delonghi stilosa EC230.BK placed on table

My Favorite Budget Espresso Maker under or Around $100

It actually is possible to find a decent espresso machine under 100$. In this article, we analyze some of the most interesting entry-level options.

Photo of author

Asser Christensen

Licensed Q Arabica Grader, M.A. Journalism

→ Learn about my qualifications and review process.

Let’s get straight to the point: Espresso is not a cheap hobby! 🙅

At least not if you want to do it right.

Most of the espresso machines I have been reviewing on this blog are far more expensive than the ones in this article (and they aren’t even that expensive if you compare them to the truly high-end espresso machines people like to show off on various barista forums.)

In this article, we’ll look at the most affordable options on the market. At this price point you don’t have many options to choose from, but I actually believe that the machines I showcase here, will serve you well if you’re ready to do some workarounds and experiment a bit.

These are all some solid espresso maker that I have been testing long term and can be bought on the cheap.

Coffee Chronicler top pick 👍
The right balance of value and performance

This model from Delonghi is great value for the money. It’s super basic, but you can definitely pull some decent good shots with it – especially if you upgrade it with a bottomless portafilter and 51 mm IMS precision basket.

With more than 7000 reviews on Amazon - the majority being five stars - you can’t go wrong.

Please note: If you decide to purchase a product through a link on the site, I may earn a commission without additional cost to you. These commissions help to support the site. Learn more here

My Top Picks

De’Longhi Stilosa

delonghi stilosa on a table

The Delonghi Stilosa might initially seem like a basic plastic espresso maker, but it’s proven to be a pleasant surprise in my ongoing testing. I have had it for almost a year, and have been using it on and off, just to push it to its limits. And time after time I’m surprised by its performance.

Its design may not be striking, but it carries a nostalgic essence that harkens back to the 1990s when espresso was still a deeply exotic beverage, and DeLonghi was one of the few gateways to this type of decadent Italian elegance.

In certain regions (Europe/Asia), the Stilosa is atually equipped with genuine espresso baskets (non-pressurized) and a single-hole steam wand, in contrast to the common pannarello wand found in many budget espresso machines.

For those in the US where the machine features pressurized baskets, it’s straightforward to purchase a 51 mm portafilter and a top-tier basket. This simple addition can elevate the Stilosa’s performance, bringing it close to café quality. And I’m not overstating — I’ve pulled remarkable shots with this machine.

It warms up swiftly and boasts a user-friendly brewing process, typical of much more expensive single-boiler machines such as the Gaggia Classic Pro.

A note of caution: the machine retains pressure due to the absence of a solenoid valve. It’s advisable to wait a few minutes before taking out the portafilter to clean. Otherwise you may experience what’s known as portafilter sneeze . Though this characteristic seems like a drawback, it can be an advantage for those looking to try their hand at preinfusion – you can actually turn on the machine, then turn it off and wait for ten seconds, before you start it again without causing any disruption to the puck.

The steam wand is functional, but only mediocre. Achieving latte art microfoam using the pannarello steam wand might be challenging. Nevertheless, it can be removed without much hassle. On the EU/Asia version that comes with a single-hole steam tip, I have actually managed to get rather decent microfoam.

In summary, the Delonghi Stilosa is an excellent starter machine. It’s ideal for novices who appreciate simplicity and for those eager to delve deeper into the world of authentic, non-pressurized espresso.




Seattle Coffee Gear

See my full review of the Delonghi Stilosa here

Flair Neo Flex

The Flair Neo Flex is a new manual espresso maker that aims to bring real espresso to the masses at an outstanding price point.

The Neo Flex comes nicely packaged with everything you need to pull a shot – a pressurized basket for pre-ground coffee, a regular basket that can be made “bottomless”, and a brew head that’s identical to the pricier Flair Classic. A unique plastic frame provides a lightweight, travel-friendly design.

Inside the piston is Flair’s innovative (though somewhat odd) pressure release valve, meant to break before too much force is applied to the frame. This will prevent damage if you grind too fine. While well-intentioned, this hints at a lack of confidence in the plastic frame’s durability.

Despite the price and plastic, the Neo Flex punches above its weight in the cup. Using the standard basket and a good grinder, it’s capable of pulling really solid espresso shots on par with the respected Flair Classic.

The workflow is straightforward – preheat, grind, tamp, and pull. Total beginners can get started with the pressurized basket and pre-ground coffee.

One downside – officially you can’t use a pressure gauge due to the plastic frame. This omission is a bit of a head scratcher. But it looks like Flair will launch an official pressure gauge in 2024.

