Best value grinder/steamer/espresso machine combo - Page 2

Recommendations for espresso equipment buyers and upgraders.
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Postby MB » Dec 12, 2018, 9:05 pm

mlunsford27 wrote:Thanks for the Robot suggestion. I read several threads on that machine after you posted that yesterday and it does seem solid. For some reason though, I'm more drawn to the Espresso Forge, I guess because you have the option to change the basket/shower screen to whatever you want which gives some flexibility and it just seems so simple and well built. Since you have both, can you please share how they compare? Is there anything in particular that one does better/worse than the other (besides what you have mentioned that the Robot is easier to preheat and get the temperature you want)?

Also thanks for the tip on the Mr. Coffee. I will look into one if the Bellman workflow becomes too much.

Since you are planning to use the Bellman and are more drawn to the Espresso Forge ("EF"), I don't see a problem going that way. The time involved heating up the Bellman, from what i understand will be the longest factor, so the time savings with a Robot might not mean much to you. However, since you asked, I will expand on some of the differences from my experience using them both.

The Robot stands on its own, while the EF perches on its stand, which is a consideration when moving it around.
The Robot takes more side to side space to operate vs. the EF's coffee-cup-sized footprint and workspace (well slightly larger when typically used with the stand).
The Robot is simple to load and expel the puck, while the EF needs to be screwed and unscrewed to load and expel the puck (which I found occasionally fiddly to engage the threads).
The Robot without a gauge is a guessing game (but an easy one), while the EF's gauge is easy to see, use, and because it is repeatable, gives more input as to grind tweaking.
The Robot seems more forgiving for a great shot than the EF; however, they both are in the very forgiving end of the spectrum, so the difference between the two might not be significant for everyone.
The Robot only has one basket option (but the light to darker roasts I have tried on it have yielded tasty results), while the EF has the flexibility of using any standard sized basket, so there are more options to find something that yields the tasty results I experience on the Robot.
The EF is somewhat easier on the hands while pulling the shot. It's also a little more awkward and potentially tippy if you are inattentive vs. the Robot.
The Robot and EF both use standard sized seals and very few, so pretty even in this category.
Rarely the EF doesn't fully seal after a thorough cleaning and removal of the group head gasket if it's not re-seated well. This is easily fixed and fine after doing so.
The Robot works well with one initial light silicone greasing of the piston seal and double spout retaining gasket. The EF piston o-ring seals need occasional silicone grease re-application to work their best and last longer.
The Robot is ready to go without much consideration for preheating, as the adjustment is made by how much boiling water is introduced (either just enough for medium and dark roasts, or overflowing for a few seconds for light roasts). The EF pretty much needs to be preheated (although personally I don't mind the flavors of no preheat with a medium to dark roast in a cappuccino).
Robot cleanup seems easier and quicker than with the EF, mostly due to the EF's need for unscrewing and screwing the basket retaining ring and the piston & piston chamber cleaning.

Now, I have listed many differences that seem to favor the Robot, and that's my preference; however, most of them are small. As I mentioned, I don't see a problem going with the Espresso Forge. I have had some tasty coffee from it that blew away people at work.
LMWDP #472
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Postby mlunsford27 » Dec 13, 2018, 10:07 am

Thanks for the comparison. I haven't seen much on comparing these two from someone who owns both of them. Very helpful.


Postby HH » Dec 14, 2018, 6:25 am

Have you considered a Breville Dual Boiler and the Niche Zero?

Checking current prices you should be able to get both for a little over $1600 (or less if you get a remaunfactured machine direct from Breville), and would give fantastic results in the cup. The BDB also steams really well, which would be useful when making back to back milk drinks.

The BDB doesn't look half as cool as the Robot does though - that thing's amazing!


Postby mlunsford27 » Dec 14, 2018, 12:17 pm

$1600 is still a bit steep for me right now and i have not seriously considered a BDB. I think I would prefer an E61 machine if I were going pump driven. Opinions on BDB seem to be split, anywhere from people saying it's not worth considering to those who think its the best machine under $3000. Not really sure what to think about it.


Postby HH » Dec 14, 2018, 4:12 pm

You can probably tell I'm in the second camp.
This is conjecture, however I would imagine many of the people saying it isn't worth a look may not have actually owned the machine. I'm sure there are also some who have and, for whatever reason, it wasn't for them, however given what it does at the price point I think it certainly worth considering.

What is your budget? This would be a good starting point to get some solid recommendations. I suggested the BDB/niche combo as it seemed to fall within the range you mentioned in your first post, but I may have misinterpreted the amount you want to spend.

