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The Best Espresso Machines Under $500

Let’s start with the good news: the market of home espresso machines is booming! Okay now for the bad news. This boom in espresso machines and home products has led to many options that are not worth your time or money.

It can be a daunting task to select a high-quality espresso machine that doesn’t cost a fortune, if you aren’t a coffee expert or industry professional. And we get it! So to help you out, we have chosen 3 amazing machines. Read up and learn which one we think is the best espresso machine under 500. Let’s take a look.

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DeLonghi Dedica EC680 DeLonghi Dedica EC680
  • Full-Automatic
  • 35oz Water Tank
  • 52mm Portafilter
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Gaggia 14101 Classic Pro Semi-Automatic Gaggia 14101 Classic Pro Semi-Automatic
  • Semi-Automatic
  • 72oz Water Tank
  • 58mm Portafilter
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Breville the Infuser Espresso Machine (BES840XL-A) Breville Duo Temp Pro
  • Semi-Automatic
  • 61oz Water Tank
  • 54mm Portafilter
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DeLonghi Dedica EC680
DeLonghi Dedica EC680
  • Full-Automatic
  • 35oz Water Tank
  • 52mm Portafilter
Gaggia 14101 Classic Pro Semi-Automatic
Gaggia 14101 Classic Pro Semi-Automatic
  • Semi-Automatic
  • 72oz Water Tank
  • 58mm Portafilter
Breville Duo Temp Pro
Breville the Infuser Espresso Machine (BES840XL-A)
  • Semi-Automatic
  • 61oz Water Tank
  • 54mm Portafilter

What to Expect in Espresso Machines Under $500?

Before we dive into the various features on each of these espresso machines, let’s address the settings and specs that are industry standard for this tier of the espresso machine market.

All three of our picks share features like a strong 15-bar pressure pump, a cup warmer, and brew-compatibility with E.S.E. pods. They can also be expected to feature the following:

  • A high-quality steam wand
  • A hot water spout for Americanos and hot tea
  • Removable water tank and drip tray for easy maintenance

With these standard features available across the board, the machines are more clearly distinguished by high-tech, premium features compared to less expensive options. Though it is important to have options so that your espresso comes out just as you like it, a machine with a lot of manual controls may contribute more complexity than consistency to your brew (1).

While it’s great to have a machine that gives you complete control, this is no good if you’re not sure how to use all the features.

Perfect Daily Grind

All three of our picks here are user-friendly, so don’t panic. It can be easy to get caught up in the flashy and super-specific features of other models. So we have chosen three that fall somewhere in the middle between point-and-shoot and ultra-customizable.

The best espresso machine under 500 ideally comes with a built-in steam wand
espresso machine

PID-Controlled Water Temperature

A PID (Proportional Integral Derivative) is a small device that uses mathematical equations to achieve precise and consistent water temperature in your espresso machine. Espresso machines that use PIDs, as opposed to a mechanical thermostat, are able to maintain a more consistent temperature. They, therefore, make the extraction more uniform (2).

Before PID controllers […] The boiler had to cool down below a set temperature before turning on, and continued heating up slightly past the shutoff point at the top end, making temperature stability quite volatile and difficult to precisely control.

La Marzocco

Other machines use a thermoblock to heat the water as it passes from the tank to extract the coffee. This eliminates the issue of maintaining the temperature of the entire boiler.

Pre-Infusion

Pre-Infusion is a common feature for espresso machines and drip coffee machines. But also for best practice in manual brews. An espresso machine with a pre-infusion setting releases a small amount of water at a low-pressure onto the coffee grounds. Then it pauses. This allows for the coffee to bloom and for water to saturate the entire bed of coffee for uniform extraction.

You may already know that roasted coffee releases CO2. The gas releases even faster once the beans are ground, opening up the coffee’s capacity for extraction once exposed to water. When your espresso machine performs pre-infusion, it’s allowing the remaining pockets of carbon dioxide to bubble up. In this way, the water extracts a stronger coffee flavor.

