Do Cheap Espresso Machines Make Good Espresso? | 2023 Guide

We’ll explore low cost espresso machines, their strengths and weaknesses, and how you can get the best possible espresso from a budget machine.

Do Cheap Espresso Machines Make Good Espresso? | 2023 Guide
Can you make good coffee with a cheap espresso machine?

In the world of coffee enthusiasts, the quest for the perfect espresso is an ongoing pursuit. But with high-end espresso machines often costing a small fortune, many wonder if low cost espresso machines are worth the investment. Can a budget-friendly machine truly deliver that rich, velvety taste and aroma we all crave? Do cheap espresso machines make good espresso?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the truth about cheap espresso machines, their strengths and weaknesses, and how you can get the best possible espresso from a budget machine. We’ll also review popular affordable espresso machines, discuss when it might be time to upgrade, and introduce a time and skill-friendly alternative: easy serve espresso (ESE) pods.

Key Takeaways

  • Cheap espresso machines can provide a decent experience, but may have issues with build quality and extraction consistency.
  • Proper maintenance and using freshly ground coffee beans are key to improving the espresso from budget machines.
  • Upgrading to higher quality models offers more reliable performance, features, and better overall flavor.

The Truth About Cheap Espresso Machines

A cheap espresso machine with a steam wand

Buying a budget-friendly machine might benefit you if you pick the right model, but these machines come with certain disadvantages. One of the most significant drawbacks is inconsistent pressure and temperature control, which can affect the quality of good espresso. Moreover, potential issues with build quality and durability may arise, compromising the machine’s longevity and performance.

However, not all cheap espresso machines are created equal. Some models perform surprisingly well for their price range, allowing you to enjoy a decent espresso without breaking the bank. We will further examine the specific issues associated with budget espresso machines in upcoming sections, and suggest ways to mitigate them.

Inconsistency in Extraction

The heart of the espresso-making process lies in achieving consistent pressure and temperature during extraction. Inexpensive espresso machines often struggle with this, resulting in subpar espresso shots. This challenge dates back to the early days, when the first automatic single-shot machine faced difficulty regulating pressure and temperature, affecting its consistency.

An inconsistent extraction process can lead to channeling, where water travels through the puck of ground coffee beans in the basket with the least amount of resistance, producing a subpar espresso. To minimize channeling, performing your own preinfusion can help. Yet, it can be quite a task to achieve consistent extraction using a budget espresso machine, demanding patience and a willingness to experiment.

Build Quality and Durability

Another issue with budget espresso machines is their build quality and durability. Since they are designed to be cost-effective, manufacturers may compromise on the quality of components to keep prices low. A prime example is the thermal block heating system in the Mr. Coffee ECMP50, which allows for rapid heating of water for the steam wand and group head.

However, the machine has a minor leakage issue around the portafilter. Although these issues may not necessarily be significant for all users, they could potentially affect the machine’s lifespan and performance.

If you’re a coffee enthusiast who’s serious about their espresso, investing in a higher-quality machine may be worth considering. But if you’re just starting out or are on a tight budget, a cheap espresso machine with some limitations might still be a viable option.

How to Improve Your Espresso With a Budget Machine

A person grinding freshly roasted coffee beans for espresso

Despite the limitations inherent in budget espresso machines, various methods can enhance the quality of your espresso. Here are some tips to consider.

  1. Use freshly ground coffee beans.
  2. Maintain your machine properly by regularly cleaning and descaling it.
  3. Experiment with weights and extraction times to find the optimal brewing time for your taste.

By following these tips, you can enhance your espresso experience without breaking the bank.

Our subsequent discussions will delve into these useful tips, aiming to assist you in maximizing the potential of your budget espresso machine and making sure each espresso you savor is as pleasing to the palate as the ones loved by true coffee enthusiasts.

Freshly Ground Coffee Beans

One of the simplest ways to improve the taste and quality of espresso from a budget machine is to use freshly ground coffee beans. Freshly ground beans offer a more intense flavor and aroma, as well as a smoother texture, compared to pre-ground coffee. When selecting coffee beans for a budget espresso machine, prioritize beans that are recently roasted and have a desirable flavor profile.

