If you have made it far enough to be reading this article then you are at an exciting stage in your coffee journey! By this price range you are moving beyond entry level machines and can expect the basic features of mid-level espresso machines. Here at The Coffee Folk this is our favourite price bracket. In fact the machine we recommend is the one we used every morning for a decent couple of years and absolutely loved.
This price bracket is what multiple coffee gurus have called the sweet spot for home brewers.
At this price range you are investing in a high quality coffee machine which doesn’t break the budget. This article will review what we think are the best five espresso makers under $500.
Our Pick: Breville The Infuser
Our recommendation is that the Breville Infuser is the single best espresso maker in this price range. The Infuser has state of the art features, is of the highest quality, and best of all produces a superb shot of espresso. If you are willing to invest in this price bracket then you really can’t go beyond this coffee machine.
Things to consider when buying an espresso machine
The world of espresso machines can be rather daunting at first look. There are a stack of different machines with different features, each claiming to be the best! So here are a few tips and explanations to help you find the right espresso machine for you.
Different Types of espresso machines
What To Look For In An Espresso Machine
Because the goal is to invest in an espresso machine that you can use regularly (we use ours at least daily), it is important to get a machine that is easy to operate and maintain. Different things that come into this include the size of the water reservoir and drip tray (who wants to be filling up the water every second coffee!?), how easy the buttons or interface are to use, how easy the machine is to clean, and how long you may have to wait between extracting your shot and steaming the milk. Find a machine which suits your needs and which is going to help and not hinder your love of good coffee.
Finally, if you want to know how to use to best use one of these bad boys see our Beginners Guide To Espresso
Top 5 Espresso Machines under $500
Breville BES840XL Infuser – The Best of the Best
This espresso machine really is in a league of its own in this price bracket. It is reliable, consistent, loaded with high-end espresso features, and most importantly makes a delicious shot of coffee. In fact we loved this machine so much that when we first heard about it we went out and brought one and have never looked back.
What really sets this machine apart is a few top line features which significantly shape the quality of the coffee shot. These include an adjustable PID controller (basically an instrument which carefully regulates water temperature and can be adjusted in 2F brackets), an auto-purge function which automatically adjusts the temperature of the water after steam for optimal extraction, and most importantly the pre-infusion function from which this machine gets its name.
The pre-infusion function means that the ground beans are first soaked in water at low pressure before the pressure is increased for a crema-rich shot. The low pressure pre-infusion allows the grinds to expand and ensures a consistent infusion for a well-balanced brew. It also comes with single or double shot buttons with a manual override for further control.
It is worth noting that if you are convinced of the merits of this machine, then you should at least consider the Breville Barista. While slightly over $500, it is basically the Infuser with an inbuilt ceramic burr grinder which is super convenient. Worth at least thinking about…
We believe the Breville BES840XL Infuser is the best espresso maker under $500 and we feel sure that you will come to love it as much as we do. If you are still not convinced then feel free to read our extended review of the Infuser here.
Gaggia 14101 Classic – Tested and Tried
The Gaggia Classic has been loved and trusted for almost 30 years now. It is sturdy, reliable, and can be trusted to make a great shot of coffee and to last. Gaggia have been in the coffee industry for over 70 years and it shows. The standouts of this machine are its commercial grade quality as well as its design which is built for longevity. This means that the grouphead and portafilter are both made of heavy duty brass which stabilises temperature as well as lasting a long time.
Other features include a 58mm commercial size grouphead, a 72 oz. water reservoir, a 17.5 bar boiler, and the solenoid valve which allows for a quick turnover between shots. The Gaggia Classic is not as customisable as some of the other machines on this list but isn’t meant to be.
This espresso maker is really about one thing which is making a great shot of black coffee. So if you are looking for a machine that allows for customisation and lots of features then this might not be the coffee machine for you. But if you are looking for a high quality machine which will last, is easy to use, and makes a great shot, then this model is a real contender.
Breville Duo Temp Pro – Best for the Money
The Duo Temp basically takes the best features of the Breville Infuser and puts them in a far more affordable model. If you are hesitant to put in the extra money for the Infuser but want a quality machine that will last then this is probably our favourite option.
Like the Infuser it has a PID controller, an auto-purge function, and the pre-infusion function for crema-rich espresso. The basic difference between the Duo Temp and its older brother is programmability. Unlike the Infuser, the Duo Temp does not offer customisable temperature control or shot volume control.
This is a particularly great entry level machine for those just entering the espresso scene. It is powerful, makes great coffee, and yet is relatively simple to use. If you are looking for a quality machine that won’t break the bank then this machine is a great option.
De’Longhi EC680 Dedica – Espresso with Style
The Dedica is all about compact elegance and quality espresso. Like Gaggia, De’Longhi have been in the industry for years and know how to make espresso machines that brew great coffee. At the cheapest price on this list, the Dedica is especially good for the home brewer on a budget who cares about the quality of the coffee but is less concerned with other bells and whistles. It is also worth noting that while quality trumps aesthetic appeal, aesthetic appeal does count for something. This machine simply does look good and graces any benchtop.
And the Dedica is more than simply a pretty face. While not as customisable as some of the other machines, it can make a balanced shot of coffee. It has programmable single and double shot buttons as well as portafilter baskets for both ground beans and ESE pods. The Dedica is an elegant and affordable all-rounder for the home brewer.
Gaggia Brera 59101 – All in One
The Brera is a bit of an outlier on this list as the only Super-Automatic machine. And the reason for this is that generally good Super Automatics are expensive. But the Gaggia Brera is an outstanding exception.
This machine makes a great cup of coffee at the push of a couple of buttons. Basically, you put in whole beans and this machine grinds them for you (with five different grind settings available), tamps it, pre-infuses the grind, and then pours the extracted coffee through the grouphead. It also comes with a Pannarello steaming wand.
The Gaggia Brera is a great option if you are looking for an all-in-one machine that will give you quality espresso without all the effort of Semi-Automatics.
After reviewing a number of machines, we recommend that the best espresso machine under $500 is the Breville BES840XL Infuser. We have owned and loved this machine. It is powerful, comes with a great track record, is loaded with high end features, and best of all makes a superb cup of brew.
So whether you are just entering the coffee scene or are a brewing veteran we think that the Breville BES840XL Infuser could be a terrific next step on your coffee journey.