Recommendations for buyers and upgraders from the site's members.
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First, welcome to Home-barista.com! I see OP's join date of October 27, 2022. You have picked bar none best coffee & espresso forum on the internet. I have many other hobbies and view HB as one of the best forums. I have been member since 2009.mzaiya wrote:I'm deciding on a first setup and I'm leaning to Cafelat Robot, Niche Zero, and Fellow Stagg (matches the black aesthetic). I think I'm pretty set on the grinder unless there's a good argument for another one like the DF64. Although, for the my first machine would the Robot be fine as far as teaching good technique? If I ever get a high end machine like the Linea Mini would it have been better to begin on a Gaggia Classic Pro? Would a modded Gaggia be a better bang for buck if it performs like a mid/mid-high end machine or is there really not much difference to solid technique on a good manual lever machine?
I would suggest if you want to have best "learning technique" then spend the money for group or private barista lesson with professional barista. For example Klatch Coffee in LA area https://www.klatchcoffee.com/training/h ... esso-class or go full monty https://www.klatchcoffee.com/training/s ... foundation
OK, to answer your questions:
Would the Robot be fine as far as teaching good technique? If I ever get a high end machine like the Linea Mini would it have been better to begin on a Gaggia Classic Pro?[/i]"another_jim" post #6 above best answered your questions.
I will make some assumptions and state the following. To answer what I assume is your real question "would Robot be fine for first espresso brewer?" Answer is yes. Multiple other posts have asked the same question. Why this answer? Manual espresso brewers w/o electric water boiler like Cafelat Robot, Flair 58 (and other Flairs), EspressoForge are like any lever espresso brewer: they have inherent declining pressure profile (assuming you keep same sized flow stream size during espresso extraction) and hence are more forgiving. Also with quality beans and barista skill they will produce espresso in-the-cup that equals machines costing 50x more. Paul Pratt who makes the Cafelat Robot has said this. He is not being flippant. Paul Pratt also has extensive experience with vintage espresso machines and prior worked at La Marzocco. From my reading, in-the-cup Flair 58 and Cafelat Robot are very hard to distinguish. I have had exceptional espresso from EspressoForge in past.
Your next question: Would a modded Gaggia be a better bang for buck if it performs like a mid/mid-high end machine or is there really not much difference to solid technique on a good manual lever machine?
My answer is two fold.
Cheaper electric machines will have compromises. Single boiler/ dual use (SBDU) like Gaggia Classic Pro stock will require some temperature surfing. Thus many modify it with PID controller so can set temperature and short flush to get to set temperature. Also there are other mods for Gaggia Classic Pro. All these will add to price. But stock as is you will have to know what you are doing to temperature surf properly. Cheaper machines require more experience skill/professional skill to make exceptional espresso than do expensive machines.
So why Robot (or Flair 58 or EspressoForge) as first espresso brewer? Forgiveness of inherent lever pressure profile described in this post. Also, say you then hate home espresso brewing, your can sell the brewer for basically what you paid and absolute cost is less than quality electric pump espresso machine. Robot is temperature stable (stable in that steady declining temperature profile) assuming filling portafilter with off-boil water and brewing medium roast to dark roast beans. I am very sensitive to acid and sour, so I quickly pick up on these traits. The only time I preheat Robot (preheat piston and portafilter and portafilter basket) is when I brew light roasted beans. For example of light roasted beans I have brewed with great results of Robot: https://georgehowellcoffee.com/collecti ... ta-cos-006 https://georgehowellcoffee.com/collecti ... ba-eth-036
SBDU become a hassle if you need to make multiple consecutive milk drinks as have to wait for espresso brew temp to steam temp and then back again. I own a temperature stable SBDU with PID and e61 grouphead since 2009. I have catered parties where I made 24 consecutive cappuccinos with it alone. This is a pain (and lots of wasted water to actively cool the grouphead).
If you need to make multiple consecutive espresso and milk drinks then please get a quality heat exchanger or dual boiler (either with at least 1.5 liter boiler). Because I am an outlier and wanted a challenge, I have used my Robot barista to make 12 consecutive double espresso for cappuccinos (SBDU was the milk steamer) for two separate parties in past year. This requires extremely patient guests and I was not able to interact with guests as I was tied to the Robot. If I had a Hx or DB I could have slammed out the espressos and steamed milk so much easier and efficiently. I would say great majority would recommend against manual espresso brewer if you need to make >=3 consecutive espressos.
Lastly why Robot vs. Flair 58?
Robot has essentially two wear items and both easily replaceable by even those with two left thumbs like me: silicone gasket at bottom of piston and silicone knub at center of portafilter basket screen. FWIW, I am up to estimated 500 shots with my Robot Barista (with pressure gauge) and have yet to need replacement of either silicone part. That being said, I ordered these replacement parts so that my yet to be conceived grandkids will be able to use the Robot.
Is Robot in-the-cup better than Flair 58 or EspressoForge? This was answered above.
I would recommend if you get the Robot then get the barista model with pressure gauge. I assume you are beginner home espresso brewer so this data will be helpful. Once you get hang of it, you won't look much at it anymore. I certainly don't for beans that I know. Please realize there are many who disagree with opinion of pressure gauge (e.g. moderator "DrGary"). You can search HB for his opinion of pressure gauge for Robot and Cremina (manual lever but has electric boiler).
You might end up just sticking with the Robot if you get one. A Gaggia Classic was one of my first espresso machines. It's nice enough, but I went through a bunch afterwards in search of something better. The 12th machine I bought was a Robot, and that was the end of my search.mzaiya wrote:If I ever get a high end machine like the Linea Mini
Sure, there are more temperature stable machines and for a crowd perhaps you need something else (but anything with only one grouphead quickly becomes a chore).
The main reason I can think of not to get a Robot as a first machine is if you want the journey of testing different machines, baskets, precise temperatures, accessories and so on. To put it another way, perhaps I wouldn't be content just using the Robot for 3 years if I hadn't already experienced those other machines - I might've wondered if there was something more enjoyable out there
That being said, that energy could be put into exploring grinders/burrs, all the different espresso profiles and beans out there. A more worthwhile endeavor in my opinion.