If you had to start over with espresso and buy an entire setup with a budget of $5000, what would you buy? - Page 3

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

#21: Post by Bluenoser »

Carter wrote: I thought about a lever as well, and really like the ease of maintenance with them, but I feel like a Synchronika or Decent gives me more control and can imitate a lever profile whilst not being locked into that as the only profiling available
The Decent will allow you to imitate a Lever much more closely than a Synchronika.. plus you get fast warm up. and you get ultra stable brew water temp. Your Synchronika still has its brew water influenced greatly by the E61. Thus its PID has an offset built in you will need to calibrate or confirm. (vendor doesn't do it for you). I was listening to John (Decent) on a Zoom call video.. and he had a great expression..

"you can't manage what you can't measure"

sooooo true..

So, hands down, Decent, I think, can likely make better and easier espresso than any other machine.. You get a profile you like with a bean.. then make that profile a default and .. nothing easier.. single button operation..

but I must admit.. I'm an electronics guy.. What if that electronics breaks down..

Just got an Apple Home Pod.. great speaker.. after a week.. glitched, flashing its top lights.. sure re-powering it reset it and it works.. but some updates have bricked others' HomePod and that condition was permanent.. and after warranty the repair costs more than the HomePod (I've read). A 'regular' speaker works for 50 years (at least)..

However, I think you'll get much better customer service from Decent than ECM/Profitec in Germany.. and local vendors can be hit & miss.

Carter

#22: Post by Carter » replying to Bluenoser »

All very good points, Decent is easily the most capable and consistent which is very appealing

I'm not much of a smart electronics user, I prefer having something simple that requires little maintenance and can be fixed myself ideally. That alone was a big draw to the Synchronika as the internals seem to be laid out nicely and it's a relatively simple design.

Decent I'm sure has a bunch of documentation and spare parts available, and I don't hear many issues with them breaking regardless, so it's probably a non issue for the most part

Jeff
Team HB

#23: Post by Jeff »

Decent has recently started a complete, assembly-by-assembly parts catalog, working down to nearly the screw level. It's comparable to the parts lists that you sometimes can get access to for Italian-made machines (Synchronika, at WLL). Decent's direct support makes that rather superfluous, but reassuring to see even if you never need to consult it. I would say working inside a DE1 is no more challenging than an E61 box. You trade a big wrench for the mushroom and group-head parts for a couple metric hex keys and Torx drivers. That there's no hot boilers to deal with is a bonus.

One of the things I like about the DE1 is that it is easier to clean than an E61. The exhaust path isn't shared with the brew path, so there isn't the need to keep the brew path clean with back flushing. I can drop the screen and dispersion block in under a minute, clean them in the sink, and put them back in as quickly. It's become part of my weekly clean. I can't say that makes better coffee, but I do remember the look of my father's coffee cup at work that only got rinsed every day.

If a friend had a Synchronika with the flow kit and said, "Want to bring over your 250 g of La Cabra and pull some shots?", I know we'd get some good ones out of those precious and challenging beans. It's going to come down to a gut feeling about which you think you'll enjoy more.

Goosed

#24: Post by Goosed »

I've been very fortunate in my espresso journey as I currently have exactly the machines I want at any budget, but if I could go back, as a new user the only change I would make is to be more careful of being swayed by forum "hype/popularity" momentum instead of following my own style when I first started this journey.

As an example, I started with a single dosing grinder as they have been popular here for a long time as such it's no surprise just about every single recommendation in this thread so far is for a single dosing grinder. All of the single dosing grinders recommended here are good grinders and a necessity if you switch back and forth between several different beans all the time, but that's not me. I typically buy 1 bag at a time. Then use that bag up before buying another bag (roughly every 2 weeks). I still have my original single dosing grinder (Mazzer Major DR, *bought before there were better options*) around for the occasional smaller "rare roast" bags, but the Baratza Vario with a built in scale is my daily driver. The simplicity of keeping beans in the hopper so I can just push a button and eliminate the unnecessary steps of single dosing has made my routine more enjoyable. Then as an added benefit the hoper also avoids a lot of the static issues that you get while single dosing. All while giving up very little if anything in the cup vs any of the titan single dosing I've tried.

In similar fashion, I got the chance to attend a small local HB member get together centered around the DE1 vs GS3 vs levers. I came away very impressed with that little DE1. It really is a great little machine with a lot of versatility and isn't nearly as noisy as I thought it would be from the demonstration videos I had seen. The GS3 was also impressive though a bit monstrous [by comparison to to the DE1]. Yet, the one machine at that meet up that I walked away knowing I was going to add to my slowly growing collection of machines was the old fashioned Elektra Leva. A quirky love it or hate it machine to be sure, but it just fits my style and simple analog approach to espresso.


Short version of that long winded answer... If I had to start all over it would be the Baratza Vario (Alicorn aligned) and the forgiving Elektra Leva regardless of budget because they fit my style and work flow. Of course, one machine/grinder will never be enough for me so I would plan on adding a good single dosing grinder and manual lever down the road as my skills/desires progressed.

Carter

#25: Post by Carter »

Jeff wrote:Decent has recently started a complete, assembly-by-assembly video, working down to nearly the screw level. It's comparable to the parts lists that you sometimes can get access to for Italian-made machines (video. Decent's direct support makes that rather superfluous, but reassuring to see even if you never need to consult it. I would say working inside a DE1 is no more challenging than an E61 box. You trade a big wrench for the mushroom and group-head parts for a couple metric hex keys and Torx drivers. That there's no hot boilers to deal with is a bonus.

One of the things I like about the DE1 is that it is easier to clean than an E61. The exhaust path isn't shared with the brew path, so there isn't the need to keep the brew path clean with back flushing. I can drop the screen and dispersion block in under a minute, clean them in the sink, and put them back in as quickly. It's become part of my weekly clean. I can't say that makes better coffee, but I do remember the look of my father's coffee cup at work that only got rinsed every day.

If a friend had a Synchronika with the flow kit and said, "Want to bring over your 250 g of La Cabra and pull some shots?", I know we'd get some good ones out of those precious and challenging beans. It's going to come down to a gut feeling about which you think you'll enjoy more.
I wasn't aware that the exhaust path isn't shared with the brew path on the Decent, that's a big advantage for me. Time savings and less cleaning is very attractive.

Yeah that's what it seems to come down to in the end when choosing between high end machines, go with the machine you'll enjoy using the most every morning

Carter

#26: Post by Carter »

Goosed wrote:I've been very fortunate in my espresso journey as I currently have exactly the machines I want at any budget, but if I could go back, as a new user the only change I would make is to be more careful of being swayed by forum "hype/popularity" momentum instead of following my own style when I first started this journey.

As an example, I started with a single dosing grinder as they have been popular here for a long time as such it's no surprise just about every single recommendation in this thread so far is for a single dosing grinder. All of the single dosing grinders recommended here are good grinders and a necessity if you switch back and forth between several different beans all the time, but that's not me. I typically buy 1 bag at a time. Then use that bag up before buying another bag (roughly every 2 weeks). I still have my original single dosing grinder (Mazzer Major DR, *bought before there were better options*) around for the occasional smaller "rare roast" bags, but the Baratza Vario with a built in scale is my daily driver. The simplicity of keeping beans in the hopper so I can just push a button and eliminate the unnecessary steps of single dosing has made my routine more enjoyable. Then as an added benefit the hoper also avoids a lot of the static issues that you get while single dosing. All while giving up very little if anything in the cup vs any of the titan single dosing I've tried.

In similar fashion, I got the chance to attend a small local HB member get together centered around the DE1 vs GS3 vs levers. I came away very impressed with that little DE1. It really is a great little machine with a lot of versatility and isn't nearly as noisy as I thought it would be from the demonstration videos I had seen. The GS3 was also impressive though a bit monstrous [by comparison to to the DE1]. Yet, the one machine at that meet up that I walked away knowing I was going to add to my slowly growing collection of machines was the old fashioned Elektra Leva. A quirky love it or hate it machine to be sure, but it just fits my style and simple analog approach to espresso.


Short version of that long winded answer... If I had to start all over it would be the Baratza Vario (Alicorn aligned) and the forgiving Elektra Leva regardless of budget because they fit my style and work flow. Of course, one machine/grinder will never be enough for me so I would plan on adding a good single dosing grinder and manual lever down the road as my skills/desires progressed.
All very good points, thank you!

I like the idea of single dose grinders and my Niche is on the way so we'll see if that holds up.

A simple lever really is a beautiful thing

Carter

#27: Post by Carter »

Jeff wrote:OK, I'll bite...

I've tried to give the "why", not just the "what", since these are big decisions


Grinders are most important, so start with the grinder.

Taste Training

First, I'd pay someone for a few hours of their time to help me understand and recognize the differences between sour, bitter, and astringent. This still stumps me sometimes, especially when they occur at the same time. If they can help you dialing in a classic Italian*, medium, and light washed on your gear with you being able to taste the changes, even better. Understanding flavor isn't something you can easily learn by reading or watching videos.

Then, I'd join a "coffee of the month club", ideally with members with similar gear, so that you can share experiences on how to dial in and what they are tasting to further your skills more quickly. It will also help you by stretching your coffee experience with different roast levels, origins/varieties, and processing (natural, washed, fermented, ...). You won't like them all. That's part of learning what you do like, and having it evolve.

* "Classic Italian" rather than an unqualified "dark" as extracting a well-balanced blend/roast is more enlightening than something bordering on charcoal.


Grinders are most important after coffee, so next pick the grinder.

I'll accept some of that, but with a $5,000 budget, I already know there's room for my current pick of machines.

DE1+
Skale 2 and 3D-printed drip-tray stand using Damian's design


The DE1+ is strangely both an ideal "expert" machine as well as a raw-beginner machine. It is both repeatable and agile. That means if you taste a change in the cup, it is almost certainly something you did, not the variation of the machine. Did you move that E61, flow-management valve exactly the same way as last time? That's never a question with a DE1. Next is that is is about the only production machine that gives you insight into what is happening during the shot. Time all of a sudden becomes a poor surrogate for flow rate during the shot.

A couple days ago, I loosened up the grind a little bit, what my experience told me should probably add just a little brightness to an otherwise boring cup. The ratio was right and the time looked reasonable. "Sour, astringent, bad" were my notes. I looked at the flow rate and it was much higher at the end of the shot than I expected. Sure enough, when I looked at the cell-phone video of the shot, there was a "burble" that I didn't spot live, a sign of channeling that had me chase my prep, not the grind.

The kind of feedback that a DE1 can provide both speeds beginners' learning (there are a surprising number of them with DE1s as their first machines past a "buzz box" or capsule machine), as well as allow the more experienced user to work on that last 20% of excellence. Its agility and flexibility lets you try out different approaches to a coffee, be it temperature, subtle pressure/flow profiling, or even "extreme espresso" such as blooming or high-flow-rate extraction. (The Herndon paper that everyone was buzzing about seems to come down to high flow-rate rather than time.)


Grinders are most important after coffee, so next pick the grinder.

Niche Zero
Fanwer "Pressure drum massager ..." as a "puffer"


Solid grinder across the full range of roast levels and beans. Easy to use, easy to keep clean, quiet, compact.

Sure, there are probably "better" grinders on the market, especially for light roasts. i still wouldn't know if I wanted LU, HU, EK, unimodal, shiruken, red, silver, black, ... burrs, and still don't know if it would make $2,000 or more difference to me.

It's good enough for me. it's good enough for coffee professionals to use during trade shows. i think it's good enough for most people that would consider asking "which grinder" with the word "budget" (at any level) in the question.


Bravo Tamper

A square-to-basket, force-indicating tamper takes a lot of prep variability out for beginners, as well as bleary eyed of any experience level. The Bravo is one of the few that is both square-to-basket and manages the tamping force.

A lot of people love The Force Tamper. it provides the same benefits and then some, especially if you or someone in your household have finger, hand, wrist, arm challenges. I have no hard, or really any soft evidence, to back up my suspicion that the impact approach to tamping is not as good as applying pressure. The decision between the two I made on instinct and feeling.


