If you’ve ever found yourself sipping at your morning Americano or café latte, making your way out of a Starbucks line and letting the caffeine titillate your taste-buds to give you the liquid wake-up call you need for work or classes, wishing you could have an endless supply of the stuff to fuel you through life – well, you can. You don’t necessarily have to pay a couple of bucks for a mocha or cappuccino when, with the right espresso machine, you can start whipping together these dreamy concoctions straight from the comfort of your home – and at a fraction of the cost, to boot. While there are many premium-grade espresso machines out there promising not only to turn your kitchen counter into a mini coffee house, but also potentially take a chunk out of your wallet in the process, there are budget-friendly options out there that get the job done just as well. Here are our picks for the best espresso machine you can get your hands on, all under $300, to let you indulge in that coffee house magic right at home.
EspressoWorks Cappuccino Maker with Milk Steamer- 7 pc All-In-One Barista Bundle
This unit may take up more counterspace than some of the other entries on this list, but we think this is a small price to pay when this bundle set essentially turns your kitchen into a café and you into a barista, equipped with everything you need not just to extract perfect double-shots of espresso but also switch it up a bit with Americanos, lattes and cappuccinos.
One of the highlights of this unit, for us, is the high-volume, removable water tank – the 1.25 liter-capacity, clear container attaches on the outside of the machine, solving the hiccups of constant refilling and keeping track of how much water is left in the machine with one expert design choice. A 15-bar pump system pulls water out of the tank, a thermoblock heating system swiftly warming up the water to the appropriate temperature for extraction through a premium-grade stainless steel filter, delivering the perfect rich, thick crema layered over every shot of espresso you make. A handy heating tray keeps your cups warm right after you’re done extracting, a removable drip tray helping manage spills and making clean-up much simpler. The unit comes with a measuring spoon to scoop your finely ground coffee beans into the porta-filter, doubling as a tamper so you can ensure the beans are packed just tightly enough to let pressurized water pump through quickly and efficiently. Switching the control dial to “Steam” lets you use the steam wand to froth or steam up milk for concocting any of the beverages you’ve spied on a coffee house menu, using your espresso shots as the base.
These features are already pretty impressive, but we’re not done yet – the set also includes a grinder, so you can process your own coffee beans to make sure they’re the right degree of finely ground, while you get a stainless steel container to froth and steam milk to experiment a little and use your espresso shots as bases for lattes, mochas and cappuccinos. With two ceramic mugs included for serving, it’s safe to say this bundle set has you covered from the prep down to the pour stage, equipping you with all the tools you need to start dishing out expertly made coffees at home.
KEN’S BUDGET PICK
Unique Imports Powerful Steam Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
You don’t need all the bells and whistles of a commercial grade espresso machine to indulge in a home-made cup of delicious caffeinated goodness, and our budget pick backs up this point expertly. The glass decanter with a cool-touch handle has the capacity to let you brew up to 20 ounces of espresso, this budget unit not skimping on any functionality despite its compact size. Decked out with a heavy-duty porta-filter, measuring scoop and tamper to get you started, the espresso machine not only delivers rich, delicious shots topped with frothy crema, but also comes with an 800-watt powered steamer for pulling off delectable cappuccinos and mochas as well. Intuitive to use and inexpensive without trading off performance points, we recommend this for beginners to get you used to the espresso-making process, those with budget constraints who don’t want to miss out on great coffee, or anyone with limited counter-space.
Mr. Coffee Espresso and Cappuccino Machine
For those of us who just can’t seem to get the milk frothing step right, no matter how much we try, this multifunctional unit is a literal lifesaver, the automatic frother taking out the guesswork and delivering perfectly foamy, rich cappuccinos and lattes with every cup served. A 15-bar pump delivers the right pressure needed to extract the perfect, intense single and double shots of espresso, a removable water tank making clean-up and refilling easy business. The milk container is also removable – all you need to do is pour in the milk, the intuitive control panel with options for espresso, cappuccino, latte and the degree of froth you’d like for your drink making the job of serving up the perfect cup of coffee every time all but effortless. The unit comes with measuring scoop and tamper, and filters for both single and double shots.
Hamilton Beach Dual Cup Espresso & Cappuccino Maker
If you’re unwilling to put up with the mess and the extra effort of grinding coffee beans, this dual cup unit works just as well with espresso pods. Either way, the 15-bar Italian pressure pump delivers the right degree of force to jet through your porta-filter and serve up intense, concentrated shots of espresso topped with frothy crema for the perfect pick-me-ups, within seconds. It’s not just the extraction process that’s fast – the unit’s patented Slide and Lock mechanism makes it a simple business of hooking on the porta-filter, filled with your coffee beans, to the machine and locking it in place. With the removable water reservoir filled up and the control dial turned to the “Espresso” function, you’ll have a warm shot of espresso ready in moments, a handy removable drip tray ready to catch any spills while a cup warmer keeps your coffee ready to go. The unit is also fitted with a swiveling steam wand for steaming or frothing up containers of milk and cream, so you can use your rich espresso bases to work up a nice indulgent latte or a cappuccino.