Should I buy an espresso machine?

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

#1: Post by fiu-bździu »

I registered because I saw a pretty fresh thread that touched on a topic that I've had on my mind for a while.
The thread is "But I don't want to become a barista" .
Unfortunately, here it's considered too old to be continued, so I'm starting another.

My story is...
2 years ago, while visiting Italy I fell in love with cappuccino.
After I returned home, I would use the coffee machine at my office to make myself 3-5 coffees a day. Actually a bit too much for my cardiac system, I had to limit myself. Naturally the coffee was nowhere near the original but I liked it anyway.

Then covid came and I got locked out of office. I didn't have a coffee machine and hardly ever had an occasion to taste coffee. My wife would drink filter coffee almost daily but for me that's meh.

After a year of working remotely I decided to get myself a coffee machine. I really enjoyed the coffee made by my sister in law's bean to cup machine, it was so much better than what other machines that I accessed made and I seriously considered just copying her setup but after some reading I decided to do it differently. I chose to go with Melitta mostly because it has 2 bean hoppers, so I could have both regular and decaf coffee in there. It came at the end of April.

I tweaked and tuned it to my liking and after a month of having it I visited the sister in law and tried her cappuccino again. It was undrinkable. The coffee itself was so watery. Reversed order of ingredients diluted it further. Meh. Later I tweaked her machine's settings, supplied my own coffee, water, milk. I split the recipe so I would first press "espresso" and then "milk"....it was way better, though still not as good as what I have at home.

But anyway....I feel there's still quite a lot of room of improvement when it comes to the quality of my coffee. But not with this machine. I still can tweak the machine better and from time to time I'm playing with settings just to understand their effect better - but any improvement I can make with it seems small.
After just 2 months there is no way my wife is going to accept me buying another coffee machine. Unless I sell this one which I may attempt. But I'm not sure if I should.

There are 2 things about it:
* is this going to work well for me?
* will the machine work for my wife as well?

I read that home espresso is for someone looking for a hobby. Am I looking for a hobby? I think I am.
But I know myself well enough to know that there are some things in this hobby that I will enjoy:
* having good coffee
* serving my wife good coffee
* serving my guests good coffee
* learning about coffee
* (to lesser extent) playing with how I make coffee to get the best results

There is another thing that I enjoy with my current machine and I would like to compromise as little as possible:
* to have a decent coffee in the morning with minimal fuss

This requirement is actually well aligned with my wife's needs. She doesn't want to be a barista.
It took a while to make her learn how to make coffee with Melitta. She is just not willing to learn this kind of things. Anything new and much more complex than that is not going to work for her.

There are also things in this hobby I know I won't enjoy:
* any manual work that can be automated with decent results for a reasonable price

While reading around I noticed Breville Oracle. In many ways it seems perfect for me:
* probably easy enough for my wife
* not as fuss-free as my current machine but maybe close enough
* enables easy entry to the hobby. Once I dial in the grind and dosing, my results should be quite good already. Then I can learn how to pour the milk. I may learn to texture it if I please as well. I can learn extraction details a little better than with the current machine, though not close to what Decent offers.
I read that puck prep can be done better though and I can't learn that with Oracle. Which seems silly - why wouldn't Breville allow to use the grinder without tamping? Seems like easy software tweak that would enable coffee adepts to learn one more skill.

It does have issues though:
* no way to use it with 2 different coffees unless I buy a separate grinder and tamper. I need my decaf and would welcome being able to experiment with other coffees.
* I read that the grind quality is not top notch
* I read that there are quite a few grinder failures

I looked for alternatives. I found 2 standalone grinders with integrated dosing and tamping:
* La Marzocco Swift Mini
* La Marzocco Swift

The price of Swift Mini is ouch. The price of Switf is OUCH, way out of my range.
I would seriously consider Swift Mini, but I really hate that at this price level it is unsuitable for single dosing.

Fully automated milk steaming of top quality is hard to get as well...at least if we exclude frothers that I've seen as not recommended.
Outside of Breville I've seen it only in super-automatics.
And not every Breville has it. If I'm not mistaken it's only available in:
* Oracle Touch
* Oracle
* Barista Touch
* Bambino Plus

Am I missing something?

