drinks. This also means, however, that more things can go wrong during the brewing process. Some baristas can take months, even years, to find the best combination of factors to create a quality coffee. If you are considering buying a pump, or you’re looking at bar pressure espresso machines, you need to be aware that the overall brewing process often takes longer than say, a pod or filter machine. The bar pressuring rating of your machine will play a large part in determining the level of flavor extraction and tends to vary between a rating of 9 and 15.
In addition, you should consider how much time you want to spend preparing the other elements of your drinks. Traditionally, cappuccino and latte milk is prepared using a steam or frothing wand. Some pump and bar pressure machines offer features that do this automatically for you, but if your machine does not, then you will have to learn the technique for milk frothing. Pump and bar pressure machines are often the best when it comes to the finished product, but they usually require the most amount of cleaning and upkeep. They are best for those who want to take time and pride in their coffee making.
Pod Machine – Many quick use espresso machines use a small concentrated capsule called a pod to make their espresso. These are usually available at most shopping outlets and normally offer a range of flavors and strengths. This is by far the easiest way to brew coffee as it creates very little mess, and most machines will brew them automatically at the touch of a button. The downside is that pod espresso machines are often not considered as ‘true espresso.’
‘True espresso’ is defined as pressured steam or water passing through ground coffee beans to extract the best rich and fresh flavor. Espresso pods normally contain a small amount of pre-ground coffee but are not always subjected to the bar-pressure required to make true espresso. Instead, they are saturated in the same way filter coffee is produced. Usually, the coffee pod is brewed stronger to simulate the strong flavor of espresso, but this is the trade-off of convenience versus authenticity. It should be noted that some pod machines do use bar pressure, but this often comes at an increase in price.
Filter Machine – Filter machines work in a similar way to pump and bar machines, but the difference comes down to pressure. While pump and bar machines exert force through the coffee grounds, filter machines allow for a slower saturation that drips through and often delivers a slightly weaker or less concentrated flavor.
This does not necessarily make them inferior, though, as many filter machines offer intense or specialty brewing functions to produce a coffee shot that is similar to espresso even if it’s not technically so. The good thing about filter machines is that they are often more diverse in terms of available beverages. Some, but not all, can create full batches for cafetieres or carafes and can even be used to make iced beverages.
Grinds vs. Beans
Whether you choose to use fresh beans or pre-ground coffee for your home espresso machine is entirely up to you, but you need to decide before purchasing an espresso machine to ensure it has the features you need. If you want the fresh and self-sufficient feel of grinding your beans, then you it would be best to either purchase a model with a built-in grinder or spring the extra money for a stand-alone grinder. Bear in mind this will take up more space in your kitchen and budget, which is why buying pre-ground coffee is best for some people.
Types of Coffee
How well versed are you in your coffee anatomy? Do you know the difference between a cappuccino and a mochaccino? Sometimes figuring out what kind of espresso machine you want to buy can be helped by knowing how much work you’re going to have to put in every time you want a hot drink. Here’s a quick overview of some of the most popular coffees and the skills and equipment you’ll need to pull them off.
Americano – A single or double shot of espresso in a mug of hot water. No milk frothing or steaming is required.
Latte – A standard latte is mostly hot milk with a shot of espresso and a thin layer of frothed foam on top. The skill in this comes from not frothing your milk pitcher up too much.
Cappuccino – This is a three-layered drink consisting of a shot of espresso on the bottom, a middle third of hot milk, and the top third entirely of foamed milk. The trick to this one is getting comfortable using a milk or steam wand to get a nice, high level of froth.
Macchiato – An espresso shot topped with a small amount of frothed milk. It’s like a tiny cappuccino in an espresso cup, but it packs much more punch. This will be a real test of your milk frothing skills as there should be no steamed milk in at all.
Mochaccino – A latte with chocolate powder. Essentially a caffeinated hot chocolate.
Which type of espresso machine is best?
Ultimately, it does come down to personal preference in terms of your lifestyle, drink choices, and how much time you can dedicate to making coffee. But when it comes to comparing the overall taste of coffees from different types of machines, it’s normally the pump and bar pressure machines that come out on top as this is the traditional way that espresso is made. There are plenty of pod and filter machines that can produce satisfactory results without the effort of a full barista brew, but it mostly comes down to quality versus convenience.
Which is the best espresso machine for beginners?
If you are serious about wanting to develop your skills as a barista, then it is better to get a pump or bar pressure machine to practice with. The Breville ESP8XL Cafe Roma Espresso Maker listed above is an excellent starting point for new baristas to cover the basics before they move onto machines with more versatility and customization. With that said, any machine that has a milk or steam wand to practice frothing is a good place to start, but using a pod-based machine will not allow you to experiment with tamping and coffee dosage.
What does it mean by ‘tamping’?
Tamping is the process of flattening or packing down the ground coffee into an espresso machine filter. This process has a large effect on the taste of the coffee. Over-tamping can make it hard for the water or steam to filter through during brewing and can result in a much weaker or bitter flavor. Many baristas have their own opinion as to how much force to press down with during tamping to ensure a nice and even brew, but this again comes down to personal preference and experimentation. The basic rules to follow are to make sure you don’t overfill, twist slightly when pressing down, and press the filter against a flat surface to ensure a nice even tamp.
What is bar pressure?
Bar pressure is the speed or intensity that the steam or water hits the ground coffee within the filter. No solid or defined rule determines how much better or stronger a bar rating will make your coffee as it can also depend on the competence of your tamping and strength of the grounds themselves. The most basic guidance we can give is that lower bar ratings mean the steam is slower and therefore takes longer to drain through.
This extra time tends to allow for longer saturation of the grounds and therefore makes a more bitter espresso. This is more of a guide than a rule, though. Some espresso machines offer variable bar pressure, so that may be a feature to consider if you’re catering to a range of coffee strength preferences.
Like any new skill you start to learn, it’s important to remember that brewing a perfect cup of coffee takes time, practice, and a little experimenting. Buying an espresso machine is the first step, and figuring out the quirks and features of your selected machine is part of the fun.
Whichever model you decide to go for, you will figure out what you like and dislike about it, and your knowledge of your craft will increase either way. For future master baristas, remember to brew because you enjoy the chemistry. Refine your technique to chase a feeling of satisfaction that comes from knowing you made the best coffee you’ve ever had with your own two hands.
But if all that sounds like too much effort, there’s nothing wrong with investing in a low-hassle coffee maker so you can still enjoy a great espresso and get on with doing what you do best.