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For all the coffee aficionados out there, to get a caffeinated shot of energy every morning is precious, and nothing braces you up like an espresso. Here you probably ask yourself, why overpay in a coffee shop if you can get your own coffee maker? However, not any machine will get you a real espresso, and even more so if you’re on a budget. Therefore, we’ve made this guide to help you out.
Choosing the best espresso machine under $200 can be both exciting and overwhelming. First off, it’s important to know that there are various kinds of coffee makers: the stovetop, lever, and the pump – or automatic – espresso machines. In this guide, we’ve focused on semi- and super automatic machines, since they are easier to use and give better results. You’ll also want to make sure the temperature is consistent. The bar pressure is what creates the cream of your espresso and controls the flavor and savor, so a good pressure is a must. We took all these features into account in search for the best machine out there. We came up with the 6 best models, and the Nespresso VertuoLine Evoluo by De'Longhi takes our top spot.
More features: patented Centrifusion Extraction Technology with the 7000 rpm speed, 54-oz. water tank, 15-20-second preheating time
The Nespresso VertuoLine Evoluo easily rose to the best overall product spot on our list. The 2-in-1 coffee and espresso maker is not only gorgeous, it’s also serious about putting out a good product. The patented extraction technology gives you flavorful, rich espresso, spinning the coffee capsule up to 7,000 rotations per minute to perfectly blend coffee with the water from the tank.
One-touch brewing is quick and easy, and the capsule automatically ejects after it’s done. It comes with the two different cup sizes, as well: large for coffee, and small for espresso. Based on the barcode on the rim of the capsule, brewing parameters automatically adjust depending on the Grand Cru.
The water tank is much bigger than any of the others in this category: dwarfing them by almost twice their size, if not more! The 54-oz. tank gives you a 17-count coffee capsule container (coming with 12 capsules), and the see-through tank lets you know how much water you have left. Just like the others, it uses Nespresso (or compatible) capsules. It also has a power saving mode, shutting off after 9 minutes of inactivity, which is pretty standard.
The only real complaints we could possibly think of were that there is neither hot water only option, nor an add water alert to let you know you need to add more water before brewing your next beverage.
Overall, it would be pretty difficult finding an espresso machine at this price level that could come close to matching the Vertuo.
More features: foldable drip tray, 24-oz. water tank, auto shut-off
While it’s still an entry-level machine, the Inissia Original Espresso Machine by De’Longhi works well to get you a shot of caffeine delivered in an aromatic, chocolatey form. Much like the other Nespresso machines, you’ll only be able to use it with their branded pods or compatible products. As you can probably tell from the photo, it’s also very tiny, lightweight, and features an ergonomic handle that makes it nice and portable. It’s patented extraction system delivers up to 19 bar of pressure and heats water adequately in just 25 seconds. The 24-oz. water tank allows you to make 9 cups of coffee without having to keep refilling it like some other machines require. However, we notices that it’s somewhat difficult to detach.
As with the others, it has two programmable espresso and lungo options. However, this machine comes with a folding drip tray to accommodate bigger cup sizes and recipes, that other machines don’t offer. It features the energy-saving mode as well as the auto shut-off after 9 minutes so you’re not wasting power, and you’ll also get the complimentary gift set.
We felt that this machine was one of the more durable-feeling of the bunch, yet still looks high-quality with its all-black, sleek design. The biggest annoyance for us was probably the level of noise it made. Thankfully, it brews fast, so that doesn’t last long, but if you get up early or stay up late and want to avoid waking others, that can be an issue.
More features: automatic milk frothing, latte and cappuccino options
You’ve probably already heard of Mr. Coffee before. It’s one of the most popular brands in coffee, and that’s largely due to they’re high-quality products. For quite an affordable rate, you can have the Mr. Coffee Café Barista making you delicious espresso whenever your heart desires.
Whether you’re going for a straight shot, or a lighter beverage, it doesn’t matter which way you like it – it’s going to be good. It doesn’t quite reach the exquisite level of espresso quality as more expensive machines, but considering the price, it does an exceptional job. There are additional latte and cappuccino options for those who value variety.
The chrome-plated semi-automatic 3-in-1 features a 15-bar pump system and is easy enough to operate, with its one-touch control panel for drink selections and an easy-fill, removable water/milk reservoirs. However, there were a couple downsides. One is that consistent brewing temperature and pressure was lacking. The portafilter clogged quite easily, so we could make an educated guess that the pressure wasn’t all that high. Lastly, while the espresso did taste good, we found that with other similarly-priced machines, there was a bit more depth and flavor.
All in all, if you’re looking for an intense coffee beverage with the option of making lattes and cappucсinos for a pretty low price, the Mr. Coffee Café Barista should be on your radar.
What do we love it for?
Attractive chrome-plated design
3-in-1 lets you choose from different beverages
Removable water/milk reservoirs
User-friendly control panel
What were we disappointed with?
