Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to drop a ton of cash to get an espresso maker these days. You may indeed get the very best there is—in fact something which may even give you bragging rights—however, even the best will be not much use to you if you don’t know much of what to do with it.
That’s right. These affordable makers here are more for those who are just starting out or for those looking to make the switch from drip coffee to a much stronger brew. Affordable, easy to use, and solid, these makers will make you feel glad that you took a chance on espresso making while guaranteeing a great experience.
Here are the best espresso machines you can buy, and all for under $200.
- [Top Pick] Best Value Semi Automatic Espresso Machine – Delonghi EC155
- Best Entry Level Semi Automatic Espresso Machine – Mr. Coffee Café Barista
- Best Affordable Semi Automatic Espresso Machine – Delonghi EC702
- Best Budget Automatic Espresso Machine – Nespresso Pixie
Best Under $200 Espresso Machine Reviews
Best Value Semi Automatic Espresso Machine – Delonghi EC155
For your first espresso maker, you will want something that can give you a warm welcome to the wonderful world of espresso making. Something simple and thoughtful, yet capable enough to do more than the basics, which is merely brewing espresso. Well, look no further than the Delonghi EC155, which is the best espresso maker under $200 you can buy today, and also a real crowd-pleaser.
Light, compact, and simple in design, with only a big dial on the front face of the maker, the Delonghi EC155 is replete with thoughtful features inside and out. Right out of the box, you will get two metal filters to handle single and double shots of espresso as well as Easy Serving Espresso pod (E.S.E. pod). An E.S.E. pod, for your info, is a paper filter that contains a measured amount of coffee ground, sort of like a tea bag.
Using it then will save you the trouble of grinding your coffee beans as well as dosing and tamping them, which altogether requires a certain amount of skill, if you will, to get it right. The key component here which will instantly improve your espresso-making game is a quality grinder, which you can get it at my best coffee grinders page. (It should be worth noting that unless you already have a grinder, there will be no other way for you to grind your beans because this maker does not include a built-in grinder.)
While using E.S.E pods is obviously easier, many have said that pods usually give more watery taste and also produce less crema, which is the lovely foam that rests on top of your espresso. Therefore, if you want better-tasting espresso out of this maker, or any other maker for that matter, it’s recommended that you use fresh ground coffee.
Of the many features offered by the Delonghi EC155, the most shout about is its ability to froth milk via its manual frothing wand. Because it’s said this wand can foam milk with micro-bubbles instead of big, unwieldy bubbles, you can therefore create latte art but not merely cappuccinos with it. Creating latte art that is Instagram-worthy of course will be very much dependent on your skill, but it’s good to know that the maker affords you this capability. Also, this will give you an opportunity to impress your friends, especially after you’ve become good at it.
To sum it up, the Delonghi EC155 is a very versatile and easy to use maker, which serves its function really well. That said, just don’t expect for it to be consistent though, as its weak vibratory pump and erratic water temperature control don’t quite cooperate in this regard.
To be perfectly honest, great performance and consistency is something reserved for top-end makers. Nevertheless, due to its all-around, thoughtful offerings, it can be assumed that the Delonghi EC155 has stretch its capabilities in every way it can with what it was given to work with.
Get the Delonghi EC155 here.
Best Entry Level Semi Automatic Espresso Machine – Mr. Coffee Café Barista
If you somehow find that the Delonghi EC155 requires a lot of effort to brew a cup of espresso and want something more simple, even, then be sure to look into the Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista. With the Cafe Barista, which is said to be a hybrid between a manual and super-automatic espresso maker, almost everything can be done at a touch of a button. You can brew espressos, prepare cappuccinos, and create lattes, all by using the maker’s three-button interface, which is as intuitive as it’s straightforward.
Only thing you need to do to get the ball rolling is to add water to its removable reservoir, add milk of your choosing to its removable milk reservoir, and attach the portafilter (which is a handle that holds your coffee grounds) to the brew head of the machine. Prior to that last step, of course you need to grind your coffee grounds, scoop them into the filter which goes in the portafilter, and tamp them firmly; but that’s about it.
From there on, straight espresso and espresso-style drinks can be made on command using the multi-function buttons. You can either press the “Espresso,” “Cappuccino,” or “Latte” button once, and the maker will then brew a single shot of it, whereas if you press the button twice, the maker will then brew a double shot of it.
While this may sound a little oversimplified, or unimpressive even, actually there is a lot going on with the maker once it’s being prompted to brew something by you. For instance, after receiving the command to brew latte, the maker will then proceed to pull a single shot of espresso and then combine it with the right amount of steam milk and frothed milk into your cup. By comparison, with the Delonghi DC155, if you want to make a latte with it, you will need to steam and froth milk yourself, and then finally add it to your espresso shot.
As you can see, the automation enabled by the Cafe Barista clearly makes brewing espresso-style drinks easier and quicker, too. Not only can you skip the act of frothing milk with it but the time and effort of learning it too, as it’s said to be something that requires practice to get the results you want.
In the event that you feel that the Cafe Barista’s default settings don’t quite give you the beverage you want, you can easily adjust them too. This maker gives you the option to customize the amount of espresso brewed, the amount of foam produced, and the amount of foam added to your beverage—-and, again, all with minimal effort.
To sum it up, the Cafe Barista is a very versatile, capable maker that comes laden with a host of convenient features. A variety of coffee drinks can be brewed in a matter of minutes using the maker’s control panel, once the basic preparations are done. That said, like the Delonghi EC155, also don’t expect for it to be consistent in pulling great-tasting shots though, as its vibration pump mechanism is said to deliver mixed results to this end.
