Is it possible to find a decent espresso machine without breaking the bank? Yes, it definitely is. Here are some of my favorite models.
Espresso gear used to be expensive.
Well, it still is… 🥲
Luckily, the budget market is looking a lot more interesting these days.
In this article, I’ll give you my guide to the best espresso machine under $200.
I have been trying a bunch of entry-level espresso makers over the years, and here I’ll try to give you a quick overview of the market, along with some of my personal top recommendations.
|Flair Espresso Maker -...||973 Reviews|
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|ROK EspressoGC||352 Reviews|
As you probably know, $200 won’t give you access to the Ferraris and Lambos of the espresso world. Instead, you’ll be looking at entry-level machines.
When we’re talking espresso, you’d broadly speaking be looking at these three categories.
However, in recent years, we’re seeing some devices that defy these categories.
New products such as non-electric manual espresso makers are becoming attractive options for those looking for the best bang for the buck. Traditional manual espresso machines (such as the legendary La Pavoni) have an electric boiler and tend to be more pricy. With newer versions such as the Flair, costs can be kept down due to their non-electric design.
There are also capsule machines based on Nespresso’s design. Even though they are technically not “authentic” espresso makers, they will usually provide a better user experience than a janky semi-automatic with a pressurized portafilter.
A Nespresso capsule system has some distinct advantages:
That being said, the capsule system is also more expensive in the long run. The small pods at first seem like a good deal since the machines are cheap and you don’t need a grinder. But when you calculate the numbers, they are far more expensive per cup.
If your espresso budget is less than $200, you might have to consider a capsule machine (Jon Åslund: Flickr CC 2.0)
Also, capsules are bad for the environment, and in my opinion, they take away most of the fun in the brewing process.
But for some people, they make sense.
If you don’t want a new hobby but rather just some coffee, then I think you should consider whether they might be worth it for you. Espresso is something one has to do wholeheartedly.
Before making any further decisions, it’s also a good idea to think about your primary purpose. Do you want to make frothy cappuccinos or lattes? In that case, you should consider whether the device has a decent steaming wand.
Do you want an espresso machine you can learn the craft on? Well, then maybe a manual, non-electric machine is the best way to go since you become familiar with the process of dialing in the right grind setting and dosing and prepping the basket.
The Flair Classic makes excellent espresso. This device uses a hand-pulled lever instead of a mechanic pump to create the pressure.
This allows you to slightly tweak the pressure profile, resulting in better espresso if you know what you’re doing.
For that reason, I think it’s fair to say that you get the best espresso shot under $200 with the Flair Classic.
There are also other good things to say about the Flair: It’s very sturdy, since it doesn’t rely on any electrical components, and it’s also portable!
The downside is that you don’t get any milk steaming with this espresso maker. So you will have to buy a separate device for that (or froth it in a French press, which some people do).
Another downside is that the workflow can be a bit complicated at first and that you need a decent grinder to be able to get the best out of the device. If you only have a blade-grinder (or similar), then the cheaper Flair Neo is the better option.
Check out my review for more information.See more reviews
You can’t talk about budget espresso machines without mentioning Italian brand, Delonghi.
This old, company has plenty of robust models available at dirt cheap prices. For that reason the question many burgeoning espresso lovers inevitably end up starting out with Delonghi. That’s not a bad thing since most of their models offer an excellent price to quality ratio.
Another cool thing is that you can learn a bit of the barista craft by starting out with a model like this and then graduate to something more substantial.
The ECE 155 has thousands (literally!) of very enthusiastic reviews on Amazon, and it lets you brew any kind of espresso-based drink imaginable.
Bonus: Also compatible with ESE podsSee more reviews
I don’t really get a thrill out of recommending a Nespresso machine, but it’s an option worth considering when the budget is constrained.
Nespresso capsules are very convenient to use.
After Nestlé’s patent expired back in 2011, some legit coffee roasters have actually started to produce capsules, which makes the whole matter more appealing.
If you’re not interested in the whole home barista “baptism of fire,” then a capsule machine is a decent and acceptable option.
It takes saves you from getting a suitable grinder, dialing it in, buying fresh coffee, and learning how to brew it.
This model is cheap, looks stylish, and comes highly recommended by a majority of its many owners.See more reviews
I adore the Cafflano Kompresso. It’s even smaller than an Aeropress, but it makes delicious espresso with legit crema.
The good thing about this little fellow (besides the price) is that you can bring it anywhere you go. Heck, you could even bring it on a mountain hike or a plane and get delicious espresso.
However, the other side of the coin is that it’s not the best option if you want to brew milk-based drinks like a latte at home. As is the case with the Flair, you need a separate steamer for that.
Also, it’s a very hands-on kind of equipment. It does take some time and effort to brew the coffee, so people who aren’t hardcore coffee geek might find the process a bit too involved. But if you learn how to use it, it’s hard to find better a better espresso maker under $100.See more reviews
Lo and behold! Is it a giant nutcracker?
No, this is one of the latest sensations on the scene for manual espresso makers. The Rok Espresso Maker is 100 percent manual and non-electric. It uses intelligent design to translate leverage into the required 9 bars that lets you pull an epic espresso shot.
If you want to get in close when brewing espresso, this device should be on your radar. The Rok gives you a lot regarding hands-on experience. Also, because the construction is so simple, you get a machine that isn’t likely to break down compared to the error-prone semi-automatic machines.
On the other hand, if you want a convenient coffee experience, as well as the occasional latte or cortado, this model isn’t for you.See more reviews
Further Reading: The Best Espresso Machines under $300