In 2008, a new Mastrena espresso machine was made for Starbucks… at just under $18,000 per machine.
Over a decade later, and some estimates put Starbucks’ new espresso machines at costing around $40,000 each.
So, is an espresso maker that costs under $500 for your home going to be any good?
Our mission was to find the best espresso machine under $500, in order to show you how creating delicious espresso drinks in your own kitchen doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. Or a lot of kitchen worktop space.
If you are in a hurry, this Breville is our top recommendation for an espresso brewer under $500. When combined with the right espresso beans, it delivers an absolute delight of a brew.
- 15 bar Italian pump that delivers complete volumetric control.
- Pre-infusion function to ensure the even extraction of the coffee grinds.
- Thermo coil heating system for accurate water temperature control.
Choosing the Right Home Espresso Machine
Espresso machines come in 3 varieties, automatic, semi-automatic and manual.
Auto espresso machines do everything for you. They automate the brewing process so all you need to do is grind, tamp and lock on to the machine. The espresso maker will perfectly time the shot to ensure the best extraction.
Semi-auto espresso machines are the kind you see in coffee bars. They deal with the 9 bars of pressure but timing the espresso shot is up to you. You can program specific extraction times, but ultimately it’s your duty to decide. Some semi-auto espresso makers have grinders attached, but it’s not standard.
Manual espresso machines require more effort. Unlike the auto and semi-auto machines, you need to pump the machine to build up the 9 bars of pressure. Traditionally you’d pull a lever to generate the pressure, which is why we say we’re “pulling” an espresso shot. Cool, huh?
Why Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines?
A semi-automatic is the best for home espresso makers. They are the most common on the market, giving you a lot of choices when it comes to buying.
They also give you more control over your coffee, to make sure it tastes perfect. If you’re forking out nearly $500, you more than likely are a huge coffee fan. The semi-auto espresso maker gives you the control to experiment and enjoy coffee exactly how you like it.
Necessary Espresso Maker Parts
When comparing espresso machine models, look for:
You want a combination of a high number of bars and a quality/functional design. Our best-rated espresso machine, for example, has a 17-bar pressure pump that can create your 9-bars for espresso easily. But, it’s also designed with valves to keep the pump in check and channel extra pressure away.
It’s not the end of the world if there’s no grinder incorporated. Whether you’re buying one separate or looking at grinder-inclusive makers, you want a conical burr grinder. These create the most consistent grind at incredibly fine settings.
Filters, Shower Heads and Internal Components: (generally only the best models will even mention these in the product description, if they’re of good quality you’ll find cleaning and maintaining your espresso maker a lot easier.)
Less Important Espresso Machine Components
Reservoir size: a 72oz reservoir will make 72 espressos. How many are you planning on drinking per day? Unless you’re serving espressos at a party, having a large reservoir isn’t important. You should refill it with fresh water every day instead of waiting for 71oz to go stale between shots.
Cups, tamping tools, jugs, and other additional items: besides the portafilter which needs to be the right size for the espresso maker, it really doesn’t matter if the added extras are poor quality. You can pick up premium tamping tools, jugs, cups and more easily on Amazon.
Breville BES849BSXL Espresso Maker
- Pre-infusion pressure system for a perfectly even extraction
- 1650W thermo coil heating system
- 15-bar Italian pump with pre-set, manual override and re-programmable volumes
- Micro-foam milk texturing with the high-pressure steam wand
This is certainly an impressive espresso maker to have grace your kitchen. Alongside the usual semi-automatic espresso features, the Breville allows you more control over the 15-bar Italian pump so you can control the pressure with a manual override to get the perfect extraction.
That’s not to say you won’t get the most out of your coffee with the pre-set pressure. The Breville uses a pre-infusion system to slowly introduce pressure before pushing down with the full 9-bars. This gives you a supremely even extraction, even if your tamping is a little off.
The coiled boiler system, coupled with the PID digital temperature control technology, maintains the water temperature in the 61oz reservoir with amazing precision.
Other features worth noting include; the high-pressure steam wand designed to create micro-foam texture in your milk, a dedicated outlet for hot water beverages (e.g. Americano), programmable volumes, auto-shut off after 3 hours, auto-purge function, removable drip tray, and travel cup friendly height.
You’ve also got everything you need to outshine your local barista. Try out the dual water filters, single wall filters, coffee scoop, milk jug, and cleaning discs included in the box.
