The 6 Best Budget Espresso Machines

Published on 01/25/2024 · 21 min readEnjoy barista-quality coffee without breaking the bank! Check out the 6 best budget espresso machines, combining affordability with excellent performance.
Ethan Hauck, Coffee Expert
By Coffee Expert Ethan Hauck

Photo by Pixel Shot

TL;DR: Finding a high-quality budget espresso machine requires three things: consistency, quality, and (obviously) a good price. Look for well-known brands such as Flair, De’Longhi, or Breville (in that order) for machines that range from $100-$500, and offer excellent quality for each price point.

Shopping for an espresso machine can be a hassle. There are countless features, brands, and styles to take into account, often leading to a bit of “option overload.” Luckily, I’m here to help!

Today, we’re gathering the best budget espresso machines of 2024 from far and wide to create a definitive list of excellent options, no matter your needs or budget. I’ll break down criteria such as price, quality, and reliability, but the simple truth is that we’re looking for the sweet spot between monetary value, great flavor, and performance.

What to Consider When Buying a Budget Espresso Machine

Before delving into the depths of the best (budget) espresso machines of the year, it’s important to establish how each was selected. While there are dozens of factors one could consider if shopping for an espresso machine with all the bells and whistles, these machines are limited by their price point, and therefore more straightforward and simple.

Now, that’s not to say that these are inferior machines. They’re not bad at all—simply just more affordable than the titans of the industry, such as the Victoria Arduino Eagle One or Ascaso Baby T Plus.

With that said, I used three main criteria to select the best espresso machines of 2024:

  1. Price
  2. Quality
  3. Reliability

Each is crucial in its own way, but price was ultimately weighted the most. Now, why do these factors matter?

Price

When looking for budget items specifically, price will always be king. An issue, though, arose quite quickly when selecting the best of the best: namely, what makes an espresso machine “budget?”

Espresso machines can run into the thousands of dollars, and that’s not even factoring in industry-grade behemoths. Then there’s accounting for the quality of make, expected lifespan, and more. So, a line had to be drawn—in this case, it’s a cool $500.

The truth is that a genuine quality espresso machine isn’t cheap. While you can easily get an espresso machine for $100 or less, those options end to make sacrifices in parts and performance to make ends meet—though, notably, not all cheap machines are bad (Don’t worry, we’ll get there in time). Even when shopping for a budget item, build quality absolutely matters.

On the other end of the spectrum, extremely expensive machines (we’re talking $4,000+) are made to last for ages…but the espresso they make is often more similar to budget versions than we’d like to admit. This is where our “line in the sand” comes in: $500 is low enough in comparison to other machines that it certainly includes budget items, but not so low that users need to worry about build quality.

With that said, there are a couple of other criteria to keep in mind when shopping for a new espresso machine.

Quality

Quality is where most machines live (or die) during their first few weeks, because users can quickly tell what works and what doesn’t after pulling a handful of shots. While this is a broad category, it includes a majority of the things that matter to most coffee lovers; namely, the machine’s size factor, ease of use, and various features. Each controls a different aspect of how the machine’s user interacts with it.

The most immediately clear thing you’ll notice when you break out your espresso machine is how easy it is to use: How simple is it to use when tired and craving a cuppa? Is it easy to clean? Could a non-professional use it efficiently?

Size and included features are also important considerations. The best budget espresso machine needs to fit into any kitchen, without getting in the way or taking up too much real estate on your counter. The perfect features, on the other hand, depend on the individual—if you already have a nice grinder, a built-in coffee grinder doesn’t really help; similarly, the ability to pull two (or more) shots at a time won’t necessarily matter as much to a solo bachelor as it would a couple.

Reliability

The final “big three” factor to consider when trying to find the best budget espresso machine possible is reliability.

While buyers often consider the longevity and reliability of cars, homes, and all sorts of other large investments, when shopping for a “budget” item, reliability seems to go out the window. But that’s silly: The amount of use one gets out of any given gadget directly impacts its actual value! From consistency in taste, texture, and shot pull time, to the actual “lifespan” of the espresso machine, what makes or breaks a quality budget espresso machine is how reliable it is.

The key factors we’re looking for are as follows:

  • Consistency: If you use the same ingredients, tools, and measurements, drinks should consistently turn out identical (or at least close to it).
  • Lifespan: Some brands and machines sacrifice quality to save money in production. Items like gaskets and, specifically, the group gasket, are bits that sometimes suffer.
  • Speed: How quickly can we (again, consistently) pull a shot of espresso?

Now let’s get to the list, shall we?

The Best Budget Espresso Machines of 2024

Here are my recommendations for the best budget espresso machines available on the market:

1. Breville Bambino Plus Espresso Machine

The Good

The Breville Bambino Plus is an excellent espresso machine, though it does come with the highest price tag in this list. With that said, the price comes with a good amount of value built in.

The most important feature of any espresso machine is that it makes excellent espresso (and consistently, at that). The Breville Bambino Plus excels at this, pulling tasty shots and perfectly frothing milk with its built-in automatic frother and temperature sensor. In addition, it’s shockingly easy to use, making it a wonderful “starter” espresso machine for those who’ve moved beyond drip coffee, but have only begun tinkering with espresso.

The new Breville water heater allows the Breville Bambino Plus to heat in roughly three seconds. While this likely won’t impact daily use too much, it’s a nice perk that cuts out a touch of waiting during the morning rush.

Finally, those who live in smaller homes or apartments will also be pleased to learn that the Breville Bambino Plus offers all of this in a shockingly small package, taking up little more than one square foot (30 cm2). While its small size does mean that the machine’s volume is limited, the quality, consistency, and ease of use it offers more than makes up for it.

The Bad

While the Breville Bambino Plus is a wonderful espresso machine, it does have a handful of shortcomings; namely, its portafilter and tamper. These are vital parts of the ritual of crafting a cuppa in the morning (or afternoon, or evening; no judgment), so their lack of top-tier quality will be noticeable.

Let’s start with the tamper, as its only issue is relatively small—ergonomics. This tamper will actually show up again in this review, so take note when I say it’s not bad; it’s just not the best. It’s made from (food-safe) plastic, meaning it lacks weight. Those who know espresso know that a tamper’s weight is crucial to its performance; the heavier the tamp, the lighter one must press for a proper 30 lbs of pressure.

The other pain point for the Breville Bambino Plus is its portafilter. While it’s certainly not a terrible portafilter, those who’ve used professional (or higher quality/more expensive) ones will immediately notice a difference in the quality and consistency of their espresso.

Most Breville espresso machines come with the same portafilter and tamper. While the portafilters offer a good deal of adaptability, providing both single and double-walled filter baskets, most coffee lovers will quickly ditch the double-walled filter. Add in the portafilter’s (non-removable) plastic insert and lack of true dispensing spouts, and users are in for a bit of a nightmare when it comes to cleaning the portafilter. While the portafilter does offer the choice of a single or double shot, that’s become the standard for many machines at this price point.

It’s also worth noting that, while not a negative, the steam wand on the Breville Bambino Pro only pulls out to one side. This means that users will need to work around the steam wand just a tad bit more than with the multi-directional wands featured on other espresso machines on this list.

The Verdict

Ultimately, the Breville Bambino Plus espresso machine offers a great deal for the relatively low price tag. It’s nearly fool-proof to set up and use, offers consistent espresso, and allows the user to easily froth milk. While the portafilter and tamper aren’t the best quality, they both perform admirably—plus, those are both items that can be upgraded for relatively cheap down the line.

Benefits:

  • Easy to use
  • Consistent, tasty shots
  • Automatic milk frother with built-in thermometer
  • Small footprint, which is perfect for small kitchens
  • Large water tank (64 oz)
  • New Breville Thermojet heats water in 3 seconds

Keep in Mind:

  • The Breville tamper is plastic and light, but easily upgraded on a budget
  • The Breville portafilter has a non-removable plastic cover and low-quality filter baskets
Best seller
  • Free shipping
  • We price match
  • Returnable

2. Breville Bambino Espresso Machine

The Good

The Breville Bambino is the first draft of its cousin (the Plus), and in some ways, it’s actually better than its successor. Specifically, the Breville Bambino is the best budget espresso machine on this list for Americano lovers.

While many of its features are the same as the Plus, the Bambino offers a hot water button in lieu of the automatic frother. In terms of daily use, this will likely save a matter of minutes at most, but it’s a nice feature nonetheless.

Where the Breville Bambino Espresso Machine truly shines, though, is in its price-to-performance ratio. While not overly spendy, sitting around $300, the Bambino performs nearly as well as its successor. In short, the Breville Bambino Espresso Machine is one of the best budget espresso machines out there for people seeking to step up to (near) professional-grade shots at home. It’s easy to use, consistent, and offers a fantastic value for its price.

