Since espresso-making is an art, the machines brewing those addictively delicious shots are really complex things…
Meaning: you can easily overspend on them, end up buying bad quality or both.
So with this review we want to help you avoid any of that. In fact, we’ll show you 8 espresso machines under 200 dollars that – despite their price – make creamy shots of espresso and help you save the $6 morning detour to Starbucks.
And in case you’re still not sure which espresso machine to go for after that – we’ve added a buyer’s guide detailling the most important aspects for you to consider.
Overview of Best Espresso Machines Under 200 Dollar
1. DeLonghi EC155 Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
The De’Longhi Espresso & Cappuccino Maker (EC155) is our best pick of all espresso machines under 200 dollars!
That said, we don’t believe in “the best” as an absolute verdict, but only in relation to particular circumstances. So the DeLonghi EC155 is our best espresso machine for people who are willing to invest about 15 minutes into making a delicious espresso, cappucino or latte. Plus: it’s the third cheapest, useful espresso maker on the market.
The reason it does make such good espressos, cappuccinos and lattes is, first, the 15-bar pressure pump. It pushes the water through the ground coffee with such intensity that you’ll get the creamy foam topping (the “crema”) on your espresso. Second, the EC155 heats the water up to almost perfect brewing temperature (about 200°F) and thereby creates a rich bitter-and-sweet flavor. There won’t be anything sour as with other machines.
On the downside, it takes the DeLonghi EC155 “about 15 minutes” to heat up. (That’s what the manual says. We managed to pull a good shot after about 10 minutes as well.) That’s much more than for instance the Nespresso Inissia needs to heat up. But it also shows in the espresso’s taste.
Another plus of this DeLonghi machine is the dual function portafilter. It enables you to use ground coffee or pods. Before using ground coffee, you’d have to look at how much and how to fill up / into the filter (see video under 2. below – the tamper is included with the machine). Using quality espresso pods, by contrast, would eliminate the guesswork.
Yet, this machine does have its flaws even if they are minor ones. The first is the portafilter in which you fill the coffee grounds. It is smaller than with most other machines, and will only hold enough coffee grounds for about 2 ounces of espresso. If you’d try to pull more than that without refilling, the espresso would turn quite bitter.
Related to this is the small distance from espresso spout to drip tray. You won’t fit more than a 2.3 inch glass underneath there. This does make sense regarding the amount of espresso this machine can make (see paragraph above). But it might force you to pull various shots if you’re prone to using taller cups or travel mugs.
However, if you can life with these 2 shortcomings, the DeLonghi EC155 is an high-quality, affordable espresso machine.
- Brews high-quality espressos (our team says “Starbucks-like”)
- Can be used with ground coffee or espresso pods
- Very easy to clean through removable drip tray & water tank (35 ounces)
- Can make 2 shots at once
2. Mr. Coffee Café Barista Espresso Maker
The Mr. Coffee Barista (ECMP 1000) makes very good espresso for the person willing to learn a thing or two about preparing espresso (it’s not difficult & we’ll explain in a minute).
Mr. Coffee’s ECMP 1000 is a semi-automatic machine, which means that all the complicated stuff is done for you. For instance, the Mr. Coffee Barista automatically:
- applies 15 bars of pressure when pushing water through the coffee grounds (for maximum flavor)
- selects the right brewing settings for either espressos, cappuccinos or lattes at the puhs of a button
- frothes the milk so you don’t have to engage in guesswork
With this done for you by the Mr. Coffee Barista your espresso is basically 90% ready. But you still need to insert the ground coffee into the portafilter – or there will be no espresso to brew in the first place. (Note: this machine does not support pods which make loading up easier but also decrease the espresso’s quality.) Fortunately, learning to pack the grounds into the filter isn’t difficult and you can learn it quickly through this video tutorial.
What’s cool: the ECMP 1000 can do double-shots & a tamper is included with the machine!
