Is it possible to get a decent espresso machine without breaking the bank? We certainly think so, which is why we have written this article on the best espresso machines under $200.
In the under $200 price bracket you can expect to get an entry-level espresso machine that is easy to use and allows you to steam your milk. In this article, we will seek to help you navigate the sometimes confusing world of espresso machines and review what we believe to be the five best espresso machines under $200.
Best Espresso Machine Under $200
The Delonghi ECP3420 is a basic espresso machine that does a decent job of producing espresso. It is compact, simple to use, and a great machine if you want to do espresso on a budget.
Best Espresso Machines Under $200
The Delonghi ECP3420 is a great little machine if you are on a tight budget. Its sleek design and compact size make it ideal for fitting into smaller spaces. Despite its status as an entry-level machine, the ECP3420 performs remarkably well.
With a 15-bar pump pressure system combined with a stainless steel boiler, the ECP3420 ensures the extraction of rich and flavorful espresso. Featuring a Panarello steam wand, users can effortlessly froth milk for crafting lattes and cappuccinos.
The machine comes with a 3 in 1 filter holder, accommodating both pre-ground coffee and E.S.E (easy-serving espresso) pods. This flexibility enables users to customize their brewing experience based on personal preferences. The machine includes a removable water tank and drip tray for easy cleaning and maintenance.
Many users opt to enhance the ECP3420 by investing in a single-walled portafilter basket, allowing the use of freshly ground coffee and removing the Panarello attachment. These small modifications drastically improve the quality of both espresso and steamed milk.
In summary, the Delonghi ECP3420 stands out as a reliable and budget-friendly entry point into the world of espresso brewing, capable of delivering delicious coffee.
Flair Espresso Maker
The Flair Classic is a superb brewer for the espresso enthusiast and produces the best espresso of all the machines in this lineup. The Flair is a manual espresso maker so uses a lever rather than a mechanical pump to create pressure. While a manual espresso machine gives the user complete control over the brewing process, it does come with a steep learning curve, so is not for everyone.
If you are a newbie to espresso, you may find the workflow of the Flair complicated at first. The brewing process involves preparing the portafilter, then preparing the brew head by adding hot water before moving the brew head onto the base to pull a shot. You pull the lever down to generate the 9 bars of pressure required to produce espresso. It is worth noting you can buy an add-on pressure gauge which is helpful for brewing.
We would be remiss not to mention the design, the Flair Classic is a stunning machine, that will be a statement piece on any bench. It has a durable build, contains no electric parts, and comes with a 3-year warranty. The Flair Classic is also portable, coming with a carrying case. While the Flair offers the best bang for buck, it does require access to hot water and a decent grinder.
The Flair Espresso maker is a great option for the espresso lover who is committed to learning how to pull a good shot and is willing to invest time and effort in experimenting.
De’Longhi EC155 Espresso Maker
If you are looking for a basic espresso machine to learn to brew espresso on, the De’Longhi EC155 is the best option. The EC155 is a typical semi-automatic machine that will pull a consistent shot of coffee and comes fitted with a pannarello steam wand to create milk-based drinks.
The EC155 is a very compact machine, great for those with limited counter space. Most of the machine is composed of plastic, which isn’t a surprise at this price point, but it does come with a stainless steel boiler. The machine comes with a 3-in-1 portafilter, compatible with ground coffee or ESE pods. The portafilter is pressurized, but can easily be converted to an unpressurized filter if you want to use freshly ground coffee. It also comes with a built-in plastic tamper, which is rather difficult to use, and a small 35 oz water reservoir.
While the Delonghi EC155 is small and feels cheap, it is capable of pulling a good shot of espresso. It also has a steam wand allowing you to brew milk-based beverages. While obviously at this price it is very much an entry-level machine, it is a bargain for the price and a gentle entry into espresso making.
While a Nespresso machine doesn’t produce traditional espresso, these machines are worth considering at this price point. The Nespresso Vertuo is one of the latest machines in the range, producing both espresso and drip style coffee. The Vertuo can brew four different cup sizes at the push of a button- Espresso (1.35 oz), Double Espresso (2.7 oz), Gran Lungo (5 oz), and Coffee (7.7 oz).
Nespresso machines are renowned for their ease of use. The user needs only insert the capsule and push a button to brew coffee. The machine automatically adjusts the brewing parameters (coffee size, temperature, pressure, and brewing time) according to the capsule inserted. It uses centrifusion technology to spin the capsule at high speeds, for better coffee extraction.
In addition to being simple to use, the Nespresso Vertuo machine is well designed. It has a large 40 oz water reservoir and can hold up to 17 used capsules. The machine heats up extremely quickly, in under 20 seconds, and has an automatic shut-off after 9 minutes to conserve power. There is also an adjustable drip tray to accommodate larger mugs. Finally, the Nespresso Vertuo comes with a pack of complimentary capsules to get you started.
