Is good espresso possible on a student's budget?

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

#1: Post by vincanis »

Hello everyone. Recently I've become interested in making drinks with an espresso-like substance at home to save me some money. I've read around on the board and I know I'm going to have to invest in a good grinder and espresso machine at some point, however I don't really feel like spending (nor do I have the money as a college student) thousands of dollars on something that I might not even continue to pursue.

I realize that you need a good burr grinder more than anything else (like a Mazzer, Macap, Krups, etc.) along with a decent machine. But I'm more looking for creating a "fake" - if you will - espresso to mix into things. This has pointed me towards two cheap solutions. One that I read was to skip all of the espresso thought and go for an Aerobie Aeropress, and other research lead me towards a stove-top espresso maker (which I assume aren't that great). So my question is which should I lean towards?

Also I suppose another question I have is, is there anywhere around State College where I can get real espresso? The only places I know of that serve coffee beverages here besides restaurants are the Starbucks locations.


#2: Post by jonny »

It is not necessarily crazy expensive. I am a student and I have a decent set-up though I have had to save and slowly build it up. I started with a mr. coffee pump machine and a hand grinder. Aeropress is good but really a leap away from espresso. The mouth feel just isn't the same. I think a stove top maker is closer and you can get good results if you do some research ( It depends on how much you want to spend. If you want to spend less than $50, you won't get espresso but you can still get coffee milk drinks. Check thrift stores. They often have steam powered machines for less than $10 which will get you similar results to a stovetop and will give you a steam wand for milk. Also there are some stovetops on ebay that have steam wands. The next step up is a starbucks/saeco/estro barista/aroma/profi which can produce real espresso and pretty decently with experience. They can often be found for less than $75. Then a Gaggia Baby/Coffee. For a grinder, hand grinders are great to start out and can be had for often less than $30 on ebay. Look for Pede, Armin Trosser, Peugeot, Kym. If you throw out a budget we can help better, but it sounds like you are looking for really cheap?

P.S. Mazzer and Macap and Krups are not even in the same leagues and there are leaps and bounds between Krups and grinders like Mazzer and Macap. Depending on you budget and if you are just getting a steam/stovetop machine vs. a pump machine will determine what grinder will be best for you. Though I don't think you need to start with a mazzer or macap, but you really should do yourself a favor and steer clear of krups and the other grinders in that price range. Like I said, hand grinders are the best bang for your buck at this price point.

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#3: Post by allon »

I'm a fan of fixing up surplus commercial equipment which can sometimes be found for pennies on the dollar. Keep scrounging and be open to learning how to fix up a machine.
LMWDP #331


#4: Post by Beezer »

A MyPressi Twist will produce excellent espresso, and they only cost $150 or so new. Of course, you have to buy nitrogen or C02 cartridges too, but you can get those cheap in bulk. Coupled with a nice hand grinder and fresh, high quality beans, and you can make great espresso for less than $250. That's about the cheapest "real" espresso setup I can think of.
Lock and load!

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#5: Post by Jeff »

If you want "great coffee" then I'd go with a nice, "inexpensive," hand grinder (for example, Porlex, Hario, or Kyocera, possibly with the Orphan Espresso bearing mods) and your filter cone of choice (my favorite, this week, is the Clever dripper, since I don't have to pay a lot of attention when I brew at work). The couple hundred a Super Jolly will run buys a lot of pounds of wonderful coffee to drink.

If you decide you want to turn "beer money" into "coffee money" then a Super Jolly can be found, with patience, for not more than a couple hundred. I've seen serviceable, 110-V, commercial, single-group machines around for not much more than a Baby Gaggia would run. Find one and have fun with your MechE friends that know how to take things apart and play with big machinery.

vincanis (original poster)

#6: Post by vincanis (original poster) »

I found these on ebay: ... 3289wt_905 ... 797wt_1163

Any advice on which one I should lean towards?

And to answer a few questions above, I'm looing to get a small setup for under about $150. I'm not dead set on needing a steamer as I don't plan on making anything that requires it. The mypressi twist looks also like a viable option for me at some point. I'll keep an eye on ebay. I'm not too worried about getting the CO2 refills as there are a bunch of head shops around here (Yeah...I know...) or I have access to sams club if they carry them. My main problem besides money is counter space. I'm not against finding a used machine and repairing it, however fitting it somewhere is the challenge.

EDIT: I also found this hario. ... 490wt_1396


An amazon package that doesn't seem like a bad deal, but I'd rather have someone else weigh in on it. ... 506&sr=1-4

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#7: Post by Jeff »

Sounds like you're headed in some good directions in your explorations. An Aeropress is another good option. Lots of people get competition-grade coffee from an Aeropress.

Enjoy your new toys!

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#8: Post by aecletec »

A big fan of the Presso myself. Not sure how prices are in the US but it's much cheaper than the mypressi here...

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#9: Post by samuellaw178 »

Hey Kyle!
Are you a student in Penn State too? Well I am. :P

For real espresso, there's one cafe that is really good. The name is Saint's Cafe. They have a Synesso, a high-end commercial espresso machine, 3 Mazzer grinders(Robur+Jolly+Mini?), a Ditting (also another high end grinder for brewed coffee), and they are serving Intelligentsia Black Cats and Metropolis Redline espresso, which are one of the big names for roasters in these forum. Also, they have the Clover machine that costs $11k when it first came out. Yes, I drool over their equipments every time I went there. :P It's located beside Green Bowl if you know where's that. Google it if you're not sure.

For starter, maybe you should try their Cappuccino without sugar or if you dare, try their espresso. They pull their shots as triple ristrettos, so it's pretty intense as a straight shot for first timer, but stands out wonderfully in a milk drink. Try asking for Redline Espresso if you want to try straight shots. I prefer Redline over Black cat that they serve because the Black Cat is too bright(sour) for me when I first taste them. Some tips if this is your first time for real espresso: It might be an acquired taste(for me at least), the first sip is usually too strong to your liking, but the aftertaste(5 min later) is just so heavenly. It takes a while to really start enjoying the subtle tastes. I promise you, this will be a whole new experience and definition for coffee if you have only been tasting Starbucks before. :P

Brewed coffee equipments will set you back for much less. But if you tried their espresso and really like it, then be prepared to fork out at least $200 for decent espresso equipments. =P I started with Gaggia Carezza ($70 used) and Capresso Infinity ($83 new), that helped me find and confirm my love for espresso. Try to get used but good condition equipments to go the budget way. Just ask again for recommendation if you find that espresso is really your thing.

Also, you need fresh source of coffee. There's one roaster in town, W.C. Clarke's Fine Roasted Coffee. Their coffees are not bad for brew but I prefer online mail-order coffee for espresso. They tend to roast dark also. Try to choose the coffees that is not roasted that dark or oily (They have many to choose from), such as Guatemalan that I like for French Press. Dark roast tends to be bitter, unless you enjoy that. Also, if you want, we can share the cost of ordering coffee online in bulk (5lb or so) and save some bucks. Saint's cafe's coffee is like $16 per lb, WC Clarke $12.5 per lb, for online I can get $10 or so per lb(and taste better). Just freeze the extras in Mason jar and they stay fresh for many months.

vincanis (original poster)

#10: Post by vincanis (original poster) »

Yeah, I go to PSU. E SC major. I'm thinking of going for the aeropress combo and dealing with regular coffee and save up for a good grinder and a decent espresso machine. I'm gonna research on the Hario mini before my final decision.

Edit: Is there any difference between the Hario mini and the Skerton besides the obvious size difference?