First espresso machine, budget around $3500, help me make up my mind

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

#1: Post by gabels »

I currently do v60 pour overs, moka pot and, aeropress. I want to get into espresso.

* 3-4 drinks a day for the wife and I
* yes milk based drinks
* want to be able to experiment with different roasts and profiles
* yes entertain guests from time to time

Ease of use is important to me... so is speed. And so is the ability to grow into the hobby and experiment when I am ready to without having to upgrade later. I am not interested in modding a machine.

After reading as much as I could on this site, I am considering a Lelit Bianca and Niche Zero. It's a huge investment, specially for a first machine, but i'm afraid of wanting to upgrade in a couple of years.

My questions:
* I know the niche is not available right now. Can I use the Knock Aergrind in the interim until I either get a niche or some other grinder?
* Is this is a beginner-friendly machine, or would you recommend starting with something else?
* Are there any deals out there I should consider?


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#2: Post by BruceWayne »

That was the setup that I was planning on starting with before I got bitten by the grinder upgrade bug. I actually had an order in for a Sept Niche grinder and was going to get the Bianca in Sept., but got it early. Using a hand grinder while learning to dial my machine in contributed to me getting a used grinder. Be aware that the the next Niche pre-orders will likely be for Nov. Make sure you sign up for their mailing list, to be notified when the order queue will be available.

The Bianca is my first espresso machine. I did learn how to make espresso fifteen years ago, and I consider it very well-designed and easy to use. I did buy a VST basket, but the stock IMS baskets that the 2021 version comes with appear to be easier to dial in and more forgiving, tbh. The tamper is excellent, and it comes with everything you need to train yourself and assist in cleaning the machine with the bottomless portafilter and the blind basket. Most of the cheaper choices may include few or none of these, and you'd need to buy them.

You'll need to allot another ~$100 for a knock box, tamping pad/stand, microfiber cloths, etc. I don't know what the Aergrind offers in terms of its espresso range. Is it stepped or not? The Lido E-T I got was stepless, but was still difficult to dial in with when switching between coffees.

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gabels (original poster)

#3: Post by gabels (original poster) »

Bruce, the Aergrind is stepless. I think it will be good enough until I get the NZ.

Thanks very much for pointing out the 2021 differences in the Bianca, you saved me some heartache. I was about to pull the trigger on a V2 and pay the same as the V3 (which I did not know existed)...!!

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#4: Post by BruceWayne »

I don't think the changes for 2021 were as significant as the previous update. There's a video here, but the big takeaways are IMS baskets and slightly longer stems on the steam and water spout outlets.

I got my machine in early July, and it had the updated components.