Why Are Espresso Machines So Expensive? (5 Main Factors)

Espressos are regarded as the true Italian coffee with a bold and distinctive flavor, but, unfortunately, espresso machines are really expensive.

This means you have to pay a lot more to have an espresso at home, and if you're on a tight budget, it's really difficult to justify the extra expense.  

In this guide, we'll help explain why espresso coffee machines cost so much and help you decide whether it’s worth it.  

It's important to understand that espresso isn't created by specific coffee beans or through a roasting technique; it's a complete method of preparation in itself. 

It is coffee made uniquely, and the machinery needed for that is very specific. That's why you can't replace an espresso coffee maker with any old alternative and the reason you end up paying more. 

Here are some of the specific reasons that espresso makers cost more:   

1. High Quality Components  

The beauty of an espresso machine is the precision. The coffee makers control the brewing temperature and high pressure exactly, forcing the hot water through the ground coffee beans at the exact right point to create the perfect espresso. 

This precision requires high-quality parts like a pressurestat which can cost hundreds of dollars on their own, and pushes the overall cost up.[1]

There is also a wide range of different attachments for these coffee machines which help with making espresso, but these increase the costs. 

2. Durability 

Espresso coffee makers, and the components, all tend to be made from stainless steel, which is an expensive material and contributes to the overall high cost of the device. 

The upside is that espresso machines made with stainless steel and premium materials tend to be a lot more durable than regular coffee makers, and they can last up to 15 years.

The durability espresso machines have is what makes them a better long term investment, and helps to justify the cost. 

3. Research And Development

Coffee brewing is an evolving process, and manufacturers don't just mass produce espresso machines year on year.

They have to put a lot of time and effort into developing coffee makers that take on modern techniques. 

High-end, quality espresso machines have had more testing and development to deliver consistently high-quality coffee, and the cost of this is passed onto the buyer. The upside is that you get a much better espresso from these high quality espresso machines. 

4. Brand Name 

The brand itself will impact the overall cost. Some good espresso machine manufacturers have a long history in the market and have developed a strong reputation. 

With these brands you aren't just paying for the coffee maker, you're paying for the quality of the brand, and it's often what makes espresso machines so expensive. 

5. Important Features 

Espressos continue to develop, and the coffee machines have evolved significantly since the first traditional espresso machines and stovetop espresso maker models.

Manufacturers continue to add new features alongside the internal components. 

These new features make the user experience much better but also push the costs up. This is what makes espresso machines so expensive, and it's why high end espresso machines cost more.

Some of the most popular modern features include:  

  • Digital Display 
    This lets you easily control the espresso machine and see everything happening. They will sometimes have a timer so you can set automatic espresso machines to turn on on their own, and an indicator that lets you know if anything isn't working properly. Digital displays make life a lot easier but add to the overall cost. 
  • Adjustable Brewing Temperature 
    The temperature espresso is brewed at will influence the taste of the coffee. The higher the temperature, the more bitter it will be, and some modern espresso makers let you customize the temperature to control the flavor. Espresso should be brewed at 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit, but an adjustable thermostat gives you that extra level of control. There are some unique components needed for this feature, so it does push the price up.  
  • Multiple Espressos At Once
    Some machines allow you to make multiple espressos at once by giving you advanced temperature control. This lets you spread the heat throughout the device and control the pressure so multiple espressos can be produced. This feature makes your espresso machine doubly efficient, but can significantly increase the cost, so it tends to only be included on commercial espresso machines.  
  • Constant Pressure and Profiling 
    Cheaper espresso machines won’t have this feature, but some modern espresso makers are equipped so you can customize the pressure profile. This means the machine will adjust to your individual specifications and give you a consistent espresso that matches your personal tastes. This feature needs a different internal structure, so espresso machines are noticeably more expensive.  
black espresso machine coffee maker

Espresso Machine: Overview And History 

Coffee dates back thousands of years, and there have been countless different brewing techniques throughout the ages. Coffee reached peak popularity in the 19th Century, but it was still taking over 5 minutes to brew a single cup.

Angelo Moriondo from Turin saw an opportunity to change this and began working on a new machine.[2]

In 1884 he released what is considered the first espresso machine, which changed coffee forever.   

Espresso uses pressure in the brewing process. This gives espresso a unique taste and allows it to be made much more quickly and consistently. The Moriondo machine did change the game, but it was designed as a commercial machine rather than a domestic one.

It wasn’t until 1906 that a man named Desiderio Pavoni unveiled the first modern espresso machine with a new pressure valve which made it possible to create an espresso machine small enough for home use.[3] This model was hugely popular and dominated the market for over a decade.  

Espresso coffee machines continued to develop and improve from this point, using electricity to replace the need for huge boilers to create pressurized steam.

The modern espresso machine was invented in 1961 by Ernesto Valente, who used 9 atmospheric bars of pressure in the brewing method and removed the need for manual force from the barista.[4]

These innovations allowed the machine to be scaled down, so even though it still used the same process, it was small enough to be used in the home. Valente’s company, FAEMA, started mass manufacturing of these espresso machines, and they still account for over 85% of the machines on the market. 

