Licensed Q Arabica Grader, M.A. Journalism
- December 23, 2019
Espresso is like golf in many ways. It’s a serious hobby with a significant barrier to entry in the form of expensive gear and unwritten rules.
The thing is that you need gear of a certain standard to be able to get the most out of this kind of coffee ritual.
Luckily, with the very best espresso machines under 1000, you’ll be able to approximate the kind of black coffee magic you’d experience at a proper coffee shop.
Today espresso machines come in all sizes, shapes, and forms. And while there are a lot of overlaps among many models, the easiest way is to distinguish between three types of machines:
Let me expand a bit on the remarks above. One of the critical differences between the semi and full (or super) automatic is the built-in grinder.
With the semi-automatic, you’ll need a dedicated standalone grinder suitable for espresso to get the most out of your machine. Sure, you could use preground coffee from a classic brand like Illy and Lavazza but it not ideal for two reasons:
It might sound like a small thing, but when it comes to espresso, this is huge. Having a perfectly dialed in grinder that fits your machine is essential to a perfect espresso.
So when you’re looking at a new home espresso maker, you should also factor in the grinder in the budget – that is, unless you go for a super automatic.
|Rancilio Silvia Espresso…||413 Reviews|
|Gaggia 14101 Classic…||785 Reviews|
|Jura ENA 1 Automatic Coffee…||263 Reviews|
|Breville the Barista Express…||5,283 Reviews|
|La Pavoni EPBB-8 Europiccola…||29 Reviews|
Miss Silvia as she is affectionately called among espresso geeks doesn’t need an introduction. At least not if you know your coffee.
For the rest of you, this semi-automatic home espresso machine is a classic for a good reason. It’s a sturdy little powerhouse that will serve you well for years. It makes excellent espressos and beautiful lattes.
The design hasn’t changed in decades, which is a testament to its quality. The Rancilio Silvia comes with a 58mm commercial style portafilter and group head, which isn’t necessarily the case in this price range.
The only slightly negative thing about the Silvia is that it does take a little time and effort to make the best possible coffee. You’ll need to dial in the grind, get the tamping right, and learn how to find the right temperature.See more reviews
Were you looking to find the best espresso machine under 1000 and then suddenly realized that you also need to get a grinder within that budget? Well, if that’s the case, let me introduce you to another classic – the Gaggia Classic.
This machines in many ways resemble the Rancilio Silvia. It’s an old-school Italian model that hasn’t changed since 1991. That’s a lot of years – and that means that the company is probably doing something right!
The Gaggia is a straightforward device, but in spite of its small size, it has a legit commercial style 58 mm portafilter. It’s solidly built weighing in at 20 lbs.
If you want great espresso for one or two persons, it’s a great pick. If you’re going to entertain big groups and make a bunch of cappuccinos, it’s probably better to look elsewhere, as the capacity is rather small.See more reviews
The Jura Ena Micro is one of those black box super automatic espresso machines. And that’s not said negatively. It’s a quite nice design.
Jura is a Swiss brand that is popular in Europe due to their robust commercial machines.
The Ena Micro is created for the lazy espresso lover who wants superb quality. Using this machine is just as easy as a Nespresso capsule system. But due to the built-in conical burr grinder and the true espresso extraction system, the flavor is fresher.
This machine doesn’t have any milk steaming capabilities, so this only for the espresso or americano lover.See more reviews
In a market dominated by old-school Italian machinery, Breville is a breeze of fresh air. The Aussie company has shaken up the coffee world in recent years with a lot of innovative products at an attractive price.
The Barista Express is particularly interesting as it’s neither super automatic nor semi. Instead, it’s somewhere in the middle. It uses a portafilter but still has a built-in grinder making it somewhat of a bastard.
This espresso maker from Breville is packed with new technology. It has PID for consistent temperature, progressive pre-infusion and a lot of options for dosing and programming.
With more than 1800 reviews on Amazon – most of them being five star – it’s a really an enticing deal. Especially, when you consider that you essentially get a burr espresso grinder for free with this machine.See more reviews
This is a manual espresso machine – also known as a lever machine. For most people, this isn’t the ideal choice – since it requires a lot from the user.
But are you the kind of person who’s into vintage cars, old Swiss watches and elegance rather than comfort? If yes, you should have La Pavoni on your radar.
Personally, I think this machine destroys most other espresso makers when it comes to style. When it comes to substance, it’s also not far off.
If you have the skills, you can get great espresso out of the Europiccola. Instead of using a pump, this machine relies on you pressing the lever down and that way forcing the water through the grounds. This gives you a lot more options when it comes to extraction.
There is a steam wand so you can make lattes, too.
Just looking at this machines makes me want to exclaim “Bellissimo” with my fist lifted the Mediterranean way.See more reviews
When choosing a new espresso machine, it’s essential to think about the use cases and the level of involvement you’re ready for. Do you want a new hobby? One that requires some effort from you? Or do want to get a good cappuccino without learning any real barista skills?
That is the crucial question that should determine whether you go semi or super.
That being said there a few other things, you might consider before taking the plunge.
Some entry-level espresso machines come with a pressurized portafilter as well as a normal one. The pressurized portafilter is more forgiving when it comes to grind-size and consistency.
In ordinary everyday language, this means that you can get away with having a worse grinder. If your budget doesn’t allow a proper espresso grinder such as the Rocky or Sette this might be worth considering.
I know there are many people out there who claim they’re coffee lovers, but in fact are ‘frothy-milk-with-coffee-flavor-lovers’. Does that apply to you? Are you going to be making a lot of lattes, cortados, macchiatos and flat whites?
Do you want to experiment with latte art and coffee hearts? Well, then you want to look specifically for a semi-automatic espresso machine with an efficient boiler system and a good steam wand.
I assume that you already know this, but a standard espresso machine is not compatible with the proprietary Nespresso capsules. But in fact, there are the so-called ESE pods which can be a great alternative to grinding and tamping yourself. These are small compressed coffee pucks packaged in a thin fabric that allows you to make good espresso quite easily.
You’ve got to be honest with yourself here. If you are a little bit lazy when it comes to coffee brewing, you might want to get a device that can handle these pods. ESE pods require a specially designed small basket that you insert in your portafilter but from there on it’s a breeze.