Home espresso makers abound, from semi-automatic machines to popular models that take care of everything with a simple touch of a button. Espresso machines push pressurized water (created by steam or a pump) quickly through a disc of finely ground coffee beans (called a puck). The result is a thick, dark brew with a foamy head, known as crema. Many come with a wand that steams milk to a froth for cappuccinos and lattes, while some feature built-in milk dispensers.
At Cheapism.com, we sifted through expert and owner reviews to pick the best espresso machines for $200 or less. Whether you want automated convenience or precise control, you'll find top-rated, user-friendly models from best-selling brands — including some that accommodate prepackaged pods. All the pump-driven models come with at least 15 bars of pressure (and one uses a nifty new technology for optimal extraction). We also identified a couple of high-end models for serious barista wannabes, one for use on the stove, and a manual machine requiring good ol' muscle power to produce a delicious, hand-pulled brew.
Prices and availability are subject to change.
Good Espresso Machine Under $100
Est. Price: $80 | Buy it from Best Buy
- Takes ground beans or pods.
- Produces a single or double shot, or 2 cups simultaneously.
- Self-priming function heats quickly, so there's no wait between brews.
- Anti-drip design; puck comes out dry if the grounds are well-tamped, users say.
- Frother for lattes and cappuccinos; cup warmer on top.
- Separate thermostats for water (espresso) and steam (milk); adjustable steam.
- Unusually lightweight, at 3.5 pounds; doesn't take up much counter space.
- Accommodates small espresso cups or shot glasses only.
- Frothing wand is low; some reviewers complain that a pitcher doesn't fit.
- Shots are inconsistent, experts say, because the temperature control is not always consistent.
- Some reports that the pump gives out within a year or so.
Takeaway: The DeLonghi EC155 may not win a gold star for unassailable performance and design, and it also doesn't pack a ton of power, at just 1,100 watts, but it delivers a convincing and satisfying brew, according to hundreds of reviews. This is espresso as it should be, many reviewers report. The machine comes with a very modest price and convenient features, including the option of using pods or ground beans and making two separate shots at once. The compact footprint also makes this user-friendly, semi-automatic model a good gift for any household of espresso fans.
Good Espresso Machine Under $200
Est. Price: $113 | Buy it from Target
- Option to brew 2 cups simultaneously.
- Heats up quickly, reviewers say.
- Takes ground beans or prepackaged pods.
- Frother adjusts to 2 positions for lattes or cappuccinos.
- Removable drip tray allows this machine to accommodate a regular-size cup.
- Stainless steel cup-warming platform on top.
- Some complaints in reviews about dripping and leaking.
- A few consider the brew to be on the weak side.
- Limited lifespan, according to some users.
Takeaway: The Capresso EC100 (model #116.04) is a good gateway into the world of at-home espresso brewing. This semi-automatic machine is a breeze to use, according to owners, producing hot and flavorful shots with a thick, rich crema. Some more experienced reviewers, however, say the water doesn't get quite hot enough to turn out a truly optimal espresso. Still, the brand claims its share of loyalists, and some who've had an older one conk out report buying the same one again because of the value for the price. Costco members can snag even greater savings on this Capresso espresso machine, which is widely available at a number of bricks-and-mortar retailers.
DELONGHI NESPRESSO INISSIA
Good Cheap Nespresso Machine
Est. Price: $119 | Buy it on Amazon
- Cheapest Nespresso machine available.
- Makes espresso (ristretto) and lungo sizes; automatically shuts off.
- Heats up in 25 seconds; 19 bars of pressure.
- Drip tray folds up to fit larger cups.
- Incredibly compact, at just 4.7 inches wide and 9 inches high; easily stows away; carry handle.
- 2-year warranty is longer than many competitors'.
- Takes Nespresso pods only.
- Lacks a frothing mechanism for milk.
- Lifespan may be limited to weeks or months, according to some reviews.
Takeaway: This unassuming, little Nespresso machine by DeLonghi makes a good number of espresso drinkers happy with its price and performance. It's a fast and easy way to get good espresso consistently, reviewers say, and many consider the brew just right, although a few say the lungo can be hit or miss. Reviews also say the Inissia (EN.80) is well-suited to office environments, taking up little space, producing no mess, and requiring little cleanup. Cappuccino and latte fans may want to look elsewhere, given the absence of a frothing mechanism, or they can look for a bundle that includes an Aeroccino frother along with the machine. Those worried about finding the pods will be happy to know that, in addition to the online site, Nespresso has an app that allows users to order replacement pods directly from their phones or find stores that sell them nearby. The app also provides recycling locations.
MR. COFFEE CAFÉ BARISTA
Best Espresso/Cappuccino Machine Under $200
Est. Price: $199.99 | Buy it on Amazon
- Mixes frothed milk and espresso directly in the cup for cappuccinos and lattes.
