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While some coffee drinkers are perfectly content with a cup of black coffee every morning, others prefer the smooth, silky taste of an espresso. Naturally, an espresso — which is made by using pressurized water to extract liquid from finely ground coffee beans — takes more work, but with the right espresso machine, it can be as simple as tamping your beans (or compressing them) and pressing a button. Some of the higher-end machines made for more experienced baristas can cost thousands of dollars, buf if you’re looking for a relatively affordable machine that gets the job done, we compiled some espresso machines under $600 based on expert guidance we received.
SKIP AHEAD Best affordable espresso machines under $600
How to shop for an espresso machine
In our guide to espresso machines, the experts we consulted told us there are a few things you should look for when shopping for a machine:
- Automatic vs. semi-automatic: The most common type of espresso machine is a pump-driven espresso machine. These machines can be broken down into three categories: automatic, semi-automatic and manual. Most of the affordable espresso machine models are either automatic or semi-automatic. An automatic machine does most of the work for you and is better for beginners. A semi-automatic machine, meanwhile, gives you more control over your espresso, but it takes more time and is typically a bit pricier.
- Temperature control: A good espresso machine will have a stable temperature. Look out for PIDs — or Proportional, Integral, Derivative controllers — which give you the ability to choose your temperature. According to Graham Peeples, director of beverage at Methodical Coffee, the ideal temperature for an espresso is between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Grinder: Some machines come with a built-in grinder, and others don’t. Whether you decide to buy a machine with a built-in grinder really comes down to your preferences. Beware, though: Though they are convenient, Michael Phillips, Blue Bottle Coffee’s director of coffee culture, warned that built-in grinders “[often] break down or get to the point of performing poorly relatively quickly.”
Best affordable espresso machines under $600
Several of the experts we previously spoke to noted that Breville makes some of the best espresso machines. This semi-automatic model in particular has digital PID temperature control adjustable in 4-degree increments, plus a pressure gauge that can help you extract like a pro. The pump is powerful, too — it can apply water pressure at up to 15 bars (for comparison, the ideal pressure is around 9 bars).
Peeples called the Gaggia Classic a “no-frills machine that will get the job done.” This semi-automatic machine has a maximum pump pressure of 15 bars, and the rapid heating boiler has the machine ready to brew in about five minutes. Since the machine uses a single boiler (meaning that the steam wand and the group head share a boiler), you need to wait about a minute when you switch over to the steam setting.
This Breville machine has programmable shot times and PID temperature control. According to the brand, its Thermojet heating system helps it heat up in three seconds, and the machine uses a lower pressure pre-infusion for an “even extraction” with a more “balanced flavor.”
Though it’s well under $600, this semi-automatic espresso machine has many of the features of a higher-end model: In addition to PID temperature control, it also has pre-programmed shots and up to 15 bars of pressure. A similar (and slightly pricier) model comes with a built-in grinder.
This espresso machine from Philips can brew two coffees at once if you’re in a hurry. It has a built-in adjustable burr grinder, three aroma strength and temperature settings and up to 15 bars of pressure.
De’Longhi, known for its partnership with capsule espresso machine maker Nespresso, also makes affordable pump-driven espresso machines. This automatic 15-bar machine has two separate thermostats — one for the water and another for the steam — and the patented portafilter (or filter holder) can hold one espresso shot, two espresso shots or an espresso pod. According to the brand, the removable water tank and drip tray also make the machine easy to clean.