Want to know more about making professional-level espresso drinks from the comfort of your own kitchen?
The first thing you’ll need is a quality espresso machine. The problem is, good espresso machines can come with hefty price tags.
That’s why we’ve made this guide on the top 5 best home espresso machines under $2,000. We’ll make your decision easier by discussing the ins and outs of 5 different affordable espresso machines.
Here’s what we’ll go over:
- Basic espresso machine features and what they mean for you
- Criteria to include when choosing the espresso machine that will be best for you
- Our selections for the top 5 best home espresso machines under $2,000
Let’s get started.
BASIC ESPRESSO MACHINE FEATURES
You’ll want to pay attention to the basic machine type of each espresso machine you consider, because its type will greatly impact how you use it on a daily basis.
You may come across three machine types as you research espresso machines:
- Manual (lever-operated)
Automatic machines are the easiest to use and are more forgiving for beginners. With an automatic machine, dosing is handled entirely by the machine – the user typically places the portafilter, presses a button, and lets the machine end the brewing cycle at the right time for them.
On top of being easier to use than the other types, automatic machines are typically more consistent because the quality of the drink doesn’t depend on who’s making it. The main disadvantages of automatic machines are being more expensive and being less flexible for on-the-fly customization.
Semiautomatic machines partially automate the process, but still give baristas control over when the brew cycle starts and stops. This allows baristas to pull shots for as long or short as needed.
They tend to be cheaper than automatic machines, but they also take some skill to learn before you’re making perfect shots every time.
Manual machines have the steepest learning curve, and they’re not very common anymore, so you won’t see them as often as automatic or semiautomatic machines. With a manual machine, users begin the brew cycle and apply the correct amount of pressure by pulling a lever.
These are the classic espresso machines, and take a lot of experience to master. The great thing about them is that baristas using these machines can really take pride in each drink made this way, as it’s essentially hand-crafting every shot.
Aside from taking more time to learn, though, manual espresso machines tend to be the slowest since baristas using them are manually performing every step of drink-making.
An espresso machine’s boiler is its powerhouse. What kind of boiler your machine uses will impact how quickly you are able to make drinks.
You’ll typically see three kinds of boilers:
- Single boiler
- Dual boiler
- Heat exchange boiler (HX boiler)
Like its name, single-boiler systems use only one boiler for brewing and steaming. This means the machine will be a bit slower at making drinks because you cannot brew and steam at the same time.
A good thing about single-boiler systems is that they often have a reduced heat-up time because only one boiler is being heated. They are also typically inexpensive.
In a dual-boiler system, you’ll find one boiler dedicated to steaming water and the other dedicated to brewing water. This leads to faster drink-making because you’ll be able to brew and steam simultaneously.
Dual-boiler machines tend to be most powerful, but they can have a longer heat-up time once you turn them on because they need to warm two boilers. Additionally, they can be a bit more expensive than the alternatives.
HEAT EXCHANGE BOILER
Last but not least, heat exchange boiler systems use one boiler that’s been designed so it can steam and brew at the same time. It works by siphoning brewing water through a tube in the boiler to the group head and storing steaming water separately.
Because you can steam and brew together, you’ll be able to make lattes fast on these machines. But you will need to flush the group head before pulling a shot to make sure your brewing water is at the right temperature.
CRITERIA FOR CHOOSING YOUR ESPRESSO MACHINE
Once you have an understanding of what some basic features mean, you’ll have a clearer picture of how they can apply to you.
For example, if your budget is especially restrictive, you might not want to look at a dual-boiler system, since they can be less economical.
But if budget is less of a priority for you and you really need to be able to make drinks fast, then you’ll most likely prefer a dual-boiler system or an automatic espresso machine.
If you’re a beginner concerned about learning to use an espresso machine, you probably want an automatic machine that will make brewing as simple as pushing a button.
Yet if you’re a highly experienced barista, you may prefer the flexibility of a semiautomatic machine or the total control of a manual lever-operated machine.
Appearance may also come into play. If your kitchen is dominated by stainless steel appliances, you might want an espresso machine that matches.
Or you may be drawn to an espresso machine that stands out, coming in different colors. In that case, a manual lever-operated machine is sure to be the centerpiece of your décor.
The bottom line is, you should keep in mind your budget, style preferences, and needs as you look at each espresso machine’s features.
TOP 4 BEST HOME ESPRESSO MACHINES FOR UNDER $2,000
The La Spaziale S1 Mini Vivaldi II took the power of a commercial espresso machine and packed it into a smaller package for home users.
This is the perfect machine for those who don’t have a lot of room, but still want to enjoy high-quality espresso at home. As an automatic machine, it’s simple to learn to use, making it ideal for beginning baristas.
