Fast -heating espresso machine under $200 with frother? Don't want pods or stovetop-type
Our little steam-powered Krups finally gave up the ghost (succumbed to front-switch failure). We were pretty happy with it (although we've heard all about how pump-driven is ideal, and do appreciate pro espresso).
Here's what I'm looking for in a simple replacement, would be glad for your recommendations:
- must heat up pretty fast (none of this waiting 15 minutes b.s. that some makers require)
- must have a steam wand to froth milk
- must not be the old-skool on-the-stove type (nor the electrics that look like those)
- none of this pod-only stuff
- loved that ours had a 4-cup option, but that's not crucial - 2-cup is crucial
- would be nice if it allowed more height than a shot glass underneath (ours has a glass carafe)
I have the all-plastic version of this machine:
I know it's not under $200, but after using & loving mine for the past 2-1/2 yrs, I can't imagine trying to use a small single boiler machine at this point. It would simply be too painful for me to convert over to the longer warmup times & limited steaming capabilities.
Here's a more in-depth review I did of these wonderful little machines:
And if you want wade thru gobs of Q&A, here's another review I did of the same machine on a different coffee website:
As I'm sure you've been told, get a decent grinder or you won't be happy spending any amount of money on a new espresso machine.
I am not an espresso geek but I also have a similar Krups as yours that is still working after 8 years. It's is now our backup after we received a Rancilio as a gift. I just saw a newer Krups for less than $200 (might be even less if one shop around) at Peets. It looks almost identical to my old one except for the stainless steel rather than the black front-knob switch. There aren't many machines selling for under $200, therefore, it might be your best bet. I have a friend with a Saeco that the pump failed after 6 years of daily use, not bad for an inexpensive machine.
Espresso geeks will disagree with this recommendation but I have a low-end Saeco machine which I like. It does everything you want - plus it has one of those auto-froth-dispenser gizmos so that I can froth the milk directly into the cup. I know, I know - spare me the lectures about microfoam - I'm fine with it. You might check the Saeco website (if they have one) to see what models they're currently selling. Mine is quite a few years old so may not be available any longer.
I agree -- the low-end Saecos can be really great, including the ones they make under the Starbucks brand. I got a terrific used Starbucks Barista Athena (sadly, no longer being made) for about $50 off of craigslist, and it has been a real trooper of a machine.
The Athena heats up very fast (under 5 minutes), and the steamer wand is perfectly serviceable. It has a removable floor grate thingy so you can fit larger mugs under the portafilter. And I know that lots of purists dislike pressurized portafilters (they create crema for even poorly tamped/filled pulls), but I like it. I tamp very well anyway, but the pressurized filter means my cups are predictable. I get a very nice americano out of this little machine every morning.
You may be able to find lower-end Saecos used since they're good entry level machines, and aficionados tend to move up after a while. Craigslist and ebay are good resources.
Also, I understand that the Athena is equivalent to the Saeco Magic Cappuccino, so you might look for that one as well.
Here's what the Athena looks like: