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Five Best Espresso Machines Under $500 (And Two to Avoid)

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Last updated: December 22, 2023

Quick answer: The best espresso machine under $500 is the Breville Bambino Plus.

For $500 you should expect an espresso machine that can:

  • Pull a delicious espresso shot.
  • Steam milk to a fine enough texture to make latte art.
  • Last at least 4-5 years.

You shouldn’t expect the best espresso machines at this price point to have a built-in grinder or a fancy user interface. 

If it has these features then run for the hills. Trust me, the manufacturer is spending money in the wrong places and these machine’s brewing systems will be awful.

Here we’re going to go through the five best espresso machines under $500 and explain how each machine serves a different need to find the right espresso machine for you.

I’m also going to point out two espresso makers under $500 that I think you should avoid if you want to end up not feeling like you’ve flushed half a grand down the toilet.

Top Picks

  • Hands-free steam wand
  • Three-second heat up time
  • Manual and automatic shot volume dossing
  • Tiny footprint.
  • The cheapest automatic espresso machine that’s actually good.
  • Automatic dosing for single and double shots.
  • Extremely durable
  • Can be easily modified
  • Suitable for brewing with lots of different coffee beans
  • Can brew espresso with one button press
  • Cheapest super-automatic machine that isn’t terrible
  • Can make several espressos in succession
  • Visible pressure gauge
  • Easier to preheat than most manual espresso machines
  • Beautiful design

Best Overall: Breville Bambino Plus

Best if You Won’t Mod Your Machine
Breville Bambino Plus
$499.95
The Breville Bambino can pull consistent quality espresso shots without you needing to open up and modify the machine.
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02/27/2024 09:11 pm GMT
Specification Breville Bambino Plus
Espresso machine type
Automatic
Steam wand type
Pin hole (with automatic setting)
Heat up time
3 seconds
Heating system
Thermojet
Dimensions (width x depth x height)
7.7” W x 12.6” D x 12.2” H

Espresso Quality

The Breville Bambino Plus can make good, but not world-class espresso.

Its espresso is one tier down from what you’d get from an artisanal coffee shop. It’s still very good by home machine standards.

What stops it from being amazing is its slight lack of brewing pressure. 

This prevents you from brewing with super fine grind sizes and therefore getting the depth of flavor you would get with an espresso maker that can handle finer grinds.

Espresso Quality Rating: 8/10

Milk Steaming Performance

The Breville Bambino Plus can make excellent steamed milk with next to no effort on your part.

The Breville Bambino Plus has an automatic milk frother, just set your desired milk temperature and texture, put the steam wand in your milk jug and the machine will do everything for you.

The results from such an automated system are surprisingly good, with its steamed milk going toe to toe with any other machine on its list.

If you want even more control over your steamed milk then you can use the milk frother manually. 

When used in this way you can make microfoam to the standard of a barista using commercial machinery (yes, that includes making latte art).

Milk Steaming Performance Rating: 10/10

Ease of Use

The Breville Bambino Plus’s automatic shot volume dosing and automatic milk frothing make it about as easy to use as a non-super automatic machine can get.

To make a good espresso with the Bambino Plus all you need to do is:

  • Dose out, grind, and tamp your beans in a portafilter.
  • Attach the portafilter to the machine and press a button.

Add to this the fact that the machine offers hands-free milk steaming and you’ve got one of the easiest-to-use espresso machines available.

Ease of Use Rating: 9/10

Design and Build Quality

While the Bambino Plus has a high internal build quality, its external build quality is decent, but not amazing.

The Bambino Plus’s internal build quality is seriously impressive. This is down to its:

  • Thermojet heating system: This allows the machine to pull a shot within 3 seconds of turning on, far faster than most machines in this article.
  • Automatic milk frother: No other machine has this.

Breville has clearly saved costs on the machine’s exterior. It is made entirely of plastic/

Still, none of the machine’s components feel flimsy, and you should expect the machine to last you three years at the very least

Design and Build Quality: 8/10

Value for Money

The Bambino Plus offers good value for money, but it’s not the best value product in this article.

