happycat wrote:Machine? Why does everyone get so caught up on the machine?
Right! As we say in the blues, it ain't what you play - its how you play it. You can make great espresso on an infinite number of machines. No matter what you buy for your first machine, you'll go through periods of doubt and wish many times that you'd gotten something else. If you can start with an 800 or a Decent, you're way ahead of the game - either is a great machine that's far more capable of making great espresso than are most of us. So get the one that appeals to you aesthetically, functionally, and viscerally - it has to feel right to you. If you can't make the choice that way, flip a coin because which one you get won't matter at all until you gain enough experience to know what goes into the shot you want.
Djeayzonne wrote:I would love the experts to take a look at some the photos and tell me what I need and how to do this!
i'm not an expert, even after 6 decades of making and drinking espresso. My sister is 7 years older than me and got me started on it when she went to college in New York in 1957 (when coffee shops had manual machines and the e61 was still a gleam in Ernesto Valente's eye). But I know enough to tell you that what you need is lots of knowledge and years of experience. You can't buy what you need - you have to earn it. The equipment is just a tool to help you use what you know. And the faulty carpenter blames his or her tools.
Djeayzonne wrote:I like the idea of a more manual, involved experience.
Then you might consider starting with a La Pavoni Europiccola at far less cost. It's a great little machine - you can make wonderful espresso with it, and it will give you the manual experience while letting you learn quickly how grind, pressure, time, temperature etc affect what's in your cup. If you master it and want to move up to an 800, you can always sell it for close to what you paid for it.
No matter what you get, do not obsess if your first shot isn't fabulous - it will take you pounds of beans, gallons of water, and months of patience to produce a good shot consistently. Getting it even close to good at the beginning is a combination of pure luck and random chance. Sadly, the few who achieve such fortune think it means they know more than they do, which hampers their learning. Your first shots will probably be so far from what you want that you'll get depressed unless you print this post, put it on your refrigerator door, and read it every day