Finding a quality home espresso machine can be a bit of a challenge, as they can often be cheap in price, but also cheap in performance and features, or everything you’ve dreamed of but far out of your price range. It can be a pain trying to find the perfect machine to suit your budget and requirements – but luckily for you I’m here to help! The list below is my picks of the best espresso machines under $200 – but be sure to read a few reviews before taking the plunge to make sure it’s just right.
The Nespresso Citiz D120 is an automatic single serve espresso machine. It has proved hugely popular since its release and brings the high quality espresso associated with Nespresso into your home. It has a stylish design, doesn’t take up too much counter space, and produces high quality espresso in double quick time.
It is easy to use and besides espresso, can also can be used to make a variety of delicious milk based coffee drinks by using the attached Aeroccino.
If you are anything like me, you often want the preparation of your espresso to be quick and easy. Many espresso machines can take a while to heat up, and first thing in the morning, if you’re in a rush, the time taken for you to prepare and produce a shot of espresso can be the difference between having the time to have it, or missing out altogether.
A great feature of the Nespresso Citiz is how quick the whole process can be done in. It takes just a couple of minutes for the machine to heat up, and then just thirty seconds to prepare a great cup of coffee.
The formation of a nice thick crema, the foam on your espresso, is always expected with a quality espresso. Cheaper espresso machines sometimes fail in this regard, and the absence of crema is often the first sign that you are getting a sub-standard cup of espresso.
The Nespresso Citiz does not disappoint. It consistently produces a thick crema.
The Nespresso Citiz and milk espresso machine has an integrated aeroccino which is used to froth the milk for drinks like cappuccinos and lattes. It very quickly heats up the milk in under 45 seconds using induction heating. By using two different attachments, held in place magnetically, you can choose to produce either steamed milk, or thick, warm froth.
The complete frothing process is very quiet, involves no skill, and being made of Teflon the aeroccino cleans up quickly and easily. The milk frother on this unit can be used hot or cold.
The Nespresso Citiz D120 is built to work with the Nespresso espresso capsules alone. Fortunately Nespresso has quite a wide range of different types to choose from, so there is no problem in finding the right espresso for your taste.
The capsules can be ordered online, and delivery is very speedy, with Nespresso aiming to deliver within two days, but they often show up the next day in my experience. The machine comes with 16 capsules.
If you are looking to produce quality espresso, it is important to find out whether the machine you are considering buying is steam driven or is pump driven during the extraction process.
Cheaper units, that produce a poor imitation of espresso, are usually steam powered. Machines that use the pump system are capable of producing much greater pressures during extraction, which leads to a greater degree of extraction from the espresso grounds and a far superior flavour.
The Nespresso Citiz has a 19 bar pressure pump, which makes sure that a high degree of extraction, and a great flavour, is achieved.
The Nespresso Citiz D120 is a fairly quiet espresso machine compared to many on the market. The vast majority of people are unlikely to find it to be a nuisance, and as the process of brewing the espresso is over very rapidly it is not much of a disturbance.
This espresso machine measures 15.5 x 11.7 x 16.7 inches.
The unit has a lungo button, in addition to an espresso button. This gives you the choice of having a small shot of espresso or a longer coffee drink with more water added. These buttons can be calibrated to use whatever volume of water you desire for these drinks.
The Nespresso Citiz D120 comes with a 1 year warranty.
The Nespresso citiz comes in a few other model numbers. There is no functional difference between the C120 and the Nespresso D120, or between the C110 and the D110. They are essentially the same machine, but have very slight style differences.
The 110 espresso machines are the same as the 120 models, with the exception that they do not come with the integrated aeroccino for milk frothing. So they are slightly smaller units and correspondingly a bit cheaper. A separate aeroccino can be purchased for use with these units if you desire. Some people prefer to do it this way because the unit then takes up even less room on their counter, while the aeroccino can be put away in a cupboard.
The Nespresso Pixie is the smallest, fastest, and most energy efficient in Nespresso’s line of single serve espresso makers.
It shares in common with the bigger, more expensive, Nespresso Citiz the ability to make high quality espresso, but in an extra compact size which fits easily on the kitchen counter and is very portable.
Its aesthetically pleasing style, and its easy, convenient use have also helped to make this unit a popular choice with espresso aficionados.
Some espresso machines can take twenty or thirty minutes to heat up and make a cup of espresso. That’s fine if you don’t mind waiting and have plenty of time to spare. But if you like to be served quickly without the wait, or you are in a rush and don’t have time to spare, then that sort of waiting time isn’t going to cut it.