To grind your coffee beans, consider using a burr grinder or a blade grinder specifically designed for espresso machines. While pre-ground coffee may be more convenient, the difference in taste and quality when using freshly ground beans is undeniable and can significantly elevate your espresso experience with a cheap machine.

Proper Maintenance

Maintaining and cleaning your budget espresso machine is essential for optimal performance and longevity. Regularly descale, clean, and replace any worn components to keep your machine functioning at its best. Additionally, inspect the water filter regularly and use filtered water to prevent mineral buildup that can impair your machine’s performance.

By adhering to the recommended maintenance procedures, you’ll not only extend the life of your espresso machine, but also ensure that each cup of espresso is of the highest quality possible. Proper maintenance is the key to getting the most out of your budget espresso machine and enjoying delicious, consistent espresso every time.

A De'Longhi EC155 espresso machine with a pressurized portafilter

Having examined the drawbacks of budget espresso machines and methods to overcome them, we’ll now turn our attention to some popular, affordable espresso machines and their ability to deliver quality espresso. We’ll review the De'Longhi ECP3420, Nespresso Essenza Mini, and Mr. Coffee Automatic Dual Shot, examining their performance, pros, and cons.

Remember, although these cheap espresso machines worth considering can yield satisfactory espresso, their reliability might not match that of a more expensive decent espresso machine. Nevertheless, for those on a tight budget, these espresso makers can be a worthwhile investment to enjoy a decent espresso without breaking the bank, even if it’s not a high-end home espresso machine.

De'Longhi ECP3420

The De'Longhi ECP3420 is an affordable espresso machine that offers satisfactory performance for its cost. While it may not produce the very best espresso, it is capable of producing crema-packed shots. The machine’s features include:

  • Steam wand for frothing milk
  • Adjustable settings for shot size and strength
  • Removable water reservoir for easy cleaning
  • Compact size for small kitchens

However, it may be challenging to achieve the ideal milk texture for milk-based drinks like cappuccinos and lattes.

One of the advantages of the De'Longhi ECP3420 is its compatibility with ESE pods, which provide a convenient and cost-effective way to enjoy a more genuine espresso experience without investing in a more expensive machine. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly machine that can produce decent espresso, the De'Longhi ECP3420 may be a suitable option.

Nespresso Essenza Mini

The Nespresso Essenza Mini:

  • Small and compact espresso machine
  • Provides delicious espresso at the ideal temperature
  • Features two programmable cup sizes
  • 19 bars of pressure
  • Simple to use
  • Excellent value for the price
  • Consistency and ease of use make it a popular choice for those looking for a budget-friendly espresso machine.

However, one downside of the Nespresso Essenza Mini is the added cost of capsules, which can range from $0.50 to $1.00 per capsule. Despite this, the Nespresso Essenza Mini remains a popular option for those seeking a consistent and convenient espresso experience without investing in a high-end machine.

Mr. Coffee Automatic Dual Shot

The Mr. Coffee Automatic Dual. Shot espresso machine is known for its ability to produce authentic and robust espresso beverages. It can generate two shots of espresso simultaneously, providing convenience for users and offering simple, user-friendly operation for preparing single or double shots of espresso.

One of the standout features of the Mr. Coffee Automatic Dual Shot is its frothing arm for milk-based beverages, allowing users to craft cappuccinos and lattes. However, it may not deliver the same quality of espresso as higher-priced machines, nor the same level of crema.

Despite these potential drawbacks, the Mr. Coffee Automatic Dual Dual comes with these benefits. Shot remains a popular choice for those seeking a budget-friendly espresso machine that can produce enjoyable espresso beverages.

Upgrading From a Cheap Espresso Machine

Two great espresso pull shots

While budget espresso machines can be a great starting point for coffee enthusiasts, there comes a time when it might be necessary to upgrade to a higher-quality machine. Investing in a higher-quality machine has several advantages, including:

  • More reliable extraction
  • Higher-quality components that require less maintenance
  • More features and functionality, such as temperature regulation and pre-infusion

Subsequent discussions will center around indications that suggest the need for an upgrade from a budget espresso machine, along with recommendations for those contemplating an upgrade.

