The Barista Express is a fine machine and is hugely popular given its price and performance. The built in grinder is going to be a huge limiting factor. This machine will be enough to make decent drinks but if you get deep into the hobby you will outgrow it fast. My first real machine was the Breville Infuser. Same machine other than the built in grinder.
Breville Infuser / Barista machines aren't SBDU machines in that they don't take 2-3 minutes to go from brew to steam. They use a thermoblock so they heat in a few seconds from cold (you'll still want to heat portafilter though), and they seamlessly transition from brew to steam in around 10-15 seconds and auto run cold water to cool off after steaming. They are, IMO, the best way to get into a real machine on a tight budget.
I went from my Infuser to a Profitec Pro 500 and if I had to do it again I would have gone Breville Dual Boiler. The BDB can be found discounted too. BDB is a much better espresso machine than any HX machine in that price category. No temp surfing, great steam, fast heat up time with built in timer (ready to pull shots in 5 minutes).
See if your budget can stretch to a BDB and Baratza Sette 270 (look for a refurbished). That set up is the best starting point IMO to making not just drinkable, but exceptional espresso that will be better than most coffee shops. If you can't stretch then the Barista Express will serve you fine for a few years.
You're on the right track IMO.
The other option is a simple lever. Not sure if you've thought about those or not. Might could find a good used La Pavoni in your price range. Then buy a hand grinder (like Lido). There is a stovetop steamer as well if you find a lever that doesn't steam. https://prima-coffee.com/equipment/bellman/50ss
Levers can make some of the best espresso and can last decades. But they may not be for everyone.
orbarya wrote:Hi everyone,
I wish to purchase my first espresso machine, I'm looking for something that I can learn and practice on but that I will not outgrow and will satisfy my needs for at least several years.
Most days I will probably make 3-4 cups of cappuccinos and on the weekends maybe 6 cups.
It seems pretty important to me to not have to get up each morning and wait 20-30 mins to get the machine heated before I can use it, so I guess a timer function is important to me.
I live in Israel so I would either buy the machine here or order from Amazon UK, can't order from the US. My budget if I order from the UK is about 500 pounds because of the added taxes and shipping costs.
I'm currently mostly looking at the Breville Barista Express, what would you prefer between the Barista Express and the Rancilio Silvia?
I would love to hear other suggestions as well.