Another plus is that the Mr. Coffee Barista comes with a removable water tank and milk container. This means you won’t have to carry the whole thing over to the sink and makes it very easy to clean this machine. The milk tank is even refrigerator safe, so you can keep your milk cool and fresh between your morning and afternoon coffee.
On the other side of things, this machine is fairly loud to our ears. You can check if you feel the same way through this video (1:56 onwards). Also, we found we had to run the self-cleaning cycle whenever leaving the machine untouched for a day or more. Otherwise the milk residues would start to smell. Fortunatly, the cleaning cycle runs on its own, but we still had to wipe the frother’s nozzle using a paper towel.
- Brews high-quality espressos (our team says “Starbucks-like”)
- Self-cleaning cycle automatically cleans the milk container and pipe
- Intuitive one-touch control panel to choose between espresso, cappuccino and latte
- Fridge-safe, removable milk container to keep milk fresh
- Makes quite some noise when brewing (see video link in paragraph above)
- Can’t accomodate travel mugs (you’d have to brew several cups and pour them into the mug)
3. Nespresso Inissia Espresso Maker
The Nespresso Inissia Espresso Maker is our best pick for the (morning) person who’s set on efficiency. For the Nespresso Inissia will allow you to brew flavor-rich espresso almost completely hands off.
This is because you don’t have to wait for the Nespresso Inissia to warm up. You simply grab the capsule of your choice, insert it into the machine, push the espresso or lungo button – and walk away. There’s no pushing, waiting for the machine to heat up and pushing again like with other machines. Rather, you push start once and can freely go about your morning routine. Within 25 seconds the Inissia will have automatically heated up and soon thereafter a tasty espresso or latte will flow into your cup.
And quality isn’t sacrificed either with this machine: the Nespresso Inissia is driven by a 19-bar pressure pump. That means, this machine operates on the highest amount of pressure of all models in this review. And generally one can say: the higher the pressure, the better the espresso’s quality.
Yet, the Inissia works on capsules only. No ground coffee here. This means you can’t influence the taste of your espresso by playing around with all the variables that a portafilter allows for (amount of ground coffee, pressure applied to it etc.). Obviously, that’s good if you’re unexperienced or not willing to craft your espresso every day. But it could ruin your drinking & brewing experience if you think of yourself as a barista or espresso afficionado.
Still, there is a wide variety of capsules available for this machine – and out of the box it comes with a colorful mix of 16 different ones.
One thing that’s not included with this machine is a frother to prepare the milk you’d need for cappuccinos or lattes. This is a minus with respect to the Inissia’s regular price (currently discounted – 24. January 2017) & with respect to other machines reviewed here that cost about the same and do have a frother. Fortunately, there is an Inissia + Milk Frother bundle – and it is heavily discounted too (24. January 2017).
So the only real drawbacks we found were:
- It can’t brew more than one shot simultaneously (which can make you break a sweat when you have lots of guests)
- The distance between the mouth and the drip tray is too small for taller coffee cups or glasses for latte. If you’re into that, you’ll have to use a smaller cup and pour the shot into your taller one.
Other than that, our team was truly impressed with the Nespresso Inissia Espresso Maker.
- Heats up and starts brewing on its own – you just hit the button once
- Very high pump pressu for maximum flavor
- Stylish design + available in 5 color options
- One of the smallest espresso machines on the market (4.6 x 12.6 x 9.1 inches)
- Can’t froth milk (thus: make cappuccinos or lattes) on its own (but machine + frother bundle available)
- Can’t brew more than one shot simultaneously
- Doesn’t accomodate larger coffee cups or latte glasses
4. Mr. Coffee Automatic Dual Shot
The Mr. Coffee Automatic Dual Shot System (ECMP50) is a semi-automatic machine for espresso lovers who can spare a few minutes in front of this very affordable machine.
What we mean by that is: you won’t want to walk away from this machine while brewing, because it will keep puring espresso until you switch it off. That said, the Mr. Coffee Dual Shot heats up exceptionally fast, so you only have to spend about a minute from starting it to holding a finished expresso.
