Are you looking for an espresso machine that won’t break the bank? A budget of $500 hits the sweet spot. Many espresso machine manufacturers’ latest devices, such as Breville and Gaggia, fall under this price point.
This was the budget for my first espresso machine. It’s great for beginners as $500 buys quality components and new features without breaking the bank. However, there are many options, and I remember hours of research to choose a machine.
To make it easier for you, I’ve selected the seven best espresso machine under $500. My favorite is the Bambino Plus given the solid internals and automatic milk frothing for a great price.
I’ll also provide a complete buying guide, so you’ll be completely equipped to choose an espresso machine for you.
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Top 7 Espresso Machines Under $500
1. Breville Infuser
My top pick is Breville Infuser, mostly because of the espresso flavor this machine provides. The Infuser has a pre-infusion function, which means it pushes water through the beans at lower pressure before the extraction. The pre-infusion results in better extraction of the coffee oils and flavor.
The heating system is a 1600W thermocoil with PID. PID keeps the water at the right temperature, providing a consistent extraction and flavorful espresso shot.
An auto-purge function adjusts water temperature between steaming and brewing, so you get the optimal temperature for both actions.
I also liked that you can choose between a single or a double shot. There’s volumetric control with preset. You can reprogram the drink volume and manually override the settings, meaning you have more control and can brew espresso according to your preferences. The hot water dispenser comes in handy when you want tea or hot chocolate.
The steam wand swivels 360 degrees, so you can froth milk for milk-based drinks such as lattes and cappuccinos. The swivel function makes it easy to fit jugs of various sizes.
The only thing that the Infuser doesn’t have is a grinder, so that’ll be an additional expense.
Who is it for? Breville Infuser is a good choice for both beginners and experienced baristas, as you can decide how much control you want over your espresso. It’s also a good option if you already have a grinder or plan to get one.
30 seconds heat up time
360 degrees swivel steam wand
61 oz water tank
54 mm stainless steel portafilter and tamper
2. Gaggia Classic Pro
Gaggia Classic Pro highlights:
- 58mm portafilter
- Noise dampening technology
- Powerful steam wand
The next best espresso machine under $500 is Gaggia Classic Pro. This is one of Gaggia’s best espresso machines. It comes with a stainless steel body, commercial steam wand, and a 58mm portafilter which is commonly found on commercial espresso machines.
Most espresso machines have a 54mm basket, while the Classic Pro’s 58mm size lets you add more ground coffee to create a larger and flatter puck, which results in a more flavorful espresso shot.
The heating system is a single boiler, which means it’s not the fastest espresso machine. You’ll have to wait about five minutes for the coffee machine to heat up. However, it’s ready to steam in only 30 seconds.
Classic Pro has a three-way solenoid valve, which releases the pressure from the group head as soon as you’re done brewing. You can remove the portafilter and pull the next shot straight away, which comes in handy when you’re making coffee drinks for several people.
Overall, Classic Pro is easy to use. There are only three buttons that tell you when the coffee machine is ready for use. The 72 oz water tank is large enough so you can brew several drinks without refilling.
One of my favorite things on Classic Pro is the steam wand that can achieve the high pressure needed for a good froth. It has a tip with two holes, and it creates microfoam without struggling. This also means you can work on your latte art skills.
Finally, I like how quiet it is. Gaggia redesigned the Classic (hence the Classic Pro name) with noise dampening technology, which you’ll love when brewing first thing in the morning.
Who is it for? Gaggia Classic Pro is an excellent choice if you’re a beginner barista who wants a machine that’s easy to use. It’s also a great option if you want to practice making latte art.
Cup warming tray
Single and double-wall filter baskets
Commercial steam wand
Easy to use controls
Coffee dispenser isn’t adjustable
3. Breville Bambino Plus
Breville Bambino Plus highlights:
- Razor precision dosing tool
- 3-second heat up time
- Automatic steam wand
The first thing that makes Bambino Plus stand out is its compact footprint. But don’t let the smaller size fool you. It has a great internal heating system with Breville’s latest thermocoil and intuitive controls.
