If you're looking for an inexpensive espresso machine, reviewers say the DeLonghi EC155 (*Est. $100) is a bargain. While it earns the lowest overall score among five espresso makers rated by one consumer testing organization, it earns an "excellent" rating for taste and a "very good" score for frothing ability.
Experts at Good Housekeeping say the EC155 tops taste tests in its price range, and call its detachable water tank easy to fill and clean. SingleServeEspresso.com editors also give it high marks, describing it as a great value and noting that the 15-bar pump produces "wonderful crema, a really good cup of espresso."
The DeLonghi EC155 is reviewed more often than any other model at Amazon.com and earns impressive reviews; nearly 1,300 owners give it a score of 3.9 stars out of 5. Several say it's a huge step up from steam machines for only a slightly higher price. However, some owners complain that the frothing wand is poorly positioned, making it difficult to fit a steaming pitcher underneath. Others say that only small demitasse cups will fit under the portafilter or the machine brews too quickly to achieve proper crema. Still, most agree that these are minor inconveniences for the price.
The EC155 comes with two easy-to-clean portafilters, one for two cups of ground coffee and one for one cup of ground coffee or ESE pods. For better results, many owners suggest allowing the machine to warm up for 15 minutes before use.
The Mr. Coffee ECMP50 (*Est. $85) also earns positive feedback in this price range. It's a bit finicky in terms of grind consistency, but earns props for its versatility: It can make espresso, latte and cappuccino. With a 15-bar pump pressure system, it can extract the rich flavor of true espresso with the right grind. There are some durability issues, however. Several owners say they received malfunctioning units, and others report failed pumps within a few months.