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Don’t want to spend big bucks on café-quality beverages? No worries! You can still make your favorite latte, cappuccino, or regular coffee from the comfort of your own home without breaking the bank on an expensive machine or spending $5 on a latte every day at your local coffee chain. Save your money and become your own barista at home with these our 5 best espresso machines under $500.
Since 1930, Gaggia has dedicated decades to improving home brewing by developing the most innovative machines and technology for entry-level to professional home baristas. The Gaggia Classic Pro has taken the lead in the coffee and espresso machine market as the go-to for entry-level baristas in particular. Many users love the upgrades that Gaggia implemented compared to the former model, the Gaggia Classic, which was enormously loved in its own right.
If you’ve been looking to switch up the look of your loyal Gaggia Classic Pro, you can finally get your hands on bright and bold new color options: Cherry Red, Thunder Black, Classic Blue, Industrial Grey, and Polar White.
Now, users get to enjoy the Pro's streamlined housing, updated rocker switches, a more accessible water reservoir, and, of course, the long-anticipated commercial-style wand. Of course, all the features that made the previous Classic a hit return in the Classic Pro, including the 3-way solenoid valve to knock out nice, dry pucks after extraction, fully embedded 1425W heating elements, commercial group, and the industry-standard 58 mm portafilter and commercial baskets.
What I love most about the Classic Pro is that you’re making a great investment in a machine that can grow with you as you hone your skills as a home barista. You can upgrade your Classic Pro at any time with a shower screen, baristapro basket, and a group gasket to get better control over your extraction if you’re serious about becoming a pro-barista. These are all made specifically for the Classic Pro and are available to add to your collection without having to splurge on a brand new upgrade.
Along with the Classic Pro, the Gaggia Brera is another machine by Gaggia that gets a ton of love from Whole Latte Love customers. The Brera is for espresso lovers who appreciate the simplicity and convenience of pressing a button and getting their favorite beverage on demand. This bean-to-cup machine comes in black and silver, and is easily programmable through the LED display. Users can customize their favorite coffee with Gaggia’s Optidose system so that they can adjust their coffee by temperature, volume, aroma, and coffee strength.
This means you’ll never have to wait in a busy coffee shop on early mornings, hoping that the barista gets your order right, you can roll out of bed, press a button on the Brera, and grab your cup of joe to go. With the Brera, you are your own barista! Plus, with all the drinks you'll be making yourself instead of paying for at a cafe, the Brera will pay for itself in no time.
More loveable features on the Gaggia Brera:
The Brera comes equipped with Rapid Steam Technology, which translates to quick heat-up times, robust brewing, and steaming operations. You’ll be able to steam and brew back-to-back with ease.
On top of the Rapid Steam Technology, the Brera also comes with Gaggia’s famous Pannarello wand that makes frothing milk for lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, and more a breeze.
The ceramic burr grinder on the Brera ensures grind consistency and reduces heat transfer, resulting in flavorful and aromatic coffee. For your convenience, the Gaggia Adapting System automatically adjusts grind time and RPM to deliver the desired coffee quantity, regardless of whether you’re using light, medium, or dark beans.
The Gaggia Carezza De LUXE takes the guesswork out of brewing consistent café-quality beverages. This semi-automatic machine takes one minute to heat up to appropriate brew temperatures and features a temperature ready indicator light for steaming. One of the best features that we love on the Carezza De LUXE is the large baskets that come included with the machine; they fit up to 18g of coffee, while other competing machines in its class only offer 12g baskets. 18-gram baskets are standard in most coffee shops, so when brewing with the Carezza’s 18-gram basket you’ll find that you’ll be getting crema-rich shots that are balanced and flavorful.
Now, it should be mentioned that the portafilter itself is pressurized, which is important to know for anyone just starting their espresso journey. A pressurized portafilter or pressurized baskets are very good for beginners or anyone with very little experience in preparing their own espresso. No matter what, as long as you use high-quality coffee, you'll get a decent shot. If that's all that matters, that's totally okay. But, if you want a machine that grows with you, you may want to consider a more robust machine like the Classic Pro instead.
Thanks to that pressurized portafilter, though, the Carezza De LUXE is also ESE pod compatible, taking the learning curve out of figuring out the quirks and beauties of semi-automatic machines for entry-level users who just want to add a pod and receive coffee. Simply add the pod adapter to the portafilter with the pod filter basket on top. Add the ESE pod and attach the portafilter to the machine, it’s that simple.
To steam milk, the Carezza De LUXE features Gaggia’s famous pannarello wand which can be used to froth milk manually or automatically. To froth manually, simply remove the pannarello attachment and use the steam arm by itself. This is a great option to improve your skills as an at-home or office barista, and produce velvety microfoam suitable for latte art.
The Breville Bambino Plus is a small single-boiler machine that can fit into any kitchen space and is ready to brew and steam out of the box, for any entry-level home-barista. Despite its small size, the Bambino Plus comes with many features and handy tools that will make brewing your espresso, barista-style, an enjoyable experience on this compact machine. It comes with a large 64-ounce water reservoir that’s easily detachable from the back of the machine, a 54mm metal portafilter, a Razor™ Precision Dosing Tool, a 16 oz stainless steel frothing pitcher, a cleaning disc, and cleaning tablets. No need to buy extra accessories and confuse yourself if you’re an entry-level barista eyeing the Bambino because it pretty much comes with everything you’ll need.
As I mentioned, the Bambino Plus is ready to brew and steam out of the box. It comes with everything you need and even heats up quickly so that it’s ready to brew and steam in a couple of seconds. It has two programmable buttons which can also be used manually, and it features two buttons to adjust the temperature of your milk and adjust the amount of milk foam which is awesome for an entry-level friendly machine as you learn how to properly froth milk for lattes, cappuccinos and other milk-based beverages.
What’s even better is that the Bambino Plus has a sensor on the drip tray to monitor rising milk temperatures as you froth 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 think the Breville Bambino Plus might be the perfect machine for you, click hereto learn more about it! It’s a great entry-level friendly machine with lots of intuitive features that you might not see on other machines in its class, and is compact enough to fit in almost any kitchen space — whether you’re in a small apartment or don’t have much cabinet space.
Capresso's Cafe Pro has the build quality and the brewing features of an advanced entry-level espresso machine that makes it an excellent choice for this list. Housed in heavy duty, die-cast stainless steel with a width of just 8 inches, the Cafe Pro looks good, feels tough, and will have no trouble fitting into even a crowded kitchen.
Unlike most machines which typically ship with two of the same style portafilters, the Cafe Pro comes with both a double spout pressurized and a bottomless commercial style portafilter. The pressurized filter creates artificial back pressure while brewing, making it easier to pull crema rich shots of espresso. The commercial style filter challenges you to perfect your technique to pull better shots and the bottomless spout makes it easier to identify unevenness in your extraction.
For frothing milk, the Cafe Pro is equipped with a commercial style steam wand, unlike a number of machines in its price range. Commercial wands are also ideal for texturing milk when pouring latte art.