Here is the Best Espresso Machine under $500 of 2017

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.

Best Choice:
Breville Barista Express

ECM Classika PID Espresso Machine

NEW: The Best Espresso Machines of 2017 for Any Budget


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:

Overview of the Best Espresso Machine under $500 for 2017


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:
Breville Barista Express
Breville Barista Express BES870XL

Best Choice for Espresso Machine under $500

Prosumer

  • Built-in grinder
  • Small footprint
  • Excellent price
  • Grinder is a bit messy
  • Noisy

Price:

$$$

Alternative choice:
Gaggia Classic 14101
Gaggia Classic 14101

Best Budget Espresso Machine under $500

Prosumer

  • Commercial portafilter
  • Durable water reservoir
  • No-frills machine
  • No PID and pre-infusion
  • Not much cup space

Price:

$$

Best Choice <$1,000
Rancilio Silvia
Rancilio Silvia

Best Espresso Machine under
$1000

Prosumer

  • High-quality brass boiler
  • Large reservoir
  • Highly controllable
  • Minimal features included
  • Too small drip-tray

Price:

$$$$$


This article can be found under:

First published: 4/25/2017
Last update: 4/25/2017


How did we research the Best Espresso Machines 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 we owned the Breville Barista Express BES870XL. For the other products we used product reviews, customers comments, and instruction videos and manuals.

Click to learn more about our review process


What is the Best Espresso Machine under $500?

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.

Coffee 101:
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.


Overall Best Espresso Machine under $500 | Breville Barista Expresso BES870XL

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.

Coffee 101:
PID Temperature Control?

PID temperature control allows you to specify the brew temperature of the espresso machine. Learn more:
PID Controlled Espresso Machine

Coffee 101:
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

  • It includes several professional features, including PID, OPV, and pre-infusion.
  • The built-in conical burr grinder provides a smooth and fine grind.
  • A separate hot water pipe is available for Americanos or tea.
  • You can make lattes and cappuccinos, thanks to the hot water wand having a two-hole tip for frothing milk for these drinks. Cappuccinos and lattes are not the only drinks this baby can churn. You can also dispense hot water for tea and cocoa giving you a wide range of drinks.
  • This machine can get messy, as the grinds tend to flow over the sides of the portafilter when you remove them.
  • Expect a noisy experience, since this machine is consistently loud from the steaming to grinding.
  • The single heating element and single pump means a longer wait time than machines that have more sophisticated systems.

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.


Best Budget Espresso Machine under $500 | Gaggia Classic 14101

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

  • This machine has a convenient water reservoir design that's lasted for years.
  • It has simple controls that include the necessities.
  • Although this is a budget pick, the large coffee portafilter included is similar to that of a much higher grade machine.
  • There is no PID, OPV, or pre-infusion, making this machine less forgiving, requiring some trial and error for beginners.
  • Since the coffee arm height isn't adjustable, you can only fit an espresso demitasse underneath.

Best Espresso Machine under $1000 | Rancilio Silvia

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.

Coffee 101:
Thermoblock vs. Boiler

A boiler as heating system is preferred over a thermoblock, as it allows for better heat management and consistency. Learn more:
Thermoblock vs. Boiler


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

  • This machine includes a high-quality brass boiler that will heat water quickly.
  • Commercial standard 15 bar pressure ensures that your espresso is smooth and fully extracted.
  • A large, 67-ounce water reservoir conveniently keeps you from having to refill too often.
  • Many of the Silvia's impressive features are add-ons that require an additional purchase, like PID functionality.
  • A shallow drip tray requires frequent emptying.

Rounding up

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!

  • I own both a Sage Barista Express (the UK equivalent of the Breville) and a Rancilio Silvia and there is no way I would put the Silvia ahead of the Barista Express. The Silvia’s lack of pre-infusion and PID are major drawbacks and it’s so fiddly to use compared to the Barista Express.

    With the Barista Express I pull consistent shots all the time, within minutes of switching the machine one. With the Silvia, it was much more hit and miss, the machine requiring at least ten minutes to warm up, plus a finicky temperature surfing procedure before each shot.

    Honestly, based on my experience, there is no comparison between the two. For example, I’m looking at a second espresso machine for my office and I’d rather buy another Barista Express than use my Silvia which is sitting at home gathering dust.

    Thanks,
    Brian.

    • Jacco

      Hi Brian,

      thank you for your detailed reply! It’s true that the Barista Express (which I own as well) has more built-in features out-of-the-box. However, you can easily get a Silvia prepped with a PID controller and sometimes even pre-infusion. The 58mm portafilter and powerful boiler are a big advantage of the Silvia. I agree that without the PID it’s not easy to have a good consistency. It clearly shows the importance of a PID. By the way, along with its features, we also look at durability, which is something the Silvia does seem to do pretty well. May I ask how long you own the devices? Both of the have an upgrade cycle within the same name (only product number changes with Sage/ Breville).
      Thanks again!
      Jacco, Chief Grinder

      • Hi Jacco,

        I’ve only had the Sage/Breville since Dececmber 2016. The Silvia came along in February 2013. I agree that you can get a PID and pre-infusion for the Silvia, but that’s more expense/complication on a machine that’s already more expensive…

        Of course, if my Sage breaks down in a couple of years, you’re welcome to come back and say you told me so :-)

        Thanks,
        Brian.

        • Jacco

          Haha, that would only get me bad karma, and I don’t want mine breaking as well. I expect mine to run for at least 5 years, after which it will probably be replaced. I do believe the Silvia is upgraded at least once after 2013, perhaps that explains the differences? At least for the Sage you have the latest model, which is a big improvement over the previous (BES860XL), especially on temperature.
          Enjoy! Jacco