Other Prep Tools

My experience is that anything thicker than 0.4 mm acupuncture needles do little, or make things worse. four or so in a cork, or one of the commercially available tools like the LeverCraft or BPlus.

A dosing funnel that sits on the basket itself. i switched from one that sat inside the basket (a well-loved OE funnel) to on top. I changed a lot of things in my prep as well. My incidence of donut extractions went down. I can't say that changing the funnel improved my extractions' visual evenness, just that I can get reasonable extraction visuals with the on-the-basket one. I happen to have a DE funnel, there are several available through Amazon, eBay, Etsy, ...

i use a hockey puck as a tamping stand. Fits my budget and lets me spend on other toys. A knockbox is a glorified compost bin.

None of the fancy levelers have convinced me of enough value to spend on. Many seem to me to potentially make things worse. With the stirrer as a puck rake, i can get the bed "level enough" for my desires. Every step you add to your prep process potentially adds more uncontrolled variability.


Baskets: VST 15, 18 ridgeless; EPNW "HQ 14" ridgeless

I find ridgeless baskets let me fill and prep the basket out of the PF handle. The VSTs are my "go to" baskets, but are unforgiving of weaker puck prep. the EPNW 14 doses like an 18 and seems a bit more forgiving.

if you buy a DE1, have them swap out the basket for a pour-over or puck-simulator basket.

Edit: I seldom dose over 18 g. With a stock machine from most manufacturers, starting with a VST 15 and VST 18 gives a wide range of options, probably from 13 g to 19 g for most coffees and grinds. Much less than 15 g can be a challenge without excellent prep.


Toys

Atago PAL-COFFEE, centrifuge or syringe filters. i can't confirm that this has $500 of value as I've just started using it myself. I think it gives me some valuable feedback on prep and choice of extraction methods.

I don't know that a roast-level meter would make dialing in any faster. Even two beans at the same apparent roast level can require very different grinds. With an extraction profile that I'm used to with my gear (either E61 HX and Compak K10 or DE1 and Niche), I can usually dial in a new bean in three shots.
I really love this post, and greatly appreciate you taking the time to give such a thoughtful answer. I'll be sure to reference it and all the other posts here in the future

Training my taste buds to accurately diagnose issues is a great idea, as is the coffee of the month club.

Would you happen to have a link to that puffer? My Niche should be delivered sometime soon and I'd love to pick up a puffer to use with it

I was able to find it on Amazon, thanks!

Arafel

#28: Post by Arafel »

It would depend on if it's $5k for grinder and machine only, or $5K including all accessories.

Grinder: Ceado E37S
Machine: Profitec Pro 700 w/ flow control or ECM Synchronika with flow control
Barista Pro 18g and 20g baskets
ECM angled bottomless portafilter
Jack leveler
ECM tamping stand (I have it now and it works great with the ECM angled bottomless
IMS Nano Shower Screen
Caffewerks silicone gasket


That would be $5k with the Pro 700. I'd also love:

Acaia Pearl and Pyxis
Coffee refractometer

Carter

#29: Post by Carter »

Arafel wrote:It would depend on if it's $5k for grinder and machine only, or $5K including all accessories.

Grinder: Ceado E37S
Machine: Profitec Pro 700 w/ flow control or ECM Synchronika with flow control
Barista Pro 18g and 20g baskets
ECM angled bottomless portafilter
Jack leveler
ECM tamping stand (I have it now and it works great with the ECM angled bottomless

That would be $5k with the Pro 700. I'd also love:

Acaia Pearl and Pyxis
Coffee refractometer
What's your reasoning for Barista pro baskets over ims/vst? I have trouble figuring out which is best

yoshi005

#30: Post by yoshi005 »

For that budget my recommendation would be:

a) plumb-in spring lever (either Vintage or a Londinium compressa or Bosco)
b) a unimodal flat burr single dosing grinder (Lagom P64, Ultra grinder)

With that set-up you have a highly consistent, silent package which is well suited for medium to dark roasted espresso as well as for filter coffee.

The best with lever machines is that you will leave the rabbit hole immediately and leave the discussions about upgrading your gear to others... That gives you time and patience to concentrate on the coffee.

Kind redards, Jochen
LMWDP #453