If you wanted to go cheaper I would either switch out the niche for a hand grinder such as the Kinu m47 traveller (saving $400) or keep the niche and get a cheaper machine such as a robot/flair.

You could also consider a Sette 270.

If I was spending my money again I would go for the BDB and a niche from the outset. You end up saving money in the long run as there's no need to upgrade in increments. These two do a huge amount for the money, and the only upgrade I would do from here in the future would be to a decent DE1+. If I had a hand grinder I could see myself wanting to upgrade to an electric for ease of use (see below) - you may not find this to be the case however.

My 'two tiers' of set up would be either
Cheap and 80% of the way there - BDB & niche ($1600).
More expensive and better, but with diminishing returns given the cost - DE1+ & monolith ($5000).

I could always throw in a cheaper travel option of the flair/robot & kinu m47 traveller - $420/$530 but for me personally I would find the heating process and manual grinding would make me less inclined to make coffee, even though I have heard this is a fantastic way to make excellent coffee for relatively little money. There's no steam option here however, so this would need to be factored in. I tend I get up waaay too late and have to rush out the door to get to work, so anything that speeds up my morning coffee is an essential for me!

If you're better at getting up in the morning though this is likely to be a non-issue :D

Hope this helps,


Postby mlunsford27 » Dec 15, 2018, 10:37 am

Ya I wasn't %100 clear in my original post what the budget is. I would really like to keep it under $1000 for the initial setup and then I can upgrade piece by piece from there. That pretty much limits me to Manual grinder and Manual espresso machine I think. So my thinking is that a Pharos is the best manual grinder for the money (based on grind quality, not ease of use), and it seems that the EF is the most capable of the less expensive manual espresso machines that make good espresso (Flair, Robot, EF). That's a pretty good setup for about $700.

If I were to upgrade to between to the $1500-2000 range, I would consider the BDB/Niche (but right now would lean towards a Niche and a used E61 Dual Boiler).

Also, if it turns out the manual grinder and manual espresso machine makes the routine too cumbersome, I will probably sell the Pharos and get a Niche

If I can work with the EF/Pharos for several years and save, the ideal thing to do would be to upgrade straight to the dream machine, DE1+.

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Postby spressomon » Dec 15, 2018, 11:27 am

One more point of reference: I've owned numerous pour over espresso devices and although I've not used a Robot I am 100% happy with my EspressoForge 2.1 (started with a 2.0). In fact, for darker roasts like this morning's Buena Vista Black Canyon, instead of taking the time to make setting perimeter changes to my Slayer I put my EF into action and it never disappoints (as long as I do my part in the game ;)).

For day-to-day steaming when 120v is available I recommend the Bellman CXE-25 and just use it for steaming. It heats faster than the stove top CX-25 steamer and you won't need to baby sit stove-top version (I have and use both...stove top obviously gets the nod for camp cappa duty). Fill it 1/2 full (or less) with distilled, plug it in, switch it on and it will be ready in about 5-minutes.

If it doesn't come with the newer 2-hole steam arm/tip you can source it from Prima ( It is easily capable of producing excellent micro-foam.

Here's a CXE-25 on eBay right now...very affordable: ... 1410332034
No Espresso = Depresso


Postby Intrepid510 » Dec 15, 2018, 12:44 pm

Why not something like a Breville Dual Boiler, and Sette? Seems like that would give you the least amount of fuss for the cheapest cost. If you bought refub and with a coupon, I think you could probably end up paying like 1300 with all accessories. The biggest con would be long term reliability but both companies bend over backwards to help you fix those machines. Plus you will probably be ready for some sort of upgrade before they wear out, or you will realize you don't want a new hobby and just sell it.


Postby mlunsford27 » Dec 15, 2018, 2:08 pm

spressomon wrote:Here's a CXE-25 on eBay right now...very affordable: ... 1410332034

Thanks for your thoughts. That CXE-25 on ebay would be affordable but it's listed with $50 in shipping costs lol. I'll look at others and find one that will work and is affordable


Postby mlunsford27 » Dec 15, 2018, 2:10 pm

Intrepid510 wrote:Why not something like a Breville Dual Boiler, and Sette? Seems like that would give you the least amount of fuss for the cheapest cost. If you bought refub and with a coupon, I think you could probably end up paying like 1300 with all accessories. The biggest con would be long term reliability but both companies bend over backwards to help you fix those machines. Plus you will probably be ready for some sort of upgrade before they wear out, or you will realize you don't want a new hobby and just sell it.

Ya, the reliability is really the main reason that I'm not full in on the BDB. And with the current setup I'm planning to get I will be under 1000 with all the accessories and be getting results similar to much more expensive setups, if I can learn all the skills and dial everything in.