Cheap Espresso Machine – Is It an Oxymoron?

I am hesitant to write a post about cheap espresso machines as there is almost no such thing as good espresso machines that don’t cost a lot. Also “cheap” is such a subjective word. $1000 might seem to be a drop in the bucket for someone who has abundantly discretion cash to splurge while for others that might be a total monthly budget for a household of four people.

OK. If I have to face the challenge, I might have to start with defining a few parameters for “cheap” and “good” at the same time. Let’s say under $100, the machine is pump-driven for extraction and the coffee is reasonably good.

A few models came to mind and I’ll go over each one in more details.

mr-coffee-ecmp50-espresso-machine

mr-coffee-ecmp50-espresso-machine

Mr. Coffee ECMP50

Pros

More Than Enough Pressure for Maximum Extraction

It’s equipped with a 15-bar pump that forces water through a thermoblock to temperature for good extraction. The preheat time is more impressive of less a minute and the recovery time between brewing to steaming is only a few short seconds. Less time it takes to do its things, the sooner you will be able to sip your espresso.

40 Oz. Removable Water Tank

As compact as this unit, it has a good size of removable water tank with 40 oz. in capacity. If you drink a few cups a day, you don’t have to rush to sink for refill.

Frothing and Steaming Milk

A frother is essential if your beverages are milk-based. Making a cappuccino, latte or what else tickles your fancy is only a minute away to froth or steam the cold milk.

Cons

The first complaint by customers is the inconsistent customer service by Mr. Coffee. In this day and age, there is no excuse for it. Hope the Management at Mr. Coffee take note of the complaint and are doing something to improve it.

Another thing is that you’ll have to keep an eye on the coffee delivery since there is no auto shut-off for the brew.

Price

It was under $70 that’s a pure steal for an espresso machine.

delonghi-ec155-espresso-machine

delonghi-ec155-espresso-machine

DeLonghi EC155

Pros

Versatility to Use Coffee Ground or Pods

The first distinct feature for EC155 is the ability to brew from ground coffee as well using pods. Obviously ground coffee gives you more leeway to choose the type of coffee, adjust the grind size and apply the right tamping pressure which all lead to more flavorful coffee.

On the other hand, a pod lets you brew a cup in a jiffy without mess to clean up other than discarding the used pod.

15-Bar Pump Pressure

Similar to Mr. ECMP50, the EC155 by Delonghi too is equipped with a standard 15-bar pump. Under such high pressure, the water is pumped through the coffee in order to extract the maximum flavor, aroma with crema.

Jet Frother

It can be swiveled to different angles for easy maneuverability of the milk pitcher.

2 Thermostats for Better Control of Temperature

There are two individual thermostats to control brewing and steaming temperatures separately. Temperature is such a critical element in the success of the brews.

Cons

Limited Clearance

Only 2.5 inches are available that it’s very hard to fit a taller cup. The frother presents a similar challenge to fit a milk pitcher for frothing/steaming. You’ll have to be creative by either placing the unit on a platform to elevate the height or position the unit to the far left corner of the counter.

Price

It’s slightly more expensive just under $90.

saeco-hd8327-poemia-espresso-machine

saeco-hd8327-poemia-espresso-machine

Philips Saeco HD8327/47 Poemia

Pros

Stainless Steel Front + Black ABS Plastic Housing

I was surprised to find out as affordable as this model is, the front is made of stainless steel as an accent. It makes it look sleeker and would fit into a kitchen with stainless steel appliance.

15-Bar

Like the two models reviewed, the Poemia also is driven by a 15-bar pump for excellent extraction.

Good for Ground and Pods

The unit is designed for both ground coffee and E.S. E. (Easy Serving Espresso) pods. I will not repeat the benefits of both options as covered in the DeLonghi EC155 earlier.

Cup Warmer

This is an area on top dedicated for pre-warming cups so the brewing temperature won’t take a nosedive upon delivering. The heat is passively generated from the boiler of the machine and may take a little bit longer. If you are impatient, you can always stick the cup in the microwave with some water and get it warmed up faster.

Pannarello Steam Wand for Frothing Milk and Hot Water

The steam wand is a handy feature to froth/steam milk as well as for making hot tea.

Cons

Rigid Steam Wand

Limited mobility of the steam wand makes it hard to work with a milk pitcher. It only moves from side to side but not up and down.

Made of Mostly Plastic

Some commented about it was cheaply made with more plastic than real metal. I’ll have to say don’t forget this is a budget espresso maker.

Price

The HD8327 is the most expensive of the three for less than $100.

Who Should Buy?

Who are these machines for? I’d say they are for entry-level home baristas who want to experiment with making espresso at home but not yet sure if they’ll continue on the path for a long time. Another perfect use would be for a college student who lives in a dorm and doesn’t want to drop $5.00 that often each time for a drink at a coffee shop. If you are struggling with what to buy for a newly-wedded couple, this might spark an idea for those coffee lovers.

All in all, all three models have received 3.5 or better ratings by Amazon reviewers and are some of the best cheap espresso machines. These are the real customers like you and me who bought the machine and shared their honest experiences.

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