In this post I’m going to be reviewing what I believe to be the best cheap semi-automatic espresso machines in the UK in 2018.
So these Espresso machines are known as semi-automatic Espresso machines. They have a filter holder also known as a portafilter, you put ground coffee beans into the portafilter, tamp (apply pressure with a tamper), place the portafilter into the machine, and then press the button or pull the lever (in the case of lever-operated machines) to pull the shot.
If you were looking for more automation and less physical effort, then you have other options available to you:
Bean to cup espresso machines. Depending on the degree of automation (there are various types of machines), you put the coffee beans in the hopper, press a button, and the machine does it all for you. Some bean to cup machines just pull the shot and you have to do the milk/water stuff yourself to make Americano, Latte & Cappuccino etc., some of them will do the whole thing, you just press the button.
Nespresso machines. As I discuss in this post, Nespresso isn’t exactly the same as Espresso, but the machines are much cheaper (than a decent prosumer Espresso machine which can cost anywhere from several hundreds upwards, and requires a grinder too, from a couple of hundred up), it’s much faster and more convenient, there’s almost no cleaning up to do after each shot.
Generally speaking, the taste of Nespresso is not as intense as a great traditional Espresso, but it depends on your taste, and what mood you’re in. When I’m in the mood for a double Espresso, a Nespresso won’t quite hit the spot – but when I’m in a rush and just want a quick hit, Nespresso is more than adequate. Also with lots of compatible pods on the market now there are many options out there.
Other pod and disk machines such as Dolce Gusto and Tassimo. If you just want Espresso (or something very similar) then personally I’d go for Nespresso out
of the different options. If you drink a lot of milk drinks though such as Latte, Latte Macchiato, Cappucino and so on, and if you want these in instant form rather than heating and texturing the milk yourself (which would be done with an Aeroccino if you go for Nespresso) then you’d probably be best with Dolce Gusto or Tassimo.
If after reading the above, you’re still decided on going for an Espresso machine, and you’re looking for an inexpensive one – then keep reading, as I’m about to go through the best selling cheap espresso machines.
A quick apology to the manufacturers for referring to their products as among the best cheap espresso machines, by the way. Cheap is a bit of a dirty word, that I would usually prefer to replace with “budget”, “affordable”, “low cost”, or “inexpensive” – it is a word people tend to use when searching for affordable consumer espresso machines though.
Just one more note before I continue. Are you looking for a fast and convenient way to drink something similar to Espresso at home, or do you want as close to speciality coffee shop coffee as you can possibly create, at home?
If it’s the former, then you may well be better suited to one of the other options such as Bean to Cup, Nespresso, Dolce Gusto or Tassimo.
If it’s the latter, then a cheap Espresso machine isn’t going to achieve this for you. If you want the very best coffee possible at home, hoping to be on a parr with coffee made by professional Baristas at great speciality coffee shops, then what it takes to achieve this, is to become a home Barista. Being a home Barista isn’t just a case of buying a machine and pressing a button, it’s a hobby.
Being a home Barista takes investment, like any hobby, of time and money. You’ll need equipment which is up to the task, and you’ll need to spend time developing your Barista skills, you may even want to invest in a Barista training course.
If this is what you see yourself doing, then you need to be looking at more capable Espresso machines, and grinders. One of the lowest cost options is the Sage Barista Express, which is a very capable Espresso machine with a PID (temperature controller, basically) and with an integrated grinder, for around £600 (it’s often on sale on Amazon for around £500), very good value at this price.
You could also go for a Gaggia Classic with a grinder such as the Sage Smart Grinder Pro (which I have, and it’s great), but if you’re buying new you’ll end up paying a similar amount to the cost of the Barista Express, which has a lot more going for it than the Classic even though I do think the Classic is a great machine for the cost. Second hand though, you can get the Classic for around £100, you can get the smart grinder pro from as low as £140-170 when it’s on offer (RRP £199) so all in along with the Rancilio Silvia steam wand you could be set up from around £250. Read this post for more info on modding the Gaggia classic wand. These are the lowest cost options, if you have a budget of two or three grand then you have much more options, see this post for more.