(Update: Flair has confirmed that a pressure gauge will be standard with the Neo Flex in 2024. I expect to get a review unit from the brand pretty soon, so keep on eye on this blog/my YouTube channel, where I’ll share the updated review. It also looks like the price will remain the same. So overall extremely promising upgrade!). 

At the current price, the Flair Neo Flex is arguably the most affordable “serious” espresso maker designed for daily kitchen use. While it makes some compromises with materials and features to hit that price, it nails what matters most – the ability to pull a great shot.

Flair’s community on Facebook and documentation in general provide great support for beginners diving into espresso. The Neo Flex, while not perfect, makes a compelling affordable entry point into the world of manual espresso if you don’t mind the limitations of its design.

Ps: It’s a bonus that Neo Flex is so lightweight; you can bring it to visit friends or if you’re going on a camping trip.

Read my full review here.




Flair shop


Hugh leverpresso V4 white background

At first glance, the Leverpresso V4 may seem like just another portable espresso maker in a crowded market. However, after extensive testing and daily use, I can confidently say that this little device packs a serious punch.

Its sleek, black plastic body is a departure from the transparent designs of previous versions, giving it a more premium and sturdy feel. The “superplastic” material used in its construction is said to be more durable than earlier models, which is crucial when dealing with the high pressure needed for espresso extraction.

One of the standout features of the Leverpresso V4 is its compatibility with the standard 51 mm filter basket size. This opens up a world of affordable accessories, from tampers to funnel and puck screens, making it a great ecosystem to buy into.

The two-lever design, borrowed from its bigger sibling, the Leverpresso Pro, provides excellent control over pressure during the extraction process. This, combined with the ability to preheat the device effectively, results in shots that can rival those from more expensive, non-portable machines.

While the Leverpresso V4 excels at producing rich, full-bodied espresso with dark and medium-dark roasts, it does struggle a bit with lighter roasts, which can taste slightly sour and under-extracted. However, this is a common issue among manual espresso makers, and can be mitigated by pulling longer shots or preheating more thoroughly.

The lack of a pressure gauge is a minor drawback, especially considering that some competitors in the same price range offer this feature. However, with a bit of practice and experimentation, it’s possible to consistently pull great shots without one.

Another thing that sets this device apart from other manual rivals in its price class is that you can use it with a stand – this makes it quite similar to the much more expensive Cafelat Robot. Of course, the stand does cost a bit extra, but it’s worth it if you’ll use the device every day.

So in my opinion, the Leverpresso V4 is a capable and versatile portable espresso maker that punches above its tiny weight class. Its compatibility with standard accessories, improved build quality, and pressure profiling capabilities make it a compelling option for both travel and home use. Check out my full review here.




Espresso machines on a budget?

I’ll be honest with you: espresso can be a pricey interest. To do it right, you’ll likely need to spend more than $100.

However, if you’re currently in a situation where your personal finances limits you to a less expensive machine, don’t worry, I won’t judge. I’ve been there myself.

Here’s an adventurous lungo, I pulled on my favorite budget espresso machine, the Delonghi Stilosa 👇 


Ese Pods

To be honest, most regular grinders just won’t make the cut when it comes to “legit” espresso.

Ese pods are common in cheap espresso machines
Ese pods are common in entry-level espresso machines (Phrontis: CC 3.0)

A practical alternative is to go for an espresso machine that can accommodate the so-called ESE pods.

These pods are small, pre-ground pucks of coffee wrapped in a thin filter. It’s easier than grinding your own coffee, and better in terms of freshness compared to a bag of preground.

No, these pods aren’t going to impress your most judgemental hipster friends, but they will make your life easier when you realize that your grinder doesn’t perform that well in the ultrafine spectrum of things.

Also, they tend to be quite a bit more affordable than Nespresso capsules and have more of a ‘genuine’ espresso feeling, since you insert the puck in the portafilter.

Our expertise & Credentials

  • Asser Christensen earned his Q Grader license (certified coffee quality grader) in 2018, with recertification in 2021.
  • The Q Grader exam requires passing rigorous blind tasting cupping protocols, as well as tests for identifying green bean and roasting defects.
  • He has served as a sensory judge at roasting and coffee brewing competitions.
  • Over the last 5 years, he has tested more than 100 different grinders, espresso makers and accessories, as documented on this blog and his YouTube channel.
  • All the products in this article have been tested for minimum a month.

Photo of author
Asser Christensen

Hello, and welcome! I'm the editor & founder of this site.
I have been a coffee geek since I started home roasting more than a decade ago. Since then, coffee has taken me on countless adventures: From ancient coffee ceremonies in Ethiopia to the volcanos of Sumatra.
My background is in journalism, and today I'm also a licensed Q Grader under the Coffee Quality Institute.