I told you so... - Page 2

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

#11: Post by networkcrasher »

dmj wrote:That machine is pretty, for sure. I'd hate to ask how much it costs. I looked at one of the distributer's websites, and they didn't even dare to list a price. I suppose it falls into the "if you have to ask, you can't afford it" category...
4,975 Euro. So, it's not bad for some of us crazy folk! :)

dmj (original poster)

#12: Post by dmj (original poster) »

4,975 Euro. So, it's not bad for some of us crazy folk!
Let's see, at the current exchange rate, that's $6279.13. But value is in the mouth of the beholder! I've wasted more money on stuff that isn't as useful as an espresso machine. I wish I could get coffee out of some of my mutual funds right now...

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zin1953

#13: Post by zin1953 »

dmj wrote:Soooo... On to the superauto. I really AM listening.
You are?
dmj wrote:I understand that I do NOT want a Superauto to make espresso. And I do NOT want a Super to grind beans. Got it.
And you don't want a superauto to steam milk with, either.
dmj wrote:But it will be April at the earliest before I get a proper espresso machine.
Why?
dmj wrote:It strikes me that the main problem with many espresso machines is temperature control and the fact that espresso and steam need to be made at different temperatures.
Honestly, it's not that much of a problem. It's not difficult AT ALL(!) to manage temperature. I have an HX machine, and I do it without even thinking . . . it becomes a part of your routine, like putting the top on the tube of toothpaste when you finish brushing.
dmj wrote:With that and only that in mind, is there a mid-range superauto like the Solis 5000 or the Saeco Spidem Villa that does a great job at frothing milk?
See? Are you really listening? :wink:
dmj wrote:The fact that I might make espresso with the machine is merely a secondary consideration. I am thinking that having a good alternative way to froth milk might give me more options when I finally purchase a proper machine in April.
So . . . why are you buying two machines?
dmj wrote:An analogy if you will allow it: Say I want to learn to fly. The best machine is a 747. Perhaps it's not the best machine in which to learn... (I know, it's a stretch, humor me) I think I want something with which to experiment while I wait for April . . . edit . . . I think I might be able to accelerate the learning curve by playing with something at home.
No, a 747 probably is not the best plane in which to take flying lessons. But there are any number of planes which will do fine! Certainly there is more than one, right? AND the skills you learn in a Piper Cub, for example, or even a biplane, will still translate to a jet, let alone a 747. You still have a stick (OK, a steering wheel), you still have pedals; you have flaps, a rudder, navigation lights and more . . . right? However, what is it you learn with a superauto? What skills translate into using a semi-automatic or automatic?

Yes, you will learn how to push a button with a superauto. And, depending upon the semi-auto, you may still have to push a button. But will you learn how to grind? adjust the grind? know when to stop your shot? how to steam milk? and so on and so on and so on??? Image

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

dmj (original poster)

#14: Post by dmj (original poster) »

You are?
Yep, Jason. I am. I'm willing to listen some more. Problem for me, the advice is not always consistent. Some people answer questions I'm not asking. There are many different opinions here, and although there are a few familiar threads (don't buy a superauto seems to repeat), I've been getting conflicting advice. I have heard several people say that I can be happy with several different mid-range superautos if I expect to use them for milk-based drinks. I'm trying to do what will make me happiest, spend an appropriate amount of money (not small, appropriate), and get what I want without having to buy the SAME equipment twice. I came here for quality advice, and I respect the advice. So, in the order of your questions back to me:

I've been told that I can get routinely average espresso from a superautomatic. I want one for my wife. I travel, and many days of the month I am not home. My wife would like to be able to make a latte in my absence. I thought it might be nice to use a superauto in the interim while I wait to make the purchase of a different machine.

I've been told that I need to wait until April to decide which is the best proper espresso machine for me. The SCAA will be near my home then and I plan to attend, and make a decision after getting true hands on time with professionals. that strikes me as exceptionally good advice, as I'll probably spend a lot of money.

As to temperature control, I spent the better part of an hour on the phone with a very nice woman from Chris's Coffee this morning. She, and others, have told me that temperature control can be difficult in certain machines. Very popular ones. I've been told that eliminating variables in the process is essential to success. I am glad that you have mastered that part of the process. I have not. I also notice you have more than one machine, but that's another issue....