The Breville Bambino Plus is the most expensive machine on this list, but it’s also the best machine.

While you’re getting a good deal with this machine if getting the most for your money is all you care about then it’s not the best option here (that would be the Breville Bambino).

Value for Money Rating: 7/10

Breville Bambino Plus Pros

Its automatic milk steaming means you can steam milk effortlessly.

It’s more compact than most machines on this list.

Three-second heat-up time

Your espresso pucks always come out firm for easy disposal

Breville Bambino Plus Cons

Its small drip tray needs to be emptied frequently.

Best Value for Money: Breville Bambino

Value Pick
Breville Bambino
$299.95 $284.99
The Breville Bambino is the cheapest espresso machine that can allow you to make a coffee shop standard latte at home.
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02/27/2024 05:32 pm GMT
Specification Breville Bambino
Espresso machine type
Automatic
Steam wand type
Pin hole
Heat up time
3 seconds
Heating system
Thermojet
Dimensions (width x depth x height)
6.3″ W x 13.7″ D x 12″ H

Espresso Quality

The Breville Bambino can make a good, but not outstanding espresso.

The Breville Bambino has the same brewing system as the Bambino Plus. While it can make good espresso shots, its inability to work with finer grinds means that it just falls short of what you’d expect from a coffee shop.

Still, it’s perfect for milk drinks and more than adequate to be drunk as a shot or Americano.

Espresso Quality Rating: 8/10

Milk Steaming Performance

The Breville Bambino steams milk beautifully. Its steam wand is the highlight of the machine.

While the Bambino does not have the Bambino Plus’s automatic steam wand, it can still steam milk to whatever texture you want, be it thick froth to top macchiato or microfoam for a latte.

You can find out more about the differences in the Bambino and Bambino Plus’s steam wand in my comparison on Breville Bambino vs Bambino Plus

Milk Steaming Performance Rating: 9/10

Ease of Use

The Breville Bambino’s fast turn-on time and automatic shot volume dosing make it easy to use for a beginner espresso maker.

The Breville Bambino’s automatic shot volume measurements and sensible out-of-the-box settings mean you can turn the machine on, load up the portafilter with freshly ground coffee beans and brew a good espresso without any prior experience.

Its steam wand has a slight learning curve (I think it took me about ten goes before I could consistently create any milk texture I wanted) but it’s well worth it considering how much control you have over your milk texture once you have mastered it.

Ease of Use Rating: 8/10

Design and Build Quality

The Breville Bambino has a good internal build quality but an average external build quality.

The Bambino has a very high internal build quality considering its price. Few similarly priced machines have a 3-second heat-up time and a PID.

The exterior of the machine is pure plastic, but (like the Bambino Plus) none of it feels flimsy so it’s not going to break down on you any time soon.

Design and Build Quality Rating: 6/10

Value for Money

The Breville Bambino Plus is the cheapest espresso machine that can make a good espresso and an excellent milk-based drink.

I’d argue that it’s the best value-for-money espresso machine on the market right now.

Value for Money Rating: 10/10

Breville Bambino Plus Pros

Absurdly good value for the money.

The most compact espresso machine on this list.

Can make better steamed milk than any similarly priced espresso machine.

Breville Bambino Plus Cons

It won’t last as long as machines that have boiler systems.

It only comes with pressurized portafilter baskets as standard.

Best for Modding: Gaggia Classic Pro

Best for Modders
Gaggia Classic Pro
$499.00 $432.99
The Gaggia Classic Pro is the only espresso machine under $500 that can be easily modded and that has a thriving modder community.
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02/27/2024 04:05 pm GMT
Specification Gaggia Classic Pro
Espresso machine type
Semi-automatic
Steam wand type
Pin hole
Heat up time
40 seconds
Heating system
Boiler
Dimensions (width x depth x height)
9.5” W x 8.0” D x 12.2” H

Espresso Quality

The Gaggia Classic Pro makes good, but not outstanding espresso. You can easily adjust the machine to allow it to make espresso that rivals your local coffee shop.