One of the big features of the Nespresso Pixie is the speed with which the whole process of making your espresso is completed. The Nespresso espresso machines are all fast units in this regard, but the Pixie is the fastest of the lot. It heats up in around twenty seconds, and ten seconds later you can have a cup of espresso ready to drink. There’s no waiting around here, that’s for sure!
All espresso lovers want and expect to see a nice crema (the foam) on a quality espresso when it is first poured. Cheap, steam driven machines generally fail to produce this, and the espresso they produce is usually poor quality. But the Nespresso Pixie consistently produces a quality crema. The presence of a nice thick crema is a good sign that you’re getting a good espresso.
The Nespresso Pixie espresso maker is very small and compact in size, and does not come with a built in Aeroccino for frothing milk, like the larger Nespresso d120 does. So if you will be wanting to make milk based coffee drinks like cappuccino and latte you will have to buy a separate milk frother. As you would expect, Nespresso do a good stand alone Aeroccino that you can purchase for use with the Nespresso Pixie.
The unit is built for exclusive use with Nespresso’s own range of coffee capsules. There is a wide range to choose from, and unless you live close to a place that sells them, you will have to purchase them online. Nespresso’s customer service is very good, and they aim to get ordered capsules to you within 2 days, but they often do better than that and deliver it the next day.
The machine comes with 16 capsules to begin with, so that you can use the machine straight out of the box, and experiment in finding your favourite types of espresso for subsequent orders.
When looking for an espresso machine that will make quality espresso, it is important to avoid the cheaper steam driven units which usually produce poor espresso. Pump driven machines create a far greater pressure during the extraction process which results in better extraction, and far superior flavour and crema.
The Nespresso Pixie is pump driven, and exerts 19 bars of pump pressure during extraction, resulting in the quality flavour and crema that is associated with the Nespresso coffee machines.
While it is not a big problem for most people, especially given the short time taken to make espresso with this unit, the Nespresso Pixie is fairly loud and is capable of disturbing people nearby.
This espresso maker measures 12.8 x 4.3 x 9.2 inches.
The Nespresso Pixie comes with a 1 year warranty.
The Nespresso Essenza C101 is a single serve, automatic espresso maker that has proved to be very popular since its release on to the market. It shares with the other Nespresso espresso machines the speed, convenience and ease of use that we have come to expect from this brand.
Nespresso is synonymous with great tasting espresso, and the compact design of this unit means it fits easily in the kitchen without taking up much space.
If you are looking for a machine that can consistently provide you with a good espresso, made quickly without the need for any skill, work or mess, then the Nespresso Essenza may be just what you are looking for.
There are many espresso machines around that can take over twenty minutes from start up time to serving a cup of espresso. For those who live a busy life or who just want to be efficient with their time, this can be an annoyance. So it is important to consider how long you are happy to wait for your espresso when making a buying decision about a machine.
The Nespresso Essenza c101 is a very quick machine, which is capable of heating up and serving you a shot of espresso or a longer coffee drink (lungo) in just a few minutes. This is slightly slower than the Nespresso Pixie, but is very fast and convenient nonetheless.
The foam that forms on the surface of your espresso when it is first poured is called the crema, and it can be an indication as to whether or not the espresso is going to be good or not. The presence of a thick, reddish brown crema is the ideal for fans of espresso.
Cheap, steam driven, espresso machines are usually disappointing in their production of crema, and the espresso they make is generally not great either.
The Nespresso Essenza is a higher quality unit, and it is capable of producing a thick, aromatic crema consistently.
Unlike the Nespresso Citiz D120, the Nespresso Essenza C101 does not come with an integrated aeroccino for heating and frothing the milk when you are preparing milk based coffee drinks like latte and cappuccino. This means that you will have to buy one in addition to this unit if you are wanting to make those drinks. Nespresso do make an aeroccino which can be used with the Essenza, and makes heating and frothing the milk fast and easy.
At this moment in time the Nespresso Essenza, like all the other Nespresso machines, can only be used with espresso capsules made by Nespresso. This situation will probably change sometime in the near future, but for now that’s the deal.
This is not really a problem as Nespresso do offer an impressive range of espresso types for use with their machines, and when you order them online, delivery of the capsules takes just a couple of days. Nespresso often manages to get them to you the next day depending on where you live.
The ground espresso coffee is good quality, and the machine comes with 16 different types for you to try.
Different machines have a different drive mechanism which are used to force the water through the espresso grounds during the extraction process. Cheap espresso machines often use steam to do this, and the end result is usually low quality espresso, with little or no crema.
If you want to produce a nice cup of espresso it is important to check what the drive mechanism is of the unit you are thinking of buying so that you can get one which produces the quality of taste that you are looking for.
The Nespresso Essenza c101 uses a 19 bar pressure pump. The pressure that this creates during the extraction process is significantly greater than the steam driven approach, and results in a far superior flavor and crema.
The Nespresso Essenza c101 is a relatively quiet espresso machine. In comparison to the other popular Nespresso models it is similar to the Citiz and quieter than the relatively noisy Pixie. The noise it produces is unlikely to bother you.
This espresso maker measures 11.5 x 10 x 10 inches
The Nespresso Essenza comes with a one year warranty.
The Rancilio Silvia espresso machine V3 comes from a company with a big reputation and proud tradition in designing espresso makers. They have been making machines that produce great espresso since the 1920′s, and have remained at the forefront of design and technology in their field.
The machine is capable of making great espresso and is very sturdily built, with a reputation for lasting many years without problems if it is taken care of. It is one of the most affordable units in the semi-professional class. But along with the capacity for making such high quality espresso comes a learning curve and skill set that needs to be acquired to use the machine to its full potential.
If you are interested in learning the skill to making the best espresso you can, and are not expecting to just push a button and let the machine do all the work, then this unit may very well be ideal for you. However, if you are looking for a quick and easy push button solution to making your espresso in the morning, then one of the automatic models, like the Nespresso Citiz, may be a better fit for you.
When choosing an espresso machine, it is important to consider how it is going to fit into your daily routine. Often this comes down to how much time you have to prepare your cup of espresso in the morning. Or what you consider an acceptable time to spend on it.
Some machines are built for quick convenience, like the automatic models, but the Rancilio Silvia is more aimed at those who want more individual input and control in the process of pulling a shot of espresso. Consequently this machine takes longer to use than those models.
The unit takes around thirty minutes to get up to temperature, and requires you to grind and tamp the beans that you are using, before you are ready to pull a shot.
A good sign of the quality of the cup of espresso that you are getting from your machine is the quality of the crema (the foam on the top) that is produced. All aficionados of espresso expect to see a thick, flavorsome crema present on a good shot. The cheaper, steam driven espresso makers generally make poor quality espresso, and it is generally noticeable that there is an absence of crema present when you use this type of machine.
The Rancilio Silvia, as you would expect for a machine in this price range, and of this quality, is capable of producing shots of espresso with perfect crema. But it might take you a bit of practice with the machine before you start to consistently pull shots of the quality you desire.
If you will be wanting to drink milk based coffee drinks, then you are going to get a lot of practice with the metal steam wand that is attached to this unit to heat and froth the milk. As its name suggests, the steam wand mixes steam with the milk in order to fulfill this function. The wand on this espresso maker is very powerful. and using the high pressure stream of steam it emits, you can create a creamy milk foam in a matter of seconds.
You can use any type of ground coffee that you prefer with this unit. However, it is not built to be used with pods, you need Rancilio’s pod adaptor kit to use this option.
The Rancilio Silvia espresso maker V3 has a 15 bar pressure pump. This is responsible for creating the pressure required to force the hot water through the coffee grounds during the extraction process. Pump driven units are far more effective than the cheaper, steam driven units, producing a greater degree of extraction and a espresso with a superior quality of taste and crema.
The Rancilio Silvia can be a bit on the loud side, but most people find the level of noise generated during extraction acceptable.
The unit is 11.2 x 9.2 x 13.6 inches
This Rancilio espresso machine comes with a one year warranty.
The Delonghi EC702 espresso maker is the bigger, upgraded version of the Delonghi EC155. It is a sturdier unit, consisting mostly of stainless steel, so it is built to last and shares the same basic functionality as the EC155.
Despite the increase in size, it still has a fairly small footprint, and it’s not difficult to make space for it on the kitchen counter. It is quick and simple to use, looks stylish, and is even easier to clean than the EC155.
As well as making cafe quality espresso, it can also be used to make milk based coffee drinks like cappuccino and latte, by using the attached milk frother.
One of the factors to consider when choosing an espresso machine is the time you are happy to wait for it to be prepared. For those of us who live busy lives and are often short of time, especially in the mornings before heading off to work, having an automatic espresso machine is partly about the convenience. It’s no good if the time it takes to heat up and serve you is longer than you can wait.
In the instruction manual for the Delonghi EC702 it says to wait 15 minutes for the unit to warm up before it is ready to start making drinks. Many people have found that it is actually adequately warmed up inside 10 minutes, which makes it quicker than the EC155, but it probably comes down to personal taste.
This Delonghi espresso machine can pull a shot of espresso in around 30 seconds, but your preparation time will obviously be increased if you choose to use ground coffee rather than pods, and have to tamp.
