I will never consider Nespresso to be real espresso. The whole experience is just a bit too easy and hands-off. But maybe that’s just me.
Anyway, this type of coffee has its upsides, too. It’s a very consistent way to get pretty decent (though not epic) espresso shots, and it doesn’t require much in terms of cleaning and preparation.
Now that serious coffee roasters have started to produce capsules, it’s actually become a more fun option.
Delonghi makes this machine in collaboration with Nestlé. It’s a cute, little machine and the cost is ideal. One thing to keep in mind with Nespresso, though, is that while the devices are cheap, in the long run, that extra cost is added to the capsules.
The Flair Neo slightly exceeds the budget constraints but justifies the investment for true espresso aficionados. This is the training-wheels version of the more expensive Flair Espresso maker.
This beginner-friendly machine presents an accessible introduction to espresso, featuring a pressurized portafilter perfect for pre-ground coffee.
For those who desire a more authentic experience, you can depressurize the portafilter and upgrade to a bottomless option at a later stage.
The Flair Neo produces delicious espresso with a shot ratio of around 1:2.5, offering a rich and satisfying taste.
The workflow can be complex, as preheating and other steps are required, but if you relish the coffee-making ritual, the Flair Neo is an excellent choice. This charming machine is a worthwhile investment for those who want to “grow” with their device so to speak, since Flair also offers a lot of upgrades.
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 budget limits you to a less expensive machine, don’t worry, I won’t judge. I’ve been there myself not too long ago.
Focus on durability: With cheaper espresso machines, it’s important to think about their lifespan. Espresso makers need care and maintenance, and lower-priced models even more so. I suggest picking one with a good reputation and a 1-year warranty.
The Grinder: Usually, you’d need an expensive grinder for espresso. But these affordable machines often come with pressurized portafilters that don’t require the same precision. You can get by with a basic grinder, pre-ground coffee, or ESE pods in this case.
Consider manual espresso: Though not the main topic here, if you want great espresso without spending too much, you should consider a portable, manual espresso machine. Options like the Picopresso, Kompresso, or Flair are budget-friendly and capable choices.
To be honest, most regular grinders just won’t make the cut when it comes to “legit” espresso.
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 cheaper than Nespresso capsules and have more of a ‘genuine’ espresso feeling, since you insert the puck in the portafilter.
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.
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