This need to switch the ECMP50 off also means that you’re the one determining the quality of your espresso. And this could cost you a few nasty cups in the beginning. In our case, it took us 3 runs to determine the right point to cut the brewing off (about a second after the flow of espresso changes from medium to light brown). But after that, the espresso came out creamy and tasty every time.
Note that the Mr. Coffee Dual Shot doesn’t allow for use of pods. Rather, you can only fill the portafilter with ground coffee. This means you’ll have to learn how much coffee to pack into the portafilter and how much pressure to apply to it via the included tamper. (For a tutorial, see product #2 above.) The portafilter can accomodate a smaller load for single and a larger one for double shots.
A clear advantage of the Mr. Coffee Dual Shot is that there is quite some space underneath the spout. So you will be able to fit a standard-sized coffee cup in here. Plus: as you can tell from the name, you can brew 2 shots of espresso simultaneously.
- The ECMP50’s 15-bar pressure pump tops the shots with a nice layer of crema
- Can produce 2 shots simultaneously
- Standard-sized cup will fit under the spout
- Easy to clean as all parts can easily be detached
5. Mr. Coffee 4-Cup Steam Espresso System
The “Mr. Coffee 4-Cup Steam Espresso System with Milk Frother (ECM160)” – what a name! – is our pick for coffee lovers on a tight budget. It’s also perfect as a first-ever espresso machine, so you see where your preferences are and then spend more on machines that can do those.
Very conveniently, the Mr. Coffee Steam System doesn’t require any assembly. All you need to do after unboxing is to rinse it once and you’re all set to brew. And since handling the machine is so straightforward (fill in water, pack the filter with ground coffee, push a button), brewing won’t take long either. David needed 4:12 minutes from “machine unboxed & rinsed” to holding his first latte.
Note that the ECM160 comes with a frothing arm but lacks the frothing pitcher, so you’d have tobuy one separately. And the same goes for the tamper. Yet, both is to be expected for the price which is only a fraction of all other machines in this review.
A nice add-on with the Mr. Coffee ECM160 is that it comes with a glass carafe. This carafe can accomodate up to 4 shots of espresso and helps you serve them to your guests. Of course, that also means that this machine can produce 4 shots in 1 brewing. That’s a lot more than the other single- & double-cup models in this review can do.
On the flip side, however, the Mr. Coffee ECM160 can produce so much, because the espresso will not taste as good and not be as creamy. And the reason that the ECM160 operates on 3 bars of steam while most other machines in this review create much higher pressure (15 bars) through using a pump. So this machine simply has not enough steam power to extract the last bits of flavor from the coffee beans and to mold them into a creamy substance.
Still, many buyers on Amazon – as well as our team – speak favorably of the espresso quality produced with the Mr. Coffee ECM160. We just don’t want you to expect to produce a creamy-Starbucks espresso with this machine.
- Cheapest useful espresso machine on the market
- Operates very quietly (because pressure is low)
- Produces up to 4 shots of espresso at once
- Glass carafe to serve those shots is included
- Very easy to clean as all main parts are removable
6. Cuisinart Stainless Steel Espresso Maker
The Cuisinart Espresso Maker (EM-100) is our pick for people who want a machine that makes quality espresso & adds to the looks of their kitchen.
Compared to the other machines reviewed here, the Cuisinart Espresso Maker’s stainless steel housing is, in our opinion, an eye catcher. But its material doesn’t only make for good looks. It also means that the EM-100 is easy to wipe clean and there won’t be any rust. In general, the stainless steel will make this machine a solid companion for years.
And what you can see on the outside is reflected on the inside of the Cuisinart EM-100 as well. With its 15-bar pressure pump, it has produced well-flavored espresso shots with a respectable layer of crema for us on a consistent basis. On the downside, the amount of pressure leads to a certain amount of noise while brewing too. Please judge yourself if that’s too loud for you:
An undisputed plus for us is the Cuisinart Espresso Maker’s intuitive control panel. There is only 1 power-button as well as 2 dial knobs – 1 for brewing and 1 for forthing milk for lattes and cappuccinos. About the dial knobs: please note that this machine requires you to manual switch off the brewing process. This gives you full control over how “long” you want your espresso to be. But it also means you can’t go off to brush your teeth or similar while your espresso is being made for you.
