Basic inexpensive espresso machine recommendations

Recommendations for buyers and upgraders from the site's members.
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#1: Post by frajoe »

Hello all...

I have decided to take the step in buying the necessary equipment i'll need to make our favorite coffee drinks at home. The main reason is that our local coffee shop has really become unreliable in terms of quality. I like to drink a grande Mocha a few times per week. I'm not a coffee person like some of you are but i really do enjoy a Mocha Espresso drink every once in a while. When you get a bad one though it really sucks! Especially when you waste $4 on one. Anyway, i know the basics of getting a good grinder, good fresh beans, and the necessary chocolate syrup and sauce. My big issue now is deciding what espresso machine to get. I know i need to get one with a pump instead of steam and i'd prefer to stay in the sub $400 range.

My question for the experts... since i'll be making latte type drinks (mocha, latte, frappe, etc) does it really matter what machine i get? I was thinking that quality of the espresso wouldn't matter too much since it's being combined with steamed milk and flavoring. I'm not a purist and i think i'll be happy as long as it's not too bitter. Any thoughts on this or suggestions on a machine? I've read so many reviews but am having a hard time figuring out which one to get. Basically i just want a machine that works with no hassle and produces a decent espresso.


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Randy G.
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#2: Post by Randy G. »

If I do say so myself:
then get back to us... :wink:

Be sure to check the links page. There are tons of resources out there to help you decide.

Oh! Wait! There it is, again: - 2000-2023 - a good run, its time is done

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#3: Post by HB »

frajoe wrote:My question for the experts... since i'll be making latte type drinks (mocha, latte, frappe, etc) does it really matter what machine i get? I was thinking that quality of the espresso wouldn't matter too much since it's being combined with steamed milk and flavoring.
It probably won't matter the first month or two, but many espresso enthusiasts become more discerning over time. For example, my sister was a "milk and sugar bomb" latte lover. That's what she wanted, so that's what I served her. But over time I encouraged her to try drinks that are more coffee flavored than milk and sugar flavored. She's now a standard cappuccino drinker, no sugar, no added flavoring please. In fact, her developing palate has caught me on off days; she once commented "Dan, this isn't up to your usual standard. Would you make me another with a bit more love?" :oops:

Looking for a cheap(ish) but decent starter espresso machine and Best espresso gear on a student's budget are two threads that offer recommendations. Although I've never used one, the Gaggia Coffee is frequently recommended and is below your budget.
Dan Kehn

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#4: Post by jesawdy »

This CoffeeGeek article is a good read... How to Buy an Espresso Machine.
Jeff Sawdy

frajoe (original poster)
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#5: Post by frajoe (original poster) »

Thanks for the replies and nice site Randy G... it looks like i might have to up my budget a bit to afford the Silvia.

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#6: Post by bogiesan »

Contrary advice:

The Silvia/Rocky combination has been popular for many years. But, like any new hobby, you can approach espresso two ways: You buy an entry system and assume you will upgrade later if your enthusiasm for the new hobby does not wane; or you buy the better system and hope you can stick with it long enough to appreciate your investment.

Friends who won't go out for coffee with me still ask me about home machines. Long ago I started recommending pod and capsule systems to people who claim they want to make mochas at home. Buy a $150-300 device from a high zoot department store with a know-nothing appliance staff and a good return policy. A Nespresso unit will last two to five years, maybe. The pods are expensive, though, about $1.00 each unless you can buy bulk.

If you spend $20-40 week at your local coffee bar and go cold turkey, it will take you 5-10 weeks to save up for the Nespresso or a similar device. If you no longer spend that money at the bar every day, you will start to accrue savings in a few months. However, there's much more to this than just the machine. You need some china and a pitcher or two and some other toys. $$$$

Downside: Your luxury coffee beverages are only available at home. It's more complicated than you think. Even with a pod/capsule system, the time required to get those mochas ready to slop into your go-cup (and clean up) may not fit into your morning lifestyle.

