Best Espresso Machine under $500

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Welcome to our comprehensive guide on selecting the best espresso machine under $500. When it comes to coffee-related investments, an espresso machine often tops the list as one of the most significant purchases you’ll make. 

Buying an espresso machine is both exciting and scary. I mean the opportunity to make a latte at home is pretty amazing! But you don’t want to make a bad choice and be stuck with a piece of junk (and there is plenty of junk out there). Therefore, it’s crucial to make an informed decision.

At its core, a home espresso machine performs a relatively simple task; pushing hot water through finely ground coffee at high pressure. Yet, despite this simplicity, choosing the right espresso machine can be a daunting task. From basic models to high-end machines, each promises to deliver on these fundamental functions. Understanding what sets each machine apart and what you truly get for your money can be a challenge. 

In this guide, we’ll navigate the complexities of espresso machines under $500. We’ll dissect their build quality, performance capabilities, and unique features, offering insights to help you make an informed decision. 

Breville Bambino Plus

Best Espresso Machine Under 500

Breville Bambino Plus

Our recommendation is that the Breville Bambino Plus is the best espresso machine under $500. The Bambino Plus is packed full of features with the highlight being the automatic milk frother. For most people, this will be a great machine to learn espresso on.

Best Espresso Machines Under $500


Breville Bambino Plus

Best Espresso Machine Under $500

Breville Bambino Plus

Our top choice for the best espresso machine under $500 is the Breville Bambino Plus, a sleek and compact powerhouse in the world of espresso brewing.

While the Bambino Plus incorporates a considerable amount of plastic in its construction, it still maintains a sturdy feel. The portafilter feels a bit lightweight but fits snugly into the group head, ensuring a strong seal. It seems that the rationale behind this model was to spend less money on build quality so that more money could be spent on features. 

The Bambino Plus comes with everything you need to start brewing espresso. It includes both pressurized and standard filter baskets in single and double sizes, along with a tamper, milk pitcher, and cleaning accessories.

Moving on to its features, the Bambino Plus impresses on multiple fronts. Noteworthy highlights include a pre-infusion function that gradually increases water pressure for even extraction, along with PID temperature control, a rarity in machines at this price point. Additionally, it offers pre-programmed volumetric single and double-shot buttons for beginners, with the option for manual programming for advanced users. The 54mm portafilter adds to its user-friendliness, minimizing errors with its deeper, narrower bed.

The thermojet heating system ensures rapid heat-up in just 3 seconds, allowing for seamless switching between steaming and brewing with minimal wait time. However, the real highlight of this machine is the automatic steam wand. It effortlessly produces superb quality microfoam milk and offers adjustable temperatures and textures. The auto-purge function ensures the steam wand remains clean for subsequent use.

In terms of performance, the Bambino Plus consistently pulls excellent espresso shots and can create cafe-quality milk. It caters to individuals seeking the best espresso without necessarily delving deep into the nuances of espresso brewing—a machine designed for those who prioritize good espresso with minimal effort.

Pros:

  • Compact footprint
  • Automatic steam wand
  • 3-second heat up time
  • Has PID temperature control

Cons:

  • A lot of plastic in the design
  • Hot water only available from the steam wand
  • Small drip tray

Gaggia Classic Evo Pro

Best Espresso Machine For Enthusiasts

Gaggia Classic Evo Pro

The Gaggia Classic Evo Pro is a classic Italian espresso machine that has been around for almost 30 years. It is sturdy, reliable, and can be trusted to make a great shot of espresso. The standouts of this machine are its commercial-grade 58mm portafilter and steam boiler heating system—instead of a thermoblock—offering enhanced power for steaming milk.

Built to last, the Gaggia Classic Evo Pro boasts a solid stainless steel housing and weighs a hefty 19 lbs, a testament to its solid construction. The machine comes with a 58mm commercial-sized portafilter and a sizeable 72 oz water reservoir. The Gaggia Classic Evo Pro is not as customizable as some of the other more modern machines on this list but it isn’t meant to be. This is a simple machine, with a solid build that is known to be a workhorse that will last for years and hold its value well. 

