5 of the best espresso machines for under $2000

You can buy a home espresso machine with a few crumpled twenties at your local department store, or you can purchase a bespoke leviathan for the price of a small family car. And there’s a wide range of options in between.

We’ve covered some of the entry-level espresso machines in another post, but in this post we’re aiming to find you the best espresso machine under $2000.

These “prosumer” machines—part professional, part consumer—offer premium features on a take-home budget. We’ll detail how to choose the best machine for you and take a tour of some high-end picks from reputable manufacturers. These models represent the best balance of durability, features, and quality espreesso for the money.

The 5 best espresso machines under $2000

La Spaziale’s impressive reputation in the industry and uncompromising dedication to quality propels their Mini Vivaldi II to the top of our roster, but there are some excellent runners up. Our top five are:

What to look for in an espresso machine

Let’s go over the basic anatomy of an espresso machine. Inside, a boiler heats water to brew the espresso and produce steam for frothing milk. Since the ideal temperature to brew coffee is just below boiling, most machines use a temperature management system to dictate how and when water is used for brewing or steaming.

The barista loads grounds into a basket in the portafilter and presses them into a dense puck using a tamper, then locks the portafilter into the group head.

Portafilter locked in to group head
The portafilter locks into the group head, which is the main point of contact between the machine and the coffee. (© DaseinDesign | Flickr

The group head is the point of contact between the machine and the coffee. As brewing engages, it distributes pressurized hot water through the espresso puck via a shower screen. It’s designed to keep the pressure and temperature of the water as consistent as possible to ensure an even shot.

Espresso machines can generally be divided into three groups, based on how much of this is done manually, and how much is handled by the machine

Types of espresso machines

La Pavoni manual espresso machine
Lever espresso machines like La Grande Bellzza by La Pavoni are beautiful, but demand a lot from the barista.

The manual or lever machine is the most hands-on tool for making espresso. A boiler heats water and you push it through the grounds with a lever. These devices are beautiful, but much less forgiving than their pump-driven counterparts. The pressure control is entirely up to you.

The most common prosumer machines are semi-automatic. An electric pump takes care of water and pressure. You grind and tamp coffee in the portafilter then control how much water passes through the puck. Machines that allow you to pre-program the volume and time of the shot are known as fully automatic. Otherwise, their features and operation are very similar to a semi-automatic machine.

Superautomatic machines are equipped with a bean hopper and grinder, and will take you from raw materials to finished espresso at the touch of a single button.

Boiler type

Single boiler machines draw from the same source for brewing and steaming, so you can only perform one of those tasks at a time. It’s a limitation on functionality, but a simpler setup that usually comes with a lower price tag. Between brewing and steaming, the machine needs to manage steam pressure by increasing or decreasing water temperature. On some machines, you need to engage the steam release with a switch and pull more water into the boiler. On others, this process will be automatic.

Heat exchange machines can steam and brew simultaneously because they keep the boiler hot enough to produce steam pressure. Brewing water passes from the reservoir through a copper tube suspended in the boiler, where it heats to brewing temperature on the way to the group head. These machines need a short flush before brewing to remove any super-hot water in the heat exchange system.

Double boiler machines allow users to steam and brew simultaneously with less worry about manipulating water temperature. They are usually more expensive but also more consistent than heat exchange machines.

Group head type

Different types of group heads regulate heat differently and impact what kinds of portafilters are compatible with the machine. There’s no standard size or style of group head, although some designs are widely used. A group head is measured in millimetres across the diameter. Usually, that will tell you what fits if you want additional portafilters, but it’s best to check with the manufacturer to be sure.

Example of an E61 group head

“E61” is a mid-century Italian design of group head made of heavy brass to maintain temperature consistency. It is popular with a range of manufacturers and common in commercial machines. Some machines have “saturated” group heads that are surrounded by a section of the boiler to keep them hot. Others are heated by an electrical element or not heated at all, relying on hot water passing through to warm them.

Temperature control system

Temperature is critical when making espresso. How a machine regulates temperature has a big impact on quality. A simple thermostat tells the machine to keep water at a certain temperature, but idle time and water entering and leaving the boiler can lead to inconsistencies.