The limiting factor that stops the Gaggia Classic Pro from making world-class espresso is that it runs at too high a pressure out of the box.

You can change this by adjusting its over-pressure valve setting. Once you have made this change it will make a better espresso than any other machine under $500.

Espresso Quality Rating: 9/10

Milk Steaming Performance

The Gaggia Classic Pro can steam milk to any texture you want, it just takes a bit longer to get there than the Breville Bambino/Bambino Plus.

The Gaggia Classic Pro’s steam wand is less powerful than most espresso machines.

While this is good for beginners, as you are unlikely to scorch your milk, those of you with a bit more experience steaming milk might find it frustratingly slow.

Still, you cannot knock the final steamed milk quality. 

It’s also easy to upgrade the machine’s steam wand to something more powerful (the Rancilio steam wand is a popular choice here -for more on this please see my comparison of the Rancilio Silvia vs Gaggia Classic Pro).

Milk Steaming Performance Rating: 8/10

Ease of Use

The Gaggia Classic Pro’s lack of shot volume control, lack of PID temperature control, and limited cup clearance make it a more difficult machine to use than the Breville Bambino/Bambino Plus.

The Gaggia Classic Pro is harder to use than Breville machines for three reasons:

  • You need to measure out the size of your espresso shot manually.
  • You need a “temperature surfing” routine to control brewing temperature.
  • You need to remove the machine’s drip tray if you want to brew with a scale under your cup.

The Gaggia Classic Pro rewards this extra effort by having a higher espresso-quality ceiling and being more durable than other machines featured here.

Ease of Use Rating: 5/10

Design and Build Quality

The Gaggia Classic Pro is by far the most durable espresso machine under $500.

The Gaggia Classic Pro is more durable than any other model featured in this list due to its stainless steel boiler heating system and metal (rather than plastic) exterior.

It’s a regular on r/buyitforlife, a subreddit dedicated to products that should last you a lifetime. You can find a thread on it here.

The only thing I don’t like about the Gaggia Classic Pro’s design and build quality is its lack of cup clearance. This affects the machine’s user-friendliness rather than its longevity, however.

Design and Build Quality Rating: 9/10

Value for Money

The Gaggia Classic Pro offers decent value for money. It only offers excellent value for money when you start modding it.

The Gaggia Classic Pro costs slightly less than the Breville Bambino Plus. 

While you get more out of the box with the Bambino Plus, you can greatly increase the Gaggia Classic Pro’s value by modifying it.

With the right mods, you can basically get a $1,000 machine for less than $700.

I’d therefore only recommend the machine if you intend on making such modifications.

Value for Money Rating: 7/10

Gaggia Classic Pro Pros

Has the potential to last you a lifetime (rare for a coffee machine).

Can be easily modified.

Can make the best-tasting espresso of all machines in this list.

Gaggia Classic Pro Cons

There is not enough cup clearance to brew with a scale under your cup.

Its default brewing pressure is too high (you can easily adjust this, however).

Its steam wand is a bit underpowered.

For more information on this machine please see my roundup of the best Gaggia espresso machines.

Best Super Automatic Espresso Machine: Gaggia Brera

Best Super Automatic Espresso Machine
Gaggia Brera
$449.00
The Gaggia Brera makes a decent shot considering how easy it is to use, and can produce the best steamed milk of any super automatic under $500.
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02/28/2024 11:58 am GMT
Specification Gaggia Classic Pro
Espresso machine type
Super automatic
Steam wand type
Pin hole
Heat up time
20 seconds
Heating system
Thermoblock
Dimensions (width x depth x height)
10.1” W x 8.0” D x 12.0” H

Espresso Quality

The Gaggia Brera won’t make as good an espresso as a semi-automatic or a super-automatic espresso machine, but it’s still far better than a Nespresso “espresso”.

