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Looking for a cheap(ish) but decent starter espresso machine

Postby aindfan on Tue Jun 12, 2007 9:20 pm

Hello everyone!

The office I work at has a Lavazza espresso machine that uses AromaPoint tabs for a very easy brewing process. I've made a fair number of delicious lattes (I think that's what they are-I pour the shot of espresso into a cup of steamed milk, and as this is my first experience with espresso ever, I think they are delicious). Now, I'm looking for a cheap but decent espresso machine for my dorm room. I'm hoping someone can point me towards a pump driven machine that's under $100.

I did stumble upon the DeLonghi EC155 (15 bar pump machine, Amazon.com reviews seem good, see link here). It costs about $100 (even that is pushing my price limit). Most of all I need something that will produce good enough coffee (that will be covered in steamed milk anyway). Keep in mind that there's no way I'll distinguish between a good machine and an amazing machine (or maybe I will, but am not spoiled by it yet). If there is a difference in temperature or pressure between cups, I probably wont care. The machine will probably brew decaf on mornings I get sleep and some good strong stuff when I have those ever-so-slightly-painful 9am classes.

Another pump machine I've found is this Faberware pump machine.

Thanks so much for your help, and I'm looking forward to your responses!

Recap: I need a good enough, cheap espresso machine with a milk steamer that will make my morning coffee at the push of a button (or two pushes, etc. I just can't monitor it).

Thanks again!

EDIT: I noticed that this was on the FAQ page and I have posted a six month follow up of my experience so far here

EDIT 2: A short one year follow up post is here.
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Postby HB on Wed Jun 13, 2007 12:31 am

aindfan wrote:Now, I'm looking for a cheap but decent espresso machine for my dorm room. I'm hoping someone can point me towards a pump driven machine that's under $100... Recap: I need a good enough, cheap espresso machine with a milk steamer that will make my morning coffee at the push of a button (or two pushes, etc. I just can't monitor it).

Best Inexpensive Grinder and Best espresso gear on a student's budget? offer some suggestions on low entry espresso equipment.

Espresso preparation by its nature is more expensive (both in terms of coffee consumed and equipment), more time consuming, and requires far more skill than preparing French press. Personally I'd rather get an inexpensive good grinder ($120 ish) and a French press ($12 at Target) than ruin exceptional coffee with an inferior espresso machine due to its unregulated brew pressure, pressurized portafilter, and unstable brew temperature (claims of 15 bars pressure is disheartening when you consider the recommended brew pressure is 9 bars).

Before I'm accused of snobbery, I hasten to point out my admission of past sins in Hall of Shame: ''What I did when I was a newbie''. While I don't cry each night over my years of drinking coffee swill in ignorance, I do sincerely wish someone would have shown me what I was missing so at least the choice would have been a knowledgeable one.

If none of the above sways you, I would recommend scouring eBay for bargains, or the CoffeeGeek Buy & Sell forum. There's bound to be a decent Gaggia Coffee or similar. Couple that with a decent grinder from the above suggestions (don't skimp on the grinder!) and you'll be years ahead of where I started.
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Postby Randy G. on Wed Jun 13, 2007 1:03 am

aindfan wrote:Hello everyone!
...... Now, I'm looking for a cheap but decent espresso machine for my dorm room. I'm hoping someone can point me towards a pump driven machine that's under $100.


Do you already have a grinder? More than one (thousand) person(s) has(ve) ended up with an espresso machine up in a cabinet after a number of frustrating mornings. Sure, you can get a cheap machine that takes pods and be happy with that but the cost of pods does not meet with a student's budget...Here's the advice I have given lots of folks:

COFFEE MAKER - Aerobie Aeropress - It doesn't make "real" espresso, but within a wide range of parameters it makes the best strong espresso-ish coffee you probably have ever tasted. Once the water is hot and the coffee is ground, you can have a double in about 30 seconds. I can just about guarantee that you will get better and more consistent results with this than with an economy espresso machine as you are considering. It is also very portable. Cost - $25

GRINDER - The Cuisinart from Costco, or similar will work. With the Aeropress you could even get away with a whirly blade cheapie. I would recommend spending as much as possible on a grinder, but your $100 budget is a limiting factor here. Since you can't afford a $200-300 grinder, the Cuisinart will work fine with the Aeropress. Cost - $15-35

MILK FROTHER - This could be something as simple as one of the battery operated whippers, but a used, thrift store steam-driven espresso machine would do quite well in this regard. Cost: $10-30

HOT WATER: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000K9TY5S This is a sale on an electric, cordless kettle: Remanufactured Cuisinart CJK-17BC Cordless Electric Jug Kettle, Brushed Stainless Steel ($20.00). Of course, the water could come from the steam-driven machine, a tea kettle, or even a second-hand percolator. A microwave works well too! Cost - $0-20

The only thing you need now is a source of quality, whole bean coffee

TOTAL: $50 to $110 or so (maybe less).
Espresso! My Espresso!
http://www.EspressoMyEspresso.com
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Postby joellawry on Wed Jun 13, 2007 5:59 am

also, don't underestimate how much difference a good grinder will make - i didn't get a good grinder at first and ended up thinking my new machine had been a waste of money...bring on a new grinder and all that changed.
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Postby timo888 on Wed Jun 13, 2007 7:03 am

aindfan wrote:Hello everyone!

