This $125 Espresso Machine Rivals Those Fancy Models That Cost Thousands

published Feb 28, 2021
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I didn’t become a coffee drinker until I was in grad school, but I’ve been making up for lost time ever since. While I’d never claim to be a professional, my collection of coffee contraptions has grown from the Black & Decker coffee maker we got for our wedding 20 years ago to a burr grinder, a French press, ceramic pour over funnels (thrown by my wife, Beth), a Japanese Kyoto cold brew tower, and, most recently, a small countertop espresso machine.

My wife and I began scoping out espresso machines as a joint Christmas present, eventually deciding to hold off on it and focus on other gifts. But, as luck would have it, she snagged a like-new De’Longhi espresso and machine off Facebook Marketplace just before Christmas — and it’s afforded us hours of caffeinated delight.

Is this $125 espresso machine as good as the pro-grade ones that costs thousands? No, but it definitely gives them a run for their money. And it’s everything I need at home. It’s easy to operate and, paired with a good burr grinder and coffee beans, it brews a solid cup of espresso that’s great on its own or in cappuccinos and lattes. It’s easy to clean, too, as all of its parts can be quickly removed for a good scrubbing.

Credit: Nicholas Dekker

The machine comes with a pair of filter baskets so you can brew one or two shots of espresso at a time. And after a few tests with different grind settings, I found the right setting on my burr grinder that yields espresso shots that have rich crema and low bitterness. My only quibble? The machine’s steam wand is a tad short, which means I can’t immerse it as far as I’d like into my milk frothing pitcher, so I often get more foam and less hot milk than I’d prefer.

While the espresso has been great on its own, it also serves as the base for a variety of drinks, from cortados and cappuccinos to more specialized concoctions like mochas and iced vanilla lattes. And our boys very quickly discovered the joy of a cereal milk latte, made by soaking their favorite sugary cereal (Lucky Charms) in milk for 30 minutes, then steaming and frothing it before adding it to espresso.

Credit: Nicholas Dekker

Our 12-year-old even designed, printed, and laminated a menu for “Dekker’s Lazy Dog Cafe,” our “coffee shop” named after our sleepy, 15-year-old yellow lab. It lists both espresso offerings and traditional brew methods, and we look forward to the days when we can once again safely host visitors and ply them with all the coffee they could possibly want. That’s the true joy of this espresso maker: Just being able to gather together over a good cup of coffee.

Do you have an espresso machine you love? Tell us about it in the comments!