Mid Range: Espresso Maker Under $500

I have one of these semi automatic espresso makers myself. It was an upgrade on my last DeLonghi… J Guess which? But anyway that just goes to point out how important a category I believe this one to be. Bean to cup may be nice, and is certainly less effort, but how fresh will the beans be? Are you going to go through a whole hopper in a couple days? I didn’t think so! So, for me the semi automatic espresso makers are where it’s at, allowing you to choose from your stash of beans to suit your mood, and grind to order, another thing you cannot do with a bean to cup!

My quick recommendation? Well I have a DeLonghi EC680M Dedica Deluxe. Why? Well I moved out of my previous place and space was at a premium in the new flat’s kitchen. My old machine was a little bulky whereas the Dedica Deluxe is only 6” wide. Yes, the Illy X9 is even narrower, but DeLonghi have been in this game a long time, know what they are doing, and build quality will rarely be an issue with them! It’s 15 bar which is enough for a decent cup. Also, at this price (around $300), you can buy a decent grinder… I kept my Bodum Bistro. J Whereas with the Illy X9 you are bought into capsule technology again and are constrained by what blends are available from Illy. For me, and I admit I am a little brand biased, it has to be the Deluxe.


So, as I said, DeLonghi have been in this arena a while, and here they have once again hit the nail on the head. They’ve looked at what people want and need and said: “we can do that”. Let’s face it, in most kitchen counter space is at a premium. You need space to prepare meals, for all the major appliances: toaster, kettle, microwave… You have got to work with what you have, but you want good coffee. Perhaps you’re moving into your first place out of home, or perhaps it’s time to start impressing, then this is a great machine at a not very hefty price tag.

In fact, the DeLonghi EC680M Dedica Deluxe comes in with a RRP of around $350 and is currently available on Amazon at a shade under $300. Which isn’t bad at all for this category. It has 15 bar pressure which is perfectly good enough to make espresso… You aren’t launching a rocket here! It also comes in at around 6” wide, which is a miniscule footprint, has a 35 Oz water tank… and…. Just. Looks. Stunning.


If you’re not convinced by the DeLonghi, another option in this range might be the Gaggia Classic. This machine is bigger, it’s 1/3 wider at 8”. But with the extra dimensions you also get a much bigger tank than the DeLonghi, in fact the water reservoir is 72 Oz… But then you may be getting into stale water territory as I have explained in other articles.

The Gaggia Classic does look good though. The joy of Italian design… It’s stainless steel construction ensures it is built to last as well. The usual steam wand and standard 15 bar pressure complete the package. I can’t help thinking though, with prices ranging from $379 upwards on Amazon when you look across all sellers… You really would be better off with the DeLonghi in all respects.


How about the Illy X9 then? Well, Illy are obviously big in coffee, I mean really big. They are probably best known for their brands of coffee more than their machines, but they do have somewhat of a cult following. For instance, did you know that Illy get artists to design espresso cups, and these are collected by people worldwide, I have one or two myself, one of which was around $300. Yes. For ONE espresso cup…

Enough of that though, how good is the X9? Well, it’s a bit of an identity crisis if I am honest. I’ve put it in this section because it is technically semi-automatic, all single serve machines are, but it conforms more with the Nespresso’s than the DeLonghi. It has a tiny footprint at 6” wide, and, made by Francis Francis, looks stunning. However, at the end of the day, you are buying a capsule coffee maker with a mid-range, semi-automatic, price tag.

At $279 its over $100 more than the Nespresso Essenza, and that hits the nail on the head in terms of entry level single serve coffee makers. I just can’t see where this makes $100 worth of advances. As I have said, it is also a capsule machine, so you’re tied in to Illy capsules. Looks great, but scratch the surface and this coffee maker has some flaws, but it does come in well under $500, the imaginary price cap I am using for this article, but then it is only about $20 less than the DeLonghi…