- Produces single and double shots; accommodates ground beans and pods (with purchase of a pod portafilter).
- User-friendly controls: Just select the brew type and hit a button.
- Control dial for choosing the foam level for milk.
- Adjustable cup tray lets users select any size cup or mug; cup warmer shelf on top.
- Programmed cleaning cycle.
- Some complaints about inconsistent water temperature and insufficiently hot water for top-notch espresso.
- Longevity may be limited to a few years, reviews suggest; 1-year limited warranty.
- Scattered grumbling about dripping after extraction.
- Portafilters clog if beans are ground too fine, according to some reviews.
Takeaway: The semi-automatic Mr. Coffee Café Barista might not satisfy espresso geeks, but a vast majority of owners are thrilled with its performance and the money saved by preparing their daily brew at home. Users crow that it makes espressos, cappuccinos, and lattes that rival drinks at popular coffee chains. Although it's not incredibly powerful, at 1,040 watts, it has a full 15-bar pump and turns out a cup with a good crema in less than two minutes. The integrated milk frother, which deposits steamed milk directly into the cup as espresso pours out, is a winning feature; neither the espresso nor the milk has a chance to cool while awaiting the addition of the other.
Best Entry-Level Espresso Machine Under $200
Est. Price: $180 | Buy it on Amazon
- Accommodates pods or ground coffee; single or double shot.
- Self-priming unit heats quickly; stainless steel boiler maintains temperature, so users can brew several cups without waiting.
- Separate thermostats for water (coffee) and steam (milk).
- Milk frothing wand; cup warmer on top.
- User-friendly operation appeals to novices.
- Scattered gripes in reviews that shots are weak, the water reservoir is tricky to remove, and the filter may fall out.
- Puck is on the wet side, so cleaning can be messy, owners say.
- Must be shut down manually.
- Some reports of early demise.
Takeaway: A good entry-level espresso machine, the semi-automatic DeLonghi EC702 pleases hundreds of owners with its ease of use and high-quality espresso with the requisite crema, which strikes some reviewers as totally authentic. With separate thermostats for water and steam, brewing and frothing can be accomplished simultaneously, so the espresso and milk can come together at optimum heat. The downside, according to some reviews, is a relatively short lifespan, and like most of the competition, it carries only a 1-year warranty.
DELONGHI NESPRESSO VERTUO
Best Pod Espresso Machine Under $200
Est. Price: $164 | Buy it on Amazon
- Produces high-quality, rich-tasting espresso and regular coffee, reviews say.
- Uses prepackaged pods, which minimizes cleanup and adds convenience.
- More options than competing espresso machines, including single and double shots, gran lungo, traditional coffee, and even alto (14 ounces).
- Heats up in just 15 to 20 seconds.
- Automatically turns off after 9 minutes of idle time.
- Many users complain about lukewarm output.
- Takes only proprietary Nespresso pods; some pushback in reviews over price and limited supplier options.
- Pods are recyclable, but doing so can be a hassle.
- 1-year warranty; some Nespresso machines offer longer coverage.
Takeaway: When making espresso or coffee, it doesn't get any easier than a machine that eliminates the need for grinding, measuring, and tamping. That's one reason users rave about the Nespresso Vertuo, and pod machines in general. Another, according to reviews, is that this (Breville-made) Nespresso coffee machine makes better coffee and espresso than the other brands. This might be due, in part, to its pump-free technology: A special "centrifusion" process sends water through the grounds in the capsule and sets it spinning at high speeds to extract the blend and leave a dry capsule behind. In another technological advance, each capsule comes with a barcode that tells the machine exactly what it needs to do to achieve the optimal blend. In fact, the delivery system is so foolproof that, the only real complaint we saw from users is that the temperature of the drinks leaves many a bit, well, cold. A more expensive bundled version is available with an accompanying Aeroccino frother, which opens up the possibility of frothing hot or cold milk for uses besides coffee (buy it on Amazon).
Bonus: Classic Italian Espresso Machine
Est. Price: $399 | Buy it on Amazon
- Hefty commercial-style portafilter allows more control over the brewing process; also includes a pressurized portafilter for beginners.
- Accommodates ground beans and prepackaged pods; produces 1 or 2 cups.
- Dry puck is easy to clean.
- Sturdy build, with stainless steel housing and chrome-plated brass portafilter.
- Big learning curve for optimal brew; variables include grind size, pull time, and froth (for cappuccinos and lattes).
- Some grousing in reviews that the frothing wand is too low to fit a pitcher underneath.
- Maximum cup height of 3.25 inches.
- Some reports of early breakdowns, mostly related to the pump.