So why am I getting two machines? Because they will serve different purposes. Because I want two. I'm looking seriously at a Mini Vivaldi II for espresso. I'm waiting to make the purchase until I can get some lessons and try it in person. I haven't asked which espresso machine is best for me, that's another thread. What I've asked is which superauto would be best for my circumstances. The answer "you don't want one" makes me think I must not have asked the question clearly. Several users in this forum are happy with their superautos. I'm hoping one of them may pipe up with some advice, but I fear that the constant barrage against them may make their owners reluctant to freely admit that they LIKE theirs. Sweet Maria's highly recommends the Solis, as have a couple nice folks in another thread, so based on that information I'll probably get one.

As for transferring skills, perhaps none will transfer directly. But I will be able to watch the superauto make a shot, examine its grind, time its cycle, and taste its result. I currently have no source of instruction other than local shops who also use superautos, this forum, the internet, and the library. I learned about espresso in Italy, but it is very hard to get there routinely. I think ANY basis for comparison could be useful.

Why do you have two machines?

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drdna

#15: Post by drdna »

dmj wrote:Yes, you will learn how to push a button with a superauto. And, depending upon the semi-auto, you may still have to push a button. But will you learn how to grind? adjust the grind? know when to stop your shot? how to steam milk? and so on and so on and so on???
BUT do you really want to? Some people LOVE to muck around with espresso machines, but I would be ecstatic if I could just push a button and get a decent cup of java. It depends on how picky you are about your espresso and how much convenience you want.

Do you just drink coffee and milk drinks, not espresso? Are you happy with the espresso shots you have had in restaurants and coffee houses? Then just get the Solis. You will be happy with this and will not need to get another machine. Single button convenience! Invest the rest of the money in quality coffee beans.

Are you a fanatic for straight espresso shots? Do you ask for your shots ristretto? Do you find the espresso you get in restaurants and coffee houses undrinkable? Then don't get the Solis. You will be disappointed. Stick with a French press for coffee until you can decide on a quality espresso machine.

I personally like the La Spazziale Mini Vivaldi 2, which I currently own. It makes a great espresso every time. It also cost me $2k. If you don't spend that much on a machine, you will spend your time compensating for your machine's deficiencies: adjusting your grind, adjusting your tamp, doing heating flushes, doing cooling flushes, temperature surfing, etc. If you don't mind constantly struggling to get a good cup of espresso and you accept that you will be making espressos and cappuccinos for yourself and your wife (as she will not be interested in learning that you must wait exactly 40 seconds after the red light goes on and then pre-infuse for 3 seconds by turning the lever just so...)

However, if you are not a fanatic like me, you aren't going to care. Again, I encourage you to call or e-mail some of these retailers. They are more than happy to give you some advice to find the machine you need. And they can give you the educated opinion of someone who deals with all these machines, not the proselytizing of espresso junkies who may have very idiosyncratic views.

Adrian
Adrian

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drdna

#16: Post by drdna »

dmj wrote:My wife would like to be able to make a latte in my absence.
Yes, you need a super-auto.
dmj wrote:As to temperature control, I spent the better part of an hour on the phone with a very nice woman from Chris's Coffee this morning. I'm looking seriously at a Mini Vivaldi II for espresso.
An excellent choice, but maybe overkill unless you are an espresso-only fiend. I am (I roast my own beans, grind them in a professional Mazzer grinder, and happily use the Mini Vivaldi II daily. By the way these machines are gigantic, heavy, and take up a lot of counter space, FWIW.)
dmj wrote:Sweet Maria's highly recommends the Solis, as have a couple nice folks in another thread, so based on that information I'll probably get one.
Good idea. I would start there and get some beans from Sweet Maria's (they roast fresh beans each week and ship them out)

http://www.sweetmarias.com/prod.roasted.html

Then you can decide whether the coffee and cappuccino you are getting is "good enough" or if you NEED to get the Mini Vivaldi because (like myself and many here) you are too much of an espresso snob to care about convenience or counter space. :D
Adrian

zin1953

#17: Post by zin1953 »

David,

There is often an inherent bias among posters, consciously or unconsciously, to assert their machines (or their class of machines, i.e.: HX or double boiler) are better/best in part due simply to the fact that they own one, or two, and have X amount of money invested.

