Advice on espresso machine/grinder for a newbie, budget sub $1000

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

#1: Post by engh »

I'll preface this by saying that I'm pretty new to this and have only had a Nespresso machine before, so my knowledge of what's out there is extremely limited.

I'm looking to get into the espresso game, but haven't been able to find obvious options solely based on youtube/retailer reviews. I'm looking for recommendations on equipment based what I like to drink:

I typically like lattes, flat whites, and cappuccinos. So for me, I think a machine with the capability to steam milk well and make some latte art is a necessity. I also don't like to spend hours on my morning routine before going to work, so a machine that won't take forever to heat up would also be a requirement. I'm not expecting to beat out a local cafe in terms of quality, but want to be able to make a solid latte that won't disappoint.

I'd ideally like to spend sub $1000 if that can achieve what I'm looking for. I was looking at a combo of the Gaggia Classic Pro and the Eureka Mignon Facile or Baratza Sette 270. I've heard the Gaggia CP is a bit lacking when it come to steaming... Also, are these grinders going to limit me in a major way or are they acceptable? I'm willing to bump my budget up to $1800-$2000 if I can't get what I'm looking for at $1000, but would prefer not to.

All honest input appreciated! Enlighten me on all that I am clueless about please :D

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Jeff
Team HB

#2: Post by Jeff »

Welcome to H-B!

There's a lot of information out there. It's hard to wade through it between much being years (or decades) stale and a lot being promotional in nature.

If you haven't already watched How to choose an espresso machine and grinder at the "right" price I'd start there.

Another good thread is What's really the difference between espresso machines?

Basically, up to a point somewhere above your budget, all the machines and grinders will have compromises. With good choices, the more you spend, the less likely those compromises are to increase shot-to-shot variability, or just drive you nuts by making making things "not fun" to work with. As an example of differences, a $1,000 set-up might require very careful attention to temperature, pulling the shot at the machine's timing rather than your own, as well as having to work out how to manage making espresso and then making steamed milk for two drinks.

Around $1,000 you should be able to make some choices that get you reliably good espresso and steamed milk every morning. Below that there are some good options as well, but the drawbacks can be significant for some.

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Jumping ahead, you'll find that most of the choices in the $1,000 range will have things that limit in significant ways. If you're looking for just good espresso every morning, the limitations of some good choices are likely not limitations that will hamper you meeting that goal. If you end up wanting to pursue espresso as a hobby, they will limit you at some point, depending on which ways you decide to explore. Those are sort of the Toyota Corolla of the espresso world. Completely functional around town or on the interstate, but not something I'd choose take out on a curvy mountain road or out four-wheeling.

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Randy G.

#3: Post by Randy G. »

When I first started, a tad over two decades ago, I ended up spending about $850-900 which included a small air roaster. I got the Silvia and the Rocky. Since then I have had two steps up in grinders and three steps up in espresso machines. You can read the sordid details of my journey, now in its third decade, on my website.
But coming from my experience, I ask:
'What is more important to you? Does it have to be espresso, or are you interested in drinking the best coffee you can within your budget?'
Adding to that: are you in it for the long haul or is just making something espresso-ish good enough?
While those answers may be difficult to give, be aware that what is considered by many to be an entry level espresso electric grinder that is made well enough to last is close to your budget of $1000. The alternative is a hand grinder. There are also fully manual, non-electric espresso makers. I tried one setup like that out and did so with a hand grinder. Made good espresso, but it was tedious, messy, and slow. And no steaming for milk. If it is just you that might be OK. For two or more? Not for me.
Take all that with a grain of salt- my current setup sells for about double what I paid for my used car 17 years ago which I am still driving because I paid so much for my espresso gear.. :lol:
www.EspressoMyEspresso.com
* 21st Anniversary 2000-2021 *

engh (original poster)

#4: Post by engh (original poster) »

Thanks for sharing!

As far as what I'm looking for, really just the ability to create a solid latte that will save me the trip to coffee shops. While I'm willing to spend a bit over a thousand if that's what it takes to get what I'm looking for, I'm confident that I don't want to dive into spending over $1000 on a grinder and $2000-$3000 on an espresso machine. I may make those upgrades at some point, but it would be at least 6-8 years until I make that jump.

