Finding the best espresso machine under $200 can be a daunting task, as this is a category with a huge offering. While it certainly it possible to find a few good espresso machines (as I will show you), there's also a lot of poorly built rubbish to find. Luckily, after sifting through many products, I found you the best home espresso machine under $200, with one of them even being under $100.
For $200 you get a decent, entry-level espresso machine, without many frills or gimmicks. It will help you in improving your barista skills, even if you're just starting out. Just don't expect the espresso to be consistent each and every time. At this price level you are missing features like proper heat management, and a pressure gauge, for example.
For this article I will be focussing on semi-automatic espresso machines. These offer a perfect combination of control and usability, as well as the ability to extract a good espresso. Semi-automatics are the professionally looking machines, where you grind the coffee separately into a portafilter. This will be explained further on.
Mr. Coffee Café Barista
In this article you will find, of course, the best espresso machine under $200. I will also show you a cheaper alternative, along with its difference compared to the #1. In addition to these two devices, you will also find a more expensive espresso machine, which is the winner of our "Best Espresso Machine under $500" (article is expected soon) category. This specific device offers a few important upgrades over the #1 under $200, so you can confidentially decide if spending more money on your espresso machine is worth it.
So I hope you will enjoy this article, and find your best home espresso machine under $200. If you have any questions, please let me know if the comments, so I can try to help you even better.
In this article you will find the best espresso machine under $200, along with its pros & cons. You will also find a cheaper alternative, along with a comprehensive report of how it differs from the #1. I have also included the #1 Espresso machine under $500, to show you what you can get if you raise your budget.
Best Overall Choice for Espresso Machine under $200
Best Budget Choice for Espresso Machine under $200
Best Overall Choice for Espresso Machine under $500
The goal of each of the reviews on Let's Grind Some Coffee is to do an insane amount of research, so you don't have to anymore. We work with a number of talented and experienced writers, who know what they're talking about. Each writer is responsible for conducting his/her own research, so there's no miscommunication possible. When doing this article I owned the Breville Barista Express BES870XL. For the other products I used product reviews, customers comments, and instruction videos and manuals.
Sometimes we've had the products in our hands to test it directly, but in most cases, we rely on other espresso machine reviews, product manuals, comment sections, Youtube videos, forum discussion and so on. This way you don't only get our opinion, but a collective opinion of experts all around the globe.
By combining all of our findings in our reviews, each article should serve as your definite resource to base your decisions on. As the research can get quite extensive, our individual product reviews tend to be very long and detailed. However, when making a "Best Pick" article like this one we try to be as comprehensive as possible. We will break down the pros and cons of each product as clearly as possible, so you know what you're buying. If you want to learn more about a product you can read its longer and more detailed review.
We base our "Best Choice" on a couple of points, including:
The feature set, build quality/durability and output quality. After we rate each finding, we have a look at its price. We want you to be able to afford the product you're interested. It's easy to get a maximum score with a product costing $5,000+. While this ultimately may be the best product you can get, its price tag will prevent most people from being able to afford it. Therefore, the price of a product is an important consideration before declaring a product the best.
For each category, we list the following options:
- What is the overall best product, based on price vs. quality?
- What is the best product under $XX (where we use a relevant budget)?
- What is the best product is money is not an issue?
This way we think we can satisfy anyone looking for a product, as well as being able to show what you can get for each different price range. After all, it's up to you whether you think a better product is worth its money, we just make sure you know what you're getting.
Don't hesitate to leave any feedback or questions in the comment section. We're more than happy to help. We're always open to adding relevant information to the article if there's an omission or if something is unclear, just let us know.
Not every coffee maker is capable of making an espresso, which requires the right amount of pressure along the proper heat. An espresso machine is a device well-optimized for doing just that, making espressos. The most popular espresso machines are the so-called semi-automatic espresso machines. These devices use an eye-catching portafilter, which you fill yourself with ground coffee.
The "semi" part applies to the machine delivering the right pressure, in comparison to a manual espresso machine, where you need to deliver the pressure yourself by using a lever. There are also super-automatic espresso machines. However, these are far more expensive than a semi-automatic, and not all capable of making a true espresso, especially the cheaper ones.
Now we've got that out of the way, let's have a look at the best home espresso machines, and their pros & cons.
Manual, Semi Automatic or Super Automatic Espresso machines?
These terms are applied to show the amount of labor involved when making coffee. A manual espresso machine requires the most effort, where the super-automatic is fully hands-off.
The Café Barista is one of the most popular semi-automatic espresso machines in the world. Because of its built-in milk frother, it is sometimes classified as a super-automatic. While this isn't the proper classification, it does show how versatile this tiny espresso maker is.
The Mr. Coffee Café is known for its good espressos, which isn't an easy achievement in this price class. Its consistency, though, is what you can expect from a low-cost espresso machine.
It's not totally hit-and-miss, but you can expect an espresso to be a bit sour now and then. Just make sure to properly pre-heat, which means having the device warm up long enough, and running water through its portafilter before making coffee.
A nice feature is the auto shut-off function, to prevent it from running indefinitely (until your out of water).
The reason it is #1 on this list is because of its One-Touch Cappuccino functionality, which works pretty well. Making milk foam isn't an easy task, and especially low-cost devices don't really stand out on their steam wands (too dangerous, not enough pressure, etc.).
