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Best Espresso Machine Under 600 Dollars Review 2018

We’ve scoured the internet in search of the best espresso machine for $600, and have found what we believe to be the best value on the market today in that price range plus three other great models that, although they didn’t win top honors in our eyes, would be great machines for the right person. Check out the table summary below. 

Comparison Table

OUR PICK


OVERALL BEST 

Best Espresso Machine Under 600 Dollars

Espresso Machine Under 600 Dollars
-33% Gaggia Anima
$599.00 $899.00
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Last update: December 10, 2018 7:13 pm
Last update: December 10, 2018 7:13 pm
Last update: December 10, 2018 7:13 pm
Last update: December 10, 2018 7:13 pm

Rating

Price

$$

$$$

$$$$

$$$$$

Style

STYLE

Super Automatic

Semi Automatic, Hybrid

Semi Automatic

​Super Automatic

Dimensions

​16.9”x8.7”x13.4”

13.2” x 12.5” x 15.8”

​25” x 13” x 12”

​12.6” x 18.14” x 14.64”

Weight

16 pounds

23 pounds

20 pounds

​19.84 pounds

Reservoir Size​

RESERVOIR SIZE

​60 Ounces

67 ounces!

​72 ounces!

​57 ounces

Boiler

BOILER

​Double boiler system.  Both are aluminum, lined with stainless steel, and both feature Thermoblock technology

Single boiler, aluminum, lined with stainless steel.  Has Thermoblock technology

​Single boiler, aluminum, lined with stainless steel.  Has Thermoblock technology

​Single aluminum boiler, lined with stainless steel, has Thermoblock technology

Adjustable Coffee Spigots

ADJUSTABLE COFFEE SPIGOTS?

​Yes, to a maximum height of 5.9”

Yes, to a maximum height of 5.9”

​No, uses a Portafilter

​Yes.  2.5” to 6”

Number of Grind Settings

NUMBER OF GRIND SETTINGS

​Ceramic Burr, 5 adjustment levels, paired with an 8.8 ounce bean hopper

Stainless Steel burr (stepless) grinder with an 8 ounce bean hopper

​NA – No integrated grinder

​Ceramic grinder, 5 settings, paired with an 8.5 ounce bean hopper

Milk Frothing Technology

MILK FROTHING TECHNOLOGY

​Steam Wand

Steam Wand

​Steam ​Wand

​Steam Wand & Hot Water Dispenser

Has Cup Warming Tray?

​No

Yes, but it’s very small

​No

​Yes, passively heated

Pros

​Much more programmability than you’d expect to find on a machine in this price range

Generously sized water reservoir, grinder and bean hopper, very easy to use

​A perfectly full-featured, basic semi-automatic espresso machine

​Gives you all the tools you need to create any drink you can imagine

Cons

Grinder could use more settings

Bean hopper could be bigger, grinder is stainless steel, rather than ceramic, too much spillage when the grinder loads the Portafilter

​The reservoir, while generously sized, cannot be used to its full extent.  It needs a small length of hose to suck up the water from the bottom of the tank

​Limited programmability

Recommended For

RECOMMENDED FOR

Anyone.

This is an especially newbie-friendly machine and a great model to learn Barista skills on.  Great for power drinkers and large households.

​Anyone on a budget, who doesn’t mind doing a bit of manual labor to create their favorite specialty coffee drinks.

​Single power drinkers.  Small households with 2-3 casual coffee drinkers.  People new to the world of specialty coffee.

Do you love a great cup of coffee? 

Do you feel like you’ve simply outgrown your old, reliable drip-brew machine, and have begun casting a wistful eye toward those fancy espresso machines you hear everyone talking about?

If you have, then you may have been turned off by the high prices they charge for many of the top of the line machines. It might surprise you though, just how good a machine you can get for not very much money.

If you’ve been looking for a way to replicate the “coffee shop experience” from the comfort of home, and you’ve got at least a little money to spend, you can get a really great machine!

We've revealed our top pick and taken a high-altitude view of all four of the finalists in the table above. We'll now get into the details about what makes each one stand out.

Ready?  Then let’s get started!

Overall Winner - Best Espresso Machine Under 600: The Gaggia Anima

Before we get into the specifics of this machine, we’d like to say a few words about Gaggia (the company that makes it) in general.  As you no doubt saw in the table above, Gaggia nearly ran the table, capturing three of the four top spots for machines offered in this price range.

They’re a great company, and one of the “Big Three” best-known names in super automatic espresso machines designed for home use (the other two being Delonghi and Jura), and they make outstanding products that they stand behind.

In our view, in the $600 and under price range, the Gaggia Anima stands apart from the crowd and is well deserving of top honors.  The feature set that this model comes equipped with is almost head spinning, and Gaggia got so many things right with this model that it’s hard to know where to begin.