Signs It's Time to Upgrade

There are several indications that it may be time to invest in a better espresso machine for improved quality and consistency. Some of these signs include:

  • The need for frequent repairs or component replacements
  • Deterioration in performance
  • Unsatisfactory espresso quality
  • The desire to experiment with different drinks
  • Surpassing the capabilities of a budget machine

If you find yourself constantly repairing or replacing components, struggling to produce quality espresso, or feeling limited by your budget machine’s capabilities, it might be time to invest in a higher-quality espresso machine to take your coffee experience to the next level.

Recommendations for Upgrading

If you’re contemplating an upgrade from a budget espresso machine, prioritizing a superior quality machine with top-notch components and features is vital. Look for machines with temperature regulation and pre-infusion features, which can significantly improve the quality of your espresso. Some examples of higher-quality machines include the Gaggia RI9380/46 Classic Evo Pro, PHILIPS 3200 Series Fully Automatic Espresso Machine, and Breville Bambino Espresso Machine.

Additionally, consider coffee machines with the following features:

  • An integrated grinder for freshly ground coffee beans, ensuring you don’t have to deal with leftover coffee grounds
  • A higher-quality build for a superior coffee experience
  • More control over the espresso-making process

By investing in a higher-quality machine with these features, you can enjoy a superior coffee experience and gain more control over the espresso-making process, ensuring that each cup of espresso is as close as possible to the rich, velvety taste and aroma that true coffee connoisseurs crave.

ESE Pods: A Budget-Friendly Alternative

Making espresso with an ESE pod

For those who want to enjoy a more genuine espresso experience without investing in an expensive machine, ESE pods can be a practical and cost-effective alternative. ESEs are a convenient way to enjoy coffee. Each ESE contains pre-ground beans encased in a thin filter ready to be brewed. They are designed to be used with pressurized baskets, which are more efficient when used with higher pressure.

ESE pods provide an economical and convenient solution for those wishing to experience a more authentic espresso experience without the need to invest in a costly machine. By incorporating ESE pods into your coffee routine, you can enjoy a more genuine espresso experience at a fraction of the cost.


Throughout this guide, we’ve explored the pros and cons of low cost espresso machines, provided tips for the best tasting espresso with a budget machine, and reviewed popular affordable espresso machines and their performance. We’ve also discussed the benefits of upgrading from cheaper machines and introduced ESE pods as a budget-friendly alternative.

Still have questions? Read through our list of frequently asked questions for additional information!

Frequently Asked Questions

Does an expensive espresso machine make a difference?

Overall, investing in an expensive espresso machine is definitely worth it if you have the money and are looking for the best shot and control over the espresso making process.

Is a $50 espresso machine worth it?

Given that cheaper espresso machines under $50 lack a porta-filter, steam wand and cannot make a latte, it is not worth investing in a $50 espresso machine.

What can I do to improve the quality of espresso from a budget machine?

To improve the quality of espresso from a budget machine, use freshly ground coffee beans, maintain your machine regularly and experiment with different extraction times.

Using freshly ground coffee beans will give you a more intense flavor and aroma. Regular maintenance of your machine will ensure that it is running optimally and will help to prevent any issues that could arise from improper use. Experimenting with different methods.

Popular and affordable espresso makers such as the De’Longhi EC155, Nespresso Essenza Mini, and Mr. Coffee Automatic Dual Shot can produce satisfactory espresso, but may not be as reliable as higher-priced models.

However, for those on a budget, these machines can be a great option.

What is an ESE pod and how can it be a budget-friendly alternative?

ESE pods are a budget-friendly alternative for those looking for a genuine espresso experience, as they are pre-ground pucks of coffee grounds encased within a thin filter designed for use with pressurized baskets.

These pods are easy to use and require no grinding or tamping, making them a great choice for those who want to enjoy a quality espresso without the hassle of traditional espresso preparation. They are also a great option for those who are short on time; the machine makes a decent shot quickly and easily.

In the end, whether a cheap espresso machines worth it depends on your individual preferences and budget. While budget machines tend not to offer the same level of quality and consistency as higher-priced options, they can still provide an excellent espresso experience and a great value for those on a tight budget. With proper care, maintenance, and a little experimentation, even budget espresso machines can produce great tasting espresso that satisfies your caffeine cravings.