Analysis paralysis: choosing my home espresso machine & grinder

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

#1: Post by dubchobbs »

Update: Thanks, everyone, for your patient responses. I'm going to do more research on "titan" grinders to determine what's best suited to my tastes. Will start with a manual lever (Flair58) and my 1zPresso Pro until I'm confident in my ability to consistently prep good pucks. Then, I'll revisit the question of a larger machine with steaming capabilities.


Lurking and reading a ton of posts here and on Reddit /espresso have me wondering whether I should work with a simple manual setup for a year or two before investing in a significant machine, given lifestyle constraints (young kids, demanding career), and possible new product introductions on the horizon.

Budget: Max $10k all-in (machine, grinder, scale and accessories)

Grinders, narrowed down to two as the principal factors are quality of grind for greatest range of beans, ease of workflow, aesthetics, and noise.

Targeting grinder spend of <$2K, mainly due to my perception that there are diminishing returns in spending more at this stage of my journey.

Atom 75 and Lagom P64, seem to fit the bill with the Lagom being my preferred option for several factors mentioned in two threads:

Lagom P64 Grinder User Impressions

Eureka Atom 75 vs Lagom 64

As far as espresso machines, I'm considering four possible scenarios:
  • End game semi-auto- Invest in a GS3 MP (a sub-$10k but arguably an "end game" machine with profiling, etc. that I can grow into it over time);
  • Semi-auto lever - Get a Cremina (a semi-auto lever that could be good for the foreseeable future if I never return to entertaining dinner parties, etc. and if I'm ok with the temp surfing most talk about but I'd probably want more options for automated features over time)
  • Manual + superauto - Get a Flair Pro (or Robot) a Jura so I can have ok daily espresso and milk drinks with minimal fuss while perfecting my espresso craft, but getting a superauto would seem wasteful if I eventually upgraded to a semi-auto;
  • Manual only - get a Flair 58 (or Robot) to perfect my craft and save the milk drinks, etc. for trips to my favorite Third Wave spots until I feel comfortable getting an "end game" machine or one of the newer semi-autos is launched (eyeing the Faemina.)
For the espresso machine, I've ruled out most of the "big chrome boxes" and the BDB-type machines due to personal preferences on aesthetics. Have also eliminated the plumb-in only machines given our current kitchen constraints. Last, I've also ruled out the Decent, because of its noise and aesthetics (again, personal preference.)

In all cases, it seems pretty clear that I'm going to get a new grinder. Would appreciate perspectives on any of the scenarios from people who have tried to make similar decisions.

FTR, I'm leaning towards just getting a manual only so I can learn how to make/pull decent shots without a big cash outlay.


#2: Post by TallDan »

End game is a myth. There will always be something subjectively better in some way.

Easiest answer here is to get a flair or robot and either one of the grinders you mentioned or one of the widely recommended hand grinders right now. It's a small spend compared to the gs3 and you can decide from there what's next.

I don't think you'll find many fans of the super automatics here. You may want to consider a nespresso if you want ease of use and then use the flair/robot when you have more time and want something better.

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#3: Post by thesharpener »

I dislike the term endgame when describing machines. There is too much variability in meaning depending on the user. My idea of an endgame machine has continuously changed across the time I've spent partaking in this hobby.

You really can't go wrong with an excellent grinder and a manual machine like a Cafelat Robot or Flair (never used the flair, but have a friend with one). I am in the process of selling off my electric machines because I am completely happy with the espresso produced with my Monolith Flat and Robot. Downside is no milk steaming, but I am mainly a straight espresso drinker, so I don't miss this at all.

This sort of setup will let you figure out what type of espresso drinker you are, and then you can define what your personal criteria for an endgame machine are. You might realize you don't need a profiling machine, or maybe you gravitate toward a vintage commercial spring lever, or maybe being able to have granular control like the Decent offers is what it means for you.
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#4: Post by BruceWayne »

If you really need properly steamed milk, the Bellman steamer should work well (no direct experience).

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#5: Post by Randy G. »

TallDan wrote:End game is a myth.
.. or a fantasy :lol:

I feel you need to take a step back. You seem all over the place from a Robot to an GS3 MP to a Jura (a Jura!?!).
Check my website's blog chapters 159, 160, 161, 166, 167, and 168.
I ended up with a machine that I can incrementally adjust to my coffee and my taste, and do so in increments and repeatability that is unmatched in the industry. If there is another machine that comes close I did not find it in my exhaustive search. And I have a great grinder. All that is documented in those chapters. I won't belabor the entire thing again here. Retelling the story is even starting to bore me. :wink: But search my user name for my previous posts on the subject.
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#6: Post by Jeff »

There's no end to the game. Even a GS3 from a decade ago is outshined by a GS3/MP of today. It's all a balance of budget and perceived value. I'd rather pull one of the better levers of the 40s and 50s than most of the machines on the market today.

I would consider grinder choices based on usability and if there is a future upgrade path for burrs. My guess is that there will continue to be exploration and refinement in burrs over the next five to ten years.


#7: Post by thecatch33 »

My recommendation would be Flair 58 to grow into the hobby. I use a Flair Pro 2 for traveling, and it pulls amazing espresso. 58 makes the workflow a lot easier for home use and is great value for the quality of espresso and profiling potential. If/when you decide to upgrade, you can do what one of my friends did and make your 58 your office machine. Pair with a Nanofoamer or Aerolatte (I actually think Aerolatte is better even for latte art) and you have an excellent, low risk path that will not leave you lacking at any point on espresso quality, and gives you sufficient time and knowledge to figure out what kind of machine you want for "end game" with no regrets.

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#8: Post by luca »

Coffee can present a wide spectrum of flavours, but I guess if you had to simplify it, there are really two sorts of extremes for what you can try to do with an espresso machine and grinder. Do you want low acidity, high body, chocolatey or nutty style stuff, with a bit of bitterness? Or do you want high acidity, low body, fruity and floral stuff? Once you can answer that, then that will probably help people to give you some ideas. On the other hand, if you want to say that you expect to be able to do all things the best for the amount you are spending, I'm very happy to just lie to you.

Personally, If I were spending $10k on coffee equipment, I'd probably spend $4-$5k on a grinder, then work out what machine made sense with whatever was left over, but people seem to think the machine is important or something. Shrug.

Frustratingly, whatever you buy, you can expect a constant parade of slightly better products to launch over the next several years.
LMWDP #034 | 2011: Q Exam, WBrC #3, Aus Cup Tasting #1 | Insta: @lucacoffeenotes

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#9: Post by drH »

The small manual machines are convenient in ways that larger machines can never match and vice versa.
A Cremina is tiny, easy to move, only sips water, and is so simple that there isn't much to go wrong (though you need some tools and patience for the annual maintenance). On the other hand a GS3 can be on basically 24/7, dispenses hot water at desired temperatures, is rock solid on temperature stability, keeps your cups warm, comes with La Marzocco's famous service, and still offers profiling flexibility.

I think once you have a manual machine you will probably always want one around to experiment. They are just fun and a Robot is also great for travel. However, it's hard to imagine being dissatisfied with a GS3. If your budget allows, why not get the GS3 and keep a Robot around for fun and travel.


#10: Post by SandraF »

After purchasing my Synchronika & Atom 75 setup, I bought a Robot. All I can say is that the Robot lends itself to different tasting shots vs the big box machine. I use the phrase, "espresso from the Robot seems to remove all the 'sharp pointy edges' of flavor".

You could always start with a Robot or Flair....getting some good shots and learning along the way. You can continue to research & fine tune your desires for a machine.