Inexpensive Espresso Machines
Pump Espresso Machines Under $100
Since you are reading this, I assume that you are on a pretty tight budget. It is not at all easy to get good yet inexpensive espresso machine. Most cheap espresso machines are using steam to make espresso - something that should be avoided because it produces burnt coffee that is a world apart from proper espresso.If you want to brew a decent espresso, I would strongly recommend that you get a pump espresso machine.
With pump espresso machines, like with most things in live, you in general get what you pay for. If you are serious about espresso then it may be a good idea to save enough money to get at least something like Gaggia Carezza or an entry level Saeco espresso machine along with a good espresso grinder.
But what to do if your budget simply does not stretch that far? Can you find a pump espresso machine for less than one hundred dollars? Well, the answer is yes! Just do not expect a machine that will last for years and years to come. Having said that, these inexpensive espresso machines are an excellent buy in some circumstances.
Given the very low cost, your machine will pay itself back very fast. You can use one of these machines as a temporary solution while you save up for a better espresso machine. If you have never operated an espresso machine before you may not be quite sure what you really want from your machine. In that case, buying an inexpensive espresso machine may be a good idea - you will learn a lot about making espresso and also about yourself. In a few months you will be in a much better position to choose one of the more expensive machines.
If you want a new machine, there are really only two good options - DeLonghi EC155 and Hamilton Beach 40729. So, let's have a look at them.
DeLonghi EC155 espresso machine
This espresso machine has very good customer reviews. It has a strong and relatively quiet pump and stainless steel boiler. EC155 comes with a pressurized portafilter which means that can pull good quality shots with nice crema relatively easily. However, it also means that you will not be able to pursue the art of espresso making to much depth with this machine. You can also use ESE pods with this machine since a pod portafilter is also included.
Other features of DeLonghi EC155 include steam wand with a plastic frothing adapter, a good size (35oz) removable water tank and a cup warmer. There is a simple dial on the front of the machine that controls all functions, from brewing to steaming to hot water.
All in all, DeLonghi EC155 is a very good machine for its price. Most common complaints are the awkward position of the steam wand and low clearance between the spout and the drip tray. To know exactly what to expect from it, do read the through the user reviews.
Hamilton Beach 40729 espresso machine
Just like the DeLonghi EC155, you can use Hamilton Beach 40729 both with ground coffee and with ESE pods. The main difference between the two machines is the portafilter used for ground coffee. The Hamilton Beach espresso machine has a commercial (non-pressurized) portafilter, which is great if you have a hands-on approach to making espresso. You can make espresso the proper way without any gimmicks that do half of the work for you. As a result you have much more control over the quality of the espresso (but you do have to be far more careful with how fine you grind the coffee and how you tamp it).
The learning curve for Hamilton Beach 40729 is high, but it is a very capable espresso machine for its price - you can make very nice espressos and cappuccinos once you learn how to use it properly. On a downside, owners often complain about a small water reservoir and about the effort it takes to clean the machine. As usual, read through the customer reviews to decide if this machine is right for you.
Which one to choose really depends on your preferences. One thing to consider is that the Hamilton Beach machine is going to be more fussy about the grind. So if you don't have enough money to buy a good espresso grinder then DeLonghi EC155 may be a better option for you.
Further ReadingGaggia Espresso Machines
Breville Espresso Machine
Saeco Espresso Machines