The office I work at has a Lavazza espresso machine that uses AromaPoint tabs for a very easy brewing process. I've made a fair number of delicious lattes (I think that's what they are-I pour the shot of espresso into a cup of steamed milk, and as this is my first experience with espresso ever, I think they are delicious). Now, I'm looking for a cheap but decent espresso machine for my dorm room. I'm hoping someone can point me towards a pump driven machine that's under $100.


If you tell us what city you're in or visit, someone here can recommend a good place where you can get a good espresso, cappuccino, and latte. Then you can decide whether you like coffee, or steamed milk with coffee in it.

I would do that before you take the advice on purchasing equipment. If you are a coffee lover and don't need steamed milk, HB's advice (i.e. get a $120 grinder and a French press and great beans) is very good advice--except that boiling water can be tricky in a dorm room. You could boil the water and heat some milk in the dorm kitchen and make cafe au lait.

Your price range is much too low to include the required burr (not blade) grinder and a machine that can make a decent espresso. With your budget constraints, and considering that you are living in a dorm room, you could look for a used machine on eBay or Craigslist that can use pods. Perhaps a Quickmill or Ascaso, or even a FrancisFrancis. Making espresso starting with whole roasted beans is very messy--not at all suited to a dorm room. You will have grinds in every piece of clothing lying on the floor. Also, the wet spent coffee is very sloppy...you really need running water close at hand. Check out the Movies link in the Media area of this website: http://www.grindenstein.com/

Regards
Timo
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Postby podo98 on Wed Jun 13, 2007 8:17 am

timo888 wrote:If you tell us what city you're in or visit, someone here can recommend a good place where you can get a good espresso, cappuccino, and latte. Then you can decide whether you like coffee, or steamed milk with coffee in it.


hey fellas this is a little off topic but you asked so . . I am in Houston can you recommend a place to get a decent shot, other than my house of course? :lol:

Brett P
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Postby HB on Wed Jun 13, 2007 8:29 am

timo888 wrote: HB's advice (i.e. get a $120 grinder and a French press and great beans) is very good advice--except that boiling water can be tricky in a dorm room.

An electric kettle or immersion heater will do.

podo98 wrote:I am in Houston can you recommend a place to get a decent shot, other than my house of course?

Ask JonR10, prolific bottomless portafilter photographer and fellow Houston resident (or better yet, go to each others houses). The US Central forum on CG is worth searching too.
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Quotable Quote
"The discussion of 'optimum' diameter for a double basket is futile as long as people are pulling shots using anywhere from 13 to 22 grams." --Andy Schecter, Does basket diameter matter?


Postby timo888 on Wed Jun 13, 2007 9:42 am

When I was in college, one of my dorm rooms (in a converted mansion) had a giant fireplace, which I used ... till they boarded it up on me. Safety rules have gotten even tighter. Many schools now prohibit immersion heaters and electric kettles in rooms. Room inspections are frequent, and room-safety violations are taken seriously.

But a french press would be a very convenient coffee making device if the student had to carry it to a dorm kitchen to get hot water. Steamed milk presents a greater challenge.

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Timo
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Postby aindfan on Wed Jun 13, 2007 8:33 pm

In terms of the grinder... I plan to buy ground coffee.

For any further suggestions, please put aside the fact that I will basically be pulling (that's the term, right?) crap (relative to what most of this site's members are crafting), so I need something that makes an *OK*ish beginner espresso shot that gets poured directly into a cup of steamed milk. Ok, maybe I'll take a sip of the espresso every now and then, but certainly not often enough to warrant a super high quality espresso process.

EDIT: A note on the french press. The instructions that came with mine (Bodum of some sort) stated that the press takes course grounds. It was also a royal pain to clean, not something I will be energetic enough to do.

How about some details on using the french press: do I grind regular coffee beans and pour hot water over them, press the plunger down after some time and pour?

EDIT #2: I don't know that I'll have time in the mornings to boil water or grind coffee beans, hence my desire to get a machine that does the work for me (heats water and brews). Latte's just happen to taste worlds better than drip coffee, therefore I refuse to take a $10 Mr. Coffee machine like the ones in motel rooms.
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Postby HB on Wed Jun 13, 2007 9:06 pm

aindfan wrote:In terms of the grinder... I plan to buy ground coffee...I need something that makes an *OK*ish beginner espresso shot that gets poured directly into a cup of steamed milk.

You can't get there from here. Use preground coffee while saving for an espresso grinder? and How can good espresso be made with preground coffee or pods? explains why. A cheap $100 pump espresso machine and preground coffee = dark brown, bitter, caffeinated dreck. Sure, you can drown it with enough milk to make it "drinkable," but why suffer?

aindfan wrote:How about some details on using the french press: do I grind regular coffee beans and pour hot water over them, press the plunger down after some time and pour?

See French press brewing instructions on the Resources page.

aindfan wrote:I don't know that I'll have time in the mornings to boil water or grind coffee beans, hence my desire to get a machine that does the work for me (heats water and brews).

How to put this delicately... With preground coffee and a budget of $100 for an espresso machine, which you choose won't matter; they'll all be equally awful.
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