The perfect shot of espresso used to come from your favorite café. Now, you can make it right in your own home, as well as many of the espresso-based drinks you’ve come to love. Though these machines used to be rather expensive, these days you can get the best espresso machine under $500 with very little effort.
To help you choose the right model, we’ve reviewed five of the top espresso machines on the market. The Breville BES840XL/A is our favorite, with a low-pressure infusion for perfect extraction, the PID temperature control, the Flexible Shot Control, and a ton of accessories. There are also machines on our list that use beans, pre-ground coffee, or capsules, plus we’ve included models with both automated and manual controls.
Top 5 Espresso Machines Review 2020
If you’re in the market for one of these machines, you should check out some specific features. The type of coffee it takes is one, so you know what to keep in stock. The water tank capacity will tell you how often you need to fill it based on your specific use. You may also want to look at the dimensions of the machine to make sure you have room for it, especially if you have limited counter space. To help you decide which one is the best espresso machine under $500 for you, we created a comparison table with some in-depth reviews, plus added a detailed buying guide at the end to give you everything you need to make the most informed decision possible.
Breville BES840XL/A – Editor’s Choice
- Which coffee it uses: ground
- Water tank capacity: 61 oz.
- Hopper capacity: not specified
- Dimensions: 13.7 x 11.5 x 13.2 inches
- Warranty: 1-year limited
More features: 15 bar Italian pump; cup size adjustment
The best semi-automatic espresso machine under $500 should give you barista-style quality espresso right in your kitchen. The Breville BES840XL/A does just that, plus looks great doing so. This machine comes in Stainless Steel, Cranberry Red, and Black Sesame, so you can pick one that matches your other appliances with ease.
As well as looking great, this machine has a lot of great features. It doesn’t include a bean grinder, though this can be purchased separately at a fairly decent price. It does allow you to use a dose of 19-22 grams for the fullest flavor possible.
This machine uses low-pressure pre-infusion, which evenly soaks and expands the grounds for the perfect extraction. It also has PID temperature control, which detects fluctuations during the extraction process and adjusts them automatically. You can even adjust the temperature manually to get it to your preferred temperature.
There is Flexible Shot Control that allows you to choose either one or two shots, as well as Volumetric Control that lets you control the volume of each pour for the perfect dose.
Another great feature is the steam wand, which has a 1,650-Watt element to give you high-pressure steam incredibly fast. This lets you create the micro-foam needed for some fancy latte art.
The Breville also includes some great accessories, including the single and dual wall filter baskets, stainless steel jug, coffee scoop, cleaning tool, water filter, and cleaning discs and tablets.
- Single or double shot
- Multiple accessories included
- PID temperatures control
- Micro-foam steam wand
- No grinder
Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine – Best Fully Automatic Model
- Which coffee it uses: beans/ground
- Water tank capacity: 40 oz.
- Hopper capacity: 8.8 oz.
- Dimensions: 12.4 x 10 x 17.5 inches
- Warranty: 1-year limited
More features: removable brew group; can be used with ground coffee; LED display
If you want the best super-automatic espresso machine under $500, this may be the model for you. The Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine has a wide range of features to make your favorite hot beverages without taking up your entire counter.
This model comes in two colors, black or silver, both of which include stainless steel front panels. This gives the machine a stylish, yet classic look that will add a touch of elegance to your home. There isn’t a lot of space under the nozzle, though, so you can’t use your largest mugs.
There is an LED screen on the front as well, which allows you to program your settings as needed. There are also only a few buttons for choosing your drinks and their settings, making this machine quite simple to use, even for beginners.
You don’t need to choose between whole beans or pre-ground coffee with the Brera, as it includes a ceramic burr grinder for the beans, plus has a bypass doser for your favorite blend of pre-ground coffee.
The Pannarello steam wand allows you to make some milky beverages like lattes and cappuccinos. It heats up in less than 10 seconds and has an intake hole that siphons air right into the milk for a thick, rich foam.
For added convenience, the water reservoir, dreg box, and drip tray are all front-loading. The brew group is also removable for easy cleaning and maintenance.
- Two color options
- Front access
- LED display
- Removable brew group
- Small cup space
Nespresso EN560B – Most Automated Milk Frother
- Which coffee it uses: Nespresso capsules
- Water tank capacity: not specified
- Dimensions: 12.6 x 10.2 x 6.8 inches
- Warranty: 2-year limited
More features: 6 one-touch recipes; descale alert; 3 color options
If you want the best automated coffee espresso machine for under $500, look no further than the Nespresso EN560B Lattissima Touch. This model is so easy to use, you only need to put in a capsule, attach the milk container if needed, and press a single button for the perfect cup of coffee.
There are six drink options with this handy little machine, including espresso, coffee, latte, latte macchiato, cappuccino, or just some warm milk. Each drink has its own button, so you don’t have to worry about programming or adjusting any settings.
For fast heat-up times, there is a 19 bar high-pressure pump that can brew a milk-based beverage in under 40 seconds. There is also a Thermoblock Heating System that heats cold water and milk extra fast, plus maintains the right temperature between each cup.
There is an automatic milk frother with a milk canister included. This allows the machine to add the milk right to your beverage without moving the cup. The canister also makes it easy to brew multiple milky beverages in a row without refilling it, plus you can remove the canister and put it in the fridge when your drinks are made. This piece does have a lot of parts to it, though, so can be tricky to clean.
The drip tray is adjustable for the size of the cup needed. The capsules also eject automatically into an internal storage area for added convenience.
- Sliding drip tray
- Removable milk container
- One-touch design
- Compact size
- Hard-to-clean milk components
Breville-Nespresso USA Creatista Plus – Best Capsule Espresso Machine
- Which coffee it uses: Nespresso capsules
- Water tank capacity: 50 oz.
- Dimensions: 15.5 x 12.1 x 6.7 inches
- Warranty: 2-year limited
More features: 8 beverage options; 4 milk texture levels
You don’t need a huge machine or the highest quality beans to enjoy the benefits of the best home espresso machine under $500. The Breville-Nespresso USA Creatista Plus is compact, so it won’t take up too much of your precious counter space. It also uses Nespresso capsules so that you can keep a variety of types and flavors on hand at all times.
The Creatista Plus features a 19 bar high-performance pump, which gives you the perfect extraction to maintain the delicate flavors and aromas of each capsule. It also creates a dense and delicious crema at the same time. This system heats up in only 10 seconds. If you forget to turn the machine off when your coffee is made, it also has an auto shut-off that kicks in after 9 minutes of inactivity.
There is a high-resolution LED display on the top of the machine. It will guide you through the initial setup and all your coffee preparations and settings. This makes it easy to choose one of the eight drink selections available for your favorite type of coffee, plus adjust the volume of each cup.
There is an integrated milk frother as well, with a stainless-steel milk jug included. Using the LED display, you can adjust the milk temperature and the texture of the froth. There is also an automatic purge system that cleans the steam wand after every use, so you don’t need to worry about dried-on milk.
- Adjustable settings
- LED display
- Automatic shut-off
- Easy setup
- Small drip tray
DeLonghi EC685M – Budget Pick
- Which coffee it uses: ground
- Water tank capacity:8 oz.
- Dimensions: 5.9 x 12 x 13 inches
- Warranty: 1-year limited
More features: 40-second heat-up time; adjustable drip tray
Some people prefer the best manual espresso machine under $500 rather than using an automatic one. For these espresso lovers, the DeLonghi EC685M is a great choice at a budget-friendly price.
This machine uses 15 bars of pressure for professional quality espresso right in the comfort of your kitchen. It also includes a Thermoblock Heating System to give you fast heating in about 35 seconds, plus maintains the perfect temperature as you brew multiple cups in a row.
The filter holder is adjustable, allowing you to choose 1 cup, 2 cups, or E.S.E pods for brewing. There is an Automatic Flow Stop feature as well, which dispenses the perfect amount of espresso into your cup. The water tank is removable, so you can take it to the sink and back when it is time to refill it.
A Premium Adjustable Milk Frothing Wand allows you to make some of your favorite specialty beverages. You can customize the foam for a specific drink, producing drier foam for a cappuccino or micro-foam for a delicious latte. The machine does take some time to transition from brewing to foaming milk, so be sure to brew all your drinks before starting the foaming process.
Other handy features include the double drip tray, which can be adjusted for different cup sizes, the top cup warmer, and the compact size. It also comes in black, white, and metallic colors.
- Double drip tray
- Adjustable frother
- Removable water tank
- Compact design
- Slow transition from making coffee to frothing milk
- Small water tank capacity
Your favorite coffee house can serve you a rich-flavored espresso or an espresso-based beverage, though they’ll do it for a rather inflated price. Rather than spending your money on single cups every day, why not purchase the best espresso machine under 500 dollars? These machines can give you the same high-quality drinks at a fraction of the price, plus they come with a wide range of options and features. If you’re interested in one of these espresso machines, check out the sections below.
Features to consider while choosing an espresso machine under $500
When choosing a new espresso machine, you may not know exactly what to look for in terms of features. The following sections will help clear up any confusion.
Which coffee it requires
Three types of coffee can be used in an espresso machine. These include beans, pre-ground coffee, or capsules. When it comes to the beans, some machines include a grinder and a hopper, like those on the Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine. Other machines require the beans to be ground in a separate grinder, than added to the portafilter. You can also use pre-ground coffee in these as well, though they may not be quite as fresh as beans you grind yourself will be.
Some machines use capsules rather than fussing around with grounds. The Nespresso EN560B is one of these, allowing you to insert the capsule. It then measures the amount of water needed depending on the capsule you’re using. These are a bit cleaner to use, though they do add some extra cost in terms of the capsules, as these are usually more expensive than beans or pre-ground coffee.
Water tank capacity
The capacity of the water tank is important since it tells you how many cups of espresso or other types of coffee you can brew with it before needing it to be refilled. The DeLonghi EC685M has the lowest capacity of the machines on our list at 33.7 ounces. This is fine for someone who has a cup or two a day but if you have a few people drinking two cups of coffee in the morning, you’ll be filling it at least once each day. For larger households or offices that brew quite a bit more coffee, the larger 61-ounce water tank on the Breville BES840XL/A will be a much better option.
There are two different types in this area. The first is a manual steam wand, like the one on the DeLonghi EC685M. You need to hold a pitcher under this wand and froth the milk yourself, similar to the way it is done at a café. This does take some practice to learn the proper technique, though, so your first few drinks may not be up to your standards until you learn the system.
An integrated milk frother does the work for you. All you need to do with an espresso machine that has one of these is press a button and the machine takes care of the rest. Some models, like the Nespresso EN560B, even add the milk to the espresso, making the brewing process even easier.
Hopper capacity (if there’s one)
The hopper capacity tells you how many coffee beans you can add to the machine at a time. The bigger it is, the more beans you can add and the less often you’ll need to fill it. There is a downside to a large hopper, though. If you are alone and only drinking a cup or two a day, the beans in the hopper will begin to lose their freshness after a day or two. This will alter the flavor when it comes time to brew your coffee.
Of course, if you have a large group of people in your home or office that are drinking multiple cups of coffee each day, it may be best to fill the hopper to accommodate all of those extra coffee drinkers. In these situations, a larger hopper capacity will require fewer refills each day.
If you’ve ever seen the huge espresso machines in a coffee house, you’ll know that they can be rather huge. Of course, the best home espresso machine under $500 won’t be nearly as large as those models. The ones you can buy for your kitchen tend to be much smaller, so you can fit them on your counter among your other small appliances without sacrificing too much of your space.
The models we’ve reviewed all reflect the compact sizes available for home use, though some of these are still bigger than others. Certain models are slim, so you can squeeze them in where needed, though their height may keep you from sliding them easily underneath your higher cupboards, especially if you need to add beans to a top-loading hopper or add water to the back of the machine. Before buying one of these models, it is best to measure the space you have available and find one with the features you want that fits that area.
The warranty of any product should cover you for any issues with the parts or the workmanship that the machine may have before you even open the box. These issues aren’t caused by you or the way you’re using the espresso machine, so you shouldn’t be the one paying for it. Most of the espresso machines under $500 on our list have a 1-year limited warranty, which gives you a full year to try it out to ensure that it is working properly. Two machines in our reviews double this for a 2-year limited warranty, giving you even more time to test out your machine. Some of the kinks may not show up right away, so the longer you have to test it out, the less likely it is that you’ll have to pay for any pricey repairs.
