The taste of authentic espresso is one of the great pleasures in life but purchasing espresso drinks from cafés every day adds up fast. And those fancy bean to cup machines are how much? If you want to invest in a solid at-home machine capable of café-quality espresso beverages, but aren’t looking to spend thousands, we may just have a solution for you.
Today we’re breaking down our top 10 great-value espresso machines at or under the $500 price-point.
While you won’t find a fully automated super-star machine able to pump out cappuccinos from bean and milk to cup with one touch of a button at this price, you will find models that allow you to make true quality espresso with a rich and creamy layer of crema on top. And if you should like, you’ll be able to froth up some milk and create some delicious specialty drinks, too.
What’s more? We’ve selected our top budget models from premium manufacturers, so you know you’ll be getting those same great base features that more expensive models have. We’ve selected some great finds, so enjoy!
Top 10 Budget Espresso Machines: 7 Under $500 + 3 Honorable Mentions!
In order from our top recommendation first on down, we have curated 7 stand-out budget espresso machines that will not disappoint! Below our top 7 under $500, we have 3 more models that are $500+, but worthy of the extra lunch money. Of course we’ll explain why, so stay tuned after the quick table for mini-reviews on each model.
1. Gaggia Brera superautomatic espresso machine
Our top pick for an espresso machine under $500 has to go to classic Milano espresso manufacturer Gaggia’s Brera model. It’s the best value for a super-automatic we’ve seen and the only machine on our list that will take you from whole bean to cup with an integrated ceramic burr grinder. And it makes milk drinks too, with its beginner-friendly steam wand.
- Please refer to user guide or user manual or user guide (provided below in PDF) before first use
This Gaggia Brera not only makes one-touch authentic espresso, but it also makes one-touch coffee. And it heats up in less than 10 seconds – talk about timesaving!
Plus, if you don’t have whole-bean on hand or want to quickly switch to a decaf brew, there’s even a bypass doser for pre-ground coffee.
With the excellent value Gaggia Brera, you can adjust coffee length, strength, and even control the pre-infusion to get the best in-cup flavor possible.
The Brera also remembers your preferences by drink with the smart memo function.
And the conveniences don’t stop there, it has a 40.6-ounce water reservoir and an 8-brew cycle capacity dreg box that load from the front, so you don’t even have to move your machine when you refill or empty it.
- Convenient super automatic machine with built-in ceramic grinder.
- Super-fast heat up (10 seconds or less) that takes you from bean to cup in 1 minute.
- Beginner friendly pannarello steam wand for milk coffee beverages.
- Passive cup warmer on top.
- One-touch buttons for espresso and coffee.
- Hot water option for teas and Americanos.
- Authentic Italian extraction method in a super-automatic.
- Built to last from the world-renowned brand Gaggia.
- None at this price point.
Without a doubt, the Gaggia Brera offers the most conveniences for the best value for money on the market for an unmatched consistent quality espresso, which earns it the gold medal. Enjoy delicious Italian espresso in seconds from the comfort of your home day after day, and this baby will pay for itself in no time!
2. Breville Bambino Plus espresso machine
Second spot goes to the compact Breville Bambino Plus Espresso Machine, an automatic machine that packs some great features. Our favorite feature on this machine which earned it such a high rank is its amazing automatic steam wand, which creates the best micro-foam milk texturing we’ve seen on a budget friendly machine like this.
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If you love milk specialty coffees, you’ll love the Breville Bambino Plus – it can create milk froth in three textures at three temperatures. This is a good first espresso machine for a beginner.
Best of all, you only need to set your cup of milk under the wand and press a button – the wand takes care of the rest in a matter of 30-40 seconds! With auto-purge, cleanup of the wand is a snap too.
Of course, the Breville Bambino Plus makes great espresso to go in your dreamy milk froth! Using PID technology and a delicate pre-infusion, you’ll get consistently delicious espresso every time. The 54mm portafilter and pressurized baskets that come included help circumvent beginner mistakes, too.
- Compact footprint at just 7.7 inches wide.
- Superb hands-free automatic steam wand with auto-purge for easy cleaning.
- Thermajet heating system can heat up in 3 seconds.
- Cup warming heated top.
- Temperature control technology for consistent results.
- Beginner-friendly design.
- Doesn’t make regular coffee and no dedicated hot water spout for Americanos.
The Breville Bambino Plus is an excellent option for beginners who want to be moderately involved in their espresso making process and love specialty milk-based beverages. From the well-known and prestigious Breville brand you can trust, the Bambino Plus should be a top contender in your search for a budget espresso machine!
3. Gaggia RI9380/46 Classic Pro espresso machine
Another Gaggia model has made it into our top picks! The Gaggia Classic Pro is a larger more manual machine than the Brera, and it will be suited to those of you with more advanced skills or looking to build a more advanced skillset.
