Help! $1000 budget for espresso machine & grinder - Page 2

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

#11: Post by another_jim »

Marshall wrote:At a $1,000 (or even $1,200)
My point was that someone who has learned to make really good espresso can compromise in favor of build quality and stable temperature (such as a PID'd Silvia),
My experience is that Silvias are great for body and overall espressohood, and pretty much hopeless for distinctive taste, whether PIDed or not. They are not even remotely close to the Expobar as far as getting the full flavor potential out of a coffee.

More generally, the true budget for espresso is time spent. I daresay most of the regulars here can pull a better shot from a $65 Krups than a newbie from a $6500 GS3. However, we only got to that point by having good equipment to learn on. The time you spend will only be repaid if you have equipment that responds to increasing expertise.

So here's the rub. If you are sure you are going to spend the time, $1000 is not enough: get at least a Jolly, and least a semi-commercial E61: used around $1250, new around $2000. If you aren't sure, get a Lux or gaggia MDF and an entry level Gaggia machine. This will set you back around $400. If the bug bites, go to proper equipment.

Finally, garbage in, garbage out: so always get good coffee.
Jim Schulman


#12: Post by djmonkeyhater »

I vote gaggia classic and a macap m4.

Both are indestructible, have excellent resale value and can be tweaked for additional performance. If you can live without the bling of stainless, I think that the Gaggia machines are a better value than a Silvia. Out of the gate, I'd say get a Silvia steam wand as your one upgrade.

I think that any limitations of this system are straightforward, excessively documented, endlessly discussed online and will be worth learning to live with. You'll be a better barista because of it. And you spent less than $1000.



#13: Post by poison »

Wow, the advice here is so much more sensible than that on other forums. Nice. I second (twelveth? :) ) the gaggia Classic and SJ/MACAP recommendations. I'll add: buy the Gaggia over the Silvia.

mmm (original poster)

#14: Post by mmm (original poster) »

Wow - thanks everybody for the advice! I wasn't expecting this many replies. :)

After thinking about it, I realize now that to get the most out of my money I should look into refurbished or used equipment. I've sent an email to Chris from Chris Coffee to see if he has anything available, and will probably contact Jim at 1st-line tomorrow, too. Is there anybody else I should contact?

For grinders, it looks like I should stick with the Macap or Mazzer but try to find them used. Maybe Chris or 1st-line will have one available -- eBay seems to have not have much and Craigslist comes up empty. shadowfax, the Super Jolley won't fit in my area :)

To those who recommended me the Gaggia Classic: do you know what the differences are between that and the New Baby, Carezza, and Evolution? I thought I read that the Classic was discontinued and that the New Baby was its sucessor. I know that both of them offer the 3-way solenoid valve and larger reservoir capacity that the Carezza and Evolution do not, but I thought that the internals were all pretty much the same. The Carezza and Evolution are quite a bit cheaper.

I saw the Quick Mill Alexia ($950) on Chris' site. I know that a lot here have the Anita, but how does Alexia compare to the Pulser? If I find an Alexia used for a good price, should I jump on it?

Thanks for the help!



#15: Post by Beezer »

I saw the Quick Mill Alexia ($950) on Chris' site. I know that a lot here have the Anita, but how does Alexia compare to the Pulser? If I find an Alexia used for a good price, should I jump on it?
Alexia is a single boiler, whereas the Anita and Pulser are heat exchanger machines. Single boilers need to be switched between brew and steam modes, so there's a time lag before you can steam milk. With heat exchangers you can brew and steam at the same time. So heat exchangers are better if you make a lot of milk drinks, and single boilers are probably better if you make mostly straight shots. Alexia is especially nice for straight shots, since it has a large boiler and heavy group and thus has excellent temp stability. You can also get it with a PID (digital temperature control) for even more precise temp control. However, the delay when switching to steam mode is about two minutes, which is a long time to wait while your crema fades.

Personally, I think HX machines are more versatile and better for most people, unless you're a straight shot purist and your spouse and friends never want milk drinks. Since Anita isn't much more money than an Alexia with a PID, I believe Anita is the better choice for most people. However, I'm sure others will disagree and tell you Alexia is the best. It's all about personal preference, really. They're both great machines in their own way.
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#16: Post by HB »

If you're only making a couple drinks, the extra time for switching between steam/brew mode isn't too bad, though most will admit that these extra steps are what drove them to upgrade to either a heat exchanger or double boiler. Generally speaking, I recommend the 80/20 rule for single boilers versus steam on demand espresso machines. That is, if you prepare only one or two espresso drinks per session OR 80% of your drinks are espresso only, you'll be quite happy with a single boiler over the long haul. Jeff offers more specific advice in the conclusion of the Quickmill Alexia review.

I agree with Eli... it irked me to watch the crema fade or swirl the milk waiting for the machine to come up/go down to temperature. I upgraded from the Rancilio Silvia to an HX espresso machine; in those days I was a one espresso / one cappuccino a day kind of guy. Nowadays I'm drinking only one or two cappuccinos a month, and yet I don't own a dedicated brew boiler espresso machine. As you'll find in many threads, some don't mind the "cooling flush" routine they demand, while others find it really irritating. It doesn't bother me, although I fully appreciate the added simplicity of a dedicated boiler espresso machine.