The main purpose of an espresso machine is to make some tasty coffee beverages for you. Of course, a few extra features can make them easier to use and add a few drink options to your list. One of the features to look for is a fast heat-up time. You don’t want to spend ten minutes waiting for the water to heat up inside before you can even start brewing, so the faster it heats up, the sooner you can enjoy your drinks.
Another feature to look for is milk froth adjustments. The larger bubbles are great for topping a drink with, but for some fancy latte art, you need the smaller micro-foam to hold those patterns. Froth adjustments let you customize the foam for specific beverages.
An auto shut-off is also handy to have. The longer you leave your espresso machine running, the more energy it’s going to use. The auto shut-off turns the machine off after a certain amount of time, which helps save on energy costs, plus keeps the internal mechanisms from wearing out too soon.
The years of basic black and white appliances are long behind us. These days, you can get an espresso machine in a wide range of colors, including silver, red, blue, or soft pink. This way, you can match this piece to your other appliances or pick a unique color that allows your espresso machine to stand out in your kitchen.
Programmable options are handy to have. These not only allow you to choose the drink you want, but they also let you customize them to meet your specific tastes and preferences. This way, you can get the perfect drink every time you start up the machine.
A removable water tank allows you to take this piece right over to your sink. If it is front-loading, this is even easier, especially if you like your machine to sit right up against the wall. The drip tray should be removable for easy cleaning. This piece should also be adjustable to allow for different cup sizes, so you can use your favorite mug whenever you like.
How to maintain your espresso machine
The espresso machines aren’t nearly as complicated as the models you’ll see in your local café. Of course, you still need to clean and maintain them to keep them running perfectly for as long as possible. To do so, check out the following tips:
- Empty and rinse the dregs box, drip tray, and water tank daily.
- Wipe down and purge the steam wand after each use and take it apart for a thorough cleaning each day.
- Wipe down the entire machine, running the rinse cycle if one is included.
- If there is a removable brew group, take it apart and clean each piece at least once a month, rinsing it with hot water between thorough cleanings.
- Scrub the internal areas with a soapy sponge every week.
- Remove the beans and wipe down the hopper with a food-friendly cleaner to prevent oily buildup.
- Run the descaling process regularly, especially if in an area with a high mineral content in your water.
More bars do not automatically mean better espresso. Too little pressure will create weak espresso, while too much will over-extract it, creating a bitter brew. The industry standard is 9 bars of pressure when it comes to making espresso. A lot of machines go much higher than this but 15 bars are considered by many espresso connoisseurs as the right amount. More pressure can help you make a higher quality shot, but other factors, like the quality of the beans, the right grind size, and some skill, also factor in, so it is better to stay at 15 bars or less.
Espresso machines aren’t usually loud when you’re using them to brew your espresso. They do have some noisy parts, though. For instance, if the machine takes beans, it will include a grinder, which will be noisy while doing the actual grinding. It may also be a bit noisy when steaming milk for lattes or cappuccinos since the steam being added is done so at a specific strength and volume.
Yes, Nespresso capsules are recyclable. Nespresso even offers handy bags that you can use to collect the empty capsules. These are included with many of the capsules you order or you can call the company directly and ask for some to be sent to you. Not only are the bags themselves free of charge, but the postage is also pre-paid. When it is full, take it to your local post office and mail it to the recycling facility.
If you’re in the market for the best espresso machine under $500, there are several models to choose from, all with some great features and benefits. Of course, we do have a few favorites from our reviews that deserve a second look.
Our top choice is the Breville BES840XL/A. This machine features low-pressure pre-infusion, PID temperature control, Flexible Shot Control, Volumetric Control, and a 1,650 Watt steam wand element. It also has a huge water tank, an adjustable cup size, and includes a ton of accessories.
The Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine has a burr grinder for beans and a bypass doser for pre-ground coffee. It is programmable, with an LED display, has a Pannarello steam wand, a removable brew group, and is front-loading for added convenience.
If you prefer capsules, the Nespresso EN560B is a great option. It is easy to use, with six one-touch recipes and an automatic milk frother with an included milk canister. This model also includes a Thermoblock Heating System for fast heat-up times, an adjustable drip tray, a descale alert, and internal capsule storage for less of a mess.