Entry-level espresso machine for milk-based drinks, budget $1500

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

#1: Post by krispierice »

Hello!

(First post on HB, so bear with me!)

I've been interested in getting into the home espresso world for a few years now, but have been so hesitant to pull the trigger because of all the conflicting reviews out there.

I'm looking for a machine that would be a great tool to learn on, but also be able to grow with me as my skills improve. A machine with a high-ceiling, if you will. My budget is around $1500, but also open to advice if I should just start on a cheaper machine for the current time?

I usually enjoy milk-based drinks like cappacinos or lattes, which led me to think I should prefer dual-boiler or heat-exchanger machines rather than single-boiler machines like the Rancilio Silvia. I also got the impression that the PID addition to that machine is critical for pulling consistent shots.

I have a Rancilio Rocky, which hasn't really had any dramatic retention issues for me (yet), and I'm happy with the versatility the large grind-spectrum offers.

The LeLit Elizabeth has been catching my eye lately, but it seems to be fairly hard to find in-stock.

Any and all suggestions are welcome, thank you!!

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Chrikelnel

#2: Post by Chrikelnel »

The Mara X is another option from Lelit and should be perfect for your situation if you're mostly doing milk drinks. Profitec Pro 300 is also good if you decide to go DB.

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walr00s
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#3: Post by walr00s »

krispierice wrote: The LeLit Elizabeth has been catching my eye lately, but it seems to be fairly hard to find in-stock.

Any and all suggestions are welcome, thank you!!
I believe 1st-line has an exclusive stateside deal with Lelit, so any other vendor in the states is reselling it to you from 1st-line. I'd just go reserve it there if you can't find it readily in stock.

An option that I investigated heavily before deciding I don't quite make enough milk drinks to justify the cost: https://www.1st-line.com/buy/caffeum-pe ... o-machine/ The name might be terrible but the price is good/great for an e61 dual boiler (possibility of adding flow control later).

Check out the Breville Dual Boiler if you haven't. Especially the modding threads on these forums to get an idea of how robust that machine is.

If you decide to upgrade your Rocky, there's a bunch of great ~400-800 entry-level grinder options, which will leave you enough budget for a manual lever like the Cafelat Robot and a stovetop steamer like the Bellman or a milk frother (frothed and steamed milk do not taste the same).

Jeff
Team HB

#4: Post by Jeff »

I'd consider, from least expensive to more (with a good grinder probably somewhere in the $200-800 range, depending on budget):

Cafelat Robot (~$400) and a $10 milk frother (or something fancier) -- Excellent espresso from a wide range of beans, acceptable frothed milk

Breville Infuser (~$600) -- reported to be able to make good espresso with a good grinder and steam reasonably well, somewhat tweaky brew system, from what I've read

Quick Mill Silvano Evo (~$1,100) -- adds a thermoblock steamer to a PID-controlled brew system

Breville Dual Boiler (~$1,200-1,500) -- Excellent stability make learning a lot easier, as well as repeatable results

Lelit MaraX (~$1,500) -- A good choice if you insist on an E61

Lelit Elizabeth (~$1,600) -- Reasonable choice if you wanted a step up from the Silvano, but didn't like the BDB

Of these, I own the Robot and would consider it and the BDB to be able to most reliably produce very good to excellent espresso. every espresso machine has its weaknesses and quirks, but those two, at their respective prices, seem to have weaknesses that would least impact me and my general choice of medium and lighter roast coffees* and I believe would be good machines for someone who wanted to first, make good espresso, then perhaps get into the hobby exploring different coffees.

If any of those above machines were at "the office", I'd probably use them. I didn't ever use the Silvia there after a quick reminder of why I find them too finicky and variable to waste good time and coffee on.

* All coffees don't behave the same. Classic "espresso" blends are often medium-dark and are reasonably easy to extract well and, especially with good blends, over a wide range of parameters. Light roasts ("drip") , or single origin (SO) coffees tend to be more challenging, often benefiting from changes in the way the machine extracts, compared to the classic, pump-driven profile.

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MTN Gert

#5: Post by MTN Gert »

The Nuova Simonelli Oscar II could be a good fit. Msrp $1300

Heat exchanger so brew and steam at the same time
Quick heat up time.

