The Best Espresso Setup Under $500

The Best Espresso Setup Under $500

Feb 19th 2024 Written by Ryan Felbinger


I'm Ryan from Prima and this is the best espresso set up for under $500.

It's no secret that home espresso is incredibly expensive. In the past, about $1,000 is what it would take to get you cafe quality espresso at home. But nowadays, manufacturers are introducing top tier features into the most affordable equipment, making espresso at home more accessible than ever. So for this video, we've chosen what we believe are the best home espresso grinder and espresso machine for under $500 and we're going to take a look at both of them today. Let's do it.

Baratza Encore ESP Coffee Grinder
Baratza Encore ESP

Quality Espresso Grinding On A Budget

Baratza Encore ESP Coffee Grinder

First up, let's talk about the grinder. This is the Baratza Encore ESP. The grinder is the most crucial part of really any coffee setup, but especially espresso setups, because they need to grind fine enough and they need to have micro adjustment that is small enough to make changes to espresso without causing significant differences in flow rate. And the Encore ESP is built just for that. So like its predecessor, the Encore, this has 40 steps of grind adjustment, but the adjustment has been split into two in a ramped adjustment where the first 20 settings are in the fine range for espresso and each click offers a change in micron size of only about 20 microns, which is super small beyond 20 clicks into the 20 to 40 range. What you get is about 90 microns per click, which is a bigger jump, which is more ideal for dialing in filter coffee. Inside of this grinder is Baratza’s M2 Cone Burr, which is the same burr that's in the Virtuoso + from Baratza. And it's very capable of grinding ultra-fine, even finer than you need for espresso and all the way up to what some folks use for cold brew or for automatic batch brew coffee.

So if you need a grinder for espresso on the cheap, this really is the one to get right now. If you also need one to do filter coffee as well. This is an awesome option because it truly is multipurpose. Built into this grinder are two on off switches. One is a pulse button and one is just a on off switch. Below the shoot here is a plastic grounds catch which features a 58 millimeter opening, which is designed for commercial portal filters. And it has an adapter which you can remove, which makes this compatible with 54 millimeter portafilters, which we're going to get to in just a second. But what you can do is place your portafilter over the catch cup and flip it upside down. And this acts as a dosing funnel as well as a way to catch grinds within the grinder. These features, combined with a price tag of around $199, make the Encore ESP the best budget espresso grinder on the market.

Breville Bambino Espresso Machine

Breville Bambino Espresso Machine

Affordable Home Espresso

Breville Bambino Espresso Mahcine

Next, we're talking about the Breville Bambino home espresso machine. This machine is loved by enthusiasts everywhere because it is everything it needs to be and absolutely nothing more. The most simple, straightforward and value packed espresso experience for under $500 inside of the Bambino is Breville's thermo jet heating system, which is similar to a thermal block in the sense that it heats a very small amount of water instantly in only 3 seconds, from the time you turn the machine on to perform the next task, either espresso or steam. So there's no waiting when you turn on the Bambino. Inside there is also a PID temperature controller, which is maintaining a 200 degree brewing temperature for your espresso, which is perfect for light to medium roast coffees. There's also a vibratory pump in this machine which begins the extraction with a low pressure pre infusion, then moves on to a full nine bar extraction. It doesn't go higher than that. It stays around nine bars, which is the commercially accepted standard pressure for extracting espresso properly. So really, the results that you get from this machine in terms of espresso are virtually indistinguishable from machines that are far more expensive.

Let's look at some other features in the Bambino. One of my favorites is volumetric programming. So instead of pushing to start the shot and then pushing it again to stop it with volumetric programming, all you need to do is press it once and the machine will go through a cycle and stop the shot on its own, giving you a consistent liquid output of espresso every single time. Now, in addition to brewing a single or double shot, you also get the option of steaming milk. And there is also a hot water button which pushes hot water through the steam wand if desired. Other cool features include a removable water tank on the back. You don't need to pull the whole machine out to refill it. Just grab the water tank and take it to the sink. There's not a lot of pressure being created by the Thermojet when it comes to steam, so it's going to take a minute to steam a pitcher of milk, but you get great texture with practice. Perfect for latte art at home. The Portafilter included with the Bambino is 54 millimeters, which happens to be compatible with the Baratza Encore ESP’s catch cup. Simply remove the adapter and now these two pieces fit perfectly together for a seamless and super clean espresso dosing workflow. Included with the Bambino is everything you need to get started making espresso right away, including a portafilter, a single and double basket, a couple of cleaning supplies, a plastic tamper and a stainless steel milk pitcher.

If you're someone that likes to upgrade your equipment over time, there are some manufacturers making really nice accessories for these that enhance the overall experience. Pullman is one they make a beautiful heavyweight 54 millimeters tamper that goes great with the Bambino. They also make a bottomless portafilter that works well for this machine. If you don't like the dual spouted portafilter that comes with it, another accessory that I recommend is a simple scale, like the Wacacao scale, which is a tiny espresso scale that fits shot glasses and fits perfectly right on the drip tray of the bambino. It's these features combined with a price tag of $299 that make the Breville Bambino the best value home espresso machine on the market.

So these are our picks for the best grinder and espresso machine under $500 in 2024. If you're just getting started on your espresso machine journey and you want to learn more about how to perfect the craft, check out our beginners and advanced espresso courses in the Prima Coffee Community linked in the description. Thanks for watching.

Feb 19th 2024 Ryan Felbinger

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