Recommendations for used semi-automatic espresso machine, budget $1500

Recommendations for espresso equipment buyers and upgraders.
MLJ132
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Joined: September 22nd, 2016

Postby MLJ132 » Sep 25, 2016, 5:45 pm

Hello:

I'm new to the forums here and generally new to the world of espresso (though I've enjoyed my local cafe's lattes for years). I've got a background in making good-quality drip and pour-over coffee (Chemex and Technivorm) at home with fresh-ground, locally-roasted beans. However, I've been bitten by the espresso bug and I want to learn the art.

Looking at my current drip setup, I realized my grinder was totally inadequate for the purpose so the first thing I did was to seek out and, fortunately, score a pretty good deal on a Mazzer Super Jolly Timer. I'm picking that up this week.

Thus, I think I have the grinder component of my espresso setup taken care of (at least for now) and I've got several sources for a range of high-quality beans in my immediate area. The only missing component is an espresso machine, which leads me to my question:

With a budget of $1500, what used semi-automatic espresso machine would you recommend? I'm definitely going to be making predominately milk-based drinks, so it needs to be a great steaming tool as well as capable of pulling a great shot (within the capacity of the operator, of course).

I want to maximize value for my dollar, so I'm limiting myself to used machines. Any and all recommendations would be welcome.

Thanks and all the best!

Michael

Nunas
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Postby Nunas » Sep 25, 2016, 6:34 pm

Frankly, unless you happen to know the seller and his machine, I suggest you go new. This way you get a warranty, and often the right to try and return for refund or return for an upgrade. Also, the major suppliers always have sales and open box specials; so you should do just fine on a new machine, albeit with a paucity of choice with your budget.

Your budget places you at the mid to high end of single boiler/single boiler-thermobolck market, at very lower end of the HX market, and well out of the double boiler market. At your price point it might be tempting to go for a single boiler/thermoblock machine with all the bells and whistles. Having been there repeatedly I suggest simplicity is better. So I suggest an HX. In any case, all HX machines work very well.

HX machines are all more or less the same in principle, but different in execution. One major difference is in PID vs non-PID; I thought I wanted a PID, but my current machine has no PID. Another is the group; you'll find fans of both the ubiquitous e61 and proprietary groups. Honestly, I don't think it really matters, as at your price point you won't have a great deal of choice.

I have a Magister Stella, which is a good example of what one can get at the low end of the HX market. I noticed a new seller on Amazon flogging "used-like new-full warranty" (demo units I wonder?) in the $500 to $700 range. New, they run about $1600 from commercial equipment suppliers, as they are rated for commercial use. I think Parts Guru http://www.shop.partsguru.com/main.sc is the US distributor.

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Compass Coffee
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Postby Compass Coffee » Sep 26, 2016, 1:00 am

In the Buy/Sell forum here there's an excellent double boiler machine for your budget: [AD] La Spaziale S1 Vivaldi - $950
Mike McGinness, Head Bean (Owner/Roast Master)
http://www.CompassCoffeeRoasting.com

poison
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Postby poison » Sep 26, 2016, 12:34 pm

My Astra pro has a 2.6l stainless boiler, which makes extremely short work of any steaming needs. I mean any. Want to steam a gallon of milk? Go right ahead. It takes around 10sec to microfroth 6oz. They're $1050 new.

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Postby Compass Coffee » Sep 26, 2016, 10:35 pm

And the Spaz has a 2.5l steam boiler plus dedicated brew boiler = much easier shot temp management than HX combined with powerful steaming.
Mike McGinness, Head Bean (Owner/Roast Master)
http://www.CompassCoffeeRoasting.com

poison
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Postby poison » Sep 26, 2016, 11:42 pm

The Spaz has a 1.2l steam boiler, I'm pretty sure. It's a nice machine, but if milk drinks are key, the astra will way outperform it, unless there's some upgrade I'm not aware of. If someone drinks mostly espresso, the Spaz would be awesome.

Edit: I see it, it's 2.5l. That's a hell of an upgrade, and a compelling package.

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Postby Compass Coffee » replying to poison » Sep 27, 2016, 12:50 am

Yeah the Spaz "Mini" has the smaller 1.2l steam boiler the other Spaz prosumers have the big boy steam boiler...
Mike McGinness, Head Bean (Owner/Roast Master)
http://www.CompassCoffeeRoasting.com

kathiefitzpatrick
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Postby kathiefitzpatrick » Sep 27, 2016, 1:06 am

9-26-16

Hello there . . . I read your post about looking for a good used semi-automatic machine. I would shop Amazon for a "certified refurbished" espresso machine. I have often seen "Jura refurbished," but I'm sure they come in other models and brands. You definitely save a few hundred dollars. However, since you have $1500 I would definitely consider new. If I were you I would consider the Rancilio Silvia semi-automatic with the burr grinder that goes with it. There is a combo set where you buy both together for $1265.00 You might be better off considering that buy!--Kathie