Budget $1,000-$1,500: Upgrading manuals to electric grinder/espresso machine

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

#1: Post by stillnew »

Hi, All,

I currently have Pharos 2.0, and Flair Pro (collecting dust) and Robot, I like to tinker when I have time but the last couple years, time is no where to be found (kid :)). I consider myself a beginner in espresso. I don't know every technical details in espresso and the equipment but I can appreciate a "good" espresso. Currently, it takes me about 20-30 minutes every morning, to do 3 doubles, 2 of which for Americano. From weighing, grinding, re-weight for individual dose, pulls, and cleaning up with Pharos/Robot.

My priority right now is to get a good electric grinder. After 4 years of Pharos, grinding mostly medium, it seems like my elbows are giving up. The reason I grind mostly medium with Pharos (which is a lot harder than dark) because switching beans is a PIA, definitely not something to do daily. I've been looking at the Baratza lines, mainly 270wi and Forte, and Niche Zero. I'm leaning toward Niche Zero, but would like to get your objective take.

-I like the Niche Zero because it seems like switching beans is easier. I like to try different brands/roasts. And the low retention seems nice. I drink medium/dark+ while my wife prefers medium-light/medium.
-I like the Baratza lines because of the grind by weight, that is, when I find a decent coffee, I'd use the same coffee about at least 2-3 weeks, or more. In this scenario, grind by weight sounds awesome. For the most part though, I have no problem manual weighing. So single dosing is ok.

Sette 270wi / Forte / Niche Zero / or ????

Grinder requisite:
-3 doubles per session in the morning, 5-6/day, 8-10/day with guests.
-Medium/dark roast
-easy to switch beans: as in, I want to switch between medium/dark almost every session.
-Occasional cold brew (200g, I use Hario Skerton for this, but even this getting tedious, but not a requirement in the new grinder)
-doesn't require too much maintenance

For machine, it is not the top priority right now because I'm still capable of pulling shots with the Robot. Ultimately, however, I want to get a decent electric machine so my wife can use it. She's somewhat hands off, if I don't make coffee for her, she'd drink instant coffee with milk :), then whine about crappy coffee. Like me, she can appreciate a good Americano from freshly pulled espresso. The Robot is just too hands on for her, combined with the Pharos, it's a dead no. In a perfect world, I'd just get her the Breville Oracle... Currently, I'm looking at the Breville Double Boiler, or Rancilio Silvia.

Requisite:
-Mainly espresso (1 double as espresso, 2 doubles for Americano per session)
-Occasional milk drink, so steam wand is a plus.
-Least work/time to maintain.
-Not too complicated to pull a shot from start to finish.

So my question, given the $1,000-$1,500 budget, hesitantly pushing it to $2,000 if there are clear better alternatives, what are your recommenations? People normally recommend to spend most of the budget on grinder but I think I'm doing it in reverse. At least for the BDB, as it'll cost more than the grinder(s). Should I spend the bulk of the budget in getting a better grinder (better than Niche Zero?), and then skimp a bit on the machine? Is there an better alternative to BDB/Silvia?

I plan on keeping my Pharos 2.0 for backup or use it strictly for my espresso if it makes better shots than the new grinder. I don't plan to get rid of the Robot either. I still like the manual rituals of pulling a shot with Pharos/Robot.

Thank you so much for your time and advice.

stillnew

BodieZoffa

#2: Post by BodieZoffa »

I'd say go for a Silvia Pro/X and likely the Niche Zero as that would give you great overall function with minimum involvement and fantastic longevity/reliability. Some don't want to get caught up in trying to tweak every possible variable and honestly it's just not necessary to achieve great espresso consistently.

baristainzmking
Supporter ♡

#3: Post by baristainzmking »

Niche Zero and BDB. Also check out the Lelit Elizabeth if you are considering Silvia Pro
Julia

jgood

#4: Post by jgood »

Another Niche fan here. Not sure if there's an espresso machine in your price range that's better/equal to the Robot.....

MemPast

#5: Post by MemPast »

If you are looking for occasional milk drinks, single boiler E61 should be good, especially if you can add flow kit. Switching to steam is fast, but going back to brewing after steaming might not be as fast -- I use QM Alexia, but I almost never steam; so my technique when switching between steam and brew may be lacking, and experienced people would have a more qualified opinion on this matter.

Another good option is Quick mill Silvano Evo: it has a thermo block for steaming, so it is not wow in this regard, but it should suffice in your case.

As for grinder, I think the new Vario+ fits your needs, considering the machine may cost you 1000+. It is good for repeatable grind adjustment when you switch between coffees. Another extreme option is: motorize your pharos (may not be easy:), and get another flat grinder, like DF64 with SSP burrs, or a used Super Jolly with SSP. SSP Flats perform well for medium-light roasts. Niche is definitely a winner, but I would say you already have a big conical.

kinda-niche

#6: Post by kinda-niche »

baristainzmking wrote:Niche Zero and BDB. Also check out the Lelit Elizabeth if you are considering Silvia Pro
I use this setup and would certainly recommend. Keep an eye out for discounts on BDB at BBB if you're located in the US.

I should mention, however, that in retrospect I feel like I jumped into Niche a little too quickly. If you have a chance, go compare (in real life) espresso from flat vs conical burrs, and then decide if you really want a conical grinder (Niche is great as long as you're convinced that you want conical burrs).