With its pour-over design, users manually refill the water tank when it empties, which means it doesn’t need to be connected to a water supply. You’ll be able to use it anywhere you need to.
- Machine Type: Automatic (volumetric dosing)
- Majesty Coffee Price: $1,895
- Boiler Type: Dual boiler
- Plumbing: Pour-over
- Fault Diagnosis Alarms: Protect your investment with a machine that will alert you the moment there are any system issues that need correction.
- LED Display: Control the machine through one central, straightforward LED display.
- Articulating Steam Arm: Produce beautiful microfoam with the ability to reposition the steam arm so you can froth milk from the best angle possible.
- Lever Steam Valve: Comfortably start or stop steaming with the gentle push of a lever rather than making your wrist sore by constantly rotating a valve.
- Front-Facing Water Tank: Rather than being built on top, the water tank is built into the front of the machine, so you can easily pull it out to refill it.
- Dual Pressure Gauges: With a quick glance, you can tell what the pressure levels in the group or boiler are, so you can make any adjustments to your brew ratio that are necessary.
Beautiful and majestic, the Elektra Micro Casa Leva is a sight to behold. At the top sits a metallic eagle with its wings proudly outspread.
This is the espresso machine to get if you want a machine that will make a shining centerpiece. Available in chrome, chrome and brass, or brass and copper color combinations, this machine is capable of complementing many color schemes with its gleaming look.
If you’re an advanced barista looking for a lever-operated machine that will amaze any onlookers, this is the machine for you.
- Machine Type: Fully manual
- Majesty Coffee Price: $1,695
- Boiler Type: Single boiler
- Plumbing: Pour-over
- All-Metal Construction: No plastic found here. As this machine is constructed entirely from metal, you can expect beauty and durability.
- Boiler Pressure Relief Valve: Protect the longevity of the machine through this relief valve that keeps boiler pressure from getting too high.
- Easy Assembly: Do you hate buying something, only having to spend hours putting it together? Assembly is a snap with this machine – just attach the steam wand and you’re ready to go.
- Water Level Sight Glass: Easily monitor your water levels with the sight glass, so you’ll be aware in advance when a refill is needed.
- Quiet Operation: Because this machine is powered by the user, it’s quiet as a mouse.
Micro Casa Leva in Chrome:
In Copper and Brass:
In Chrome and Brass:
Famously compact, the Rocket Appartamento is a home machine that you’ll be able to comfortably squeeze in on any counter.
The stylish circular cutouts on the side panels and the bold R on the front of the machine are indicative of the flair Rocket is known for. Of course, looks aren’t all the Appartamento brings to the table with its powerful heat exchange boiler that allows for simultaneous steaming and brewing.
With its impressive steam power, you’ll enjoy silky smooth microfoam in your lattes every time when you choose the Appartamento.
- Machine Type: Semiautomatic
- Majesty Coffee Price: $1,690
- Boiler Type: Heat Exchange
- Plumbing: Pour-Over
- E-61 Commercial Group: Ensures stable temperature by circulating water between the boiler and group nonstop.
- Cup-Warming Shelf: Keep your drinks hot for as long as possible by using the shelf on top of this machine to pre-warm your cups.
- No-Burn Hot Water and Steam Arms: You’ll never need to worry about being burnt by this machine’s hot water spigot and steam wand.
- Low Water Indicator: Don’t worry about forgetting to refill the water tank – the Appartamento will remind you with a light-up indicator.
- Boiler Pressure Gauge: You’ll know as soon as the machine is ready for brewing and steaming using the pressure gauge right on the front.
The Nuova Simonelli Oscar II is a versatile machine that can work well in your home or even in small offices or coffee shops.
This is a machine you can depend on to deliver consistent high-quality results. Using its programmed timed dosing, you can guarantee you’ll enjoy the same great taste every time you make a drink by setting in advance the perfect amount of time for brewing.
Choose this machine if you’re looking for an especially affordable option that makes crafting drinks simple.
- Machine Type: Semiautomatic + programmable timed dosing
- Majesty Coffee Price: $1,295
- Boiler Type: Heat Exchange
- Plumbing: Direct-Connect (It will refill the water tank for you by connecting it to a water line.)
- Reverse Mirror: Visually monitor the quality of each espresso from all angles using the reflective back plate.
- Push-Pull Steam: Steaming on this machine is comfortable and simple to operate – just push or pull the steam switch.
- Boiler Insulation: Makes the machine more energy efficient, as the boiler won’t lose heat as quickly.
- Long Steam Arm: Reach farther into any milk pitcher to promote an even temperature while frothing.