So, who is the Cafe Barista for? Ultimately, the Cafe Barista is very suitable for someone who wants to be more hands-off in the espresso-making process. For someone who loves espresso and espresso-style drinks, in particular, but don’t want to go through the hassle of frothing milk or pulling shots manually.
Get the Cafe Barista here
Best Affordable Semi Automatic Espresso Machine – Delonghi EC702
Next up on my list of the best espresso machines you can buy for under $200 is the Delonghi EC702. As this is also a Delonghi, as with my first pick, this invariably leads us to compare the two models, and learn why that model came out on top instead of this. So, let’s find out.
Actually, believe it or not, despite how both machines look, there’s not much that separates the two in their offerings. Both offer the same metal filters with the same circumference to brew one or two shots of espresso along with the option to use Easy Serving Espresso pod (E.S.E. pod). Both consume the same amount of power at 1100 watts. And both have a boiler made of stainless steel and two thermostats, which function is to control the water temperature and steam temperature separately.
In terms of how they are constructed and designed though, we can very well see that they are miles apart, which also causes one to considerably bump up its price (but still under $200). Yes, as you might have guessed, this maker, the Delonghi EC702, is the more expensive model due in large part of its build material used.
Whereas the Delonghi EC155 is enveloped with a plastic-heavy and steel casing, the Delonghi EC702 is enveloped with a fully stainless steel casing, which also helps to give it a more solid and modern look. This modern design may not mean much on its own, but when placed on your kitchen counter, it can easily blend in with its backsplashes, helping to spruce up the space.
That said though, you might want to make sure your kitchen counter has enough room for it, if you already have your heart set on it, as it’s bigger than the EC155. To be more specific, the EC702 measures at 12.50″H x 11.25″ W x 8.19″ D, while the EC155 measures at 11.50″H x 7.5″ W x 13.25″D.
So is bigger better? Well yes and no. By being bigger, and wider in particular, you will in essence have more “working space” in the drip tray and cup warming areas. But on the other hand, you will require more countertop space to accommodate it.
One reason for the EC702’s increased size is its larger water tank. The water tank of the EC155 holds 44 oz of water, as opposed to 35 oz in the EC155. The bigger the water tank is of course the less frequently you’ll have to fill it, thereby adding a nice touch of convenience to your brewing routine. Finally, another notable difference between the two is that the EC702 offers a cup warming tray, whereas EC155 don’t.
To sum it up, the newer EC702 offers much of the same, even the same issues, with what the EC155 offers, but with a better build quality with a higher price to match. Instead of mainly a plastic housing, it offers a handsome, satin-finish stainless steel housing. Additionally, it is also bigger and heavier, as it has to conceal a bigger water tank. But as to why it wasn’t on my top pick is because I feel it didn’t quite offer enough to warrant its price tag, which is almost double the EC155, but still very affordable nonetheless.
So, who is the EC702 for? Ultimately, the EC702 is for someone who already likes all that the Delonghi EC155 has to offer, but wants something more sturdy and solid as well as looks better. No doubt you will have to fork out more for it, but presumably it will be more durable as well.
Get the Delonghi EC155 here.
Best Budget Automatic Espresso Machine – Nespresso Pixie
While the Cafe Barista still requires some effort on your part to brew a shot of espresso, this maker here, the Nespresso Pixie by Nestle, requires almost none. Really, as far as espresso makers goes, nothing could be easier to set up and operate, as well as straightforward to use, as the Nespresso makers.
The only makers that perhaps could come close in this regard are the super-automatic makers, but those will cost you an arm and a leg, and, presumably, that’s not what you’re interested in, as of now. (However, if you are interested, you can check out these best super automatic espresso machines on my other page.)
To brew a cup of espresso with the Pixie, you simply add water in the maker’s water tank, insert a Nespresso capsule, or pod, of your choosing in the maker, and place your cup under the maker’s outlet; and that’s it. After that, all that’s left for you to do is press either one of the two buttons (one for a single shot and the other for a double shot, which is actually a Lungo), and the Pixie will then proceed to kicking out a great shot in just 25 seconds.
One thing that you may notice as the Pixie is pulling a shot is how quiet it is as compared to other makers. While it’s not nearly as quiet as an electric shaver, it’s not nearly as loud as an electric blow dryer. With regard to where this noise is coming from though, in case if you didn’t know, it’s actually coming from the maker’s pump.
Immediately, what’s striking about this pump is that it’s claimed to operate on 19 bars of pressure. Actually, to pull a proper shot of espresso, it’s widely agreed that a maker should just generate at around 9 bars of pressure. So is more better? Not necessarily, as it’s said anything over 10 bars of pressure won’t increase the espresso quality. Which leads us to the next question: Is the Pixie capable of producing great espresso?
On this matter, a writer from The Sweethome after testing the maker said that the Nespresso makers actually produce consistently decent espresso, with crema, that will even give Starbucks a run for its money. However, he later added a caveat by saying that even beginners working on a cheap semi-automatic espresso maker can achieve better results with just a bit of practice.
To sum it up, the Nespresso Pixie is a very compact, quiet, and fast maker that is super easy to use. Because it works only with Nespresso capsules though, you have to make sure they are readily available to make a drink. However, the advantage of this is that you don’t have to fuss with grinding your coffee beans, dosing coffee, and tamping it.
So, who is the Nespresso Pixie for? Ultimately, the Pixie is for someone always on the go. For someone who don’t have the patience and time to learn the ins and outs and espresso making, not particularly picky about taste, and just wants a quick cup of espresso-style drink every now and then with minimum fuss and mess.
Get the Nespresso Pixie here.
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