Affording coffee as a hobby

Recommendations for espresso equipment buyers and upgraders.

Postby stherric » Jul 24, 2016, 12:25 pm

I'm curious as to how everyone best approaches financing this great hobby. I'm fairly young without much capital so I've learned to live with what I've got but that doesn't mean I don't dream everyday of a Kafetek 80mm flat and a LMLM. What does everyone do to afford coffee as their hobby? Do people often finance machines, pay in cash, take out a second mortgage, etc.? Mostly kidding about the second mortgage :D . Does the increase in purchasing power come with age? Any insight is greatly appreciated!

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Postby Hudson » Jul 24, 2016, 12:44 pm

I'm a second year college student, so I can relate to where you're at. Not paying in cash you have in hand is a bad idea, for just about anything. I started out with a $300 dollar la Pavoni and pharos, quite affordable. I think it's important to buy things that make you happy but never to the point where you sacrifice things you need for your future. With that said here is how I'm able to afford now a hg-1 and brewtus IV.

- buy used. High end equipment isn't going to deteriorate much . Take you time and find good deals on this forum or Craig's list.

- work. I'm a computer science student and work as a software dev, pays well and I enjoy it.

- save up 'fun money'. Put some money aside for things you like to do liking dining, coffee, dates, etc.

- if you don't have a machine buy an old lever. You can fix it up and flip it for some cash after you're done if you shop smart and get a good deal,

- buy the more expensive, quality things once. This will be often be cheaper in the long run that buying something worse and replacing. Plus you'll enjoy it more.

Remember that purchasing power isn't a given. Put things you need first and work hard to afford things you want. Splurge sometimes and enjoy yourself. Just because you're a college student doesn't mean you can't have nice things.
LMWDP #534


Postby day » Jul 24, 2016, 12:48 pm

You can get a decent electric like used vario and focus on pour over and areropress etc. the mdf isn't too bad for pour over either and can be had super cheap, though some other used options might be better. in that case you save up and hunt down quality beans.

For espresso you would probably need a handgrinder like the Pharos and then find a beat up lever espresso machine to restore and modify.

In both cases you can start to roast at home to really cut back on cost, though quality will suffer for some time over well known roasters. I recommend going out and making friends with local roasters and buy greens from them and also try their roasts, if there's are any good.
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Postby Apogee » Jul 24, 2016, 1:03 pm

Binary statemtent: my apologies

BDB + Baratza vario + MA871 + weekly coffee delivery = $1600 on good sales + $20 / week "until the end of time." -AS, KC still rocks.

Minimum price of admission to love the fruit without going insane while being as lazy and fast as possible. So you step in the dojo every day, and take your beatings like the rest of us.

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Postby drgary » Jul 24, 2016, 1:10 pm

Apogee wrote:Binary statemtent: my apologies

BDB + Baratza vario + MA871 = $1600 on good sales

Minimum price of admission to love the fruit without going insane while being as lazy and fast as possible. So you step in the dojo every day, and take your beatings like the rest of us.

Disagree. With your equipment, a scale, good fresh beans and paying attention, you should be able to get very good espresso. If you want to explore good coffee you might also try pourover or Clever Dripper with your current grinder, a scale and a food thermometer. Espresso preparation is practicing the 4 M's.

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!


Postby Apogee » Jul 24, 2016, 1:31 pm

I'm sorry! Gary is correct. I did not realize there was a PID controlled machine that could take VST baskets for less then the BDB. Your gear is fine, you only need a refractometer, bottomless portafilter and fresh fruit.

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Postby yakster » Jul 24, 2016, 2:13 pm

I shop at thrift stores, buy home levers second-hand, and otherwise try and reign in my coffee budget but at times it's difficult to resist the lure of the next best roaster / grinder / brewer / espresso machine.

LMWDP # 272

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Postby drgary » replying to yakster » Jul 24, 2016, 2:34 pm


And you don't need a refractometer or VST basket to dial in shots by taste.

Espresso 101: How to Adjust Dose and Grind Setting by Taste

I'm not saying it's a bad thing to use those tools but that different people approach this hobby in different ways. I'm able to review coffees with consistent results without a refractometer or VST basket. When I'm really taking care and being fussy to pull a consistent shot I use a scale to weigh grounds, a scale to weigh the shot and an old stopwatch to time the shot. My vintage spring lever has sufficiently consistent pressure and temperature to do the job very well.

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!


Postby Apogee » Jul 24, 2016, 2:51 pm

I can't drive without a speedometer or make espresso without a refractometer. I did not have the ability to crack the code by taste alone. Nearly gave up entirely.

Technology has finally hit the coffee world in a big way. We have a HUD now;)

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Randy G.

Postby Randy G. » Jul 24, 2016, 3:07 pm

If you are at all serious and, looking at this at the extremes, consider coffee as a gourmet food as opposed to a morning drug addiction, the priority has to be the ability to make the best coffee possible for the least amount of money.

That amount of money is relative to your total available funds. It might be that two flat rocks and a clean gym sock are a luxury, or it may mean that, without a second thought, you buy a LM two group GB5 for $13,500 and a LM GS3 for about $7,000 and then decide which you like and sell the other used.

While not espresso, and taking for granted a source for quality, freshly-roasted coffee beans, then my recommendations for a starter package are:
1 - a good grinder (a Baratza refurb is hard to beat for the price)
2 - either (based on budget):
a. 1st choice an Espro Press
b. 2nd choice an Aeropress
3 - A scale that weighs in 0.1 gram increments
4 - A way to measure water temperature

A setup like that has great potential to (relatively speaking) easily make excellent coffee. From there the choices are virtually limitless.
Espresso! My Espresso!