Get Your Fix for Less with the Best Budget Espresso Machines

By Richard Moy, Cheapism.com

Quality espresso machines under $200Quality espresso machines under $200For many coffee aficionados, it's easier to hand over a few dollars for an espresso from a favorite shop than to shell out a few hundred dollars for a home machine. However, you can find semi-automatic espresso makers that are not only priced around $100 or $200 but also earn kudos for user-friendliness, even from consumers daunted by the idea of operating one. If you get your daily fix from a coffee-shop cappuccino or latte, an affordable home espresso machine can start saving you cash within months.

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Here are Cheapism's top picks among home espresso machines for consumers on a budget:

  • The DeLonghi EC155 comes equipped with a stainless-steel boiler and a swiveling milk frother for making espresso drinks. Buyers of this machine rave about its speed and reliability in online reviews, especially given its $80 price point.

  • The Nespresso Citiz C110 stands out among semi-automatic machines because it's so easy to use and clean. Users praise its simplicity and design, which includes the ability to produce a lungo, or larger shot. This machine carries a $247 price tag and requires relatively expensive Nespresso capsules, rather than loose grounds, but it produces a delicious and consistent brew each time, according to reviews.

  • The Capresso EC100 offers a dual frother that can be repositioned to create either steamed milk for lattes or foam for cappuccinos. It's also capable of making two espresso shots at a time, and users applaud the robust brew and reasonable price (starting at $135).

  • The Saeco Aroma 00347 earns high marks from consumers for its ease of use and overall quality. Some users say the brew reminds them of espressos they've had in Europe. The Saeco Aroma starts at $219 and comes with a frothing wand, as well as a warming tray to keep cold ceramic cups from cooling down hot espresso shots (the DeLonghi and Capresso machines also include this feature).

One thing to keep in mind when selecting a home espresso machine is where the coffee comes from. The Nespresso machine in particular is compatible only with the company's proprietary capsules, which aren't available at just any supermarket. In general they must be purchased directly from Nespresso. These capsules come in 16 varieties and generally cost much more than loose grounds. The other home espresso machines listed above take fresh grounds or industry-standard E.S.E. (Easy Serving Espresso) pods. Although capsules or pods promise the most consistent brew, most espresso experts maintain that loose grounds yield the best-tasting drinks.

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The espresso machines above use a pump to force piping hot water through tightly packed coffee grounds. This process requires about nine bars of pressure to produce an optimal espresso shot. While manufacturers like to tout a machine's maximum pressure as a selling point, even our budget picks are capable of generating at least 15 bars -- more than enough, experts say.

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