I've seen the manual grinders and espresso presses before, but I think since I'll be looking to make one while I do my morning routine before I go to work, they might not be sensible for me.

gabeholloway
Supporter

#5: Post by gabeholloway »

IMO, the GCP with a Shades PID and 6.5 bar spring can't be beat at that price point. Even though it's a single boiler, it will go from brew to steam temp in 30 seconds or less, which I've honestly not found to be that much slower of a workflow than working with my double boiler machine. And from cold, it will stabilize temp in 15 minutes. The main headache is if you're doing back-to-back drinks. But it sounds like you're just brewing one for yourself in the mornings. You can pick up a refurb stainless GCP from Whole Latte Love for $350 USD and the PID and spring options from Shades for <$200 USD. (You might even want to add a bottomless portafilter, IMS basket, and single-hole steam tip for another $100.) Add to that a Sette 270 or hand grinder (Kinu, Comandante, or 1Zpresso) and you're still at or under $1000k.

thirdcrackfourthwave

#6: Post by thirdcrackfourthwave »

engh wrote:Thanks for sharing!

As far as what I'm looking for, really just the ability to create a solid latte that will save me the trip to coffee shops. While I'm willing to spend a bit over a thousand if that's what it takes to get what I'm looking for, I'm confident that I don't want to dive into spending over $1000 on a grinder and $2000-$3000 on an espresso machine. I may make those upgrades at some point, but it would be at least 6-8 years until I make that jump.

I've seen the manual grinders and espresso presses before, but I think since I'll be looking to make one while I do my morning routine before I go to work, they might not be sensible for me.
Don't discard the manual grinder idea. With a good hand grinder it is not that difficult nor does it take that long to grind out a dose.

randyh
Supporter ♡

#7: Post by randyh »

The grinder is an easier decision, Sette 270 or a good quality hand grinder, of which there are MANY good ones to choose from in the $150-300 range. The Sette produces high quality grind for espresso, and main drawback is the noise. Maybe reliability concerns but most people have found Baratza customer service to be very good. I'd go with hand grinding.
The machine is harder to find fitting this budget for good steaming capabilities. IMO, a used E61 HX would be the way to go. I've used one for 4.5 years as my first plug in machine and it's served me well. HX machines seem to have fallen out of favor, so you can get a pretty good deal for a used one (~$800). eventually you can add flow control and really learn alot about brewing espresso.
Or... you could roll the dice and pre-order the Odyssey Argos for $850.

SutterMill

#8: Post by SutterMill »

I second the suggestion of the Gaggia with PID. Its a solid setup with a quick warmup time. A small bonus is its fairly portable. My bro-in-law has one and its a solid performer.

Something to consider. If you enjoy a lighter roasted fruit bomb, something like the df-64 brings out the fruit and brightness much more than the sette. Its about $20 more than a sette 270 and you have the option of different burr sets down the road (or now if you stretch your budget.) If you prefer darker roasts its been my experience the sette works wonderfully for that.

klee11mtl

#9: Post by klee11mtl »

Having been where you are just a couple of years ago, I'd say you want to feel good about what you have. Early on, the most important part is your learning and enjoyment so your equipment should be something you look forward to work with. If you have the opportunity to see/touch/play with equipment either from a retail store or friends, I'd take advantage. If it doesn't feel right to you, trust your gut.

Specifically for your grinder, you might consider the Eureka Mignon Notte. It's essentially the same grinder as the Facile but without the noise suppression and will save you about $70. I'm assuming the noise isn't an issue since you are also looking at the Sette. Another good reason to try and see these in action if possible.

Good luck and enjoy the journey.

gobucks

#10: Post by gobucks »

For the grinder, I think a sette 270 or a eureka mignon should be sufficient, you may be able to find a good deal on a used one, or you can buy various eureka models direct from italy for pretty cheap here: https://www.espressocoffeeshop.com/en/

I'd say the biggest issue with your $1000 budget is that it sounds like you're going to do a lot of milk steaming, and if you're spending $300 or so on grinder, it's going to be really tough to find anything that is going to provide good steaming for under 700 (or even under 1000). You're likely looking at single boiler or thermoblock designs, the single boiler might have enough power but the wait time between brew and steam is quite annoying, the thermoblocks often lack power, and some of the very small single boilers (gaggia) both have an annoying wait time AND mediocre steam power.

Do you often find yourself making back to back drinks for multiple people, or is this just for you? If you're only making one milk drink at a time, a single boiler is annoying, but going from brew to steam is manageable. If you often make a couple drinks in a row, it gets really unworkable, as going from steam temp to brew temp takes even longer than the other way around. So basically if you think it'll mostly just be you, a single boiler with adequate steam power, like the Rancilio Silvia, would probably work well, and is only slightly over budget, maybe less if you buy one of the many used ones. You can also add PID down the road if you want more precise temp control. ECM Casa V could also work. If you think you might find yourself making a few drinks in a row, then it's probably time to consider upping your budget to get a dual boiler or heat exchanger.