Best Espresso Machine Under 200 Dollars? 2017’s Tech Breakthrough
Do you crave the experience and taste of a real, cafe style espresso at home? Are you on a very tight budget? I can totally relate, and here’s my honest opinion on the best espresso machine under 200 dollars.
Things have changed in 2017
Technology has come a long way, and as a result, prices have come crashing way down. It’s a total consumer’s market right now, and there are a lot of excellent brands that are competing for our business. As a result, they are slashing prices every year, and this year is no exception. What used to be in the $500-$750 range as few as 10 years ago, can now be found in the under 200 dollar bracket.
Bigger is not always better
Fully automatic, commercial style espresso machines can often be sold for upwards of $20,000. Check out how much the Concordia Xpress 6 Beverage system costs. According to this article by the Christian Science Monitor, that’s as much as 4,000 Starbucks lattes!
Does this high price tag necessarily mean that they create the best possible espresso?
Not so fast…
Actually, once you reach a certain price point, additional features hit somewhat of a diminishing return. Bells and whistles are added by the manufacturers to make something easier to use, or make it more capable of a rapid-fire ‘assembly line’ process. These most expensive machines are often used in a fast-paced, customer service environment, where employee training isn’t the best. All their fancy artificial intelligence technology can be negated by a patient, well-trained coffee craftsman (which you could be some day).
Espresso machine technology has come a long way.
The best espresso machine under 200 dollars might not have been much 20 years ago, but these days as technology has gotten smaller and cheaper, what was once impossible is now a reality.
When the first commercial espresso machines were created in Italy, they were huge! Look up some of the earliest creations by Elektra, which was one of Italy’s first industrial coffee makers, and is still a favorite about artisans who prefer the ultimate in hands-on experience. These things are monsters, and even though they have shrunk since the 1800’s, it’s still easy to find models that weigh 200 pounds and up!
How I decided on the best espresso machine under 200 dollars
I do a lot of research on coffee and coffee machines. I love reading about this stuff, and I love expressing what I have learned to others. For a more detailed analysis head over to my previous article over here. Any of these three choices here would be an excellent finalist for best espresso machine under 200 bucks.
What’s the difference between an Automatic and Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine?
I won’t even get into manual levers right now, as that is a topic for another day. All of the possible choices in today’s price range will fall into two categories.
- Everything is pre-programmed
- Water automatically dispensed
- Coffee automatically ground and extracted
- Semi Automatic
- The barista has to do the setup work of grinding, tamping, and steaming.
- Once ground coffee is tamped and ready for expression, a button push does the rest (no manual lever to be pumped)
I’ve considered myself a life-long Barista, although it has been years since I retired from my last coffee job (too busy raising kids at the moment, but I have a secret desire to go back part-time). I’ve worked everything from a fully automatic Italian
I’ve worked everything from a fully automatic Italian import to a commercial line fully automatic which only required half a brain cell use.
The Semi-Automatic design is my favorite. I ‘ll always want some direct hand in making my espresso, but I think the manual labor of pump extraction is not worth the extra work for only a marginal benefit.
Proper maintenance is essential
While the best espresso machine under 200 dollars can definitely give their more expensive counterparts a run for their money these days, they do generally come made with lower cost components.
This is a necessary by-product of reducing cost while maintaining the same functions necessary to brew espresso and steam milk. The downside is that sometimes these ‘cheaper’ or lower cost pieces of equipment will break down earlier. Unless you do your due diligence and keep them clean and well maintained.
You should be wiping down the extraction area and steam wand after every single use, as a preventative measure. On top of this, every 6 months you should commit to a full cleaning and descaling. Consult your machine’s manual to see what parts are removable, and make sure you take these apart to really get in there for a deep clean.
I know it’s a real pain, but it’s worth it.
And believe me, a well cleaned and maintained $100 machine is going to work better and produce a better espresso than a more expensive machine that is neglected.
Practice makes perfect, a semi-automatic espresso machine is super rewarding to use once you get the hang of it.
The advantage over a more expensive, fully automatic machine, is that you really learn the process of extracting espresso and frothing cappuccino. Sure, it doesn’t have the instant gratification of push-button ‘set it and forget it’ that we often crave in our modern world, but you’re learning a skill… like a painter or a musician.
Skill should not be underrated, and skill develops with time.
Before you get frustrated and throw out what you had hoped to be the best espresso machine under 200 dollars (but turned out to be a 200 dollar paperweight)… make sure you’re realistic with your expectations.
I promise you that we all have someone out there who is further along in their coffee artisan journey than us, who could come in and use the same exact equipment and blow us away with the results. There’s always more that we could learn.
Don’t let that intimidate you. There’s never a better time than now to jump in and learn the art of espresso.
Do you still think that this is more than you bargained for? That’s nothing to be ashamed of all. I would suggest you do one of two things in that case.
- Save up for an automatic model, usually one price tier up. These will give you great results with a push of a button, no experience required.
- Pod coffee machines have come a long way, and if you haven’t seen any of the new innovations since the original Keurig, right now might be a great time to take a second look.
How did I do? Do you think that your favorite machine deserved to be on this list of best espresso machine under 200 dollars? Please contact me and let me know what you think.