Best Machine under $300
If you're short on time or just want to trust our judgement check out our favorite espresso machine under 300, Cuisinart DCC-3200
Best Espresso machine under 300
Sometimes, when you’re in the market for a new coffee maker (whether for yourself or for a gift), you want something that’s inexpensive that still gets the job done. Higher-end coffee machines will usually have premium features that you won’t find in the budget options, but do you really need to pay for a feature you won’t use? Here we've rounded up three of the best espresso machine under 300.
With each type of coffee maker, your expectations and features will be significantly different. It wouldn’t make sense to look for a drip coffee maker with a milk frother, for example, as most people simply use chilled cream in these drinks. Likewise, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to look for an espresso maker with a large brew output, since espresso is typically made one or two cups at a time.
What should you expect for from an Automatic Espresso Machine under $300?
Of course, whenever you opt for a budget option, you’re bound to make some sacrifices. When it comes espresso makers, the first things to go are generally the built-in grinders and milk frothers that are present on higher-end machines. Be sure to check that the machine you choose is made of durable materials before buying – after all, if your $300 machine will only last half as long as a $500 machine, you’re not saving any money in the long run.
What should you expect from drip coffee maker under $300?
With a traditional drip coffee maker, on the other hand, $300 will afford you a premium machine. These machines are often the top of the line as far as drip coffee goes, and while not everyone likes the taste of coffee from a drip machine, the higher end machines will often address many of the issues seen in less expensive machines. In fact, if your drip coffee maker is on the higher end of the price scale, you should expect that it comes with every feature you can reasonably expect from a drip machine.
What should you expect from A Pod Espresso machine under $300?
Pod machines are a category all their own. While other machines charge outright for the machine itself, many manufacturers opt instead to use the pod design, as they can charge over the life of the machine, rather than all at once, and for those on a fixed income, it may be the easiest way to incorporate premium coffee into your daily routine. The company makes the majority of their money when you buy replacement pods, as their system is usually proprietary and not compatible with pods for other brands. Budget options from third parties do exist, but are generally significantly lower in price than what we’re looking at today.
Your pod machine, at any price, should include a small sampler collection of pods so you can get started right away, and ideally the higher-end machines should also use a mostly-metal body, as metals don’t contain BPAs like cheaper plastics do. They’ll also look much nicer on your countertop, although you will probably need to wipe them down more frequently to avoid water spots and fingerprints
Best Espresso Machine Under $300: Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista Espresso Maker
Whether your main concern is the budget or an attractive color combination, the Mr. Coffee Café Barista is one of the best value espresso machines currently available. It’s certainly no Mini Lucca or Elektra Microcasa (two of the most expensive espresso makers available), but it offers a tremendous value for the money and is sure to match with any décor. There are three color combinations available currently – white, red, and stainless steel – and all three retail for under $300. (The red is the most expensive, but for those who want a bright pop of color in their kitchen, it truly is beautiful.)
Of course, your coffee maker shouldn’t be all about looks, and the Café Barista certainly has more to offer than just a gorgeous counter presence. This is a (nearly) all-in-one machine that allows you to brew your espresso and froth your milk from within the small design, and the included instructions make the whole process simple, even for absolute beginners. There are a few recipes supplied, and while you won’t get the customization that a higher-end machine will offer, most customers will be pleasantly surprised with the options that this machine does offer for the low price.
This machine does produce true espresso, using 15 bars of pressure – which is above the industry standard of 9 bars. This creates a great frothy crema and a wonderfully smooth drink that’s hard not to enjoy. The control panel is easy to understand, as each button has a picture next to it that tells you what you’ll get if you hold the button for three seconds. A single press gives you five ounces of espresso before it automatically cuts the water supply.
To add just a little more convenience, everything but the brew group is cleaned with a simple button press. The brew group is cleaned by pressing the brew button again, without adding any more coffee. Note that you should have an empty cup under the spout when you do this to avoid a huge mess. You will need to make sure that your machine is turned back to the brewing functions after cleaning, though, as there are no sensors to control this. For the price, though, the Café Barista can’t be beat!
Best Drip Coffee Machine Under $300: Cuisinart DCC-3200W 14-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker
Those who love drip coffee will absolutely adore the Cuisinart DCC-3200. This has a huge 14-cup capacity, which is larger than most drip machines available, and takes up very little in terms of extra counter space. The attractive design comes in both black or white laid against stainless steel (although, at the time this review is being written, the black-and-stainless model is an Amazon Prime exclusive). Whichever design you choose, the retail price is under $200 – and well worth it.
The carafe is very similar to the DCC-1200, with the same pop-off lid. It pours beautifully whether the lid is in place or not. The sneak-a-cup feature works well, with minimal dripping – which isn’t new for this line, but is a tremendous improvement over most cheaper drip coffee makers. This machine uses the exact same carbon filters as the previous model, but they have addressed a design flaw that caused the filter holder to not fit as snug as most people like. We’re happy to see that this problem has been fixed.
While many of the features of the DCC-3200 are very similar to its predecessor, the DCC-1200, there have been some adjustments made (aside from just the larger size). First, the water temperature is much hotter, which means that you’re getting more out of the grounds. The larger water tank also increased the size of the water fill hole, despite the lid only lifting to 90 degrees on the newer model. Unfortunately, there is no longer accommodation for a thermal carafe, but this didn’t prove to be an issue for us.
Some of the most important improvements are around the main issues that we saw with the DCC-1200 – such as overflowing and clogged filter baskets. These have shown great improvements in the DCC-3200. We recommend only using the machine with a water filter in place, as this should help prevent any issues with overflowing or clogging.
Best Pod Espresso Machine Under $300: Nespresso D111-US-BK-NE1 Citiz Espresso Maker
While the Nespresso Citiz is significantly higher in price than most pod coffee makers, we feel that it embodies the fullest pod machine experience you can possibly get for under $300. This machine has a very vogue design that looks attractive with any kitchen color scheme, and the small footprint leads many customers to keep them on their desks at work – perfect for that mid-morning pick-me-up.
Not only does it offer the convenience of capsules, but it actually delivers a higher pressure rating than most traditional espresso makers, at 19 bars. This added pressure doesn’t mean quite as much as it might seem, though, as the additional pressure is there to ensure that the full 9-bar standard reaches the puck. Still, it’s nice to know that the Citiz went the extra mile to give the machine a good pump. This unit is also significantly quieter than most traditional espresso makers, which isn’t a “necessary” feature, but it’s nice all the same.
The time necessary to pull a great shot is about the same as with a traditional machine, at just under a minute start-up warming time and then about a minute for the actual brew time. If the machine sits idle for about five minutes, it will automatically shut itself down to conserve energy. We love this feature in all of our coffee makers, as every step we can take to save energy is better for our planet and, of course, our wallets. Clean-up takes about another minute, so realistically you can have an amazing cup of espresso and a perfectly cleaned machine in under five minutes total.
In terms of taste, pod machines are notorious for falling below expectations, but that’s not the case with the Citiz. There are only a few varieties available, and not all stores will carry them (including stores that sell Nespresso machines). We found that the quality of the resulting drink was far higher than other pod machines, and we have yet to find fault with any of the styles available. We do recommend stocking up on pods so you can take advantage of the frequent bulk discounts that are available to reduce the ongoing running costs.
All prices in this article are based on the list price from the manufacturer, prices are subject to change and prices may vary at different retailers.