We’re back with another in-depth investigation: this time to find the best espresso machine that’s right for you at under $300. Espresso can be expensive, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have options.
Brewers with class that make delicious, savory espresso, all at an affordable price, were what we were looking for. There’s no better machine that summarizes this sentiment than our top pick, the Delonghi EC680M Dedica.
Don’t believe us? Let’s take a closer look and find out:
- Automatic flow stop
- 3-in-1 filter holder brews one shot, two, or ESE espresso
- Manual frother to combine milk and steam
- Thermoblock pump for optimal extraction
- Dual filter holder and froth enhancer
- Easy to use selector controls
- Simple and convenient one-touch operation
- Fast water heating time of 15-20 seconds
- Consistent 5 cup size quantities
- Compact size with 1560W of power
- Thermojet heating and steam wand
- One-touch control panel
- Brews cup after cup instantly
- 3-in-1 filter holder
- 2 separate thermostats make cafe-style drinks
- Flow control portafilter
- Simple, 4 step, brewing
- Durable construction
Our Top Picks
1. Delonghi EC680M Dedica — Best Overall
SUMMARY: The be-all and end-all espresso machine under $300, with adjustable controls for a versatile coffee experience; espresso done right, meet the Delonghi EC680M.
The Italian name Delonghi is synonymous with A-grade espresso machines, with a long-standing tradition of high-quality, affordable brewers made available to the average consumer. The Delonghi EC680M is no exception to this principle and is our best overall pick.
The 3-in-1 portafilter makes for flexible shots of espresso to fit any preference: 1 shot, 2, or ESE pods for added convenience. The 15-bar pressure ensures your coffee is extracted thoroughly, preserving the subtlety and rich complexity of your espresso’s flavor profiles.
Plus, the automatic flow stop can be programmed to match your desired cup size; no more guessing or multiple brew cycles to achieve your desired amount of espresso. Speaking of programming, the brewer has fully adjustable controls for a more tailored experience.
The Delonghi EC680M’s manual frother combines steam and milk in the perfect blend, making it ideal for latte art and creamy foam cappuccinos.
The removable water tank and adjustable drip tray make the EC680M’s clean-up and maintenance effortless. Not to mention, the water tank is a robust size of 44 oz. No more trips to the Brita filter midway through brews to refill your water reservoir will be necessary.
With a gorgeous stainless steel design and natural wood finish to the base and handle of the machine, this brewer matches its excellent performance with a durable, sleek design. The stainless steel boiler ensures your brewer will last cup after cup.
The only drawbacks to this machine are that it runs a bit noisy and the included tamper in the basic bundle leaves much to be desired. Check out the upgraded bundle with a better tamper.
Better tasting coffee is a result of good tamping: the brewing water has to work harder to saturate densely packed espresso grounds. With higher water pressure, more of the oils from the espresso grounds are unlocked, creating the bold taste you’ve come to love.
- Automatic flow stop for ounce levels that match your preference at the perfect temp
- 3-in-1 filter holder for versatile brewing
- 15-bar power pump with adjustable controls
- Manual frother combines milk and steam at the perfect balance
- Sleek stainless steel design, natural wood handle, and stainless boiler features
- Included tamper is sub-par and doesn’t provide an evenly graded tamp
- Runs a tad noisy
2. Breville ESP8XL Cafe Roma — Best Aesthetic
SUMMARY: Like a Shelby Mustang, the Breville ESP8XL’S classically designed, high-performance brewing will not only turn heads but get you where you’re going.
The Breville ESP8XL Cafe Roma has all the class of beloved, traditional espresso makers from the old country, with greater performance at an inexpensive price tag; this is like a Shelby mustang selling for the same price as a Corolla.
With a flawless stainless steel design that’s still very compact, you get a jaw-dropping machine that will make custom drinks for your friends without cluttering up your countertops.
Inspired by empowering potential, Breville is now in its third generation of makers designing gorgeous stainless steel brewers. They’ve refined it even further with this maker.
A brewer that looks this good should perform at the same level, right? Yes, and the Breville ESP8XL Cafe Roma delivers. Its 1000-watt, Thermoblock pump with 15 bars of pressure brews a great-tasting espresso while keeping the rich, dense flavor profiles intact, all at the optimal temperature.
The added cup warming tray keeps your espresso cups warm and preserves the integrity of your temp.
The dual filter holder paired with the froth enhancer sets your cappuccinos up to go above and beyond excellent. Because this brewer implements micro-foaming technology, you get a perfectly consistent froth to your espresso that enhances the flavor of your brew.
To brew — whether it’s a single shot to drink black or as a cappuccino — you can use the selector controls with one of two settings: steam or brew. This simple operation can turn any lover of design aesthetics into a barista.
The Breville has a small water tank capacity of only 22 ounces and tends to vibrate a lot more when brewing than the average budget espresso machine.
