From Bean To Cup On A Budget
Updated: Nov 10, 2020
As promised in a previous post, here are my recommendations of for lower-priced bean-to-cup coffee machines if you want to venture into the pleasure of enjoying freshly ground and extracted coffee, without breaking the budget.
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Now there are a fair few of these lower priced "entry-level" coffee machines available these days and generally speaking it comes down to the fact that the more you are prepared to pay, the better the design and build quality is and the more features the machines have.
I'll be putting together a list of the top few machines in each price category, so if you are looking for a comparison of cost vs features along with other users' feedback, keep an eye on my Top Lists as I do that research for you.
In the mean-time, there are essentially two 'entry'-levels in my view, around $500~600, or the really cheap machines in that category for under $200.
Looking through the pro's and cons of the these cheaper machines the first thing I took into account was that while there are a variety of methods and devices to extract coffee from the beans, most serious coffee drinkers still look for a method that produces a consistent flavor, caters for individual drinking preferences, is easy to use and does not require a lot of maintenance / cleaning ... despite the lower price of the machines!
Now that's asking a lot!
To this end, I aimed my research at the best low-priced models which still have the convenience of an inbuilt bean grinder since this feature avoids:
(a) having to select, store and maintain an additional appliance (grinder) or else
(b) forging the awesome flavor of freshly ground beans through buying pre-ground coffee
(c) the need to load beans and manually grind each shot
(d) the mess of transferring coffee grinds to the extractor from from either a grinder or a bag. Inevitably some coffee nearly always spills en route to the extractor, despite how careful you are. (I swear coffee and rice both deliberately 'jump' from their containers to see how far they can escape!!)
So with that in mind, the cheapest bean-to-cup (automatic) machines which my research has identified as worthy of your consideration are mostly in that $500~600 range while most in the $200 range are not fully automatic, in other words the bean grinding process gets separated out. and they become more of a manual bean-to-cup solution.
The machine in this category which gets the best ratings from the most reviewers, is once again a name-brand De'Longhi machine.
It gets a huge number of reviews (over 3,500 when I wrote this post) and over 75% of those reviews give it the full 5 of 5 stars, making it one of the highest reviews in this category, so my recommendation has to be for the De'Longhi Magnifica, Automatic Bean to Cup Coffee Machine, Espresso, Cappuccino, Esam 4200.S
I had to smile at one of the "1-star" reviews as well ... they posted a 1-star review, just to address with positive counter-points, some of the few real 1-star comments!
Shared here for you enjoyment:
Even at this lower price-point, the machine still offers some impressive features.
Includes an integrated Coffee burr grinder offering 7 coarseness levels;
An adjustable milk frother to prepare Cappuccino's, warm-up milk or easily prepare creamy foam;
Make all your coffee-shop favorite drinks, be it a strong espresso or a frothy cappuccino;
Automatic descaling, cleaning and rinsing programs;
Dishwasher safe tray and the grounds container;
1.8 litre water tank
The only cheaper option in this entry-level category which I felt I could recommend with any degree of assurance, seems to be the Sunbeam EM5300K Barista Max Coffee Machine
(check the current price here)
This is one of the very few in this price bracket which still offers an inbuilt grinder, and the machine seemed to get good reviews overall at 4.3 out of 5, however, caveat-emptor! ... there were only 33 reviews when I did the research. My personal experience is that you mostly get-what-you-pay-for, so I think I'd be spending that bit extra and going for the one which has far, far more reviews.
At the very cheap end I really couldn't find a grinder-inclusive option which I could hand-on-heart recommend, so if money really is that much of an issue for you and you don't mind messing around with a separate grinder, or pre-ground coffee, the Sunbeam Café Barista | One-Touch Espresso, Latte & Cappuccino Coffee Machine gets a massive number of reviews (over 5,100 when I wrote this post) with an exceptionally high score of 67% giving it the full 5 out of 5 stars! That's nearly three and a half thousand people giving it top-billing, which is pretty outstanding for that many reviews!
(You can check the current price for this one here)
But PLEASE NOTE, although you are going-cheap on the coffee machine, you still have to have a half-decent burr grinder as well (or resort to pre-ground coffee 😒 ) so you may still be better to consider the Sunbeam Barista Max at the end of the day since the combined price of extractor and grinder may not be much different from the low-end all-in-one machine!
NOTE: this web site is NOT focused on reviewing coffee machines, I've just added these posts to offer some researched guidance on what machines you can use to enjoy the benefits of what the rest of the site is about ... coffee beans and blending