A great espresso takes a great machine. Being able to tend to each detail while crafting the perfect cup is one of the hallmarks of a fine machine. The best espresso machine under 500 will allow you to control nearly every aspect of the process. The machines are sleek stainless steel and made with professional quality parts. At this price point you should expect industrial strength forged brass components, modern good looks and plenty of included accessories.
These are some of the best machines on the market today. Made by some of the foremost names in the business, each machine has a dedicated following among true coffee connoisseurs. Luxury features such as cup warmers, automatic cleaning systems or nifty LED lighting can be found on each. These machines each have that something special that would make any of them welcome in my coffee loving home.
The best Espresso Machine for Under 500 Dollars
The Gaggia 14101 Classic Espresso Machine in Brushed Stainless Steel
Gaggia is known for crafting quality machines. The Gaggia 14101 Classic is no exception. Priced at the middle of the range, the Classic measures 14.25 inches tall by 8 inches wide by 9.5 inches long. It weighs a substantial 17.2 pounds. It comes with a 30 day no questions asked return policy and a one year manufacture’s warranty.
The 14101 Classic is one of the best selling Gaggia models. It is made of heavy-duty stainless steel and forged brass parts to keep temperatures stable. The machine can brew one or two shots at a time with top of the line stainless steel filter baskets. The 14101 Classic is built using a three-way solenoid valve that greatly speeds up espresso brewing. You can also use this device to make some great tea or other hot and frothy beverages.
The 14101 Classic makes making the perfect cup as easy as it can be. You might have a short learning period, but the basics will come quickly. You can use coffee pods with this machine, if you are in a real rush. Making it yourself is much more satisfying when you have the time. Users recommend a grind that’s similar to table salt. Make sure you tamp those grounds in firmly. A brew time of roughly 25 seconds gives you all the richness without bitterness. Any faster than that and you won’t get a strong brew with crema!
- Around a minute is average to brew one or two espresso shots.
- Powerful 17.5 bar high pressure pump to brew any bean you’d like.
- Large 72 ounce water tank.
- Stainless steel body with forged brass portafliters and grouphead provide temperature stability.
- New Turbo-Frother wand design for better frothing.
- Built in cup warmer.
- Can be used with coffee pods.
- Automatic back-flush after steaming milk.
- Quick brew time.
The De'Longhi EC680 Dedica 15-Bar Pump Espresso Machine
One downside to more capable espresso machines is their size. Most are counter-top hogs. The Dedica is a welcome exception. This great machine is a mere 13 inches tall by 6 inches wide by 13 inches long, giving it a small footprint. It weighs a mere 9.3 pounds. The Dedica comes with a two-year manufacturer’s warranty.
De’Longhi is well-known for making impressive luxury espresso and coffee machines. The Dedica is one of the smaller machines they offer. It is sold in brushed stainless steel or a dark red. Despite its small size it is full-featured. It can warm your cups, froth your cappuccino and even supply you with hot water for Americano or brewed tea.
One of the things I like about this machine is the lights. Delicate LED lighting helps pick out the buttons, making it easy to use in poor lighting or while half asleep. There is even a light alarm that pops on when it is time to descale the machine. I also really like just how easy it is to customize your brewing. You can quickly make single or double shots of espresso. The Dedica uses a patented manual cappuccino frothing system to produce a rich and glorious foam.
- Professional 15 bar pressure pump.
- Flow stop feature removes trial and error from brewing. This feature automatically releases the right amount of water.
- Light up control three button panel for easy use.
- Power saving auto shut off feature after inactivity.
- Small space-saving footprint.
- Built in safety features keeps your steam from getting dangerously hot.
- Built in cup warmer can accommodate several cups for entertaining.
- Handy three in one filter design. The Dedica can handle single shots, double shots or easy to brew espresso pods for the time challenged.
- Time saving self-priming system. That means that the machine is always ready to go.
- Quick heating thermo-block technology. You can brew in roughly 40 seconds.
The Breville BES840XL Infuser Style Espresso Machine
Designed for a master espresso brewer, the Breville BES840XL is an intimidating machine that makes an amazing cup. It is sold in buffed stainless steel, black or cranberry. Newer brewers will find themselves facing a somewhat steep learning curve. Trust me. It is worth your time! It is a bigger machine, it measures 10.2 inches tall by 12.5 inches wide by 13.2 inches long. It weighs 17 pounds. It has a one year warranty that includes free shipping.
While most higher quality brewers focus on hitting the grounds with quick blasts of high pressure. The Breville BES840XL takes another approach. This machine first gently caresses the coffee puck with low pressure. This process expands the grounds to smooth out any irregularities in the tamped grounds. After this process, the machine amps up the pressure. The moist coffee is hit evenly for optimal flavor and aroma.
The mind-blowing list of features puts this machine in the running for possibly the best espresso machine under 500. It’s also the most expensive, barely under the 500 dollar cut off. Newer brewers will appreciate the easier to use automatic settings for espresso. Masters will enjoy the many programmable settings when brewing up that perfect cup. Other features such as the infusion system, thermacoil heating and PID temperature control technology are normally found in more expensive machines. The machine will even alert you when the drip tray is full or when it is time to descale it.
- Pre-infusion function perfects the coffee puck before brewing. You will get even extraction for an amazing drink.