That said, let me make a few observations, and attempt to answer the questions you've raised in your lengthy and thoughtful post (much appreciated, by the way). Keep in mind, too, that I am far from an expert. There are people here far more knowledgeable than I, far more competent than I, far more experienced than I. I describe myself, when it comes to the world of espresso, as an "experienced newbie." Even though I bought my first espresso machine some 30 years ago, I only entered the world of "serious" espresso three years ago, and I still have much to learn. Much to learn! And the folks here have been very tolerant, very supportive . . .

To start with, this IS -- or rather, can be -- an expensive proposition. No one denies that. There is, however, the idea of too much research. After a while, everything seems to blur and a certain paralysis can set in. It's an "occupational" hazard. I can understand the idea of waiting until you can go to SCAA, but not when you say "I've been told that I need to wait until April" (emphasis added).

I guess I'm just confused by your apparent "need to wait" to buy a machine until April, with your apparent "need" to buy a machine now. Image

Secondly, no one here has said you'll be happy with a superauto . . . at least not that I've seen/read (but I'm ready to admit I may have missed it!). People have said that superautos will do, you can survive with a superauto, that superautos serve a purpose, etc., etc. But "happy" isn't really a word associated with a superauto. "Compromise," however, is.

There certainly are situations when a superauto is the "right" machine to get. An office, for example, is a perfect example, when the idea of having to train x number of employees on how to use a grinder, tamper, semi-auto (or auto), etc., etc. is a Herculean task. Much easier to teach them to push a button, period.

OK, I confess. I'm biased against superautos. I never had a "great" shot from one; never had one I thought was "very good," either. "Good," yes. "Better than average," yes. That's me. YMMV, and -- should you get one -- I sincerely hope your milage DOES vary, that your experience with them is better than mine. Friends of mine own them. They have all sworn by them. Until they tasted espresso at my house . . . and, believe me, my espresso can stand a LOT of improvement!

The difference between "average" (as in, "I've been told that I can get routinely average espresso from a superautomatic"), and "very good" is easy to achieve. Get a Gaggia Coffee ($299), Gaggia Classic ($599), or similar machine ($in between). I -- and here is one example of my own bias -- owned two Gaggia Coffee machines over a 20+ year period of time, and my espresso shots AND my lattes were better than Starbucks and most other cafés almost immediately! A Gaggia Coffee and your Rocky will have you (and your wife) making MUCH better than "average" drinks within a week. Ten days, tops!

Third, no one here has said that it's impossible to manage temperatures (again, at least that I've read). There are reams of pages (OK, they are only reams if you print them) . . . There are MEGABYTES of pages on how to temperature surf an HX machine, how to adjust this, monitor that, etc., etc. And I am sure you have read many megabytes. Do you know what the biggest problem is with temperature surfing? The biggest problem with temperature surfing is trying to describe it! It's impossible (IMHO) to do so simply, succinctly, and in a straight-forward manner. It takes longer to describe how to do it than to actually do it in real life.

C'est la vie.

If you are that concerned about temperature surfing, despite such tomes as How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love HXs, then by all means get a double boiler machine (like the La Spaziale "Mini" Vivaldi II (Single Group Dual Boiler) machine you are leaning towards. Since you correctly point out that shots are pulled at one temperature, and milk steamed at another, this should eliminate your concerns. I've never used one myself, but it has a sizable user base of very satisfied customers, and with a company like Chris' Coffee behind it, you won't need to worry about service should something go awry.

I hope there's one at SCAA you can use, as well as several others to try out.
dmj wrote:As for transferring skills, perhaps none will transfer directly. But I will be able to watch the superauto make a shot, examine its grind, time its cycle, and taste its result. I currently have no source of instruction other than local shops who also use superautos, this forum, the internet, and the library. I learned about espresso in Italy, but it is very hard to get there routinely. I think ANY basis for comparison could be useful.
There are no shops in Atlanta which use anything other than a superauto? Every shop in Atlanta uses a superautomatic??? OK. You're there. I'm not. But I do find that rather difficult to believe. Hmmm . . . I still don't think very much, if anything, will translate, but as with all things, YMMV.

As for your final question ("Why do you have two machines?"), the answer is I don't. I have four.

1) I have a plumbed-in, Elektra "Sixties" T1 that I purchased new from Chris' Coffee. That is in my home.


2) In my office, I have a 20-year old Olympia Express "Cafferex".


3) Because I thought I'd like to once again try my hand at a manual lever machine*, I have an old (how old? who knows!) Arraex "Caravel" . . .


