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So you decided to step up your espresso game and buy a PID espresso machine. However, when you look at the prices they don’t really match your budget.
This is a review of the best cheap espresso machines with a PID. Learn what are the differences and which one is best for you.
What is a PID, and How Does It Work?
A PID is an electronic device that increases the temperature in small increments in order to reach the desired temperature. A non-PID heating element will heat the machine to the desired temperature but because of the thermal inertia, the boilers get heated over the desired temperature all the time.
Home baristas have developed special routines in order to circumvent this problem, and these routines are named temperature surfing.
A PID heats up the boiler for a short period and then measures it. The lower the boiler’s temperature the bigger the temperature increments. The closer to the SET Temperature, the smaller the increments.
How Does a PID Help Us Pull Better Espresso Shots?
If the boiler gets overheated, the espresso shot will over-extract and it will be bitter. A PID ensures the perfect extraction temperature for your shot.
Here is another reason. When you get comfortable with changing your beans, you will want to use a lighter roast. With light roasted beans you need to slightly increase the extraction temperature. Without a PID you are stuck to whatever the thermostat, or actually, “pressurestat” is calibrated. With a PID you can set your brewing temperature as desired.
I mentioned the light roast espresso beans. However, this is just one case where you need to adjust the temperature. Depending on the beans’ origin you might need to play with both the extraction temperature and the grind size. I know it feels like our shot just became too hard to nail. When you get your God shot, you will thank yourself for pursuing the perfection.
What Is the Best Inexpensive Espresso Machine with a PID
Your budget dictates it ultimately, but if you are not restricted by the cost, you should buy a dual boiler machine, that is equipped with a PID and a pressure gauge.
Since the title of this guide hints at inexpensive machines, we are going to stick with recommending machines that give you the best bang for your buck.
Breville BES840XL the Cheapest PID Espresso Machine
This machine is one of the least expensive espresso machines with a PID on the market. The unit sells just under 500USD, depending on where you buy it and the package. Here is a little bit more on the “BES840XL - The Infuser”
The heating element is a thermocoil which makes it more affordable than the machines equipped with a boiler, while maintaining a decent temperature consistency.
The heating element is controlled by a stepped PID with 5 temperature settings, 204 ºF, 202 ºF, 200 ºF, 198 ºF, 196 ºF.
Preinfusion function to ensure shot’s consistency.
Pressure gauge to help you “read” your shots, and tweak the brewing parameters.
The machine comes with two sets of portafilters, both pressurized and non-pressurized. As a complete beginner, the pressurized filter-baskets will allow you to pull decent shots without mastering all the technical aspects of espresso brewing. The non-pressurized baskets will be the final destination of a trained home-barista.
Breville equipment is very well designed with many little things to make your coffee making experience more pleasant. Here are a few of them:
- The portafilter handle has a conical shape, so that when set on the table, the basket is
- The unit comes with a quality tamper unlike the vast majority of the machines on the market.
- The tamper attaches via a magnet on the unit for convenience.
- The pressure gauge is a nice touch that will help new and experienced home baristas to tweak their shots.
- Hidden accessory tray.
- Hot water dispenser.
All in all, “The Infuser” is a great machine for the price, and is the most affordable PID machine on the market.
If you want to go a step up in Breville’s product line, you can go with the BES870XL - Barista Express, or even better: “BES920XL Dual Boiler” the Breville Oracle, (BES980XL). But the prices go up, the Oracle being around 2000$.
Quick Mill Silvano EVO
Not as inexpensive as the Infuser, however, it is decently priced under $1100. This is a great unit that will take your espresso brewing to a different level. The large portafilter, the materials quality and the little engineering tweaks make this machine a perfect balance between cost and performance. Here are some of the technical details about the machine:
- 0.4 liter brass boiler for the espresso brewing
- Thermoblock with serpentine for milk steaming/frothing
- Adjustable PID controller with display
- 2 vibratory pumps
- Stainless steel construction
- 3-way group solenoid valve
- Large water reservoir - 2 liters
Technically, the machine doesn’t have two boilers, it has one boiler and one thermoblock. But for home use, where you don’t typically make too much coffee, this is the better solution. If you don’t make lattes and cappuccinos you can turn off the steamer unit, separately from the coffee boiler, and save energy. The thermoblock heats up faster than a boiler, so you don’t have to wait too long.
The stainless steel - plastic free construction will appeal the eco-friendly conscious baristas, and it gives the machine a fabulous look.
Here are some more details about the Quick Mill Silvano Evo.
58mm portafilter with single and double insert baskets, and a blank for backflushing
Pump pressure gauge
Cup warming tray
Electronic water level control
Large stainless steel drip tray - easy to remove
The machine comes with a single set of non pressurized baskets, since the unit is aiming the experienced home baristas.
The pressure gauge is very useful to read your shot. It is extremely useful when you change the beans or the recipe, allowing you to adjust your grind and tamp.
