Basic inexpensive espresso machine recommendations - Page 2

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

#11: Post by Randy G. »

Randii wrote:.....but I haven't see any machines out there that were under (I think) $800.00 that had temperature and pressure control devices installed.
The recent Silvias (for the last 8 months to a year, or so) have an over-pressure relief valve that is adjustable.

I don't think you can get them for cheaper, unless you look on E-Bay for a used one. You have to add them to cheaper machines - and thus incur additional costs.
Honestly, I've found that an espresso machine really is an *investment*, and it's not a "spur of the moment" decision to be made in haste. It also is an investment of your TIME to learn how to make good espresso. There is a learning curve that you must climb. You need to understand this before you "dive down that rabbit hole!" Just think of how much money those "sink shots" are also going to cost you!
That is good advice. My first machine was just sold- A Silvia I bought new and used daily for nearly seven years. Most folks thought I was insane for spending that much on a coffee machine. At the time, if someone had told me, "In seven years you will be getting an espresso machine that will cost around $1300," I would have thought THEY were crazy, yet here I am with a Vibiemme Domobar Super. and, yes, it makes better espresso than Silvia, and it does so more consistently.

I learned a LOT during my internship with Silvia and it has helped me get the most (so far) from my VBM. But as you see, there is a long term investment to be made- in equipment, and also personally in dedicating yourself to making the best possible espresso you can. Espresso is the fine art of coffee, and like any fine cooking, there is always some improvement to be made and things to be learned... maybe more so than in nearly any other food preparation. OK.. I'm prejudiced, but the point is, you have to decide to what level of a commitment you are making.
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jesawdy

#12: Post by jesawdy »

Randii wrote:Silvia IS a good machine, BUT you said:

"Basically i just want a machine that works with no hassle and produces a decent espresso."
But they also said,
frajoe wrote:I know i need to get one with a pump instead of steam and i'd prefer to stay in the sub $400 range.
Unfortunately, those two criteria are very nearly mutually exclusive.

If you're looking for a jumping off point, just to see if this home espresso thing is something you're interested in, one low cost entry is something like a Starbuck's Barista (made by Saeco), Starbuck's is closing this out (they've switched vendors). The Barista used to be $400+, but you can find new in box at some stores on clearance and many on eBay. This machine is hindered slightly with a pressurized portafilter, but if you don't have a good grinder/coffee this is a good thing. It also has a smaller portafilter size (~52mm IIRC)

Another low cost entry are any of the sub $500 Gaggias. A return or refurbished machine will save you some money. The Gaggia has a traditional commercial sized portafilter (58mm) and also requires a good grinder since it does not have a pressurized portafilter.

The previously mentioned La Pavoni Napolitana, I have not seen or used but have read about a few people that were happy with it, or used it as a spare or travel machine.

The Rancilio Silvia, makes good espresso, but it is an expensive machine. That's because it has all metal construction with a painted metal frame, stainless steel panels, a big brass boiler, and a commercial portafilter. It also has a reputation, both good and bad. The good is that it is well made and capable of good shots, the bad is that it is finicky and unforgiving. The upside is that it has a high resale value, so if you get it and don't like making espresso at home or if you choose to upgrade, you can sell it fairly quickly without a huge loss.

All that said, if you step up to the class of machines reviewed on this site, you'll have better espresso faster and easier than any of the above. Taking that $1100+ leap of faith isn't easy (and that's not including grinder and accessories).
Jeff Sawdy

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peacecup

#13: Post by peacecup »

We've been through this a number of times - I am always the advocate for a very respectable <$200 starter kit including a hand grinder and a Saeco, Estro, or Gaggia bottom-end pump machine. The idea that someone needs to spend >$500 (the yearly per-capita income of some countries) to start brewing very drinkable espresso is a myth, and to me, somewhat insulting.

Here is an $85 used Saeco Via Veneto, the same model I started 7 years ago:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?Vi ... 0156827684

See the handjive thread for a discussion of hand grinders:

Hand (grinder) Jive - a photo essay

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Randii

#14: Post by Randii »

jesawdy wrote: All that said, if you step up to the class of machines reviewed on this site, you'll have better espresso faster and easier than any of the above. Taking that $1100+ leap of faith isn't easy (and that's not including grinder and accessories).
Agreed, it is a very hard decision to make. But having made that leap, I can tell you that the jump up has been a wonderful experience, far beyond anything I experienced in my two months with Miss Silvia.

However, having said that. . .
peacecup wrote: The idea that someone needs to spend >$500 (the yearly per-capita income of some countries) to start brewing very drinkable espresso is a myth, and to me, somewhat insulting.
I absolutely agree! You do not have to purchase an expensive machine to make decent espresso! The La Pavoni Napolitana I suggested, which comes with a grinder, costs only just around $520.00 - and the espresso was GOOD! (So was the steaming!) The entry level Gaggias are reportedly wonderful machines - according to the current posts on the CG forum that I am reading right now - and they don't come with pressurized portafilters.

What this all really boils down to, is that Frajoe wants to make *Grande Mocha Espresso* drinks!
frajoe wrote: I'm not a coffee person like some of you are. . .
This newbie does not NEED to go out and buy a top rate $300.00 grinder and a mid range $600.00 + espresso machine. An entry level, friendly to use, espresso machine with really good steaming power is all that is required for a Grande Mocha drinker. Newbies don't have to be in espresso grad school if they don't want to be! And what's wrong with a $20.00 Moka pot and a milk steamer?

Beezer

#15: Post by Beezer »

I normally recommend Gaggia machines for a beginner. However, if your priority is steaming lots of milk, you might want something with a bigger boiler. The Solis SL-70 has a reasonably big boiler and is supposed to be a very powerful steamer. It also makes good espresso, and it's a bit cheaper than a Silvia at around $350-400. The only downside is the pressurized portafilter, which may prevent you from getting the best results. But you can always get nonpressurized baskets if you get more serious about your espresso. Then you can get a decent entry level grinder like a Gaggia MDF or Cunill Tranquilo for around $200.
Lock and load!

frajoe (original poster)

#16: Post by frajoe (original poster) »

I think my biggest unanswered question is this:

When the espresso is used to make a Mocha am i really going to notice the difference between a shot delivered from a high end machine versus something cheaper?

I've had some pretty bad Mocha's in the past but i can't tell if it was bad espresso or just an improper mix of ingredients.

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HB
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#17: Post by HB »

frajoe wrote:When the espresso is used to make a Mocha am i really going to notice the difference between a shot delivered from a high end machine versus something cheaper?
I'm reminded of something Peter said:
Peter Giuliano wrote:I think that we, as a culture, are generally too insecure about our senses of taste and smell. I talk to dozens of folks every week who say something to me like "I just can't tell the difference between coffees" and "My palate isn't sophisticated enough to detect the differences you describe". I always call BS on that. I usually ask: "Can you tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi? Do you have a preference?" The answer is usually "yes" to both. I then reply; "The difference between those two brands of soda is much subtler than the difference between a mediocre Kenya and a great one."
So, are you a Coke or Pepsi drinker? The difference between an average and excellent coffee drink is much greater. As others have said earlier in this thread, you don't have to spend lots of money for good results. However, one big weakness of the single boiler crowd is their capacity; they're great if you're serving one or two people, a chore for three or more drinkers.
Dan Kehn