Looking for the best espresso machine under $500? You've chosen the right place to start your search. Espresso machines can be an investment. Products can easily stretch into the thousands of dollars. Some machines require you to have a fair amount of brewing skill, and those that only need the push of a button.
With such a wide range of products on the market, setting a budget for your first espresso machine is a good move. We make it our business to be aware of all the best espresso machines and coffee grinders. We've already reviewed several top-quality espresso machines under $200 as well as high-end products over $1000. With this article, we finally address the middle ground to highlight the best home espresso machine under $500.
We'll highlight our best overall pick, which meets high standards and has an impressive range of features, our best budget pick in this range, and one higher end choice for those willing to stretch their budget, now or in the future.
Breville Barista Express
Whether you want to spend only a few hundred dollar for a budget espresso machine, or want to go all the way to get the best of the best, we got you covered! In our new series we focus on the best espresso machines for any budget, including cheaper and higher-end alternatives. Check out the full series:
In this article you will find the best espresso machine under $500, along with its pros & cons. You will also find an alternative, along with a comprehensive report of how it differs from the #1. We have also included a more pricier alternative, to show you what you can get if you raise your budget.
Best Choice for Espresso Machine under $500
Best Budget Espresso Machine under $500
Best Espresso Machine under
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 we owned the Breville Barista Express BES870XL. For the other products we 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.
Most espresso machines under $500 will be semi-automatic, which require some effort on your part, but of course, not as much as with a manual machine. Generally, the more you're willing to pay for a machine, the more automated the process becomes. The most notable benefit of semi-automatic machines is that they regulate the degree of pressure required to brew a quality espresso, instead of leaving it prone to human error.
The settings offered on a semi-automatic espresso machine vary significantly. A simple control panel lets you start and stop your brew, and some may allow you to customize the duration and pressure of your shot. Some espresso makers even allow you to program custom settings, although this feature is difficult to find in machines that fall under a $500 budget.
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.
Most semi-automatic machines won't include a grinder either (although our top pick does).
The labor for most machines in this price range involves grinding your coffee beans, tamping the beans into your machine's portafilter properly, and letting the machine take it from there. If you're interested in making gourmet coffee drinks like cappuccinos and lattes, look for an espresso machine that can steam milk. If Americanos are more to your taste, make sure your espresso maker includes the ability to produce hot water or has a separate hot water pipe.
Our top choice contains all of these features, including a few impressive qualities usually found only in commercial grade espresso makers.
The Breville Barista Express BES870XL is the overall best espresso machine under $500. We've done a Breville BES870XL review before, and it still holds up against other budget espresso machines.
The star point of this stainless-steel espresso maker is its built-in grinder, a rare feature for semi-automatic machines. It already made our list for best espresso machines with a grinder. This high-quality, conical burr grinder is one of the best available. Having a built-in grinder saves space in your kitchen and is quite a steal to be included in the price of this machine.
The Breville Barista Express has several pro features like PID, OPV, and pre-infusion. PID functionality helps the machine maintain a consistent temperature throughout the brewing stages. You also have the option to modify the temperature yourself.
Automatic controls like OPV prevent you from over-extracting your espresso. Beginners will find this feature useful, and it's just one of the features that make the Barista Express a forgiving machine.
A pressure gauge in the center of the control panel allows you to monitor the extraction process. The gauge uses ranges rather than specific numbers, but you can still use these measures to learn how much pressure is required for a good extraction.
Pre-infusion also helps ensure a quality pull. By inserting water into the coffee beans at low pressure, the machine smoothes out any uneven tamping or air bubbles present in your grinds.
The Breville Barista Express BES870XL uses a Thermocoil heating system which heats more efficiently and isn't as prone to leaking as Thermoblock systems.
A built-in hot water pipe can make Americanos and even tea if desired. A user-friendly steam wand lets you foam milk with ease, allowing for excellent cappuccinos and lattes.
However, the Breville Barista Express isn't just for beginners. You can adjust the shot time by programming.
PID Temperature Control?
PID temperature control allows you to specify the brew temperature of the espresso machine. Learn more:
PID Controlled Espresso Machine
What is pre-infusion?
Pre-infusion takes place a few seconds before full pressure extraction starts. By slowly building up the pressure, the grinds are better saturated, resulting in more flavor coming into the cup.
From the control panel, you can specify how long water passes through the coffee grounds and how long you want the pre-infusion period to last.
The Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine is great for those who want to learn the barista's trade. It's very easy to use and newbie-friendly with several features that cover up for any of your small mistakes. Someone who wants to develop their brewing skills further will also find the Breville Barista Express useful for fine-tuning and experimentation. The price of this machine varies but check back often to get this high-quality machine for under $500.