- Solid Steel Housing, Made in Italy
- 9 Bar Espresso Extractions
- Stainless Steel 58mm Commercial Portafilter
- Commercial Three Way Solenoid Valve
With its professional 58mm portafilter at a pro-quality weight with dual spouts and its commercial grade steam wand, you’ll be just like a real barista at home!
Even though it’s a semi-automatic, you’ll have full control of pressure and volume, and can even employ advanced techniques like heat channeling.
The machine comes with a kit of filters to play with too. The Gaggia brand’s passion for espresso shines through in this authentic Italian designed model.
The layout is perfect for a barista setup. On the left, there’s a dedicated hot water spout for true americanos and long blacks. In the center you’ll find the gorgeous portafilter with the Gaggia “G” inscribed on the end. On the right you’ll see the powerful professional steam wand. It’s a bit larger in size than our top two, but with that you’ll get a larger cup warmer on top, which can hold up to 5 cups.
- Exquisite professional grade portafilter with filter kit.
- Powerful commercial steam wand.
- 5-cup stainless steel cup warmer.
- Advanced set of options for the dedicated at-home barista.
- Pure Italian design from the Gaggia brand.
- Higher difficulty maintenance.
The Gaggia Classic Pro makes our top three because it’s an excellent budget option for those of you who want full control as an advanced barista. At this price-point, that’s certainly hard to find, too.
4. KitchenAid KES6503SX Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine
The KitchenAid Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine is an elegant looking little machine with all the necessities. It has a pro-quality portafilter and steam wand that doubles as a hot waterspout for Americanos and Long Blacks. It has a heated top, though it’s a bit small, it fits espresso cups just fine.
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- Make Delicious Lattes and Cappuccinos with the steam wand, for silky foam at the touch of a button.
This model uses dual, smart temperature sensors to give internal heat and pressure at the precise level necessary for consistent and delicious espresso.
The systems sensors work overtime during the brew process to keep heat and pressure even. Heat up time takes about 45 seconds initially but is much faster when switching from steaming to brewing thanks to its auto-purge function.
Another great thing about the KitchenAid is that it’s easy to maintain. It’s uncommon to find an intermediate to advanced espresso machine with an easy descaling and maintenance process, but the KitchenAid is a shining example of a diamond in the rough. It only takes 10 minutes to descale.
- All stainless-steel body that’s just over 6 inches in width, great for small spaces.
- Commercial style 58mm portafilter.
- Espresso cup warmer on top.
- Ability to select dosage and program.
- Built-in steam wand, which also dispenses hot water.
- Difficult to reach power button and water tank.
While KitchenAid isn’t known for their espresso makers, we think they did an excellent job making an intermediate level machine for the home at a great value price. It is a stylish looking compact espresso station in any kitchen. Read our full review on KitchenAid KES6503SZ semi-automatic espresso machine.
5. Solis Barista Perfetta compact programmable espresso machine
If you like the look of the KitchenAid but are looking for something a bit more beginner-friendly, then the Solis Barista Perfetta is going to be a great option for you.
It includes a 54mm beginner portafilter with a filter basket kit – including one that works with Easy Serving Espresso (ESE) pods for added convenience that will definitely save you time in the morning.
We love the stainless-steel body of the machine and the detail of the Solis pressure gauge on the front. The portafilter even has an attractive horseshoe style dual spout uncommon on beginner portafilters. It’s space-saving too at just over 6 inches wide.
Another great feature on this machine is the 67.6-ounce water reservoir, as you won’t often have to refill.
The Perfetta allows you to adjust the heat in three settings, low, medium, and high, all of which are quite hot. You can also program your shot time easily. The temperature is controlled via thermoblock technology.
- Slim, compact casing, just over 6 inches wide.
- Easy to use 54mm portafilter with pod friendly baskets included.
- Classic integrated steam wand with on-demand hot water.
- Adjustable temperature and shot time.
- Stylish design with front pressure gauge.
- The steam wand requires a bit of a learning curve despite the rest of the machine being beginner friendly.
This Prefetta is a solid model for beginners and is a great model to learn on too. At first, you might not want to play with the temperature or understand the pressure gauge, but the options are there for when you grow more advanced.
6. Calphalon BVCLECMP1 Temp iQ Espresso Machine with Steam Wand
The Calphalon Temp iQ Espresso Machine is an excellent value for money for an easy-to-use machine that makes café-quality espresso with an integrated commercial-grade steam wand. With its robust power, you can create deliciously textured micro-foam.
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- Dial interface for selecting steam, hot water, and pre-programmed single and double shots
- 58mm café-sized porta filter holds more grounds and ensures even water dispersion and extraction for robust flavor
We love the way this model is set up – It’s a clean, professional layout beginners can grow into, and more advanced home baristas will feel right at home using.
