Best espresso machine under £500 choice?

Recommendations for espresso equipment buyers and upgraders.
Bica60s

#1: Post by Bica60s » Dec 03, 2019, 9:05 am

Hi all

I've joined hoping for some advice as all I can seem to get on-line are adverts, or reviews which are so similar that they read suspiciously like adverts written by the same persons! Specifically, I have interest in two models, the Gaggia Classic (solenoid model so 2019 one or pre 2014 model) or the new Rancilio Silvia V6E. I have been offered the Rancilio direct from Italy for £475 which is right at the top of my budget.

I started this year with a Delonghi Scultura, which for a budget machine is fine but soon got fed up with the huge temperature variation and the mess it makes with anything other then ESE pods as it leaves a coffee soup in the portafilter (no solenoid valve). It's hard to get the same tasting coffee twice in a row but for all that, convenience, style and ease of use with ESE pods means we'll probably keep it on. I've recently acquired a Sage Grinder Pro which is excellent, and have it dialled in for the Sculptura (even though pressurised baskets shouldn't make much difference to grind, clearly, they do, going by taste).

I don't mind learning curve and am not worried by total ease of use, and rarely am in a rush. If it takes a few minutes to make a decent cup, that's fine. Normally I like to pour a single shot or one and a half shots and carry on using the brew dispense function to top the cup off for about a 120ml cup of coffee to which I add milk. Occasionally I'll have an espresso or a cappuccino.

I would like a machine that's well made and reliable...it has to last years if I'm going to spend this amount. I have also considered the Sage Duo Temp pro as it matches the grinder, looks good and appears well made but reports are that it doesn't brew hot enough for decent coffee (some review feedback on line).

Am I right just to shortlist the two Italian classics above in this price range (I really can't go a penny more) or are there any others I should consider? I can't make my mind up between the Gaggia or Rancilio. Any users of either care to give their preference and why?

Thanks in advance.

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C-Antonio

#2: Post by C-Antonio » Dec 03, 2019, 1:19 pm

They are both very similar but if thats your routine maybe you would prefer the slightly bigger boiler of the Silvia. Also look carefully because in UK saw some floor demo Silvia sold by dealers for less than 400£ which would put it to the same price of the Classic (then maybe a floor model ClassicPro would be even cheaper).
And I would presume you dont care about tinkering with it or buying used
(In between the two I prefer the Gaggia for myself, but there are also personal reasons behind that and I mod them a bit to suit my taste)
“Eh sì sì sì…sembra facile (fare un buon caffè)!”

baristainzmking
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#3: Post by baristainzmking » Dec 03, 2019, 2:38 pm

Between the two and for the money, I would go with Gaggia Classic Pro, as it is a lot less finicky compared to Miss Silvia.

On the other hand, since you already have a Delonghi, you could keep it for steaming and get a Cafelat Robot. That one is an awesome little machine and it makes a fabulous espresso every time.
Julia

Bica60s

#4: Post by Bica60s » Dec 03, 2019, 3:41 pm

Thanks for the feedback guys. I seem to be getting a lot of conflicting information between the Gaggia and the Silvia. Even the sellers are disagreeing between themselves (those that stock both!). The low down seems to be that the Gaggia is a little bit easier to use and a little cheaper (new) but buying one means to get the best out of it, you have to be prepared to dive inside it with tools and some spare parts to regulate pressure etc. I don't want to have to spend money on something that needs then lid lifted if I can buy something that works well without it. The consensus seems to be that the Silvia is better made but takes more getting used to. The later versions (unless I have misunderstood) seem to be already factory set to a lower pressure than the Classic too. The reason I don't want to dive inside to change something is that I work as a hands on engineer during the day (loudspeaker design and manufacture as well as restorations), so already spend a lot of time with a soldering iron in my hand and the last thing I want outside of work is more of the same LoL!

The deal here in the UK is that I can pick up loads of used pre 2014 Classic models for under £150 but these mostly will need servicing. I can pick up a good pre 2014 model serviced and with the PID mods done along with the re-valving done for around £325 to £350 and I can buy a brand new Rancilio for £475 (a 2020 V6 model). Some of the other models (most in fact) you have access to in the States, we don't have access to here, including the Cafelat Robot. The Sage Infusion was the one I really wanted but that's not available in the UK either (USA only by the looks of it).

