Minimum equipment to produce good espresso - Page 2

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peacecup

#11: Post by peacecup »

The original question was:
So that brings me to my main question: what's the smallest amount of money someone has to spend to be in the espresso game.
This is why I said $150 for acceptable used equipment. I agree with the others, of course that spending more can increase quality, consistency, and aesthetics. And Dan makes a good point about how the machine will be used. But the Estro in the video can pull shot after shot while maintaining the same widely-fluctuating temperature profile. This may not be good enough for the advanced barista, but I don't think people should be scared out of getting into the espresso game because they can't or don't want to invest $500.

I'll qualify all my posts by saying I'm not a coffee cupper, nor have I ever judged or even been to a barista competition. I have great faith in Dan's, Jim's, and others abilities to rate espresso, so my opinions are those of a complete novice with five years of home espresso brewing experience. I have been drinking straight espresso for the past four years, however, so I do know a sink shot when I brew one. And with good beans and even minor attention to grind setting, these are rare.

I think many of you have forgotten how much fun it was at the beginning to just pull a nice, drinkable straight shot, or make a tasty cappuccino. Every time a newcomer asks this question they're given the same advice, which is don't even try to brew espresso at home for <$500. I'd like to ask those of the more experienced baristas out there if they remember the first good (i.e. enjoyable, drinkable) straight shot of espresso they brewed? For most of you I dare say it was some ten years ago or more? Was it from a Silvia or a Gaggia? Maybe a Krups?

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

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peacecup

#12: Post by peacecup »

Dan wrote:
I'm with Randy: Why espresso when French press / Aeropress is far less of an investment, costs less in coffee, and is nearly foolproof?
Again, I'm no cupper, and it may be easier to get better and cheaper results with a press. But espresso is....well, espresso. Its a journey.

PC
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HB
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#13: Post by HB »

peacecup wrote:I firmly believe a novice can be very satisfied for a few years with the above-mentioned combo, which can be had for <$200 for good used equipment. Case in point, I still use my $125 Estro Vapore (Barista) and hand grinder on the weekends, and after five years of brewing and drinking straight espresso I still find it satisfying.
I assumed the OP referred to the cost of new equipment. If you're willing to scour eBay or CoffeeGeek's Buy, Sell and Trade forum, you can save heaps of money. Of course it's used equipment, so there's the risk of duds and there's no vendor support.
peacecup wrote:I'd like to ask those of the more experienced baristas out there if they remember the first good (i.e. enjoyable, drinkable) straight shot of espresso they brewed? For most of you I dare say it was some ten years ago or more? Was it from a Silvia or a Gaggia? Maybe a Krups?
We all have to start somewhere and my true confession was Krups / preground Illly. At the time I thought it was pretty good with lots of milk and sugar. Straight espresso was not an option because it was too bitter and burnt tasting. As a newbie I thought that's what espresso meant - dark, bitter brew tamed by milk and sugar. To your question, the first enjoyable straight shot of espresso I brewed was from a Silvia/Rocky combo.
Dan Kehn

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lsf (original poster)

#14: Post by lsf (original poster) »

Thanks for replying and sorry for asking previously debated questions. Those answers help me to make my opinion about the question.

So, about the press and the aeropress, I agree, those are fantastic ways of brewing a good cup of coffee for far less money than a machine espresso. However, as someone said, it's not espresso :cry:

Maybe, I could refine my question; How much would cost a set up that will make the first experience enjoyable and will make them wish to upgrade later. My guess is that most of my friends won't be able to buy a machine that suits their needs since, given the choice, most people would prefer a fast recovering machine, HX... and that means money. The shot on the video looks certainly more than acceptable and I'm sure that with some properly froth milk, it would make a good cappuccino. If I refer to some people opinion, looks like it could be done under 300$

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Compass Coffee
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#15: Post by Compass Coffee »

lsf wrote:Maybe, I could refine my question; How much would cost a set up that will make the first experience enjoyable and will make them wish to upgrade later.
That's the kicker. Depends on the person if the Journey will be enjoyable or if a quickly attained destination is required to make the process enjoyable. Expecting an even half way decent straight shot from a first experience first pull of almost any espresso machine and grinder pairing just isn't realistic for a newbie and really difficult with copious experience. However with experience good shots on any equipment can be quickly dialed in. This is why IMO the consumer machines with pressurized PF's exist including Super-Autos, to make it seem like a quality shot is immediately attainable.
lsf wrote:My guess is that most of my friends won't be able to buy a machine that suits their needs since, given the choice, most people would prefer a fast recovering machine, HX... and that means money.
Indeed you gotta pay to play! If you buy a Chuck steak can't expect it to be like a Ribeye.
lsf wrote:The shot on the video looks certainly more than acceptable and I'm sure that with some properly froth milk, it would make a good cappuccino. If I refer to some people opinion, looks like it could be done under 300$
On that I'd disagree, a 15sec pull like in that video would be a bitter sink shot. It would not make a good cappuccino, it would however make a sugared milk beverage quite similar to commonly purchased out there beverages with poorly pulled espresso shot foundations.

Under $300 target price point for new machine and grinder would be tough to impossible to achieve for even mediocre consistent shots. Used equipment absolutely. For instance recently picked up a used Rocky and Audrey in pristine condition on Craigslist for $300 total. $30 for new burrs and sold the Rocky for $230 so out of pocket $100 for a very good travel/backup espresso machine.
Mike McGinness, Head Bean (Owner/Roast Master)
http://www.CompassCoffeeRoasting.com

bukaeast

#16: Post by bukaeast »

The question is what are they looking forward to drinking? Straight espresso? Then this thread is progressing properly.
If it's only "espresso based" foamed milk drinks, then the bar is much lower in terms of requirements to produce the product.
More money may will give ease of production, but basics are a lot cheaper. Even coffee plus some sort of good foamer will please most palates. (Please pass the sugar.)