So with my requirements:
* 1 step dosing, grinding and tamping
* hands free milk steaming
* ability to switch coffees (but I can compromise a bit on ease of use here)

I see the following options:
* Oracle or Oracle touch with a SD grinder, tamper, weight
* Barista Touch with La Marzocco Swift Mini (my regular beans are in Swift Mini, decaf in Barista Touch)
* Bambino Plus with La Marzocco Swift Mini, SD grinder, weight, non-pressurized basket

I mention the last option because I've seen it mentioned in the HB thread I mentioned already. But I would think that 54 mm portafilter wouldn't work with Swift Mini tamper. Am I wrong about it?


To sum up....
I already talked myself into thinking there are some espresso setups that I would love to replace my Melitta with. But I'm not sure if that's actually worthwhile:
* The cost is high. All 3 setups are close to $3000 at minimum.
* Considering the above I worry about failure reports.
* There will be an increase in manual labor. How much extra time will I spend?
* Is the improvement going to be all that high?

Any thoughts or suggestions?

Dapuma

#2: Post by Dapuma »

You could do a grinder and puqpress

that is what I was considering and then i learned of the Swift mini (which is ugly) however it does the same thing as the other two combined into one unit.

I havent done enough research to see the pros and cons of two units

My guy is that two separate purpose built units will do it better than an all in one, however I dont have any actual data on that

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Randy G.

#3: Post by Randy G. »

It is a slippery slide down a long razor blade! :shock:

Been there, done that (check out my website for all the caffeinated details of my 20 year journey).. Started thinking around $500 for an espresso machine and grinder should be fine. Ended up spending about $1000 for my first setup two decades ago. Now have a dedicated home coffee bar setup with equipment which retails for over $7000 all told (not including my 1lb. capacity gas coffee roaster). As I have stated in other threads here, that is double for what I paid for my used car that I bought about 9 years ago. Not saying you are heading there, but..

Let me begin by saying that you can blend decaf and regular coffee beans before grinding to limit your intake of caffeine and still enjoy the number of cups of coffee you like each day.

I am reading a number of things into your post that make me wonder whether a good superauto (one button push for coffee) would work for you and your wife. I know that Seattle Coffee Gear has a lot of videos reviewing those sorts of machines in detail so you may want to look at those to begin deciding whether something like that might work for you. I have no personal experience with these, but for a hands-on approach, the Breville BES920 Dual Boiler and BCG820 Smart Grinder Pro sell as a pair for about $1600. Well within your budget and a capable package, particularly as a 'starter.' If you are concerned about dependability, check for a credit card that offers an extended warranty (if that still exists).
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User avatar
BB Huell

#4: Post by BB Huell »

Over 10 years ago I was in a similar situation; went to Italy, fell in love with cappuccinos and wanted them at home. After an excessive amount of research I took the plunge. La Spaziale Vivaldi II double boiler espresso machine (LS VII) and a Mazzer Mini. Fast forward to today and my LS VII is still working perfectly. I have changed grinders several times (Mazzer Mini - doser, Mazzer Super Jolly - doser and doserless and Baratza Sette 270) and now use a Baratza Sette 270. I have made over 6,000 cappuccinos since and am still in love with them. I try different coffees regularly but have several favorites. My cappuccinos taste better than most of the coffee shops I visit in Montana and elsewhere and rarely bested.

So, with that said, I think you should take the plunge. I love my cappuccinos, I love the routine, and I love the ability to have a cappuccino whenever I want at home.

My other advice is to trust your research and buy what equipment you think will work for you. There are so many great machines and grinders out there to choose from.

Best wishes.

Todd

Easton

#5: Post by Easton »

Usually when I reply to questions on this forum I will say to get something like a Cafelat robot or something of that nature but since you need something that is kinda of bean-to-cup with a couple simple steps let me put an option out there that you will proably like. How I understand it is you don't want to take 1 hour in the morning dialing in and pulling 10 shots and tasting all of them and then repeating with decaf but you still want a great tasting cup of coffee that is rich and is what you had when you traveled. But your wife is more of a one-click and done. If I am right on this perfect if not you might not like my suggestion. You and your wife will both have to compromise in this but overall you will be getting the best cup of coffee you can.

With what you said you would like to stay under around $3000 so I will put in price of each item.