You will probably want to spend that $700-1,000 for the Rocky/Silvia/accessory package sooner than you thought but these capsule systems are an easy and relatively risk-free way to see if you can handle it.

david boise ID

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#7: Post by Niko »

My vote is for the Silvia/Rocky combo, up your budget a bit and you won't be disappointed. Besides , no other machine holds a higher resale value should you not want it anymore.
I've never personally owned one but I got the opportunity to make drinks on one for an evening, it was a blast to use and the steam was impressive for a machine of its size, no other machine will give you that kind of firepower in its class and you need it for the Mochas and Cappas.

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#8: Post by Randii »

Even more contrary advice:

I'm in the "wait and buy the better machine" crowd. I bought the Silvia a little over 3 months ago (newbie here!). Contrary to the wise advice of the experts on this forum, I didn't immediately PID the machine (yes, you were right!), so after only 2 months, I got fed up with temperature surfing and purchased an Expobar Brewtus II - considerably more expensive. (You KNEW I'd upgrade, didn't ya! :lol: )

Here's my thinking on this. From what I have seen in the posts on various forums, most of the people who purchase a Gaggia or a Silvia, FIRST, spend extra money to PID their machines to stabilize the brew temperatures - THEN - they spend even more money and upgrade to a prosumer machine. My first instincts, when I began to research espresso machines, told me to bypass the Silvia completely, and go with a better machine - but I allowed myself to be swayed by popular opinion and bought the Silvia instead. Silvia IS a good machine, BUT you said:

"Basically i just want a machine that works with no hassle and produces a decent espresso."

(I keep noticing that a lot of newbies put that message in their posts, but for some reason, no one on any of the forums pays any attention to this very important statement.)

So - from one newbie to another, from experience - In my opinion, Silvia is a hassle. Without a PID kit, you will be constantly watching that red brew light on the machine, and checking the timer to take the shot, and it will drive you crazy! :x If you buy a Silvia - even if you PID her, the odds are that you will ultimately upgrade, like most of her former users. I say, save the money and get the prosumer machine in the first place. Spend the money upfront - you are going to do it eventually. (You know you will!)

frajoe (original poster)
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#9: Post by frajoe (original poster) »


After reading some more i too noticed that getting a PID is important with the Silvia. I guess it's hard to figure out where to draw the line on features/price. The Expobar Brewtus II looks nice but is pretty expensive. Any recommendataions for something sub $1000 and has temp/pressure control?

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#10: Post by Randii replying to frajoe »

This is the issue with the relatively cheaper machines. The long time experts may have more information about this, but I haven't see any machines out there that were under (I think) $800.00 that had temperature and pressure control devices installed. I don't think you can get them for cheaper, unless you look on E-Bay for a used one. You have to add them to cheaper machines - and thus incur additional costs.

Lots of people on the forums seem to really love their entry level Gaggia machines, BUT they also PID them, and add pressure controls to them - just like the Silvia users. Reportedly the Gaggias don't have as much steam power, if you want to continue to make "gianormous" mocha drinks - the boiler isn't as large as the Silvia's. My understanding is that Gaggias are a lot more "user-friendly" than the Silvia is - but you should ask the Gaggia users about that, and not take my word for it! (I MEAN IT! Ask the people who use the machines!)

I looked at a cheaper alternative before I bought the Silvia - that many of the people on the forums probably won't like - but I actually participated in a head to head demo of the La Pavoni Napolitana, that might suit your needs for a cheaper machine. It was demo-ed for me at Peets, and we (me and the barista there) decided that we thought it was comparable to the Gaggia that we were also looking at. It has a large, marine brass boiler - like the Silvia, and it also has a built in grinder (Lux). People probably won't pat you on the back for owning one - it doesn't have "snob appeal", and it also doesn't have all of the "wiz bang" temp and pressure control features of the really good machines - but you will be able to make your big mochas, and not invest a whole lot of money in the process. (until you get upgrade-itus, and need a better machine.) :wink:

Honestly, I've found that an espresso machine really is an *investment*, and it's not a "spur of the moment" decision to be made in haste. It also is an investment of your TIME to learn how to make good espresso. There is a learning curve that you must climb. You need to understand this before you "dive down that rabbit hole!" Just think of how much money those "sink shots" are also going to cost you! :shock: