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 cheap espresso machines 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.
Top pick: Best value
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.
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My Top Picks: Cheap Espresso Machines
1: De’Longhi Stilosa
The Delonghi Stilosa might initially seem like a basic plastic espresso maker, but it’s proven to be a pleasant surprise in my ongoing test (I plan to release a more extensive review of it later this year, so stay tuned.)
Its design may not be striking, but it carries a nostalgic essence that harkens back to the 90s.
In certain regions (Europe/Asia), the machine is 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 cleaning process.
A note of caution: the machine retains pressure due to the absence of a solenoid valve. It’s advisable to pause a few minutes before taking out the portafilter to clean. Though this characteristic seems like a drawback, it can be an advantage for those looking to try their hand at preinfusion.
The steam wand is functional; however, achieving latte art microfoam using the pannarello steam wand might be challenging. Nevertheless, it can be removed without much hassle.
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.
Capable of achieving café quality espresso with the addition of a non-pressurized basket and proper steam wand.
Quick warm-up time
Offers a nostalgic design and is an excellent starter machine for novices
The machine retains pressure due to the lack of a solenoid valve, requiring a pause before removing the portafilter.
Achieving microfoam suitable for latte art may be challenging with the pannarello wand, although it’s removable.
The Flair Neo-Flex is the training-wheel 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, a depressurized portafilter is included in the package.
The Flair Neo Flex produces delicious espresso with a shot ratio of around 1:2.5, offering a rich and satisfying taste.
The workflow can be slightly complicated, as preheating and other steps are required, but if you relish the coffee-making ritual, the Flair Neo Flex 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.
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.
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 cleaning and preparation.
Since serious coffee roasters have started producing capsules, it’s become a more fun option.
Breville makes this machine in collaboration with Nestlé. It’s a cute little machine, and the cost is ideal. One thing to remember with Nespresso, though, is that while the devices are cheap, that extra cost is added to the capsules in the long run.
Provides a consistent and easy way to produce decent espresso shots with minimal cleaning and preparation.
The involvement of serious coffee roasters in capsule production adds variety and fun to the experience.
Lacks the authenticity of traditional espresso, with a reliance on capsules that may increase long-term costs.
The simplicity and hands-off approach will not satisfy purists or those seeking a more engaging coffee-making experience.
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.
Here’s an adventurous lungo, I pulled on my favorite cheap espresso machine, the Delonghi Stilosa 👇
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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