How a $1,200 Espresso Machine is Cheaper Than a $120 One

It turns out that less-expensive products aren’t always cheaper in the long run, as we found out when comparing a $529 Nexus One to a $199 (on contract) iPhone. The up-front cost is never as important as the ongoing cost.

This holds true even when comparing a $1,200 espresso machine to a $120 one.

I have had a Breville Cafe Roma for about 4 years. We use it to pull 2 or 3 shots of espresso every day. The Cafe Roma is a $300 espresso machine I bought at CostCo for more like $160. It makes decent espresso, but not great. I’ve had some problems with it, but so far, I have been able to keep it running. Still, it’s days are definitely numbered, and I have begun thinking about replacing it.

A while ago, I encountered a Nespresso Essenza at Williams-Sonoma. It is a $120 espresso machine that makes very good espresso, every time. In fact, it makes better espresso than you will find at probably 95% of coffee shops, and all you have to do is put in a capsule and push a button.

But I am the type of person who loves all the extra steps of making espresso by hand. I actually enjoy all the extra hassle—the ritual of pulling a shot. The problem is, there aren’t many espresso machines worth buying between the $300 Cafe Roma and the fairly-new Breville Double Boiler, which costs $1,200 and has all the bells and whistles and that I totally want.

Now, the Nespresso uses proprietary capsules. The capsules are about $1 each at the cheapest, but if you just want a single variety, they are more like $1.20.

The Breville Double Boiler uses regular coffee, although in fairness, I like fancy stuff like Intelligentsia’s delicious Black Cat, which runs about $20 per pound, shipped. I think that works out to about 35 cents per shot.

I am using $1.10 per shot as a ballpark for Nespresso capsules, and $.35 per shot for espresso beans. So assuming 2 shots of espresso per day, here is how the numbers work out:

Espresso machineUp-front costYearly cost (@ 2/day)2-year cost

And there it is. A $1,200 espresso machine is cheaper than a $120 one. Much cheaper, really. I have used a two-year period in my calculations, but I fully expect a good espresso machine to last much longer.

I may not wind up with the Breville Double Boiler in the end. It may be more affordable than a $120 Nespresso, but there are a few attractive espresso machines that are even more affordable. But in the end, I will have my coffee.

Always calculate the total cost of ownership when considering a big purchase. It may surprise you what turns out to be affordable in the long run.