In terms of features, the Gaggia Classic Evo Pro has very few. The most notable on the Evo Pro is that it is set to produce 9 bars of pressure out of the box, an upgrade from its predecessor, eliminating the need for modifications. The interface is simple to use, with three manual switches to control the power, brewing, and steaming functions. The Gaggia also has a solenoid valve, for dryer coffee pucks and less mess when cleaning up. It is worth noting that the Gaggia Classic Evo Pro does NOT have PID temperature control. While not a deal breaker this does mean that it struggles to maintain stable brewing temperatures and you may need to do some temperature surfing to counter this. A PID can be installed after purchasing if you don’t mind tinkering with the machine.

Performance-wise, the Gaggia Classic Evo Pro produces superb espresso and is a great machine to learn on. The commercial-style steam wand, while not the most powerful, offers ample opportunity to master the art of milk steaming.

The Gaggia Classic Evo Pro is an extremely popular machine among hobbyist baristas looking for an entry-level machine and has a huge community behind it. So if you are looking for a high-quality machine that will last, is easy to use, and makes a great shot, this model is a real contender. But bear in mind, it does have a steeper learning curve than some other machines on this list.

Pros:

  • Superb build quality
  • Holds value well
  • Commercial-sized portafilter and steam wand
  • Makes high-quality espresso

Cons:

  • Cup clearance is short so it can only fit small cups
  • Not great brew temperature out of the box (needs to be modded)
  • Few extra features

Cafelat Robot

Best Manual Espresso Maker

Cafelat Robot

The Cafelat Robot is a manual espresso machine, so won’t be a great fit for MOST people. However, it is a superb option for the true espresso enthusiast. The Cafelat Robot is a manual lever machine, offering the user full control over each step of brewing. 

Featuring a striking design available in various colors, the Robot boasts a durable build that ensures longevity. The Cafelat Robot is simpler to use than some other manual machines, with two levers instead of one, making it easier to press down. The workflow of the Robot is fairly straightforward to get your head around. It has a 58mm portafilter that doubles as a brew chamber, which helps prevent heat loss. The inclusion of a pressure gauge ensures you extract your espresso at the right pressure, but also allows you to play around with different pressure profiles. The downside to all manual espresso machines is that they take more effort and don’t include a steaming wand. So for any milk-based drinks, you will need to purchase a separate milk frother like the Nanofoamer

Performance-wise, the quality of espresso mirrors the user’s skill level. When mastered, the Robot is capable of rivaling some of the best espresso shots around. It is a great machine to learn about the art of espresso brewing. This manual espresso maker is for the espresso enthusiast who wants full control over brewing. While perhaps too complicated for daily use by most, its ability to produce delicious espresso and the sheer enjoyment of using it makes it an ideal hobby machine for true coffee connoisseurs.

Pros:

  • Stunning machine
  • Well built
  • No plastic is used in the design
  • Produces an excellent shot of espresso

Cons:

  • High price
  • No ability to do milk-based drinks
  • Brewing gauge is not the easiest to read
  • Difficult to push levers down

Delonghi ECP3420

Best Budget Espresso Machine

Delonghi ECP3420

If you have a limited budget the Delonghi ECP3420 is a machine worth considering. This wee machine topped our list for the best machine under $200, so it is an entry-level model, but it does perform remarkably well considering the price. 

The Delonghi ECP3420 has a sleek design and compact size perfect for smaller spaces. The build quality is quite lightweight with a lot of plastic incorporated into the design. However, its inner workings feature a 15-bar pump and a stainless steel boiler, ensuring the production of rich and flavorful espresso. Additionally, its Panarello steam wand simplifies milk frothing for lattes and cappuccinos, making it beginner-friendly.

Designed with beginners in mind, the machine includes a 3-in-1 filter holder accommodating both pre-ground coffee and E.S.E pods. However, the included plastic tamper leaves room for improvement, and notably, it does not come with a milk pitcher. Convenient features such as a removable water tank and drip tray simplify cleaning and maintenance.

