Why Are Espresso Machines So Expensive: 7 Reasons

If you are a passionate coffee enthusiast, you may have considered buying an espresso machine to enjoy your favorite drink whenever you want. But I wouldn’t be surprised if you spat out your espresso in shock when you saw the price tags.

Why are espresso machines so expensive? They can cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. A regular coffee maker doesn’t demand such an astronomical price!

Read on to find out why espresso machines are expensive, what makes up their costs, and whether shelling out money for one is worth it.

Why are espresso machines so expensive?

Basic economic laws state that the more intricate a machine is, the more you pay for it. The simple answer to “Why are espresso machines so expensive?” is that they are very complex technology.

Since they are so complex, an espresso maker’s final price tag depends on various factors. Here are the six key factors that make espresso machines so expensive.

1. Materials and parts

High-quality materials and components are responsible for a huge part of espresso machine costs.

Most espresso machines — especially those aimed at commercial coffee shops — are made from stainless steel, brass, chrome, and other high-quality metal parts. These materials are durable and easier to keep clean than many other alternatives, so it makes sense why they are used in espresso machines. Yet, at the same time, they can quickly rack up the machine’s price.

In addition to the expensive metals used on the frame and surfaces, espresso machines require high-end internal parts. Making great espresso relies on consistent water temperature and high pressure that must be controlled with great precision. Reaching this level of control requires complex parts.

Some of the most pricey components in a quality espresso machine include the thermoblock, brew group, and a pressurestat. For example, the pressurestat is a vital part of an espresso machine that turns off the heating element once it detects 1-1.2 bars of pressure.

A good-quality pressurestat alone can easily cost more than $100. Is it any wonder, then, that the espresso machine costs a lot as well?

You can find an espresso machine under $500 or $200 that replaces many expensive materials with cheaper alternatives, like engineering-grade plastics. Yet, these materials are not as durable and can quickly wear down under high pressure and constantly fluctuating temperatures.

espresso machine parts closeup

2. Reliability

Which ends up being cheaper — buying $100 boots that last for ten years or buying $20 boots that you need to replace every year?

This is the same kind of thinking that drives espresso machine prices. Espresso machines are expensive because they are built to function for years.

Commercial machines are designed and manufactured with durability in mind. They are made with higher-quality materials and manually assembled with extreme care and accuracy, naturally making them more expensive.

For example, Starbucks espresso machines cost more than $10,000. Yet, the company is happy to pay that much because they know they will save money on maintenance due to the espresso makers’ extreme dependability.

Speaking of maintenance, high-quality espresso machines are made to be repairable — not a common trend in modern industry. The manufacturer must keep storing spare parts for espresso maker models over a decade old. They end up paying for big storage facilities and transfer that cost to the machine’s buyer.

You can find an espresso machine for under $200. But that cheap machine will be closer to a Keurig coffee maker than a pro-level espresso maker. It will likely break within a few years and will not be worth repairing.

simple home espresso machine closeup

3. Complexity of features

You can make coffee can with a Moka Pot or AeroPress coffee maker. However, espresso machines sit on the exact opposite end of the complexity spectrum.

An expensive espresso machine has a complex internal structure consisting of costly parts to help it extract the best flavor from coffee beans.

Making espresso relies on the accurate interplay of multiple high-precision systems, including:

  • Heating block
  • Rotary pump
  • Double water boiler
  • Steam wand
  • Group head
  • Temperature and pressure-resistant tubing

The coffee machines need all these parts to maintain steady brewing temperature and pressure consistency. Therefore, they feature expensive sensors and controllers to ensure ideal extraction for the perfect espresso.

High-end espresso machines also have a range of advanced features, like a digital display for monitoring pressure levels, temperature control, an automatic cleaning system, a built-in milk frother, and more. Many semi-automatic and super-automatic espresso machines have built-in coffee grinders.

Like with top-of-the-line smartphones, the extra features in an espresso maker add zeroes to the price tag. If you start lowering your budget, espresso machine complexity will decrease accordingly.

For example, home espresso machines under $2000 will likely have a cheaper, non-adjustable vibration pump mechanism that activates only when you pull a shot instead of a rotary pump that maintains constant pressure.

You can still make espresso for a latte or cappuccino with a cheaper device. But the extraction may not be as consistent with the less-advanced features and internal parts.

Expensive espresso machines aren’t complicated for the sake of it. It’s to ensure they can unfailingly make a great shot of espresso.

hand holding espresso cup with golden crema

4. Research and development

Traditional espresso machines have existed for a long time and have gotten extremely good at what they do. But manufacturers are constantly looking to improve their designs.

Research and development are among the main reasons why espresso machines are expensive. Espresso machine manufacturers invest in developing products and pass those expenses to their customers.

Developing such complex coffee machines requires a lot of technical expertise, though, and expert engineers have high salaries. They must also conduct high-cost testing and experimentation to improve age-old proven designs.

