Limited budget espresso machine recommendations

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

#1: Post by Madurodave »

Hi guys,

First time poster. I have been reading this forum and some other sources for a few days now trying to educate myself on espresso machines, grinders etc.

I was oringally thinking about a super automatic such as the Gaggia Brera. I take it from my readings that while it will make a consistent cup of espresso and milk drinks, it will not be a great cup.

My budget is a little limited, so I decided instead on either the Gaggia Classic or the Rancilio Silvia. Any thoughts on the 2 of one versus the other? Specifically which has a better espresso/crema under the same conditions, which will be more durable and longest lasting?

It is just my wife and I that will be the daily users. Probably 4 espressos per day every day.

My wife like milk drinks more, so which would be the best of the 2?

Grinder-wise, I am looking at the Baratza Vario, which seems to be good for the money.

I appreciate any insight you can provide.

Also, if anyone has any experience with WLL's refurbished units, I would appreciate some feedback either positive or negative. You can PM me or e-mail me if preferred.
Dave

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boar_d_laze

#2: Post by boar_d_laze »

Hi Dave,

Start by reading the FAQs and searching through the "Buying Advice" threads here. You're not the first person with these questions. You're not the second either.

No comment on the Classic, I don't know it well enough other to say than it's an SBDU (single-boiler dual use) and possesses all of that design's inherent shortcomings.

On the other hand, I know Silvia pretty well. Silvia was great in its time, but it's time is past. It's biggest problem is getting remotely close to consistent temping which makes for a great deal of inconsistency in the cup. Also, it's incredibly slow to heat up for steam, and a very slow steamer even after it's ready. For the little it's worth, I'm told the Gaggia Classic produces more consistent temperatures than the Silvia -- but neither allows much in the way of control. Don't buy.

By way of context, lesser machines make a strong, "coffee" tasting brew which hints at espresso. Better machines allow you to explore some of the more distinctive nuances which were in the bean or imparted by a good roast. If you want the second thing you need a grinder/machine combination which is not only consistent, but allows the flexibility to adapt to different beans and changing conditions.

From what I hear and understand -- informed by no personal experience whatsoever -- I'd lean towards the Crossland CC1 as the least expensive, adequate entry-level machine. On the same bases and for much the same reasons, consistency and simplicity, if I were going for "best value," I'd try and stretch to the Breville Dual Boiler.

You're going to need an adequate grinder for whatever machine you buy. Your suggested Vario is a much better grinder, more than adequate to the task of good espresso. My "general espresso knowledge" deduction is that a Classic plus Vario is not a well matched pair; that the Classic will not reveal most of the "goodness" which the Vario will. Unless you're going to planning on buying a Classic with the idea or upgrading very soon, a Baratza Preciso might be a better choice. Why spend money on something you'll never taste?

BDL
Drop a nickel in the pot Joe. Takin' it slow. Waiter, waiter, percolator

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HB
Admin

#3: Post by HB »

Madurodave wrote:My budget is a little limited, so I decided instead on either the Gaggia Classic or the Rancilio Silvia. Any thoughts on the 2 of one versus the other? Specifically which has a better espresso/crema under the same conditions, which will be more durable and longest lasting?
At the risk of being labeled a Silvia-hater, I would choose the Gaggia New Baby. The Gaggia isn't near the construction quality of the Rancilio, but at half the cost-- less than half if you factor in a post-installation PID as many do to fix Silvia's meandering temperature range --it's a fair tradeoff. Unless of course you prefer the look of the Silvia; it's true that the Gaggias do look less "serious" due the plastic panels.
boar_d_laze wrote:Start by reading the FAQs and searching through the "Buying Advice" threads here. You're not the first person with these questions. You're not the second either.
Maybe the second today. :lol:

To elaborate on your reply, here's my boilerplate response: Read How to choose an espresso machine and grinder at the "right" price, peruse the previous discussions in this forum (e.g., search on espresso machine budget), and reply once you have a better idea of what you're interested in. If you prefer a short introduction, read my recent article Fuel Rockets in WIRED magazine. For a more comprehensive read, see Mark's How to buy an espresso machine.
Dan Kehn

sashaman

#4: Post by sashaman »

As a new espresso machine owner, and someone who wasted a bunch of money in the past (mainly on a super auto), I would add the following tidbit when it comes to "upgradability" if you are on a budget. If I were "starting over", I would probably do something like:

1. Stretch a bit to get a good grinder. The Vario seems to do best in the price/performance category, and, at least from reading the forums, you're not likely to get much better results from the Vario until you hit the 'titan' class grinders, which seems way overkill to me for most home users (both in cost and in it taking up half your kitchen).
2. If your espresso machine budget is limited to $500 or less, go with a Mypressi Twist, currently selling for ~$150 (and a cheap milk frother if you like milk drinks). The Mypressi has gotten pretty much excellent reviews when it comes to its ability to brew great shots.

At this point, you'll be able to make high quality drinks, and if desired you can start saving up for a more traditional espresso machine with good temperature control. Depending on how much you've saved you can look at anything from a Crossland CC1 up to something more expensive like an E61 or a dual boiler.

The benefit of this approach is that if you DO decide to upgrade eventually, you're probably going to want to keep around the Mypressi Twist for its unique benefits (mainly portability) and thus your initial investment won't be wasted. On the other hand, if you started out with a non-PIDed single boiler machine like a Gaggia or a Silvia, you're probably just going to want to get rid of it once you upgrade.

GeoffPDX

#5: Post by GeoffPDX »

Whoa. That is PRECISELY what I'm doing.

Madurodave

#6: Post by Madurodave »

Thanks for the suggestions, guys. Still deciding!

Might look at a Rancilio Silvia too. I have seen negative reviews here but also many current positive reviews. I am an engineer and love to tinker and discover, so I think even with a less than optimal setup (single boiler) it will help me learn the process of making espresso better. Maybe I will get frustrated and throw it out the window or maybe I can tackle the challenge and then be ready to step up to a more advanced machine once I know the basics.

Thanks again!
Dave

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HB
Admin

#7: Post by HB »

Madurodave wrote:...maybe I can tackle the challenge and then be ready to step up to a more advanced machine once I know the basics.
Randy offers a well-reasoned purchase strategy here, specifically his observation that it's wise to spend more on the espresso machine, but if the budget won't allow that, to spend less on the machine and more on the grinder. That's why lately I've recommended the Gaggia New Baby/Baratza Vario combo under the assumption that the buyer will upgrade within 2-3 years.
Dan Kehn

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TrlstanC

#8: Post by TrlstanC »

The small Gaggias (New Baby, Pure, Classic, etc.) are what I would consider to be the cheapest real espresso machines you can buy. While they're mostly plastic, and have a small boiler, at least it's not a thermoblock, and they have a big brass group and real 58mm portafilter. Plus that small boiler means that it's pretty fast to switch over from brewing to steaming and back.

If you were going to buy a budget priced machine and use that for the rest of your life, I definitely wouldn't recommend one though, if you spend more (probably twice as much, but still less than $1k) you can get a lot of nice features that you'll appreciate over the long term. However, that rarely happens, most people either: 1) get tired of making their own espresso every morning and stop using the machine or 2) love making espresso every morning and eventually invest in a more expensive machine (that's what happens to most people on these forums).

If you're eventually going to either stop using the machine for one reason or another, get the cheapest one that has all the basic features to make real espresso. I've still got my PID'd Gaggia in the closet, and I break out it as the occasional travel machine for vacation :)

Madurodave

#9: Post by Madurodave »

Well, after a lot of deliberation and thought, plus reading this and other forums, I decided to go with the Rancilio Silvia and Baratza Preciso grinder, along with lots of extras that were thrown in by WLL.

Why? Several reasons: machine cost was right (about $435 new if you subtract accessories and grinder from package price), there is a huge knowledge base on the Silvia (I know, both good and bad), my budget (I needed everything, basically), and there are a lot of videos and hints on YouTube and these forums about getting the best out of the Silvia.

My wife and I are the primary users. We do not entertain a lot, so being able to pull 2 - 3 shots at a time without issue was great for my needs.

I did look at the Crossland CC1 but decided I did not like it as much as the Silvia for my needs. Cost is about the same as a PID'd Silvia. I know the CC1 has a larger boiler with removable elements plus the thermoblock for steam, but I like the aesthetics of the Silvia better.

So I think for a start, the Silvia will work well for me. I will try it as-is for a while and perhaps add a PID later.

So the Silvia, Preciso, art pitcher, SS tamper, thermometer, coffee, brush, cleaner and shot glass will be here today! :lol:
Dave

zin1953

#10: Post by zin1953 »

Yeah. Good luck with that . . .

Just remember the excellent advice you've received here to date, including
HB wrote: . . . spend less on the machine and more on the grinder. That's why lately I've recommended the Gaggia New Baby/Baratza Vario combo under the assumption that the buyer will upgrade within 2-3 years.
You've done the opposite, and so -- while you certainly do have a capable setup -- I wouldn't be surprised if you also run into some problems and get bit by upgrade-itis sooner rather than later.

That said, at least the Silvia keeps a higher resale value than the Gaggia . . .

And don't forget: enjoy the journey!

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