The only minor drawback we found with this machine is that the frothing nozzle is fairly long. This might require you to lift the nozzle while you’re deep into frothing and the milk is nearing the edge of the pitcher. Otherwise you’d spill the milk.
- Intuitive handling with only 1 button and 2 knobs (for frothing and brewing)
- Can brew 2 shots of espresso simultaneously
- Cup-warming plate on top of it
- Biggest removable water reservoir in this review (53 ounces)
- Very easy to clean as all main parts are removable + it is stainless steel
- Frothing nozzle fairly long so you might have to lift it to avoid spilling
- Fairly loud due to the 15-bar pressure pump
7. DeLonghi EC702 Espresso Maker
The De’Longhi EC702 is the most expensive espresso machine we’ve reviewed here, but also produced what we found one of the tastiest espressos. And be assured we drank like addicts these past days…
Obviously many variables go into a good espresso, but the v gives you a headstart through its 15-bar pressure pump which creates a very nice layer of crema on top of the shots. Also, this machine allows you to work with either ground coffee or pods, so you can decide if you want to have full control over your espresso’s quality (grounds) – or just want to pull a quick shot (pods).
Yet, while many other machines have these 2 features, this DeLonghi machine puts a stress on preheating. This means that you have to push the power / preheat button about 15 minutes before you want to start brewing your shot. (15 minutes is what the manual says – but our machine was ready in about 11 minutes on average.) But it also means that the EC702 operates at the perfect brewing temperature of about 200°F.
And while you can leave the machine alone during preheating, you have to be present to start and stop the flow of espresso afterwards. This takes about 30 seconds from start to finish. (Plus 2-3 more minutes if you go on to froth milk for a cappuccino or latte afterwards.) If your can’t spare that (little) time, check out the fully hands-off Nespresso Inissia above.
We found that the only real negative about this machine is the lack of space between spout and drip tray. You’ll only be able to put 2-ounce espresso glasses there. A standard-sized cup won’t fit in unless you remove the drip tray.
Also, this machine has stainless steel parts (back, cup-warming plate on top, drip tray), but the front and the buttons are silver plastic. That’s better than most all-around plastic machines in this price range – but it’s still not quite what the product title on Amazon promises.
What you need to buy separately to start making espresso
- Produced one of the best espressos we’ve tasted for this review
- Can brew 2 shots of espresso simultaneously
- Long-lasting 44-ounce water tank (second biggest in this review)
- Easy to clean because drip tray, water tank & outer tube of frothing arm are removable
8. DeLonghi ECO310BK Espresso Machine
The DeLonghi Eco310 is a semi-automatic espresso maker designed for people who want to make their own espresso quickly and without much cleaning up.The Eco310 houses two thermostats which controll the temperature of the brewing and the steaming process independently of one another. It also comes with a pressure pump that, in contrast to many other “weaker” pumps, uses 15 bars of pressure to push the water through the coffee grounds. The result are creamy shots of espresso that kept our team energized and happy throughout this article.
Plus: with 1-2 minutes to reach brewing temperature, the DeLonghi Eco310 heats up very, very fast.
Another feature that makes this espresso machine good for barista apprentices is that it comes with a multifunctional filter holder. That means, you can use ground coffee like they do in your favorite coffe shop. Or you can use these espresso podsto spend no time on preparation and to make cleaning as easy as removing the pod.
Another plus concerning cleaning: the DeLonghi Eco310 is housed in a stainless steel, so rust won’t be an issue even if you don’t always remove every drip of water.
Another convenient feature of this espresso machine is the removable cup warming tray. This allows you to avoid cooling down your nice and hot espresso by placing it in a cold cup.