The most standout feature of the Bambino Plus is the steam wand. It’s an automatic steam wand with preset options for milk temperature and texture, which delivers a nice microfoam thanks to the four holes on the tip.
All you have to do is place the milk container on the tray, press the button with the preset option you want, and the machine will do all the work.
The wand works so well because of the temperature control sensors on the drip tray. You can choose between three options for milk temperature (50, 70, or 90 degrees Celsius) and what texture you want. The sensors work to tweak the temperature according to your preferences.
As far as espresso brewing, Bambino Plus uses Breville’s latest technology, a Thermojet heating system. While you can’t brew and steam simultaneously, you can do these actions one after the other with virtually no wait time.
There’s also a PID and pre-infusion as well. The PID ensures there’s consistent temperature control. With the low-pressure pre-infusion, you’re guaranteed a flavorful espresso. There are also pressurized and non-pressurized baskets, which makes it easy whether you use pre-ground coffee or freshly ground coffee beans.
Who is it for? Breville Bambino Plus is the best espresso machine under $500 if you want a machine that pulls a flavorful espresso and automatically steams milk. If you don’t want to work the steam wand on your own, this is a good choice.
Large water reservoir
Automatic milk frother with three temperature options
Single and double-wall filter baskets
No hot water outlet, which limits drink options
4. Breville Bambino
Breville Bambino highlights:
- Compact size
- Affordable price
- Hot water dispenser
The Breville Bambino is a no-frills espresso machine that makes excellent espresso and is one of the more affordable options on this list. Normally, we recommend the Bambino over the Bambino Plus for its value. Since this list has a $500 budget, we recommend the Plus for the extra features.
However, the Bambino doesn’t lag behind the Plus regarding espresso flavor. Bambino has the same brewing technology as the Plus version. A low-pressure pre-infusion pushes water through the beans before the high-pressure extraction starts.
The PID controls the Thermojet heating system and ensures consistent extraction at optimal water temperature. Both machines have a 3-second heat-up with Breville’s modern heating system.
Breville Bambino is slightly smaller than the Bambino Plus (7.7 in x 12.6 in x 12.2 vs. 9.6 in x 16.3 in x 16.9 in) and has a smaller reservoir (47 oz vs. 64 oz).
However, a steam wand is one feature where Bambino and Bambino Plus differ significantly. Breville Bambino has a manual wand, while Plus has an automatic one. Also, Bambino’s wand only has one hole, compared to the four on the Bambino Plus, which means Bambino Plus can steam 20 seconds faster than the Bambino.
Still, I found the frothed milk quality to be similar. You’ll be able to steam and froth milk for both lattes and cappuccinos with Breville Bambino. The difference is the learning curve on the Bambino.
Finally, Breville Bambino has a hot water dispenser, which gives you a larger range of drinks compared to the Bambino Plus.
Who is it for? Breville Bambino is a great choice if you aren’t afraid of a learning curve and want to learn how to froth milk. You’ll be able to conquer different techniques and learn how to froth both whole-fat and plant-based milk. You can save with this option, which allows you to spend more on a great coffee grinder.
Hot water outlet
PID temperature control
Fast heating time
Longer steam time with one-hole wand
5. Flair Pro 2
Flair Pro 2 highlights:
- Manual espresso machine
- Extremely compact (12 x 6 x 10 in)
- Bottomless portafilter
Flair Pro 2 is a unique espresso machine, as it’s manual. The brewing process is entirely human-powered, including generating nine bars of pressure; it doesn’t use electricity to brew espresso.
Espresso lovers choose manual espresso machines because it gives complete control to the barista. The extra control over pressure and shot time are the key points of a manual machine. Even great semi-automatic espresso machines pump 12 bars or higher, which can brew too fast.
With a slow and steady pour, a manual espresso machine can achieve the highest level of espresso perfection versus other types.
For manual machines, the Flair Pro 2 is easy to use. It has a pressure gauge, so you can do pressure profiling and real-time control. The filter basket is 46mm, and the smaller diameter is more forgiving. Normally, you need very finely ground coffee beans for quality espresso, or issues such as channeling can occur.
