As an espresso enthusiast, I often wonder why espresso machines are so pricey. I’ll explain my findings in this guide.
I’ll first go through the various reasons why they’re so pricey. Then I’ll talk about how to save money when buying one. And afterward, I’ll talk about how much they typically cost.
Here is an overview:
Here we go.
- Most decent mid-range espresso machines will cost you $400–$900.
- Entry-level machines will cost less than $200.
- Complex internal components and lack of demand are the biggest factors that make espresso machines expensive.
- Save money on espresso machines by buying second-hand or using manual espresso makers.
Are Expensive Espresso Machines Worth the Cost?
Expensive espresso machines are only worth the cost if you’re an enthusiast or hobbyist who wants to perfect your craft. Otherwise, you’re better off buying a Nespresso machine or a drink from a coffee shop.
Because you’ll need to put a lot of time and money into making high-quality espresso with an expensive machine.
Here’s a better example of who should get an espresso machine, in general.
Who Should Get an Espresso Machine
Here are some examples of people who would benefit from having an espresso machine:
- Coffee lovers: If you enjoy the taste of espresso and want to be able to make it at home, an espresso machine is a great investment.
- People who drink a lot of coffee and want to save money: If you drink a lot of coffee, you can save money by making it at home with an espresso machine.
- People who want to experiment with different types of coffee drinks: Use these machines to make a variety of coffee drinks, including lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, and mochas.
- People who want to entertain guests with their barista skills: If you enjoy entertaining guests, an espresso machine is a great way to impress them with your coffee-making skills.
- Businesses that want to offer espresso-based drinks: It’s an essential machine for any cafés or coffee shops offering drinks like Americanos or lattes.
If you only drink coffee occasionally, it may not be worth the investment to buy an espresso machine. Additionally, if you are not willing to learn how to use an espresso machine, it may not be the best choice for you.
These machines also require around a 10-minute time investment per espresso drink brewed. Not ideal for anyone in a rush. If you’re someone who doesn’t want to put in time to learn and to brew espresso, consider a Nespresso.
Drinks from these machines don’t taste as good as “actual” espresso. But they take a couple of minutes to brew and heat up. And it’s easy to make quick, decent-tasting espresso drinks from them.
Let’s see why espresso machines are so pricey.
Reasons Why Espresso Machines Are Expensive
Here are the reasons why espresso machines are pricey:
|Not as large of a market.
|Paying to discover new technologies
|Complex and moving parts.
|Maintain specific temperatures.
|Again, complex parts.
|Aspects of espresso making the machine automates.
|Brands need to generate additional income, somehow.
|Brands spend more on testing.
|Steam Wands and Frothers
|Adds more complexity to machines.
|Requires complex parts to operate.
|Further enhances drink taste and temperature stability.
|Customer support and how well products are made.
|How durable machines are.
The following sections will go further in-depth into each of the reasons. Once you’re finished, don’t stop reading. Because I’ll talk about espresso machine prices and how to save money when buying one.
Let’s jump in.
1. Low Demand
86% of Americans DON’T own an espresso machine . That’s because most Americans opt for drip coffee makers or Keurigs. Both machine types don’t require any skill and typically cost less.
Yes, those numbers don’t reflect the rest of the world. But it’s a fair assumption that a majority of households don’t own espresso machines. And since there’s low demand, manufacturers will raise the machine’s prices to still make a profit.
Otherwise, there’s no way they could operate. Moreover, espresso machine brands typically target enthusiasts over regular coffee drinkers. Because they’re more eager to brew cafe-quality beverages and don’t mind learning a new skill.
There also aren’t as many choices with prosumer espresso machines as there are with drip coffee makers. Meaning, you’ll need to pay more. Because who else would you go with?
And since there aren’t many buyers, the few espresso machine manufacturers will need to make their products stand out. Thus, requiring research.
2. High Amounts of Research
Whether to meet certification requirements or to stand out from their competitors, brands will need to pay for researching. For instance, they may want to discover technology to better regulate your machines temperature. This requires money.
And it’ll require more money from the customer to make them profitable.
Sometimes brands may not put much money into developing ground-breaking technology. Some people may pay an arm and a leg for a brand name alone. For instance, Nuova Simonelli is a popular brand with expensive products.
They use high-quality components and are hand-crafted in Italy. Meaning, they’ll also need to pay more for labor.
They aren’t an example of a brand that doesn’t research. I only used them as an example for brands that cost more for name recognition.
Anyway. Speaking of parts.
Espresso machines have many more complicated parts than regular coffee machines. Here are examples of the most common ones:
|Holds the coffee grounds & is inserted into the group head.
|Delivers hot water to the coffee grounds.
|Pressurizes the water & forces it through the coffee grounds.
|Heats the water to the desired temperature.
|Provides the water for the boiler.
|Catches the excess water that drips from the portafilter.
