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A couple of years back, the Consumerist reported that the average American worker spends $1,000 a year on buying coffee at a local coffee shop. We can think of a lot better ways to spend our money than forking it across the counter to a barista, no matter how sweet they are. If you’ve thought about buying an espresso maker so you can make cappuccinos, lattes, espressos and all those other coffee drinks you love but were put off by the price, you’re in for a big surprise.
While high-end super-automatic machines can run you a couple thousand dollars, you can pick up a better-than-decent espresso machine for about what you probably spend on take-out coffee in a month or two. These are our picks for budget espresso makers that deliver a consistently good espresso.
Mr. Coffee is the company that brought the auto drip coffeemaker into everyone’s kitchen. The company entered the home espresso market in the early 2000s with the ECMP40. Coffee geeks were skeptical about a cheap espresso machine made by Mr. Coffee, the Walmart’s of coffee makers, but they were almost uniformly blown away. A cheap espresso maker that actually makes a consistently good shot with real crema — and that has a steam wand you can use to surf the hole and make thick, rich, creamy froth for cappuccino — for around $75? That couldn’t be true. But it is — and the ECMP50, which replaced the ECMP40 in 2005 or so, is every bit as good with a few design improvements that make it even better. If you’re looking for a solidly designed, reliable espresso machine that will deliver a better-than-decent shot of espresso every time, the Mr. Coffee ECMP50 Pump Espresso Maker is the one you want.
Espressione is a relative newcomer to the espresso coffee machine market, so they don’t have much of a name yet. The company makes a variety of mid-price espresso machines for home use. The Espression Cafe Minuetto Espresso Machine is at the lower end of their price market, retailing at about $400 but you can almost always find it on sale for around $150. If you’ve got a taste for sleek, European contemporary looking machines, this one will fit right into your design scheme with its rounded square good looks and brushed stainless steel panels. It uses a thermoblock for heating water and features a 15-bar pump and a steaming wand. It ships with three portafilters — a single cup, a double cup and one that takes ESE espresso pods. Overall, it’s a great little machine for less than $200.
If you’re a single serve coffee lover, the Nespresso Essenza C91 Manual espresso machine is one of the best options you’ll find for making great espresso at home. It’s practically foolproof: drop in the capsule, turn a knob on the front to draw your shot and enjoy. The futuristic bullet-shaped design is sleek and very appealing, but it’s what’s inside the machine that makes this a great little machine: a 19-bar pump and a thermoblock heating element that heats your water to the perfect temperature for espresso — and saves energy at the same time. The machine automatically ejects used capsules into its own capsule container, which holds 14 capsules so you don’t have to empty it too often, and you never have to deal with messy espresso grounds. The only drawback is that your selection of coffees is limited to the Nespresso line, but don’t let that stop you. Add a CoffeeDuck Refillable Coffee Capsules For Nespresso and you can use any coffee you like. The price for the two of them together is still less than $150, and you get great coffee at home.
Capresso is a well-known name among espresso aficionados, and with good reason. The Capresso 1050-Watt Espresso and Cappuccino Maker certainly doesn’t disappoint. It makes consistently good espresso with very little fuss, and delivers just the right steam pressure to turn your milk into silky foam to top your cappuccinos. The space-saving design gives this machine a completely unique look that you’ll love. It uses the thermoblock heating system instead of a boiler tank, and a 16-bar pump that’s ideal for espresso and steaming milk. The steam wand has a removable frothing sleeve to give you more versatility. At about $150, it’s a great machine for home use.
Gaggia is about the best known-name in espresso makers for the home market. The Gaggia Baby is especially popular, but we kinda like the softer, more rounded profile — and the softer price — of the Gaggia Evolution so much more. The Gaggia Evolution is a semi-auto espresso machine with a removable 44-ounce water tank, a steam wand and two portafilters — one for ground coffee and one for pods. The 15-bar pump has two heating elements, you don’t have to wait between pulling your shot and steaming your milk, and pushbutton operation so it’s pretty much fumble-proof. You more or less guaranteed an awesome shot of espresso with very little trouble.
The Delonghi EC330-s pump espresso maker was made for the European market, so you know it makes good espresso and has high quality construction. The sleek stainless steel body has the kind of contemporary good looks that will look great in your kitchen, and it makes the kind of espresso and cappuccino that tastes great any time of day. You won’t often find this one in a retail store, but if you scout around some online, you can find it for sale on Amazon or eBay. It uses ground coffee or ESE coffee pods and primes itself so you don’t have to mess with it. And at an average price of about $100, it’s a steal.
Two Delonghi’s made the list — which tells you something about their high quality construction and design. We’re in love with the retro styling on the appropriately named BAR32 Retro pump espresso and cappuccino maker. You can easily imagine this classy little number sitting on the counter at at ’50s soda and coffee shop. The Delonghi Retro has features you usually only find in much higher-priced espresso machines: a swivel jet frother and separate temperature dials for the steamer and espresso machine make it easy to brew the perfect shot and steam milk to perfection every time.
Krups has been synonymous with high-quality coffee machines for home use for a very long time, and the Krups XP601050 is a good example of why. The stainless steel body has a gritty industrial look that makes it look like it means business — and it does. The 15-bar pump delivers the pressure you need to consistently pull excellent shots and steam milk into velvety foam. At under $200, it’s a little more expensive than others in our list, but it’s definitely worth the price.
Cuisinart has been delivering quality kitchen products for more than 30 years. They stepped into the home espresso maker market with a serious competitor for top marks. The Cuisinart EM-200 Programmable 15-Bar Espresso Maker features a 15-bar pump and a commercial-quality steam nozzle for steaming milk, and a super-sized 64-ounce water reservoir that lets you pull more shots before refilling the machine. The real selling point for the Cuisinart EM-200, though, is the ability to program your favorite settings into the machine to pull a single shot, a double shot or more. The manual control button allows you to customize your cup size and the auto buttons let you push a button and walk away. It even comes with a stainless steel warming pitcher so you can steam and froth milk for lattes and cappuccinos like a pro.