Grinder: So you will need a single dose grinder because you like to switch between different coffees frequently. For the grinder I would recommend purchasing a Eureka Mignon Specialita it is $700 and here's the link https://www.seattlecoffeegear.com/shop- ... so-grinder

Machine: Breville Dual Boiler used on the Buy/Sell forum. I would recommend this because it is gonna give you good feature such as dual boiler and 58mm portafilter which is a very good pro for a home machine! it is $950 and here's the link [FS] Breville Dual Boiler BES920XL

So then here is the accessories:
Puq Press: on sale for $790 https://majestycoffee.com/products/puqp ... 3UQAvD_BwE

Air tight containers for espresso beans: for this I would look at the Fellow Air Tight Bean container and remember you will need two! around 75 bucks for both.

so that is I think the best you could get for your money and all added up that is around $2500 and that is really a good price for what you are getting. best of luck and please reply and tell me what you end up going with thanks-easton

fiu-bździu (original poster)

#6: Post by fiu-bździu (original poster) »

Dapuma wrote:You could do a grinder and puqpress

that is what I was considering and then i learned of the Swift mini (which is ugly) however it does the same thing as the other two combined into one unit.

I havent done enough research to see the pros and cons of two units

My guy is that two separate purpose built units will do it better than an all in one, however I dont have any actual data on that
I've seen this and if I understand correctly, these tampers don't do any puck grooming. So instead of 1 step from empty portafilter to a ready for brewing you have 3:
* grind
* level
* tamp

I do think that these tampers are going to be much better than a beginner barista but they probably won't be actually much faster than manual tamp. For me - I don't think it's worthwhile.
Randy G. wrote:It is a slippery slide down a long razor blade! :shock:

Been there, done that (check out my website for all the caffeinated details of my 20 year journey).. Started thinking around $500 for an espresso machine and grinder should be fine. Ended up spending about $1000 for my first setup two decades ago. Now have a dedicated home coffee bar setup with equipment which retails for over $7000 all told (not including my 1lb. capacity gas coffee roaster). As I have stated in other threads here, that is double for what I paid for my used car that I bought about 9 years ago. Not saying you are heading there, but..
I know what you mean. I got a hobby that started very cheap but later...was not so much. Still, I don't think I've spent a total of $3000 on it over the course of 5 years and now I'm considering it after 2 months :lol:
I've done calculations of how many coffees at cafes would I have to avoid to break even. I guess the answer is known around here - I won't ever break even. But the coffee will be much more available. And likely good once I learn it. And...my.
Randy G. wrote:Let me begin by saying that you can blend decaf and regular coffee beans before grinding to limit your intake of caffeine and still enjoy the number of cups of coffee you like each day.
That's an interesting idea. It won't work for me too well because now I learned that caffeine control is better than limitation - I want caffeine in the morning. And I want nearly zero of it in the evening. I enjoyed a cappuccino in the evening quite a few times already and a mix just wouldn't allow me that.
Randy G. wrote:I am reading a number of things into your post that make me wonder whether a good superauto (one button push for coffee) would work for you and your wife. I know that Seattle Coffee Gear has a lot of videos reviewing those sorts of machines in detail so you may want to look at those to begin deciding whether something like that might work for you. I have no personal experience with these, but for a hands-on approach, the Breville BES920 Dual Boiler and BCG820 Smart Grinder Pro sell as a pair for about $1600. Well within your budget and a capable package, particularly as a 'starter.' If you are concerned about dependability, check for a credit card that offers an extended warranty (if that still exists).
I've read many reviews of super-autos before settling at this one. Judging by these reviews and experience with the machine of my sister in low (her machine was significantly costlier) I believe I got a really good stuff. And I'm absolutely positive that nothing with 2 hoppers at that price point would be able to compete (because there are so few options like that). Back then I limited my budget to what I thought was right. Upping that to include commercial machines might give a significant room for improvement. I haven't researched that and I think I should. Out of curiosity I learned a bit about Eversys machines which are way out of my budget....I would love to have one....but at the same time I feel underwhelmed. There are quite a few areas where they could improve... Though I do view the path of upgrading to a beter super-automatic as a risky. With a better machine I will be just as limited as with a current one and may be tempted to switch again....which is going to be costly.
BB Huell wrote:Over 10 years ago I was in a similar situation; went to Italy, fell in love with cappuccinos and wanted them at home. After an excessive amount of research I took the plunge. La Spaziale Vivaldi II double boiler espresso machine (LS VII) and a Mazzer Mini. Fast forward to today and my LS VII is still working perfectly. I have changed grinders several times (Mazzer Mini - doser, Mazzer Super Jolly - doser and doserless and Baratza Sette 270) and now use a Baratza Sette 270. I have made over 6,000 cappuccinos since and am still in love with them. I try different coffees regularly but have several favorites. My cappuccinos taste better than most of the coffee shops I visit in Montana and elsewhere and rarely bested.