The Bad

However, the Breville Bambino also suffers from the standard Breville accessories that come along with the machine itself. Specifically, the Breville portafilter and tamper. While neither is truly bad, it’s clear that the price tag primarily covers the machine, rather than the whole package. The portafilter offers reliability, yes, but its lack of true spouts and the plastic (non-removable) spout cover make cleaning and maintenance a bit of a hassle. Additionally, while both single and double-walled filter baskets are provided, neither is top-notch; rather, they each offer a mid-range experience that could be easily improved upon (or replaced, if desired).

Similarly, Breville’s two-in-one coffee scoop/tamper is… well, exactly what it sounds like. On a scale of quality to adaptability, Breville certainly went with adaptability. It’s an incredibly lightweight (1-2 ounces) plastic tamp that does the job, mostly, through user effort. Compared to a heftier, more ergonomically designed tamper, the Breville tamper simply doesn’t win. It’s also worth noting that, while a small difference, the Breville Bambino’s water reservoir is smaller than the Plus, sitting at 48 oz rather than 64.

The Verdict

Overall, The Breville Bambino Espresso Machine is excellent for users who are new to “barista-grade” espresso machines. It offers an incredibly easy-to-use experience in a small, sleek profile that will fit unobtrusively in most kitchens, allows Americanos at a moment’s notice, and comes to heat (as well as maintaining that heat) in a matter of less than 30 seconds.

Benefits:

  • Small, sleek design
  • Easy to use
  • Hot water dispenser for tea and Americanos
  • Multidirectional (manual) steam wand
  • Legacy Breville Thermocoil heats water in roughly 30 seconds

Keep in Mind

  • The Breville tamper is plastic and light, but easily upgraded on a budget
  • The Breville portafilter has a non-removable plastic cover and low-quality filter baskets
Best seller
  • Free shipping
  • We price match
  • Returnable

3. Flair Pro 2 Espresso Maker

The Good

The Flair Pro 2 Espresso Maker is an extremely handy tool, but it comes with one major caveat: It’s entirely manual. Whereas many of the items on this list are automatic or semi-automatic machines, this is technically an espresso maker; i.e., it requires user involvement at every step. There is no automated timer, heater, or frother, and there’s no added pressure to help pull the shot.

This makes for something of a ritual when preparing a shot, as it’s far more involved. The user boils their water, assembles and prepares the frame and portafilter, and carefully applies pressure by hand to pull the perfect shot. Ultimately, this makes for an incredibly rewarding experience that can be entirely electricity-free. Whether you are concerned with your carbon footprint or simply want a handy camping espresso maker, the Flair Pro 2 is really the choice for non-electric espresso makers.

The addition of a pressure gauge from previous Flair models also ensures users can quickly and easily dial in precisely how much pressure each shot gets, resulting in more a more consistent overall experience. Add in the sturdy stainless steel body construction and silicone grips, and the Flair Pro 2 is guaranteed to last for ages while performing admirably the entire time.

The Bad

The Flair Pro 2’s manual setup can create a few roadblocks for users. First off, they’ll need to boil their water separately. More importantly, though, it requires a good bit of grip and upper body strength to properly apply the needed pressure. This makes the Flair Pro 2 a poor choice for those with arthritis, or other restrictions to mobility or strength.

It’s also worth noting that, while not difficult, the initial setup for the Flair Pro 2 can be a bit finicky. It’s designed minimalistically, meaning each piece needs to fit together properly—which can impede a quickly-made cup of espresso.

The Verdict

Whether you’re trying to learn how to fine-tune a shot on your own, or you want an excellent portable espresso maker for camping or travel, the Flair Pro 2 fits into a very specific niche. It won’t meet every user’s needs, but its sturdy design, excellent heat retention, and the simplicity of bringing it on one’s travels make it a great tool for espresso lovers who don’t mind putting a bit more effort into every shot.

Benefits:

  • Electricity-free
  • Sturdy stainless steel body and silicone grips
  • Pressure gauge

Keep in Mind:

  • Entirely manual, meaning that users must manually apply pressure, boil water separately, and manually preheat the portafilter.
  • Requires (some) physical exertion to use
  • No milk frother, hot water dispenser, or boiler
  • Can only pull shots
  • Free shipping
  • We price match
  • Returnable

4. Espressione Automatic Pump Espresso Machine

The Good

The Espressione Automatic Pump Espresso Machine offers excellent coffee at a budget-friendly price. While some of its features may not fit the needs of every home espresso aficionado, it provides a great starting point for those who are new to the hobby.

Crafted with ease of use and aesthetics in mind, the Espressione Automatic Pump finds a great middle ground between a professional-grade espresso machine and a standard budget home espresso machine. It takes up a little more space than the Breville twins above, sitting a bit wider and less deep, but should fit into most kitchens without hassle.

In line with the Espressione Automatic Pump’s need for simplicity, users can use either ground coffee or espresso pods. Additionally, the thermoblock heater (in tandem with a handy pre-brew function) allows the machine to heat and automatically bloom and brew shots for a nearly hands-free brewing experience.

The stainless steel design is sleek, extremely simple to clean, and surprisingly intuitive, making cleanup and use during early, tired mornings that much simpler. In terms of controls, it features a handful of temperature controls, a single knob, and little more; something that is both good and bad, depending on one’s perspective.

The Bad

There’s not much that’s wrong with the Espressione Automatic Pump Espresso Machine; rather, its downfall for some will be its greatest feature—namely, adaptability and ease of use. Coffee lovers tend to be particular about each step of their process, and the Espressione simply isn’t made for fine-tuning. It offers a handful of controls for temperature and a simple on/off/steam/hot water selector on the knob.

If greater control is the goal, the Espressione Automatic Pump Espresso Machine simply can’t provide that; however, it excels as an introductory budget espresso machine.

The only other downside to the Espressione Automatic Pump Espresso Machine is, once again, the tamper. It’s another plastic two-in-one tamper/scoop with nearly no weight of its own, meaning tamping is entirely up to the user. This will, ultimately, impact the consistency and quality of each shot pulled.

The Verdict

The Espressione Automatic Pump Espresso Machine is arguably the best budget espresso machine on the market for beginners. However, veterans of the hobby will quickly find that the lack of control the machine provides can be somewhat limiting.

It offers all of the standard features one would expect in an espresso machine, along with the easy option of espresso pods, while fitting into a sleek and relatively compact countertop space. The only other downside to the Espressione Automatic Pump Espresso Machine is, like many of its peers, its tamper. This is easily remedied, though (even on a budget), so it shouldn’t hold too much weight when judging the value of the machine.

Benefits:

  • Extremely intuitive design
  • Small countertop footprint
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Compatible with espresso pods or ground coffee
  • Includes a frothing arm
  • Pre-brew (bloom) feature
  • Hot water dispenser

Keep in Mind:

  • Low-quality plastic tamper/scoop
  • Minimal control, with simple settings
  • Free shipping
  • We price match
  • Returnable

5. Flair Neo Flex Espresso Maker

The Good

The Flair Neo Flex Espresso Maker is a standout in this list for two reasons: first, it’s tied for the most budget-friendly espresso maker on the list. Second, it’s entirely manual. That means there aren’t any boilers, frothers for milk foam, or 15+ bars of pressure to help out, but that’s part of its charm! This isn’t your brother’s newfangled automatic espresso machine—this is an espresso maker rooted in tradition and minimalism.

This choice is perfect for people who just want a tasty shot of espresso. It’s built with the same mindset of simplicity as the Flair Pro 2 above, but with just a touch less involvement. Perhaps the Flair line’s best feature, though, is its portability. Those who travel consistently will find that the Flair Neo Flex’s ability to come apart and pack up into a lightweight, compact package is invaluable; from camping to avoiding the misery of hotel coffee, it’s genuinely a priceless tool in any espresso lover’s arsenal.

It’s also worth noting that, just as with its higher-tier cousin above, the Flair Neo Flex doesn’t have as clear “pros and cons” as more involved machines; it’s all down to individual needs and wants. For some, the requirement of manual use and separately boiling water is a turn-off, but to others, it’s a perfect fit for a niche (or minimalist) need.

The Bad

The Flair Neo Flex is a traditional, simple, entirely manual espresso maker. This means that the user will need to boil water separately, assemble the Neo Flex, and prepare it before making coffee, as well as apply their own pressure. For this reason, users with arthritis or other restricted use of their hands may find the Neo Flex impractical.

Also, as one can infer from its minimalistic design, there is no hot water dispenser, no milk frother (or thermometer), and no boiler to keep water hot.

The Verdict

The Flair Neo Flex is an excellent, affordable, and entirely manual espresso machine. Its consistent use and value will boil down to each user’s specific needs; those who want a portable, simple espresso maker with no frills will absolutely love the Neo Flex for its compact and lightweight design.

