Help! $1000 budget for espresso machine & grinder

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

#1: Post by mmm »

Hello everyone,

This is my first post here -- awesome site. To avoid repetition, I'd like to mention that I've posted this same question over on CoffeeGeek (link), so feel free to respond at either location.

I am just getting started in the espresso world and am finally ready to make a purchase (machine & grinder). Since I'll have to buy additional accessories (e.g., frothing pitcher, thermometer, tamper) I'd like to keep the price of the machine & grinder around $1,000.

For some background, I will most likely be pulling 1-4 shots/day, and most of them will be milk-based. I don't plan on entertaining any guests, and am looking for a semi-automatic machine. I'd like to make a purchase that will last for many years without feeling the need to upgrade.

I understand the importance of a grinder, and so that's why I have pretty much decided on the Macap M4 or Mazzer Mini. If I purchase a $500+ machine at 1st-line, both can be had for $100 off, which means they both will cost between $400-450, leaving roughly $600 for the machine. However, the only machines offered by 1st-line over $500 seem to be the Gaggia Baby, Isomac Super Giada, and Ascaso Dream/Steel Uno/Steel Uno PROF.

This is a little outside of my stated budget above, but I've also found a Expobar Pulser & Mazzer Mini combo at WLL for $1,196.00 (this is with a 5% off coupon). Do you think this is a better deal than anything else I can find? I do kind of like the idea of a HX machine, as I understand machines like the Silvia are pretty finicky and need to be temp-surfed carefully.

Do you have any suggestions? I don't mind buying used if it is from someone reputable, and I am open to suggestions on other brands not mentioned above. I've kind of been pulling my hair for the past week researching, and am starting to get a headache. :)

Thanks for any advice!

Beezer

#2: Post by Beezer »

Hi, welcome to home-barista.

Good call on spending half your budget on the grinder. Getting a high quality grinder will make your espresso experience much more rewarding.

As for the machine, I'd probably go with a Gaggia, Solis SL-70 or Lelit if you plan on sticking to your budget of $1,000. The Silvia is now over $500, so that's a bit out of your range. However, if you can get an Expobar and Mazzer for $1,200, that would be the best deal by far. The Expobar is supposed to be a very solid performer, and it's far better for milk frothing than any single boiler machine.

Don't forget you're going to need accessories too. A good tamper, milk frothing pitcher, cups, maybe a milk thermometer. And of course you need to get some good fresh beans, or all that research and money won't count for anything.
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Marshall

#3: Post by Marshall »

Consider the possibility that, after you learn to make good espresso at home, most of your drinks will not be "milk based."
Marshall
Los Angeles

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mhoy

#4: Post by mhoy »

Or that you invite friends over that love milk based drinks. :D I've been making my wife lattes now daily for 2.5+ years. She appreciates the upgrades that I've done too!

Mark

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Marshall

#5: Post by Marshall »

At a $1,000 (or even $1,200) budget, there are going to be significant compromises (yes, I know that sounds insane to a "normal" consumer). While the Pulser is a remarkable bargain, it is known for running even hotter than most HX machines. Learning to manage its temperature will take time and patience. It also should be remembered that the resulting cooling flushes will require frequent refilling of its tank.

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), instead of the repeat milk-drink capability of an HX. Also, if you are only making one or two milk drinks in the morning, managing a single boiler is not that big a deal. Personally, if I were working with this budget, I would aim toward a machine that will meet my daily needs best, rather than the occasional party. You still might decide an HX meets those needs best, but at least you would be coming at the decision from the right direction.
Marshall
Los Angeles

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mhoy

#6: Post by mhoy »

Marshall is right on the money. I was just adding a flippant reply. I used a single boiler for 2 years and it took me about 1 year to figure out what I was doing (a Francis!Francis X5, all your choices you have presented are better than this machine). Pity I (or luckily I'm not sure which) I hadn't found this site. In Feb I got a used Anita, wonderful machine (it was about $750 used with some extras) that is now what I consider a stepping stone to my Elektra (once again used into which I'm putting a ton of sweat equity).