Espresso machines use pre-infusion to increase the consistency of the brew.

Yet, there’s one more benefit of pre-infusion. By gently saturating the grounds, it minimizes the impact of any inconsistencies in the grind or tamping. When the water is applied at high pressure, it’s more likely to move in a uniform way through the grinds. Otherwise it’s jetting through the center of the coffee bed, resulting in an unbalanced espresso shot.

Three-Way Solenoid Valve for a Dry Puck

No one wants to spend their time banging a wet, sludgy puck out of their portafilter. That is why so many espresso machines like the Breville Infuser and the Gaggia Classic Pro use three-way solenoid valves. They release the water pressure on the portafilter and deposit it into the drip tray after the brewing cycle. This system leaves you with a dry puck that easily drops out of the portafilter.

With three-way solenoid valves you can brew and clean multiple shots in a row. In addition, the valve closes automatically after brewing to eliminate bothersome dripping through the brew group.

Customizable Brew Settings

The above features are oriented towards the espresso machine’s ability to automatically regulate and produce espresso. Still, many coffee enthusiasts look for more manual control over the brewing process.

The best espresso machine under 500 should offer setting of the shot volume, espresso temperature, and customized frothing. Beyond such adjustable features, machines may come with pressurized or non-pressurized portafilters. The latter allows the brewer more control over the tamping and more pressure on the grounds.

Essentially, what we are trying to say here is that you can find an automatic espresso machine or a manual espresso machine as you need. So take a moment to think about what kind of control you want over the espresso you enjoy. The trick with more adjustable settings is that it definitely takes some time to find the sweet spot for your “perfect” brew. You’ll just have to drink a lot of espresso in pursuit. What a challenge. Especially if you’re using higher end models!

Espresso pouring out of a portafilter

The 3 Best Espresso Machines Under $500

Let’s, finally, look at our top picks!

1. DeLonghi Dedica EC680 – Best for Beginners

“De’Longhi

Specifications

  • Full-Automatic

  • 35oz Water Tank
  • 52mm Portafilter

The DeLonghi Dedica is a superbly programmable espresso machine that delivers professional quality espresso in a package perfectly suited to a home kitchen. This sleek espresso machine is just six inches wide, a great fit for even the most crowded counter top.

The thermoblock water heating system is incredibly fast, the machine can be ready for brewing in under 40 seconds. It is also a fast and powerful brewer, with a 15-bar Italian pump. The machine is equipped with a cup warmer, descaling alarm for regular maintenance, and has an energy-saving standby mode, so you can enjoy your first of several espressos of the day without wasting electricity.

Aside from being ready whenever you need it, this machine also gives users the freedom to adjust brew temperature, shot volume, and foam and steam levels when frothing. Thanks to these settings, you can set your machine to brew either a single or double without having to think about brewing two separate shots. The Dedica can even be programmed for the hardness of the water in your household to give you accurate descaling and maintenance reminders. Though the machine’s water hardness settings are geared towards regular maintenance, users should note that water hardness can also impact flavor (3).

Soft water can leave your coffee flat or lacking in body.

Perfect Daily Grind

While it provides these user-friendly customizable settings, the Dedica EC680 espresso machine does not have a pre-infusion mode, which may result in slightly less consistency in your espresso brews.

This is a great tool for the less experienced espresso brewers among us, given that it provides automatic air and temperature regulation on the milk frother, making achieving the perfect froth nearly fool-proof. That being said, it does not come equipped with a solenoid valve, so cleaning out the removable portafilter may require more than one knock against your knock-box.

Related: Best Jura Espresso Machines

2. Gaggia 14101 Classic Pro Semi-Automatic – Best for Cappuccino

“Leverpresso”

Specifications

  • Semi-Automatic

  • 72oz Water Tank
  • 58mm Portafilter

This new semi-automatic model by Gaggia has several key updates for excellent espresso brewing. Now with three switches on its control panel, the machine has a basic on/off switch, a brewing on/off switch, and a steam on/off switch. The Gaggia has a 15-bar pressure pump and dual heating elements including a thermoblock that get the machine brew-ready in under 5 minutes and steam-ready in just 30 seconds.

