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Intimidated by Espresso- Need some buying advice
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Discussions > Espresso > General > Intimidated by...  
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CoffeeYa
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Joined: 3 Mar 2014
Posts: 6
Location: USA
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Mon Mar 3, 2014, 1:13pm
Subject: Intimidated by Espresso- Need some buying advice
 

Hello Everyone,

I love coffee and just got into making my own.  I am really interested in upgrading from drip and AeroPress coffee to an espresso machine, but I'll be honest I am overwhelmed and have some questions.  The last thing I want to do is spend some good money on a machine and equipment and not use it properly.

  1.  What are some machines you recommend for beginners and why? I have my eye on these two below.  One is $90 and the other is $250.  Is it worth starting out with a more expensive machine?

Click Here (www.amazon.com)

Click Here (www.amazon.com)

  1. Where can I get more training on how to pull good shots and use the machine properly?  So far I have found a lot of help on YouTube and forums like this, but I am curious if there is any other good resources out there.

  2. Will a Hario Skerton grinder work well with an esspresso machine?

Thanks so much guys!
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 2,961
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4 x2, VDD...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Mon Mar 3, 2014, 1:29pm
Subject: Re: Intimidated by Espresso- Need some buying advice
 

you'd be best off moving this to the "espresso machines" forum, reading the sticky note in the top of that forum (at least the beginning post by Coffeenoobie) and then editting your question to include answers to the standard questions.  I also recommend reading the buying guide available under "guides & how tos" (thin dark green bar above).

It's not tht I don't want to answer your questions, but rather, I want to be able to give you a foundation from which to understand answers and why we will ask you questions.

to get you started on your pointed questions.  many cafes offer classes. yes, a Skerton is doable, but it really is best used with a cheap mod that will make it stepless.

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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CoffeeYa
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Joined: 3 Mar 2014
Posts: 6
Location: USA
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Mon Mar 3, 2014, 2:56pm
Subject: Re: Intimidated by Espresso- Need some buying advice
 

Thanks for the reply.  I noticed the sticky you mentioned right after I posted this.  That seems to be quite helpful!
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brianl
Senior Member


Joined: 1 Dec 2012
Posts: 441
Location: Chicago IL
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Classic (w/PID)
Grinder: Baratza Vario
Drip: chemex
Posted Tue Mar 4, 2014, 7:36am
Subject: Re: Intimidated by Espresso- Need some buying advice
 

I would say that those two machines are 'toys' and wouldn't bother with either.

I started with the delonghi and know that you can get something decent when you put in a nonpressurized filter and get a good grinder. However, after making that investment, I think your best off with a gaggia classic. They are all over ebay. I started with the delonghi and that lasted a month before I upgraded to the classic, haha.

If you're set on the Hario grinders and only plan to do espresso...I would focus on the hario mini mill instead. The skerton can do espresso but i've found the mini mill more consistent.
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CMIN
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Jun 2012
Posts: 1,356
Location: South FL
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Crossland CC1
Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Posted Tue Mar 4, 2014, 8:54am
Subject: Re: Intimidated by Espresso- Need some buying advice
 

Hario Mini or Skerton are mehhh for espresso, you have to do the stepless mod to each otherwise the steps are too wide and even if you play with dose I got sprtiz/gushers/channeling almost all the time, stepless mod is a must on the Harios.

As far as the machines, depends on your budget, I'd say neither, Neither will make espresso, their pressurized portafilter machines, do't operate at the right temps, no stability etc, more importantly if something breaks their generally thrown in the trash as there's no parts available to fix. Don't go off the reviews on Amazon raving about either, generally people that don't know coffee and are using preground, got the machines as a gift, cheap grinders (pressurized baskets force coffee through a tiny hole negating if you don't have an espresso capable grinder, but makes fake crema and taste more like drip, but lets people think their making espresso).My Delonghi Bar32 lasted a year before self destructing lol. I modded it to be depressurized and with the Hario or Preciso made a nice difference (fresh beans of course), then I got the CC1 and the coffee was on another level, using same beans and grinder the Bar32 wasn't even remotely close to the CC1 coffee resultsor steaming.

Depending on your budget, a Gaggia Classic is far better then both you listed and not a lot more then the Capresso, can sometimes find them refurbed, or can find them used. Solid machines and easy to fix/get parts for down the road. Make sure you beans are fresh roasted, nothing bought from a grocery store etc, if it has a use by or best by date.... run. Tons of online roaster to order from and pry some even in your own area if you google/yelp your area.
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Buckley
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Joined: 25 Jan 2011
Posts: 423
Location: Internet
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Tue Mar 4, 2014, 9:52am
Subject: Re: Intimidated by Espresso- Need some buying advice
 

Dear CoffeeYa,
Also, if you stretch your privacy envelope a little bit and tell us where you are, you might receive better help.
For instance, if you are near Dallas, the Texas Coffee School would be very convenient, but if you Google 'coffee schools' or 'barista training' or variants of such, coupled with your location, or the location of nearby large cities, you might be able to find sources of such education.