With all that said, I’ll move on to:
Best Cheap Espresso Machines Reviews 2018
I’m only listing machines within this post which have a decent number of reviews on Amazon which have a review score of four stars or above, so this is what I mean in terms of “The best”. When you search Amazon by average review rating, you will see that some have full 5 stars from just one or two reviews, I’m discounting any products which have a high rating from a few reviews, and I’m discounting any products which appear to have healthy overall reviews but which I believe to be poor quality machines due to a recurring theme in the negatives.
What I mean by that is that often the 1 and 2 star reviews are from people who’re just being daft and don’t realise that they need to tamp the coffee, or don’t realise that they need to try different grinds to dial in with each bean and have just tried pre-ground coffee bought in a shop meant for cafetière’s and then have returned the machine without any further thought. Sometimes though, I can see one or two recurring themes in the 1 and 2 star ratings which gives me the impression that there is a problem with the machine, and when this is also coupled with recurring complaints about how customer services deal with the issues, I just haven’t bothered to include the product, since this post is about the best affordable espresso machines, so I’m not including any machines that I suspect may be lumps of crap.
This is the best selling cheap espresso machine on Amazon, at the time of writing.
Dimensions: 22 x 28.8 x 31.5 Cm
Water tank: 1.25 L (removable)
15 bar pump pressure
Dual cup dispense
7 g and 14 g filter holders
Pannarello steam wand
2 year warranty
The Accents espresso coffee maker will look good and sophisticated in all kitchens with it’s sleek design and compact size. This machine is one for those who appreciate the experience of coffee drinking and enjoy those barista techniques. Lattes, cappuccinos, mochas and many more of your favourite drinks are now achievable at home by using the espresso dispenser and accompanying milk frothing function.
Easily Accessible Water Tank
With a 1.2 L capacity tank, it can make up to eight espressos at a time making it good for a large family or entertaining with friends. The tank can be easily removed to fill up or filled in-situ for your convenience.
Easily Accessible Water Tank
Variable Steam Control
Amazon Reviews: 4.3/5 from 183 reviews.
After 5 months this has been a fantastic machine which has been churning out coffee that’s as nice as it was on day one.
I’ve been on r/coffee via Reddit where the consensus is that if you don’t spend over £500 on an espresso machine then you might as well not bother – This absolutely does the trick.
The milk frother is great (I have taken off the plastic housing) and can make some super frothy cappuccinos!
Definitely worth your pennies if it’s this or £300+
Disappointed. Bought 4 different types of coffee and pods aswell but it doesn’t matter what type of coffee we use, none of the coffee produced is drinkable. Every coffee tastes like plastic. The ‘hot water ready light’ doesn’t work – it never comes on. Extremely hot water leaks as the coffee is dispensed. Not a good purchase.
Note About the Reviews:
The bulk of the reviews are 4 star (44) and 5 star (113) , only fourteen 1 star reviews and five 2 star reviews, which I think is very good going for such a low cost machine. Looking at the difference between the positive and the negative reviews, I would assume that the majority of the negatives are regarding faults. If you’re buying via Amazon, then you have the amazon returns window which is usually 30 days, however if you contact Amazon support you can sometimes get this extended. After this time it’s a case of contacting the supplier or manufacturer to start the warranty return process. It’s a pain having to do this, and none of us relish the experience, but when you’re going for anything at the budget range I think you just have to remind yourself that there is always a certain percentage of faults, and it’s likely to be higher on budget machines than it is on higher cost machines. All machines are sold with warranty though, so it’s not the end of the world, it’s just a pain. If your machine does develop a fault just after the 2 year warranty has expired, then that’s always a pain too – but 2 years of coffee making out of an £80 machine isn’t at all bad when you think about it.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Amazon offer a three year extended cover on certain machines, including this one. Click here to see the listing, and then in the top right hand corner just above the add to basket icon, you’ll see a tick box saying “include Amazon Protect 3-year Breakdown & Accident Cover”, so if you want to be covered for up to three years, for an extra £12, that’s an option.