The large water tank holds almost 68 ounces. The beveled top holds the tamp and is used to warm up your mugs as the machine heats up – which only takes 30 seconds!
The portafilter on this machine comes in the standard café size of 58mm to make sure water is evenly distributed for the best in-cup results.
The analog control center is very simple to figure out and use. Maintenance on this machine is a snap as well, with cleaning cycles taking an average of 7 minutes and only needing to be done every 2-3 months.
- Heats up in just 30 seconds.
- PID temperature control and a gentle pre-infusion for consistent extractions.
- Café-style, wide 58mm portafilter.
- Cup heater on top with a beveled surface and storage for the Tamper.
- Powerful commercial grade steam wand.
- Casing isn’t fully stainless steel and has black plastic sides.
If you don’t care too much about an all-stainless-steel body, the Calphalon Temp iQ is a superb value for money with the high-quality essentials you need like a café-grade portafilter and steam wand. This is a great all-around machine for beginners, intermediate, and advanced baristas.
7. Flair Espresso Maker PRO 2 lever espresso machine
Flair Espresso is a unique brand making completely manual espresso machines with patented mechanisms.
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The machine’s body is easily broken down and portable – It looks a bit like a boomerang. There is a pressure gauge on the body and a removable portafilter-type cylinder with a filter screen.
You’ll need to pre-heat the portafilter/brew unit cylinder with some steam or by running hot water through it, then you can fill it with your desired grounds. What’s nice about this design, is that it’s perfectly even.
Unlike traditional portafilters that tilt, this sits level, so you’re guaranteed a more even tamp.
The brewing process consists of physically pushing down the top bar over your brew unit once you’ve put on the filter screen and poured in hot water. You watch the gauge as you do to keep optimal pressure and time it manually.
The results are delicious espresso. As expected with a portable adventurous espresso machine like the flair, there is no milk component.
- Cool-looking machine that stands out in any kitchen without taking up much space.
- Manual espresso machine that teaches you about the internal workings of making espresso.
- Portable and doesn’t need a plug in, so you can bring it camping or on vacation.
- You will have complete control over your espresso making process.
- No maintenance is required.
- Will require a learning curve, even for experienced espresso makers.
- 46mm portafilter requires grind adjustments and some getting used to.
If you want to feel like you’re living off the land or simply get to know the components of how espresso is really made inside those fancy semi and super-automatic machines for a more affordable price by comparison, then the Flair is going to be for you. Keep in mind there will be a learning curve though, so make sure you are dedicated before investing in this one!
8. Smeg ECF01RDUS Retro-Style Espresso Machine
The Smeg espresso machine is the first one on our list that is slightly above the $500 threshold, but we think it will be more than worth it for those of you looking for a more unique style.
- Pink Stainless Steel
- Passive cup warmer
- Wipe clean
Coming in a variety of kitchen-perfect colors and a gorgeous 1950’s design with an Italian twist, the Smeg has a compact footprint and is suitable for beginner and intermediate skill levels.
We love that the drip tray can be removed so that taller cups can be accommodated than any of the other machines on this list, which are only suited for low mugs or espresso cups.
The passive cup warmer on top, the integrated steam wand, and the drip tray all add a stainless-steel/chrome pop, contributing to the high-end look of the machine.
The steam wand is shorter and thicker than most to quickly fluff your milk into a foam. It comes apart for easy cleaning. The portafilter on the Smeg is a unique size at 52mm, and comes with a kit of filter baskets, including one for Easy Serving Espresso (ESE) pods.
- Aesthetic, stand-out design – Pride of ownership.
- Multiple color options to match with your décor.
- Slim footprint great for compact spaces (6 inches wide).
- Removable drip tray to accommodate taller mugs.
- Thermoblock heating technology, heats up in around 40 seconds.
- Passive cup warmer on top with a beveled surface to easily hold cups.
- Portafilter comes with basket kit, which includes a pod basket.
- No dedicated hot waterspout for americanos and long blacks.
- Unusual portafilter size.
If you’re looking for a stylish semi-automatic espresso machine that looks gorgeous and makes beautiful espresso to match, the vintage inspired Smeg Espresso Machine will be a top choice on your list!
9. Illy X1 Espresso Machine
The Illy X1 Espresso Machine Is just under $600, but it’s an option you won’t find anything comparable to. While paying homage to the first espresso machine made by the company in 1935 called the “ileta,” the Illy X1 has been modernized for the present to bring you great tasting espresso easily using Illy’s iperEspresso pods.
- illy x1 anniversary Espresso and coffee capsule machine in Black finish
- Easy capsule operation for Espresso or brewed Coffee. Compatible with illy iperEspresso capsules only
- Automated Coffee shut off for controlled volume
- Steam wand froths milk for cappuccino and lattes and heats water for tea and hot chocolate
This machine is for those of you not so interested in the actual work of manually brewing espresso, but rather just like the look of manual machines and want the great authentic taste, too.