However, Flair Pro 2 has a smaller basket, so you actually need to use coarse coffee grounds. Coarse grounds work better with the smaller basket as very fine grounds could choke it. This comes in handy if you don’t have a top-of-the-line grinder (which is usually very expensive).
The device is extremely lightweight. I was worried this espresso machine might wobble because it’s so lightweight, but no worries there. The lever arm and the base fit together securely. The silicone handle grip prevents your hands from slipping when pressing the coffee.
The biggest downside of the Flair Pro 2 is that you can’t brew milk drinks. This could be a serious negative if you’re a big latte lover. You’ll have to get a separate milk frother if you want lattes and cappuccinos.
Who is it for? Flair Pro 2 is a perfect choice for the espresso purist. If you want to achieve the highest level of perfection with full control, a manual espresso machine is for you. The Flair Pro 2 is easy to use and portable.
Custom pressure gauge
Silicone handle grip
Doesn’t need electricity
Removable parts are dishwasher safe
No steam wand
Difficult to find accessories, and they tend to be pricey
6. Gaggia Brera
Gaggia Brera highlights:
- Super-automatic espresso machine
- Stainless steel Panarello wand
- Rapid steam function
Gaggia Brera is a super-automatic one, which contrasts versus the semi-automatics on the rest of this list. This is the only espresso machine on this list with a built-in coffee grinder. The coffee grinder is a ceramic burr with five settings. There’s also a bypass doser for pre-ground beans, which comes in handy when you want decaf.
Even though this is a super-automatic machine, it has a manual milk frother, so you’ll have to do some work yourself. This also means there’s a learning curve if you’ve never used a steam wand before. Brera’s wand is decent, and it can produce good foam, but not the microfoam needed for latte art.
This is a pretty compact machine (10 x 15.5 x 11.5 in), so its components, such as the drip tray, water reservoir, and bean hopper, are smaller as well, which means frequent emptying and refilling.
Overall, Brera is very easy to use and has plenty of customization options. For example, you can decide how many beans you want your espresso to have, program cup size, and choose between three coffee strength options.
One thing I didn’t like is that it requires frequent descaling, and it takes a while, which can be annoying when you crave some caffeine.
Who is it for? Gaggia Brera is a great choice for espresso drinkers who want an affordable super-automatic espresso machine. You’ll love this espresso machine if you don’t want to measure, grind, and tamp.
Rapid steam function steams in 10 seconds
Two spouts can brew two espressos at the same time
Small water tank
7. Calphalon Temp IQ
Calphalon Temp IQ highlights:
- Commercial-grade steam wand
- 58mm portafilter
- Volumetric shot control
Calphalon Temp IQ comes with and without a grinder. If you plan to stay under $500, you’ll have to opt for the version without a built-in grinder. This best espresso machine under $500 comes with a 58mm portafilter that’s 2.5 in deep. As I mentioned, this is a commercial-grade portafilter, so you’ll have even water dispersion and optimum extraction.
Calphalon Temp IQ comes with both single and dual wall filter baskets, so you can grow your skills with this espresso machine. Start with pressurized (dual wall) if you’re a beginner barista. There’s more leeway with grind sizes, then advance to non-pressurized (single wall).
Temp IQ uses thermoblock heating technology, and PID ensures optimum extraction of oils at consistent water temperature. Overall, you’ll have a consistently delicious espresso with good crema.
This espresso machine comes with a commercial-grade steam wand. I found it can achieve high pressure and can even create good microfoam needed for latte art and thick foam for cappuccinos in only 30 seconds. This is a ballpoint wand, and it’s easy to rotate, so you can position the milk jug however you want.
You can pull single or double shots with this device. Volumetric shot control pours the exact amount of water needed for your shot and automatically shuts off. This means there’s less work for you, and you don’t have to worry about dialing in.
Who is it for? Calphalon Temp IQ is a good choice if you want an espresso machine that pulls flavorful shots and makes good milk froth but don’t want to pay through the roof.