Pros & Cons
We got a more detailed review of the Breville Barista Express right here. You can also see it in action on our "Bottomless portafilter for Breville Barista Express" article.
The Gaggia 14101 Classic Espresso Machine is the best budget choice espresso machine. It uses a long-lasting design that's been around much longer than many other brands and models on the market today.
The star point of the Gaggia 14101 Classic is its convenient reservoir system with a filler flap, making it easy to fill and remove the water reservoir. The brushed stainless steel exterior is sleek and compact. This upgrade from previous models that used nickel plated carbon steel is more durable and resistant to scaling.
For its size, this espresso machine includes good-sized coffee portafilter. This chrome plated brass portafilter is one pound and 58 mm in diameter, easily a commercial size.
Just three buttons on the simple control panel take care of its functions, including steam prep and water flow.
Some users mistakenly complain that the Gaggia's steam wand can't produce water for drinks like an Americano. However, you can get water from your espresso machine by pushing all three buttons at once.
One downside of this model is that it doesn't have of PID, OPV, or pre-infusion capabilities. While it can still create a great espresso, the Gaggia isn't as user-friendly as some models. For one, the coffee arm height can't be adjusted and can only fit demitasses, or small espresso cups. There is one way to get around this inconvenience. You can pull out the drip tray from the front to make space for a mug or larger cup.
The steel boiler operates at low power to meet energy regulations but takes an extra wait to heat up, like most models in its price range. The drip tray design does feel little cheap, since it's made of a light plastic and not well-secured. However, the ability to easily remove to drip tray compartment allows you to place a larger cup or mug underneath the coffee arm. With a double spout, you can split the espresso flow between two simultaneous espresso shots. Or you can use a bottomless portafilter to get some extra space for your cups.
Ultimately, the Gaggia Classic Espresso Maker is simple and streamlined, with all the bare necessities.
Pros & Cons
If you find yourself working with a higher budget, the Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine is an excellent upgrade that still keeps you under $1000. This brushed stainless steel espresso machine is streamlined and compact, fitting easily on a corner of your kitchen counter, despite its powerful capabilities.
It keeps to a prosumer espresso machine standard and has commercial grade quality and features. The Rancilio Silvia uses 15 bar pressure, the same degree of pressure found in professional grade espresso makers.
The exterior of the Rancilio Silvia is brushed stainless steel and features a 12-ounce brass boiler and three thermostats. The 67-ounce water tank is removable and ensures you won't need to refill this machine frequently.
You can use the steam wand for steam or water. It produces a smooth milk microfoam that's great for cappuccinos and lattes. Or it you'd prefer a simple drink, you can easily create Americanos. The easy to use steam tip has only one hole, compared to the multiple holes found in previous versions. In the past, customers had difficulties foaming milk with the steam tip, but now it's become much easier to control.
A cup-warming surface near the drip tray is a nice and convenient addition. However, the drip tray is very shallow, requiring you to empty it frequently, even as often as every shot. Other upgrades from Rancilio include a more consistent boiler pressure, making the machine reliable.
The Rancilio HSD-Silvia Espresso Machine has a brass boiler, which bumps up the cost as an expensive material, but is durable and more resistant to scaling. The Silvia espresso machine does have a reputation for being a finicky machine, but the quirks are minimal and sometimes due to other factors.
The quality of your grinder will be especially important when brewing with the Rancilio Silvia. Since it's not included unless you've purchased it, you need to ensure that you use a grinder capable of producing a fine grind. Other users also stress the need for "temperature surfing" after steaming milk to ensure that the temperature isn't too high for brewing espresso.
One downside is that this model requires several upgrades to be competitive. There is no programming unless you purchase a PID upgrade .The base model doesn't come with a grinder, but you can buy one as an add-on. Rancilio also offers an excellent grinder that produce finely ground coffee, the Rancilio Rocky. If you don't choose to add a grinder to your machine, make sure you use a high-end grinder for your beans. This espresso maker doesn't function well with poorly ground beans, and the taste of your espresso won't be as satisfying either.
Another add-on available is the option to add functionality for coffee pods and capsules.
Overall, the Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine is a highly functioning product that produces excellent espresso. Many aspects of this espresso maker are professional grade, but you'll have to pay a little extra to have the full range of features packed into one machine.
Pros & Cons
There you have it, the best espresso machine under $500, the best budget buy, and a stretch budget option. By showing you an option above $500, you can get an idea of what else is available and what additional features you'll get.
I hope this helps you make a better-informed decision on the best espresso machine for you. Thanks for reading, and as always, let us know if you have any thoughts in the comments below!