What to Look for in an Espresso Machine Under 300

This is a guest post by Samantha Joyce, of Seattle Coffee Gear. If you are interested in writing guest articles for the Table, feel free to contact me.

You can afford an espresso machine. Really! One latte a day is almost $1,000 per year. (See chart) But for under $300 you can invest in your own home espresso set-up. According to my caffeinated calculations that is a savings, not an expense!

Cost Comparison - Making Espresso at Home

Now, let us get the most bang for your home-barista buck. We are all unique, so how do you decide in the avalanche of options which espresso machine is right for your taste and your budget?

First things first, check your snobbery at the door. We don’t judge. There is a difference between a $60 espresso machine and a $6,000 espresso machine. What features do you have to have right now, and what features can you upgrade to later? The initial cost, your drink choice and how much time you have to make your signature drink at home are all factors to consider.

There are many semi-automatic espresso machines in this price range. Here is the good news, these machines are (generally) smaller, easy to operate and easy to clean. Look for a machine that is repairable or be ok with the replacement cost in about three years time. This might coincide with when you want to upgrade anyway!

With each jump in price you can expect higher grade, longer lasting materials designed to provide more consistency. Features to look for as the price tag goes up include: the machine case is more metal than plastic, the portafilter is heavier chrome-plated brass rather than aluminum, the boiler size gets bigger, and it may include a traditional steam wand instead of a panarello.

How to Pull a Perfect Shot of EspressoHere’s a quick look at some semi-automatic espresso machine options under $300:

DELONGHI

  • $150 DeLonghi EC270 Espresso Machine
  • $220 DeLonghi EC702 Pump Espresso Machine
  • $250 DeLonghi ECO310BK Espresso Machine

Right Now: Use E.S.E. espresso pods or pre-ground espresso with the included pressurized portafilter. This eliminates the need for a grinder and the need to tamp but limits your options for the freshest ground coffee.

Upgrade Later: Non-pressurized filter basket upgrade can be hard to find but worth it for a tastier espresso shot ($30), purchase a burr grinder that can grind espresso fine enough to use with the non-pressurized filter basket ($130+).

SAECO

  • $159 Saeco Poemia Espresso Machine
  • $199 Saeco Poemia and Burr Grinder Package*
  • $229 Saeco Aroma Espresso Machine** (SCG Staff Favorite)
  • $299 Saeco Via Venezia Espresso Machine**

Right Now: Use E.S.E. espresso pods or pre-ground espresso with the included pressurized portafilter

*Poemia Package – Grind your choice of fresh espresso to use in the pressurized portafilter

Upgrade Later: Parts and repair service available, non-pressurized portafilter upgrade ($60), purchase a burr grinder that can grind espresso fine enough to use with the non- pressurized portafilter ($130+)

**Aroma and Via Venezia also have a stainless steel panarello upgrade option ($40), and a DIY Tune-Up Kit ($30)

These espresso machine upgrades can get pricey, so how about a little something-something for free?! Jump-start your espresso experience with these simple tips and tricks:

  • Perform regular machine maintenance and cleaning
  • Change the water filter in the tank at regular intervals
  • Start with fresh filtered water from a Brita or Mavea filter pitcher
  • Grind your coffee fresh. Store the whole beans in an airtight canister. Use them within 30 days.
  • Pre-heat the portafilter in the brewhead as the machine warms up
  • Pressurized systems do not require an even tamp, just brush the excess grounds off the edges of the portafilter so that it seals nicely against the brewhead
  • Pre-warm your cup

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=7FCaavZjd-0

About the Author

Samantha Joyce lives across the street from a Caffe Ladro in Seattle, where her favorite baristas make Café Medici (unsweetened mocha using Ladro Espresso Blend with fresh orange peel in the cup) for her on the weekends. During the week she writes for Seattle Coffee Gear and makes her own drip coffee in a Technivorm KB741.

Seattle Coffee Gear’s Mission:

We’re fun, frank and want you to make coffee you love at home. We test and review a wide array of gear so that we can offer unbiased advice as you find the equipment that’s right for you.

 

Did you like this? Comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome here at the Table! Pull up a chair and speak your mind by entering a comment below. Also remember to like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter!