New to home baristas - time to pick an espresso machine, budget $900 or less

Recommendations for buyers and upgraders from the site's members.
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#1: Post by Mhart032 »

Hello all, I have been a coffee lover most of my life, I have often thought about buying an espresso machine and doing my own thing. So the time has come for me to pick a unit for the house. I'm not looking to spend a ton of money. I recently ordered the Baratza Sette 270W grinder after reading a bit but for a machine, I'm not sure what I should look for. Locally there is a person selling a Rocket Giotto Premium Plus for, under 600.00, I found this to be an older unit ( not that I really care about the age, as long as it's a good machine). I've also been looking at the Gaggia Classic and the Rancilio Silvia. Or if anyone has any other ideas please let me know. I'd like to try and stay under 900.00 for the machine if at all possible.

It would be probably good to note that I've never used an espresso machine before lol.

Thanks in advance for the advice.

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#2: Post by happycat »

You might want to define what "coffee" means to you.

The classic and silvia, at least in the past, did not have good temperature stability. This means when you pull a shot the water could be too hot or too cold. There are workarounds you can read about if you search "temperature surfing." People have modified those machines extensively to add temp control, adjust pressure, upgrade a steam wand and power, and there is lots of info about it.

I had a Classic and modified it but ended up much preferring a 100% manual Flair lever. Why? Easy to heat, total control over every shot, easy to clean, no boiler. The Robot is a similar manual lever that has quite a following.

If milk drinks are important to you, then you might want a machine with a boiler. You can also make do with a milk frother if it's only occasional.

Welcome and I hope you find the help you need.

I pair my Flair with a sette 270 and a kettle.

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#3: Post by mattbhm »

I am going through the exact same thing and have already talked to a ton of people. I am new, so take the following with a grain of salt, however it does seem to be the general consensus.

If you want the easiest way to get into espresso with no issues but still be able to make a great cup, go Breville at this budget. Either an Infuser(under your budget new) or spend more/go for a used Dual Boiler. The Double Boiler is worth the extra and is a great machine. The Double Boiler should also stave off upgrading for a lot longer.

If you're not wanting to make milk based drinks and are down to spend some time perfecting the craft and making your shots in the morning, look at a Flair or Cafelat Robot. Both manual machines, well under budget, but no steam wand and obviously much more involved than something like the Breville.

If you want a great starting point for mods that end in a very good machine, look at the Gaggia and Silvia. The Silvia in particular is a great machine after a PID.The Gaggia is fine but to be honest, the more I looked into the more issues I noticed. The issue with the Silvia is that if bought new, with a PID, it's right over 1k. Which means you're even closer to a Dual Boiler which is just better in almost every way. A Silvia is obviously a classic, but in terms of usability.

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#4: Post by Nunas »

The Rocket Giotto Premium Plus is a heat exchanger (HX) machine. No matter what sort of espresso you want to produce, it would be massively better overall than either the Classic or the Silvia, which are single-boiler, dual-use (SBDU) machines. It would also be far better than thermoblock machines, such as most of the low to mid-tier Brevilles. Since it's the plus model, which I think is the one with an inbuilt PID, it can't be that old. Nevertheless, as it is a used machine, you want to have a demo before buying. If it has not been retrofitted with a group head thermometer, you'll want to budget for that; search here on H-B for EricS thermometers, and you'll find more than you ever need to know about why a group head thermometer is nearly essential on an e61 HX machine. After having a string of thermoblock machines from Breville, which were okay for what they were, the first machine I really liked was an e61/HX. That said, I now have a double-boiler (DB) machine, which is better but much more costly. If your budget allows, as others have mentioned, give the Breville DB a look; it has a good reputation here on H-B. Your Sette grinder is a good match for any of the aforementioned machines. Good Luck!

Mhart032 (original poster)
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#5: Post by Mhart032 (original poster) »

Coffee to me is everything, I can drink coffee all day long. I'm not a big espresso drinker currently but I do like it. I do like milk drinks as well. I really like the look and options of the Rocket, the price is really good as well for a higher end machine from what my research is telling me, correct me if I'm wrong. It's seems to be a more classic style of machine. I don't think I would have any issues reselling if I decide that I want something different. When I look a the price point on what I can get the Rocket for vs other units I think this might be the best starting point.


#6: Post by elkayem »

If you are considering the Silvia and Gaggia Classic, I would take a close look at the Lelit Anna. It is in your budget, and has PID temperature control. It's not as sexy as the Rocket, but will have better temperature stability. I've never used an HX, but understand there is a bit of an art to getting the temperature right. The Silvia will have its own challenges there too, unless you put a PID on it. I had one (with PID) for 8 years and was very happy with it. The single boiler on the Silvia is admittedly a bit of a hassle (same with the Anna), and is what eventually pushed me over the edge to get a dual boiler. But it is useable, it just means extra time in the morning if you also intend to steam. I've never owned any of the Breville machines, but they are widely touted on this forum as an excellent value. My only knock against them is their aesthetic. Shallow, I know, but there is something about having a nice shiny Italian machine in your kitchen. Which is what I think attracted you to the Rocket in the first place.

Mhart032 (original poster)
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#7: Post by Mhart032 (original poster) »

If I went with the Rocket, would there be any benefits to upgrading to a PID. This one does not have one. its the Plus V2 not the Plus PID unit.

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#8: Post by elkayem »

I first need to disclose that I've never owned an HX. That said, I think a PID on an HX machine is nothing more than a gimmick that does little to provide brew temperature stability. Take the advice of Nunas above, get a group head thermometer, and learn some of the techniques on this forum. I get your interest in the Rocket. E61 machines have a charm of their own, and 600 seems like a good price if the machine has been cared for and in good working condition. You might do a search on the Buy/Sell forum to see what other similar machines have sold for. Best of luck!
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Mhart032 (original poster)
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#9: Post by Mhart032 (original poster) »

Well today i bought the Rocket, the seller actually told me when I got to his place and he made me a cappuccino with the machine, we talked for about an hour. He said just give me 500 and you can take it. I was prepared to pay the 600 no problem. It was dirty and not cleaned at all, had a couple of dents in the front side panels towards the bottom. But no biggie I wasn't worried I didn't expect it to be a showpiece and it definitely didn't think it would be a counter queen and never get used. I got the unit home dismantled panels, cleaned the inside. He mentioned that there was a crack in the water line so he plugged it on the boiler. I fixed that with some brazing rods and cleaned it real well with a light vinegar bath. So the hot water side is working as it should. I was able to get an E61 tune-up kit locally, replaced that, and cleaned the group head, it was pretty dirty, While I had the water line off I used an endoscope and looked inside, clean as a whistle, he used filtered water like he said he did. I dismantled the front and buffed the stainless front, after I dollied all the dents out that I saw on the side panel front parts, buffed the group head ( broke the bar gauge plastic front putting that back in) ordered a replacement. I need to buff the drip tray and the top where the cups go for heating. but I think it turned out pretty good. I ordered the group head temp gauge yesterday.


#10: Post by tennisman03110 »

Darn, that looks nice! It also sounds like you know what you're doing.