On the other hand, though, people seeking a more feature-rich, modern espresso machine may find the Flair Neo Flex lacking.

Ultimately, the difference between the Flair Neo Flex being a kitchen shelf oddity or the best budget espresso machine of 2024 boils down to each user’s needs. Want to go camping and still have an early morning espresso? Then it’s priceless. But if you want to effortlessly make a frothy latte or cappuccino on a rainy Sunday, this likely won’t do the trick.

Benefits:

  • Compact
  • Lightweight
  • Perfect for camping and travel
  • Extremely simple to understand and use
  • Electricity-free

Keep in Mind:

  • Entirely manual, meaning that users must boil water separately, and manually apply pressure to the coffee
  • No milk frother, no hot water dispenser, no heat retention, and no frills
  • Free shipping
  • We price match
  • Returnable

6. De’Longhi Stilosa 15-Bar Pump Manual Espresso Machine

The Good

The De’Longhi Stilosa Manual Espresso Machine is, for better and for worse, tied for the cheapest budget espresso machine on this list. It’s incredibly affordable, sitting at below $100, but is also quite bare bones in terms of what it offers. The machine is manual, meaning one can exercise a touch more control over their shots, though the control is extremely limited.

It comes with a milk frother and 15 bar pump pressure, ensuring tasty shots and foamy lattes, all while taking up an incredibly small amount of space. The De’Longhi Stilosa Manual Espresso Machine features a stainless steel single boiler that will last for ages, and provides a handful of small (but handy) features that improve its ease of use. Its drip tray is multi-level, allowing multiple cup sizes under the portafilter, and the overall design allows extremely easy cleaning, refilling, and general maintenance.

The Bad

The De’Longhi Stilosa Manual Espresso Machine’s best and worst feature is its price point. This is clear in several instances, such as the flimsy plastic exterior of the machine, the low-quality (plastic) two-in-one scoop/tamper, and extremely limited controls. As with the Espressione above, the Stilosa’s single control knob provides very limited control without the ability to fine-tune several small (but important) details.

While it inarguably pulls tasty shots, the De’Longhi Stilosa Manual Espresso Machine struggles the most when it comes to milk and heat. The single boiler can take up to two minutes to heat from cold and will struggle to quickly transition between pulling shots and frothing milk. Additionally, the heat it provides when frothing is extremely limited, meaning drinks with more than 2 ounces of foam will cool far faster than other hot drinks.

The Verdict

The low price and surprising consistency of the De’Longhi Stilosa Manual makes it a wonderful entry point to the world of at-home espresso, but it lacks many of the bells and whistles of spendier machines. For a true budget option, there is no better option than the De’Longhi Stilosa—but if control and speed are important factors your the purchase, there are better options.

Benefits:

  • Affordable
  • Intuitive and easy to use
  • Simple to clean, maintain, and store
  • Includes a milk frother
  • Multi-level, removable drip tray

Keep in Mind:

  • Bare bones controls mean limited control
  • Cheap tamper/scoop combination
  • Milk frother struggles to heat more than ~3 ounces of milk
  • Heats slowly
  • Transitions slowly between shots and frothing
  • Free shipping
  • We price match
  • Returnable

Find the Best Budget Espresso Machine For You

Ultimately, the world of budget espresso machines is vast and a bit daunting, but that shouldn’t stop new people from joining the hobby. While the prices (and quality) on offer across brands runs the gamut from near-offensively cheap to shockingly expensive, there is a sweet spot to poke around in when shopping on a budget.

Depending on each user’s budgetary restrictions, somewhere between $100 on the low end to $500 at the pinnacle of “budget espresso machines” is the sweet spot. Any lower than $100 and both features and quality will be lacking, but once you get above $500, you’re looking at experienced hobbyist or professional-grade equipment.

If you’re still not quite sure what your ideal machine is, our wonderful Curated Coffee Experts are here to help! They’re here for one reason—to make sure you get the best budget espresso machine possible with their free, personalized advice.

Curated experts can help

Have a question about the article you just read or want personal recommendations? Connect with a Curated expert and get free recommendations for whatever you’re looking for!

Shop Coffee & Espresso on Curated

Breville Bambino Plus Espresso Machine
$499.95
Breville Bambino Espresso Machine
$299.95
Flair Espresso Flair Pro 2 Espresso Maker
$325.00

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Ascaso Baby T Plus Automatic Espresso Machine
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