Should I bother with an espresso machine? - Page 2

Recommendations for buyers and upgraders from the site's members.
JoesCup (original poster)

#11: Post by JoesCup (original poster) »

RapidCoffee wrote: I'd rather have a good cup of Aeropress/French press/drip/vac pot/whatever than a poor espresso.
That is my point...
RapidCoffee wrote: Every day, my friend, every day.
And that provides the hope I need. Should I splurge on a big e61 machine? or get an SL-70?
Army Strong

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#12: Post by mgwolf »

How much money do you have to play with. The Solis is a very nice machine and will give you very good espresso. If you are coming from a point where you're not sure you'll like espresso, then I wouldnt spring on an expensive machine without testing the waters. You'll probably find out that you like what you make on your Solis and in 6 months or a year will be itching for a bigger machine. So with that in mind, get a machine you could get good resale for (ie a name brand) so you won't take too much of a beating when you upgrade. And don't forget a good grinder. Michael

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#13: Post by RapidCoffee »

JoesCup wrote:Should I splurge on a big e61 machine? or get an SL-70?
To some extent, allow me to echo Michael's thoughts. I gather from your first post that you have a Gaggia espresso machine. The Solis is the same class of espresso machine (single boiler, dual temperature), and is more of a lateral move than a major upgrade. Based only on the info in this thread, I would not recommend it for you.

Since you enjoy milk-based espresso drinks (cappuccinos, lattes, mochas), you will probably be happier with a heat exchanger, which allows you to brew and steam without waiting for a boiler to change temperature. HX machines start at ~$750; the more forgiving E61 brew group brings the price up to ~$1000.

More importantly, good espresso depends more on the grinder than the espresso machine. Without a decent grinder, an espresso machine upgrade will yield minimal benefits. Be prepared to invest at least $150-$200 for a good grinder ($400 gets you into really good grinders).

For better or worse, espresso makes greater demands on the equipment than any other coffee brewing method. This is reflected in the equipment cost. Only you can decide whether this kind of investment is worthwhile. If you need help justifying the cost, many of the site members are world-class rationalizers ("wow, I saved over $1000 at *$ in the first six months alone!"). :lol:

Excellent low-priced brewing alternatives include French press and Aeropress (but these do not make espresso). And regardless of the brewing method, you will need a good grinder!

Good luck with your choice.


#14: Post by Cathi »

While the Solis is similar to the Gaggia in many ways, there is one very big difference (for me): steaming power. If you are going to be making more than one milk based drink at a time, you will really appreciate the difference between the Solis and the Gaggia (I have experience with both). The difference is night and day. I was able to pick up a refurbed Solis on Fleabay. They come and go, so watch for awhile. The Gaggia will be going to hubby's office and the Solis will be our back up machine and go on vacation with us. A Solis should keep you happy for long enough to decide if you really want to drop the big bucks for an HX machine or beyond.

That being said, I find my HX to be the easiest, fastest and most forgiving to use.

I will echo what the others have said about the importance of a REALLY GOOD grinder. It is gospel. Don't waste your time with anything less than a Rocky (I've not used) or a Cunill Tranquilo (I have). Tim posted a link to some Super Jolly's that look like a great deal (if you've got the space), which can be had for less than the price of either unit if purchased new. An excellent grinder will make a difference regardless of what you are using (be it Drip, FP, Aeropress or Espresso).

All of these folks have way more knowledge than I do, but I've tried to give you the benefit of my experience (limited as it is, but similar to where you are coming from).


#15: Post by Beezer »

Your Gaggia should be capable of producing good shots, assuming you're using fresh beans, a good grinder, and good dosing/distribution/tamping technique. Before you think about upgrading your machine, maybe you need to look at other variables. What kind of grinder are you using? Are you using fresh coffee and grinding, dosing, and tamping correctly? People often blame their machine, when maybe they just need a good grinder, or fresh coffee, or better technique. I'm not saying that your technique is bad, but without more information it's hard to say where the problem lies.


JoesCup (original poster)

#16: Post by JoesCup (original poster) »

The problem I had with the Gaggia is it seemed too cludgy to me, plus I didn't care for the plastic construction. I'm sure I could turn good shots with one that works, but I just kind of got fed up with it.
My beans were a few day old intelligentsia via my cunill tranquilo. Anyone have the link for the cheapo mazzers? I missed it. Would it really be worth upgrading my tranquilo to one? So far the tranquilo has been doing a decent job of grinding, especially when using WDT to cut down on spillage :)

I grew up in Seattle. I had Cafe Darte, Vivace, Peet's, and a bunch of other great coffee places. Here there is nothing. Literally nothing. Except one of those "push here for latte" machines. I know I love coffee. I love espressos. I love clover coffee. But like RapidCoffee says, I would rather drink a really good cup of brew than some tainted espresso. And yes: the solis beats the gaggia for me based on steaming abilities, at least I could use it to steam milk for aerobrew without having to surf the boiler. I've pretty much decided that for my money, I'd like an E61 HX machine. Buy it once and be done.

I just can't decide between (yes...clones) an Expobar or an Astra. I don't have huge amounts of funds, and these appear on the used market from time to time for decent money. Right now I am waiting for espressoparts to finally ship my order with my aeropress....

It's not that my time is super valuable because I am a hotshot. I am just very over scheduled and don't have time to "milk" an espresso from a machine. I am willing to pay for quality, but I don't have thousands to spend :)
Army Strong


#17: Post by Cathi »

Not sure if they're still available, but it's on Tim's recent thread about grinder upgrades. I tried to cut and paste it but it didn't work (I'm a dork).


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#18: Post by HB »

Dan Kehn

JoesCup (original poster)

#19: Post by JoesCup (original poster) »

A bit of follow up... my Aeropress arrived. Just in time for me to head home for Seattle. The Aeropress has given better quality than all of the coffee shops I have visited on the east coast, except for Grumpy. Luckily, now I get to reset my memories of good espresso with a tour of Seattle's finest shops :)

Note: I'm not saying the aeropress is better "espresso" I am saying it is better "quality" in that it tastes better than the charcoal water "espresso" I have been served in many places around here.
Army Strong