But then to switch directions, you are back to the more expensive, steeper learning curved, directions currently discussed.

I just saw "my 2 sense" and will steal it for here. <BG>

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peacecup

#17: Post by peacecup »

Dan is correct - I'm referring to used equipement. I should have been careful to mention this. ALSO A BUYER OF USED EQUIPMENT SHOULD BE CAREFUL TO FIND A REPUTABLE SELLER. If given the option of course, I would recommend buying new from a dealer who will help with good advice and stand behind the product.

Re: the 15 sec shot in the video, it made a drinkable cappuccino - don't remember if I added sugar, but I usually don't. And I did qualify it:
I'll qualify this by saying the beans were oldish French Roast and I did not "dial in" the grinder, so the shot poured quite fast, but its the only video I have on hand. I'll try to get a better one this weekend with better beans.
I assure you I could have pulled a sink shot with those beans on any $1000 machine. :shock:

I will try to get a better clip this weekend. But seriously, its not too difficult to get good 30 sec pours with the Estro. The Estro is a well-made, heavy duty home appliance. It has the same Ulka pump as the Silvia, a stainless boiler, and brass group head and PF. It ain't no Silvia, but within its limits it can make real espresso. I'm sure the same can be said of most Gaggias, and probably some other brands of entry level machines.


Dan wrote:
Straight espresso was not an option because it was too bitter and burnt tasting. As a newbie I thought that's what espresso meant - dark, bitter brew tamed by milk and sugar.
Do you know anyone who has enjoyed their first drink of beer, wine, whiskey? I distinctly remember having to choke these down, and I doubt it would have mattered if it were a Pabst or a Samuel Smith. These are acquired tastes, as is espresso I believe.

Once someone has been brewing espresso for years, I believe it is very difficult for them to recall their level of satisfaction with their original equipment. If one wants to see how people like their new purchases the coffeegeek reviews are interesting reading. As Dan and I have discussed, there is a "honeymoon" effect, i.e., people tend to like their expensive (relatively) purchase because its new. But if you want to know if a newbie will be satisfied their purchase have a look at the reviews. The five most-frequently rated machines are as follows: Silvia 8.8, Saeco Classico 8.5, Barista (Estro) 8.2, Gaggia Classic 8.1, La Pavoni 8.0. I DO NOT MEAN TO IMPLY THAT THESE ARE QUALITY RATINGS, ONLY THAT THEY PROVIDE A SENSE OF HOW A BUYER FEELS ABOUT THEIR NEW MACHINE

Peace,

PC
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boar_d_laze

#18: Post by boar_d_laze »

HB wrote:To your question, the first enjoyable straight shot of espresso I brewed was from a Silvia/Rocky combo.
Plaintiff rests. :P

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Psyd
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#19: Post by Psyd »

bukaeast wrote: If it's only "espresso based" foamed milk drinks, then the bar is much lower in terms of requirements to produce the product.
Even coffee plus some sort of good foamer will please most
palates. (Plese pass the sugar.)
It's these puritanical prejudices about espresso and about decaf and about all the other things coffee that are better than others that amazes me. If you put a great shot in my cappuccino, I'll know it from a good shot, and if you put a bad shot in my capp, I'll make that face. There is nothing wrong with putting milk in coffee, and it doesn't cover up the taste of a bad shot. Agreed, if what you are drinking is a large, warm, sweet milk with a shot of espresso in the bottom, then the shot isn't as important, but two ounces of espresso in three or four ounces of microfoamed milk isn't hiding anywhere.
It seems a bit remarkable that folks (unless they live under a rock) who explain why they go through what they go through for coffee on a fairly regular basis (I know I do) need an explanation for why I have two grinders, one for caf and one for decaf.

Oh, and Peacecup, the answer to the OP's question needs to be fairly generally available, so that the answer is fairly applicable. If I were to base my grinder suggestion on my used gear experience, it would start with. "Go out and buy two used Mazzer Majors. You can get those for around $200 for the pair, shipping included."
Yeah, I got that deal, but I'm guessing that I couldn't make it happen again within a week.
Espresso Sniper
One Shot, One Kill

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cafeIKE
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#20: Post by cafeIKE »

peacecup wrote:I'd like to ask those of the more experienced baristas out there if they remember the first good (i.e. enjoyable, drinkable) straight shot of espresso they brewed?
Solis SL-90 which I modded to adjust brew temp and precisely indicate ready.
PeDe hand grinder and later Solis Maestro after a detour through a Solis Mulino, thanks to a certain Seattlite's misguided enthusiam.

This combo was also a revelation for countless guests who exclaimed the likes of:
  • - Wow!
    - This is the first espresso I've ever had that's not bitter!
    - This is the best latte I've ever had!
    - I don't need any sugar in this!
I never pulled a gShot with the setup and judged the espresso as acceptable to decent.

Would I recommend someone purchase the same setup today? NO! It's just so much easier with better gear. This past weekend a fellow came by with his entry level gear and pulled a couple of shots of Supreme Bean Caffe di Norte, both just above sinkable. His first shot from the MC4 / Vibiemme combo was so perfect I commented "Gee, we shoulda video'd it" :twisted:

Decent gear notwithstanding, it's the handle end of the PF, as in It's the Barista, Stupid