Coffee 101:Cappuccino or Latte?
A cappuccino consists of 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk and 1/3 milk foam. A latté is also 1/3 espresso, but has more steamed milk and just a layer of milk foam.
The Café Barista solves this by integrating a milk frother, and let you choose between a cappuccino or latte. Many users testify that it produces a good cappuccino, as it does a good job of making the right amount of milk foam. It's more difficult to clean than a regular steam wand, though. Be sure to follow instructions as otherwise, milk residue will build up.
A reason of concern is its durability. The main reason these devices that are kept under $200 is because many manufacturers are saving on low-quality build materials. The price point of the Café Barista just doesn't allow for the sole use of high-quality materials. This means it can break within a few years, or lose pressure gradually until it becomes unusable.
However, it is an excellent device to start learning to make espresso. So when it does break, it might be a good reason to upgrade your gear and buy a higher quality espresso machine as its successor.
Pros & Cons
We got a more detailed review of the Mr. Coffee Café planned in the near future.
With thousands of (mostly positive) reviews, the DeLonghi EC155 is also a very popular espresso machine. It is a tiny device, but it is featuring a 15 Bar pump so that it can give quite a punch. You can also use E.S.E. pods with it, in case you're not into grinding coffee yourself.
It has no buttons, just a simple switch to select the mode you need; Hot water, steam, and preheat. There's also a switch on top of the device, to open or close the steam outlet. It features a steam wand, with and odd looking, pretty huge (plastic) tip.
You can steam milk with it, but don't expect it to make fine enough milk for some latte art. This is basically it, a no-nonsense espresso machine with just the bare necessities.
So why isn't it the best espresso machine under $200? Well, for starters, it uses too much plastic. Even the portafilter is mostly made of plastics. Heat and pressure are notorious for breaking things in the long run. Since the portafilter it getting both at the same time each and every time you make coffee, it could easily break. You can remove the plastic from both the portafilter and the steam wand if you're skilled enough.
Also, because of its size, you can only fit a small espresso cup under the portafilter. So if you're making a cappuccino, you can't pour in the coffee during extraction, as the larger cup won't fit. A travel cup won't fit as well. You can remove the water catcher to make up some extra space, but it's there for a reason.
Same goes for the steam wand, which is too short and placed too low. Most people suggest raising the device by placing something underneath, like a book. This does, however, make it a bit more unstable, as it only weights 6.7 pounds. Especially when you use the attached tamper on the right, be sure to hold it steady is it can easily flip aside. You're better off buying a separate tamper by the way, like this one. Another side effect of its low weight is that it vibrates a long during extraction, up to the point where your coffee cup can bounce off.
It does what it needs to do, and you can make a good espresso with it. However, its inconveniences lead it to be #2 on this list, and its $50 (MSRP) lower price tag makes it a good budget alternative. I would advise getting the Café Barista, though, as it gives you a much better value for its money (along with a much easier way of making cappuccinos).
Pros & Cons
Now that you know what is the best espresso machine under $200 let's have a look at what you can get if you raise your budget. Granted, the Barista Express is over twice the cost of the Café Barista. While it's MSRP is actually $599,95, you can often find the stainless steel model under $500. But even at $600, this magnificent device gives you a whole lot of bang for the buck.
The Barista Express has a high-quality built-in coffee grinder, which could easily cost $200 if bought separately. It also features PID temperature management, for consistent heat distribution throughout the device. The Barista Express features a pressure gauge (which isn't common for this budget), to help you in getting the right pressure for espresso (very important). There are all features professional devices have, and something you won't find on the cheaper espresso machines.
It has programmable buttons with auto shut-off at your own pre-defined times, along with a pre-infusion mode to gradually increase the extraction pressure.
The steam wand is one of the most user-friendly ones you will find on any device, allowing you to make fine enough milk foam for latte art. It also has a hot water pipe, so you can make Americanos (2/5 espresso, 2/3 hot water) right away.
And since I mentioned the (over) use of plastics in the #1 and #2, let's focus on that as well. This is where you can really see the price difference. The Barista Express is mostly made of steel, at least in all parts where heat and pressure is used. Not everything is metal, though, which is mostly done to keep the weight down, but you will only find it in the lesser stressed areas (like the bean hopper). This all leads to a better durability, that is if you maintain your device accordingly.
All of these professional features make for an excellent espresso and cappuccino. The Barista Express is responsible for delivering my personal daily fix (actually several times a day). I absolutely love it, and so does everyone who has coffee at my place. It's a very user-friendly espresso machine, with a moderate learning curve. It is definitely worth the extra money compared to the Café Barista.
If you want to learn more about the Breville Barista Express and its professional featured like PID, please read my very detailed Barista Express review.
Pros & Cons
So there you have it, the best home espresso machine under $200. Even though I decided to feature only a select number of espresso machines, I have seen plenty of them. At this price point, many devices simply aren't good enough to be worth your money. By selecting just one "best" device, along with a budget choice, I hope that I made your decision making a whole lot easier.
By adding a higher priced espresso machine, I wanted to show you what is possible if you decide to raise your budget if that's possible of course. But even if $200 is all you want to spend, you can be assured that you're getting a good espresso machine.
If you have any questions, please let me know in the comment section. I am also more than happy to know if I helped you in making your decision, and which device you end up with.
Thank you for reading this article!
Jacco, Chief Grinder