Most espresso machine manufacturers will use portafilters with cheap, plastic handles. And most enthusiasts will usually buy new portafilter baskets and portafilters. However, some machines may include portafilters with wooden handles, which will increase the price.
Group heads have a much bigger impact on price. Devices with conventional and electrically heated group heads will cost less. Meanwhile, E61 group heads will add more costs to machines.
Commercial machines will use saturated group heads. They’re best for temperature retention and for serving many customers.
Most low- to mid-range machines will use vibratory pumps. These are cheaper due to being less complex and efficient. Rotary vane pumps will come in prosumer (really expensive) and commercial machines.
Then there’s the water boiler. Different variations of these will affect your machine’s prices in the following ways:
- Single boiler: Cheapest.
- Thermoblock: Pretty cheap.
- Single boiler with heat exchanger: More expensive.
- Dual boiler: Even more expensive.
- Dual boiler with PID controller: Most expensive.
Most machines for home use—prosumer and not—will use single boilers or thermoblocks. You’ll still see plenty of espresso makers more than $1,000 that use a single boiler. But their increased price will come from additional features.
Many machines priced more than $1,500 will allow you to connect them directly into your home’s plumbing. Eliminating the need for a water tank and providing cleaner water.
The drip tray never makes a difference in price.
Those were the main parts. Additional parts that’ll add more costs to your machine include:
- Pressure gauge: Not much of a price increase.
- Grinder: Huge impact on price.
- Hot water dispenser: Noticeable price increase.
- Steam control: Huge impact on price.
Machines in various price categories will see price impacts depending on the quality of part used. Though, most machines will have these features. For instance, you’ll always see steam wands and water pumps on espresso machines under $200.
Will they produce great-tasting beverages? Maybe not. Part of the reason is that they won’t have as good of temperature regulation as mid-range to prosumer machines.
4. Temperature Regulation
To make espresso, your machine needs to maintain a temperature range between 195 and 205 °F for optimal extraction. Otherwise, you risk under- or over-extracting your coffee. If it’s hotter, your coffee will burn. Colder coffee will result in a sour, more acidic drink.
Low-end machines can achieve temperature, but not well. That’s why mid- to high-end machines will often include features and components such as:
- Dual boilers: Allows for independent heating for milk froth steam and water.
- PID controllers: Automatically monitors and adjusts temperature.
- Group heads with better materials: Components that use stainless steel will maintain temperature better and cost more than group heads made of stainless steel.
Such components will have many more moving parts. Or require more expensive metals. Hence, the increased price tag. And they’ll make your machine more complex.
5. Machine Complexity
Espresso machines need to heat water, pump that water and apply exactly 9 bars of pressure to coffee beans, then maintain machine temperatures. Thus, a continuation on emphasizing why parts are one of the major factors in espresso machine prices.
Most coffee machines usually just heat water and apply water at 1 or fewer bars of pressure. It’s not as complex. Hence, why they’re not as expensive.
There’s another factor that comes into play regarding complexity.
Different espresso machine types will have varying levels of automation. Manual espresso makers cost the least and don’t automate any espresso-making steps. Super-automatic machines will automate every step of making espressos.
Automatic machines automate features like timing shots, and sometimes grinding.
Super-automatic machines cost more than any manual and automatic machine.
But semi-automatic machines are where things get a bit weird. Many of these models are the most affordable machines (under $100). Then a chunk of them are the most expensive (more than $2,000).
Most commercial espresso machines are also semi-automatic. And these can cost more than $10,000. That’s because these machines allow you to have consistent espresso regarding pressure application and temperature. Since these machines automate these 2 areas.
Espresso machines for businesses also cost a lot more than consumer-grade models since they have multiple group heads. These allow you to serve more customers, but add a lot more moving parts to your machine.
Otherwise, you have control over every other step, which allows you to tailor drinks to your preferences. Or your customers’, if you’re a business.
Think of an espresso machine like a car. You’ll need to replace parts on them to keep them running for years. Since scale, corrosion, heat damage, and other situations could happen with your device.
Many manufacturers make mid- to high-end machines repairable. And since these companies aren’t getting a steady source of income—other than selling replacement parts—they need to make money somehow.
Hence, the increased price tags.
Then they’ll need to meet certifications.
Many companies will want to get certifications to make them stand out. Or allow businesses to use them in certain areas. Hence, brands will strive for getting certificates like the Underwriters’ Laboratory (UL).
Such certificates require spending tens of thousands of dollars on testing. Then there’s the certification cost, which is between $5,000 and $50,000 .
That’s a single example of a certificate brands will go for. There are likely a handful that I missed, which requires further testing and costs.
I don’t have a good transition into the next section. Just keep reading.
