Upside down question: I have a grinder - which espresso machine to pick now?

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

#1: Post by mojomatix »

Hi everyone,

I've been an avid reader of these forums for a while. Let me start by saying: great community, I love the way people are supporting each other. Now, I've been struggling with making a decision for an espresso machine. Here's a quick summary of my story.

I've bought a new Sage/Breville Barista Express for around 450€. After playing with it for a while I realised that it has some quirks, that I didn't really like too much. First and foremost, I wasn't happy with the grinder as I couldn't properly dial in my shots. So, I've made the decision to sent it back and it's gone already. So, I've convinced myself to go for a combo of machine & separate grinder. My Eureka Mignon Specialita is already here... Now, I can't decide for a machine and there is something else messing with my brain. So, here are my current options:

1. Sage/Breville Dual Boiler (around 1060€)
It's 600€ more expensive than the BE and it pretty much covers everything I found to be interesting (pre infusion, pressure & temperature controls / PID, quick steam extraction after pulling a shot, temperature consistency etc.)

2. Lelit Elizabeth (around 1099€)
It's the exact same price point as the Sage Dual Boiler and can basically do the same things. I guess it's a matter of sustainability and style.

So I've gotten to a stage where I can't decide between these 2 machines (after ruling out many, many others by reading forums, watching videos etc.) But then I started thinking: "How much better are these machines, compared to a single boiler which can do the same things (more or less) but is significantly cheaper?" So here's the messy part.

3. Sage/Breville Barista Pro (around 660€)
Let's forget that it has a grinder and look at the machine itself. It's already better than the Barista Express (quicker time between espresso & steaming, digital display, easier to access settings etc.) I'd be willing to pay the 200€ more just for that! Now, even compared to other machines in this price range, I couldn't find any that covers the functionality of this machine as some of them don't come with a PID (Rancilio / Gaggia Classic, I know they can be modded, but then they are equally as expensive) or have less functionality regarding pre-infusion and temperature control. Most of them are waaaaay slower when switching between brewing and steaming (which is a no-go for me). And if they can do all of that, their price point is above the 2 machines, that I've mentioned before (even as single boiler machines, e.g. Ascaso etc.).

A quick rundown of my coffee needs: we usually make up to 4 (sometimes 6) milk based drinks a day. I just occasionally make coffee for more than 2 people at once. We don't drink a lot a pure Espresso (which might change). I didn't really bother me to switch from brewing to steaming on my Barista Express (it just took a bit too long and I've never had the urge to really steam at the same time as brewing).

So, now those are my questions:
1. What should I do - go for one of the first 2 options and pay 400€ more? Are they really that much better if you consider that I don't mind the 30 seconds between brewing and steaming? Is there another benefit that actually makes it worth paying 400€ more?
2. Or should I stick with something like the Barista Pro (as I said, ignore the grinder) for its espresso making capabilities and cheaper price point? I can't seem to find a proper comparison between the Barista Pro plus external grinder to something like a Dual Boiler or Elizabeth (the only things I could find compare the machine with its integrated grinder to machines with an external grinder... that's not the point here.)
3. Is there an alternative to all of that, that I'm completely missing?

If there are any open questions that I haven't answered please let me know. What would you do?


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#2: Post by cafeIKE »

IMO, DB if doing many milk drinks.

I have a couple of pals who had Breville DB and both had longevity & service issues.
Both have moved on to much more expensive Italian pro-sumer.


#3: Post by slaughter »

Like you I started with a barista express. It was by far better machine than the Krups I used and it got me into coffee hobby. After a few years I new it was time to move one but my wife insisted that there is nothing wrong with our setup. I purchased a Specialita too in order to delay my upgrade but in vain. I bough my Lelit Bianca a few months later.

For me (who drinks only milk based drinks) BBE although had decent steaming power it was very slow and very annoying to make two milk drinks in a row as after you switch off the steam it goes back to brew and you have to restart the whole process. It also wasted a lot of water in this transition that was also annoying as I had to refill the tank after a couple of drinks

If you make a lot of milk drinks you will appreciate the dual boiler machine and I assure you that money will be well spent. I live in Greece where Breville/Sage does not have a dealership and purchasing components like group head gasket was a pain as I had to buy it from eBay (15 euros for a Gasket).

My pick would be the Elisabeth due to built quality and serviceability. It will serve you well for many years and all parts will be easier to find and replace. I would also prefer to buy a machine with local dealership in order to be sure that I will have access to parts faster than relying on eBay or amazon.


#4: Post by Castillo2001 »

So I own a Breville Pro and have used the Express. Yes, the grinder is by far the largest problem with these machines and you have solved that. But honestly the Pro is only a slight step, maybe half step, up from the Express. It has a better thermoblock that functions slightly faster and it has a better visual interface that makes changing setting and running cleaning programs easier. But for quality in cup I am not sure you are going to see any difference between the two, you will see a bit ease of use improvement. Within 3 months I upgraded my grinder to a Eureka similar to yours and 6 months in I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my new ECM Synch. I bring this up because if I had went to a Breville Dual boiler first I probably would have been able to make it atleast a year or two before I felt the urge to upgrade, but with even the Pro it left me wanting more fairly quickly. If you are going to stick with Breville I would suggest the Dual boiler, based on the overwhelming reviews here it seems like a solid device that will satisfy you for at least several years.

Since you make so many milk drinks I strongly suggest staying away from the single boilers. On the express and pro going from brew to steam is a flip of the switch and it was pretty much instantly ready to go and you could do either first with little effect on the other. But the single boiler is going to be a longer delay as the boiler temp has to heat up or cool down. Plus add in temp stability going back and forth between brew and steam for multiple shots and I think you will not be happy with that type of delay and work flow.

disclaimer... I am new to this espresso world and have a little hands on experience with all these machines but tons of keyboard reading thru forums experience, so take this with a grain of salt.

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#5: Post by Jeff »

See how it goes with what you've got. Decide what you like about your current machine and what you would want to change.

Edit: My apologies, I missed that you no longer had the original Breville/Sage

Both of those DB choices are well liked and seem to be strong contenders in their price class. Either one is capable of pulling great shots from a range of coffees.


#6: Post by Castillo2001 »

The problem is he doesn't have anything, well he has a nice grinder but no espresso machine since he returned it.

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#7: Post by Auctor »

Here's a recent thread on some of the machines you mentioned, as well as the Profitec 300.

Profitec Pro 300 vs Lelit MaraX

The Breville Dual Boiler is well known here as being an incredibly mod-able, fully capable machine, but has a track record of requiring repairs at a higher rate than either Profitec or Lelit.

Short answer is that among the four machines (BDB, Pro 300, Elizabeth, Mara X), you can't make a "big" mistake. They're all fairly well liked, owned, and reviewed. It comes down to your own preferences. Each machine has upsides and trade offs.


#8: Post by klee11mtl »

I have a Barista Pro and it works well for me. While it essentially (IMHO) does everything a little better and is a little easier to use than the Barista Express, the end result of your espresso on either machine won't be much different if using the Specialita as the grinder.

My two cents are the Barista Pro makes sense if any of these apply:
- just want pretty good lattes but not that interested in espresso as a hobby
- another person also uses the machine and wants as simple a process as possible
- possible you may not enjoy the espresso experience if the dialing in, brewing, steaming, and cleaning reaches a certain level of complexity

If you are interested in making this a hobby and are likely to invest the time and energy to strive for better coffee, you'll likely find the Barista Pro won't be able to take full advantage of the grinder investment you've already made.

mojomatix (original poster)

#9: Post by mojomatix (original poster) »

Hi everyone, what an awesome group! Thanks a lot for your replies and willingness to help!

So, based on your feedback, I've decided to go for the higher tier of machines and said goodbye to the single boiler world. Having the higher flexibility for different types of coffee, the 58mm Portafilter, and the feeling that I might be happier with the machine for a longer period of time helped a lot with the decision making process. When it comes to the actual machine, I'm not quite there yet, unfortunately...

One follow up question, if I may, and this is really just for my better understanding. When going from on of these 2 machines to something like a Lelit Bianca or something in the even higher tiers - what do we gain by doing that? The functionality of the machines doesn't seem to change that much. Is it then primarily about boiler size (I guess light home use vs. heavy usage vs. small business / office use?), reliability etc., or is there something else that should be considered?

Also, and that might be a strange question: I've read in several threads that people talk about investing in higher end machines when they consider espresso making to be a hobby. I don't really know what that means vs. being a non-hobbiist. Could someone please explain that to me?

Thanks so much again!

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#10: Post by Auctor »

mojomatix wrote: When going from on of these 2 machines to something like a Lelit Bianca or something in the even higher tiers - what do we gain by doing that? The functionality of the machines doesn't seem to change that much. Is it then primarily about boiler size (I guess light home use vs. heavy usage vs. small business / office use?), reliability etc., or is there something else that should be considered?
I wrote this a while back to kinda explain my upgrade thought process. The whole thread is useful. Hope it helps...

Why are prosumer espresso machines so much more expensive than entry level ones?