You are to be congratulated for your ambition in educating yourself online; it is workable for a significant part of your learning curve and may hold you a number of years until or if you feel the need to progress into the expert realm (which I am not, BTW).

I learned on a Mypressi handheld device, which I am still using to this day.  There are many reasons why you should choose this machine over any other to start your odyssy in espresso.  
  1. It is the cheapest true espresso maker at $169.00.  The company has a track record of being helpful to its customers.
  2. Pressure is constant and temperature is constant for infusion.  This gives a quality to its shots that more expensive machines cannot match.*
  3. The configuration of the Mypressi is that of a 'naked portafilter', you do not have to buy a naked portafilter in order to learn technique.
  4. You will learn about grinding, tamping and avoiding channeling.**  These are enough variables (and important ones) for you to master, initially, without being distracted by the mechanics of boiler pressure, temperature-surfing, warm-up, cool-down, etc.
  5. You do not have a boiler to descale and maintain.  You can experiment with any type of water, hard, soft, distilled, and see how it changes the taste.
  6. You secondarily free up your budget to buy a better grinder.  A $300-400 grinder paired with a Mypressi will give you better shots than a cheap grinder paired with a $650 machine.  BTW, you will get tired of hand-grinding fine for espresso if you do it every day, especially several times per day.
    There are several disadvantages to owning a Mypressi;
    1. There are several boorish opinionated types who frequent these discussions who do not own Mypressis, but they 'know all about them' and will disparage them without any experience.
    2. (a corollary of 'A') Mypressi is not a 'real machine' that sits on your counter that you can use to build your identity as a 'home barista'.
    3. It uses disposable gas cartridges that you must keep buying in order to use the device.  These are easily available online or through restaurant supply houses or on ebay and they add about 13 cents to the cost of a shot of espresso.  I find them an acceptable trade-off to the preventive maintenance that larger machines need, including replacing gaskets, descaling the boiler and backflushing.
    4. You are limited to an infusion temperature of 194-6 degrees.  Several users, myself included, buy a digital thermometer and an inexpensive steamer and immerse the steam wand into the reservoir to bring the water up to the desired temperature (I have a Krups 'coffee machine' with steam wand that I bought for $5 at a garage sale).  There are many roasts that infuse well 'cool' (at 194 degrees).  Sounds like too much fuss?  I think that good espresso requires some degree of fuss and this seems to be 'less fuss for your buck' compared to some systems.
    5. No steam for milk drinks (a killer for some) unless you buy a steamer to expand the temp range of the Mypressi.  Figure $40-50 on ebay.  Less at the yard sale.

Bottom line: buy a Mypressi, buy a Baratza Vario, or at least a Virtuoso.  Read espresso blogs.  Next year, you will know in what direction you will want to go to get a boiler machine.
Good Luck.
Buck

*I realize that these may be perceived as fighting words, but consider this: look at how many machine modifications (mods) are devoted to PIDs just on this web site alone.  PIDs come stock or are added in order to help with temperature stability.  This may help reproducibility but may not significantly help decrease the change in water temperature during the brew infusion.  Temperature change during infusion or between infusions significantly degrades the quality and/or the reproducibility of good quality shots.  Using the method of heating the Mypressi reservoir water with a steam wand and digital thermometer, I know just what the infusion temperature of my brew is at the dispersion screen to the degree.  How many CG users (without Scace devices) know their infusion temperature to the degree?  If you do, how much did your machine cost?  Thermocouples on the group head are not nearly precise, even if they were calibrated at one point in time.

**CoffeeYa, you should read about channeling on the web and look at u2b videos.  Watching the espresso stream come out of the bottom of the basket is the only way to know if you have a problem with channeling, or not.  People spend a lot of money for a second portafilter or to 'chop' their portafilter to remove the spouts and use it with the basket showing ('naked').  The Mypressi comes with a removable spout that lets you operate in 'naked' mode.  It is not intended to make your shot taste better directly, but it is the only way (at first) to know if your roast, grinder and tamping technique are appropriate.
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canuckcoffeeguy
Senior Member
canuckcoffeeguy
Joined: 22 Aug 2013
Posts: 168
Location: Burlington, Ontario, Canada
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Mypressi Twist v2
Grinder: Vario / Hario Slim
Vac Pot: I have a Dyson vacuum, but,...
Drip: Bialetti Brikka/Bodum...
Posted Tue Mar 4, 2014, 10:44am
Subject: Re: Intimidated by Espresso- Need some buying advice
 

Buckley Said:

I learned on a Mypressi handheld device, which I am still using to this day.  There are many reasons why you should choose this machine over any other to start your odyssy in espresso.  