A PID (Proportional-Integral-Derivative) system uses an algorithm to increase water temperature by calculated increments rather than waiting for the water to get cold enough to trigger the thermostat. They are better able to account for cold water entering the boiler and they provide superior consistency throughout the machine’s use cycle.

Capacity

The size of the reservoir, boilers, and drip tray can impact heating time and the amount of attention you must give the machine daily by filling the tank and emptying the drip tray.

Durability and ease of maintenance

An espresso machine approaching $2000 is a big investment. It needs to last, and parts need to be serviceable. As the owner you can perform some maintenance, but it’s a good idea to check what kind of professional service exists in your area.

Other features and controls

Once you move beyond the major functional organs of the machine, you enter the territory of buttons, bells, and whistles that will be valued differently from one person to the next. These include status lights, timers, pressure gauges, and other ways to monitor what the machine is doing.

Size and style

You will see and touch this machine every day. Don’t judge a machine on its case alone, but there’s no shame in wanting it to look good in your kitchen. Consider what size footprint the machine has and the arrangement of its controls. Will you have easy access to fill the tank and use the steam wand where you are setting up your workstation?

The top 5 espresso machines under $2000

Keeping all these factors in mind, we present our top choices for the best espresso machine under $2000:

La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi II

La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi II BLACK Espresso Machine Check availability

La Spaziale designed the Mini Vivaldi for home or commercial use, meaning it’s tested to an even more rigorous standard than most home espresso machines.

This scaled-down version of the Vivaldi II packs two boilers and a generous water reservoir. The front-filling tank and large drip tray make it easy to use no matter where it’s tucked in your kitchen. It has two programmable shot volumes and a lever to control the steam wand.

A pad on the front facilitates 1 C adjustments to brew temperature and provides a precise real-time reading for both boilers. The group head temperature is also adjustable, enabling the barista to target the temperature profile of a shot with laser accuracy. Consumers praise the Mini Vivaldi II’s powerful steam pressure which produces velvety microfoam quickly. A dual manometer displays pressure for both brew and steam boilers.

The downside of two boilers is heating time. This machine takes around 15 minutes to heat when it’s powered on. It is available in 15- and 20-amp variations, with the 15-amp heating the boilers separately and taking 5-10 minutes longer. It’s designed for always-on use, although users can switch the larger boiler off when the machine is idle or equip an optional automatic timer to save power. Some users don’t care for the plastic side panels and drip tray face, though they are high quality and this is a cosmetic preference.

At a glance:

  • 16.3”W x 16.3”D x 15.2”H
  • 15 oz brew boiler and 40 oz steam boiler
  • 100 oz water tank
  • Saturated 53mm group head
  • Adjustable boiler and group head temperature
  • Programmable shot volume

Profitec Pro 300

 

Profitec Pro 300 espresso machine

Mirror-finished steel and minimalist controls make the Profitec Pro 300 an elegant statement piece on your counter. Robust features and a quality build match its looks. At just over 10 inches wide, the Pro 300 is one of the smallest dual boiler machines on the market. It is designed to be both long-lasting and easy to service.

PID gauge on the Profitec Pro 300 espresso machine
The PID gauge on the Profitec Pro 300.

The Pro 300 has a PID display and a gauge up front that displays the pressure in the steam boiler. The high-pressure lines inside are made of copper and braided steel rather than plastic or teflon, and the internal layout is sensible and organized. The steam boiler can be turned off with a switch to save power.

To fit into such limited space, the Pro 300 has smaller boilers than many dual boiler machines. Some users find having a few of the controls tucked under the brew group to be less convenient.

At a glance:

  • 10”W x 16.3”D x 15.2”H
  • 11 oz brew boiler and 25 oz steam boiler
  • 101 oz water tank
  • Built-in PID controller
  • Saturated 58mm group head

ECM Germany Barista A1

ECM Germany Barista Commercial Espresso Machine E61 Rotary Pump Tank 115V

The ECM Germany Barista A1 is made for the purist. This heat-exchange machine has a steam wand with a two-hole tip to satisfy an occasional cappuccino craving, but it shines best making traditional espresso.