Super-automatic espresso machines make inferior espresso to portafilter-driven machines because if you don’t prepare your puck manually you cannot brew with as fine grind sizes. 

Coarser ground coffee less of your ground coffee comes into direct contact with your brewing water so your final drink tastes weaker.

In all honesty, the Gaggia Brera makes a mediocre espresso even by super-automatic standards

We need to bear in mind that $500 is very cheap for a super-automatic. You get what you pay for.

Still, it’s far, far better than other one-touch coffee brewing methods like Keurig and Nespresso.

Espresso Quality Rating: 5/10

Milk Steaming Performance

The Gaggia Brera can make good thicker milk foam, just don’t expect silky microfoam or to be able to make latte art with it.

The Gaggia Brera uses a panarello steam wand, meaning that it pumps additional air into your milk as you steam it.

This reduces the learning curve involved in steaming milk but restricts you to only making larger bubbled milk foam. 

Larger bubbled milk foam is generally considered lower quality than tighter foam as it cannot mix in with your coffee as uniformly (the large bubbles just pop and you’re left with untextured milk).

Still, I’d take the Gaggia Brera’s steamed milk over a similarly priced super automatic with an automatic milk steaming system like the Philips LatteGo 2200. 

These cheap automatic milk frothers barely texture your milk at all.

Milk Steaming Performance Rating: 6/10

Ease of Use

The Gaggia Brera allows you to make an espresso with one button press. It’s by far the easiest machine to use of all listed here.

Just remember that you’re sacrificing some espresso quality for this convenience.

Ease of Use Rating: 10/10

Design and Build Quality

The Gaggia Brera is considered to be a reliable machine, and this is backed up by Gaggia offering a three-year warranty on the product.

Like many espresso machines under $500, its exterior is made out of plastic. However, the machine isn’t flimsy by any means.

Lots of the machine’s users on Reddit report that their machine has served them well for several years (like in this thread, for example), and the fact that you can remove its brewing unit for cleaning and lubricating should help you keep the machine in prime condition.

Design and Build Quality Rating: 7/10

Value for Money

The Gaggia Brera offers good value for money as it makes better quality steamed milk than other similarly priced super-automatic espresso machines.

Despite this, I still can’t help but think that you’d get even better value for money if you get a super-automatic espresso machine in the $500-$1,000 price bracket.

Super-automatics in this price range offer far more functionality than the Gaggia Brera, and I think they are well worth the extra cost. The Delonghi Dinamica is a good example of such a machine.

Value for Money Rating: 8/10

Gaggia Brera Pros

Makes better steamed milk than super automatics with automatic milk systems.

Gaggia offers a three year warranty on this machine.

Allows you to make an espresso with one button press.

Gaggia Brera Cons

Makes a poorer quality espresso than the other machines in this article.

Has limited functionality by super automatic espresso machine standards.

Best Manual Espresso Machine: Flair Pro 2

Best Manual Espresso Machine Under $500
Flair Pro 2
$325.00

The Flair Pro 2’s removable brewing head means that it’s easier to get a good extraction than other manual espresso machines.

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02/28/2024 06:24 pm GMT

Since manual espresso machines are so different from (and are less commonly used than) other types of machines, I’m not going to be applying my usual criteria to evaluating them.

Instead, I’ll just run through why I rate it so highly:

  • It has a pressure gauge: This takes a lot of the guesswork out of knowing how much force to exert when pulling your shot.
  • It has a removable brew head: This allows you to easily heat up your brew head so get a better extraction when brewing.
  • It’s portable: I’d imagine that most people would buy this as a secondary espresso machine. The Flair Pro’s small size allows you to still be able to make espresso at home when you are on vacation.

Flair 2 Pro Pros

Its pressure gauge and removable brew head make it easier to pull a good shot compared to other manual machines.

It’s relatively portable.