Brewing temperature and pressure weren’t very consistent
Espresso doesn’t taste as flavorful as some competitor results
More features: energy-saving function, auto shut-off, 25-second heat-up time, 20.3-oz. water tank
The Nespresso Essenza Mini by De’Longhi is a wonderful appliance for those who want great tasting coffee in a small package. If you work in an office or don’t have a lot of counter space to spare, the Essenza Mini will deliver. It weighs a mere 5 pounds, and is very portable if you need your coffee at any time. We found that it heated up rather quickly and brewed a well-balanced espresso under two minutes. The crema wasn’t as thick as what we saw with the previous product, but was still adequate.
The machine offers two programmable cup sizes like the other Mini: espresso and lungo. It’s very easy to use, and the minimal design isn’t intimidating at all. The 19 bar high-pressure pump extracts most flavors. The power was ever-so-slightly less than the previous machine, but just barely. It also comes with an eco-mode for low energy consumption after 3 minutes, and shuts off after 9 minutes of inactivity. Included, is a welcome gift with various Nespresso capsules as well.
What we weren’t huge fans of was the design. The machine is extremely similar to the other Essenza Mini, but the design of this one just falls flat. While it doesn’t look outright unattractive, it’s nowhere near as eye-catching as the other. In addition, the Nespresso capsules really should be changed. The names all sound vaguely Italian, and there’s no obvious way to tell the difference between them.
More features: 25-second heat-up time, 27-oz. water tank, energy-saving mode
The Mueller Espresso Machine was definitely one of our favorites, and for the surprisingly low price tag, it is an amazing product, which was why we classified it as the best budget product. The design is smart and sturdy. While the handle on top is a bit stiff, it stays in place when draining the pods. It’s also easy to transport.
The machine boasts up to 20-bar pressure, which is a bit higher than most competitor products out we tested, delivering full flavor and premium aromas from each capsule, with thick, dense crema. Overall, it offered some of the best flavor out of any of them, which is probably due to the higher pressure.
It heats up in 25 seconds, matching other machines in that aspect. The energy-saving mode switches off the machine in 10 minutes, rather than the 9 that others do. It offers one-touch buttons with the two cup capacities, backlit for easier operation. They’ve also thoughtfully included a removable tray (stand) made just for a demitasse cup, but if you prefer to use a mug, you can take it off. It uses the same Nespresso cups that the others do.
The biggest “con” for us was definitely the noise. It’s loud and can be difficult to use during the late or early hours.
More features: energy-saving function, 25-second heat-up time
The Nespresso Essenza Mini by Breville combines ease of use, beautiful design, and Nespresso quality to give you a solid machine you’ll wake up early just to use!
Offering two programmable cup sizes (espresso and lungo), it’s one of the most user-friendly machines out there, and serves great coffee every time. It’s so tiny that it can fit just about anywhere and hardly takes up any counter space. The 19-bar high-pressure pump extracts each flavor well, with great depth and pleasant aromas coming from each capsule. The sleek machine also produced some of the thickest beige crema we’d seen.
The machine takes the Original Nespresso and similar capsules, which may be convenient for some, but it’s also a bit of a hassle to fill water and empty capsules so often. The water tank also feels a bit awkward to remove, which makes us question just how durable it is.
If you’re a beginner to espresso machines, then this is a great selection for you. We found it so intuitive to use that we didn’t even need to read the instructions before operating it. It works quickly, too. With just one press of the button, water heats to the ideal serving temperature in 25 seconds, and you also have the option of using an energy-saving mode, which automatically turns off the machine after 9 minutes. You’ll also receive a complimentary gift with a Nespresso Original welcome kit, with 14 interesting, distinct capsules. To add on to the subject of the capsules, they are unnecessarily difficult to distinguish between the different ones.
What stands out?
Easy and intuitive to use
Small footprint; fits anywhere
Comes with a complimentary gift
What cons did we manage to find?
Water tank doesn’t feel very durable
Can be a hassle continuously filling water tank and refilling capsules
Things to Consider
There are many features to consider when choosing the best espresso machine under $200. That’s why we’ve taken it upon ourselves to create a buying guide to help you choose the right one for you.
What is espresso?
You may be wondering, what the differences are between your standard pot of coffee and an espresso machine. Why is it worth purchasing? These questions often arise due to confusion. Many believe they’ve already tried espresso because they purchased a bag of beans marked “espresso”. Espresso doesn’t refer to the type of roast, but rather, the extraction method for preparing it. It’s extracted under very high pressure and temperature, making for a much quicker, smaller, intense beverage – something many café connoisseurs prefer. The top layer of foam on the beverage is called “crema”, and tells you a lot from the espresso quality, such as freshness and pressure. Oh, and for those who can never seem to stay awake, did we mention espresso has more caffeine per ounce than your average cup of coffee?
What to expect from an espresso machine under $200?