On the bad side, the Eco310 doesn’t have an auto-shut off, so in order to stop brewing or steaming you have to push it manually. This does enable you to have full control over how strong you want your espresso to be – but it prevents you from switching on the machine and going about more important matters you might be facing in the morning.
Also: if this is your first espresso machine, the manual might slow you down initially. We found it to be of no help whatsoever. Fortunately, “matt” – a buyer on Amazon – has written-up a comprehensive getting-started tutorial. You can find it by typing “guide” into the Customer Questions & Answers section at the bottom of the Amazon product page.
- High amount of pressure (15 bars) produces creamy espressos
- Machine heats up very quickly (about 1 minute)
- Large 48-ounce water tank (~1 ounce per shot of espresso)
- Easy to clean and intuitive to use
- Includes coffee tamper and cup warming plate
- No automatic shut-off for brewing and steaming (you have to push the button manually)
- Manual not helpful when first using the Eco310
Well, that’s exactly why we’ve created this buyer’s guide. We’ll show you the most important features, so you can scroll back up and pick the espresso machine that best fulfills your need.
Steam- vs. Pump-Driven Machines
So the first crucial feature is whether a machine operates on steam- or pump-pressure.
When espresso machines were first made available for home use, almost all of them were steam-driven. Now most operate based on a pump – and here’s the difference.
In a steam-driven espresso machine, the water is (a) heated and (b) pushed through the coffee grounds by way of – guess what – steam. Now, a steam boiler can’t generate as much pressure as a pump (think 3 bars vs. 15), so a steam-driven machine will, first, produce not as much of a creamy shot as a pump-driven one would.
Second, a steam boiler is pretty rough when it comes to temperature. It heats up the water until steam is produced – and off the brewing process goes. Yet, depending on other variables that influence the heating process (material of the boiler etc.) the heating point at which the brewing process starts can vary. And sometimes it may start before a suitable temperature for brewing espresso (about 200°F) is reached. In this case, you’d essentially pull a very strong cup of coffee instead of an espresso. Again, this doesn’t have to happen, but the chances are there…
So we recommend pump-driven machines! At the same time, we’ve included one steam-driven machine in this review – the Mr. Coffee 4-Cup Espresso System (#5) – to cater to people who want to enter the world of espresso-making on a tight budget.
Mind the Pressure
As just explained, the rule of thumb is this: the more pressure your machine can work with, the more crema you’ll get on top of your espresso.
This doesn’t mean that a machine with 15 bars of pressure will necessarily do a better job than one with 3. For there are many other variables that go into espresso making (quality of ground coffee / pods, how you pack the protafilter, how long you let the espresso flow out for).
Still, on the whole, we’ve found that machines with higher pressure made better espresso.
Don’t Skip the Grinder
You’ve heard us talk quite a bit about ground coffee here, but we never explained where this actually comes from. So…
…most coffee shops / baristas would have their own grinder. And you could buy one as well. In that case, we recommend you go for a burr grinder, because it produces more consistent and better results. (Why exactly is explained very well by the pros from Starbucks.)
But if you don’t want to manually grind yourself, you can of course buy ready-made ground coffee. Please just make sure to buy quality here as a perfect brewing process won’t help anything if the ingredients are flawed.
Automation vs. Customization
Espresso machines come in various shapes between fully automated and fully customizable and this distinction applies to many features.
Yet, for the purposes of this review the most important difference is this:
Some machines will require you to manually start and stop the flow of espresso. This means you can significantly influence the taste of your espresso. (As this barista explains, “you want to shoot for between 21 and 30 seconds”. Another good rule of thumb is to stop the flow of espresso just before it turns from brown to blonde.)
In any case, with machines that have automated this process for you, you’d obviously have no leverage to customize in that respect. On the other hand, you get your espresso in a hands-off manner and can go about your morning routine during that time.
Questions? Comments? Criticism?
That’s it from our team. We hope you’re ready to choose your perfect espresso machine under 200 dollars now!
And if any of the above came up while reading this – don’t hesitate to leave us a comment below.
We’ll answer it as soon as we’re back from product patrol!