Gaggia 14101 Classic
- Sleek, heavy built espresso machine capable of espressos, cappuccinos, and lattes
- Commercial style, best quality 3-way solenoid valve
- 58mm chrome-plated brass portafilter
- Includes Turbo-Frother steam wand
The Gaggia Classic is built with all the quality and performance of a commercial espresso brewer but packed into a kitchen-countertop coffee maker box.
This model has a steam wand for frothing milk, 72oz reservoir, and rapid heating capabilities so your espresso is pulled quicker than at Starbucks. You’ll need to buy a separate grinder to fill the 58mm chrome-plated brass portafilter. The brass-plated material is excellent at maintaining temperature, so won’t scold or under extract your coffee.
Within the stainless-steel exterior of the espresso maker, you’ve got a 17 and a half bar pressure pump and independent expansion valve. The 3-way solenoid valve allows immediate de-pressurization. Simply put, it means you can make one espresso shot after the other in quick succession without worrying about pressure build up.
You can pull both single and double espresso shots from this espresso maker, which can use pods as well as ground coffee for those days you don’t have time to grind and tamp (tamping tool included in the box too).
And, just in case you weren’t impressed, the espresso maker is also capable of dispensing hot water for tea, hot chocolate and other beverages, plus a cup warmer.
Flair Signature Espresso Maker
- Portable and 100% manual espresso press
- High-quality copper-plated portafilter base, aluminum press stand and stainless-steel brewing head with a 5-year warranty
- Custom fitted carrying case, stainless-steel tamper and additional brewing head included
- Sophisticated design in matte black or chrome
Skilfully handcraft your espresso, either for your own enjoyment or to impress guests, with the Flair Signature manual espresso press. It’s remarkably stripped back yet sophisticated, and effortlessly sexy on your kitchen countertop.
It’s made from premium materials that are sturdy, easy to clean and also completely detachable. Remove the brewing head (this is the only model on the market where that’s possible) and portafilter to clean and pack away the espresso coffee maker in its custom-made carrying case.
Reassemble at your destination, fill with your freshly ground coffee, add 60ml of boiling water to the cylinder, press with as much force as you can, and then wait for approximately 45ml of delicious espresso to extract.
It exudes anywhere from 6 bars to 10 bars, depending on your strength. It can also take as long as 45 seconds for your espresso to completely extract.
Pulling an espresso shot with the Flair Signature is neither easy, fast nor convenient. It’s designed for those that want a premium coffee experience and don’t mind spending the time and effort to master a new skill.
EspressoWorks Espresso & Cappuccino Maker
- Advanced Thermoblock fast heating system for precise temperatures and instant steam
- 120v electric coffee grinder with stainless-steel blades
- A 15-bar pump pressure system
- Stainless-steel milk frothing jug, plus single and double portafilter baskets included
An excellent budget option that’s perfect for beginners wanting to enter the world of espresso at home. The center of the set includes the espresso machine with advanced thermoblock heating, 44oz reservoir, steam wand, and simplified controls.
Simply turn the dial to espresso, extract your coffee, and turn it back.
Other components in the box include; an electric coffee grinder with stainless-steel blades (not a burr grinder, unfortunately), milk jug, 2 portafilter baskets, 2 porcelain espresso cups, and a plastic coffee scoop/tamping tool melded into one device.
The espresso pump packs 15-bars, which keeps up with the leading espresso makers on the market. What really makes this set budget is the low-quality machine exterior and added extras. If you have the budget, discard the grinder and pick up a burr grinder instead.
For convenience, ease of use and the low price, this espresso maker is superb. We’d highly recommend it to beginner coffee connoisseurs who want to practice espresso making on a very capable and reliable machine, without paying extortionate prices.
Saeco Vapore HD8645/47
- One-touch fully automatic dual espresso shot maker with frothing arm
- Integrated ceramic burr grinder with 5 settings
- Quick heat boiler and instant foam with classic milk frother
- Automatic circuit cleaning to maintain the machine and keep your espresso fresh
The Vapore moves us further away from commercial-style espresso makers and towards the luxurious convenience of fully automatic espresso makers.
It features a 35oz water tank, 15-bar pump, manual frothing arm, 170g coffee bean container and removable ‘brewing group’ for easy cleaning. The coffee bean container does sound small, but considering that you should be grinding just 8g of fresh beans for every cup it’s actually unnecessarily large.
From the user viewpoint, it’s virtually identical to most coffee makers on the market. Add coffee, add water, and press start. The difference is that this produces a beautifully creamy espresso with a thick crema instead of your standard cup of coffee.
