Shortlist of first 'proper' espresso machines

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

#1: Post by scotchio »

I'm looking to buy my first good quality semi-auto machine
I currently have an aging Kenwood Retro :oops: which is quickly falling apart. I've got a taste for coffee now and want to take the next step up.

I really don't want to spend more than £400 on the espresso machine itself. My wife will probably use it most, at least once a day if not twice but it will be used much more at the weekends. My wife and I both like Lattes and so need a machine that can steam milk well. Not looking for anything that's plumbed in or needs to be left on 24hrs a day.

I was considering the Rancilio Silvia, as there is so many articles on it, but I hear getting good microfoam is quite difficult.

I'm a bit overwhelmed by the choice and so looking for a shortlist to investigate further.
Hope you can help

Scott

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Randy G.

#2: Post by Randy G. »

scotchio wrote:...I was considering the Rancilio Silvia, as there is so many articles on it, but I hear getting good microfoam is quite difficult.
The Silvia is known for its excellent steaming ability. Difficulty getting good microfoam with Silvia comes from either the use of low-quality milk, lack of knowledge, skill, or experiences on the part of the user.
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zin1953

#3: Post by zin1953 »

Grinder?
A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.

scotchio (original poster)

#4: Post by scotchio (original poster) »

Hadn't got to the grinder yet, wanted to shortlist the Espresso machines first
Thanks
S

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RapidCoffee
Team HB

#5: Post by RapidCoffee »

Jason is right on target. Selecting an espresso machine with no thought for the grinder is a typical newbie mistake. There are plenty of other coffee sites where you can get bad equipment advice, but hopefully H-B is not one of them.

Here is a good starting point for your research. (Notice that this guide also starts with the grinder.)
John

klemenv

#6: Post by klemenv »

300 pounds for grinder, what is left for mypressi.

I spend 200 Euros on grinder and instead of a single espresso I am getting either 80ml soup or 15ml super ristretto. Oh and I have second grinder on the way.

zin1953

#7: Post by zin1953 »

scotchio wrote:Hadn't got to the grinder yet, wanted to shortlist the Espresso machines first
Scott, while this seems quite logical to relative neophytes -- e.g.: you pick the car first, colour second -- in fact it's quite the opposite with espresso.

The "Four M's of Espresso" detail the four key factors necessary for top-quality espresso:
  • the Macinazione is the grinder, and the correct grinding of a coffee blend;
  • the Macchina is the espresso machine itself;
  • the Miscela is the precise coffee blend (be it, in fact, a blend of beans or a bean of single origin);
  • and, the Mano is the skilled hand of the barista.
To paraphrase George Orwell's "Animal Farm," all M's are equal but some are more equal than others. Ultimately it is up to you, as the person making the drinks, to make a good one, but it is often said that it's the grinder that makes the espresso; the machine itself just delivers hot water.

Now then, there are typically some standard questions asked of people seeking equipment advice, some you've already answered, but if you'll permit me . . .

1) What sort of drinks do you and your wife like/make? ("My wife and I both like Lattes and so need a machine that can steam milk well.")

2) How many drinks will you need to make at any one time, on average? ("My wife will probably use it most, at least once a day if not twice but it will be used much more at the weekends." Does this mean she might have a latte on a weekday morning, but you wouldn't? Count number of drinks, not times the machine is used.)

3) How many drinks will you make, approximately, during any given week -- again, on average?

4) What is your total budget ("£400"), and does that include a grinder? If not, what is your budget for a grinder?

You've answered #1, but if you could be more specific on the other three, it would be quite helpful. Further, it's a good idea to spend as much as you can on the grinder, while still getting an adequate machine, then getting a great machine and pairing it with a mediocre grinder.

Cheers,
Jason
A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.

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scotchio (original poster)

#8: Post by scotchio (original poster) »

Thanks Jason, sage advice indeed.
Firstly the espresso machine is likely to be used to make 1 or 2 coffees per weekday These will be made one at a time with a few hours between each one. Over the weekend it will make 4 to 6 these will be made 2 at a time, one straight after another. So an average of about 14 per week.

I would say my max budget on machine and grinder would be between 500-600 GBP

hope this sheds a little more light on my situation
Scott

zin1953

#9: Post by zin1953 »

Some ideas . . .

Machine:
-- Gaggia Classic (£262)
-- Rancilio Silvia v3 (£369)

Grinders:
-- Gaggia MDF (£179)
-- Rancilio Rocky (w/doser) (£236)
-- Rancilio Rocky (doserless) (£215)
-- Mahlkönig Vario Home (£305.95)

Now, keep in mind that I am somewhat handicapped here, in that I do not know all the vendors in the UK or across the Channel from which you could purchase your equipment. Any of these machines and grinders will work fine for you, BUT be aware that a) your espresso consumption will increase as your quality improves, and b) the Mahlkönig Vario Home (aka Baratza Vario in North America) is a significantly better grinder than the rest. It may be overkill for 1-2 drinks a day, but it's the only one in the Premier League -- the rest have been relegated, never to return. The Vario will handle virtually any upgrade you could ever contemplate. In other words, personally, I'd rather have the Gaggia and the Vario than the Silvia and a lesser grinder.

YMMV.

Cheers,
Jason
A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.

klemenv

#10: Post by klemenv »

That is a good price for Vario. If I would buy again, I would be buying Vario.