All in all, the Nespresso Vertuo is a good option for the coffee enthusiast wanting a quick and easy way to enjoy their morning brew.
Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista
The Mr Coffee Cafe Barista, as the name suggests, is a great machine for the latte or cappuccino lover. It is a semi-automatic espresso machine with the added convenience of an automatic milk frother. It is touted as being a 3-in-1 espresso, latte, and cappuccino maker and offers six different beverage sizes:
Like the Nespresso Vertuo, the Mr Coffee offers a one-touch control panel, producing your desired drink with the push of a button. The automatic milk frother has a control dial on it allowing you to adjust the level of froth produced. It is a very simple machine to use, once you have inserted the portafilter with ground coffee, you select what drink you want and the machine will pull the shot and deliver frothed milk directly into your cup.
The Mr Coffee Cafe Barista comes with a large 40 oz water reservoir and a removable milk reservoir, allowing you to store any leftover milk in the fridge. It comes with several accessories including a portafilter, plastic tamper, and single and double-shot pressurized filters for pre-ground coffee. It also has a few handy features including an automatic sleep mode after 15 minutes of inactivity and programmed cleaning cycles. And speaking of cleaning, the Cafe Barista does require regular cleaning, especially of the milk frother.
Overall, Mr Coffee delivers on producing a low-cost and convenient coffee maker. However, it does contain a lot of plastic in the design, so durability may be a concern.
The Wacaco Nanopresso is a portable espresso machine designed for travel. The Nanopresso is shaped like a capsule and consists of three parts: the portafilter, the main body, and the water tank. To brew you fill the portafilter with ground coffee, the water tank with hot water then pump the piston to build pressure. As you pump a single shot of espresso is slowly released.
The Nanopresso can be relied upon to produce a good shot of espresso complete with a layer of crema. However, the device is designed to be used with pre-ground coffee rather than freshly ground. There is also the option of getting the NS adapter, which will allow you to brew with Nespresso capsules instead.
The Nanopresso has a robust build and is compact and portable, coming with a travel case. However, brewing with it can be fiddly and requires access to hot water. Cleaning up can also be a hassle with a lot of small parts to wash. Given this, there is a narrow niche of people who would enjoy the Nanopresso; namely the devoted espresso lover. If this sounds like you, the Nanopresso may be just the brewer to take on your travels.
The Best Espresso Machine Under $200 | Final Thoughts
So is it possible to find a decent espresso machine under $200? While the pickings are slim, there are a few stand-out brewers. If you love espresso and want to pull quality shots the Flair Classic Espresso Maker is the best option on the table. This manual espresso machine punches above its weight and will produce high-quality espresso that rivals machines twice its price.
If you want the ability to brew milk-based drinks, the De’Longhi ECP3420 is a basic but affordable espresso machine that offers a gentle entry into espresso.
While it is possible to get an espresso machine for under $200, what you get will be entry-level at best. It is worth at least considering your other options:
How to pick a home espresso machine
If you take a quick look you will see there are a huge variety of espresso machines for under $200. Most of these machines are cheap knockoffs, that unfortunately won’t make good espresso and aren’t worth spending the money on. In the rest of this article, we will help you navigate the world of espresso machines, so you find a machine that will meet your needs.
What are the different types of Espresso Machines?
Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
The majority of espresso machines under $1000 tend to be semi-automatic espresso machines. These machines have electric pumps which produce the 9 bars of pressure required to brew espresso. The barista controls the grinding and tamping while the machine generally governs the pressure and extraction time (in the under $500 range you can expect to have some customization over the extraction process but not generally in the under $200 range). Semi-Automatics are our favorite option for the coffee lover beginning his journey into the world of espresso. They give a taste of the hands-on process of espresso making and milk frothing while remaining relatively easy to master, especially on entry-level machines.
Super-Automatic Espresso Machines
Super-Automatic espresso machines are for coffee lovers who don’t have the time or inclination to develop their barista skills. These machines are similar to having a personal barista as they are fully automated so do everything for you from grinding and tamping to brewing and milk steaming at the push of a button. They can produce a great cup of coffee however they are generally on the higher end of the price scale. If you are interested in investing in this type of machine see our guide on the best super-automatic espresso machines.
Manual Espresso Machines
Manual espresso machines are for espresso enthusiasts who want to make an art out of brewing. These machines allow complete control over every step of the espresso-making process from grinding to tamping to pressure and extraction time. They can be difficult to use but lead to a very balanced and textured shot of coffee when you master it. In recent years, new manual espresso machines like the Flair and ROK have been released which offer great value for money. These machines cannot steam milk, and so are for those invested in espresso.