Powerful steam

Uses standard Simonelli 58mm partafilter making tampers and filter baskets easy to buy

My family has 3 Simonelli Oscar 1 machines in use over a decade of abuse later(they don't use filtered water and backflush cleaner)

Simonelli is a commercial espresso company and has direct support of their machines in both parts and repair.
"Stop it....it's naughty and wrong" -James Hoffmann

chipman

#6: Post by chipman »

If milk based drinks are important I would not put the Robot on the recommended list.

Jeff
Team HB

#7: Post by Jeff »

If the objective is an enjoyable milk drink, perhaps without world-class steamed milk (which seldom can you get in a corner coffee shop anyways), I continue to think it's a solid choice, especially on a limited budget.

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MTN Gert

#8: Post by MTN Gert »

I think since espresso is a lot about the entire experience vs just caffenation in a small package I try to keep in mind what I am comfortable to play with now is very different than when I started. My dad gifted me a leaky Silvia v3 he got from his neighbor. While rebuilding it I fell in love with the machine craftsmanship vs most kitchen appliances I was used to and it gave me enough confidence that if the espresso tasted bad it was because I was doing something wrong. I even mastered the beginner latte heart on that machine. I know now that there is a long road after the Silvia to chase perfection. The point I'm trying to make is that if I started with throw away espresso machine I may have never fallen in love with the hobby and the journey to meet and exceed the local cafes. A robot excites me now but would not have when I started, the used Oscar I bought second had me giggling like a school girl. I took a leap of faith to buy the eagle one prima after I divorced my Alex Duetto. I had no idea that there was so much more potential available. Jeff im guessing you were really blown away when you started playing with the DE1.

It is so hard to recommend the best machine for someone you don't know, we can match up budgets to spec sheets and share personal and read experience. At the end of the day starting someone on their espresso journey is guesswork and luckily the majority of the people here want the best experience for the user. I admit it can be hard to get out of one's own head as we may all enjoy very different things. I think I am lever espresso guy but the wife says I am not allowed to be haha.

Summary: Robot is great but it may not be the best catalyst for the hobby...or maybe it's the perfect start.

I liked my milk drinks becuase they made ok coffee taste great and I went from 12oz mocha to 8oz latter to 5oz latte within a month and 2.5 years later I'm a espresso / cortado guy using only light to medium roasts
"Stop it....it's naughty and wrong" -James Hoffmann

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forgetcolor

#9: Post by forgetcolor »

In terms of your espresso machine budget, hard to beat the Breville Dual Boiler (BDB). I went from a PID'd Silvia to the BDB, and this upgrade made it possible for me to push my game to another level. I'm drinking the best cappuccinos of my life with this setup. Before I bought the BDB I didn't think the second boiler would matter that much to me. But I quickly learned it's so much more enjoyable to not have to think about when I steam - not to mention the temps are stable on both boilers no matter what I'm doing.

I will add that from what I've read over the years the Rocky is on the lower end in terms of fine adjustability for espresso. So if you've had any issues there you might want to consider an upgrade, whether now or later. If I were buying a grinder today I'd probably get a Niche Zero. But I bought a used Macap M4 stepless a decade ago and it just keeps going (I just dropped new burrs in it for about $40 and it's running like new). So if you don't want to shell out relatively big bucks for a Zero or similar you might watch for a used Macap or Mazzer.

RFK250

#10: Post by RFK250 »

Jeff wrote:I'd consider, from least expensive to more (with a good grinder probably somewhere in the $200-800 range, depending on budget):

Cafelat Robot (~$400) and a $10 milk frother (or something fancier) -- Excellent espresso from a wide range of beans, acceptable frothed milk

Breville Infuser (~$600) -- reported to be able to make good espresso with a good grinder and steam reasonably well, somewhat tweaky brew system, from what I've read
I would add at $250 the Breville Duo Temp Pro, which I think is one of the best value options out there. It's essentially a manual version of the Infuser, however it retains pre-infusion and a PID (albeit at a fixed temperature and not displayed to any screen). There are certainly plenty of machines out there that cost more and don't have those features!