Flair 2 Pro Cons

There is a huge learning curve with this machine compared to all other types of espresso machines.

One to Avoid 1: Delonghi Dedica Range

The Delonghi Dedica is the same price as the Breville Bambino but makes both inferior espresso and steamed milk to it.

I’m just not sure why you’d ever want to buy the Delonghi Dedica over the Breville Bambino.

One to Avoid 2: Delonghi La Specialista Arte

I’d recommend avoiding any espresso machine under $500 that has a built-in grinder.

A good espresso grinder alone sets you back $200 at an absolute minimum. This leaves you very little financial room to manufacture a decent espresso machine.

A $500 espresso machine with a built-in grinder will therefore either have:

  • A terrible grinder,
  • A terrible brewing mechanism.

You don’t want either of these in your espresso setup.

Understanding the Four Different types of Espresso Machines

There are four types of espresso machines: automatic, semi-automatic, super-automatic, and manual. I’m going to go through each one and explain the type of espresso drinker that it’s best for.

Automatic Espresso Machines

Automatic espresso machines dose out the amount of water that you brew for you. If you’re not sure what you want then an automatic is probably right for you.

You press a button to start brewing, and then the machine will stop brewing once a certain volume of water has been dispensed through your coffee puck.

You still need to dose and tamp your ground coffee in a portafilter.

You can tell if an espresso machine is automatic because it will have separate buttons for a single and a double shot.

Single and double shot buttons on the Breville Bambino

You ideally want an automatic espresso machine to have some way of adjusting each shot’s default volume – both the Breville Bambino and Breville Bambino Plus (the two automatic espresso machines featured in this article have this.

Automatic espresso machines are best for people who want a consistent espresso without having to crack out the scales to weigh out every shot that they pull.

They are less suitable for people who will experiment a lot with different coffee beans. Each bean bland demands a slightly different brew (ground coffee to water) ratio. It’s easier to make regular shot volume changes with machines that do not have automatic shot volume dosing.

The best automatic espresso machine under $500 is the Breville Bambino Plus.

Semi Automatic Espresso Machines

When brewing with a semi-automatic machine you need to “tell” the machine when to stop brewing. It’s best suited for those who will experiment with different espresso brewing styles and coffee beans.

You have to turn on a switch to start brewing, and then turn off a switch to stop brewing.

This means that you need to put a scale underneath your cup and weigh out the dispensed liquid espresso if you want to pull consistent shots.

It does give you more control over how you brew, so you can easily experiment with different espresso varieties (like ristretto and lungo) and different coffee beans.

The best semi-automatic espresso machine under $500 is the Gaggia Classic Pro.

Super Automatic Espresso Machines

These are espresso machines that can make an espresso with one button press. They are best for people who want an espresso without having to prepare a puck of ground coffee.

Super-automatic espresso machines don’t have portafilters. Instead, you put whole beans into their built-in grinder, fill them up with water, and press a button.

The espresso they produce can’t match the complexity of flavor as what you can make with a portafilter-driven machine, however, their convenience is unparalleled.

Super-automatic espresso machines under $500 will either have a steam wand or no milk steaming systems whatsoever. This means you’ll still have to froth your milk manually if you want a latte or cappuccino.

While you can get super automatics that make milk-based drinks at the touch of a button, these cost significantly more than $500.

The best super automatic under $500 is the Gaggia Brera.

Manual Espresso Machines

Manual espresso machines require you to heat your brewing water yourself and create all your brewing pressure with a lever or piston.

They are difficult to use, but give you ultimate control over your brewing conditions when you master them.

Manual espresso machines are for people who are already into espresso making.

I wouldn’t recommend one as someone’s first espresso machine due to how finickity they are to use.

It’s the kind of thing that you’ll know what it is, and that you specifically want one before you get one.

The best manual espresso machine under $500 is the Flair Pro 2.

What Features Are Important for the Best Espresso Machine Under $500?