Gaggia Classic Pro includes both a pre-infusion mode and a three-way solenoid valve to leave you with a dry coffee puck.

The commercial steam wand is excellent for frothing and has an updated quieter pump. Thus, you’ll brew coffee easy and stress-free! Simply grind your beans of choice, deposit and tamp them in the removable portafilter, and watch rich espresso flow out of the machine. Since this machine does not have a timed descaling alarm, Gaggia recommends full maintenance every two months, or whenever you notice a decrease in water flow.

The commercial steam wand makes great cappuccino, so no wonder why we awarded it best cappuccino maker!

Related: Best Travel Espresso Machines (for your next trip)

3. Breville Duo Temp Pro – Fastest Espresso

“Breville

Specifications

  • Semi-Automatic

  • 61oz Water Tank
  • 54mm Portafilter

Coming from a reputable brand, this is one of the few machines under $500 (and the only one on this list) to include PID temperature control. The Duo Temp in the name refers to the ability to quickly switch between brewing and steaming. The 1600W thermocoil provides rapid heating, while the auto-purge feature allows a quick cooldown. Just be aware that, unlike more expensive espresso makers, there’s no ability to adjust the temp here.

Once you get the hang of the machine, making the first coffee of the morning is a very quick process. The thermocoil means a warmup time of 5 minutes, compared to around 15 minutes in traditional machines. As with all semi-automatics you’ll need to grind and tamp your own beans. There’s no built-in grinder here, but a tamper is included as well as a dose trimming tool. Included are both pressurized and non-pressurized portafilter baskets.

In terms of brewing variables, you only have control over the shot time/volume, but it does feature a low-pressure pre-infusion for more consistent brewing. Switch to milk frothing and you’ll get a professional steam wand with 360 rotation to help you achieve velvety micro-foam.

The Duo Temp Pro might seem simple, but it offers great value for the price.

The Verdict

All of these machines are worthy choice for the best espresso machine under 500 dollars. Yet, each one represents the best option for a different kind of brewer. There’s one for beginners, one for cappuccino lovers. And there’s also a machine for the more skilled enthusiasts who also love their espresso fast-ready.

FAQs

To clean your espresso machine, you should be thinking about your regular and slightly less regular maintenance routines. Make sure you wipe down your steam wand, portafilters, and drain hose as well as backflush the machine when you finish every use (4).

Descale your machine on a monthly basis and clean it either with vinegar and water or with the cleaning products specified by the manufacturer. If you have a machine with an automatic descale/maintenance setting, you don’t have to worry about timing the cleaning, since the machine will tell you when it needs to happen.

Yes, all three of these machines come with limited one-year warranties. Read the full warranty policy and consumer information by the manufacturer to learn the details.

Espresso requires a fine grind to extract the coffee over the correct period of time and to deliver the classic flavor you love. To achieve a consistent grind and rich, flavorful espresso, use a quality burr grinder to grind just enough coffee for your brew.

E.S.E. stands for Easy Serving Espresso, coffee pods that can be brewed in an espresso machine without fussing with coffee grinds. You can probably guess by now that we prefer real, freshly ground coffee to a packaged coffee pod. However, if these pods are the key to your favorite espresso, rest easy since all three machines we discussed are compatible with them.

References
  1. Guerra, G. (2019, January 7). How To Make Barista-Quality Espresso at Home. Retrieved from https://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2019/01/how-to-make-barista-quality-espresso-at-home/
  2. Kilbride, D. (2017, June 8). How Does Pressure Affect Espresso Quality? Retrieved from https://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2017/06/pressure-espresso-quality/
  3. A Brief History of the PID. (2015, October 15). Retrieved from https://home.lamarzoccousa.com/history-of-the-pid/
  4. Guerra, G. (2018, November 2). How to Clean & Maintain Your Espresso Machine. Retrieved from https://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2018/11/how-to-clean-maintain-your-espresso-machine/
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