To elaborate on Jim's point from one of my posts in another thread, many of the espresso machines reviewed on this site rest comfortably on the cost/value "knee". Above this price point (around $1400), the in-cup difference becomes smaller and smaller, and other considerations like better convenience, consistency, workmanship, and capacity come into play. To get a concrete appreciation of what I mean, read the conclusions for the Quickmill Vetrano and Elektra A3. I authored both reviews and I tried to capture the cost/benefit of each model as well as the "feel" of each.another_jim wrote:I believe there's three sources of upgraditis.
The first is the simplest. Almost any car on the road now has a handling and speed envelope one cannot approach in 99% of driving situations; yet many people buy high end cars for the sheer pleasure of owning something well engineered and aesthetically pleasing. Most people buying very high end espresso gear fall into this category; it's less about expecting revelations and god shots, and more about being able to accommodate and afford the very best. There's nothing wrong with living large, and if you have this mind set, by all means go for it.
The second is the vacuous one: being under the delusion that barista omnipotence is just around the next technological corner. Tip for those interested: For the next two weeks that corner is pressure profiling, and you need to buy a Slayer. But do it fast before it's old hat, and the next magic wand appears.
The third is functional and fairly self limiting: needing to trust your espresso set up to produce the flavors nature and the blender/roaster intended for every coffee. In this respect, any of the machines discussed will do the job, scoring 8.5 out of 10 or better on all the taste aspects. At the very high end, you might get up to 9.5 out of 10 on everything, but it would be a tweak, not a transformation, of the taste of the coffee. For this purpose, the bigger payback is on getting a really top grinder and being very painstaking pulling shots. If I needed to explore the possibilities of an unknown espresso blend, I'd have more trust in using a basic Saeco or Gaggia, matched to a big commercial conical, a 0.1 gram scale, and a bottomless PF than using a GS/3, matched to a Mini or other domestic grinder, and no scale, no bottomless.
From Recommendations -- Lever versus E61 espresso machine?
To be clear, the differences between those at the cost/value knee and those well above it aren't manifested exclusively as raw performance. I've never driven a Mercedes Benz or worn a Rolex (you'd need to drop at least another zero for my price range), but I imagine the same observation holds true between mid-tier and upper-tier representatives in most consumer products.
For reference, in my rough guidelines for today's espresso equipment market, the entry to high-entry tier is around $200 to $600, the mid-tier covers machines up to the mid $2000s and the upper tier starts around the low $3000s. You can always spend more and guys like Kees van der Westen will be happy to oblige with custom kit like the Speedster. It's more than I'm willing to spend, but still, it's oddly comforting that the difference in price between a representative espresso machine at the cost/value knee and one of the most tricked out espresso machines on the planet is "only" an order of magnitude.