The case and fixtures are highly polished stainless steel, giving it a sleek, classic look and luxury feel in a footprint that’s just 13 inches wide. The vibration pump is quieter than most in its class. The machine comes with single- and dual-spout portafilters for its 58 mm E61 group head. It also has a pre-infusion switch that allows a small amount of water into the portafilter to saturate the grounds before pumping begins in earnest. This helps with even extraction.

The German-designed, Italian-built Barista has outstanding durability. Users praise the internal layout as sensible and easy to service. Dual gauges on the front of the machine provide easily visible reads of the pump/extraction pressure and steam pressure. You can adjust the pressure and temperature of the boiler without too much trouble, but the factory settings should be just fine.

The machine heats up in less than 20 minutes. Its heat-exchange system makes things easy for lovers of milk-based drinks. The machine is capable of pulling espresso, steaming milk and dispensing hot water all at the same time, although for ideal brew temperatures you’ll want to steam your milk first and then do a quick cooling flush before brewing.

Remember that the group head of any E61 machine gets—and stays—very hot, which poses a bit of a burn hazard if you’re not careful.

At a glance:

  • 13”W x 16.75”D x 15.75”H
  • 71 oz heat exchange boiler
  • 101 oz water tank
  • Pre-infusion switch
  • 58 mm E61 group head

Rocket Appartamento

Rocket Appartamento White

The Rocket Appartamento is a handmade Italian E61 machine with some flair, a slimmed-down version of the company’s Cellini Evoluzione V2. As its name suggests, the Appartamento is designed with smaller spaces in mind, but it doesn’t skimp on performance or quality. A shiny stainless case with circular cut-outs and big, stylized control knobs give it a retro flavor. The panels that show through the cut-outs are available in white or copper.

Rocket Appartamento espresso machine with copper side cutouts
Copper side cutouts are an option on the Rocket Appartamento.

The Appartamento has a heat exchange boiler for simultaneous steaming and brewing, and a separate water spout so you can whip up whatever is on the menu in no time. Its dual pre-infusion system is unique. A static pre-infusion chamber and progressively working piston introduce water to the puck gently, producing even, crema-rich extractions.

Some users find flushing overheated water from the heat exchange system fussy. The Appartamento also doesn’t have the insulated boiler of its big brother, resulting in slightly reduced temperature stability. The rails on the cup warmer are plastic. As we mentioned earlier, that beefy E61 group head gets very hot, so don’t scald yourself.

At a glance:

  • 10.8”W x 16.7”D x 14.2”H
  • 60 oz heat exchange boiler
  • 84.5 oz water tank
  • 58 mm E61 group head
  • Dual pre-infusion

Gaggia Accademia

Gaggia 1003380 Accademia Espresso Machine,Silver Check availability

The Gaggia Accademia is a superautomatic machine for users who prefer a straightforward, hands-off approach. Input beans, output espresso. This machine takes care of the rest, even steaming your milk. An internal grinder provides fresh ground coffee, dosed and tamped hands-free inside the machine’s completely enclosed brew group. This all-in-one espresso station has seven programmable drink presets, making it ideal for households with multiple users.

Because the Accademia takes care of the entire process on its own, it’s incredibly forgiving to users who don’t have experience with an espresso machine. Programming can be fine-tuned, and a separate manual steam-wand allows you to put the finishing touches on drinks exactly the way you like.

The biggest trade-off for the convenience of superautomatic machines is the lack of fine control they offer over the experience. Service and durability can also suffer, owing to the relatively high number of internal moving parts.

At a glance:

  • 11”W x 16.8”D x 15.2”H
  • 12 oz bean hopper
  • 54 oz water tank
  • Integrated grinder
  • Automatic shot production and milk frothing

Our choice for best espresso machine under $2000

With big boilers, handsome looks, and the clout to take on a small café or catering operation, the La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi II is hard to beat for value. La Spaziale is a respected name in commercial espresso. Being able to tap into their expertise with a counter-sized machine at this price is an awesome opportunity for the home enthusiast.

The Mini Vivaldi II’s temperature control system and dual manometer enable top-notch control of the machine’s processes. The programmable shot volumes, easy-filling water reservoir, and lever-controlled steam wand offer unprecedented ease of use. To top it off, it’s a great-looking piece of equipment, which cements its place as our best espresso machine under $2000.

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