Upgrade espresso machine, max budget 500 euro

Recommendations for espresso equipment buyers and upgraders.
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Postby wxkin » Apr 09, 2017, 1:05 pm

Hi there,
I would like a buying advice regarding a new espresso machine. (Europe)
My current machine is a Gaggia baby and my grinder is a Gastroback (German/Austria version of Breville) Smart grinder pro.

My issue with the Gaggia is that the espresso tastes like burned or is annoying bitter. I have tried different dose/volume ratio to mask the issue and overdosing is kinda a solution. Nevertheless I have tried many supermarket beans and fresh specialty beans but still, most of them taste the same and I have a strong feeling that the machine is not capable of revealing all this complex and rich coffee flavors and it justs burns the beans.

During my research, I've found the following:

LELIT PL41TEM (PID/57mm) are quite popular and are affordable at 450Euro
LELIT PL41 Plus w/ PID at 550E. Does it worth the extra 100 euro?
LA PAVONI DEMPID at 450E but I haven't found any reviews.
Rancilio Silvia v5 (no PID) at 550, are these just hyped?
Oscar II is over my budget (~750-800)
new entry: Oscar noire Nuova at 529

can some with experience share his knowledge?
Do I miss any other affordable machines? Maybe any of the quickmill?
Does it make any sense to upgrade the baby with one of these?

The machine is for home use and our average is 2-3 espresso and 2 cappuccino daily

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Postby goalerjones » Apr 14, 2017, 1:36 am

I own the Lelit PL041PLTQE, which is the same as the TEM, but without the pressure gauge. I've been using it now almost every day for the last 2 years and have nothing but good things to say about it. It has a brass boiler, which a lot at this price point don't have. It also heats up fairly quickly, around 10 minutes and it's ready to go.

Now, about the taste of the coffee. Have you been diligent to keep your machine clean? Do back-flushes, not keep old grounds in the portafilter, clean the filter basket and portafilter of old oils? Regularly clean out the water reservoir tank? Maintenance cleaning will make a huge difference in the taste of your coffee.

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Postby DeGaulle » Apr 14, 2017, 2:15 am

+1 on the maintenance cleaning.
Now, assuming your machine is clean, the priority of adressing the quality of your shots should really be
1) coffee beans
2) grinder
3) machine

You say you have tried all sorts of beans, includinng supermarket beans and you state they all taste the same. Forget those and buy exclusively from roasters that label the roast date on the package, no more than 2 weeks post roast.
Are the grinder burrs sharp enough? I have no experience with your grinder, but grind consistency is a make or break item. I know the Gaggia is entry level grade, but don't be too quick to blame the machine. It might very well pay off to invest in a small commercial grinder well within the EUR 500, budget. Think Bezzera BB0005, Mahlkoenig Vario / Sette, Macap M2 etc.

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Postby mirceat » Apr 21, 2017, 7:29 am

Hi Nikos,
while appreciating the above advices, you should consider a PID-mod to your Gaggia Baby as well, based on your usage profile and budget requirements.
I am thinking to an advanced controller like meCoffee actually.
It has been installed on a couple of Babys, as far a I know, the seller is located in Groningen, it could closely assist you on the controller setup.
I am using meCoffee on my Classic since 1 year already and it's definitely a rewarding experience.

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Postby peacecup » Apr 21, 2017, 1:21 pm

If the coffee is really bitter the brew temperature is probably too high. I am currently using a backup machine of mine while my lever is under repair, and my wife has been complaining that the shots she's been pulling are really bitter.

That is because she does not know how to temperature surf - my shots are quite good.

Just do this: Get the machine ready, grind the shot and prepare the basket (but don't put the PF in the machine). Run 100 ml or so of water through the machine, then turn it off so it does not re-heat. Immediately lock in the PF turn the machine on and pull the shot.

This works for me every time, so give it a try.

LMWDP #049
Hand-ground, hand-pulled: "hands down.."

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Postby smite » replying to peacecup » Apr 21, 2017, 1:42 pm


Try this first before getting another machine. Following the above advice keep an eye on what the water looks like from the machine as you flush. Does the water steam a good deal of as its leaving the machine? Over time you can learn to adjust the amount of water.

Here is a thread on how to measure temp

Seeking low tech way to measure brew temperature

While I know your machine is not a an HX here is some good info from HB here:

Managing the Brew Temperature of HX Espresso Machines

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Postby peacecup » Apr 21, 2017, 2:17 pm

Well, I pulled one last quite good shot with the pump backup (Francis X1), just enough energy to go out to the shed and put the new P-Stat in the Ponte Vecchio. So now it's back to lever espresso - with the Pstat set right it's virtually impossible to burn the coffee with a PV.

If you ever do decide upgrading it's worth considering a lever.
LMWDP #049

Hand-ground, hand-pulled: "hands down.."