What to expect from an espresso machine under 1000 dollars?
Espresso machines under $1,000 generally fall under the low to mid-price range. They won’t come with the bells and whistles found in high-end models, but they’re not stinking of cheapness either. Here’s some of what to expect from such a machine.
Most come with a built-in grinder and this makes using them easier because you don’t have to grind your coffee beans separately. A few will have stand-alone grinders that require you to grind the beans first and transfer them to a portafilter.
Some models come with a steamer and frothing wand for milk preparation, must-have options for those looking to make lattes and other forms of espresso with milk.
Espresso machine maintenance tips
Assuming you choose a good quality machine, like the ones we’ve reviewed above, you can expect to use it for years. And with a bit of care, you may even extend its lifespan and delay the onset of mechanical problems associated with normal wear. Here are some tips to help you along:
- Wipe down the portafilter after each use to get rid of debris.
- Purge the steam/frothing wand after every use.
- If the manufacturer recommends it, backflush the machine after the last use each day to get rid of any debris that may have accumulated in the group.
- If using a removable brewing unit, remove and clean it regularly to keep it in top shape.
- Use espresso machine detergent only to clean your machine. There’s a variety of cleaning powders and tablets specifically meant for this.
- Descale your espresso machine regularly, particularly if you use unfiltered or hard water. If you use filtered or soft water, descaling once a year should suffice.
In the under $1000 category, espresso machines with a higher number of features and advanced built-in technologies cost between $700 and $1000. Those at the mid-price range cost $300-$500, and while they don’t have as many features as the former, they are solidly-built. At the lower end are machines under $300, which we consider affordable. There are some good designs in this category too, and most of them have what it takes to brew fine espresso, as you hope they would.
Features to consider while buying the best espresso machine under $1000
Let’s address each feature in an espresso machine individually and find out what role it plays in the machine.
There are three main espresso machine types:
- Manual espresso machines
The machine of choice for coffee connoisseurs, a manual espresso machine allows you to have full control over the espresso-making process. It doesn’t have automated systems and digital controls. Rather, you determine how you want to make each espresso shot and mix everything manually.
This type is quite expensive compared to the automatic ones, but the machines are well-built and tend to last a long time. They also yield some great-tasting shots if the mixing is done right and most of such machines create convenient ways to achieve that, like Flair Signature.
- Semi-automatic espresso machines
This type has both manual and electric components, which make it a lot easier to use than a manual espresso machine while giving you some control over the mixing process.
They are also less expensive, with a good number ranging between $200 and $500.
- Full-automatic espresso machines
The espresso-making process is fully automated in these machines, and this makes them super easy to use. But it also means you have no control over the shots. While the best of these cost thousands of dollars, you can find some good ones for less than $1,000.
Size is the first thing you should consider when making plans to buy an espresso machine. Do you have enough space in your kitchen for a large machine, or you can only spare a few inches for one? Fortunately, these machines come in a wide range of sizes that make it easy to find one in an appropriate size.
Beans and water capacity
If you’ll be using the machine throughout the day, or if several of you will be preparing espresso each day, you need a machine that can store 50-70 oz of water. This is enough to make 6-8 cups of espresso and should eliminate the need to refill the water after pouring a shot.
The average capacity for the bean hopper is 0.5 oz, but some will hold a higher or lower quantity of beans. The Jura Ena Micro 1 is an example of a machine with a lower bean capacity, but given that it’s designed to be a single user product, this isn’t a problem. If you have more users or a single heavy user, a lower bean capacity means they have to refill the beans more frequently than they would if the machine had a higher capacity.
Choose between an espresso machine with a built-in grinder or one that uses a separate, stand-alone grinder. Fully-automatic espresso machines come with a built-in grinder, so this is one less detail to worry about. With semi-automatic machines, however, you will have to purchase a grinder. Again, this will require additional space so make sure you have adequate counter space before going for this option.