One other recommendation: There's a lot to be said for buying the "popular" models, especially if you decide on entry to high-entry level gear. The resale is solid and you'll have no problem finding help for whatever technique or repair issue you encounter.
Dan Kehn


#17: Post by poison »

I'd rather have an HX than an Alexia. $950 for an Alexia? I'd rather have a Pulser for $799 or whatever they go for new. I bought my Pulser LIGHTLY used for $650 or so.

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#18: Post by shadowfax »

Marshall wrote:Well, I only asked him to "consider the possibility." To be perfectly candid, most people will never learn to make a good espresso. It's not that they couldn't do it with enough effort, they just give up at some point and figure with all the milk, it doesn't really matter that much. But, that's a subject for another day....


I apologize for the misinterpretation. I agree wholeheartedly that most people never learn to pull good espresso--even the people that have darn expensive equipment. The few people that I have met here in Oklahoma that have expensive machines (e.g., Brewtus) still think that Illy is the pinnacle of the "coffee experience..."



Have you considered levers? If you don't mind a little extra work, you can make some pretty fantastic cappuccinos with a La Pavoni, which you can get for a couple hundred dollars. I would strongly recommend a lever machine over a dual-use single boiler machine such as the Silvia or Gaggia Classic. It will require a lot of turning off, bleeding pressure, and refilling if you are making more than a few espressos at a go, but the machine uses a pressurized boiler (constant steam) that relies on a cooler grouphead to reduce brew water to brew temperature during a pull. I used my La Pavoni exclusively for almost a year and really enjoyed it. If you get one that isn't beaten to all crap, they are fantastic decorative pieces that take up very little room.

If you really can't fit a HX machine in your budget, I would recommend a lever, personally. I used a Gaggia "Espresso" for 3 months, and then a Silvia for a month (returned it w/ 30 day guarantee and upgraded to a La Valentina). Silvia is a huge step up from the Gaggia, with that 10 oz. boiler. Still--getting the RIGHT brew temperature, not to even mention getting consistent brew temperatures, was not the easiest thing in the world. Getting consistency on those machines was kind of a pain.

I guess in the end, it's all about your preference and what you are comfortable spending. It's important to inform your preference with a knowledge about the required workflow with each class of machine (lever, HX, dual-use single boiler, double boiler) and to get an idea of the relative quality of espresso that you will be able to produce (at all/consistently) with any machine you consider. Best of luck to you. Considering the grinders you are looking at, I know your head's in the right place--you'll soon be well on your way to some very good if not downright excellent coffee.
Nicholas Lundgaard

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#19: Post by Marshall »

I am just getting started in the espresso world ....
That's what the OP wrote.

I am a firm believer that early experiences of success are the best way to encourage adults, as well as children. That's why piano lessons start with Fur Elise, instead of Rachmaninoff. So, I tend to recommend easy, relatively forgiving equipment to beginners (with adjustments for budget). I don't think levers and HX machines fit the bill for beginners. There is too much to learn, too much tank refilling, too much bad espresso and too little positive feedback.
Los Angeles

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#20: Post by shadowfax »

That's certainly a good point in terms of the levers. However, as far as HX machines go, I had much better luck with La Valentina than with Silvia, or my Gaggia. Cheap $500 dual use single boiler machines don't seem likely to forgive any better than an E61. Quite the contrary, I would say. Doing the water dance thing and counting off a few seconds is a far cry from learning to play the piano. I think that E61's preinfusion/slow pressure ramp-up is a lot easier than haphazardly temp-surfing a cheaper machine.

In this price range, there are sure to be a ton of trade-offs that one has to make. Do I go cheap with a ~$500 dual use boiler, and have a tedious workflow and inconsistent results (especially at first), Or should I get a higher end one? In that case, I would have an easy time getting good consistent shots, but I would still want to pull my hair out waiting for the boiler to get to steaming temperature. Or, do I go with the lower-end E61 HX? In that case, I get a machine that has what can be a fairly mysterious flush routine, but is also very forgiving of many a mistake, and, indeed, the mistakes that it doesn't cover up are probably covered extremely well by a good bit of milk.

With the abundance of information about HX flushing out there, I think I would be comfortable recommending it to a newbie--especially one with enough dedication to read a forum like this one!

I agree with you in principle--If Rob could get a DoubleDomo or Dalla Corte on his budget, I think we could all agree that's perfect for him--a forgiving machine with ever-ready steam and no black magic flushes. But Any machine in his price range that doesn't require flushing is going to require other kinds of temperature surfing to make espresso, and also tedious waits in between brewing and steaming.

Again, tradeoffs. Seems like you have to make them all the way up till you're ready for a GS3 (as long as we don't consider spending a boatload of cash on a home espresso machine a "tradeoff" ;))
Nicholas Lundgaard