In terms of features, it operates on a boiler system, preferred by many purists over the thermoblock style. The controls are straightforward, allowing users to manually start and stop shots. Performance-wise, the Delonghi ECP3420 is capable of pulling decent espresso shots with pre-ground coffee out of the box, though steaming tends to be too frothy. Upgrading to fresh ground coffee and removing the Panarello attachment, with the addition of a few accessories drastically improves the quality of both espresso and steamed milk.

In summary, the Delonghi ECP3420 is a great beginner machine that won’t break the bank.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Quick to heat up
  • Produces decent espresso considering the price
  • Compact size
  • Easy to maintain

Cons:

  • Steam wand is not all that powerful
  • Requires the purchase of additional accessories to get the most out of the machine

Lelit Anna

Best Espresso Machine For Americanos

Lelit Anna

Depending on where you are in the world, the Lelit Anna is another espresso machine worth considering. This machine is very similar to the Gaggia Classic Evo Pro, being a single boiler machine with a manual steam wand. 

The Lelit Anna has a beautiful design with a gleaming stainless steel mirror finish and Italian vibes. Designed to optimize counter space, Lelit has ingeniously placed the boiler above the group head, allowing for a generous 2.7L water reservoir without compromising on size. Despite its solid build quality and exquisite finish, some cost-cutting measures are evident, such as the plastic water tank, a smaller 57mm portafilter, and the absence of an indicator on the drip tray.

Performance-wise, the Lelit Anna operates via three chrome buttons on the front panel: power, brew, and steam. Its small boiler rapidly heats up, facilitating seamless transitions between brewing and steaming. A pressure gauge on the front aids in dialing in the coffee correctly. While the base model within the $500 price bracket lacks PID temperature control, the Lelit Anna PID model, available at a slightly higher price point, offers a built-in PID and better temperature stability. Despite this, the Lelit Anna consistently delivers sweet, well-balanced espresso shots. 

The Lelit Anna is fitted with a manual steam wand that doubles as a hot water dispenser for Americanos. The steam wand can produce good textured milk with some practice, however, it is not well-powered, given the small boiler. 

In summary, the Lelit Anna stands as a beautiful and well-built espresso machine, excelling in the brewing of both espresso and Americanos. Also worth noting is that Lelit is a very trusted name in the specialty coffee industry. 

Pros:

  • Stunning design
  • Compact footprint
  • Produces delicious espresso

Cons:

  • Steam power lacking
  • 57mm portafilter

9Barista

Most Unique Espresso Machine

9Barista

The 9Barista is a perfected take on the traditional moka pot, offering an authentic espresso experience right from your stovetop. This innovative stovetop espresso machine produces actual, crema-rich espresso that rivals that of professional coffee shops.

Crafted with precision and attention to detail, the 9Barista comprises three parts: the base, the middle water chamber, and the top. Around 110-120ml of cold water is placed into the base, where it is heated to 179°C, precisely increasing the pressure to 9 bars, creating a high-pressure boiler. A release valve then allows the water to travel up into the coil heat exchanger, where it is cooled to normal boiling temperature while maintaining the 9 bars of pressure. Finally, the water is pushed through the coffee puck at the ideal temperature and pressure, resulting in delicious espresso.

Despite its complexity, the 9Barista takes only around 6 minutes to brew from the point you turn on the stovetop. While it may be challenging to dial in initially, once mastered, it produces very consistent espresso shots, which other manual coffee makers like the Cafelat Robot struggle with.

This compact espresso maker produces espresso shots that are delicious, well-balanced, and textured, with a rich crema. Its beautiful design, complete with quality wooden accents, gives it a unique and niche appearance that embodies specialty coffee gear. Built like a tank with solid brass plated with nickel, the 9Barista is weighty and expected to last years even with heavy use.

If you’re in search of an espresso maker that is elegant, consistent, and simply satisfying to use, then the 9Barista espresso machine could be the perfect fit for you!

Pros:

  • Produces delicious, genuine espresso
  • Well built
  • Compact
  • Produces highly consistent shots

Cons:

  • Expensive for a stovetop brewer
  • Slow to use
  • Very little control over brewing parameters
  • Not great for making back-to-back shots

Best Espresso Machine Under $500 | Final Thoughts

If you are looking at investing in an espresso machine under $500 there are a range of standout options, depending on your needs. We recommend that the best espresso machine under $500 for most people is the Breville Bambino Plus. It is loaded with high-end features with the standout being the automatic steam wand. 

Alternatively, the Gaggia Classic Evo Pro is the best espresso machine for the espresso enthusiast, offering commercial-quality build and components.

So whether you are just entering the coffee scene or a brewing veteran, an espresso machine under $500 could be a terrific next step on your coffee journey. If you still aren’t sure which machine is right for you, check out our guide to the best espresso machines.

Espresso Machine Buying Guide


The world of espresso machines can be somewhat daunting at first look. There is 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 best espresso machine under 500.

Understanding The Types Of Espresso Machines

Super-Automatic

 A super-automatic machine, also known as a bean-to-cup machine, does everything for you. The home brewer puts the coffee beans into the hopper, and then the machine grinds the beans, measures them out, tamps them, and extracts the shot. Some of the pricier super-automatics also automatically steam the milk, while less expensive models tend to require manual steaming. A super-automatic espresso machine is an excellent option for those who prioritize convenience over control and effectively want good coffee on tap.


This list mainly deals with semi-automatics as the super-automatics tend to be more expensive. If you are interested in buying a bean-to-cup machine see our guide to the best Super-Automatic espresso machines.

Semi-Automatic

When looking for an espresso machine under 500, a semi-automatic is the most common type of machine. This machine pumps hot water through a pre-ground and pre-tamped portafilter to extract a shot of coffee. With a semi-automatic espresso machine, the user will have to:

  • Grind the beans
  • Dose into the portafilter and tamp
  • Lock the portafilter into the group head and oversee the brewing
  • Steam the milk

Brewing is a lot more hands-on than with a super-automatic espresso machine. Therefore, the quality of the espresso is strongly influenced by the skill and competency of the home brewer. On the one hand, this means there is room for development and close involvement in the brewing process. But on the other hand, it can be a fairly steep learning curve for those relatively new to the espresso scene. Overall, as this article will show, we believe that a semi-automatic espresso machine is the way to go for MOST coffee enthusiasts.

Manual

Manual espresso makers are the way to go for those who are unashamedly coffee geeks. As the name suggests, these machines give the home barista complete control over every aspect of the extraction process. So not only does the home brewer grind, dose, and tamp, but they also control the water temperature, the pre-infusion time and pressure, and the pressure for the main extraction. A manual espresso machine can produce some of the best espresso out there but comes with a steep learning curve. Most manual espresso machines also do not come with the ability to froth milk, so are really for espresso enthusiasts.

Nespresso

While Nespresso machines also fit into this price range, we haven’t included them as we think you can get something better with a $500 budget. Nespresso machines are convenient to use, but they do not produce real espresso. If Nespresso is your thing, then check out our article on the best Nespresso machines.

PARTS OF AN ESPRESSO MACHINE

What To Look For In An Espresso Machine

Because the goal is to invest in an espresso machine that you can regularly use (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 that suits your needs and will help and not hinder your love of good coffee.

Heating System

The heating system is one of the key elements required to produce delicious espresso. If water is not heated to and maintained at the optimal brewing temperature (195-204F), the espresso will be under-extracted, tasting sour, or over-extracted, tasting bitter. There are a range of different heating systems available:

  • Thermoblock of Thermocoil: these are the most common heating systems found in machines at this price point. They essentially are a heating element embedded in metal, with a pipe running through it. Water passes through the pipe and is heated instantly. The advantage of this system is that it doesn’t take long for the machine to heat up or switch from brew to steam. The downside of this system is that the steam pressure is not as good as a boiler system. Also, these machines are not as stable in terms of temperature compared to boiler systems. 
  • Thermojet: this is the latest technology being introduced. Here the heating element only heats the water when needed as it’s being pumped to the brew head, steam wand, or hot water spout. A thermojet system has the machine ready to brew within 3 seconds and switches almost instantaneously between brewing and steaming. The downside is that the portafilter and group head don’t get heated up until the machine is brewing. So it is recommended to preheat the machine before brewing by pulling a blind shot.
  • Boiler: this system was found in the original espresso makers and is favored by espresso enthusiasts. Here, a boiler holds a large volume of water at a specific temperature for either brewing or steaming (not both). Boilers offer better temperature consistency and are longer lasting. The downside is that they take longer to heat up, given they have to heat a large quantity of water. 
PID Temperature Control

PID (Proportional-Integral-Derivative for those who love acronyms) is a digital temperature control that carefully regulates the water temperature with great precision. This ensures that water is heated and maintained at the right temperature for optimal espresso extraction. Machines lacking PID tend to experience temperature fluctuations, particularly when transitioning between steaming and brewing, often necessitating the flushing of excess hot water from the group head to achieve the desired brewing temperature.

Pressure

When it comes to achieving 9 bars of pressure, the machines at this price point typically employ a vibration pump. These pumps, though small and inexpensive, can generate pressures higher than necessary for espresso extraction (often advertised as 15 bars). To manage this, they incorporate an over pressure valve (OPV) to release excess pressure. However, in cheaper models, the OPV may not be accurately set, sometimes intentionally exceeding 9 bars to accommodate pre-ground coffee.

Alternatively, pressure can be generated using a manual lever, as demonstrated in the Cafelat Robot. While a lever machine offers users complete control over the process, maintaining consistent pressure manually poses a challenge, resulting in difficulty reproducing shots consistently.

Pre-Infusion Function

The pre-Infusion function in the Breville models is particularly noteworthy as it infuses a small amount of water at low pressure into the coffee puck to wet the grounds. This helps prevent channeling and therefore aids even extraction. This feature will help you produce better espresso, which is what it is all about.

Brewing Controls

Espresso machines under 500 tend to offer either manual or volumetric control for brewing.

Manual controls are the cheapest option, and use an on/off switch for the pump that the user pushes to start and stop the shot.

Other machines, like the Breville Bambino Plus, have volume-based control. These machines incorporate a flow meter that halts brewing automatically after a predetermined volume of water has flowed through. This system proves convenient for those seeking a less hands-on brewing experience. 

Steaming

At this price range, even the best espresso machines require switching to steam mode, usually with a slight delay, before reaching the necessary temperature for steaming. While boiler machines generally offer superior steam pressure, this can vary depending on boiler size.

Some machines feature a Panarello attachment designed to incorporate air into the milk and maximize foam production from undersized boilers. While easy to use, these attachments often yield frothy milk rather than the desired microfoam. They are also difficult to clean and maintain.

Finally, automatic steam wands have started to be introduced. These have been very impressive, producing exceptional milk, and are a good option for those uninterested in mastering the art of steaming milk manually.

How to steam milk

Portafilter Size

At this price point, it is rare to find a machine with a commercial-sized (58mm) portafilter. The Gaggia Classic and Cafelat Robot are the exceptions. Most of the machines have smaller portafilters with common sizes including 57, 54, and 51mm. 

Smaller portafilters offer benefits for beginners, with a deeper, narrower bed that reduces room for error and minimizes water channeling. However, they do have a drawback regarding machine upgradeability. Accessories like tampers or precision baskets purchased for these smaller portafilters may not be compatible with future machine upgrades.

Extra Features

The espresso machines begin to have some great features at this price bracket. A few to look out for are:

  • Dry puck feature, which makes cleaning up a breeze
  • A hot water outlet for Americanos and tea
  • Programmability- some machines allow you to alter things like brew temperature or set shot volume
  • Pressure gauge
  • Auto-off, to save energy
  • Ability to fit different cup sizes
  • Available in different colors
Three-Way Solenoid Valve

A Solenoid valve is a helpful feature that releases pressure from the group head once you have finished brewing, allowing you to remove the portafilter immediately after extracting.

Accessories

The final thing to consider is the accessories that come with the espresso machine. Some machines have everything you need to start brewing, like filter baskets, a tamp, a milk pitcher, and cleaning supplies. Others offer cheap accessories or none at all. These are extra costs you will have to factor in. 

 Finally, if you want to know how to best use one of these bad boys, see our Beginners Guide To Espresso.

Happy Buying!

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