Most seem to be recommending Gaggia as that's what they have or have had and value it's ease of use, and ditto for those recommending Rancilio (who claim it's no more difficult in use that the Classic but takes longer for the boiler to get back up to speed). That sort of splits my thoughts on both.

My own take is that the Rancilio seems to be the better made machine and speaking with some Italian vendors today, I put the same question to them, and the answer was sort of split between the Rancilio and one or two of the La Pavona models in this price range, especially the manual ones. Not one of them recommended the Classic for some reason? I haven't made my mind up yet but those who don't favour the Silvia, is there specific reasons why not rather than it taking a bit more hands on experience to get a consistent shot from it?

mivanitsky
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#5: Post by mivanitsky » Dec 03, 2019, 3:45 pm

Robot is only available from Cafelat, AFAIK. Paul ships worldwide.

Bica60s

#6: Post by Bica60s » Dec 03, 2019, 5:07 pm

Thanks Mike....I'll check it out in that case.

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C-Antonio

#7: Post by C-Antonio » Dec 03, 2019, 5:44 pm

Bica60s wrote:Thanks for the feedback guys. I seem to be getting a lot of conflicting information between the Gaggia and the Silvia. Even the sellers are disagreeing between themselves (those that stock both!). The low down seems to be that the Gaggia is a little bit easier to use and a little cheaper (new) but buying one means to get the best out of it, you have to be prepared to dive inside it with tools and some spare parts to regulate pressure etc. I don't want to have to spend money on something that needs then lid lifted if I can buy something that works well without it. The consensus seems to be that the Silvia is better made but takes more getting used to. The later versions (unless I have misunderstood) seem to be already factory set to a lower pressure than the Classic too. The reason I don't want to dive inside to change something is that I work as a hands on engineer during the day (loudspeaker design and manufacture as well as restorations), so already spend a lot of time with a soldering iron in my hand and the last thing I want outside of work is more of the same LoL!
between Classic and Silvia there always been a back and forth like you see between Canon and Nikon...
I dont really find either one more difficult or not than the other.
In the Gaggia you dont need to modify things to get the most out of it, its perfectly capable as stock and if you think you are going to use ESE pods lowering the pressure isnt the best thing to do. In here they insist on modding them because they are maniacs :mrgreen:.
The Gaggia boiler is really though, with the elements outside there is less risk of burning, and while some might have a problem with the aluminium or with corrosion all I can say is that I have one old BabyGaggia of when they switched to the boiler of the kind they still use now and after all those years of use its still going strong (save for the usual gasket change). Also the boiler is not that expensive to change whenever there will be the need, which brings me to the point that, repair-wise, the Classic is possiblycheaper for new parts and since most parts are the same between old and new its also easy to find an old one to use as donor if it needs to.
And even if you had to service an used one without making any mods its not like you have always to open and fix it, its a quick thing done once and thats it for ages.

Truth is whoever sticks with one side can point out defects in the other, there are no perfect machines but these two are very similar and if you take care of them they last.

Beyond that if you are ok working with a lever...
“Eh sì sì sì…sembra facile (fare un buon caffè)!”

Bica60s

#8: Post by Bica60s » Dec 03, 2019, 7:13 pm

Point well made.

I tend to look at things like how many old ones are still doing the rounds and in the UK, the Classic seems to be a firm favourite. There's certainly more of them about than the Silvia and I guess I'd be perfectly happy with either of them. To be honest, I'm not that unhappy with the modest little Delonghi, as sacrilegious as that might sound to the coffee "maniacs" ( :wink: ) but am told that I can probably get more flavour out of my grounds by going to a better machine. What surprises me is that for the money, neither of these machines seems to have reasonable temperature control as standard.

Am I right in thinking that the only difference between the Classic and the 2019 Classic Pro is that the portafilter is brass and there's a few cosmetic changes? Is it worth the extra over the older machines?

myso

#9: Post by myso » Dec 03, 2019, 7:27 pm

I would go with silvia and go with ito/leva! : temperature, pressure, flow, yield control kit later on. The developer of the kit also uses a rancilio which means you can get the most useful info about it.

Bu again grinder is the most impactful piece when chasing higher quality espresso.
I would prefer a shot from a dream grinder with entry level espresso machine than a shot from an entry level grinder with dream espresso machine.

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sweaner
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#10: Post by sweaner » Dec 03, 2019, 10:51 pm

Save and get yourself a Sage/Breville Dual Boiler.
Scott
LMWDP #248