delonghi stilosa EC230.BK placed on table
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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.

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Asser Christensen

Licensed Q Arabica Grader, M.A. Journalism

→ Learn about my qualifications and review process.

Let’s be real here: 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.

You won’t win any barista competitions with the espresso makers in this guide.

But you can certainly get one that is capable of making a decent shot or a frothy cappuccino if you’re willing to live with a few compromises (pressurized baskets & janky milk steamers, for example).

Here are some solid espresso machines I have tried that 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.

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My Top Picks

De’Longhi Stilosa 260BK

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 more than 6 months, 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. 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.

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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 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.

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.

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Flair shop

Cafflano Kompresso Espresso Maker

cafflano kompresso grey background

When most people think about espresso, they also think about big bulky machines taking up half of the kitchen counter. If that sounds like less than ideal, you’ll like the small Cafflano Kompresso.

It makes excellent espresso. It’s portable. It uses a legit, non-pressurized basket. And it’s cheap!

I’ve had the Cafflano Kompresso in my collection of portable espresso makers for a few years now.

When I first got the Kompresso, it took a little getting used to, as is common with most manual espresso makers. However, after using it a few times, the workflow started to feel a lot more straightforward and natural.

One of the most notable things about the Kompresso is its naked portafilter basket. Unlike many other portable espresso makers, it uses a non-pressurized basket. This means it has the potential to produce true espresso-level extractions, but it also requires a very fine grind similar to what you’d use in a regular espresso machine.

I’ve been quite impressed with the shots I’ve pulled on the Kompresso. When I have the grind dialed in, it’s capable of producing shots with a nice layer of crema that look pretty close to what I’d get from a café. On some shots, I have measured 12% TDS, which is on the higher end when it comes to espresso strength.

While it can’t quite match a full-size espresso machine, the Kompresso gets surprisingly close considering its size. With its 14g basket, the shots are also of a decent size.

Having tried a few different portable espresso makers, the Cafflano Kompresso is one of my favorites. Its non-pressurized basket sets it apart and allows it to produce legitimate espresso extractions.

The main thing to keep in mind is that you really need a good grinder capable of very fine espresso-level grinds to get the most out of the Kompresso.

Check out my in-depth review of the Kompresso if you want to know more.

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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.

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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.