Updated for 2021.
“Which espresso machine can I get within my budget?”
It’s a question we get all the time. Someone’s on a tight budget and they want a recommendation for a lower cost entry-level semi-automatic espresso machine. There’s one very clear standout for capabilities and value for those starting out in home espresso. So today we’ve got our pick for the best value in entry-level home espresso machines.
We’re always excited when we receive new goodies at Whole Latte Love. We recently received the Gaggia Besana, a classic super-automatic machine featuring Gaggia’s pannarello, an easy-to-operate interface and many more admirable features that are great for entry-level users. The Besana features 3 drinks options including espresso, espresso lungo and the option to dispense hot water for tea. If you’re a big fan of making milk-based coffee drinks, you’ll love the pannarello wand which lets you take control over steaming and frothing milk for lattes, cappuccinos, flat whites and more.
If you want to further customize your daily cup of joe, choose between 5 adjustable grind settings between finer and coarser settings to make your drink just how you like it. The Besana pretty much comes with everything an entry-level user would need especially if you’re looking for convenience, a machine with little no learning curve and is from a brand with a long-standing reputation for creating machines for all coffee and espresso lovers.
Gaggia Classic Pro
Since its debut in early 2019, the Gaggia Classic Pro has stunned us with its impressive upgrades including the commercial style steam wand with a two-hole steam tip, refined rocker switch controls, an updated frame allowing for a more accessible reservoir, and improved pump mounts for a quieter operation. If you’re new to the espresso world, the Classic Pro is the best place to start their journey as a home barista. Once you’ve gotten comfortable pulling shot after shot on the Classic Pro and you’re ready for a challenge you won’t need to buy a new machine, the Classic Pro is a machine that can grow with you. Users can upgrade their set up with a shower screen, baristapro basket, and a group gasket to get better control over your extraction, all exclusive accessories that are great for leveling up your home barista skills.
The Brera is the perfect super-automatic for an entry-level coffee connoisseur who wants to start off their coffee game strong and at a great value. The Gaggia Brera is a compact and simple machine with many of the great qualities featured in higher-end super-autos. Two of our favorite features are the Optiaroma feature and the bypass doser. If you’re new to the coffee game, you’re most likely experimenting with different flavors and aromas until you settle on your preferences.
The Brera Optiaroma function allows you to customize between light, medium, and strong aromas, giving you the ability to try a range of aromas and flavors to satisfy your tastebuds. The bypass doser is a great option if you’ve got multiple coffee drinkers at home or in the office. It allows you to use different types of coffee or use decaf coffee in the bypass doser. All of the buttons that you need to pull a great shot of espresso are on the front of the machine so it’s super easy to operate and brew your favorite drinks on a daily basis.
Breville Bambino Plus
We recently featured the Breville Bambino Plus in our Top 5 Espresso Machines Under $500 and in our Battle of the Entry-Level Machines: Breville Bambino Plus vs. Gaggia Classic Pro. It a small single-boiler espresso machine and is an excellent option for those of you who are just breaking into the espresso market and are looking for something simple, modest and gets the job done. This compact machine can heat up to brewing temperatures in just 3 seconds and if you’re looking to steam milk, you can adjust the milk texture and temperature of the milk.
What’s great about the Bambino Plus is that it’s ready to brew and steam out of the box, it comes with everything you need including two programmable buttons which can also be used manually. What’s even better is that the Bambino Plus has a sensor on the drip tray to monitor rising milk temperatures as you froth your milk and will automatically shut off to your programmed milk temperature, and with 4-hole steam tip, it will purge itself so that there’s no milk getting clogged in your steam to keep things running nice and smooth.
If you’re buying a semi-automatic machine, you’re going to need a good grinder. Here’s a list of our favorite grinders for entry-level baristas on a budget:
We hope you find these suggestions helpful when looking for the best equipment to add to your home coffee bar. For even more in-depth information, take a look at our Complete Guide to Espresso Machines for more details on how espresso machines work.