At this price point, you should expect a good shot of espresso, but perhaps not the best shot you’ve ever had in your life. In some cases, some of the very delicate flavors and aromas will get lost during the brewing process, however, it will retain the vast majority of deliciousness. The Mueller and the Vertuo definitely feature world-class flavor, but keep in mind the others do come close. You can expect an auto shut-off feature, but relatively loud operation. The machines will be small and portable, but may not be as durable as some of the more expensive ones. They do, however, typically look quite attractive and make a great addition to any desk or kitchen counter.
Features to consider while choosing an espresso machine
If you like espresso but are not ready to spend a bunch of money on a top-notch coffee machine, it’s still possible for you to get a decent cup of espresso by investing in an espresso machine under $200. You just need to pay attention to several features described below.
You’ll find that there are two main types of automatic espresso machines: semi-automatic and super automatic. Semi-automatic machines are great if you want a “traditional” home espresso machine. They have a boiler, portafilter, and switch to activate/deactivate the extraction pump. You actually have more control over your shot here, as you control water flow.
Super automatics are definitely more convenient, and grind, tamp, brew, and even steam milk for you. They’re extremely easy to use, and produce consistent quality. The machines vary in levels of programmability, but you can typically adjust your temperature, volume, extraction time, and even water hardness.
While each have their ups and downs, it all depends on your preferences. However, we should mention that super automatics are nearly impossible to find at this price point.
Brew temperature and water pressure
Water temperature and pressure are crucial to making the perfect shot of espresso. Without heat, you can’t properly brew or steam, and you should have consistency with both to get quality. A Thermoblock system is always a good idea and keeps water at the ideal temperature, which is 90 degrees Celsius/194 degrees Fahrenheit.
The bar pressure is what actually creates the crema on your espresso. It’s what helps extract all of the flavors and lets you experience the aroma it intended you to. It’s what allows the machine to obtain the proper amount of steam within the correct speed. Fifteen to nineteen is ideal for home use, and if your beans are grounded properly, 9–11.
If your machine has poor bar pressure, you’ll get bitter and sometimes even sour results.
Even the biggest espresso lover may want to change things up sometimes. Perhaps you’d like the option to also have a latte once in a while! The steam arm is what is going to froth your milk, allowing you some more versatility to create milk-based drinks in various ways. If you also enjoy a latte, cappuccino, or even a flat white now-and-then, then make sure yours has a good steam arm with it!
Maintenance and ease of cleaning
Raise your hand if you love cleaning! We have a feeling many of you are going to keep your arms at your sides. Wouldn’t you prefer to be spending your time, oh, I don’t know, drinking that delicious coffee beverage you just helped make? With that being said, choose a machine that is going to be easy to clean and not require maintenance all of the time. You may also want to select a product that has a larger water tank so that you don’t have to continuously be filling and refilling every time you put a new pod in.
This section is quite straightforward and simple to understand. Most of the best espresso machines under $200 are going to come with a 1-year warranty, however, the Mueller does come with a 2-year warranty, which is definitely a bonus. After a year is when you’ll start to see the defects appear anyway!
Tips on making a cup of perfect espresso
With your new espresso machine, it’s only going to be able to do so much. While the VertuoLine definitely takes things up a level with their patented Centrifusion Extraction Technology, most under $200 are going to need your assistance with making the perfect espresso.
The type of coffee you use is so important, here. However, with the majority only accepting Nespresso cups or compatible capsules, there aren’t too many options here. Creating your recipe can be altered, though. Changing up the water temperature, espresso volume, time, and grind consistency all make a huge impact. If you can, set your machine anywhere between 197 and 205 °F, and extract for 30 seconds. Timing does rely on achieving a good grind, which means you must adjust often.
What is “perfection” for you, is going to greatly depend on your personal palate, preferences, machine, and coffee, so keep an eye on what you’re doing.
You will require a Burr Grinder, also known as an Espresso Grinder. They feature small, spinning discs which shave each bean apart, to create a very consistent, even grind to create better flavor, and lower the risk of clogging.
While we were very impressed by all of the best espresso machines under $200, the Nespresso Vertuo by De’Longhi was definitely our favorite, for many reasons. One was the design. It looks sophisticated, and you can tell it’s going to last for a long time. The water tank was much bigger than any of the others, saving you time by not having to refill each time you brew. The result was full-bodied, aromatic espresso with thick, dense crema to top off the experience. It was also easy to use, even for beginners, and comes with one-touch technology and back-lit buttons. While the other machines impressed us as well, given their low prices, the Vertuo really had no competition. The Inissia by De’Longhi and the Mr. Coffee Café Barista are our runners-up. They both have small footprints, which easily fit on crowded office desks or kitchen counters. They’re both very attractive, and easily portable, as well. The Inissia by De’Longhi felt to be the most durable of the bunch, which also influenced our selection. The Mr. Coffee machine had many latte and cappuccino options at a great price for its features. So, now that you know our favorites, which one of the machines will be making their way into your kitchen?