There are also some comments about not enough clearance to fit taller mugs under, and I see comments like this fairly often for reviews of espresso machines. It seems that some heathens are trying to pour espresso directly into tall cups! ;-). Espresso is usually pulled into an espresso cup or glass, which are very small, and then poured into a taller cup for example of it’s to make an Americano or Latte.. With a filter coffee machine yes you would expect tall clearance to have your coffee drip into a carafe or a large mug, but this isn’t how espresso machines are designed. No problem if you want to pull your espresso shot into your coffee cup, but for most espresso machines this will involve either putting your mug in at an angle, removing the drip tray, or getting a shorter mug ;-).
Around the £100 mark on Amazon (sometimes cheaper, depending on offers) – this is what I call a cheap espresso machine, and given the reviews, I think unless you’re unlucky and end up with a faulty one (in which case hopefully you can return it within the Amazon returns window and just get another one) you can’t really go wrong at this price.
Also see the updated version of this machine, the Dedica EC. 685.M
Dimensions: 14.91 x 32.99 x 30.51 cm
Water tank: 1 L
Ready to use in 35 seconds
Pannarello steam wand
- Its simple and contemporary form is sleek and slim and with its Thermoblock boiler, this pump espresso coffee machine will enhance performance, quality ease of use and customisation for all your hot beverages
- If you prefer herbal or fruit teas, this machine can also dispense hot water with its fast heat-up time of 35 seconds
- With its flow stop function you are able to consistently personalise your coffee
- Manual milk frother allows you to mix steam, air and milk, produce a rich, dense and creamy froth
- Removable drip tray with water level indicator
The Dedica (EC680) from De’Longhi is a must for any budding barista taking their first step into domestic pump espresso machines. You can make an array of hot beverages, and using the manual milk frother you can make the perfect lungo, latte, cappuccino, or other milky drink. It produces 15-bar restaurant and coffee house standard coffee in the comfort of your own home.
All aspects of a typical professional pump espresso machine (like the ones you see in your high street coffee bar), such as grinders, filter holders, and steam pipes, are found working inside the De’Longhi Dedica EC680. The traditional milk frother allows you to impress your guests by manually frothing the milk whilst making them the ideal cappuccino or latte.
Easy to Clean
Removable drip tray with water level indicator allows you to maintain the machine with ease. It has a descaling alarm to help you keep it in the best shape.
Easy to Use
You’ll find the easy-to-use control panel with 3 illuminated buttons very user friendly.
The flow stop function allows you to pre-set and store the quantity of coffee in the cup.
Level of Convenience
It can either be used with ground coffee or Easy Serving Espresso (ESE) pods and comes with 3 interchangeable crema devices for 1 or 2 cups simultaneously.
If you wish to create milky coffee drinks, then the manual milk frother gives you that flexibility.
The filter holder is equipped with 3 interchangeable stainless steel filters to prepare one or two coffees.
Amazon Reviews: 4.4/5 from 307 reviews.
I already have one of these and only bought this because it was on a one day offer, which made it very good value.
This machine will make you coffee as you’d buy it from Costa, & it’s almost foolproof, but, and this is why it only gets four stars, just sometimes the steam button malfunctions. As this happens on my original machine I conclude it is an inbuilt fault. If it happens just ignore it and continue as normal….works for me.
Another tip is to experiment with your coffee grind, too fine and you’ll get little coffee, too coarse and it will be light on flavour.
Besides making great coffee time and time again, apart from making coffee almost automatically, you only have to froth/heat the milk, it even tells you when it needs cleaning.
I can thoroughly recommend this machine.
Bought brand new…..Was looking forward to getting this … water has been leaking everywhere from the very first day. Delonghi after sales in the UK is equally unimpressive having been forever on hold listening to recording that the website FAQ will answer my questions. Thanks for nothing basically. Without doubt the first and last de longhi product I buy.
Note About the Reviews:
213 five star reviews, 48 four star, 12 three star, 12 2 star, 22 1 star, so not bad over all.
It does sound like there have been some faults with this machine, which is to be expected with any machine but there’s a higher chance when at the budget price range. I have to say though there does seem to be quite a lot of anger towards the way De’Longhi handle warranty returns, which would put me off slightly, but this is one of the reasons I like buying from Amazon, as you have the Amazon returns window – so if you have any concerns within the first 30 days that you might have been sent a duff unit, just click the return button on Amazon and get another one sent out.