- 1000 watt, 15 bar pressure with Thermoblock
- Dual filter holder and froth enhancer for savory dollops of foam
- Easy to use selector controls for espresso brewing or milk frothing
- Cup warming tray
- Removable drip tray and grid for painless cleaning
- Small water tank at only 22-ounce capacity
- A bit of vibration as it brews
3. Nespresso Vertuo Plus — Easiest To Use
SUMMARY: The flagship espresso pod machine from the quintessential single-button brew company: introducing Nespresso’s Vertuo Plus.
The quintessential espresso pod brewing system, Nespresso, has elevated the espresso game. Their products are affordable on almost any budget, and the Nespresso Vertuo Plus stands out to us as the best pod brewer falling into a $300 price bracket.
The patented, single-button brew process gives you a consistent, amazing espresso just the way you like it. Choose from 5 potential cup sizes — Alto, Mug, Gran Luongo, Double Espresso, and Espresso — and just like that, you’ll have a bold-bodied, rich espresso in under 2 minutes.
Speed is what Nespresso is known for. With arguably the longest part of preparing coffee — heating water — taking as little as 15 seconds, you’ll be out the door and on your way to your morning meetings in no time.
There are over 30 pod varieties available in the Nespresso Vertuo series, from decadent dessert-inspired to classic Cuban, Brazilian, or Parisian. There’s enough pod diversity to keep you interested and have you coming back for more.
Plus, the authentic crema is brewed in every cup, adding a welcomed top layer of creamy foam to each cup of espresso.
Nespresso Vertuo Plus pods are a tad more expensive than the OG Nespresso varieties, while the capsule collecting tray can get a little messy and will require a little extra TLC.
- Brew easily and faster than Speedy Gonzales
- Consistent, high-quality espresso all at the touch of a button
- 5 cup size quantities
- Naturally foamed crema for light sweetness with the perfect texture
- Over 30 pod varieties to choose from
- Nespresso Vertuo Plus pods are more expensive
- Messy capsule collecting tray
4. Breville Bambino — Best Compact Machine
SUMMARY: The Bambino features a compact design that delivers perfect espresso at the highest brew quality, with all the power of a bigger machine.
Oftentimes, when you get a compact espresso machine, you’re making a sacrifice. Whether it’s grind size, quality materials, milk reservoirs, or extraction rate, you can usually bank on having to compromise for space-saving, budget espresso machines.
This is not the case with the Breville Bambino. You’re getting all the bells and whistles and features you’d expect from XL coffee makers at a fraction of the size.
With 15 bars of pressure at 1560W of power, you are getting a powerful, real espresso machine that won’t have you rearranging your kitchen.
The thermojet heating and automatic steam wand deliver espressos and cappuccinos at the ideal temperature, while the brew texture has a silky, velvety mouthfeel to it. Perfect for cold foam iced capps to cool off on those hot summer days.
Plus, the one-touch control panel allows for automated operation and an overall user-friendly experience. This is especially for those at-home espresso lovers who are used to the baristas at the local coffee shop making their cups of coffee.
Dual brew baskets at high bars of pressure allow for delicious espresso in either single or double espresso shots. The fact that all of this comes from a machine with a stainless steel, compact design certainly makes it stand out among coffee lovers in studio apartments.
This is a machine that runs loud, while the portafilter can be difficult to lock into place. Once you get the hang of it and find the portafilter’s sweet spot, the Bambino makes unforgettable coffee without the clutter of a big machine.
- 1560W of power make this compact espresso machine mighty
- Thermojet heating and automatic steam wand make for delicious espressos and cappuccinos
- One-touch control panel makes this an automatic espresso machine
- Brews espresso with a silky, velvety mouthfeel
- Dual brew baskets in one or double-shot espressos
- Runs loud
- Portafilter is difficult to lock into place
5. Delonghi EC155 — Best Value
SUMMARY: The Delonghi EC155 is the best bang for your buck and the perfect machine for budget coffee drinkers who want a wide variety.
Another entry from Delonghi, this time at our best value pick falling into an inexpensive price range.
The Delonghi EC155 is the least expensive item on our list that still delivers a top-notch cup of coffee. With a 15-bar power pump and adjustable controls, you can create a powerful, fully customizable coffee experience.
The 3-in-1 filter holder has one or double-shot options, with the EC155 also being compatible with Delonghi espresso pods. Whether you’re a purist and brew espresso coffee grounds or prefer the quick convenience of capsule machines, the EC155 has got you covered.
The advanced cappuccino system can brew cup after cup instantly, eliminating the waiting time between brew cycles. With the included two thermostats, your coffee will always be served at the ideal brewing temperature.
Both the water tank and drip tray are removable and dishwasher safe, making descaling and maintaining the integrity of your machine that much easier.
One of the downsides is that the automatic milk frother nozzle can potentially leak steamed milk. Also, the Delonghi EC155 doesn’t extract the fruity, subtle flavors of light to medium roasts as well as I was expecting. You’ll want to grind your beans coarse, as the machine lacks the power to effectively push through fine coffee grounds.
- Advanced Cappuccino system brews cup after cup instantly
- 3-in-1 filter holder
- 2 separate thermostats
- Dishwasher-safe removable water tank and drip tray
- 15-bar power pump with adjustable controls for a powerful, tailored coffee experience
- Automatic milk frother nozzle is known to occasionally leak steamed milk
- Doesn’t extract well with light to medium roasts
6. Flair NEO Espresso Maker — Best Manual Maker
SUMMARY: One of the best manual espresso machines out there, the Flair Espresso Maker makes excellent espresso shots with just a bit of work to it.
The Flair Espresso Maker is exactly that: espresso with an added touch of theatre. The manual mode of operation paired with the hand-lever pump has all the show and flair you’d expect for power drinkers who long for the best quality espresso.
Made from stainless steel, the quality construction of the Flair makes this brewer capable of lasting eons in your coffee routine. Plus, there’s no electricity or fancy setup required; to brew, there are just four simple steps.
Firstly, add fresh espresso coffee grounds to the portafilter. Then, preheat the brewing cylinder, prep your brew head with hot water, and lower the level. No expensive equipment required, all you need is a little elbow grease. For the best espresso using this method, stick to coarse grind beans.
The flow control portafilter restricts water flow through your pre-ground coffee beans, which allows for an evenly coated, high extraction rate resulting in rich, frothy crema.
Manually operated machines aren’t for everyone, especially as we live in the age of super automatics. This brewer will require some effort and time, making it not the best choice for the type of coffee lover who enjoys double espressos.
That said, this is a high-performing manual brewer with quality construction, an added bit of theatre, and all at an affordable price. What’s not to love?
- Flow control portafilter
- Simple, 4 step, brewing
- Durable construction
- Classic styling with added hand lever and manually operated charm
- Portable and can travel with you wherever you are
- Will take considerably longer than automatic or semi-automatic espresso machines
- Customer reviews claim the brew head steel casing can strip
The given here is noting the dimensions in the list of our top picks and referencing your own playing space where you can get creative with your coffee. For countertops with more space, the best choice is the Delonghi EC680M Dedica. For tighter fits, look into the Nespresso Vertuo Plus or the Breville Bambino for a more compact design.
The biggest contributor to a stress-free morning when considering your preferred cup capacity is whether your machine is automated or manually operated.
Automated — With custom drink pre-sets, one-button operation, and triple or double-shot filters, you’ll have more time in the morning to cook a decent breakfast than worry about if you’re getting your coffee just right.
Automated machines, though less portable, provide a tailored experience to the coffee lover in less time and with less maintenance. Perfect for single shots, double’s, or specialty coffee drinks.
Manual — Manually operated, real espresso machines give the coffee lover more freedom to take their brewer on the road with them, to control their preferred size, and a bit of added pride in their coffee routine. You made an excellent espresso shot, and you did it yourself.
The trade-off here is more time, more cleaning, and more trial-and-error. The amount of elbow grease it will take for double espressos and the inability to make specialty coffee drinks with no built-in frother may turn some people off.
All of the espresso machines featured in our top picks feature quality construction based on stainless steel as the primary component in their assembly.
Stainless steel is the most durable, long-lasting material any type of machine can be made of. A stainless steel boiler feature prevents heating elements from higher thermal conductivity that could break down your machine over time.
Consider the Delonghi EC680M a prime example of a machine that can make your favorite drinks repeatedly with a reliable, heavy-duty construction built to last.
Ease Of Use
Bringing it back to automated versus manual, ease of use is important in whether or not you want your espresso machine to work for you or you want to work for your espresso machine.
Any decent espresso machine with automated controls and operation will require minimal effort to craft a better quality espresso. Single-button brewing is foolproof and makes a barista out of any novice.
An excellent espresso machine that uses manual controls will require a bit of give and take; mistakes will be made, bad espresso will be tasted, and you’ll have at least one “I have no idea what I’m doing” moment. But, once you find your rhythm, you’ll have a tasty espresso you can be proud of.
Final Thoughts: Best Machine Under $300
When it comes to the best espresso machine under $300, we were looking for a durable, affordable machine that brews a solid cup of espresso. At the same time, it should feature a variety of controllable settings that remain user-friendly and fun for the at-home power drinker.
The maker that ticked all these boxes for us was the Delonghi EC680M Dedica Espresso Machine. You will be hard done by to find a more excellent choice of a brewer at such a low price.
This brewer is for everyone and will make a welcomed addition to the coffee routine of any and all coffee aficionados.