9. Steam Wands & Milk Frothers
Adding steaming components (steam wands) make espresso machines twice as complicated as regular coffee makers. That’s because your water tank now needs to heat your steam wand and your coffee maker.
Machines with 2 water tanks will heat both simultaneously. Meanwhile, you’ll have to wait for single boilers to heat one then the other. Such features allow your machine to have many more moving parts.
And with more moving parts comes more quality control, which means the company will pay more. Resulting in you paying more.
Milk frothers aren’t as complex, but still have plenty of moving parts. Supporting the above paragraphs.
Here is our collection of machines with built-in milk frothers.
Here’s another aspect of espresso machines that makes them more complex.
10. Pressure Stability
All espresso machines need to apply 9 bars of pressure, otherwise, you’ll have bitter or sour drinks. Thus, they require complex mechanical parts such as pumps and group heads to achieve this pressure.
Other features can help with pressure exertion as well.
Espresso machines typically have features you’ll never see in most coffee makers. For instance, Proportional-Integral-Derivative (PID) controllers and pre-infusion.
The former micromanages your temperature. The latter extracts more flavor by applying low amounts of pressure to your beans.
They could include features to make accessibility and cleaning easier, like descaling notifications and front-loading. Front-loading means you can access your water tank and dreg bin without having to access the top of your machine.
Then you’ll need to consider built-in grinders. Mostly automatic and super-automatic machines have these, but they add many more moving parts to your device. Making it more expensive to manufacture.
Almost all grinders built into espresso machines will use burrs instead of blades, which is good. But they cost more. Then there’s the type of burr used. Machines using flat burrs will cost much more than those with conical ones.
The former results in more consistent grinds.
And there’s the burr material. Built-in grinders that use ceramic and titanium will typically cost more than those with stainless steel burrs. Titanium lasts much longer than steel and ceramic doesn’t heat up. The excess heat from steel burrs can burn your beans.
Some brands will include features I mentioned and some won’t. Regardless, you may pay more for the brand name, anyway.
12. Brand Reputation
Purchasing from well-known brands in the espresso community—for instance, Italian brands like Rancilio and Gaggia—comes with perks like better customer service and quality assurance. And it’ll likely increase an espresso machine’s price tag.
But, for the most part, you’re getting machines from companies that are passionate about the art of espresso making. Meaning, you’re not getting a cheaply-made knockoff that’ll likely break down in under a year.
You’re getting machines that go through rigorous quality control. And many manufacturers hand-make these machines. Adding more to their labor costs to ensure high-quality machines.
Since you’re giving these companies a huge chunk of change, they want to ensure that you’re a happy customer. Meaning, they’ll need to hire customer service representatives and repair center mechanics.
Unknown and knockoff brands typically opt for the bare minimum and won’t hire any service staff. Meaning you’re out of luck if there’s something wrong with your machine.
Well-known espresso machine brands will also use high-quality parts.
13. Materials & Construction.
As mentioned, espresso machines contain many complex and moving parts. Many entry-level machines will use aluminum components and Teflon tubing. Prosumer and commercial machines will often use stainless steel tubing and copper, since they last longer.
Such high-quality parts enable your machine to last longer despite constant use. That matters more for commercial devices, but is important for home users from a repairability standpoint.
Because if you want your machine to last a decade—which many do—you’ll want high-quality components.
It’s usually internal parts and components that’ll increase machine prices. I’ve seen many super-automatic espresso machines more than $1,000 that use cheap-feeling plastic casings. Otherwise, most machines will have stainless steel casing.
You may want to get into espresso making, but not want to blow your life savings. I may have some solutions. Keep reading to see them.
How to Save Money on Buying an Espresso Machine
Here are many ways to save money on buying an espresso machine:
- Buying used or refurbished: Old machines or refurbished ones.
- Checking out different brands: Getting a device from a brand that’s not popular.
- Using a manual espresso maker: Espresso-making devices without complex parts.
- Using a different brewing method for espresso: Brewing methods that cost less and produce espresso-like beverages.
You could also save money by comparing prices on different websites and by using coupons and rebates. But those are obvious methods which don’t deserve dedicated sections. I’ll talk about less commonly-discussed means to save money.
Here we go.
1. Buy Used or Refurbished
Recommended for: Beginners and risk-takers
Buying espresso machines from a previous user could save you hundreds (or thousands) of dollars. However, there’s no warranty protection, and the potential for hidden issues. These machines also have a shorter lifespan due to being used a lot in the past.
Refurbished machines compensate for many of these weaknesses by replacing faulty parts in previously owned machines. But many of the components will likely have suffered from wear and tear.
And cost savings from refurbished machines possibly aren’t as much as using second-hand. But you’ll have access to high-end models without paying a small fortune. Plus, most reputable resellers will ensure that these machines underwent thorough testing.
