"If you're looking for an espresso maker under $100, what you're really looking for is the best way to make espresso that doesn't involve a machine," says Hardin. (You'll be making the espresso manually, not automatically.)
"Getting a machine that can keep highly accurate control of temperature, house a pressurized boiler that produces 9-10 bars of pressure and push it through ground coffee and do so reliably and consistently just isn't going to come as a complete for less than about $500 at the bare minimum," he says. While you can find machines at a lower price, they're likely to be inconsistent and disappointing, according to Hardin. With a hand-extraction method, though, you control all of the variables, which is why that's your best bet when looking for an inexpensive espresso maker.
The best inexpensive espresso makers you can buy
1. Flair Neo, $119
A manual espresso maker Hardin really likes, the Flair Neo ($119), rings in just over our budget but "achieves a delicious espresso product with a straightforward, ergonomic design." And it's pretty easy to use, as well: "Simply add your ground coffee, water that is up to the correct temp—195-205º F—and press down on the lever slowly," he explains.
Shop now: Flair Neo, $119
2. Aeropress, $30
If you want a less expensive option, Hardin recommends looking at tools that achieve a similar result as espresso. "Take the legendary Aeropress ($30) for example – it creates a unique extraction of coffee all its own. To further make it espresso-like, with crema and all, I like to use a Fellow Prismo Attachment ($25) which increases the resistance in the Aeropress and pulls out the liquid with more force to create the creamy texture we're all looking for," Hardin says.
Shop now: Aeropress, $30
3. Nanopresso, $65
The Nanopresso ($65) is also "pretty impressive" because it generates the right pressure needed, and small, portable, and easy to use. (Hardin recommends it if you go camping.)
Shop now: Nanopresso, $65
4. Bialetti Moka Pot, $25
"There's also the Moka Pot ($25) most famously made by Bialetti," Hardin says. This tool is popular in Europe and South America, but is just starting to catch on in the United States. Again, it doesn't make a true espresso, but "can can be used to make a concentrated shot of coffee, which can be used the same way," he says. He adds that DeLonghi also makes an electric version.
Shop now: Bialetti Moka Pot, $25
5. DeLonghi Stilosa, $100
If you are absolutely set on an espresso machine, however, there is one option Hardin prefers (if "forced" to choose one $100 or less): DeLonghi Stilosa ($100). "For what it is, it can make espresso and do it in a fairly consistent way. It can even steam milk," he says.
Shop now: DeLonghi Stilosa, $100
The benefits of coffee, explained by a dietitian:
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