Among the folk who haven’t been unlucky enough to receive a faulty machine,
RRP £219.98 – Currently on offer here on Amazon for £139.99. I think unless you’re unlucky and end up with a faulty one (in which case hopefully you can return it within the Amazon returns window and just get another one) you can’t really go wrong at this price.
Going back to the looks again, I really like the look of this machine, very pretty. It’s available in red, black or silver. I’ve watched quite a few videos of this machine in action, and it really does look like good value for such a cheap machine.
The only thing that does catch my eye in a negative way with this machine is that fat stubby looking steam wand, and this is something that reviewers have mentioned. These fat sheaths they add to the wand are designed to make it easier for the novice home barista to froth milk, and while they may be OK for creating a texture of some kind, I don’t believe they’re the best when it comes to creating great milk texture for pouring latte art. Anyway, from what I’ve read, this silver sheath can be removed, and it works OK without it apparently. (Note from a reader, Simon K: “The Ec680 panarello wand cannot be easily removed without taking the machine apart. This is why I never bought it as you just don’t get that microfoam.” Thanks for that Simon.
The water tank is 1 litre, which is about standard, and I see someone has mentioned in the questions and answers that the capacity from the portafilter to the drip tray is about 8cm. This seems about standard to me, and an average fluted shaped latte mug would be taller than this so I could understand people being confused about this if they thought it was the done thing to make espresso directly into such a vessel, but it’s not… just go to your local Costa, or if you’re lucky enough to have a local indie artisan coffee shop, go there, and you won’t see them making espresso directly into tall mugs, they make the shot in small espresso mugs or glasses and then decant.
There’s a cup warmer on the top, which I think is always handy, you won’t fit lots of cups on there but maybe a few espresso cups or a couple of cappuccino cups?
You can use both ground coffee and ESE pods with this machine, and you can make one or two at a time.
Apparently, it has a warm-up time of just 35 seconds, which sounds very impressive – but I’m not sure how precise this is. The warm up time with my Nespresso machine is supposed to be similar, but I always run a shot through empty first or leave it a bit longer, otherwise it’s not quite hot enough.
There are four 1 star reviews on Amazon, but I’m discounting all of them – as far as I’m concerned there are no actual 1 star reviews… What I mean by this, is that people have mistakenly given the machine a 1 star review. One person appears to have bought a Eu machine with a Eu plug, and slags off the machine with a 1 star review based on that. Another person clearly just hasn’t read the instructions, one person complains that it’s making the espresso too slowly and therefore sent it back, without realising that they simply needed to adjust their grind size… and one person says it’s too fiddly, which taken in context with all the other reviews on the contrary tells me that this is probably someone who’s come from using a pod machine perhaps and isn’t used to the manual aspect of using a proper espresso machine.
The only recurring negatives that I can see from the reviews really are that the portafilter is a bit on the stiff side to put into the machine, and that the steam arm is too big. The steam arm can be sorted by removing that metal sheath as I’ve mentioned, and I’m not sure about portafilter stiffness, I don’t see anyone in any of the videos I’ve watched struggling to put the portafilter in, so maybe it’s just a bit stiff to begin with and then loosens up with use?
96 of the 132 reviews are 5 stars, and most buyers just can’t sing the praises of this espresso machine enough.
Warranty: 1 year.
The newer version id slightly cheaper, it’s substantially lighter weight than the previous version, it’s 850 watts Vs. 1100, and the water tank has reduced too from 1.7 – 1.4, so from the stats it would appear that the newer version is more style over substance, but the reviews are mainly positive so far, 80% are 5 star.
The one single star review so far, though, is from a customer who had the original version and who’s not as happy with the new version, and who claims the portafilter is a “tacky plastic one” – so I’ll keep an eye on this over time and update the post accordingly.
Size: 23.2 x 27 x 30.5 cm
This machine also has a cup warmer on the top, and I’m assuming that with these machines they’re ambient warmers, using the heat produced from the boiler, which would make sense.
Warranty: 2 Years.
This is another pretty looking espresso machine. It’s available in a few different colour options, this one is ‘Champagne”, they also do it in white, grey and black.
It looks like a really good quality machine for the cost, and OK it has a £199 price tag which prices it out of this price range usually, but it’s currently on offer on Amazon at £149.99.
