If you crave great coffee in the comfort of your own home, you’ve probably considered an espresso machine.
But the prices and range of options can be daunting.
Read on for all the information you need to decide on the best entry level espresso machine for you.
Top 5 Best Entry Level Espresso Machines for beginners - 2018 Reviews
1. Nespresso Essenza mini espresso machine
Let’s start with the easiest option.
The Nespresso Essenza brews espresso at 19 bars of pressure – high enough to satisfy anyone’s definition of “real” espresso.
It won’t take up much space on your countertop, and will brew two serving sizes, espresso and lungo.
All you have to do is fill it with water, pop in a pod, and push a button. And it’s fast: the machine reaches optimal brewing temperature in just 90 seconds.
So what are the downsides?
Well, if you’re looking for a barista-like experience, you won’t get it here. Your only options to customize your brew are choosing your pod and the serving size.
But the biggest drawback is the pods themselves. You’ll be restricted to ones made for Nespresso machines, and there’s no option to grind your own coffee.
Nespresso have put a lot of work into preserving the flavors and aromas of freshly ground coffee in those little pods.
But for us, it still doesn’t taste quite as good. And those aluminum pods aren’t widely recycled either.
2. Mr. Coffee BVMC-ECMP1102 Cafe Barista Espresso and Cappuccino Maker (Our Top Recommended)
This semi-automatic from Mr. Coffee packs in a host of features you’d expect from a far more expensive machine.
It extracts coffee at 15 bars of pressure and you can choose a single or double shot at the push of a button.
Hold down the button for more than three seconds and the machine will keep dispensing hot water until you push it again to stop.
It comes with two portafilter baskets for single and double shots. There’s also an automatic milk frother to create lattes or cappuccinos.
It’s not fully automatic, and you’ll need to grind your beans yourself. That means investing in a good quality burr grinder for the best results.
That can be expensive – but with this machine’s competitive price, you may be willing to spend the money.
3. Capresso 124.01 Ultima Pro Programmable Pump Espresso Machine
The Capresso Ultima Pro is an affordable machine with some nice features.
It’s a compact presence on the countertop, and looks every inch the traditional espresso machine it is.
The top doubles as a warming tray for cups, helping to keep your coffee hotter for longer after brewing.
There’s no grinder, but the machine will tamp the coffee for you when you insert the portafilter.
That takes the guesswork out of making sure the grounds are at the right density.
Pick a single or double espresso and the machine will dispense the right amount of water.
There’s a 34-ounce removable water tank too, so you won’t have to refill it every five minutes.
And if you enjoy lattes or cappuccinos, you’ll love the steam wand. Unlike with automatic frothers, you’ll be able to create your own latte art.
4. Hamilton Beach 40792 Espresso & Cappuccino Maker
The Hamilton Beach 40792 has everything you could want in an entry level semi-automatic espresso machine.
It extracts espresso at 15 bars of pressure, and has a warming tray for your cups.
It also has a patented “slide and lock” design making it easy to push the portafilter into place.
It won’t automatically froth your milk, but there’s a steam wand for you to do it yourself.
The wand swivels too, so it’s easy to use. Spend some time practicing and be rewarded with the chance to make your very own latte art.
There’s no grinder with this machine, so you’ll need to purchase one separately.
5. DeLonghi ESAM3300 Magnifica Super-Automatic Espresso/Coffee Machine
DeLonghi’s Magnifica represents a big jump in price from semi-automatic machines, but as a super automatic it’s keenly priced.
For anyone who wants the full range of espresso drinks with minimal fuss, it’s a great option.
Its compact design will fit easily onto most countertops, even where space is at a premium. And its stainless steel casing will look great in any kitchen.
Just select your chosen drink, and the machine will grind the beans and brew to your chosen strength and size preferences.
It’s fully customizable, and it will even remember your preferences for next time.
There’s a milk frother too, but unlike more expensive super automatics this one is manually operated. It’s a small compromise for a super-automatic at this price point.
Why choose an entry level espresso machine?
There are plenty of drip coffee makers out there that can give you a decent cup of Joe.
They don’t take a huge amount of work, and if you grind your beans fresh you can get good results.
And there are some good espresso-like options that are available for not very much money.
So if you’re keeping an eye on your budget, consider a Moka pot or AeroPress.
None of these options, though, will give you an authentic espresso. And they won’t give you a real espresso-based coffee like a latte or cappuccino either.
The only way you can achieve the depth of flavor and smooth crema of the real thing is with an espresso machine (1).
How much effort are you willing to put in?
So you’re clear that you want the real deal. One of the first things you need to decide is how much work you want to do.
Think about when you drink your coffee. Do you have a hectic morning routine where you need to keep things as simple as possible? Or are you able to linger over breakfast?
Do you want great results with the minimum of fuss? Or do you want to spend time mastering the intricacies of espresso making?
The answers to those questions will determine the kind of espresso machine you need. If you want to keep things simple but still get great coffee, you’ll want a super automatic.
These allow you to tell the machine what to do and then enjoy the results. They tend to be more expensive.
If you want to play a more active role in coffee making, a semi-automatic will be the better option.
You’ll need to practice, but it gives you more opportunity to put your personal stamp on your drink.
The key point is that you choose when to start and stop the extraction.
And if you want a super-easy espresso experience at lower cost, try a single serve machine like a Nespresso.
Dark roast or light?
Believe it or not, some kinds of beans work better in different kinds of espresso machines.
Dark roasts can be tricky for super automatics. That’s because the surface of the beans is coated in oils.
Over time, those oils can clog the blades of the grinder. That can mean more maintenance, or even a new machine.
Semi-automatics, however, often don’t have grinders at all. Those that do tend to be able to be cleaned more easily.
This YouTube video shows you how to use a grinder cleaner in a semi-automatic machine.
Coffee with milk?
Finally, if you drink lots of lattes or flat whites, you’ll want a machine with a milk frother.
Semi-automatics usually come with a wand to steam the milk. You’ll need to do the work with these, swirling the milk and making sure the wand is at the right depth.
Many super automatics will do that for you. More expensive machines will also have different settings: micro-foam for a flat white, or thick foam for a cappuccino.
Ready to buy?
We hope you’ve enjoyed our round up of the best entry level espresso machines.
For a great value option with all the features you need, our winner is the Mr. Coffee BVMC-ECMP1102 Cafe Barista. It costs less than many drip coffee makers, and will give you an authentic espresso, cappuccino and latte.
For maximum convenience, we’d choose the DeLonghi Magnifica. You won’t need to invest in a separate grinder, and it has loads of options to customize your coffee. Just stay away from those dark roasts to keep the grinder working well.
Whatever you choose, we hope you’re soon enjoying the great espresso at home!
My name is Kathy Gallo, Editor of Daily Cupo, a Coffee buff. The guide you find here is designed exactly for you, and it is our hope that you find it not only interesting but also actionable.