15 seconds transition time from brewing to steaming
Cup warming tray
Stainless steel pitcher
Single and dual wall filters
Tamper has a plastic bottom
You have to hold the machine with one hand to attach the portafilter
Understanding the Types of Espresso Machines
Manual Espresso Machines
Manual espresso maker requires the most work on your part but also gives you the most control. These are also called piston machines, as you need to pull a lever to create the pressure needed to pull a shot.
You can control every single part of the brewing process — measure, grind the beans, tamp, and work the lever. It‘s a lot of work, but you’ll have a delicious espresso once you perfect the brewing process.
Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
Semi-automatic machines may or may not have a built-in grinder. It’s up to you whether you want to pay up for an integrated grinder or have a standalone. We’ve reviewed espresso machines with a grinder which are more expensive than this list.
A standalone grinder gives you more freedom to experiment and find the grind that works best with your coffee beans.
With a semi-automatic, you have to grind the beans, transfer them to the portafilter, tamp, attach the portafilter to the group head, and steam milk if you want a milk-based drink.
It’s much more work compared to a super-automatic espresso machine, and there may be a high learning curve if you’re new to espresso, but you can tweak the shot until it suits your taste perfectly.
Most espresso machines under $500 fall in this category.
Super-Automatic Espresso Machines
Super-automatics don’t need a lot of involvement on your part because the machine handles everything. These are called bean-to-cup machines, so you can get espresso with a press of a button. The device grinds, tamps, and pulls the shot automatically. Some even steam the milk for you. You’ll have to do little work with these machines but also less control over the final espresso result.
Super-automatic machines are usually more expensive, so you won’t commonly find them in this price range.
What to Consider When Buying an Espresso Machine Under $500
Apart from fresh coffee beans, heating elements are the key to espresso quality. Here’s what to consider:
- Heating system — Espresso should be hot, so you need a machine that can heat water fast and maintain the temperature as it pushes water through a tightly packed puck. The best heating elements are stainless steel, as they are durable. Thermoblocks are commonly found in espresso machines under $500.
- PID — Pressure and temperature can drop once the extraction starts. This results in low-quality espresso. Best espresso machines have PID, which controls the temperature. PID ensures the water temperature stays stable at the optimal level (190 to 195 degrees), so you get a consistent espresso shot every time.
- Pump — The pump has to create between 9 and 15 bars of pressure. Low pressure means weak and under-extracted espresso, but too much pressure means an over-extracted, bitter shot.
An espresso machine needs to withstand a lot of pressure and daily use. The best espresso maker is made of stainless steel, as this can last a long time. However, some have plastic parts, especially on the outside. Make sure the plastic is durable and doesn’t scratch easily.
The inside elements such as the boiler, pump, and other heating elements, should be made of metal.
Overall, you’ll find a lot of machines in the $500 range are made of stainless steel, so durability shouldn’t be an issue.
If you go to the higher end of the $500 budget, you can get extra features. These can include more accessories, a hot water outlet, fast heat-up time, programmable options, and more. Extra features can include a removable drip tray and water reservoir, which makes the use and maintenance easier.
The espresso maker can have the ability to fit different cup sizes, which especially comes in handy when brewing lattes and cappuccinos.
Another popular extra feature is automatic shut-off. This saves energy and keeps the espresso maker from wearing out early.
Finally, you don’t have to go for a black appliance. Nowadays, espresso machines come in a wide range of colors, so you can pick one that best suits your kitchen decor.
Keep in mind, the more features you go for, the more expensive the espresso maker will be.
The milk frother is an important consideration if you love milk-based drinks. Most frothers in this price range are manual, which means you’ll have to learn how to steam milk yourself. However, some machines, such as the Bambino Plus, have an automatic wand that does the frothing for you.
The milk frother should be able to create enough pressure to create microfoam for lattes and thick foam for cappuccinos.
Best Espresso Machines Under $500: Final Thoughts
Carefully think about your needs when choosing the best espresso machine for you. For example, if you want a compact-sized machine go for Breville Bambino.
If you want to learn how to steam and froth milk yourself, go for the Breville Infuser. If you want a super-automatic espresso machine that pulls a shot with a press of a button, Gaggia Brera is for you.