How Much Effort and Money Does Home Espresso Take? - Page 4

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#31: Post by mgrayson »

Martin wrote:Reading these many posts I'll stick with my puppy metric as a reply to those who inquire about "what does it take?" to pursue and maintain a HB habit. OK, it's not perfect, but IMO a committed roaster who moves to an exhaust-challenged apartment faces a comparable dilemma as a puppy 'owner' whose dog suddenly needs dental surgery. Repeatedly.

Someone probably told me to brush the pup's teeth every day--maybe the same folks who advised a very rigorous cleaning/flushing coffee schedule. In both cases--dog and coffee--if you have no prior experience plan an unanticipated adjustment to lifestyle including benefits, challenges, and costs. :wink:
I have a diabetic cat, too. And he needed dental surgery. Your metaphor is a good one. Oddly, the difficulty of roasting now has made me more committed to becoming better at it. And that care extends to all other aspects of coffee.

As previous posters have said, you can get a little or a lot out of coffee, and the commitment is time and effort much more than it is money. I've known what I *should* be doing to improve each facet from coffee selection to roasting to grinding, brewing, profiling, no milk, yes milk... but the commitment to actually do it is either there or it isn't. I've been lazy - it's much easier to spend money than it is to put in time. I'm putting in the effort now and it feels good (and the coffee is the reward). That's my answer to the OP. If you take it seriously, it can give great shots - better than you ever expected were possible. You will take a sip and wonder "What the heck *is* this? It's too good to be coffee - or anything else."

A dog needs you - espresso doesn't. So you need to keep pushing yourself. It's worth it.


#32: Post by Junior »

coyote-1 wrote:I cannot imagine a newbie who has had some good espressos out and decides he wants to start making them at home NOT being put off by the prospect of having to lay out a grand or more just to get started. Even in today's world, that ain't chump change. You can spend $200 on a guitar or clarinet and be happy for years. You can purchase a few hundred in tools and build cabinets. $1100 for a machine to make a foreshortened cup of black coffee?
Your point is well taken. A newcomer could certainly spend less than $1000 to make a tiny cup of strong coffee. A moka pot and milk steamer, while technically not espresso, is close enough for many, many people. Decent preground coffee obviates the need for a grinder. There are kettle levers and very affordable new and used machines out there. You can make do with a bargain hand grinder as well. There are many of us where that gets us to where we want to be. However, to have a setup that provides a platform with consistency and room to learn, there is some basic level of outlay.

When someone asks me how much a new computer costs, the answer could be almost nothing to thousands. It depends on what they are planning on using it for, how fast they want, how much proprietary software they need, etc. Most phones could get users to the 90% point with email and web-browsing and calculator functions. It wouldnt be easy, the screen is small, it's slow, phones lack a lot of the efficient and reliable ways to get things done, but there are compromises and work around that can be done. You mentioned wood working. If I wanted to build a cabinet and get all the "necessary" tools, I could find used harbor-freight hand tools and a pile of sandpaper for a song (or attend a class that gives access to equipment). But, if I wanted to make a variety of projects somewhat efficiently and reliably at home, there's a lot more cost for decent equipment that isnt going to fail and let's me learn different techniques. I couldn't imagine going about a large project without a bench planer and joiner. But I suck at woodworking and need all the help I can get.

The old advice was a silvia and a rocky was the initial floor. Consistency required a lot of effort to learn the idiosyncrasies of that set up, but it certainly worked. Everything up from that point is convenience, robustness, flexibility and features. So, the initial question of how much effort and money, I would answer that it depends, but probably a decent amount of one, the other or both. But we all know that the answer for a hobbyist is going to be "how much do you got?"


#33: Post by BKH »

My other hobby is biking. I raced Cat1 road in the US. Biking requires much more time (12000 miles/year), effort (getting on your bike when you don't want to,bonking, throwing up after intervals), and money ($3000+ for a race bike) compared to making espresso.

Actually, another hobby I used to have is growing Orchids. Again, much more time, effort and money.

There must be a lot of other hobbies that involve similarly much more time, effort and money than espresso

The main ingredient to pursuing a hobby is passion! Like other posters have mentioned, a newbie can start with about $500 for equipment and make excellent espresso. If they love it, they can fly from there. If they don't love it, they can sell what they bought for a small loss. I tell anyone interested in espresso to go for it! I definitely tell people to think twice before racing bikes...


#34: Post by tastyparm »

Seems like it could be anywhere between $100 for a pod machine and milk frother to $20k+ for a slayer and end game grinder. Depends on your level of diy and upgradeitis. I started with a Flair and hand grinder. Within 3 months spent over 2k to completely change my setup and a year later I'm downsizing and spending more. If I was talking to someone who had nothing I'd estimate that they would need to spend a min of $500 to really get going


#35: Post by Pressino »

If the question is "what is the least amount you can spend to make really good espresso for a reasonable amount of effort," Jeff gave the best answer: you can make great espresso with a decent hand grinder for about $200, a basic Flair for another $200, whatever kettle you already have, and if you want foamy milk drinks, another $125 for a Bellman (all brand new or cheaper if used). And they will last as forever as home coffee making equipment gets. As regards the "physical effort" and time needed to make espresso at home, most of it will be in cranking the grinder, boiling the water, and pulling the shot. More considerable mental effort will be expended developing the skills needed to make that espresso... But that's also going to be the case if you use $20K worth of espresso making fact you'll probably face a longer and steeper learning curve!