Your best bang for the buck will be in returned equipment that is still in good shape. FirstLine and/or ChrisCoffee would be great places since they won't be sending you out faulty used stuff.

Example: Livia 90 Demo $750 + Laranzato Grinder $400 = $1150
http://www.1st-line.net/cgi-bin/categor ... type=store
http://www.1st-line.net/cgi-bin/categor ... type=store

A good friend has had a Livia 90 a long, long time.

You'll probably have to call Chris's coffee to see what they have available. If you get the grinder and the espresso machine at the same place you will likely get some kind of discount.

That said, you are doing the right thing, good/great grinder that you will never need to replace and a good espresso machine. It will be hard to really make a mistake. :wink:

Mark

zin1953

#7: Post by zin1953 »

Rob,

Marshall offers you sage advice when he wrote, "I would aim toward a machine that will meet my daily needs best, rather than the occasional party."

I would give serious thought to the following options, listed in random order:

Espresso machines:

-- Gaggia Classic, available here, here.

-- Rancilio Silvia, available here, or here, or here.

-- Quick Mill Alexia, available here.

Grinders:

-- Gaggia MDF grinder, available here, or here.

-- Rancilio Rocky Grinder, either with a doser (available here or here); or without a doser (available here or here). Also, both styles are available here, too.

-- Nuova Simonelli MCI Grinder, available here.

-- Nuova Simonelli MCF Grinder, available here.

-- Compak K3 Elite Grinder, available here.

This is just a partial list, but I would add one crucial point: service after the sale. Any vendor linked in this post, I have great confidence in dealing with; I have dealt with them in the past, and will again (no doubt) in the future. I cannot say the same about the vendor you mentioned in your original post.

Cheers,
Jason
A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.

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zin1953

#8: Post by zin1953 »

Two more great bits of advice:
mhoy wrote:Your best bang for the buck will be in returned equipment that is still in good shape. FirstLine and/or ChrisCoffee would be great places since they won't be sending you out faulty used stuff.
and
mhoy wrote:That said, you are doing the right thing, good/great grinder that you will never need to replace and a good espresso machine. It will be hard to really make a mistake. :wink:
A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.

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shadowfax

#9: Post by shadowfax »

Marshall wrote:Consider the possibility that, after you learn to make good espresso at home, most of your drinks will not be "milk based."
I don't know that I'd be so confident of the taste development of someone else. Personally, I have been drinking espresso for over 3 years now, and I find that I still love cappuccinos the best of anything. Granted, I started out with milky mocha lattés (white chocolate syrup actually--which is now one of the most repulsive flavors to me...), went to 8 oz. big-triple-shot lattés, then to double-ristretto 6 oz. cappuccinos--and now I usually am doing 16-18 g. doses, in the same cappa.

I originally hated straight shots, of course. I like them pretty well now, and I will often drink straight shots when comparing a pair of blends, but I honestly don't enjoy that near as much as making a pretty cappuccino and sipping on it for awhile.

*****

Anyway, Rob, I would personally recommend going over your budget and getting a heat exchanger machine. NS Oscar, or an Expobar machine seem like they are the best on a budget. Note that the E61 will be a lot easier on your technique than anything else you can buy in the range, and that with an HX, you can steam without waiting for the boiler.

You might try getting a Mazzer on eBay to save yourself some money on the grinder. You could seriously curb your upgrade fever by getting a slightly used Super Jolly, if you have the patience to wait for one. They really are a pretty good step above a Mini.

At any rate, take note that machine prices are bouncing up. At this point, simply waiting to buy your machine will run the risk of the price going up. Over the last few months, as retailers have run out of their current stocks of machines and grinders and imported new ones, the prices for these machines has gone up significantly. The Vibiemme Domobar Super went from $1500 to $1700 at one retailer, and the Mazzer Mini is up from $525 to $625 at a few places. I would expect that trend to spread to others.
Nicholas Lundgaard

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Marshall

#10: Post by Marshall »

shadowfax wrote:I don't know that I'd be so confident of the taste development of someone else.


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....
Marshall
Los Angeles