One of the expectations that lovers of espresso have about a good cup, is the presence of a thick, flavorsome, crema (the foam on top). It is one of the first signs you get as to the quality of the espresso that has just been poured. The cheaper, steam driven machines are generally incapable of producing a nice crema, and it takes a better quality machine to make nice espresso.
This unit is an espresso machine that produces espresso with a nice crema, and it is able to do so consistently.
In order to prepare milk based coffee drinks, you need a means of heating and frothing the milk that is to be added. The Delonghi EC702 has an adjustable has a patented ‘Cappuccino system’ frother, which is a steam wand. This mixes steam and milk together to create a creamy froth for your cappuccinos and lattes, and takes about a minute to perform its task.
Depending on how high or low you place the steam wand within the milk, you also have the option of just heating the milk without frothing, if you prefer.
The Delonghi EC702 has a dual function filter holder which allows you to use either E.S.E (easy serving espresso) pods, or you can use ground coffee. The E.S.E pods give you a high level of convenience, but if you have the time and inclination to use ground coffee and find the right combination of grind and tamping, then this option gives you an even greater degree of control in making the perfect cup of espresso for your taste.
The Delonghi EC702 has a 15 bar pressure pump. This is capable of producing a pressure more than five times greater than that created by the cheap steam powered espresso machines during the extraction process. When the heated water is forced through the espresso grounds at this sort of pressure the end result is a far superior flavor and crema.
If you are looking for the real espresso experience it is important to pay a little bit more on purchasing a quality espresso machine that is not steam powered, and pump driven units are highly effective.
The Delonghi EC702 is a relatively noisy espresso maker during extraction. This is not a big problem for most people as the pump is only in action for around thirty seconds.
This espresso maker measures 11.25 x 8.2 x 12.5 inches.
The Delonghi EC702 comes with a one year warranty.
The Delonghi EC155 espresso machine has been a popular choice with consumers ever since it was first launched onto the market. Featuring a 15 bar pump, and coming in at a relatively low price for pump driven espresso makers, it is widely regarded as a good entry level machine in the pump driven category, for those looking to move away from the coffee shop and the drive through, and make their espresso at home.
Being relatively small and compact, it fits in the kitchen with no problems, and is easily portable. Not only that, it is easy to operate and makes a great cup of espresso. Using the adjustable swivel jet frother, it is also simple to make latte and cappuccino.
But while it undoubtedly represents good value at the price, it is a budget option for those looking for the real espresso experience, and there is no denying that some people will be more satisfied with a more expensive espresso machine of even higher quality.
One of the things that can be of interest when selecting an espresso machine, is the total time it takes to produce a cup of espresso. You will know how long you are prepared to wait to get your cup, and how much time you have in your schedule.
The Delonghi EC155 takes longer than the very fast Nespresso models like the Nespresso Citiz. To begin with the machine needs to be heated for 15-20 minutes before the temperature is sufficient to produce a good espresso. After it has heated sufficiently, making a cup can take around 2-3 minutes, and you can only do one cup at a time.
The presence of a thick crema is always desired by espresso enthusiasts, it is one of its pleasures. But not all espresso machines are capable of producing it. In particular, the cheap steam driven machines usually fail in this regard.
This unit is consistent in its ability to produce a thick layer of crema.
If you are going to be adding milk to the drinks you prepare, then the milk frother is going to be of interest to you.
The EC155 Delonghi uses a froth-assisted steam wand to heat and froth the milk. The frothing is an efficient and easy process and heats the milk up in just a matter of seconds giving a good foam. However, it just falls short of the standard produced by a commercial steam wand, as found on the Rancilio Silvia.
The steam wand on this unit is quite short, and is low towards the counter surface, so only small jugs of milk can be heated.
The Delonghi EC155 espresso maker is E.S.E certified (easy serve espresso), which enables you to buy the E.S.E certified pods from online stores or places like Starbucks. This can save you the time and effort of having to grind and tamp. However, you can also use whatever brand of ground espresso you prefer.
Steam or Bar powered
The Delonghi EC155 is a pump driven espresso machine. The better quality machines are pump driven as opposed to steam driven, as they are capable of creating much greater pressures which helps to improve extraction, giving the espresso produced a better flavor and helping to create the crema.
This espresso maker is one of the lowest cost units that is pump driven. If you want the real espresso experience, you have to get a machine with a pump mechanism rather than one which is steam driven like most of the cheapest espresso makers are.
Unlike the fairly quiet Nespresso machines, the Delonghi EC155 does actually make a fair amount of noise when it is in operation. This is not a big issue for most people, but can be worth considering.
The measurements of this espresso maker are 7.5 x 13.25 x 11.5 inches.
The Delonghi EC155 comes with a one-year warranty.