Please help me to not buy an espresso machine from Starbucks

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

#1: Post by jessabelle »

Let me begin by saying that I am by no means a coffee connoisseur. So far from it, in fact, that when I met a friend at Starbucks 2 years ago, I told them I wanted a hot chocolate. They brought me a mocha and that is when my addiction started. Now I spend between $4 - $8/day and all the employees know me by name and drink. I decided it's time to invest some on the front end and save myself money long term. I had been talking to the employees about buying a machine and of course, they are pushing the ones they carry.

After trying to educate myself and do some independent research for the last month, I am left completely and utterly confused by the terms, technology, options, etc. I'm a hands-on learner and I can watch all the videos and read all the instruction manuals until I'm blue in the face, but they won't help me one bit. I'm almost willing to just go ahead and buy the Delonghi Magnifica super automatic so I won't have to think about it anymore...until I come back here and read all of the horrible things about them.

I know, I know...super automatics won't produce "God shots" or even moderately acceptable espresso. I know a lot of this because I have been reading the forums front to back. I can regurgitate the info, I just don't fully comprehend it because I haven't *experienced* it. Hear me out. Below is a list of my requirements from a machine:

1) Time - I am a single mama with a super stressful job that has *got* to get the 3 year old out the door in the morning...an insane task in and of itself. I do not have time to fool with a grinder and a machine for very long. If you professionals think that after time, a reasonably intelligent person can figure out how to make a good mocha without resorting to an automatic, I'm open to hearing your opinions.

2) Mocha - All I want the machine to do is have the capability of making me a mocha everyday...or 5x/day ;) I don't even like regular coffee and don't know how to brew that, which is one of the reasons why I think this whole espresso shot-pulling technique discussion is blowing my mind. I have ZERO coffee experience. So the espresso quality isn't so important to me since a) I've been drinking Starbucks for years and b) I'm just going to cover it up with a whole bunch of other stuff.

3) Money - I'm looking at keeping this under $1k, preferably less.

Please tell me if I'm insane for even considering buying a machine to just make mochas, when I truly deep down only like the taste of coffee when it's covered up in chocolate, milk, and whipped cream. I'm open to any and all suggestions as I'm spinning my wheels trying to do this on my own. Thanks in advance for your advice!

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Bluecold

#2: Post by Bluecold »

Try and drink some good coffee. I do not know of any good place in Nashville to drink good coffee, but i bet some members here do.
More specifically, since you want to buy espresso equipment, try to taste a good espresso.
Even if you don't like a good espresso, you should be able to understand why some people really do. If that's not the case, you've been served a bad espresso. Another telltale sign of a good espresso is that the flavor lasts for half an hour after you've finished it.
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Ben Z.

#3: Post by Ben Z. »

How many calories is that a day?

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kahvedelisi

#4: Post by kahvedelisi »

jessabelle wrote:Mocha - All I want the machine to do is have the capability of making me a mocha everyday...or 5x/day ;) I don't even like regular coffee and don't know how to brew that, which is one of the reasons why I think this whole espresso shot-pulling technique discussion is blowing my mind. I have ZERO coffee experience. So the espresso quality isn't so important to me since a) I've been drinking Starbucks for years and b) I'm just going to cover it up with a whole bunch of other stuff.

3) Money - I'm looking at keeping this under $1k, preferably less.

Please tell me if I'm insane for even considering buying a machine to just make mochas, when I truly deep down only like the taste of coffee when it's covered up in chocolate, milk, and whipped cream. I'm open to any and all suggestions as I'm spinning my wheels trying to do this on my own. Thanks in advance for your advice!
jessica, lets be honest you're definitely in the wrong place :) people here (including myself) will try to redirect you towards better coffee and better equipments no matter what you say about not liking coffee at all. But since you're not in search for better or the best, here is my advice on how to create the beast at home.

a) if you aim for mocha only and/or milk drinks with lots of cream & syrup etc included, then you don't need an espresso machine. just purchase a bialetti mukka express --> http://www.amazon.com/Bialetti-Express- ... B000A8C0XW

b) and a grinder.
this --> http://www.amazon.com/Rancilio-Rocky-Do ... B00076SCW0
or this --> http://www.amazon.com/PL043-Compact-Con ... B002UUGG10
or this --> http://www.amazon.com/Baratza-Virtuoso- ... B000EG70IK
or this --> http://www.amazon.com/KitchenAid-KPCG10 ... B000JLFLXQ
or this --> http://www.amazon.com/Baratza-Maestro-C ... B0007XY7NQ

c) chocolate syrup (since you like starbucks, you can get it from their shops)

d) a cream whipper --> http://www.amazon.com/iSi-Cream-Profess ... 0001MRZWI/

e) fresh coffee. and that means no starbucks :) search for micro roasters in your area or order online.
Resistance is futile. You will be caffeinated!

Espin

#5: Post by Espin »

jessabelle wrote:1) Time
Ten minutes. It takes me ten minutes of hands on time on a single boiler machine to turn out a drink fussing with the grinder, the tamping, steaming the milk, etc. There's also about a half hour of warmup time, but that's about 1 second of hands-on time, then going to do something else for half an hour.

A lot of that time would go away with a higher-end machine, where I didn't have to wait for temperature changes - I expect it would be down to 3 minutes.

Unless there's a Starbucks right downstairs, don't forget the travel time you'll be saving.
jessabelle wrote:2) Mocha
Really good chocolate syrup is the important part. Don't skimp with Swiss Miss.

I make my own chocolate syrup. I think it's better than the common grocery store stuff; your mileage may vary.