Finally, capsule or pod machines are for the person who wants a quick fix. These machines are convenient, untechnical, and easy to use. The process is as simple as inserting the capsule, pushing a button, and enjoying the coffee that comes out. However, the coffee enthusiast may find the coffee lacks depth and there is little possibility for development. Also, while various companies such as Nespresso now have environmentally responsible disposable options, an awful lot of these pods do end up in landfills. Capsule machines are similar to Super-Automatics in that the real advantage of these machines is convenience and consistency. If you are looking for the best espresso machine under $200 you may find a capsule machine is a good option as they tend to be quite affordable and you generally get a high-quality machine. There is also no need to invest in a grinder if you opt for one of these machines. The downside is that they are more expensive to run in the long run, with a higher cost per cup of coffee.
Pods: These are discs of coffee compressed between 2 layers of filter paper- they vaguely look like a tea bag. Some machines allow you to use both ground coffee or pods.
Capsules: These are made from aluminum or plastic with a foil top and contain a sealed dose of coffee. A capsule allows the coffee to stay fresh for up to 9 months.
What to look for in an espresso machine
To find the perfect espresso machine for you, you need to know what you are looking for. So with that in mind, here are a few considerations to help you figure out which type of machine might be your next step on your coffee journey.
Espresso or Cappuccino?
The first thing to consider is whether you need a steaming wand or not. If you are just interested in espresso it would be best to opt for a manual espresso maker which will produce the best shot of espresso. If you do want the ability to brew milk-based drinks opt for a machine with streaming capabilities. At this price point, most of the wands/ milk frothers are pannarello wands so will produce thick froth but not microfoam.
Level of Technical Skill Required
If you are just looking for a quick easy shot of caffeine that beats the instant coffee on the bench then a capsule or super-automatic machine may be your best fit. These machines will produce a coffee that is a significant level above instant coffee without requiring extensive effort.
If you are willing to take the time to learn but have little previous experience with espresso machines then a semi-automatic espresso machine is a fantastic doorway into the coffee world. And finally, if you are a coffee fanatic and want to make a hobby out of brewing then a manual espresso maker at least ought to be your goal.
Depth of Flavor
If you are looking for a high-quality espresso shot, then either a semi-automatic or manual machine is the way to go. At this price point, many of the semi-automatic espresso machines struggle to achieve the temperature stability or water distribution required for a well-extracted shot.
If you generally just enjoy coffee anyway, anytime and love trying new flavors then capsule machines can be a fun and good option.
Pressurized or Unpressurized portafilter
Another factor when it comes to flavor is whether you are using freshly ground or pre-ground coffee. At this price point, most espresso machines come with pressurized, or double-walled, filters. These are baskets with a false bottom and a tiny pinhole at the bottom. The idea is that it creates a higher pressure within the basket when brewing to improve extraction and allow you to use pre-ground coffee. These baskets are helpful for beginners, producing good results even if the grind is not precise. However, if you want to advance in skill you should be working towards grinding your beans and using unpressurized filters, which leads to far better crema and more delicious espresso. As such, you will need a machine that comes with both types of baskets.
While any espresso machine will produce enjoyable coffee (in theory anyway), different machines will come with different features. So, for example, generally, capsule machines come with milk frothers (which are completely automatic and do it for you) while manual and semi-automatic machines come with a steaming wand (which means you froth the milk yourself like you see the baristas do in cafes). Some of the other features include single and double-shot options, cup warmers, and removable water reservoirs.
What is required to pull a good Espresso shot?
Freshly Ground Quality Coffee
One thing that you will rightly hear again and again as you get more involved in the espresso world is that your single most important piece of equipment is a quality burr grinder. While pre-ground coffee is fine at this price range, if you are even thinking of upgrading it is worth seriously considering buying a quality burr grinder. Also if possible stay away from those pre-ground beans in the supermarket aisle, and find a specialty coffee roastery near you. The taste of your espresso will never exceed the quality of your beans.
A minimum of 9 bars of pressure
Espresso is made by forcing hot water (~195-200F) under high pressure through finely ground, compacted coffee. This results in a shot of extracted coffee ideally with a layer of rich, golden crema on the surface. A good espresso machine should produce a minimum of 9 bars of pressure for optimal extraction.
Water temperature at 195-205F
Espresso machines have a boiler in which the water is heated to the correct temperature. The ideal temperature for a good extraction is 195-205F. Less expensive machines have a single boiler for both steam and espresso, while pricier machines have twin boilers.
25-30 seconds of brewing
Typically a double shot of coffee should take between 25 and 30s to extract. This is especially important for manual and the more customizable semi-automatic machines. Entry level espresso machines will often simply have a pre-programmed single and double shot button so that you don’t need to worry about shot volume or extraction times.