The best inexpensive espresso maker you can get is the decidedly low-tech stovetop espresso maker. It costs less than $20, and it makes a fine demitasse—just ask the millions of Italian families who have been using one daily for generations. Most are aluminum, though you can pay more for stainless versions.
You put water in the bottom portion, and coffee in a middle section; as the water heats, it is forced up through the grounds and filters into the top section of the pot. Stovetop espresso pots have many chowhound fans, who say that though they don’t produce the crema that a pricey machine does, they definitely make delicious, rich-tasting espresso.
Fantes.com has illustrations and instructions for the use and care of stovetop espresso makers. At Kitchen Emporium you can find aluminum stovetop pots for reasonable prices, but they’re often available very cheaply at discount stores and Ikea’s kitchenwares department. Bialetti is the best-known brand, but there are many others that are just as well made and less expensive.
Board Links: I love espresso, and I’m poor