** Updated for 2017 **
Today we’re going to have a good time choosing the best espresso machine under $100. Yes, you can get a good espresso maker for that price! No need to shell out hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
At this price range you can still expect solid performance and good quality brews, but the machines will be fairly basic.
Still, there are some gems to be had and if all you’re after it a proper cup of espresso or a decent cappuccino, that $100 burning in your pocket can certainly deliver a solution into your hands. I’ve isolated a few popular models in this price range to see how they stack up with regards to features, performance and what actual owners think of them.
So, without any further waste of time, here we go.
The 4 Best Espresso Makers Under $100
Winner – Nespresso Inissia Espresso Machine
The Nespresso Inissia is a fantastic little espresso maker. As with all Nespresso products, this is designed for use with Nespresso capsules only.
The Inissia has a very small footprint, featuring a 24 oz water tank. You’ll hardly notice this compact machine tucked away in a corner of the kitchen when you’re not using it, and it’s a good traveler as well should you wish to take it with you on holiday.
This is the cheapest Nespresso machine currently on offer and, to be honest, there’s little difference between it and the more expensive Pixie (empty water tank detection on the Pixie). The quality is the same consistent and predictably great shots that you will be familiar with if you’ve ever used these machines.
Operation is simple. Switch the machine on, wait until the very fast preheat is done (20-25 seconds), pop in your favorite capsule and hit the espresso or lungo button, whichever you fancy.
Even better, with the new Inissia you don’t even have to wait for the machine to heat up. You can hit the button immediately and the machine will start rumbling when it’s ready while you take care of other business.
This is dead easy, delicious espresso making. You also get a starter pack of 16 capsules to boot, making the deal even sweeter.
The Inissia is another impressive little machine from Nespresso, and coming in at under $100 it’s a steal. You are married to using Nespresso’s capsules, but in turn you get a machine that simply delivers a brilliant brew with the push of a button.
A few different color schemes means you don’t have to be stuck with clinical black and white if you want something a little more dark or funky (although certain color schemes pushes the machine just over $100).
The biggest drawback about this machine is that you need to purchase a milk frother separately, so out of the box you’re limited to espresso. The Inissia with Aeroccino bundle is a good option to consider, as the Aeroccino is a fantastic milk frother.
Hamilton Beach 40792 Espresso & Cappuccino Maker
The Hamilton Beach 40792 is a solid looking espresso machine, featuring a 15 bar Italian pump that should deliver very good results. You can use either espresso pods or ground espresso.
The machine has an impressively simple patented Slide & Lock system for the filter holder. Just slide the filter holder into position and pull down the lever on the left of the machine to lock it in place. I love fool proof features on an espresso machine, and this is certainly one of them.
The machine offers a very standard control interface and simple operation. Turn the big control knob to the left setting to brew, or to the right setting to steam or froth milk. The steaming wand is fast and pretty decent, although sometimes getting a good foam seems a little more work than it should be. Steam release can also be on the messy side.
I did find that you need to use very finely ground coffee to extract the maximum flavor and taste with this machine. Once you do, the results are very pleasing and you get a tasty shot rich crema.
The water reservoir is removable, as is almost standard among most mainstream espresso machines. You also get a passive cup warmer and removable drip tray.
I am impressed with the Hamilton Beach 40792. It is a simple, well designed espresso machine. It’s not going to blow your socks off with any ground breaking innovation, but at less than $100 you won’t expect that. Instead, you get a very capable espresso maker that simply works, while being really easy to use. That Slide & Lock filter holder system is a winner.
This machine won’t satisfy hardcore coffee enthusiasts, but for the average person who wants to make a decent espresso or cappuccino without spending a fortune, it’s a good investment.
Delonghi EC155 15-Bar Espresso Machine
The Delonghi EC155 remains one of the best-selling espresso machines in the world. It offers solid value and good performance for a more than decent price. One of its best features is the dual filter system, which means the machine can pull espresso from both ESE Pods and ground coffee.
The machine features a fairly large 35 oz removable water tank, making it easy to fill. A stainless steel boiler adds a dash of quality and durability. Add a cup warmer and self-priming operation and this is a very capable little espresso machine for under $100.
The quality of espresso is really good, with a rich crema. Some people suggest that it brews a little too quickly to really extract maximum flavor though. Despite that, the EC155 has won more than a few awards for delivering the best tasting espresso in its class. The Rapid Cappuccino System on the EC155 does a good job of maintaining the optimal brewing temperature, so you can brew one cup after the other without waiting.
There are a few flaws to this machine. The steam wand is short and poorly positioned, and you cannot fit large cups under the spout. None of these are deal breakers though and you still get excellent value for your money.
As always with Delonghi I am concerned about customer service after the sale. Many people report having real hassles getting replacement parts or warranty claims honored.
In the end though, the EC155 offers fantastic value at a great price.
Delonghi BAR32 Retro 15-Bar Espresso Machine
The Delonghi BAR32 is another espresso machine that has been around for a long time, but still remains popular.
As with the EC155 you get a dual filter here that allows the use of both ground coffee and pods. Espresso quality and crema is very good on this model and you won’t be disappointed with that.
Unfortunately some design flaws trip it up. You can’t fit large cups by default, but you can remove the drip tray, which will allow them to fit under the nozzles. The frothing wand is too short to comfortably use though, the machine is more noisy than the others in this roundup and it has a lot of plastic all over.
Still, if you like the retro look and can live with a few faults, the Delonghi BAR32 will get you great espresso for a below-$100 entry fee.
Best Espresso Maker under $100: Final Words
For this roundup I also considered models from Mr Coffee, Krups, Saeco and Capresso, but the four tried and tested models highlighted in this roundup are by far the most consistent and reliable of the sub-$100 crowd.
The Nespresso Inissia wins for beverage quality and overall build quality. It is a great little machine. It lacks a milk frother though, so if you need one, or just don’t like the capsule system that Nespresso employs, the Hamilton Beach 40792 or the ever popular Delonghi EC155 are the machines to look at.