Compared to the semi-auto makers on this list, the Vapore does take half a minute to heat water, instead of producing espresso instantly. You might also notice that the first few espressos are on the watery side, as the espresso maker adjusts to the grinder settings. Besides that, it’s perfect.
- Slender 6-inch design containing a 15-bar professional pump
- Premium adjustable frother
- Thermoblock heating system delivers espresso in 35 seconds
- Rapid Cappuccino System delivers several cups in a row while maintaining the perfect temperature
The DeLonghi America is a small, powerful automatic maker that delivers espresso after espresso with the rapid cappuccino system. The 15-bar pump and thermoblock heating system are highly effective and encased in a 13 x 6 x 12-inch espresso maker, making it the smallest on this list.
It’s capable of delivering 2 espressos at a time, with a removable drip tray to make room for taller cups, like a latte glass or travel mug. It times the espresso rather than relying on you to count for the perfect extraction. Although, you do have the option to adjust the temperature, which we don’t see on many other home espresso makers under $500.
Other features that are miraculously packed into this small espresso maker include a cup warmer, energy-saving mode, descaling alert, and anti-drip system. It’s also super easy to clean, with detachable frother components so milk can’t linger in the joints.
The only things missing are a frothing jug, hot water only functions and espresso cups.
- Uses Nespresso Original Line capsules – hermetically sealed and recyclable
- 19-bar high-pressure pump
- Aeroccino milk frother works simultaneously with espresso dispenser
- 2 programmable buttons for espresso and lingo sizes
Hands down the sexiest espresso maker. It looks sleek and modern, but instead of requiring coffee grinds, the Nespresso C122 uses Nespresso Original Line capsules to create expresso and ‘lingo’ beverages with perfectly creamy crema every time.
Unlike Keurig’s K-Cups and other leading capsule coffee providers, Nespresso capsules are recyclable so you can enjoy quick espresso without the impact on the environment.
16 of these capsules are included in the box, each with a different aroma.
The fully automatic espresso maker has an extremely powerful 19-bar pressure pump, removable 34oz water reservoir, foldable drip tray, and removable used capsule container. It’s set to turn off after 9 minutes of inactivity.
To make an espresso, press the espresso or lingo button for a small or large espresso. These can easily be re-programmed by holding down the button as it extracts. The Aeroccino milk frother can also work away while you’re waiting for your espresso, creating both hold and cold frothed milk.
We love the convenience and style of this automatic coffee maker. We were particularly impressed with the flavor we got from the capsules, although it does take away from the espresso making experience.
- All-metal construction for supreme durability and aesthetics
- 19-bar pressure system
- Compatible with Nespresso pods
- 6 brew strength settings
Sitting comfortably between the high-priced and mid-range espresso makers on this list, the KitchenAid Nespresso is available in 6 colors and uses an easy loading capsule system.
Your 6 color choices are; empire red, frosted pear, onyx black, medallion silver, red candy apple, and sugar pearl. Whichever you choose, the unit itself is made from die-cast metal for an extremely sturdy and attractive espresso maker.
The quick start-up in 30 seconds heats the water from the removable 45oz water reservoir and gets the 19-bar pump warmed up, ready to create espressos. You have 6 brew strengths to select from, plus a wide range of coffee aromas to choose from the Nespresso Club.
You’ve also got an adjustable brew shelf so you can brew directly into your espresso mug or into a taller coffee mug ready to add your milk.
Unfortunately, it is the only espresso maker on our list that doesn’t come with a hot water dispenser or milk frother, but if you have the budget you can find excellent quality solo milk frothers available on Amazon.
Alternatively, you can try the KES0503 model, which does include a milk frother which adds as much as $50 to the price tag.
So, there you have it, Breville is by far the best espresso machine under $500 available on the market.
Although we absolutely adore the Gaggia Classic Home Espresso Machine, we know that it’s a bit too close to $500 for some budgets. If you can get the Gaggia, do! But if not, don’t feel disheartened at the other home espresso makers on this list.
For convenience, the KitchenAid and Nespresso C122 should be the first you look at – don’t be ashamed of using pods when they contain premium coffee that’s hermetically sealed for freshness.
If you want to try out being a barista without paying thousands for the training, our espresso maker of choice is the EspressoWorks budget option.
Finally, for luxury, convenience and a quick coffee, you must try the Saeco Vapore.
Anthony is a professional barista in the city of Chicago. He has written for many online publications on various topics related to coffee.