I could say how awesome it is to make mochas, and how a nice setup will make that possible, but unless you think you'll enjoy making mochas, suggesting a setup doesn't seem like the right thing to do.

But... a decent drip brewer, a decent coffee grinder (Baratza Maestro), a splash of milk, and a good squirt of chocolate syrup comes pretty close with minimum hassle.

djmonkeyhater

#6: Post by djmonkeyhater »

I think that the steaming of milk is the hardest part of this to conquer.

The easiest way to get decent espresso-ish drinks is a Super automatic machine and a plea for you to use good beans in it. Here's a sample of $8-900 machines - Gaggia Titanium, Saeco Talea or Jura Capresso Impressa. I have used none of them and picked them at random. If Starbucks is nearby has a good warranty - buy it there. Just do a little research prior. This site has some good sponsors that you should talk to about it as well.

Not sure what to tell you on the steaming/frothing. It is messy, slow, gear and labor intensive. Chocolate syrup is easy to pump into anything. Maybe try the splash of milk thing first. Canned whip cream seems like the only way to have that on demand.

Have you ever made a hot chocolate and just dumped a shot in it?

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Stuggi

#7: Post by Stuggi »

There are acutally machines that can produce better foam than you get at starbucks, didn't Dan test one a while ago?

The stove-top mocha pots actually produce quite good coffee, Mr James Hoffmann (World Barista Champion 2007) has a video on how to get the most out of one;
Sebastian "Stuggi" Storholm
LMWDP #136

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jessabelle (original poster)

#8: Post by jessabelle (original poster) »

Thanks for all of your replies!

Bluecold: I know this will probably get a laugh out of most, but I tried a mocha from McDonald's and it tasted horrible compared to my usual from the bux. It tasted like they threw some of their regular old coffee in with some chocolate sauce. I think I might be capable of telling the difference between good and bad espresso maybe. I will try to find a "good" coffee shop and see if I like anything they have to offer.

Ben Z: 330 calories. It's my breakfast, so it's ok.

Kahvedelsi: That is an interesting idea! I could get a good grinder, figure out how to identify good beans, and start small. I like the baby steps...it's not so scary as to try to learn all of this stuff at once. Thanks!

Espin: You are right, I would be saving time with being able to make my drink at home. It's just that I'm really worried about investing all this money into something I know nothing about and am not comprehending very well over the internet that scares me into posting rambling pleas for help. I'm not so sure about putting chocolate syrup and milk into regular coffee. Regular coffee tastes a lot different than espresso. I have tried coffee with lots of milk and sugar and it still isn't really my thing. Also, the whole McDonald's mocha experience didn't go over very well, so I think I might need the real thing.

Dj: Never tried the hot chocolate with a shot in it because I don't have an espresso machine :P lol But seriously, another good idea. I will try that and see if it satisfies me.

Stuggi: Thanks for the video...I'll look into those mocha pots also.

Thanks everyone for all of your suggestions!

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TimEggers

#9: Post by TimEggers »

I'd advise you to stay away from espresso equipment all together. Rather pick up a french press (or like others have noted a stove-top "espresso" machine) and a stove top steamer and some of your favorite pre-ground coffee. Make a cup of press coffee add the steamed milk and you should be able to easily (and affordably) replicate the "Mocha experience" you seem to be after. With the distinct advantage that you won't have expensive machinery to maintain and clean (remember maintenance and proper cleaning are vital).
Tim Eggers
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Sherman

#10: Post by Sherman »

jessabelle wrote:Now I spend between $4 - $8/day and all the employees know me by name and drink. I decided it's time to invest some on the front end and save myself money long term.
...
1) Time - I am a single mama with a super stressful job that has *got* to get the 3 year old out the door in the morning...an insane task in and of itself.
2) Mocha - All I want the machine to do is have the capability of making me a mocha everyday...or 5x/day ;) I don't even like regular coffee and don't know how to brew that, which is one of the reasons why I think this whole espresso shot-pulling technique discussion is blowing my mind. I have ZERO coffee experience.
3) Money - I'm looking at keeping this under $1k, preferably less.
...
So, you (heart) the mochas, have a demanding schedule and want to stay within a budget.

Have you considered pods? I've had the experience of trying a friend's Nespresso on a couple different occasions, and while it wasn't quite my preference, it was better than the McMocha. You get low startup costs, convenience & time savings, and if you buy a pod-adaptable machine, you get the (delayed) ability steam your own milk. The down-side to this is that pods are a bit more expensive than grinding your own. Aabree Coffee (from whence I bought my Maestro+) sells 2 boxes of Illy pods for $27. 750ml Monin Chocolate Syrup for $15. Add shipping, so closer to $45-50? Each box = 18 pods, and 2 boxes per order, so 36/27 = $1.33 per shot. Assuming 1 tsp of syrup per shot, so 5ml per shot... 750ml per bottle, carry the 3, account for tailwind, and it's $0.10. Let's pretend milk is free for the purposes of this exercise. oh, ok... let's not. 128oz (1 gallon) for $2.50... figure about 4oz per serving, so 32 servings... $0.07 per serving.

Total cost of ingredients, per serving: $1.50

You could get your foot in the door with a LeLit PL041 or a Gaggia Baby for around $400, both of which would be able to do pod-work, but also provide the flexibility of opening the door to real espresso.

According to the OP, her pride 'n joy is 3, so this means walking, talking, demanding, spilling, getting underfoot, and all the other joys of parenthood.

For everyone else reading this thread, I offer this mental exercise: Imagine trying to go through your normal espresso routine with the above-mentioned young child at your ankles because you're the single parent.

I can understand and empathize with why you would want 5x/day ;).

-s.
Your dog wants espresso.
LMWDP #288