Here are the following factors that determine how good an espresso machine is. 

Please bear in mind that these “critical features” are different for different types of machines, and I’ll point out which features are relevant for which type of machine throughout this section.

Does it Have a PID?

You want a machine to have a PID, especially if you are inexperienced in making espresso. Espresso machines without a PID  require a “temperature surfing” routine in order to pull consistent shots.

A Proportional Integral Derivative (PID) ensures that an espresso machine brews at a constant temperature. It actively monitors a machine’s temperature and then adjusts it according to a preset brew temperature.

If an espresso machine does not have a PID, then you need to control its brew temperature manually. This is called “temperature surfing” and you can see a video of someone showing you how to do this below:

If you can’t be bothered with having to do this then go for a machine with a PID temperature control.

The table below shows whether the machines featured in this article have a PID or not.

Machine Name Does it Have a PID Temperature Control? Where to get it
Breville Bambino Plus
Yes
Breville Bambino
Yes
Gaggia Classic Pro
No
Gaggia Brera
Yes
Flair Pro 2
N/A

What Type of Steam Wand Does it Have?

There are two types of steam wands, panarello, and pinhole. If you are going to be making a lot of milk-based drinks then you want a machine with a pinhole steam wand.

  • Panarello steam wand: This has a plastic or metal sleeve around its outside. This sleeve has holes in it which helps pump extra air into your milk. This reduces the learning curve involved in steaming milk but severely reduces the variation in milk textures that you can make. You cannot make silky microfoam for latte art with a pannarello wand.
  • Pinhole steam wand: These have no such plastic sleeve. They have a slightly steeper learning curve but give you far more variation in the milk textures you can create. 

If you are going to be making a lot of milk-based drinks with your machine, I’d recommend going for one with a pinhole steam wand.

They are not that hard to master and allow you to create a significantly wider range of steamed milk textures than a panarello steam wand.

The table below shows whether the machines featured in this article have a pinhole or panarello steam wand.

Machine Name Does it Have a Pin Hole or Panarello Steam wand Where to get it
Breville Bambino Plus
Pin hole (with an automatic mode)
Breville Bambino
Pin hole
Gaggia Classic Pro
Pin hole
Gaggia Brera
Panarello
Flair Pro 2
No milk steaming system

What Type of Heating System Does it Use?

The best espresso machines under $500 using one of four heating systems: boiler, thermoblock, thermojet. While it’s not as simple as one being better than the other, they each have their advantages and disadvantages which I’ll run through now.

Boiler

Boiler heating systems heat up all the water in your machine every time you brew.

The main benefit of boiler heating systems is that they are the most durable heating system. 

As heating mechanisms are usually the first part of an espresso machine to break down, machines with boiler heating systems generally last a lot longer than ones with other types of heating systems.

The main downside of boiler heating systems is that they are more prone to temperature swings during brewing than any other heating system. This is particularly true if you don’t have a PID to help regulate temperature.

Thermoblock

Thermoblock systems heat up just the water that you are brewing with. This water is heated up in the pipe that takes it from your machine’s water tank to its shower head.

The main advantage of a thermoblock system is that it gives you a bit more temperature stability than a boiler system.

The main downside of a thermoblock is that it tends to break down faster than boiler systems.

Thermojet

This is just a more powerful version of a thermocoil.

The main advantage of a thermojet system is that it heats up much faster than other heating systems. 

An espresso machine with a thermojet system can go from off to being able to brew in 3 seconds. Machines with boiler/thermoblock systems take at least 30 seconds to do this.

The main disadvantage of a thermojet system is that it increases your espresso machine’s price.

The table below shows the heating system of all the machines featured in this article:

Machine Name What heating system does it use? Where to get it
Breville Bambino Plus
Thermojet
Breville Bambino
Thermojet
Gaggia Classic Pro
Boiler
Gaggia Brera
Thermoblock
Flair Pro 2
N/A

Cup Clearance

You want a machine to have at least 4.5 inches of cup clearance between the bottom of its portafilter and its drip tray.