If you’re an absolute beginner to making espresso, you may want to consider the next method.
2. Explore Different Brands
Recommended for: Beginners
If you’re learning how to make espresso and want to spend less than $200 on an espresso machine, consider one from brands with weird-sounding names from Amazon. It’s no guarantee that your machine will work well, but they’ll usually include 1-year warranties.
Plus, many of these machines are semi-automatics, which will give you a feel as to how to time your shots and froth your milk. Then, once you feel comfortable, you could consider upgrading to a used or refurbished machine.
Are you not a gambler? You might like this next suggestion.
3. Consider a Manual Espresso Maker
Recommended for: Enthusiasts
Manual espresso makers typically cost less than $200 and provide high-quality features that’ll allow you to make great-tasting drinks. So long as you have the time budget. Because you’ll need to invest a lot of hours to learn how to perfect these devices.
They require you to manually perform every step of the espresso-making process.
These makers cost less than semi-automatic, automatic, and super-automatic machines due to the lack of moving components and electronics. And they cost less because they can last for more than 15 years.
For instance, the ROK manual maker has a 10-year warranty. Meaning, the manufacturer is confident their product will last that long.
And manual espresso makers will save you a handful of change monthly on electric bills. It’s not much, but it’s something. And it’s the most reliable method to make espresso if you’re passionate about the craft.
Since you’ll have the most control over how your drink turns out.
You may not have such patience. I understand. And I’ll provide alternative coffee-making methods.
4. Consider Alternative Brewing Methods
Recommended for: Frugal folks and casual coffee drinkers
Opting for alternative brewing methods to espresso machines could save you thousands of dollars and potentially 6 months of time. Because that’s how long it’ll typically take a barista to learn how to make high-quality espresso .
Buying a Nespresso or TASSIMO capsule maker will still get you espresso and save you money you would have spent on a grinder and other espresso-making accessories. They’ll also save a bunch of time since you just plop these pods in the machine and let them run.
The resulting drinks don’t taste as complex from resulting beverages from an espresso machine. But they’re good enough if you want a caffeine boost that isn’t black coffee.
You could save even more money by using percolator or moka pot brewing methods. Both produce concentrated coffee beverages. Though, they’re not considered espresso due to using no bars of pressure nor have crema.
Devices in both categories typically cost under $100. However, you’ll still need a coffee grinder.
Such a device could cost you hundreds (or thousands). But you’ll save up to $1.45 per serving if you use ground coffee beans for these brewing methods instead of Nespresso pods .
I typed a lot of words about what contributes to these machines’ prices but never actually states the machine’s price.
How Much Are Espresso Machines Usually?
Most decent mid-range espresso machines will cost you $400–$900. Entry-level machines will cost less than $200. Nespresso machines will cost $100–$600. And high-end espresso machines will cost more than $2,000.
Once you get into the $1,000 range, you’ll get into the territory of commercial espresso machines for small businesses. You’ll also start seeing more super-automatic machines and low(ish)-end prosumer models.
$4,000–$10,000 will get you machines suitable for businesses that serve hundreds of customers daily. Anything under this and more than $1,000 will get you higher-end prosumer machines.
“Prosumer” means these machines come with features or components often used in commercial machines. Thus, your machine will produce coffee that tastes like it’s from a coffee shop. And the machine itself could last over a decade.
Machines costing more than $10,000 are meant for high-traffic coffee shops and cafés located in popular areas. Or for super-automatic, self-serving espresso machines meant for buffets or other businesses where customers serve themselves.
What kind of espresso machines will you get in different price categories? This post is long enough as is.
Thus, here’s a list of other pieces where we recommend espresso makers at various price points:
- Under $100: Entry-level.
- Under $200: Entry-level.
- Under $300: Entry-level.
- Under $500: Mid-range.
- Under $1,000: Mid-range
- Under $2,000: Prosumer(ish)
Here are the machines we are offering:
Did you read through this entire guide without knowing what an espresso machine is? I got a section for you to read.
What Is an Espresso Machine?
The main components of an espresso machine are the boiler, pump, group head, and portafilter:
- Boiler: Heats water to the desired temperature.
- Pump: Forces hot water through the coffee grounds.
- Group head: Houses the portafilter and dispenses water.
- Portafilter: Small metal filter basket that holds the coffee grounds.
The brewing process involves grinding and dosing the coffee beans, tamping the grounds, locking the portafilter into the group head, and extracting the espresso shot. The quality of the espresso is affected by the grind size, dosage, tamping, water temperature, and type of machine.
And that’s all there is to know about espresso machine prices.
Complex internal components, testing, and low product demand are the main reasons why espresso machines cost so much. However, they’re a worthy machine for coffee enthusiasts wanting to replicate coffee house tastes.
Don’t know whether you’re buying the right espresso machine? Check out a buyer’s guide we made.