The Good

In no particular order then, here are the things we like best about the Anima:

  • ​It’s the only double boiler machine on our list of finalists – That’s huge, especially if you love milk-based drinks because it means no waiting for the machine to switch between steaming and shot pulling temps.
  • A generously sized water tank (60-ounce capacity), paired with a good-sized bean hopper – This is a small but important point because you don’t want to have a significant size mismatch between these two components. If you do, you’ll find that you’re constantly having to stop to refill one or the other, which gets old fast.
    The other thing we like about the size of the reservoir is that it’s big enough to keep pace with the demands of power drinkers, including power drinkers who live in medium-sized households if they’re the only big coffee drinker in the home.
  • Don’t let that stop you! You’ll be able to master the wand faster than you might think, and once you do, you’ll be able to work some serious coffee magic and make just about any specialty drink you can imagine.
  • The control system gives you the ability to exert a surprising degree of control over the drink making process, including the ability to set an auto-start time, adjust the auto-off time, control the dosing strength (how many beans per shot), how much water per shot, and set both boiler temperatures independently.
  • Includes a bypass doser for those times you want to play with special pre-ground blends, or when you need a quick cup of decaf in the evening.
An Image of Gaggia Anima Coffee Machine for Best Espresso Machine Under 600

It should be noted that there are three variants of the Anima. Our comments above are about the base model, which is the only one of the three that meets our price criteria. If you’re willing to spend more, upgrading to the Anima Prestige is your best bet, because, in addition to all of the above, it gives you the ability to program a variety of specific drinks for one-touch convenience.

As good is the Prestige is though, as you can see, the base model is certainly nothing to sneeze at!

The Bad

The model is not without its faults, flaws, and limitations, however.  These include:

An Image of Gaggia Anima Milk Frothing Stand for Best Espresso Machine for 600
  • ​The grinder is weak.  The fact that it’s ceramic is a nice touch, but with only five grind settings, you may find yourself outgrowing it much sooner than you’d like.  The only way around this problem is to spend more money and get a high-end super automatic, or buy a semi-auto and get the grinder you want!
  • The machine is made almost entirely of ABS plastic.  That’s not awful, but plastic just isn’t as durable as stainless steel.  Even so, with proper care, it should serve you well for years to come.
  • You need a special tool (a grinder wrench) to adjust the grind setting
  • ​The tank is top loading.  That won’t be an issue for everyone, but since the machine is fairly tall, if you have limited clearance between your countertops and your cabinetry, it could be an annoyance

On balance though, this is a superb model, offered at an almost shockingly low price, and we don’t consider any of the negatives mentioned above to be deal breakers.  If you’re looking for a machine that’s convenient and easy to use, while still offering you a high degree of control over the drink making process, then this model is awfully hard to beat.

Second Best Espresso Machine for 600 Dollars: The Breville BES870XL

Breville is a well-known and respected brand in the American market, and the BES870XL is an outstanding machine, but also in many ways, hard to define.

Overall Winner – The Best Espresso Machine Under 600: The Gaggia Anim

It’s not a super automatic, but it can’t be rightly classed as a semi-auto either.  Essentially, the designers have taken the best features from both worlds and merged them together.  The results are sometimes less than perfect, but no matter how you slice it, this is a great machine, and only narrowly missed winning the top spot on our “best home espresso machine under 600” list.

For our purposes, the best way to approach this machine is to treat it as a semi-automatic, but detail the “extras” that other semi-autos just don’t offer, and with that in mind, the first thing we have to say about the BES870XL is that it’s a really forgiving machine if you’re a new user.

Some semi-autos are notoriously twitchy and difficult to use, but that’s not at all the case here

Sure, there’s some hands-on work to be done to make your favorite specialty coffee drinks, but this isn’t one of those models where you have to stick your tongue out, squint your left eye, and do the “Voodoo Chicken Dance” at just the right time or your shot will be utterly ruined (and there are some semi-autos on the market where that’s not far from being an accurate description!)

An Image of Breville BES870XL Coffee Machine of Best Home Espresso Machine Under 600

On the other hand, this machine has so many “extras” that comparably priced semi-autos don’t have, that it’s not a great machine to learn on either because a lot of the skills you pick up when using this one just won’t translate well to some other machine.

What We Liked Best

Besides the relative ease of use and forgiving nature of the machine, the thing we like best about the 870XL is the size of the water tank.  67-ounces is big enough to keep pace with even the most extreme power drinkers, or large households if everybody is a casual drinker.

The grinder is sheer awesome as well, being “stepless.”

What that means is, almost every grinder built into an espresso machine comes with some predefined number of grind settings.  They are what they are, and you can’t change them.  You’re also limited to whatever number of settings the manufacturer decides to give you.

With a stepless grinder though, there are no predefined settings.  You can make incremental adjustments and whatever fine-tuning you like until the grind is perfectly aligned with your flavor preferences.

Now granted, there were some problems with the implementation of the grinder, but even taking those into account, this is an amazing feature.