Takeaway: The Gaggia Classic (14101) is a favorite of experts and enthusiasts. It's a heavy-duty machine that makes European-style, coffee-house-quality espresso with plenty of rich crema at a temperature that's just right, reviewers say. This semi-automatic model requires more user involvement and initial trial and error than entry-level machines, but users who have mastered it are thrilled with the results. The pressure can even be adjusted to individual preference, up to a maximum of 15 bars. The Gaggia Classic takes a while to heat up, which some users find frustrating; the actual extraction time, however, amounts to just 25 seconds for a 2-ounce shot. The frothing wand can also be used for dispensing hot water.
BREVILLE BARISTA EXPRESS
Bonus: Espresso Machine With Grinder
Est. Price: $599 | Buy it on Amazon
- Brews single or double shots with adjustable water levels; programmed or manual control.
- Integrated conical burr grinder; adjustable grind size and dose.
- Preprogrammed or customizable temperature control.
- Hot water dispenser for tea or Americanos; clearance for tall cups.
- Auto shut-off; indicator light to alert when the machine needs cleaning.
- Comes with a pressurized filter basket for beginners and a non-pressurized filter basket for experienced users.
- Die-cast stainless steel housing.
- Powerful, at 1,600 watts and a maximum of 15 bars of pressure; built-in pressure gauge.
- Reviewers stress the need to clean the machine thoroughly after each use.
- Scattered reports about leaks, loss of pressure, and random malfunctions after several months.
- Frothing wand seems a tad slow to some users.
Takeaway: The best way to ensure a perfect cup of espresso, experts say, is by grinding the beans in a burr grinder immediately before brewing and automatically dispensing the proper dose. The Breville Barista Express (BES870XL) makes that easy with its built-in grinder, a convenience and flavor booster that users value. They also appreciate the versatility of choosing between preprogrammed settings or taking more control over the grounds, water temperature, and tamping pressure. This high-end model comes with a host of accessories, including a dose trimming tool, coffee scoop, stainless steel milk jug, and integrated tamper. It garners stellar reviews from experts who say the end product, convenience, design, and ease of use exceed expectations.
Bonus: Manual Espresso Maker
Est. Price: $153 | Buy it on Amazon
- Produces excellent shots, according to many home users and enthusiasts, with complete manual control (press down on the arms).
- No electricity required or electronic controls to break down.
- Compact, eye-catching design; sturdy metal frame with slip-resistant legs.
- Easy to clean, and disassemble if necessary.
- Portable, with included storage case.
- Comes with a manual frother and splitter spout.
- 10-year warranty on metal parts.
- Inconsistent, users say; many variables to control, including the volume of water, temperature, grounds, and amount of pressure exerted.
- Some reviewers declare the crema mediocre.
- Can be messy, with extra water in the chamber after a shot is pulled.
- Plastic components can break and are not covered by the warranty; replacements may be hard to find.
- Manual milk frother is nearly useless, reviewers say — it produces bubbles, not steamed, foamed milk.
Takeaway: Manual espresso makers are sturdy works of precisely engineered art that typically cost well over $500 and often exceed $1,000. The Rok Presso, priced comfortably in budget territory, manages to be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. As with any manual espresso maker, there's a steep learning curve to getting that perfect cup. But patience pays off, with reviewers expressing pride in their newfound craftsmanship. The water chamber and portafilter require preheating for the best results, which seems like a minor inconvenience to some. After that, though, shots are extracted in about 20 seconds. For espresso geeks who crave complete control, this is the model to buy.
BIALETTI MOKA EXPRESS
Bonus: Stovetop Espresso Maker
Est. Price: $20 | Buy it on Amazon
- Quick stovetop brew yields rich, strong espresso, hundreds of users report.
- Straightforward process: no electricity, no tamping, no pumps — just ground beans and water.
- Traditional Italian 8-sided design for optimal heat diffusion.
- Very little maintenance required.
- Bargain-basement price.
- 2-year warranty.
- Does not produce crema.
- Requires a bit of patience; users say the brewing process can take up to 10 minutes.
- Some reports of leaking around the seal, discoloration on the pot, and generally disappointing build quality.
Takeaway: This classic espresso pot works the old-fashioned way: Steam pressure in the bottom of the pot forces boiling water through the coffee grounds in the middle chamber. The steam doesn't have enough pressure to create a crema, but reviewers who love espresso don't seem to mind, because the end result is superb. Sweeter yet, the cost of a Bialetti Moka Express, whether in a 1-, 3-, 6-, 9-, or 12-cup serving size, pales in comparison to even the cheapest at-home electrified espresso machine. A fair number of online reviews say the build quality of the Bialetti Moka pot available in the United States is a watered-down imitation of the product sold in Europe, but about three-quarters of the more than 7,000 consumers who have reviewed the pot on Amazon award it 5 stars.