Bottom line: buy a Mypressi, buy a Baratza Vario, or at least a Virtuoso.  Read espresso blogs.  Next year, you will know in what direction you will want to go to get a boiler machine.
Good Luck.
Buck

Posted March 4, 2014 link

I have to second this recommendation. I have been learning the craft with a Mypressi Twist v2 and a Baratza Vario, with the goal of eventually purchasing a solid HX machine down the road.

As Buckley has stated in detail, it's a simple way to learn the Barista fundamentals. I always pull shots with the naked basket, and I have been perfecting my distribution and tamping, while troubleshooting channeling issues etc.

I can say the shots produced are very good. To compare, I have used the same beans at home that some excellent Toronto cafes use. For example, one place I frequent is equipped with a La Marzocco GB5 and what I think is a Mazzer Robur. Anyway, Iíve tasted their shots about two dozen times, so I have a good sense of what their blend should taste like.

I purchased 2 pounds of their custom blend and have been pulling shots at home with similar parameters. 18g dose, with about 34g to 36g out, in approximately 30 to 33 seconds.

The bottom line, the shots I produce at home are very close to what I have tasted in their shop. And Iím using a Mypressi Twist + Vario, compared to their GB5 and commercial grinder.

I will say their cafť shot has a better mouthfeel, and, overall, it is marginally better. But itís not a massive difference.

Anyway, Iím still going to invest in a proper machine at some point. But I feel the simplicity of the Mypressi Twist, along with my Vario(as well as copious reading of this site and Home Barista) have helped me learn the fundamentals very quickly.

Itís just something to consider.
CCG
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Buckley
Senior Member


Joined: 25 Jan 2011
Posts: 423
Location: Internet
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Tue Mar 4, 2014, 12:48pm
Subject: Re: Intimidated by Espresso- Need some buying advice
 

Canuckcoffeeguy,

Thanks for the second.  
I think people lose sight of the fact that this coffee world can be divided into three: reward, learning about process/acquiring skills, and engineering/hobby or vocation.
  1. Reward - for these folks blogging about good coffees and good cafes (perhaps food chemistry) and training the palate are foremost.
  2. Process and skills - this is appropriate for the newby, either barista or roaster, or both.  But if you are on the learning curve without reward (#1), it becomes a drudge and perhaps this is why some give up.  It also is a topic for the experienced, on a different level; we see a lot of this over on Home-Barista.
  3. Engineering - this talk dominates the web.  Most posts are about machines.  Next most often, "why cant my machine perform?" when it really is the operators' lack of technique or knowledge.  This 'department' attracts tinkerers and engineers, but they must have some appreciation of #1 and #2, above.  I am in awe of those who know how to appreciate reward and are skilled in technique and engineering, they impress me as coffee geniuses.

Being exposed to technique and reward is the best self-actualizing combination for the start of the learning curve; I know it was for me.  When you thrown in a finicky machine (and each machines has its way of being finicky, especially inexpensive ones), the goal of the newby (including me) gets muddied as it gets divided between mastering a machine and mastering a technique.

The nice thing about the Mypressi is its simplicity.  It has a nice balance of being forgiving but does not tolerate sloppy technique.

I would like to echo your experiences; I have pulled cafe quality shots with it, too.  In my case it was Honey Badger at Intelligentsia in Chicago.  Bought a bag and did the same at home.  Felt as good as it tasted.

Buckley
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CoffeeYa
Senior Member


Joined: 3 Mar 2014
Posts: 6
Location: USA
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Tue Mar 4, 2014, 4:15pm
Subject: Re: Intimidated by Espresso- Need some buying advice
 

Hey thanks so much for the replies everyone! The MyPressi seems like a good option when I am ready to dive into espresso.  The sticky that was pointed out to me brought up a good point though, that espresso machines aren't the only way to make good coffee.  I'm a man on the go, so I did hours of research and decided to go with an automatic drip machine for now, the Bonavita BV1800.  It will be a good way for me to easily enjoy my coffee while I learn more about the art and science behind making the best cup (or shot).

I also got a Breville smart grinder as I was tired of hand cranking (again trying to make this easy in the morning for me).  I really hope I made the right move on this one.  I liked the price and the easy to use interface, but I hear its not that good for espresso.  I'm planning on using this for all sorts of other non espresso methods, such as french press and pour-over.

If anyone sees what I just bought and thinks I could have done better, please let me know!  The stuff has not even arrived yet, so its not too late to return.

This is such a fascinating science, and its even more fascinating that people like you are willing to help the clueless folks like me who want to learn :)

I am from Ohio USA btw.

Thanks again!
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Buckley
Senior Member


Joined: 25 Jan 2011
Posts: 423
Location: Internet
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Tue Mar 4, 2014, 6:31pm
Subject: Re: Intimidated by Espresso- Need some buying advice
 

You are welcome.
B
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