Quick Mill is a renowned manufacturer with high quality espresso machines. The Silvano Evo packs a lot of features at this price, and it is a bargain, if your budget is flexible.
Ascaso Steel Uno Espresso Machine with PID
Ascaso is an established espresso equipment company founded in 1962 in Spain. Ascaso makes great quality reliable espresso machines and coffee grinders renown for their long lasting components.
Ascaso Steel Uno is their high-end home espresso machines, with many features to improve temperature stability and calibration, and make espresso brewing a great experience.
Small design adjustments make barista’s task a pleasant journey. Here are some of the Steel Uno’s features:
Digital PID adjustable in one degree increments
Coffee shot timer
Switch for dosing the shot (short or long)
Pre-infusion function programmable from 0 to 5 seconds
Adjustable OPV, (over pressure valve)
The steaming and frothing system also benefits from a few engineering improvements.
Electronic steam control
Cool touch heat-resistant steam wand
Insulated thermoblock for increased temperature stability and energy consumption optimization
The electronic steam control ensures dry steam all the time, unlike boiler systems. The steam wand is cool to touch preventing accidental burns, and hasn’t touched the steam wand accidentally?
The Steel Uno PID is my favourite from the list, and if you aren’t convinced yet, here are some more features to make you decide:
Active cup warmer
Ergonomic portafilter with a slanted angle
60 mm filter baskets with a professional group
All stainless steel construction
Large water reservoir - 2 liter
Two sets of baskets pressurized and non-pressurized and a blank
Aluminum tamper - a step up from the industry standard plastic one
The slanted handle portafilter is made so that the basket is perfectly parallel with the counter. This ensures a perfect tamp every time.
The 60 mm baskets are one of the best features of this unit. A wide basket will help you control the flow better, and avoid over-extracted shots.
The only feature that might be lacking is the second boiler or thermoblock. The Steel Uno PID has only one thermoblock that is shared between the coffee brewing and the milk steaming. This makes the machine less expensive, and in fact, Ascaso has another model with independent groups for coffee brewing and milk steaming, (Steel Duo).
Lelit PL41TEM Espresso Machine - PID
This machine is probably the best compromise between cost and features. The PID is an electronic one, adjustable in one degree steps. The machine has also a pressure gauge to help you tweak your shots.
- Digital PID allows you to adjust the brewing temperature in 1 degree increments
- A high wattage, (powerful), heating element for fast warm up times
- Brewing pressure gauge allows you to read real time the brewing pressure and adjust for consequent shots
- 250 ml brass boiler
- Brass made commercial grade brew group - ensures an even heat distribution
- Three built in thermostats - one for espresso, one for steaming, and one as an overheating protection
- Stainless steel built, (body and frame)
I love this machine because of the low cost and the many features crammed into a low-cost machine. For around $640 you get the above features and the one following below.
- Three built in thermostats - one for espresso, one for steaming, and one as an overheating protection
- Multi-directional steam wand that can also deliver hot water
- Decently sized drip tray, easy to empty
- Passive cup warmer, (decent job at warming the cups)
- 15 bar pressure pump
- Over pressure valve normalizes the brewing pressure at 9 bar
- 57 mm filter holder, (I wish this was 58 mm)
- 2 non pressurized filter baskets for on shot and two shots
- A three way solenoid valve - allows you to remove the portafilter immediately after brewing
- A large water tank that has a great visibility of the water level
- Made in Italy with great quality materials
Ascaso Dream V3 PID
Another unit from Ascaso is the Dream with a PID. The machine is around $1000 and it’s a great option for those who want to spend a little more than the $650 for the PL41TEM. The Ascaso Dream is the choice for many home baristas, and it is the emblematic model from the manufacturer for home use range. The machine stands out with an iconic design, combining classic and contemporary elements. But the design is just the tip of the iceberg, let’s see what features are under the hood.
- Thermoblock boiler for fast heating
- Overpressure valve that is adjustable from the outside
- Programmable preinfusion for up to 5 seconds
- 3 way solenoid valve
- 58mm filter basket
- PID adjustable in 1 degree increments from 175 degrees Fahrenheit to 248 degrees Fahrenheit
- Pressure gauge
These following features make the machine more versatile, and appeal to home baristas with various needs. It is one of the most feature rich machines in its class and price range.
- 2 nonpressurized and 2 pressurized, single and double for a total of 4 filter basket
- ESE pod filter basket
- Blind basket for flushing
- Active cup warmer
- A decent aluminum tamper - as opposed to the plastic tamper that is the industry standard with a new machine.
- Wooden steam button and portafilter handle
- Illuminated 1.3 liter water tank
- Extraction timer that can be turned on and off
- Dose control - small or large coffee
- Dispenses hot water through the steam wand
- Auto turn off - programmable between 30, 60 and 90 minutes
- The power cord can be retracted inside the machine so the counter is as tidy as possible
- 16 bar Pump
- 2 years warranty
- Made in Spain