At first glance, espresso machines can be pretty intimidating looking, especially if you’re new on the scene.
There are all kinds of nobs and buttons and settings for things like grind coarseness, grind amount and whether you want a single or a double shot. Even the milk frother can seem like a bit of a challenge.
If you’re a novice to the world of espresso machine ownership, I have 2 pieces of advice to get you started: 1) Sign up for my free e-course (details in the side-bar) and 2) Use this article to help you select the right machine for your ability, interest level and preferences.
The right machine can make understanding all of those variables I mentioned above a breeze.
Whether you want to someday produce lattes with barista-quality espresso art, or if you just want to cut down on the weekly trips to Starbucks, I’ve assembled my list of top picks to fit a range of needs that won’t break the bank.
You DON’T need to be an expert on espresso machines, and you definitely DON’T need to empty your wallet to get started owning an espresso machine.
In this article, you will learn about 3 of the best beginner espresso machines priced between $60 and $130. These machines are all great for entry-level espresso enthusiasts who want to learn the ropes and don’t need all the bells and whistles of some of the pricier models.
These espresso makers are all easy to use and have strong enough customization options to allow you to get creative and learn more about home-brewing.
De’Longhi is a quality brand and my first pick for an entry-level machine designed to show new brewers the ropes, without throwing them into the deep-end. This model is not only great for starting out but it is the #1 ranked item in Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines category.
In general, pump-drive cappuccino makers are the way to go when it comes to home ownership. They provide the power and functionality to create a great experience and great end product. However, most pump-drive cappuccino makers are either expensive or hard to use. Not the EC-155.
This machine gives you the opportunity to pace yourself, learn the fundamental concepts before moving on to a more advanced machine.
The De’Longhi features the recommended 15 bars of pump pressure. It also features a well-functioning swivel jet frothing arm for lattes and cappuccinos, a convenient self-priming operation so you can get to brewing without waiting around for the machine to heat up, a cup warmer to keep your shot toasty, and an easily removable water tank and drip pan for quick cleanup.
The wait time between pulling a shot and frothing is non-existent, which isn’t the case for all machines, which is something just about everyone finds frustrating. Being able to immediately switch from one to the other is such a nice bonus that will make your morning brew routine a little smoother.
My favorite feature on this machine is that you can choose to pull your espresso shot using ground beans of your choice, or, if you’re looking for an easier, quick brew, you can pop in coffee pods. This dual-function filter holder allows new users to customize their experience and makes the machine incredibly versatile to suit the needs of the brewer.
Some users have noted that they expected a more involved machine from the prestigious De’Longhi brand, but that’s what really works for this machine – it introduces you to the basics, without requiring a huge investment.
There are always more expensive machines with more frivolous add-ons, but this is a great machine to start with that has all the essentials.
It is also worth noting that this machine is a favorite on Amazon. It has an insane 4,700 reviews (that’s a lot of coffee being consumed!) with a stellar average 4/5 star rating, which I find seriously impressive.
Second on my short list for beginner machines is the Hamilton Beach.
When it comes to a great value for your money, it is hard to beat the price tag on this machine, but it isn’t as compact and limited as a lot of inexpensive beginner machines.
This is a great model if you are looking to learn the basics for customizing your morning espresso and want to learn about tamping and how to use a frothing wand.
Like the De’Longhi 155, the Hamilton Beach will brew from grounds or from a pre-packed pod, depending on your interest in grinding your own beans. It also features a dual brew head spout, which is great if you want to brew two cups simultaneously.
The frothing wand got strong reviews for ease of use and power from reviewers. It has a steam control so you can customize the froth to achieve just the right balance. It’s a great option if you want to learn to make your own cappuccinos or lattes instead of just pulling espresso shots.
This machine also boasts a 15-bar Italian pump and quick push button operation. Cleaning is easy with a removable 35-ounce water tank, drip pan and cup rest. I always find the frothing nozzle tricky to clean, but this one also detaches, which is a nice feature.
And an added bonus? The machine isn’t so compact that you are limited in the cup size you can fit under the portafilter, which is great for Americano lovers.
The notable drawback users have expressed with this machine is that the tamper is all plastic and just isn’t up to par. I would recommend purchasing a better quality tamper separately to enhance the experience and eliminate this irritation. I favor this little guy, which has really out of this world reviews and is a sleek design:
Overall, the Hamilton Beach is a strong contender with 150+ 4 out of 5 star reviews on Amazon.
The 3420 is another great offering from the De’Longhi brand that is a solid pick for novice brewers.
This machine has many of the same features of the previous two options: 15-bar pressure pump, self-priming for quick start-up preparation, ability to use coffee pods instead of ground beans, adjustable frothing wand, 37 ounce water reservoir, easily removable drip-pan for quick clean up and a warming tray.
The large dial on the front of the machine allows you to select the heat level for the frothing wand and the portafilter is sturdy and pulled shots have a great frothy crema.
The machine is a mix of plastic and stainless which is one of the few detractors from an otherwise solid starter machine.
This is the newest model out of the three I have listed here. It is developing a bit of a following on Amazon with a very respectable 3.8 out of 5 stars rating.
Home-brewing requires a little cultivation of skill and a basic understanding of the espresso process. The right machine can make that process infinitely smoother and provide you with just enough customization options to make yourself cafe-worthy drinks at home.
I hope my recommendations have given you a starting point so you can dive in feeling confident in your purchase!
Chatting about coffee is my passion! Leave me a question in the comments, I answer each and every one and would love to get to know you better.
I am a die-hard espresso fan. I love every form of the drink from straight espresso shots to lattes and cappuccinos. I currently use a Breville BES870XL Barista, it is an awesome machine. BUT, my dream machine is definitely an Italian Quickmill Andreja. Those bad boys make badass espresso. I love answering your questions, leave a comment or question below!