Yeah, you can get pod machines that at first blush seem to make it easier (especially the learning part), but: 1) the pods ain't cheap; 2) the machines are fragile and don't last long; and, 3) the espresso produced is at best OK. :D


#36: Post by Belt123 »

I agree with many of the others here- it is possible to start on a budget. My first kit included a used Pasquini Livia 90 and used Mazzer Mini off of Craigslist . Boy, did I think that I was way ahead of the game skipping over single boiler machines.

Like many hobbies as you stick with, you to accept that upgrades are not always needs, but wants. There clearly is a point where you'll reach the land of diminished returns. I feel starting off with quality- used gear is a great way to get your feet wet. With enough research, and trolling CL, H-B, and ebay I'm confident an affordable kit is available for all who would like to see if this is something for them. And if not, provided the equipment is solid, can fairly easily be resold.

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#37: Post by Kaffee Bitte »

I started out with a La Pavoni and a Nemox Lux. The lux died by rock about a month post purchase. Bad choice on my part. I managed to find a Macap mc4 that was a demo model with the Macap logo sticker coming loose. At the time all in was about $1000 with some accessories. Would be around 2k now probably. Since then I have added a second Pavoni and a second grinder (also now dead by rock, the bane of small Conicals). I figured total spent on gear is around 4k by now but that includes my roast gear too. This was spread out over about 16 years of use, so no one purchase broke the bank.

Still don't feel I need much else. This setup will be to the end of my coffee drinking and onwards to the next generation. There is nothing in espresso I can't do with this setup. Well super light roasts are harder, but I am not a Nordic style fan aside from specific coffees.

For someone who isn't sure, Jeff's suggestion of robot, hand grinder, kettle and steamer, makes a great learning experience. Many don't feel the need to upgrade past this.
Lynn G.
LMWDP # 110


#38: Post by Honeycomb »

baldheadracing wrote:I was surprised at how many people I know that have a Breville Barista Express.
I started out with a Barista Pro, essentially an updated version of the express. I still will recommend it to friends on the fence about getting into espresso as a great starting option. It's incredibly similar to the argument of starting on a 250cc motorcycle vs. starting on a 1000cc motorcycle. Sure, you can start on a 1000cc and be fine, but on a 250cc you will have a much easier time focusing on the fundamentals of riding rather than wrestling with an incredibly capable machine you don't fully understand.

The barista gave me a great time of learning the fundamental processes involved in making home espresso, and highlighted where my inputs needed to improve vs. where I needed better equipment to improve. All of that helped give me a better understanding what was and wasn't important to me on my upgrade path. Even more important is that it has given me more appreciation for what I have upgraded to, and how much it has rewarded my work with better and more consistent shots.

My machine has long since been passed on to other friends to help guide them along this crazy rabbit hole of a hobby :lol:

Team HB

#39: Post by ira »

Honeycomb wrote:It's incredibly similar to the argument of starting on a 250cc motorcycle vs. starting on a 1000cc motorcycle. Sure, you can start on a 1000cc and be fine, but on a 250cc you will have a much easier time focusing on the fundamentals of riding rather than wrestling with an incredibly capable machine you don't fully understand.
I've seen that start on a small motorcycle reasoning used probably more than it should be. It's a rule because a significant number of young people who buy motorcycles pin the throttle the first day, not so much because it's any harder to learn on a fast bike. My first bike was was the fastest bike you could buy the day I bought it, Norton Commando, but I barely touched the throttle for the first few thousand miles.

Better espresso machines are easier to learn on. Start with an SBDU and you might just give up before making a decent espresso, happened to me back in the early 70's with a Baby Gagia. Start with an HX and you're more likely to succeed. I'm always grateful I choose an E-61 double boiler for my first machine when I tried a second time as it tended to just work, even on the first day, making the experience positive from the beginning. I was lucky that I spent some number of months here before jumping in which helped in my choice, prior to arriving here I was looking at Jura automatics.


#40: Post by NicoNYC »

BKH wrote:My other hobby is biking. I raced Cat1 road in the US. Biking requires much more time (12000 miles/year), effort (getting on your bike when you don't want to,bonking, throwing up after intervals), and money ($3000+ for a race bike) compared to making espresso.
I actually think cycling is a great equivalent for making espresso in terms of both cost and difficulty. In your case, Cat1 is pretty damn competitive, you were basically training to compete in the World Barista Championships, or at least a national qualifier for the WBC (excepting of course the physical demands of cycling).

For both cycling and espresso, a thousand bucks or so gets you into the game, maybe 1.5 or 2k if you want to skip the entry level. On a budget, you could get a single-speed or fixed gear (Robot, Flair, hand grinder...). Then the accessories: pedals, shoes, jerseys, GPS (tamper, WDT tool, fancy cups, dosing rings). And if you start to dive deep, you need a road bike, gravel bike, mountain bike (flat burr, conical burr, titan flat, ghost burr). A similar amount of time and knowledge necessary for routine maintenance and repair as well.
LMWDP #718