One of the things I absolutely hate about espresso machines is the price tag. But as a coffee aficionado, I’m willing to pay a few hundred dollars and get a machine that makes good coffee — not the type of coffee you’d expect from a regular coffee maker. However, I know that most can’t afford paying so much on an espresso machine, so I’ve decided to show you a list with my favorite models under $300 — yeah, under $300. But be prepared to compromise on some features, because not all will have all the functionalities of a high-end espresso maker.
De’Longhi EC680 Dedica 15-Bar Pump Espresso Machine
- Slim design: takes just 6 inches of counter space
- 15-bar pressure
- Illuminated control panel
- Milk frothing system
- Three-in-one filter: accommodates single shots, double shots, and easy-serving espresso pods
- Built-in cup warmer
I’ve always appreciated the quality of De’Longhi machines, and despite the price tag of $215, the De’Longhi EC680 Dedica performs better than you’d expect. Water heats to ideal temperature in about 30 seconds, while De’Longhi advertises the heating time to be 40 seconds — it’s impressively fast, and even quicker than some of my expensive machines. Even more surprising is the creamy espresso it makes — while the shot isn’t as flavorful as I’d like, the taste is far beyond cheaper models. Whether you want to make cappuccinos, lattes, or just enjoy a shot of espresso, I’m confident that the De’Longhi EC680 Dedica will accommodate your needs perfectly — at a much lower price.
The milk frothing system is quite good, but the frothing turns out to be bubbly, which I honestly don’t like. I’m more satisfied with the Nespresso Aeroccino Plus Milk Frother, which offers the perfect consistency without compromising on taste. Cleaning is a breeze if you run the espresso maker with plain water, and takes no time. I need only one minute or so to get the brewing filter holder and basket perfectly clean, which I’m sure many will appreciate!
I can’t say much about the quality of the build, though. While the De’Longhi EC680 Dedica is indeed made from stainless steel, I already noticed some scratches on its surface, which leads me to believing the machine won’t last very long without extensive care. Nonetheless, the coffee maker doesn’t take too much countertop space, and it’s relatively lightweight, so it’s perfect for office use as well.
For less than 300$, I think the De’Longhi EC680 Dedica does a great job at making good espresso. If you’re an aficionado like me, then you’ll want a richer aroma, but if you just want your morning shot of espresso, you’ll find this machine to be a Godsend!
Nespresso Citiz C111 Espresso Maker
- Compact dimensions: 5.1 x 14.6 x 10.9 in
- Water tank capacity: 34 oz
- Pump pressure: 19 bar
- Power saving mode
- Backlit controls
The Nespresso Citiz C111 Espresso Maker is one of the few espresso makers under $300 that can deliver barista-style coffee each and every time. Despite its lower price, you can expect a fabulous cup of coffee in under 2 minutes, as the machine needs around 25 seconds to heat water to the right temperature. One thing you’ll want to know about this Nespresso is that, unless you use freshly roasted beans, you won’t get a rich flavor. I prefer roasting mine at home, although I’m sometimes lazy enough to go to the store and buy them already roasted or even ground. The coffee tastes a little bit watery when the coffee grounds aren’t fresh, so those who don’t have the time or budget to invest in a coffee roaster may find it not that good after all.
The coffee comes out hot, and the texture is thick and creamy, although I like my shot of espresso to be unctuous. The machine doesn’t make compromises for those who love lungo instead of espresso — there’s a separate button for that as well. The controls are backlit, which makes the design even easier to use. I particularly enjoy the adaptable folding drip tray, which can accommodate taller cups, although my travel mug doesn’t quite fit in there.
One drawback of the Nespresso Citiz C111 Espresso Maker is that water collects in the disposal tray for the used pods, but that is an easy fix. Unfortunately, this espresso machine works with capsules, and they can get pretty expensive, so I don’t recommend this for offices. It’s a fail-proof choice for one- or two-person households, but if you need to make three or more cups of coffee every morning, the total investment will be significantly greater.