Some companies reproduce old designs to keep their products’ prices low — and these machines can be your opportunity to buy a decent espresso maker on a budget.

home espresso machine brewing two espresso shots

5. Certifications

Espresso machines require several expensive certifications before selling, which adds to their price. This is due to the high pressures and temperatures they must withstand and their role in the food service industry.

Let’s try and put this into perspective. An average car tire has an internal pressure of around 30 PSI. Meanwhile, commercial espresso machines can have an internal pressure of 130 PSI.

A burst car tire already causes a big bang. Imagine if an espresso machine blew up in a coffee shop and sprayed boiling pressurized water.

Because of such risks, espresso machines require thorough safety tests and certifications. Since they are used for preparing food (coffee), they also need sanitary certification.

Home espresso machines will never reach as high pressures as commercial units and won’t need as extensive certification. That makes a massive difference in the final price.

espresso dripping into a coffee cup

6. Branding

Let’s face it — people are willing to pay higher prices for famous brands. The same goes for espresso makers.

Certain brands of espresso machines come with a high price tag, but it’s not just about the famous name or the beauty of the design. An espresso machine from a renowned brand sells for a high price because the buyer can trust its quality.

With machines this costly, word gets around quickly if they can’t make good coffee. Similarly, if a coffee shop operator has had great experiences with a certain machine, you can be sure they will recommend it to their colleagues.

As an espresso machine manufacturer’s reputation grows, they can start making more advanced and expensive models. The producer knows people will still want to buy them because they rely on their high quality.

Could a no-name company be manufacturing excellent espresso machines? Absolutely. But the buyers can’t rely on the machine’s reputation, so they are not willing to spend as much on them and take a risk.

espresso portafillter with coffee

7. Low Demand

Few people buy expensive espresso machines, which feeds into their sky-high prices. Some companies sell only a couple of hundred espresso machines yearly, which forces them to ask for more money per machine to stay in operation.

They can’t get volume discounts on expensive parts and materials. They must recoup the material expenses by upping the prices of their products.

The companies can safely do that because the low demand means that there aren’t many players active in the espresso machine market. Anyone wanting to buy an expensive espresso machine only has limited options and must pay whatever the manufacturers ask.

But the companies producing high-end espresso machines go a long way to justify their prices. Expensive espresso machines are not mass-produced like regular coffee makers.

They’re often built to order by hand, which ensures they can produce high-quality coffee but also adds to the expenses.

You can see similar trends in home-use espresso machines. Although you have slightly more options, names like Nespresso, Breville, and La Marzocco will pop up once you start shopping.

frothing milk with high end espresso machine

Do more expensive machines make better espresso?

Expensive espresso machines don’t necessarily make better coffee. However, high-quality espresso machines will consistently make good espresso than cheap ones.

It all comes down to high-quality parts and expert construction. A good espresso machine maintains constant, predictable pressure and temperature.

The barista can trust that the coffee machine reliably carries out the espresso brewing process each time. They can ensure great coffee with every pull if they properly tamp the ground coffee puck and perfect the extraction time.

Cheap machines, on the other hand, may need to heat the water to the boiling point and build pressure before each shot. They may also not have the controls to perfect the extraction, making the brewing process unpredictable.

A good home espresso machine can make a wonderful brew. But it’s much easier to pull bad espresso shots without the pressure profiling, steady water temperature, and accurate settings of good-quality professional equipment.

espresso machine brewing two shots of espresso

How much should you pay for an espresso machine?

By now, you  are probably wondering, “Are expensive espresso machines worth it?”

How much you should pay for your espresso machine depends on how much coffee you drink and how much you value the brew’s quality.

If you make a few cups of coffee every day, an espresso machine can be a worthwhile investment. You can make much better espresso with the ideal flavor more easily and save money in the long run. After all, just a single shot of espresso can cost a pretty penny at a cafe.

You don’t necessarily even need to pay all that much for your espresso maker. You can find decent semi-automatic machines for around $1,000-$2,000.

If you can’t afford that or don’t need fancy features like digital displays, you can try affordable espresso machines that push water through coffee grounds using manual force. A lever espresso machine or even a handheld espresso maker can brew good coffee with decent crema at a fraction of the price of more automated devices.

Finally, if you are not a stickler for “real” espresso, you can try alternative devices, such as:

These devices won’t produce an authentic, thick espresso. But they can make strong, concentrated coffee, especially with the best coffee for your espresso. And if you mix coffee with milk to make lattes or cappuccinos, you might not notice a huge difference in taste.

making cappuccino at home

If you want a quick cup of coffee in the morning, stick to regular drip coffee makers. If you know you won’t use it regularly, there’s no reason to blow a lot of cash on an espresso machine.

Ultimately, whether or not you should invest in your home espresso machine comes down to your tastes and values.

This barista equipment is highly priced due to various factors, from low demand to high-quality materials and parts used to build them. Even a cheap espresso machine will cost much more than a drip coffee maker.

Whether you should purchase an espresso machine depends on your coffee consumption habits. Espresso machines come in plenty of shapes, sizes, and prices, so look for a device that fits your situation.

Now that you know what makes espresso machines so expensive, you can compare their features and set your budget based on your needs!

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