Originating in Italy over 100 years ago, espresso coffee has taken the world by storm. What began as a way for Italians to brew their coffee faster has now become many people’s preferred coffee choice.
For many, the top-of-the-line Ferrari of espresso machines are too expensive and, ultimately, out of reach. But satisfying and authentic Italian espresso can be enjoyed on any budget: that’s what we’ve set out to show you.
We’re here to bring you the best espresso machine under $500; our top overall pick is the Breville Infuser Espresso Machine. Will it hold up under pressure? Let’s find out.
We scoured the espresso world, consulting with experts, coffee lovers, and online reviewers to bring you our top picks for the best espresso machine under $500. Here are our stand-out, best of the best picks:
- 1600W Thermocoil
- Precise espresso extraction with pre-infusion
- Commercial steam wand
- Auto-shot control for automatic flow
- Dual, 1 and 2 cup filter holder
- Thermoblock heating elements
- Dose control grinding for a consistent grind
- Thermojet 3-second heat-up time
- Optimal water pressure for maximum flavor extraction
- 6, one-touch coffee recipes
- Compatible with ground coffee beans and capsules
- Programmable descaling alert
- 3-way solenoid valve to clean pucks
- Commercial portafilter at 58mm
- Commercial steam wand with improved pump mounds
- Complete brew control
- Portable and easy-to-clean
- Pressure gauge tracks your bars of pressure
Let’s dive right into our product reviews and explain how the Breville Infuser is the flagship espresso machine falling under a medium price range.
1. Breville Infuser Espresso Machine — Best Overall
SUMMARY: Our best of the best top pick, the stunning Breville Infuser brews a perfect shot of espresso with a high-powered 1600W precise extraction method.
Founded in 1932, the Australian Breville company has made a splash in the kitchen appliance and home-brewer world by blending brilliant designs with innovative features. The Infuser is no exception and is the ultimate espresso machine under $500.
The entirely stainless steel, sleek design gives this brewer a polished look while reinforcing its durability. The 54mm stainless steel portafilter with Thermocoil is a fortified design supporting 1600W of power to withstand high-temperature settings and heats your water to the optimal temperature.
The Infusion brews using pre-infusion mechanics, where espresso bean extraction occurs at a low-pressure threshold. This allows for more complex flavors to be unlocked and keeping your bean’s tasting profile intact.
The result? Better tasting coffee.
This precise, perfect extraction brings you an espresso shot with a balanced taste, smooth mouthfeel, and delicious flavor: right in the sweet spot for memorable cups of espresso.
The Infuser has an auto-purge function which, thanks to Duo Temp, purges the heating system after steaming. It makes sure your next espresso is extracted at the right temperature.
Adding in the commercial steam wand and micro-foam milk frothing texture, you’ll have creamy cappuccinos and delicious lattes. The Infuser makes frothy milk perfect for sharpening your latte art skills, though you can’t steam and brew at the same time.
This brewer has automated maintenance indicators that alert you when your machine needs a little TLC. The cleaning and drip tray alerts take the guessing out of cleaning and ensure your machine maintains its high performance.
The downside to the Breville Infuser is that while it operates like a classic industrial espresso machine, it is also built like one. This is a space inefficient brewer and will require more counter space than others.
- Stainless steel portafilter supporting 1600W
- Commercial steam wand
- Micro-foam milk texturing
- Precise espresso extraction with low-pressure pre-infusion function
- Brews a balanced taste
- Can’t steam and brew at the same time
- Extra large size will require more counter-space
2. Calphalon Espresso Machine — Best Aesthetic
SUMMARY: Delicious espresso from a barista-inspired design with all the class of a cafe and the functionality of pro brewers.
The Calphalon Espresso Machine is our top pick for the best aesthetic and is for the artisanal espresso fanatic.
The barista-inspired design has all the class of a coffee shop blended with the functionality of one, making for delicious, high-quality espressos.
The auto-shot control feature dispenses the perfect amount of water for brewing, while Thermoblock heating creates the ideal water temperature.
And with a massive 2L removable water tank, this machine makes cleaning a breeze and is perfect for double espresso lovers and households with multiple espresso drinkers. Speaking of double shots, the Calphalon features a dual filter holder.
The 58mm, cafe-sized portafilter brews at 15 bars of pump pressure for espressos with robust flavor. Brew with the look, feel, and taste of an experienced barista right from home.
The drawbacks to the Calphalon are that it runs a little louder than most other espresso machines, and its built-in grinder makes for a messy, unpredictable grind. If you’re willing to compromise by buying a separate grinder as well as having a noisy machine, we can’t recommend this brewer enough.
- Auto-shot control dispenses the perfect amount of water
- Dual filter holder
- Thermoblock heating creates the ideal brew temperatures
- Removable, 2L water reservoir
- 58mm pro size portafilter
- Runs loud
- Messy grind from the built-in coffee grinder
3. Breville Bambino Plus Espresso Machine — Best Compact Brewer
SUMMARY: A compact machine that still packs a punch, with the intense, savory flavor and powerful mechanics you’ve come to expect from Breville espresso engineering.
Another entry from Breville comes from the Breville Bambino Plus, a compact machine that packs a punch.
Featuring dose control grinding and a 54mm portafilter that sports high water pressure, you get a more consistent cup of coffee just the way you like it. Nineteen grams for your espresso bean grind is the perfect amount for tasting the full flavor.
And for flavor, this is another brewer that utilizes pre-infusion technology for a low-pressure extraction process and more complex shots of espresso.
The 3-second heat-up time due to Thermoset heating means you won’t be leaning on the counter, waiting for your machine to finally be ready to brew. This brewer brings you beans to cup faster than most pod tech machines.
The Bambino Plus has an automatic steam wand that produces micro-foam milk texturing, enhancing the flavor of your specialty coffees. This is also fully adjustable in terms of milk temperature and frothing texture.
The drawbacks to this brewer are more or less the predominantly plastic design and the sub-par accessories included with the purchase.
Also, the coffee tamper and milk carafe are nothing to write home about. But, where the Bambino excels is in fast, precise, and flavorful espresso shots.
- Dose control grinding for consistent grinds
- Water reservoir heats in 3 seconds
- High water pressure for optimal flavor and delicious shots
- Low-pressure pre-infusion extraction
- Precise frothing temperature
- Predominantly plastic design
- Below-average quality accessories included with purchase
4. Delonghi Lattisma Touch — Easiest To Use
SUMMARY: An all-in-one, user-friendly espresso machine for the eclectic coffee fanatic: meet the Lattisma Touch by Delonghi.
The Delonghi Lattisma Touch is exactly that: coffee at the touch of a button. Using capsule technology, this is a brewer falling into the medium price range that is excellent for beginners and coffee lovers new to at-home espresso.
With six one-touch coffee options, the Lattisma Touch is your all-in-one, be-all, and end-all coffee machine. Imagine six different quality espresso machines and condensing them down to one; space-saving but not cutting corners.
This brewer is also compatible with coffee grounds for us purists and brews with a staggering 19 bar pump pressure. You’ll have a rich espresso shot in under 40 seconds.
For specialty coffee drinks, the Lattisma includes an automatic frother with an extra large milk carafe. The frother is regulated to create a long-lasting, creamy foam.
A bonus feature I really liked about this brewer is its intuitive descaling function. You are alerted to your customized water harshness settings (5 different levels), and the pluggable descaling pipe makes maintenance much easier.
The Lattisma also has an auto-off feature that powers the machine down after 9 minutes of inactivity.
For all the perks and ingenuity, the downsides to the Lattisma Touch are poor customer service from Delonghi. Some online reviewers also claim water reservoir leakage.
- 6, one-touch coffee options
- Brews with both coffee grounds and capsules
- Programmable descaling alert
- Ready in under 40 seconds
- Automatic frother
- Poor customer service
- Some online reviewers claim of water reservoir leakage
5. Gaggia Classic Pro — Best Value
SUMMARY: A budget espresso machine that’s just as competitive and high-performing: the Gaggia Classic Pro.
The Gaggia Classic Pro is an easy-to-use, versatile maker that makes bold shots of espresso at an affordable price.
The brushed steel design gives the Gaggia a rugged, tough look and brews with the same resilience as its appearance. This is especially evident in the commercial chrome-plated portafilter and improved steam wand with pump mounds to reduce noise.
The pump brews through pressurized filter baskets that give your espresso exceptional quality and a layer of authentic crema.
To brew, simply press the brew button on the control panel for a super-automatic espresso machine experience. The brewing speed is the trade-off, however, as the dual heating elements prepare your machine to brew in upwards of 5 minutes.
The 3-way solenoid valve is engineered to relieve pressure off your coffee grounds to easily discard used espresso pocket pucks and for effortless cleaning.
There is a smaller than most cup clearance on the Gaggia’s drip tray. You might have to stick to small espresso cups as opposed to cappuccino or latte mugs.
- 3-way solenoid valve for easily discarding used coffee pucks
- Commercial, chrome-plated, 58mm portafilter
- Commercial style steam wand
- Pressurized filter baskets
- Simple, 3-button control panel
- Long brewing time
- Small cup clearance on the drip tray
6. Flair Pro 2 Espresso Machine — Best Manual Brewer
SUMMARY: A fully customizable espresso shot tailored just to you, with the best manual espresso maker, the Flair Pro 2.