As with the EC.680.M, there’s that fat metal sheath again on the steam wand, but I’m assuming that it can simply be removed as it can on that, to make it more conducive to getting the milk swirling and therefore the creation of microfoam.
It has a 1.4 litre tank capacity which puts it in second place in this post in that regard, and it’s 1100 watts which is about standard in this price range. It takes ESE coffee pods as well as ground beans.
Size: 30.5 cm x 38.2 cm x 24.2 cm
It has a 4.2 rating out of 37 ratings, 24 of these are 5 star, and among the 1 and 2 star are a couple of silly ones, including simply “so far so good” which seems odd for a 2 star review. As with the other machines, there are quite a few people complaining that you can’t get standard mugs under the portafilter, and I have left a comment on one of these to point out that standard mugs are 9-10 cm, and are not going to fit in most espresso machines, and the idea is to pour your shot of espresso into a small vessel such as an espresso mug or glass, and then decant into a larger mug if not drinking as espresso.
There are also a few lost points due to people rating the supplier rather than the product, for instance one person got the wrong colour sent to them… I think people should be taught at school about leaving product reviews ;-), when you’re reviewing a product, it’s the product you need to review, you can review the seller (many products have various sellers) separately based on their service and whether they sent the product to you on time and in one piece etc., that shouldn’t form part of the product review.
Warranty: 1 Year
I was pondering about whether or not to include this machine as it doesn’t have as many Amazon reviews as the others, but after reading all the reviews I decided it deserved to be included. It only has one 1 star review, and that review was based on the materials used being too lightweight. It has no two or three star reviews, two four stars, and 10 five star reviews all from verified purchases, so regardless of the quantity that’s a good star ratio, and I can see from all of the reviews that this is a decent machine for the money.
I also read other reviews online, and watched YouTube reviews and read the comments from reviewers a while after the review, and I read mainly positive stuff.
The one in the photo is the white one (obviously), they also do them in various other colours.
It has a 1 litre water tank, and the power is 1100 watts.
It has a steam arm for frothing milk of course but what the heck is that on the end of it? I do believe that as with the other machines with fat attachments to the steam wands, that this can be removed, and I do think it would need to be in order to make decent microfoam, but I may be wrong who knows – I just can’t see how you’d get the milk swirling in a jug with a big attachment like this, and I can imagine that what you would end up with is huge bubbles.
I noticed on one of the video reviews that there is a guy who makes custom steam wand attachments for this machine, I’ve contacted to ask him if he still makes them, and he’s replied to say he does. His name is Matt Winser, and you can contact him at [email protected]. He told me that he makes the wand attachments from food grade Delrin, and that currently he only makes them for the Delonghi machines, but that he’d be happy to look at making custom wands for other machines also.
It has a built in tamper, which I suppose is handy in case you lose your tamper (pun intended). In terms of aesthetics, I think it’s quite pleasing to the eye; OK it appears to be mainly made of plastic, and the portafilter is made of plastic and pressed Aluminium, and that doesn’t float my boat as much as some of the others which have more metal in them, especially the EC680.M, but it appears to be a nice looking machine.
Size: 27 x 24 x 30.5 cm
Warranty: 1 Year
So there we go, that’s my list of what I believe so far from my investigating, to be potentially the best cheap consumer espresso machines on the market currently.
As I said earlier, if you’re considering spending this kind of money and you want really good espresso, I’d have a read of my Gaggia classic review, in which I discuss the idea of buying a used pre-2009 model for around £100 and adding a professional steam wand, which will give you a cracking machine – I know because this is exactly what I did.
One thing I just want to finish with is to once again make reference to all the complaints I’ve seen about nearly all of the espresso machines regarding the clearance under the group head not being enough once the portafilter is inserted, to fit taller mugs.
With most Espresso machines, you don’t have a great deal of height under the group head, and this isn’t a design flaw, I assume it stems from the fact that you would usually pull a shot of espresso into a small vessel, a short espresso cup or glass. If you’re making a coffee which requires a tall mug, then you can just pull your shot into a small espresso mug or glass and then pour this into the taller mug. Actually, some Baristas who use machines which cost several thousands of pounds, which do have much higher clearance, put in raising blocks which they put their mugs onto so that the coffee isn’t pouring over such a distance and ruining the crema / splashing all over the place.
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