Espresso coffee makers now have electronic displays and other modern features which make them easier to use, but the process remains the same: pressurized water is pushed through a heating coil until it reaches near boiling point, and then forced through coffee grounds and a filter to produce a thick, concentrated espresso coffee.  

At the heart of a good home espresso machine is consistency, and they use the same temperature and pressure to create the same concentrated coffee every time. This makes an espresso machine perfect for those who love coffee and want the bold, distinctive taste of espresso in every cup.  

expensive espresso machine

How Much Are Espresso Machines? (Price Guide) 

The cost of espresso makers varies massively depending on the mechanism, features, and brand.

It's always tempting to save money and just buy something like a basic Moka pot or AeroPress coffee maker for $25. These work in a similar way to espresso makers, using hot water, ground coffee, and high pressure to create something similar to espresso shots. However, this is NOT real espresso.

True coffee lovers know that real espresso requires a specific technique which you only get with an espresso machine. You can spend anywhere from $100-$25,000 on an espresso machine, but for home use, you’re probably looking at $200-$600.  

Basic Espresso Machines

The most basic espresso machine will cost $50-$200. These cheap espresso machine models allow you to control the pressure to an extent and should allow you to can create some variations like lattes and cappuccinos. 

Unfortunately, cheaper coffee machines in this price bracket tend to be the least durable and won’t last as long as more expensive models.  

Mid-Range Espresso Machines

Baristas who have a bit more experience may benefit from a slightly more advanced espresso machine which will typically cost $400-$700. These are not affordable espresso machines for your average amateur coffee maker, but they have a better build quality and more settings and features. They often have a built-in steam wand and milk frother to steam milk with.

These good quality espresso machine models allow you to customize your coffee much more than cheap machines, and get your coffee just how you like it. 

They also tend to be more durable than cheap espresso machines. Most home baristas are best with these mid-range models as they offer a good balance of features and longevity that make them good value for money.  

Premium Espresso Machines

Larger, more advanced espresso machines can cost anywhere between $1000-$20,000. Very few people can afford the most expensive espresso machine models to use at home (even though they would make great espresso).

These best quality coffee machines are only generally used in commercial settings like coffee shops because they’re too big and bulky for home use. 

These premium espresso machines are generally super automatic espresso machine models which will generally allow you to make multiple espressos simultaneously. Most high cost coffee machines also have full display screens to check diagnostics.

Most espresso machines should stand up to heavy use and last a long time, but these premium models will last much longer, which can make expensive espresso machines worth it in the long run. 

barista making coffee

Is Getting A Home Espresso Machine Worth It? 

Having an espresso machine in your home gives you complete control over the brewing process and ensures you have a consistently better-tasting coffee. They also allow you to show off your barista flair and develop your strong coffee making skills in the comfort of your own home.  

The big disadvantage of espresso machines is the cost. It is a lot more expensive to make coffee using an espresso coffee machine, and because there are so many cheap home solutions (like AeroPress), it can be challenging to justify the expense.

Plus, if you want premium automatic espresso machines you have to justify the good espresso machine cost - which is even higher!

However, it’s a good idea to consider how much you’re spending on coffee shop coffees a month and how much you could potentially save by having your own machine, because it’s probably more than you think. 

If you love espresso and you’re passionate about coffee, then it's worth getting an espresso machine. If not, then you're probably better with a regular coffee maker. 

If you do decide you want an espresso machine, you should always look for a good quality, durable model because this will last longer and makes it a more cost-effective long-term solution. 


Common Espresso Machine Cost Questions 

Why are espresso machines so big in size? 

Espresso machines are large because they need space to evaporate water and create the steam used to control the internal pressure required in the brewing process. Technological advances have helped improve this, and modern home espresso machines are getting smaller and smaller.  

How long will an espresso machine last? 

A good quality, well-maintained espresso machine should last 5-15 years.  

How much do Starbucks espresso machines cost? 

Starbucks has specially designed espresso machines that are quick and easy to use. Almost all stores currently use the Mastrena High Performance Espresso machine, which costs around $18,000.  

Does Starbucks sell espresso machines? 

No, Starbucks doesn't produce espresso machines themselves and therefore doesn't sell them.  


Conclusion

Espresso machines are more expensive because they use high quality materials and more advanced brewing techniques. This means they will cost you a lot more, but they give you consistently good espressos and offer some long-term value for money.  

If you are happy enough with regular coffee, then espresso machines probably aren't for you, but if you're a coffee enthusiast who loves an espresso, then it's definitely worth investing in an espresso machine.  

References:

1. http://www.espressomyespresso.com/pressurestat.html

2. https://www.italyonthisday.com/2017/05/angelo-moriondo-espresso-coffee-machine-pioneer.html

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Espresso_machine

4. https://www.faema.com/int-en/history

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