So, with that said, I think you should take the plunge. I love my cappuccinos, I love the routine, and I love the ability to have a cappuccino whenever I want at home.

My other advice is to trust your research and buy what equipment you think will work for you. There are so many great machines and grinders out there to choose from.

Best wishes.

Todd
Thanks for sharing. You're tempting.... :)

fiu-bździu (original poster)

#7: Post by fiu-bździu (original poster) »

Easton wrote:Usually when I reply to questions on this forum I will say to get something like a Cafelat robot or something of that nature but since you need something that is kinda of bean-to-cup with a couple simple steps let me put an option out there that you will proably like. How I understand it is you don't want to take 1 hour in the morning dialing in and pulling 10 shots and tasting all of them and then repeating with decaf but you still want a great tasting cup of coffee that is rich and is what you had when you traveled. But your wife is more of a one-click and done. If I am right on this perfect if not you might not like my suggestion. You and your wife will both have to compromise in this but overall you will be getting the best cup of coffee you can.

With what you said you would like to stay under around $3000 so I will put in price of each item.

Grinder: So you will need a single dose grinder because you like to switch between different coffees frequently. For the grinder I would recommend purchasing a Eureka Mignon Specialita it is $700 and here's the link https://www.seattlecoffeegear.com/shop- ... so-grinder

Machine: Breville Dual Boiler used on the Buy/Sell forum. I would recommend this because it is gonna give you good feature such as dual boiler and 58mm portafilter which is a very good pro for a home machine! it is $950 and here's the link [FS] Breville Dual Boiler BES920XL

So then here is the accessories:
Puq Press: on sale for $790 https://majestycoffee.com/products/puqp ... 3UQAvD_BwE

Air tight containers for espresso beans: for this I would look at the Fellow Air Tight Bean container and remember you will need two! around 75 bucks for both.

so that is I think the best you could get for your money and all added up that is around $2500 and that is really a good price for what you are getting. best of luck and please reply and tell me what you end up going with thanks-easton
Thanks for the suggestion.
I considered BDB as well but I'm afraid that this is still a bit too effortful for my wife to accept, even if I prepared the doses for her. TBH I'm not sure, I did not talk to her about it yet (I'm afraid to) but first I need to make my mind as to where I want to go....and I know I won't enjoy weighting each dose. A bean counter would come handy for that....but that's quite a few extra bucks.

As to reporting where will I go...I surely will. :)
But it's not something that's going to happen soon. I'm one of those types who tend to over-analyze every significant purchase and what's worse - this time I actually enjoy the search.

fiu-bździu (original poster)

#8: Post by fiu-bździu (original poster) »

Randy G. wrote:If you are concerned about dependability, check for a credit card that offers an extended warranty (if that still exists).
I had to look that up, I don't think this kind of cards is available in my country (Poland). Interesting idea overall, I guess it's a kind of insurance. I could buy this kind of insurance with the machine. Might be a good idea.

Dapuma

#9: Post by Dapuma »

I have a similar concern that if it isnt easy enough, she will never use it on her own. Tamping does take some skill, so if that variable can be eliminated and there can be a cool gadget that makes it neat to see the result of...win win.

I dont think you have to groom the pick with the Puq Press. From every video i saw it was stamp and done. There is a double stamp option that seems the best. For $1000 it should be perfect every time all the time.

fiu-bździu (original poster)

#10: Post by fiu-bździu (original poster) replying to Dapuma »

I've seen only 2 videos of this tamper and a few of others.
I took notice that they the coffee was not level from the grinder, but a fraction of a second later, while they were inserting it to the tamper - it was quite level. So they clearly skipped the step to make the process look easier than it really is. In the videos of PT2 I've seen the use of a leveling tool.