While usually pod machines are bashed in the coffee community for not being genuine, the iperEspresso pods are renowned for having the most authentic taste experience.
This is because of its true extraction process that creates real-deal crema on top – not machine-manufactured crema like on Nespressos.
Using the pods, you can pull ristretto, espresso, or Lungo shots with ease, and the iper Pods can be recycled to with Illy’s guilt-free recycle program.
You can use the integrated steam wand to froth milk or to dispense hot water for Americano-style drinks. For shorter coffees, the drip tray comes with a small stand for a splatter-free experience.
- Stand-out design with a retro-future look to it.
- Best-in-class results from a pod espresso machine.
- Sturdy, metal construction.
- Heated top with a railing to keep cups from falling off the slightly curved surface.
- Simple, fast results – Heats up in 15 seconds!
- Multi-feature steam wand: steam and hot water.
- More expensive than most pod machines.
This classic Illy X1 espresso and coffee machine is steeped in rich history by industry innovators Illy. You can taste the passion Illy has for great espresso and simplicity in this award-winning machine.
10. Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine
The Breville Barista Express is a popular choice amongst new baristas looking for an at-home setup to practice their craft and even to learn to work as a barista professionally.
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It’s also an option for small business coffee shop owners! Even if it’s over the $500 price mark, this professional layout is an excellent value for money.
The Breville Barista Express is loaded up with an integrated grinder that holds ½ a pound of beans and uses dose control to get the right amount of grounds each time, hands-free – at an amazing 18 grind settings.
It has swivel-mounted steam wand and a heated top too. There’s even a dedicated hot water spout for Americanos and teas.
While the unit implements precision temperature control automatically, you can still slightly adjust your brew temperature up or down by 4 degrees Fahrenheit in 2-degree steps. With an auto-purge function, the machine can quickly return to the optimal brewing temperature after use of the steam wand.
- Integrated conical burr grinder with 18 grind settings and dose control technology.
- Swivel steam wand that’s easy to angle.
- Beginner-friendly 54mm Portafilter.
- Feature-strong control center, with controls ranging from temperature to dose and shot time.
- Heated top for cup storage and dedicated magnetic tamp storage.
- Stainless-steel professional-looking design.
- 58mm portafilter is preferred by advanced baristas
If you’re a beginner that’s passionate about the art of espresso making and 3rd wave coffee in particular, then the Breville Barista Express will be a great choice for you!
Buying Tips for Espresso Machine Under $500
Tip #1: Know the machine types and how involved you want to be in the process
It is most common to find manual or semi-automatic machines at this price-point. The Gaggia Brera is a rare find, which is why we put it as our top pick overall. Here’s a quick break-down on espresso machine types:
Manual – High/Advanced level of Involvement
The only manual espresso maker on our list is the Flair. These machines are not really machines, but more like mechanisms – And they’re for a very particular audience, coffee obsessed and nerdy espresso lovers out there.
Semi-Automatic – Medium/Intermediate level of Involvement
Most of the machines on this list are semi-automatic, meaning it automatically controls the temperature and pressure for you, but you still have to grind your own coffee, put it in the portafilter, and insert it into the group head.
Super-Automatic – Easy/Low level of Involvement
A super-automatic espresso machine takes care of everything for you. Go from bean to cup without much more than a push of a button. Our top pick on this list, the Gaggia Brera, is a super-automatic model. You only need to add whole beans and it takes care of grinding, dosing, tamping, and extracting all internally.
Tip #2: Know the main components of an espresso machine.
For example, it’s going to be hard to find a machine with a built-in grinder at this price, but a steam wand is pretty standard so long as it’s not a manual machine.
The portafilter size that’s most beginner friendly is 54mm, while the 58mm is ideal for best flavor and advanced techniques.
A pressure gauge is another advanced component that won’t do much for beginners.
There you have it! Our full break-down on the best budget-friendly espresso machines on the market today.
Recap: the best models under $500:
- Our top pick overall is the Gaggia Brera – It’s too good to pass up for all it offers, especially if you’re a convenience lover.
- Our favorite choice for milk loving beginners is the Breville Bambino Plus – thanks to its incredible automated milk wand.
- Gaggia Classic Pro is the winner for the best budget home espresso machine with professional 58mm portafilter, commercial steam wand and commercial three-way solenoid valve.
- Who’s best dressed? The Smeg Espresso Machine, for sure.
- Our top pick for coffee scientists? Of course, it’s the Flair PRO 2!
Related buying guide – you might also like:
- Best automatic espresso machines under $1000 for home baristas – where you would find models with built-in grinders.