The absolute best espresso machine choice I can make?

Recommendations for buyers and upgraders from the site's members.
Cupofcoffee27

#1: Post by Cupofcoffee27 »

Hi everyone,

First, a little introduction. I am a novice coffee enthusiast with a thirst for knowledge (and really good coffee). After "upgrading" from a French press, to a Moka pot, to a small coffee appliance with a pressurized filter basket, I reckoned it to be time for me to invest in a proper espresso machine.

Now I have done some research on espresso machines up to 1.500 euros. I looked into all the different kinds of features, the way different kinds of machines operate and how well each kind of machine suits my needs. I weighed the pros and cons of several machines and began to notice a pattern.

After looking at product descriptions, reviews and manuals of around 25 different machines, I noticed the Lelit Mara X seems to tick all the boxes of a good machine, compared to pretty much anything in the same category: it has ease of use, a good feature set, a certain versatility, durability and is not too expensive (at least here in Europe).

While I am typing this, I am asking myself: "Well, if you're so thrilled of the Lelit, why don't just buy by the thing?!" But that's just not me, because I am looking for reasons NOT to buy this thing. You see, if I don't find any reasons not to buy it, it truly is the machine I actually should buy, right?

So, my question to you guys is: Is there a machine out there with more ease of use, a better feature set and a better value at this price point (or a little higher) which I should buy instead of the Mara X?

I saw that a similar question was asked at the end of 2020, someone also asked for reasons not to buy the Mara X. I would like to see if something has changed in the world of espresso machines, or if the Mara X is still the best choice for a novice like me (along with a good grinder of course).

Many thanks in advance guys, and looking forward to getting more active on this website!

Jeff
Team HB

#2: Post by Jeff »

Welcome to H-B!

At 1,200€, I think it would be a great choice. The Bianca is a significant step up at 2,000€.

I'm not aware of anything "new and magical" in that price range.

I believe the Sage Dual Boiler is a similar price in the EU at around 1,200€ as well. It has quite a strong following here under the Breville name ("BDB").

Have you considered a spring or manual lever? Availability, especially of good-quality used units, it much better in Europe than it is here. One resource that I know of is http://www.francescoceccarelli.eu/

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mycatsnameisbernie

#3: Post by mycatsnameisbernie »

In addition to Jeff's suggestions, you might want to consider the Lelit Elizabeth PL92T. It is similar to the Breville/Sage Dual Boiler in that it is a true dual boiler machine. It will have better control over brew temperature and pre-infusion than the MaraX. I found it for €1279.00 at one EU dealer. If you can get it at that price, I think it would be well worth the few extra Euros over the Mara X.
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giboja

#4: Post by giboja »


VoidedTea

#5: Post by VoidedTea »

If you are looking for reasons not to buy Mara X, I would suggest considering Cafelat Robot as an option. It is what stopped me from buying a more expensive machine. In many ways it provides the easiest way to make an excellent espresso, especially when paired with a good grinder, which you already have. All at a fraction of a price of a good espresso machine. Other benefits include zero maintenance, small footprint, no wait time, very forgiving to achieve great results with different grinds, can be a great backup option for further upgrades or even for travel, and last but not least it is an excellent learning tool to understand all intricacies of making a good espresso, particularly experimenting with preinfusion, different pressure profiles, and temperature control. Every beginner would benefit immensely from starting with a manual lever IMHO. I've been using Robot for a year and don't have an itch to upgrade yet. So to me it was the absolute espresso machine choice I could make.

User avatar
happycat

#6: Post by happycat »

You are taking an objective approach, as if there is some best machine for $ for everyone. It's like asking "what's the best wife?" or "what's the best job?"

Depends on your habits and needs, which you do not describe at all.

I am happy using a completely manual Flair for 3+ years after using a semi-auto for 5 years before that. Cheap, portable, indestructable, easy and gives me full control of every shot. I enjoy singles, doubles, ristrettos, lungos... all simple to pull at whatever pressure works during the shot.
LMWDP #603
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Jeff
Team HB

#7: Post by Jeff »

I think that's good advice.

I can come up with a dozen, valid reasons not to buy any specific machine. All machines, even at the highest price points, are tradeoffs. Only you can really answer which of their "faults" are the least objectionable set for you, your coffees, grinder, tastes, and perhaps those around you as well. A fantastic, vintage lever that needs a strong arm, watchful eye and careful technique might be a great choice for an enthusiast, but perhaps not the best if there's another espresso maker in the house. You'll read over and over here that "my partner vetoed it for looks" [on a wide range of machines]. That's valid. It's their kitchen too!

(Yes, I omitted the Elizabeth from my earlier list and would definitely consider it as well.)

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Cupofcoffee27 (original poster)

#8: Post by Cupofcoffee27 (original poster) »

That's not good advice... it's great advice! Thanks a lot guys, all of you, not just for the suggestions but also for challenging my views of selecting a machine. I will take a good look at the Elizabeth and also any lever machine!

I agree, my way of selecting a machine is very objective, rather than putting my specific needs first. Part of the reason I tend to refrain from doing this, is because my needs change over time. Maybe I want to dabble with latte art in the future, so let's get good steaming power now; maybe I would like to explore variable pre infusion in the future, how about a machine capable of doing that.

On the other hand, I do have a (lovely) girlfriend currently sleeping next to me, who will give me a kiss and ask for coffee as soon as she wakes up. She loves making coffee herself too and I would not like to deny her that joy by choosing a machine that needs a difficult routine to pull an acceptable shot. So yeah, there are indeed subjective matters I have to take into account, which may conflict my needs now or in the future, but should not be dismissed because of this.

Again, thank you all very much, looking forward to any more replies! A lot of people here mentioning the the Elizabeth and lever machines around the same price point. But what about upping my budget, would this get me anything considered truly "better", more future proof or more easy to use? Or have I hit a price point at which every extra buck spent doesn't really get me that much more?

Jeff
Team HB

#9: Post by Jeff »

I think you're right at the inflection point. I'd take any of those machines to work or a cabin and, with a good grinder, be able to reliably get great espresso from it.

The steps up (should) give you more adjustability and a little better repeatability. That adjustability, in my opinion, mainly makes exploring the range of coffees easier, especially lighter roasts such as you might get from a leading European roaster (not labeled as "for espresso"). I think that a lever or lever-like profile can also make espresso taste a tiny bit better.

The Bianca at European prices is very attractive. But is it better to spend 800€ more on a grinder? I don't know. Is either 800€ better to you? Would spending 800€ on some great coffees be more rewarding?

BruceWayne
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#10: Post by BruceWayne »

Bumping your budget above €1500 will put you into the range of machines that you likely won't have a rational reason to upgrade further. Irrational reasons are an entirely different matter. :D In Europe, I think the price and features of the Bianca make it an outstanding choice, but most machines near or above €2000 will be great machines.