One of the toughest parts about shopping on a budget is the feeling that you’re missing out. So you may be surprised to know that, when it comes to buying a high-quality espresso maker, you don’t need to break the bank. In fact, the best espresso makers under $200 offer many features found on expensive models (some that fetch upwards of $1,000), but are simpler to use and, yes, easier on your wallet. But, the “under $200 espresso maker” field is getting a little crowded and not all machines are created equal. In fact, some don’t look anything like the espresso machines typically seen at cafes. To help you as you shop, here are some things to consider.
First, decide what you want to make. If a shot of espresso or an Americano is your go-to, you won’t need extra accessories or features for making milk-based drinks. But if you want to expand your repertoire, look for a machine that has a milk tank, or, at the very least a frothing wand. Steamed milk and microfoam give you the versatility to make lattes, cappuccinos, and other classic drinks.
Consider how the espresso maker operates, and think about how much work you want to do and how much money you want to spend. Some machines have programs to take the guesswork out of creating drinks, but more automation can mean more money or less quality.
Whether you’re a budding barista, or just seeking a great shot of espresso at home, there’s an affordable espresso maker for everyone. I’ve rounded up the best espresso makers under $200, below.
There’s a reason this espresso maker from Mr. Coffee is called the Café Barista: It includes everything you need to pull a shot of espresso or make your favorite milk-based espresso recipes. While most bare-bones espresso makers have a steaming wand, the Café Barista has an integrated milk tank built-in, so you can add your milk and let the machine do the work for you. On the user interface, you’ll find three programs for making a single or double espresso, latte, or cappuccino. You can also use the espresso setting and frother individually to make other recipes like mochas, flat whites, and macchiatos.
The water reservoir is removable, so it’s easy to clean and fill at your water source, and the milk reservoir also removes for easy maintenance. The Cafe Barista comes in two colors, both priced just under $200, so whether you’re looking for a pop of red, or want something understated, you’ll find one to fit any kitchen decor.
This espresso maker is affordably-priced, but doesn’t skimp when it comes to features or functionality. A single dial on the front lets you select the size of espresso you want to make, whether it’s a single shot, or a double for a cappuccino or latte. Like the overall best, it boasts 15 bars of pressure, which is a way of measuring how much pressure is used to force hot water through ground coffee. Though it comes with a generous 1.5-liter water tank, the Krups has a rather compact footprint, due in part to its lack of a milk reservoir. You’ll still be able to make milk-based drinks, though, using the attached steam nozzle. Similar to machines you’re probably accustomed to seeing at coffee shops, the tamper is built on to the machine itself, so you don’t have to worry about misplacing it.
This espresso maker from Flair offers a different kind of hands-on experience, namely that the pressure is driven by a hand-operated lever rather than a motor. Despite this, it is still able to achieve up to 10 bars of pressure, fairly close to the number that some claim to be the sweet spot for creating thick crema — the emulsion between water and coffee bean oils that mimics whipped cream.
One thing to note, since freshly-ground coffee beans are essential for getting good results on the Flair, they recommend you only use a burr grinder. Durably-built out of stainless steel and cast aluminum, the Flair has minimal parts and is easy to clean. With a unique design, the Flair is a good choice for anyone who doesn’t have space for an electric espresso machine, or wants to take their espresso-making on-the-go. An included protective travel case makes it easy to pack the Flair and take it with you — all you have to do is supply the ground coffee and hot water.
We could easily leave out a machine like this Nespresso for not offering the hands-on experience of most espresso makers, but we’d be doing a disservice. Nespressos make great-tasting espresso with minimal effort, making them good for anyone who doesn’t want the hassle of grinding beans or cleanup associated with other machines. This Vertuo Evoluo machine, designed in collaboration with De’Longhi, allows you to make both espresso and coffee. Depending on which size capsule you use, it can brew five coffee cup sizes, including espresso, double espresso, gran lungo, coffee, and alto.
The generous 54-ounce removable water tank is removable for easy cleaning and filling, and the used capsule container can hold up to 17 capsules so you don’t have to clear it out as often. This machine is available as a standalone purchase in four colors, but whichever color you choose, all can be upgraded to include an Aeroccino milk frother for just over $200. Not bad when you consider this gives you all the tools you need to make just about any coffee creation you can dream of.
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