Shortlist of first 'proper' espresso machines - Page 2

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

#11: Post by ziobeege_72 »

Jason's commentary and checklist is exactly the sort of questions that need to be asked & understood before any espresso kit recommendations can be given. Also, the universal view of grinder importance ranking at least equal to the espresso machine is absolutely true. Have learnt the hard way myself here.

Given that you are based in the UK like me hopefully means that some local knowledge might be useful here. I'd say your coffee usage is low (nothing wrong with that - quality over quantity :) ), and given your budget range, you are realistically looking at a single boiler, dual use machine which should be able to handle your needs with reasonable comfort - brand new.

You have mentioned the Silvia. It has it is knockers and detractors but it also has a legion of fans and there is much material out there for you to learn and benchmark from. It can produce excellent shots and can steam brilliantly once you get the hang of it. It is well made, good capacity and has established a track record. My brother in law has one, has similar needs as yours, and loves it. I have used it a number of times and it does what it does well. Is it fully priced? At £389 from, for eg, I think it is, but not overpriced.

Other alternative machines in this class that are readily available here include the Gaggia Classic. Also has plenty of fans. It is smaller than the Silvia in terms of boiler capacity which means faster warm up but also less steaming capacity. But it is also £100 cheaper and would cover your steam needs I would have thought.

HB members in the US frequently mention Lelit machines as very good, alternative machines to the above with good results, but they hard to source in Europe and the UK, even though they originate in Europe. I dont know of a supplier who sells them here, almost as if Lelit are are concentrating on the North American market only.

Other machines in this class that are generally available include the Ascaso Arc (not impressed with the Ascaso range of machines - overpriced and underspec'd) and La Pavoni pump machines (lower quality and much less known than either the Silvia or the Gaggia Classic pump machines IMO).

But you will also see La Pavoni manual lever machines within your price range as you search. These sort of machines I love and is what made La Pavoni famous in espresso circles, but if you are producing latte style drinks only, then I dont think I could recommend these as practical options for you. They are at their best in a producing 1 or 2 espressi only, without milk.

For grinders, the Mahlkonhig Vario instantly springs to mind, coming in at over £300 at That would be my grinder of choice - loads of info on this. Other viable options are the Rancilio Rocky, the Mignon, Iberital IC2, Gaggia MDF or La Pavoni Jolly - but given the well reported abilities of the Vario it stands out as exceptional. Alternatively, a high quality hand grinder such as the Porlex, Kyocera or a restored vintage one from could be viable. Their grinding ability can be excellent and very cost efficient, although very slow (takes about 100 to 150 'turns' to grind 14 grams for eg). But given your volume requirements this may be viable.

Dont forget you will need accessories like a tamper (dont go overboard here) and a steaming jug.

UK retailers I would suggest you try include;, or for your equipment. I have used them all and they have been reliable. You might be able to negotiate. No harm in trying. Of course you can chance your arm on higher end used HX or double boiler machines via ebay, but perhaps this could a future step up in your espresso journey and not appropriate for you now.

Good quality coffee can be obtained from; or

Good luck!

scotchio (original poster)

#12: Post by scotchio (original poster) »

A big thanks to Jason and ziobeege for your time and extensive replies, I can see I have made classic newbie mistakes.

From what you have both said I think I'm going to go for a better grinder and a slightly cheaper machine, which I will in time probably upgrade, but should suffice for a few years at least.

On a slightly different topic does anyone get their beans from the Algerian Coffee Stores on Old Compton St. in Soho, I've not heard anyone talk of it and I think it's fantastic, am I missing something?

scotchio (original poster)

#13: Post by scotchio (original poster) »

To offset the extra expense of the Vario grinder I'm looking at secondhand espresso machines. On ebay and gumtree and it seems there are a few Classics and Silvias around, I'm assuming that it's better to buy a secondhand machine than a secondhand grinder.

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#14: Post by EricC »

scotchio wrote:I'm assuming that it's better to buy a secondhand machine than a secondhand grinder.
Other way around.

With a second hand machine you do not know how well it has been looked after.

Has it been run with hard water?
If it has, has it been descaled?
Has it been maintained properly?
Has it been cleaned regularly?

It is far easier to clean a grinder and replace worn burrs as opposed to descaling a machine correctly. Of course if you know the full history of the machine, and it has been run only with softened water then this should not be a problem. Also be prepared to work on the machine yourself as it could need a new group head gasket. See if you can see it up and running before buying.


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#15: Post by HB »

scotchio wrote:On a slightly different topic does anyone get their beans from the Algerian Coffee Stores on Old Compton St. in Soho, I've not heard anyone talk of it and I think it's fantastic, am I missing something?
Follow-on discussion split to Algerian Coffee Stores in London.
Dan Kehn