User avatar
Jeff
Team HB

#7: Post by Jeff »

With apologies as I'm out of energy in the topic, flat vs conical is a wild oversimplification. You are also likely better off flipping a coin to decide between two grinders for taste than what a single coffee and potentially imperfectly dialed in shots will tell you. At least then there's not confirmation bias when you get it home and realize that you happened to like that shot, not the grinder in general.

(Quick count of grinders that I've owned is 5 flats and 5 conicals. On the way are two more conicals and another flat. Conicals are hardly dead.)

gobucks

#8: Post by gobucks »

For grinder, the Niche and the Sette 270 are pretty good choices. Niche is gonna be quieter and likely last longer, but it is obviously more expensive. Grind quality is good for espresso, especially if you mostly do medium/dark, but I should mention that the filter/cold brew performance is not great, since it produces quite a lot of fines. For cold brew it isn't THAT big of a deal, you might just need to run the results through some paper filters to pull them out afterwards, unless you don't mind the grittiness. If you are willing to forego single dosing, the grey market Eureka grinders out of espressocoffeeshop.com are a hell of a value - the Eureka Mignon Specialita is only 350 euro (which is basically $350 at the moment).

For machines, it sounds like your wife is willing to put in some effort, but wants it to be simple. In that case, I think you'd be much happier pushing your budget a bit to get an entry level double boiler like the BDB or Lelit Elizabeth. I'm guessing your wife will not want to wait around for a single boiler to switch from brew to steam temp, and most single boilers also don't have a water tap, which means boiling water separately for americanos. The BDB is extremely feature rich and user friendly for the price, as long as you can get over the appliance-grade looks, and it is often 20% off at bed bath and beyond. Lelit Elizabeth is a bit more "pro" looking, and also quite feature rich. One of my favorite "wife-friendly" features is that you can program the preinfusion time and total shot time, so once your grinder is dialed in, she can just push a button and the shot will cut off automatically when it's done. It's probably worth asking sellers for a small discount (5% is pretty common), which could help you hit your budget. If you have to settle for the Sette or Eureka instead of the Niche to hit your budget, that's a trade I'd probably make.

BodieZoffa

#9: Post by BodieZoffa »

Jeff wrote:With apologies as I'm out of energy in the topic, flat vs conical is a wild oversimplification. You are also likely better off flipping a coin to decide between two grinders for taste than what a single coffee and potentially imperfectly dialed in shots will tell you. At least then there's not confirmation bias when you get it home and realize that you happened to like that shot, not the grinder in general.

(Quick count of grinders that I've owned is 5 flats and 5 conicals. On the way are two more conicals and another flat. Conicals are hardly dead.)
No doubt that burr type is overhyped (especially flat) as the single most important variable is the coffee being used as no burr type made will offset that.

stillnew (original poster)

#10: Post by stillnew (original poster) »

Thank you all for your great advices and sorry for responding so late.
baristainzmking wrote:Niche Zero and BDB. Also check out the Lelit Elizabeth if you are considering Silvia Pro
Thanks for this recommendation. I actually went down the rabbit hole with this and is now looking at the Lelit Bianca, already convinced my wife for the budget :).
gobucks wrote:For grinder, the Niche and the Sette 270 are pretty good choices. Niche is gonna be quieter and likely last longer, but it is obviously more expensive. Grind quality is good for espresso, especially if you mostly do medium/dark, but I should mention that the filter/cold brew performance is not great, since it produces quite a lot of fines. For cold brew it isn't THAT big of a deal, you might just need to run the results through some paper filters to pull them out afterwards, unless you don't mind the grittiness. If you are willing to forego single dosing, the grey market Eureka grinders out of espressocoffeeshop.com are a hell of a value - the Eureka Mignon Specialita is only 350 euro (which is basically $350 at the moment).

For machines, it sounds like your wife is willing to put in some effort, but wants it to be simple. In that case, I think you'd be much happier pushing your budget a bit to get an entry level double boiler like the BDB or Lelit Elizabeth. I'm guessing your wife will not want to wait around for a single boiler to switch from brew to steam temp, and most single boilers also don't have a water tap, which means boiling water separately for americanos. The BDB is extremely feature rich and user friendly for the price, as long as you can get over the appliance-grade looks, and it is often 20% off at bed bath and beyond. Lelit Elizabeth is a bit more "pro" looking, and also quite feature rich. One of my favorite "wife-friendly" features is that you can program the preinfusion time and total shot time, so once your grinder is dialed in, she can just push a button and the shot will cut off automatically when it's done. It's probably worth asking sellers for a small discount (5% is pretty common), which could help you hit your budget. If you have to settle for the Sette or Eureka instead of the Niche to hit your budget, that's a trade I'd probably make.
Your guess is correct! After reading more about Lelit Bianca, especially the v3 with auto features, Iem 99% going to get this machine and just now placed an order for the Niche. I got sold by the ease of switching beans.
Jeff wrote:With apologies as I'm out of energy in the topic, flat vs conical is a wild oversimplification. You are also likely better off flipping a coin to decide between two grinders for taste than what a single coffee and potentially imperfectly dialed in shots will tell you. At least then there's not confirmation bias when you get it home and realize that you happened to like that shot, not the grinder in general.

(Quick count of grinders that I've owned is 5 flats and 5 conicals. On the way are two more conicals and another flat. Conicals are hardly dead.)
Thanks for this affirming advice. I did have to read a bit about the flat vs conical based on kinda-niche' post. I ended up thinking to myself, I probably can't tell the difference at my tasting anyway so I went with the Niche. I guess there's always room for a flat down the road.

Thank you for all your help. I really appreciate it.