Nespresso Pixie Espresso Maker
- Compact design: 4.4 x 9.3 x 12.8 in
- Water tank capacity: 24 oz.
- Removable water tank
- Power saving mode
- Pump pressure: 19 bar
- Backlit controls
Okay, I admit it — I have a soft spot for Nespressos, but can you blame me? At just $195, the Nespresso Pixie Espresso Maker has pretty much the same features as the Citiz C111 model above, albeit with some shortcomings. For example, the water tank has a capacity of just 24 oz as compares to Citiz’ 34 oz. But this doesn’t make the coffee less tasty — in fact, the Pixie works every bit as well as the Citiz, and produces coffee that’s thick, creamy, and flavorful. The coffee comes out in less than one minute, but if you want your cup of bliss with some frothed milk, then you’ll spend another minute or so for preparation.
Paired with my Nespresso Aeroccino Plus Milk Frother, the Pixie worked spectacularly well, and I think its performance is quite close to one of my older Philips Saeco models. The 19-bar pressure is good at unlocking the flavor of the coffee, and I actually found myself taking the time to enjoy my cup of Joe rather than just gulp it down in seconds. A thin layer of frothed milk on top of the creamy drink brightens my day — and for a machine in this price range, I think the Nespresso Pixie is worth the investment.
Again, you’ll need to purchase capsules to use this system, but other than there isn’t much I don’t like about the Pixie. The removable water tank makes cleaning really easy, and the small footprint of the machine is very convenient if you don’t have much countertop space. All in all, the Nespresso Pixie Espresso Maker is guaranteed to make a difference in the quality of your cup of coffee, and since it’s not as expensive as some high-end models, you can easily afford it.
KRUPS XP1600 Coffee Maker and Espresso Machine
- 2 in 1: coffee maker and espresso machine
- Capacity: 10 cups for coffee maker, 4 cups for espresso machine
- Steam nozzle for frothing milk
- 4-bar steam system
- Cup warmer
- Programmable coffee strength and daily start time
The KRUPS XP1600 Coffee Maker and Espresso Machine is an excellent option for those who want a brewer that’s functional and versatile. I’m not a big fan of plain coffee, but I wanted to test this machine to see if it makes good espresso. While I wasn’t disappointed in the texture, the aroma wasn’t as strong as I wanted, even when I put more coffee grounds in there. The flavor is pretty watery, although the coffee comes out thick, creamy, and super textured.
The cup capacity is impressive, and the coffee maker can easily accommodate your whole family or even an office. As a matter of fact, the combo of coffee maker and espresso machine will satisfy the needs of many people, so it’s a great choice for larger groups. However, the machine can be quite big in size, so if you’re after a model with a small footprint, this one certainly isn’t for you. The carafe can keep coffee warm for about 2 hours, which is nice if you don’t like cold coffee.
You need to run through a few brew cycles with water before you first use the KRUPS XP1600 Coffee Maker and Espresso Machine, otherwise the coffee will smell of plastic. I needed about four cycles to completely remove the odor. There’s no water filter, so you’ll need to filter the water yourself. Another drawback is the short cable — you’ll need to put the machine close to an outlet, which can be rather inconvenient for some.
I definitely recommend the KRUPS XP1600 Coffee Maker and Espresso Machine for those who want quality and affordability. If you’re not that concerned about coffee strength, and want to have a latte or cappuccino occasionally, then you’ll find this one a perfect choice for you!
Verdict – Best espresso machines under 300
If you’re willing to invest a little more money in a good espresso machine, then I warmly recommend one of the Nespresso machines above — either the Citiz or Pixie will be good. However, keep in mind that they work using Nespresso’s proprietary capsule system, and purchasing capsules can get expensive. In general, the De’Longhi EC680 Dedica 15-Bar Pump Espresso Machine is a better choice, although you’ll be paying a few extra dollars to get the machine.