The average person is probably completely unaware that espresso machines are available at the home consumer level. Usually, if you wish to enjoy an espresso, a commercial establishment such as Starbucks comes to mind. If you’re perfectly okay paying $7 for an espresso, they will be more than happy to sell it to you. The home versions of espresso machines were created for the same reasons that home versions of coffee machines were created – to save the user money without sacrificing a daily cup of espresso, all while teaching you how to be a barista.
Espresso machines designed for the home consumer attempt to take away much of the difficulty involved in creating an espresso. They do that by automating much of the process. They can come with very explicit instructions or be designed to only be compatible with specific coffee pods of pre-ground coffee – often both. Much like the Keurig machines with their K-cups, just insert one of these espresso coffee pods into the machine, and the machine does the rest. Consistency in making espresso shot by hand is very difficult to achieve. Hence, the idea behind providing customers with a consistent coffee grind by providing prepackaged pods.
Another mental hurdle home consumers often associate with espresso machines is the cost. Indeed, some of these machines can be very expensive and out of the financial reach of many people. We’re hoping to crack this egg wide open and offer you a sampling of some of the more affordable espresso machines on the market specially designed for the home consumer. Let’s dive right in, shall we?
DeLonghi’s espresso machine is one of those machines that use one of those specialized pre-packaged coffee pods. The global food company, Nestlé, created a coffee pod called Nespresso. The idea behind it is so that you can pop a pod in the machine, but a coffee mug under the spout, and press a button. There is no measuring the size of a coffee grind, no compacting the coffee grinds in the portafilter, and no mess. This is the ideal machine for those who wish for the process to be simplified.
This is a classic stainless steel design with black accents. The majority machine is metal which gives off the impression that not only did DeLonghi polish their design, but they intended for their machine to last longer than plastic competitors.
It sports a double boiler design, eliminating the time needed to wait between making an espresso and making a cappuccino.
Oh yeah, espresso machines are capable of more than just delivering espresso shots. Steam and froth your milk, combine it with your espresso shot and enjoy your cappuccino.
Pod Compatibility: Nestlé Nespresso pods only.
With a 72 ounce removable water reservoir, this espresso machine allows you to practice the art of being a barista at home. It comes with the portafilter, the tamper (designed to compact those coffee grinds), and a measuring scoop to make the job just a little bit easier. You can make up to two espresso shots using the single or double shot espresso portafilter.
Gaggia is going for temperature stability by manufacturing the portafilters and the groupheads from marine-grade quality, chrome-plated brass. The interesting feature of this espresso machine is that of the ability to use certain coffee pods or traditional coffee grounds. Coffee pods may be more expensive, but they are certainly a time-saving feature. This machine allows you to either use the pods or practice the art of being a barista and making your espresso or cappuccino by hand. This machine also dispenses hot water for tea.
A true stainless steel design that makes cleanup as easy as wiping down with a soft cloth. You’re not given the option of using a taller cup – you must use a smaller and shorter mugs with this machine. We tried both making it by hand (slight learning curve here!), and we tried some ESE coffee pods. Both methods resulted in an excellent espresso shot. The machine comes with separate baskets, allowing you to choose which method to use on a particular brew.
Pod Compatibility: ESE coffee pods or traditional espresso grounds only. ESE stands for Easy Serving Espresso.
This machine makes me think of the food machine aboard the USS Enterprise in Star Trek – except that it has a manual nautical-type dial, which is just cool. This machine has a built-in grinder, which saves money over preground espresso coffee and allows you to purchase whole beans. Any coffee aficionado will tell you that the best coffee is fresh coffee. It must be experienced to be appreciated. It just doesn’t have the same effect on paper – but it is awesome.
The dial is a thermometer to ensure that the machine delivers café quality drinks within the comfort of your own home. The grinder will grind from coarse to fine, enabling you to take the freshly ground coffee directly to your automatic drip coffee machine if you so choose.
It has a 5-cup removable water reservoir, two adapters that allow you to either make a single shot or a double shot of espresso, a high-pressure safety valve, and a milk frother – which allows you to enjoy cappuccinos and other coffee drinks. The cup warmer is a nice touch if I do say so myself.
Pod Compatibility: Traditional espresso grounds only.
Another winner from Gaggia, this Baby Twin Espresso Machine sports to water boilers. One is the high-wattage boiler for heating water to the perfect temperature used to make espresso shots; the other one is a rapid steam boiler so you can add steam to your milk and froth at the professional way. There are no spring-loaded buttons with this one. It has a touch panel in the form of a ring – with two programmable brewing functions. Like most espresso machines, it allows you to create double shots, single shots, and is compatible with ESE coffee pods or traditional ground espresso coffee.
If you wish to do things the barista way, it includes a measuring cup and a coffee tamper. The stainless steel brushed housing lasts longer than plastic by design. Simply wipe down with a clean cloth and you can keep this machine shining for years. The portafilter is made of marine-grade, chrome-plated brass. This increases the longevity of machine and acts as a natural temperature insulator – which is needed to create a consistently excellent cup of espresso. Steam and froth your milk, add it to your espresso shot, and enjoy.
Pod Compatibility: Traditional espresso grounds only.
Espressos, cappuccinos, and other coffeehouse drinks are considered luxury drinks and usually reserved for commercial establishments. This is no longer the case as home espresso machines continue to gain traction. What may be expensive now will eventually go down in price – if we follow the natural flow of economics. These machines are proof of that as the best espresso machines under 500 dollars. You no longer need to spend over thousand dollars to get a cappuccino machine in your home. Save your wallet, surprise your friends, and sit down to a nice warm cup of cappuccino on a lazy Sunday afternoon.