Five inches of cup clearance will allow you to brew with a scale underneath your cup. Brewing with a scale under your cup is necessary when you’re adjusting your machine’s settings.

A standard coffee cup with a scale underneath it is around 4.25 inches.

If your espresso machine does not have at least 4.5 inches of cup clearance then to brew with a scale underneath your cup you’ll either have to:

  • Brew with short espresso cups (and additional expense if you don’t already own one)
  • Remove the machine’s drip tray when you brew (this can lead to a lot more cleanup post-brewing).

Neither of these workarounds is ideal.

The table below shows whether the machines featured allow you to brew with a scale without removing the drip tray:

Machine Name Can you brew with a scale without removing the drip tray? Where to get it
Breville Bambino Plus
Yes
Breville Bambino
Yes
Gaggia Classic Pro
No
Gaggia Brera
Yes
Flair Pro 2
N/A

It’s worth mentioning that this lack of cup clearance is a particularly big problem with the Gaggia Classic Pro because it’s a semi-automatic machine so you will want to use a scale every time you brew.

Does the Machine Have a Float in its Drip Tray

You want your espresso machine to have a float in its drip tray that tells you when it’s full. 

You’d be surprised how easy it is to flood a drip tray that doesn’t have this kind of float.

And trust me, cleaning up coffee water cascading down your counter is not fun.

The drip tray float on my Breville Barista Pro (usually this will just be a small red buoy), but any type of float will do the job.

The table below shows whether the machines featured in this article have floated in their drip tray or not.

Machine Name Can you brew with a scale without removing the drip tray? Where to get it
Breville Bambino Plus
Yes
Breville Bambino
Yes
Gaggia Classic Pro
No
Gaggia Brera
Yes
Flair Pro 2
N/A

Can the Machine be Easily Opened Up and Modified?

Some espresso machines can be more easily opened up and modified. This modding is a hobby in itself and has thriving online communities around it.

If you’re into tinkering with machinery and think that this might become a fun hobby for you, then I’d recommend the Gaggia Classic Pro. It’s the only espresso machine featured in this article that can be easily modded.

Breville machines and super automatics aren’t suitable for modding.

What Features Should You Ignore When Choosing the Best Espresso Machine Under $500?

Here are a couple of features that espresso machine manufacturers like to claim as a selling point for their machines but in reality aren’t that important.

Try not to fall for these red herrings when choosing your espresso machine.

Pump Pressure

The pump pressure you see on an espresso machine’s marketing material refers to its maximum potential pump pressure, not its actual brewing pressure.

All espresso machines (under $500 or otherwise) will claim to be able to exert between 9 and 19 Bar of pressure.

While this is necessary for an espresso machine to make a good espresso, it’s not a feature that affects the quality of an espresso machine for two reasons:

  • It’s something that all espresso machines have in common
  • The advertised pressure refers to the maximum amount of brewing pressure that an espresso machine can exert. It does not refer to its actual brewing pressure.

Actual brewing pressure is determined by a machine’s over-pressure valve. If you want to experiment with different brewing pressure then I’d recommend the Gaggia Classic Pro because its over-pressure valve is the easiest to adjust.

Built-in Grinder

Espresso grinders are so expensive that an espresso machine with a built-in grinder under $500 will either have a terrible grinder or a terrible brewing unit.

This is the reason why I recommend avoiding the Delonghi La Specialista Arte.

Best Espresso Machine Under $500: Final Verdict

The best espresso machine under $500 is the Breville Bambino Plus.

Best if You Won’t Mod Your Machine
Breville Bambino Plus
$499.95
The Breville Bambino can pull consistent quality espresso shots without you needing to open up and modify the machine.
Get it on Amazon
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02/27/2024 09:11 pm GMT

If you’d like to find out more about what this manufacturer has to offer then you should check out my roundup of the best Breville espresso machines.

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