UPDATED FOR 2017
Buying a good espresso machine under $200 is no easy task. The $100 to $200 segment is a difficult one to negotiate. Many well-known brands have tried their hand at entry-level espresso makers, with limited success.
In this article I took on the task of choosing the 3 best espresso makers below $200. In the end I decided on the 3 models below, as they stood out as solid performers that also proved most popular among buyers. Enjoy 🙂
Best Espresso Makers Under $200
Winner – Nespresso Pixie Espresso Machine
Nespresso machines dominate their competition in the budget price ranges for two reasons: the excellent quality of the espresso they produce and their reliability.
Yes, you need to purchase a milk frother separately, which ups the price considerably, so if an attached wand is a requirement then rather look towards the other two models in this roundup.
The Pixie is a sleek and compact little unit with a slightly small 24-ounce water reservoir, but that’s the price you for the small footprint. It has programmable buttons for both espresso and lungo, adding a little bit of versatility.
The other drawback of a Nespresso machine is, of course, that you can only use Nespresso capsules in it. There is a huge variety of these, but you can only order them from the Nespresso website. So, these machines are not for people who like to experiment with their own beans and brews.
For the rest, you’re getting an excellent espresso machine for well under $200 that’s fast, reliable and dead simple to use. For a quick, predictably delicious cup of coffee without the minimum fuss or hassle, the Pixie is the way to go in this price range.
You can also consider the Pixie combined with the Aeroccino milk frother for a complete package. If you’re lucky you can sometimes get this combination for less than $200.
Capresso EC100 Pump Espresso & Cappuccino Machine
Capresso is better known for their serious, high-end espresso machines. However, their foray into the entry-level market has been fairly successful, and the EC100 is a fine budget beating espresso machine.
The machine ships with all essential accessories – pressurized portafilter, single and double shot sieves, two tips for the steam wand as well as a scoop and tamper.
For cappuccino and latte lovers, the Dual Frother will be an instant hit. Install the removable frothing sleeve over the steam tube and you’ll get a lovely thick froth to use for cappuccinos. For a latte, simply remove the sleeve to have the steam injected straight into the milk.
The EC100 features a 46 oz. water container. It’s very easy to fill – you can either open the lid or just unclip it from the back to take it straight to your water source. Checking the water level is a breeze as well.
The housing is fairly standard for this price level, with hardened plastic and stainless steel accents. On the top of the machine is a removable passive stainless steel cup heating plate.
Expect a fast heatup with this machine thanks to the thermoblock boiler. A green light on the front panel lets you know when the machine is heated and ready to go. A simple control knob allows you to switch between brewing and steaming.
The steaming wand works very well, and it provides constant steam thanks to an auto-refill system.
The machine delivers incredible crema and strong shots. Just be sure to follow the instructions in the manual carefully. Much of the criticism leveled against this machine stems from users not following the instructions.
Overall, the Capresso EC100 is a fine espresso/cappuccino/latte system for under $200. Keep all essential parts clean and you’ll get great service and excellent shots from it.
Mr Coffee Cafe Barista Espresso Maker
Mr Coffee may be best known as a maker of cheap plastic coffee machines for the budget markets, but with the Cafe Barista they have produced an excellent, well designed espresso machine.
The intuitive control panel offers you one button control over most brews, while you also have the option of creating custom pulls.
Instead of a finicky milk frothing wand, the Cafe Barista offers a removable milk reservoir that slots into the machine itself. A simple switch helps you choose between latte and cappuccino and machine prepares the milk accordingly. You can also control the frothing manually.
This machine offers an excellent balance of automation and manual control that will satisfy both the push-button crowd and those who like a little more control over the final product.
Unfortunately, a few typical Mr Coffee flaws stop this machine short of greatness. Drink sizes appear to be inconsistent. Not by much, but it’s there. Also, the water tank is prone to leaking. This is not a common complaint, but enough buyers have mentioned it to take notice. This may be a design flaw that doesn’t affect all owners, or it may be down to operator error.
Mr Coffee has produced a sensible espresso machine with the Cafe Barista, with easy controls, good design and a quality beverage at the end of every button push. I also think the red model looks great, if you want something different than the standard black and silver. A few annoying issues, while not deal breakers, prevent this from getting a top rating.
Best Espresso Machine Under $200: Final Words
Any of these machines should produce great results for you. Get the Nespresso Pixie if you don’t mind being limited to capsules and you’re willing to spend a little extra on a separate milk frother. This is the most reliable machine on show here and it’s a joy to use.
The Capresso EC100 is a fine little machine, well built and delivering excellent results. It’s got all the bells and whistles you can expect from a machine in this price range, and both the milk frother/steamer and the brewing mechanisms work fantastically well. It’s got less issues than the otherwise very capable Mr Coffee Cafe Barista, so if you don’t care for capsule coffee, this is probably your best bet in this segment of the market.
The Mr Coffee Cafe Barista suffers from a few flaws, but makes up for it with great design and control. If you want a lot more control over what you brew than you get with the Nespresso, then you should have fun with this versatile machine.