4) And finally, because I simply haven't yet decided whether to sell it, or to keep it (and sell the Olympia), I still own my first "serious" HX machine, a pourover Ala di Vittoria (aka Grimac Royal Falcon) "La Valentina" automatic that I bought new from 1st-Line.


I need to decide soon, but . . . until then, it sits, stored away, waiting.

Look, David, I do understand the desire for a great machine, and buying the "right" one. These machines are/can be expensive, and no one -- not even Bill Gates -- has money to burn these days. What I will say is that my 14-year old daughter knows how to make lattes on my Elektra. My wife even knows how -- although given the fact she has a hard time mastering the computer in her office and her Blackberry, I gladly make the coffee when I'm home.

My point being, no matter how much of a "technophobe" she may be, your wife can easily learn how to use your machine, whether it's a Mini Vivaldi II or some HX automatic. But, I admit, it won't be as easy as a superauto. I don't know why you want two machines, let alone why you want a superauto -- though certainly the learning curve on a superauto is not as steep as on a semi- or auto, HX or DB.

Were it me, I'd wait, hopefully try out lots of machines at SCAA, and get the machine I want -- used the money I saved on not buying the superauto on a much better grinder than the Rocky. But that's me, and clearly I am not the one in charge of spending your money! :wink: But the bottom line is that using a DB or an HX is not as easy as a superauto, but it's a lot easier than (I think) you think it is.

Cheers,
Jason

* My first machine ever was an excellent manual lever machine, a Pavoni Europiccola that I bought approximately 30 years ago for $299. I never mastered it, and was in way over my head -- for example, pairing it with a Krups blade grinder! :oops: But back then who knew? There was no internet, no home-barista, no nothing. In the end, I gave it away to a friend who still uses it daily all these years later.
A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.

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drdna

#18: Post by drdna »

popeye wrote:Has anyone replaced the thermostat of the behmor with a variac? I'm tired of mine cycling on and off and I'm tired of having to "preset and guess" using P2. I've been using a variac, but once the P2 kicks to 60%, even 131 volts doesn't do anything. Has anyone opened up a behmor? I'm thinking i'm about to.
This post perfectly describes the compulsion to mess around with equipment, level of inherent dissatisfaction, and ignorance of how things work that many enthusiasts have. This fellow is likely to burn his house down trying to fine tune his roast. So, take what I and everyone else have to say with a grain of salt.

To clarify what level of difficulty is involved in making espresso with a home machine, check this out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhxvDusY3jk

By the way, some people WILL be happy with a superauto, given its combination of decent coffee, espresso, and convenience. You may well be one of them; only you can decide.

Adrian
Adrian

dmj (original poster)

#19: Post by dmj (original poster) »

To all of you who have responded to my posts:

I would like to offer my deepest thanks and heartfelt appreciation for all the thought and effort that went into your advice.

Cathi, Jason, and Adrian,
I especially appreciate your last three posts, and I hope someday to be able to be useful to each of you some way in return.

I have learned a GREAT deal over the last few weeks, and although I still currently have NO IDEA what I will buy in the near future, I have a much better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each machine and the various systems available. I think I may have reached the point of information saturation. I'm going to take a few more days and make a few trips to get my hands on a machine or two, and then I'm going to buy something. I plan to take my patient and loving wife along, as she may like something that I don't anticipate.

I have a feeling that I may be in this for the long haul. My wife tells me (in a loving way) that many people who consider themselves "type A" haven't even reached my alphabet. I think it part of the personality make-up of an airline Captain. We obsess about details and are starved for information and situational control. As I write this from my hotel room in Miami, I'm already considering an upgrade path for the machine I have yet to purchase...

But a hobby like this may be just what is needed to keep me busy for the next few years. I hope I get the chance to meet some of you during my travels and at the SCAA convention, and I look forward to returning here soon for advice on the purchase of beans, etc.



Thanks again for all of the help,
David

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BrewHaHa

#20: Post by BrewHaHa »

Hi, David-

If you haven't seen it, there's a long, detailed review of the Jura Capresso S9 Super-Automatic over on coffeegeek:
https://www.coffeegeek.com/proreviews/d ... capressos9

More than simply a review of that particular model, it gives the reader a good idea of what to consider in choosing a Super-Automatic, compared to other super-autos as well as to traditional espresso machines.

Best of luck, and have fun!

-John