Grinder vs Espresso Machine: How to split 2K?

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

Hi all. This is my first post to any sort of an espresso related site.

Here is my question in brief. If you were given an (approx) $2000 budget to split between a new espresso machine and grinder, how would you split the funds between the two?

After spending a couple of evenings reading the discussions about the importance of grinders on this site, I am reevaluating how much I need to spend on a grinder. I assume that the combination of a Versalab M3 and a Rancilio Silvia is putting too much weight on the grinder, but after reading about grinders, I'm open to the idea if somebody can make a strong case.

Considerations: My goal is to make the best possible espresso possible. For me, ease of use is a secondary consideration to that of being able to make the best possible espresso eventually on my given budget.

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#2: Post by 1st-line »

As a matter of percentage, the grinder should equate to 30-50% of the price of the espresso machine. And, I suggest no lower than 20% for the grinder as it is like buying a Porsche with a speed restrictor on it.

On the flip side, when the price of the grinder is going over 70% compared to the price of the espresso machine does seem to prove the law of diminishing returns. For example, last November, I visited the Philadelphia Inquirer with several espresso machines from 1st-line and other espresso machines from several manufacturers. We pretty much used the Mazzer Mini as a standard for comparison across the espresso machine range from the $249 Krups pump driven up to the Vibiemme Domobar Super. It was very interesting to see that the increase in quality in the espresso machine did prove to provide a superior cup.

So... there have been some notions to buy a better quality grinder and skimp on the espresso machine. However, I would have to agree that one can buy too much grinder for a particular low end espresso machine, and in this scenario, the law of diminishing returns is controlled by the quality of the espresso machine.
Jim Piccinich
1st-line Equipment, LLC

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#3: Post by Everman »

You have enough money to work with to not really skimp anywhere. I'd probably go with a mazzer or macap, the rest to the machine and accessories (get a bottomless portafilter and a couple proper cups). This would leave around $1500 to the machine itself which can get you something great.

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#4: Post by neilCC »

I have recently used a similar budget as roughly 25% Grinder (Mazzer Mini) and 75% Machine (Izzo Alex).
If my budget had of been any smaller, I probably would have still gone with the Mini and got the best Machine I could with what was left. However, I was looking for a "prosumer" level of machine and thought that I'd get better espresso from a "good enough" grinder with a good home HX machine rather than a super grinder (M3) with a Silvia.

1st-line seems to confim my thinking on that:
1st-line wrote:I would have to agree that one can buy too much grinder for a particular low end espresso machine, and in this scenario, the law of diminishing returns is controlled by the quality of the espresso machine.
I'm new to this level of espresso with the Mini & Alex being my first setup, but if I had to do the same again now, with the benefit of hindsight, I would not even consider a smaller percentage of the budget on the grinder, only higher. But I'd probably just try to increase the budget so I could get the same level of espresso machine and an even better grinder. :twisted:

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#5: Post by jesawdy »

While it is not for everyone, one way to stretch your budget a bit*, is to consider a used commercial grinder or buyer's remorse return grinder and/or machine.

I like the Cimbali Junior, and while not found used often, they do turn up. The Mazzer Super Jolly also turns up used fairly often. Mazzer Minis and Macap M4s are bumping $540-$575 nowadays, $250 - 350 for a used grinder and $40 for a new burr set seems like a no-brainer choice for folks that don't have to have a new unit, don't need a return policy or support option, and can accommodate the slightly larger commercial big brothers.

*I should slap myself for stretching a $2000 budget :shock: , but I think people are getting to this point very quickly these days.
Jeff Sawdy

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#6: Post by ntwkgestapo »

When I was seriously thinking of getting a VBM Domobar Super as my new machine, I was looking @ about $2.2K-$2.5K total (misc. bits-n-pieces made up a decent part of the total). VBM @ $1.5k (aproximation) and the Cimbali Jr as the grinder @ $500ish... would have been a VERY good combo.... I ended up getting a Gaggia Factory 16 and haven't yet picked the grinder (the Cimbali would be a GREAT one for it, but I have severe space constraints.... the main reason I DIDN'T get the VBM)... With $2k (ish) you could do a similar divide... Cimbali/Mazzer/Macap (any of them would be good) OR as Jeff mentioned find a good used one and replace the burrs... EITHER way you'd be in good shape!
Steve C.
I'm having an out of coffee experience!
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#7: Post by ppopp »

You could do a lot worse than calling Chris and telling him you want to spend $2000 and seeing what kind of package he would recommend for you. Between the various Quickmill and Izzo machines, and Macap and Mazzer grinders, there's lots of great ways to add up to $2000. You might actually end up with more than $2000 worth of stuff too.

Know beans, know coffee. No beans, no coffee.

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#8: Post by Psyd »

neilCC wrote: I... ...thought that I'd get better espresso from a "good enough" grinder with a good home HX machine rather than a super grinder (M3) with a Silvia.
1st-line seems to confim my thinking on that:
I think you're taking a bit of that out of context. I'm fairly sure that he doesn't consider Silvia one of the "lower end" machines.
Spending $1400 on a great grinder and using Silvia to pull the shots will get you great espresso. Ask me about my Silvia pulling shots out of the Mazzer Major compared to the shots pulled on my $7.8K, fully plumbed, automatic two group, rotary pump, HX, fourteen litre boiler, 4300W absolutely pro machine fed by my Rocky.
I'll give you a hint: The rocky is good, the Mazzer is great. Ready? GO!
The stuff out of the Silvia fed by the Mazzer is dependably stable and really great. The stuff out of the Astoria with the Rocky feeding her is trickier, and occasionally great, but fairly dependably good.

I'd double the suggestion to get a used Mazzer (or something else equally bullet-proof) and spend the $40 on new burrs. I'll sell you a new hopper cheap, if ya need one, and a lid. Don't want a doser? I'll sell you a mod for almost nothing, and so will a coupla other folk.
Excellent grinder, around $300-is, and $1.7K leftover to play around with. You could do worse than a Silvia and a grand worth of toys! (I'd keep two or three hundred for tamps, shotglasses, frothing pitchers, brushes, cleaners, descalers, spoons, cups, etc.)
Espresso Sniper
One Shot, One Kill

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

Thanks everybody. You've given me a lot to think about. I don't know that I'm any closer to making a decision after reading your varying oppions. However, nobody has suggested that I go cheap on the grinder, so I will continue with my plan to spend at least $500 on a new grinder (I haven't thought about 2nd hand. Anybody know about a great deal?).

I read through most of the discussion/extended on "The Titan Grinder Project" and I'm wondering if there is any consensus forming that conical grinders are superior to flat (burrs). Would going to the Cimbali Max Hybrid be a clear upgrade from the Mazzar Mini or the Macap M4? I notice the Super Jolly was mentioned a couple of times. I assume this would also be a clear upgrade (any thoughts on the Max Hybrid vs Super Jolly). It's starting to look like I might "need" to stretch my total budget a bit. I'm sort of determined to produce the best espresso in Phoenix eventually (I just moved here and am totally put off by what I've found in the local cafes so far) :)

I look forward to taking part in the discussions in the coming months as I buy my equipment and start leaning about espresso!


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#10: Post by DigMe »

I was thinking maybe Anita + Cimbali Max Hybrid would be a nice setup at right around 2k.

I agree to call around and see what kind of package deals you can get.