Need an espresso setup on a budget

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

#1: Post by NewbieOne »

Hello, brave ladies and beautiful gentlemen, or was that the other way round?

TL;DR: Do you know of any consumer semi-auto that doesn't come with a pressurized filter and doesn't have any truly deal-breaking flaws?

Long version, if you have the time, with the context and some alternatives:

My Braun E20 died two weeks ago, and I got a gift of roughly 250 bucks (euros, more like) to spend on a new setup. And I could use some of my own money, too, though I need to keep this low due to important competing expenses and contingencies.

The Braun was wonderful because it had a very deep unpressurized basket that would tolerate fine grounds from a blade grinder without tamping and still make better coffee than most coffee shops. Anything from a very long allongé that modern machines can't do to a very short ristretto that would make a modern semi-auto explode from trying to extract. I never got a semblance of crema from it, but boy, the taste even so! If only I could still have it and buy a better grinder and tamper. :(

I know about the limitations of superautos vs semi-autos, but I figured a refurbished Jura S7 or Ena 5 should still be better than something like a Dedica + Comandante, which costs at least 20% more, or better than a Breville Barista mini with a pressurized basket and my existing blade 'grinder'. Plus there's the thing I'm not a great barista, and while I'd like minding the grind and tamping, I'd rather do that by heart/eye than use pharmacy scales, dosing funnels, this-meters, that-metters, etc. on the average weekday at work. And the superauto lets you choose the dose size, grind thickness, water quantity and temperature, it pre-infuses and tamps with probably not that much less skill or precision than I do, so perhaps I should buy it? Then again, I could get something like Breville Barista Mini VCF125, which comes with a pressurized 58mm basket, and use it with my blade grinder, then upgrade the filter after I buy a real grinder if the times are good.

But first of all I wonder, is there perhaps a consumer semi-auto (or not consumer but cheap anyway) that comes with unpressurized baskets? I could get that and a used restaurant grinder.

I could honestly survive on a grain that costs five bucks per pound from a machine that costs 80, but I'd like to up the game if only just a bit. My preference is for affordable speciality single-origins (typically SCA 82-83) rather than aggressive espresso blends, and I kinda like either ristretto (no crema, just the tar) or allongé more than standard espresso. I don't like the taste of modern semi-autos (unless with an aggressive espresso blend that they make a good job of making mild) but do like that of the old ones more than well enough, especially with specialty beans.

ira
Team HB

#2: Post by ira »

A Flair, especially if you can find a used one would be about as inexpensive an espresso machine as you can get. At that budget, the more you have for a grinder the better.

tinroofrusted

#3: Post by tinroofrusted »

I had a Jura S7 for nearly 20 years and I really liked it a lot. It eventually broke and I sent it in for maintenance. To get me by during the time it took for service I purchased a Breville Bambino (the base Bambino, not the Bambino Plus). I was so impressed by the increase in quality of the espresso over the Jura S7, I decided to just keep using the Bambino. It is a very affordable machine, and produces very nice quality espresso. Probably not quite as good as a high end home unit, but really quite good, with nice crema and body when you use fresh coffee. It comes with regular and pressurized baskets (both single and double) at least in the U.S. Definitely worth considering.

NewbieOne (original poster)

#4: Post by NewbieOne (original poster) replying to tinroofrusted »

Thank you. :) I think I'll skip the S7 in that case and other superautos too and will consider the Bambino. It used to be unavailable here, but one shop has like three units.

NewbieOne (original poster)

#5: Post by NewbieOne (original poster) »

So...

Where 100% is the size of a gift I was given and told to use it to get myself something decent to make coffee with:

Machines:

1. Breville Barista Mini VCF125X - 100% (discounted from 150%) (no unpressurized filters included; porta is 58mm)
2. Sage Bambino (the 450, not Plus) - 130%
3. Gaggia Classic Pro - 140% (no unpressurized filters included? the noise dampening may be useful at night, as I live in an apartment house)
4. Sage Duo Temp (BES810) - 150%
5. ROK + toys (naked porta, etc.) - 120%
6. Flair Classic - 95% (naked porta included)
7. Any basic used/outlet plus an unpressurized filter if the porta is not pressurized.

Grinders (manual):

1. Kinu M47 Phoenix (most plastic out of all M47s) (100%)
2. ROK GrinderGC (looks fantastic but people claim it contains cheap plastic in places, has huge popcorn issues and is overall not as great as it claims to be, even breaks easily) (90%)
3. Flair The Royal Coffee Grinder ('consistently fine esspresso grind') (90%)
4. Lido 3/E-T (the champ?) (110%)
5. Zassenhaus Espresso (50%) (supposedly very good despite its price, there's even talk of 25y warranty for some parts)
6. Gefu Santiago (25%, discounted from 50%) (this can supposedly do espresso-fine)
7. Timemore C1/C2/C3 (not the X, and without the wood) (~30 %)
8. JavaPresse (~20%)
Zassenhaus EXPERT 38A
Zassenhaus Espresso Barista Pro
Gefu Lorenzo

I would prefer to avoid combining two expensive items, but there's no need to combine the cheapest grinder with a cheap machine. I would prefer for at least one of the two to use my gift fully, so that the item I buy becomes the gift. It would make sense for that to be durable and lasting.

Edit: I think I'm going to get an EC145/146 from DeLonghi first, to practice my grinding and tamping skills. If I can't be helped, I'll just know I need pressurized filters and will simply end up having a very good grinder for them. If and when I manage to learn, I'll be better prepared to deal with something like the Gaggia Classic. So which grinder should I get?

As a side note, I got my mother an electric burr grinder from a respectable local company (doesn't have much geographical reach) and naked portafilter for her Cafelizzia 790 pro (51mm). I wonder if I can get her hooked. That would be fun to watch. ;)