- Automatic purge function keeps steam at the perfect temperature for proper brewing.
- Exacting water temperature control system features 1600w thermacoil with integrated steel water coil keeps water at the magic brewing temperature of 190F.
- Professional 15 bar Italian pump features automatic brewing, programmable presets and manual options for rich crema and full flavor.
- Dual wall filters help ease the learning process. Single wall filters offer experienced brewers more control over the final brew. Both are included.
- Fairly quiet operation.
- Handy center pressure gauge to aid in matching grind to pressure to create rich flavor and crema, not bitter or watery espresso.
- Decently sized 61 ounce water tank.
- All parts that come into contact with water or grounds are BPA free.
- Handy automatic feature to dry coffee puck for easy clean up.
- Stainless steel frothing wand can swivel a handy 360 degrees.
- Hot water tap for brewing teas, hot cocoa and Americanos.
A Comparison of Quality
When dealing with high-end products it becomes more difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. These are all amazing espresso machines. There are a few differences that might help you to decide which one is best for you.
The warranties for these machines have a few differences. The Gaggia14101 Classic has a one year warranty with a nice 30 day no questions asked return policy. This is nice if you get the machine and decide it just isn’t the right one for you. The De’Longhi EC680 Dedica has the longest manufacture’s warranty. Two years are more than most companies will stand behind their product! The Breville BES840XL Infuser has the typical one year warranty. They do cover any shipping charges, which is nice.
If space is a concern for you, than you will be most suited for the Dedica. It is by far the smallest of the machines. I found that it does not suffer for its smaller size when compared to the other two machines. The Gaggia is the second smallest machine at 8 inches wide. The Breville is by far the largest of the three.
If ease of use is more important to you, than both the Dedica and the Gaggia will be of interest. Those two machines can be used to brew either freshly packed grounds or coffee pods. Esso and generic brands are compatible. The Breville cannot use pods. You have to tamp your own coffee puck each and every time. The Breville is also a little more skill intensive to use. It offers you far more control over the process while expecting you to understand what you are doing!
The Breville BES840XL offers the most features for the price. I like this machine for that reason. The manufacturer went out of their way to perfect thermoblock technology. The thermocoil water heat control system is second to none. They even include a heat loss buffer in the portafilter to prevent those odd tastes in the brew. You will always get a smooth tasting espresso and rich crema, once you master the machine.
All three machines look like a professional level machine; these aren’t typical home appliances. They all have quality parts that can last for many years if properly maintained. They will all brew you up an amazing cup of brew, a cup that will be better than anything you can get at a chain coffee shop.
Which One is Right for You?
Let me first say that each of these three machines are perfect for someone. The best espresso machine for you comes down to which niceties you prefer. Perhaps you don’t want a machine that’s just plain stainless steel. The De’Longhi EC680 Dedica and the Breville BES840XL come in tasteful red. The Breville also comes in sober black. Be warned that the colorful options may come with different pricing!
If you are often rushed in the morning, then you might appreciate the ease of the occasional coffee pod brew up. I’m often rushed. I really like being able to get my coffee fix without having to drop by a cafe. Only the Breville won’t let me do this.
I know I mentioned this before, but the Breville is the trickiest of the machines to master. I’m not trying to scare you away from it, though! While the company does provide more forgiving two walled filters for a novice brewer, you can expect at least a few bad cups before you get the knack. This machine is also not forgiving to a rushed person. Using time saving coffee pods require far higher pressure than the slow start infusion process it uses can offer.
The Breville BES840XL takes the highest ranking of 4.3 stars (See all customer reviews). The other two machines each take a rate of four out of five stars. People expect a lot from machines of this caliber. For the most part, they get it. All of these devices have glowing reports from satisfied long-term customers.
The Gaggia, in particular, has many long-term users (See all customer reviews). People talk about owning the Classic for five years, ten years or even longer. While they say that the newer machines are slightly different, say a new cord design or the use of lighter aluminum instead of steel, they mention again and again the lasting quality of this design. Some few users mention that they find it hard to use. I can chalk that up to not enough practice. There are also mentions of seepage that may or may not be user error.
The Breville has the highest Amazon ranking for good reason. People who know that they are getting high-end features at a bargain are more willing to learn how to use them. Purchasers enjoy the well made features and better than cafe chain coffee taste. A few reviewers did mention a few problems with loud vibration and pump failure within the warranty period.
The De’Longhi is loved by those who don’t want to settle for inferior taste, but don’t want to use up their entire counter-top (See all customer reviews). People also like its lower cost. Parents of older kids like that this machine is easy enough for younger coffee enthusiasts to use. A few reviewers have had problems with the descale alarm not turning off. Others say that brew failures like no crema or bitter taste happen to just out of warranty machines.
I can say that picking my favorite machine from these three was extremely difficult. You might have the same problem settling on just one too! In the end, I found myself drawn to the Breville (Buy It at Amazon Now!). It has the highest ratings with the most raving reviews. It also produces some of the best brew out there. While I will miss the ease of the fast brew coffee pod feature, I think that the great build and high-end features make up for that.
Now, you might not come to the same conclusion as I have. With these three quality brewers, each choice is a great one. Whether you base your choice on size, color, ability to brew from a pod or fresh ground, you will be happy with your choice.