The best espresso machines have some form of digital temperature control technology at play to help keep the water temperature consistent throughout the brewing process. Fluctuations in water temperature affect the taste of the espresso. If the water hitting the beans has a different temperature at each flow, it will reflect in the flavor. To avoid this, an automatic temperature control system is desirable.
The programming feature allows you to customize the espresso machine as you like. You can control the temperature, choose different descaling options, set the timer, automatically turn the machine on and off, and in the most advanced models, customize these settings for several users. The level of programming and customization varies with each machine, so be clear about the customizations you require and shop with these in mind. Note that the more the programs in an espresso machine, the higher its cost.
Choose between a pressurized portafilter and a non-pressurized portafilter. A pressurized portafilter takes care of tamping and basically makes sure that the consistency is right. With a pressurized portafilter, you’re assured that the flavor of your espresso will be well-balanced, even if you have an average quality grinder. This filtration type is perfect for those who just want to prepare their espresso treat in the fastest, least involving way possible.
With a non-pressurized portafilter, you’re responsible for making sure that the grind-size and consistency are just right, and it’s up to you to ensure that the coffee is perfectly compressed (tamped) in the filter. This option is perfect for those who consider making espresso art and who take pride in getting it right.
If, for you, shots and double shots are the only way to imbibe espresso and you wouldn’t have it any other way, you probably won’t worry about your machine’s ability to steam milk. If on the other hand, you delight in drinking lattes, cappuccinos, and other variations of espresso with milk, you want to choose an espresso machine with a good frothing wand and boiler system.
Coffee making time
Let’s talk specifically about the espresso extraction time. If you’re trying to calculate how many minutes this would be, you’re way off the mark. Espresso machines are fast. With a 13-18 gram dose of perfectly-ground and tamped coffee, you should have a single shot ready in about 20 seconds. A double shot would take 25-35 seconds at most. Even manual espresso machines like the Flair Signature have an extraction time of only 30-45 seconds.
The entire preparation time will be longer if you factor in bean grinding for machines that don’t have a built-in grinder, like the EspressoWorks All-In-One Espresso Machine Set.
Also known as the drip tray, this is a pan-like or tray component that’s located beneath the portafilter. Its purpose is to catch any overflow or spillage and rinsing water, essentially keeping the machine clean. The best espresso machines have steel drip pans, while the cheaper ones have plastic drip pans.
Empty and clean your drip pan regularly to ensure that there are no bacteria breeding underneath the machine. If you only use the machine occasionally, rinsing the drip pan after every use will ensure this never happens.
Most of the semi-automatic and automatic espresso machines in the under $1000 range come with a 1 or 2-year limited warranty. By contrast, the warranty for manual espresso machines averages 5 years. Understand what’s covered under the warranty to know if you’re getting a good deal, especially if you’re buying a machine that’s on the higher end of the price scale.
Espresso making tips – every cup is a joy
The trick to making the perfect espresso lies in getting the grind, dose, and temperature right. This may seem impossible when starting out, but you’ll quickly learn what works with practice. As you build your barista muscle, play around with different variations of each to create signature taste and flavors.
It begins with how you store your coffee. Buy the freshest beans you can find, transfer them to a dry, airtight container, and store away from light to retain freshness.
Experiment with different grind sizes until you find the grind size that yields the optimal extraction time (25-35 seconds). If the extract dribbles out slowly, it means your grind is too fine and you need to adjust to a coarser grade. If it’s too fast, your grind size is coarse, and you need to make it finer. Use a good quality grinder that allows you to make minuscule adjustments to the grind size until you hit the magic size.
For consistency, aim for a dose of 18 grams for each extraction.
The ideal temperature for brewing espresso is 195°F-205°F. Adjust your machine temperature accordingly to attain this range. Depending on the type of boiler the machine uses, this could mean a simple digital reset or flushing technique in a single-boiler.
Once you’ve mastered these, begin to experiment with different variations of each to discover new flavors.