The Flair Pro 2 is a manual machine that will bring an added touch of theater to your coffee routine. This gives you all the flair and panache you’d expect from artisanal espresso fanatics.
This fully customizable, hands-on brewer makes espresso that you can have complete control over. Capacity and strength are totally dependent on the amount of bar pressure you apply, which you can closely monitor with the built-in pressure gauge.
And with pulling shots, your extraction rate can brew ratios of 1, 2, or triple shots, ensuring you get your desired strength and taste.
The Pro 2 brews a consistent shot with a layer of creamy froth sitting atop your espresso. Savory and delicious.
It also comes with a carrying case, and with its removable brew head, you have a perfect machine for cleaning and taking on the road; the Pro 2 is made from ultra-durable aluminum and stainless steel, backed by a 5-year warranty.
Because this is a manual maker, it will require some trial and error and a few bad cups of espresso to find your desired taste, body, and size. There is also no included milk frother or steam wand for milk-based coffees.
- Complete brew control over your shot of espresso
- Portable and easy to clean
- Pressure gauge indicates your applied bar pressure
- Built for durability, lasting cup after cup of espresso
- Brews crema-rich shots
- No included milk frother for milk drinks
- Will take a bit of trial and error; has a steep learning curve
When shopping around for the best espresso machine that delivers delicious coffee, it’s important to consider how much space you’re working. Also, think about if you’ll require a portable brewer.
Spacing — If you have a larger kitchen to work with, sizing isn’t typically a big concern. But for studio apartments, small office spaces, or cluttered countertops, avoid large machines that will take up too much space.
Portability — Compact and/or smaller-sized espresso machines make for great additions to the coffee drinker who travels and likes taking their brewer everywhere. Consider the Flair Pro 2 or our best compact machine pick, the Breville Bambino.
For capacity’s sake, think about your preferred shot size. For double shots, triple’s, or households with more than one espresso lover, look for machines like the Calphalon, with a dual filter holder. Alternatively, our best overall, the Breville Infuser, with dual drip action is a good option.
Also, think about your machine’s water tank size and how that will fit into your routine. A smaller water tank will require more trips to the Brita filter for frequent refilling, while a large or even extra large water tank will need more recurrent descaling.
How important is having a versatile espresso maker to you? For lovers of beautiful latte art and creamy cappuccinos, an included milk frother and/or steam wand is a must; all of our picks include these features, minus the Flair Pro 2.
The best frothers will create light dollops of milk using micro-foam technology, just like the Breville Infuser and the Breville Bambino. Micro-foaming creates a more balanced taste by overheating the milk to ensure you don’t get it too syrupy or runny.
Micro-foaming machines, or machines that automatically steam the milk, are generally more expensive than brewers that use manual steaming.
Ease Of Use
Ease of use and cleaning are generally tied into the type of machine you’re brewing with and its level of automation/adjustable settings.
Types of Machines
- Delonghi Lattisma Touch
- Gaggia Classic Pro
Entirely automated from bean to brew, these machines depend on pods or grinding the beans to extract the shot after tamping and placing it into the hopper. They are the easiest-to-use brewers on the market through one-touch button control panels; perfect for the espresso drinker looking first for convenience and second for consistency in quality coffee.
- Breville Infuser
- Calphalon Espresso Machine
- Breville Bambino
Infused water from the portafilter extracts the shot of espresso through a pre-ground, pre-tamped coffee bean. You will have to manually grind the beans, measure them, tamp them, and later steam milk. The quality of your espresso will slightly depend on your skill level; a good middle ground between fully auto and manual machines.
- Flair Pro 2
For the experienced at-home brewer and the coffee fanatic with great patience, manual machines give you complete control over the brewing process. From grind to dose to tamp, and then water temperature, pre-infusion, pressure, and extraction; it’s all up to you, and once you get around the learning curve, manual machines produce amazing espresso.
Fully automatic or semi-automatic machines come with some form of descaling or maintenance alerts. These automated alerts help ensure your brewer continues to optimize its performance and bring you the best espresso possible.
For manual makers, you’ll need to monitor your machine’s cleanliness and health yourself, which will require a little more due diligence and organization.
When searching for the best espresso machine under $500, we set out to find a brewer that would deliver unparalleled, high-quality espresso with just the right amount of adjustable features and durable, sustainable performance.
This sentiment is encapsulated by the Breville Infuser, a powerful, stainless steel espresso machine with pre-infusion mechanics. It also has thermacoil heating, a commercial steam wand with micro-foaming tech, and adjustable features to tailor your espresso experience.
The Breville Infuser is our best overall machine under $500 and will make a noticeable contribution to your coffee routine without breaking the bank.
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