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If you’re a coffee fanatic and love a good espresso to jump-start your day, you can go all in and get a supermodel machine like Breville Barista Express BES 870 XL (which is excellent and highly recommended). The problem: It’s more than five hundred bucks!
If you’re not willing to make that kind of investment, but still want to enjoy a morning espresso, fortunately, there are some excellent options for the bargain-conscious shopper.
Below, we’ll outline some of the best starter espresso machines on the market today.
Top Pick for Best Starter Espresso Machine
If you’re looking for something a bit more robust, then you should strongly consider the De'Longhi BAR32 Capuccino and Espresso Maker. At the time of this writing, the De’Longhi was being offered for a staggering 61% off the suggested retail price of $210. At its regular retail price, this couldn’t be considered a starter espresso maker, but for as long as the company continues offering it at this price, it’s impossible to ignore.
Pros & Cons of the DeLonghi BAR32 Cappuccino and Espresso Maker
One of the best things about this machine is its sheer convenience. You can use either ground coffee, or disposable pods (the generic E.S.E. pods that multiple companies make). The machine also has two separate thermostats that allow you to control water and steam pressure separately. This kind of fine-grained control will make espresso purists smile because it allows for the perfect temperature, every time.
The boiler is stainless steel, which means that this is a durable machine you’ll have for years. Also, note that in contrast with the Mr. Coffee model below, this one comes with a pump, making it a “proper” espresso maker that will make even the most finicky of purists happy.
The large, 32-ounce water reservoir means that you can make quite a lot of coffee in one go, either 3-4 cappuccino or 6-8 espresso, depending on your tastes.
The best part: It only has two dials and no buttons whatsoever. If you’ve seen deluxe model espresso makers, you know that some of them have a dizzying array of dials, buttons, and controllers. They make you feel as though you need an advanced degree just to figure out how to make a cup of coffee. Not so, with the De’Longhi, so there’s no reason to feel intimidated.
Mr. Coffee Scores a Hit
For our runners-up, let’s start with the Mr. Coffee Steam Espresso Machine ECM160.
It’s a 4-cup steam espresso machine that will meet most of your needs, and modestly priced at $59.99. Now, purists will tell you that this isn’t a “real” espresso maker because it’s steam-driven rather than pump. The purists may have a technical point, but in every way that matters, this is a real espresso maker, and quite a good one at that.
PROS & CONS
Mr. Coffee gets a lot right with this machine. Cleanup is a snap, thanks to the removable Drip Catcher. Simply pop it out, wash and replace, keeping the machine neat, clean, and ready for use.
Also, the unit comes with an easy-pour carafe, which allows you to pour up to four shots with a simple turn of the wrist. It’s a small thing, but the “Latte Art Hearts” is a nice, artistic touch that will put some flair in your morning coffee.
As you might expect, however, with a machine at this price, there are some shortcomings. Among these, the biggest negative is the fact that this model has no frothing pitcher. Also, if you’re looking for multiple shots in one go, this machine will be somewhat problematic for you because you’ll need to de-pressurize and then re-pressurize to get more than one shot out of it. If you’re a single shot drinker, that’s not a deal breaker, otherwise, you’re probably going to want to look elsewhere.
The Bella 13683 - Best Cheap Espresso Machine
If you’re looking for a great little espresso machine, but don’t want to shell out much money, then look no further than the Bella.
Like the Mr. Coffee model we started with, the Bella Espresso Machine Model 13683 is steam-driven, rather than pump driven (a fairly common feature in even the best starter espresso makers on the lower end of the price scale).
PROS & CONS
The biggest advantage that the Bella brings to the table is the price. It’s nearly half the price of the next cheapest machine on our top list, retailing for just $39.00. It’s also a rather stylishly designed product that will be right at home in most kitchens, and like the Mr. Coffee model, the drip tray is removable, making cleanup a snap.
The main downside to the machine is it is rather lightweight construction (expected from an entry-level device), and its lack of advanced features, but if all you’re looking for is a basic, no-frills espresso maker, then the Bella just might be the perfect fit for you.
What people are saying...
An impressive 81% of customers give the Bella a favorable (4 or 5 star) review while only 9% of customers give it low marks (1 or 2 stars). The most common complaints being the machine’s lack of features and relatively light construction. In my mind, these are non-issues. For the price, light duty construction and a limited feature set are to be expected. The bottom line though is that even given its limitations, this is one of the best starter espresso makers on the market today.
The Krups XP1000
Another excellent starter option is the Krups Espresso Maker Model XP1000 with a frothing nozzle. Espresso purists will like the fact that this is not a steam-driven machine, but pump driven. The pump is only four-bar, but that’s plenty for casual, at-home use.
PROS & CONS
Normally, this machine lists for $99.99. At the time of this review, it was on sale for just $51.94, making it one of the cheapest pump-driven machines on the market. It’s simple to use, and sleekly designed, making cleanup after each use a breeze.
The major downside to the unit is that the steam nozzle doesn’t swivel, and it’s somewhat basic, lacking in the most robust features of the top-end models. This latter is to be expected though, given its price.
What people are saying...
62% of customers rate the Krups highly (4 to 5 Stars), while 27% give the machine low marks (1-2 stars). The most common complaints with the machine are centered along the frothing nozzle. If you’re JUST interested in espresso, and don’t care much for latte’s or cappuccino’s, then it won’t be a deal breaker for you, but it is something to bear in mind. The machine will make both of course, but over time, the froth gets less frothy. If aesthetics matter, you’ll be somewhat disappointed here.
What is the Best Starter Espresso Machine?
So what’s the best starter espresso machine overall? Our personal pick is the De'Longhi BAR32 Capuccino and Espresso Maker. In terms of raw value for the money, it’s hard to top its feature set.
An honorable mention though has to go to the little Bella. You simply won’t find a cheaper way to enjoy a steaming cup of espresso every morning. Granted, it’s a bit light where features are concerned, but if you’re not sure it’s for you, then the Bella is hands down the cheapest way to find out.