We also like the fact that unit comes with a PID on the front panel that allows for precise boiler temp control.  The implementation isn’t flawless, which makes it a bit cumbersome to use, but it only takes a few minutes to master it, and once you do, it won’t be an issue.

Finally, the machine is super easy to use and clean.  It’ll probably take you longer to set the machine up initially than it will to figure out how to make your first drink!

What Could Stand Improvement

None of these are deal breakers, but they’re all important in their way:

  • ​The bean hopper is too small.  8 ounces, paired with a 67-ounce water tank just isn’t a great fit.  If you drink a lot of coffee or like yours strong, you’ll find yourself having to refill the hopper a lot more often than you’d care to.
  • ​The grinder makes a mess! – In a traditional super automatic, the beans are ground and funneled into a puck inside the machine where they’re tamped and prepped for brewing.  Here, the beans are ground and funneled into your waiting portafilter, and the grinder isn’t great at hitting the mark, resulting in a fair amount of wasted beans and extra cleanup for you.
  • ​The burrs are stainless steel.  We’d prefer to see ceramic here because if you’re grinding a lot of beans and/or making multiple back-to-back shots, stainless steel can heat up, which can burn your grounds and ruin the flavor of whatever drink you’re making.  It won’t happen often, but it happens often enough that it bears talking about.
  • ​The PID implementation could be a little smoother.
  • ​The steam wand is good but under-powered.  If you like milk-heavy drinks, you’ll find that it takes a relatively long time to get the milk up to temperature and create the foam you’re looking for.
An Image of Breville BES870XL Milk Frothing and Espresso Cup for Best Espresso Machine Under 600 Dollars

As you can see, most of the issues we have with the unit are centered on the grinder.  If Breville made these changes, we’d be hard pressed not to give the unit a perfect five-star rating.  Seriously, it’s that good.

Third Best Home Espresso Machine Under 600: The Gaggia 14101 Classic

Overall Winner – The Best Espresso Machine Under 600: The Gaggia Anim
An Image of Gaggia 14101 Classic Espresso Machine for Best Espresso Machine for Under 600

Although this model won top honors in our under $500 list, it places a middle of the pack third in the “best espresso machine under 600 dollars” list.  The addition of just a hundred bucks to your budget opens up a lot more in the way of possibilities!

Even so, there’s a lot to like about the 14101, starting with the fact that it’s got the largest water tank of any machine on our list of finalists, with a whopping 72-ounce capacity.  It’s true that you don’t get to make use of quite all of that, thanks to a design flaw that doesn’t allow the boiler to pump water from the very bottom of the tank, but even so, it’s still got the biggest raw capacity in its class.

Its steam wand is excellent, and it gives you all the tools you need to make any specialty coffee drink you could want (except a grinder!  As a semi-auto, you’ll need to buy that separately).  Even better, it’s the least expensive machine on the list, which means you’ll have plenty of cash left over to buy the aforementioned grinder!

​Other than the small issue with the water tank, the model doesn’t have any weaknesses to speak of, making it incredibly appealing, especially to those on a tight budget.  It’s a good pick if there are things about our first and second place entrants that put you off.

Honorable Mention - The Gaggia Unica Coffee Machine

Overall Winner – The Best Espresso Machine Under 600: The Gaggia Anim

Rounding out our list of finalists in our “best espresso machine for under 600” list is the Gaggia Unica.  It’s an excellent machine, and bears great similarity to our winner, the Gaggia Anima, but with a slightly scaled back feature set and a correspondingly lower price.

If the machine you want is the Anima, and you just can’t afford it, then you’ll probably be interested in the Unica.  Its 57-ounce water tank isn’t much smaller than the Anima’s 60-ounce offering, and both machines use the exact same grinder.

You’ll find a bit less in the way of customization options and programmability, but that follows, as those are the areas the company made cuts to in order to bring the price down.

An Image of Gaggia Unica Coffee Machine for Best Espresso Machine for 600

Best Espresso Machine Under 600 Dollars Conclusion

So in the end, what is best espresso machine under 600 bucks?

We stand by our top pick, and we really do think you’re going to love the Gaggia Anima.  It’s got an amazing feature set for the money.

Having said that though, everyone’s tastes and preferences are different, so here are some of the reasons you may decide the Anima isn’t for you, and gravitate to one of our other top picks:

  • Buy the BES870XL if you want the best that both the semi-auto and super-auto worlds have to offer.  This machine gives you more direct control of the drink making process, while still offering a wide range of convenience features you just don’t normally find in semi-autos.
  • Get the Gaggia Classic 14101 if you think super autos are for wimps and want something a little old school so you can burnish your mad Barista skillz.
  • Choose the Gaggia Unica if you want the Anima, but just don’t have the money to get it.  It offers similar-but-slightly-scaled-back functionality at a more modest price.
Best Espresso Machine Under 600a

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