So we decided it would be fun to start testing a couple of different Espresso machines and one of those was the cheapest Espresso machine we could find. The machine came from eBay and rang in at a total cost of £39.99 fully delivered. The machine in question is the Livivo Espresso Coffee Maker. A super cheap machine that offers both the ability to pull shots of espresso and froth milk so it must be said this is a value purchase for sure. Despite this espresso machine being good value doesn’t mean we would recommend it to the average consumer. In the below, we will explore this concept.
We will keep this review simple by covering the following key topics:
- Basics of the machine
- The Pros
- The Cons
- Who the machine is good for
- Would we recommend it to the average consumer
The basics of the machine
To kick us off we will look at what is included in the machine, some of the basic functions and a couple of initial thoughts during the unboxing. The machine is available in 3 different colours (Red, Black and Grey). The machine has the ability to pull espresso shots along with steam/froth your milk. It is capable of making 4 espresso shots at a time (or 2 doubles) which means you can make up to 4 coffees at a time using this espresso maker. Included alongside the main machine is a glass carafe, portafilter and filter basket. The machine is well packaged into the box so despite having a glass carafe to worry about I feel that it could withstand some pretty lazy/aggressive delivery driving which is a positive because let's be honest broken deliveries are frustrating.
Overall the machine is provided with all the basic aspects needed to get started so as we go through this review we will also think about what situation or consumer might find this a useful starting point.
The Pros of this Cheap Espresso Coffee Machine
Now let's look at some of the key positives this machine brings.
Fits together nicely and is Super compact
Reasonably pleasing aesthetic considering the low cost
The Cons of this Cheap Espresso Coffee Machine
Super short power lead - need to be close
Now I get this one might feel a little pedantic but I will say the power lead measures only 76cm which is extremely short for a household appliance. By comparison, My Toaster and Microwave came with 58cm & 100cm leads respectively. For Further context, I have measured the power lead on 3 separate machines and you can see how much smaller this machines lead is:
The reason I feel this is important to call out is that the short lead means you need to either; be right next to a plug socket or you will need an extension lead running to the machine which can be unsightly and not a great look in the kitchen.
Keeping the filter basket in place is a little fiddly
The Filter basket itself doesn’t fit in the portafilter by compression. The basket sits loosely in the portafilter which means they have a small black ‘arm’ that you can use to hold the basket in the portafilter. The ‘arm’ relies on human pressure to stay activated which can mean at times the basket will pop out (even with coffee in). An example I found when this would happen was when clipping in or unclipping the portafilter from the machine itself. Often when using the ‘little’ force that's required to twist the portafilter tight or loose the portafilter will move but leave the basket behind as you can’t get the ‘arm’ to hold the basket properly in this situation. Overall not a deal breaker but a little annoying.
Small water tank
This one is super straightforward - the water tank is obviously very small - by the small compact nature of the machine they inevitably had to have a small water tank. This machine in particular has a water tank that will hold just enough water to produce 4 espressos or steam/froth 1 carafe of milk. This may not bother you but given the machine’s tank has a twist top cap on the tank I found it to be frustrating.
Takes some getting used to to get good coffee
So over the years I have made 1,000’s of espresso and used several different machines. For me, this machine was not the easiest machine to ‘dial in’ good coffee. The test parameters for my efforts are below:
- Test environment: Home
- Coffee Used: Our Daily Drinker
- Grind: Ground the coffee fresh each time using my ‘standard’ machine (The Barista Express)
- Coffee made: Around 10
By the time I was finished, I had dialled the coffee in to deliver around 80% of what I would typically expect from the coffee. This was at a level that meant I was getting the majority of the taste profile you would expect but in all cases, it still wasn’t up to the standard I typically get out of the coffee.
It should also be noted that although I got to 80% - this was hard work and took some real fine-tuning that I found harder on this machine versus others I have used in the past.
The carafe is glass and breaks easily once out box
So in many ways, this may feel like a contradiction to a point I made early. However, I will say I stand by my point - the machine came well packaged and I feel it would withstand ‘aggressive’ delivery.
The issue in my opinion comes once removed from the box. The fact that the main part of the machine is a glass carafe does make for a fragile experience. It should probably also be noted that I am notoriously known as a ‘cluts’ - so maybe that is why I think this way.
In my experience with the machine I did knock the carafe off the kitchen side and it shattered (unsurprisingly).
The key issues I see here are -
- It made a hell of a mess when it shattered,
- It may not be ideal if you have kids,
- Lastly replacing the carafe is unlikely to be easy and if it's easily found then it’s possibly not cost-effective to replace it given the machine only cost £40 which ultimately is not good for the environment.
Who could this machine be good for?
This feels like an obvious one - not only is the machine cheap but it’s also small. Having been a University student myself I know both these things are key. Cheap is key because student budgets are typically tight (along with the focus of the budget being elsewhere). Small is also ideal because kitchen workspace is relatively limited given you can regularly be sharing that kitchen with between 4 and 8 people.
Back of a work van or Camping/Van life
The machine lends itself to small spaces as outlined above and therefore would sit nicely in the back of a van. With the machine also being lightweight it would be easy to put this machine away in a cupboard or storage compartment. Although it would suit a van or camping very well from a space POV, the fragile nature of the carafe means this might be a challenge for this machine.
Grab some of our incredible FRESH coffee!
BUY COFFEE NOW
Would we recommend it?
Overall in reflection, this is not an espresso machine we would recommend to the average consumer. Although the machine has its positives, we feel that the negatives make it a little too frustrating. Given the drawbacks this machine brings which we have covered above we feel that there are better alternatives - particularly if you are willing to stretch as little.
Furthermore given the overall quality of the machines extractions we would rather buy a good sized cafetiere and make our coffee that way - This will likely even cost you half the price of this machine.
We have completed a video review of this machine which you can watch here