Espresso is to coffee what symphonic music is to a marching band; they may do the same thing but they do it in vastly different ways with very different results. Espresso machines have been around since the late 1800s and have evolved into a variety of technologies and methodologies.
Many coffee lovers feel like Espresso is an enigma, wrapped in a conundrum, and surrounded by mystery. It’s not, but it seems that way because of the fervor of its followers. I am one of them but I’m not ready to shell out a couple of hundred, or even a few thousand bucks for a morning cup of get-up-and-go.
Best Espresso Machines Under $100
Top-rated Budget Espresso Makers
Call me frugal or call me cost-conscious; in either case, the word “cheap” quickly enters the picture and it’s accurate to say that I don’t want to spend any more than I have to in order to get what I want.
And I wanted a good Espresso machine on my kitchen counter for less than $100. Sounds impossible? Not by a long shot. It turns out there are some really good Espresso machines available for this budget.
Here’s my list of the five best candidates to consider.
Sowtech 4-Cup (240ml) Espresso Maker With Steam Milk Frother
This little jewel is like having a barista sitting on the kitchen counter. The Sowtech Espresso Maker has a 4-cup capacity which means a couple of people can have a nice cup together. It has some great features:
- 4-Cup capacity
- Easy pour Glass Carafe included
- Accurate temperature control
- Detachable filter
- Removable Frother Nozzle and Steam Tube
- Small footprint – 7.2″ x 9.0″
- Stainless steel exterior surfaces
This compact Espresso machine acts like one of its bigger brothers, making Espresso without the huge expense and complicated equipment. The Frother Nozzle works perfectly to make a nice, foamy topping that perfectly compliments the Espresso flavor. With a price of less than $100, I don’t see how you can go wrong with this excellent Espresso machine.
Mueller Espresso Machine
Austrian manufacturer Mueller produces a very nice and compact Espresso Machine with several convenient features. Despite its small footprint, this Espresso machine holds up to 48 ounces (1.4 liters) of water, so making multiple cups of Espresso is easy. This Espresso maker works with the Nespresso Cartridge system as well as 1.0 and 2.0 pods. The Mueller Espresso machine has some other very attractive features:
- High Pressure 20 Bar pump
- 60-Second Heat-up time
- Programmable for Espresso or Lungo
- Energy-saving automatic shut-off
- Easy One-Touch buttons
- Removable Drip Tray
What I like about this Espresso machine is that it works with pre-made cartridges eliminating the need for a coffee grinder. Just pop in a cartridge, push a button, and voila’ – you’ve got smooth, tasty Espresso ready for foam. For a price of under $100, this is definitely a contender in the battle of the low-cost Espresso makers.
Staresso Portable Espresso Maker
This is a really unique kind of Espresso Maker that no one else has been able to duplicate. I like the Staresso Espresso machine because it is portable and manual which means you don’t require electricity to make it work. Espresso lovers simply push down on the plunger to press hot water through the ground coffee. This Espresso maker also uses pre-made Nespresso cartridges or hand-pressed grounds and it also makes foamy froth to top off the Espresso. Other cool features make this Espresso maker worth looking at:
- Lightweight – less than 1 lb (1/2 kilo) in weight
- Large capacity – holds 2.7 ounces (80 ml) of water
- High Pressure 15 – 20 Bar pump
- Stainless Steel and BPA-free materials
For campers, concert-goers, and others that crave a great cup of Espresso without the bother of trying to hunt up a coffee stand, this is the answer. The option to make your own hand-pressed coffee gives this little gem a customizing feature a few espresso makers can match.
Electric Portable Espresso Machine By Aicok
Here’s a great twist on an even greater idea. An electric portable Espresso coffee machine that heats the water before making the Espresso all in one unit! I think this is the way to go if you just gotta have your Espresso right away! The Aicok Espresso Maker uses Nespresso cartridges so there’s no need for a coffee grinder to get started. There are some other great features as well:
- Lightweight – less than 1.9 lb (1 kilo) in weight
- Large capacity – holds 1.5 ounces (45 ml) of water
- High Pressure 15 Bar pump
- DC 12V Car Power Jack
- Built-in Espresso cup
If you want your Espresso on the way to work, this is the Espresso maker for you. It easily fits in the car coffee cup holder and can make hot, fresh Espresso with cold or hot water while you drive. No matter where you want to drink your Espresso, this little wonder can make it in minutes anywhere! The amazing part is it costs less than 100 bucks to achieve coffee Nirvana.
Kava’ Mini Espresso Machine From ChefWave
This is another countertop Espresso machine that I think deserves some attention. I like the ease of use and the compatibility with Nespresso cartridges or hand-packed grounds. I also like that the Kava’ Mini Espresso machine has a convenient storage rack for the Espresso pods. It keeps things clean and organized where I can see the inventory of pods rather than rooting through a kitchen drawer. This Espresso machine also has some other nice features:
- High Pressure 20 Bar pump
- Can make Espresso or Lungo
- Energy-saving automatic shut-off
- 27 ounce (0.8 liter) water capacity
- Includes 2 – 2.7-ounce glass Espresso cups
This is another countertop Espresso Coffee maker that has the kind of features home brewers want to have. Easy one-button operation makes brewing the perfect cup of Espresso easy and fast. With a quick warm-up cycle and large capacity water tank, Espresso drinkers can make cup after cup to their heart’s content!
The Ultimate Espresso Machine Buying Guide With Q&A.
All of the Espresso machines listed above are available online from Amazon. That makes it easy to find and get the right machine on its way fast. If you’re not sure which machine is best for your situation, there are also comparative charts of the features and benefits for the machines on the site itself.
Don’t forget, some of the Espresso makers use Nespresso or other manufacturer’s pods or cartridges exclusively while other Espresso machines can use any pod or cartridge, and have universal coverage. There are additional items that can be purchased and used with the Espresso machine including specialized coffee bean mixes and coffee grinders able to produce the finest and smoothest grounds for percolating.
Convenience In A Cup
The thing I like the most about Espresso is the flavor intensity and the creamy foam on top. It may seem a little childish, but the foam sticks to my upper lip and makes me smile. The contrast between the crema and the coffee makes each sip special.
The problem is that I don’t want to take a shower, get dressed, and drive down to the coffee shop to get my morning boost, I want it at home without all the hassle. And I’m not going to spend more money on the Espresso machine than I spent on furnishing the living room.
A Little Advice Before Making Espresso
It’s always a good idea to check with family and friends to see if any of them have experience with home Espresso Coffee machines. They can have valuable insights and experiences to draw upon. Checking with reliable online resources that provide honest testimonials and ratings is also good to do before jumping into the pool.
I would also recommend beginners look at the lower-cost machines to start. You can spend more, but I think it’s better to find out if you enjoy the flavor, aroma, and experience of Espresso coffee before investing too much capital.
What Does “Bar” Mean For Espresso Machines?
Bar (sometimes BAR) is a unit of measuring pressure – just like PSI. 1 bar is the same as 14.5 PSI. For better understanding, think about pumping your car’s or bike’s tires. Most cars specify about 2.2 bars (give or take 0.1 or 0.2 bars) or 32 PSI.
Pressure varies quite a lot from one espresso machine to another, from 7 bars to 15 bars and even higher. The majority of them have 9 bars or 15 bars (130 PSI or 217 PSI). Ever felt a race bike tire? Quite hard, isn’t it? That’s because they are pumped 8 bars (sometimes 9). Now that’s a lot of pressure!
What Does 15 Bar Pressure Mean?
15 bars (217 PSI) just mean a heck of a lot of pressure for an espresso maker.
Espresso machines aimed at the consumer market are a lot smaller than their coffee shop counterparts. Professional espresso makers are also constantly turned on, while domestic ones aren’t.
For making espresso, 9 bars is more than enough. Then why do some brewers have more? The answer is simple: warm-up. You see, the higher the pressure, the quicker the machine warms up.
Is Nespresso As Good As Real Espresso?
Nespresso is a Switzerland-based brand specialized in making proprietary coffee pods and pod-based coffee machines.
Real hardcore espresso fans will argue that all capsule-based espresso is not as near as good as an actual traditional Italian espresso (which is made using a completely different technique). I myself have tasted both and here’s the verdict: the traditional real espresso has a more rich and intense flavor and packs a stronger caffeine punch than Nespresso. It’s still stronger than your regular cup of coffee though.
Nespresso is not that bad, actually. One major advantage it has over real espresso is the cost – it’s much cheaper and your wallet will appreciate this. Especially if your budget is around 100 bucks. The other is convenience: you just put a capsule into the appliance, press a button and voila! You’re good to go.
What Causes Crema In Espresso?
Crema is the dark foam found on the surface of a shot of espresso When hot pressurized water comes into contact with coffee grounds, a small amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) is released. This makes the foam.
It is a great indicator of how good the rest of the espresso will be.
For more info take a look at this video:
What Is The Best Inexpensive Espresso Machine?
I have to say my choice for the best espresso coffee machine overall has to be the Sowtech 4-Cup espresso maker. With all the features, the ease of use, a great design, and a fantastic price, there’s not much out there that compares equally. I like the built-in Frother. It makes me feel like a professional barista finishing off my perfect Espresso.
The Staresso Portable Espresso Maker can make foam too, which is cool for a portable machine. For my money, it’s the Sowtech Espresso machine I want to wake up to in the morning to start my day with a frothy smile.
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What’s your take on crema? Do you like it or not? Personally, I love it – it reminds me of Guinness and my college years.