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best espresso machine/grinder combo for about $600-$700 budget?
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > best espresso...  
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blandeena
Senior Member


Joined: 7 Jan 2007
Posts: 19
Location: Austin, TX
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Quickmill Anita
Grinder: Macap M4 stepless w/ doser
Vac Pot: Bodum French press
Drip: walmart $5 special
Posted Mon Jan 8, 2007, 12:11am
Subject: best espresso machine/grinder combo for about $600-$700 budget?
 

After searching online, it seems that the Rancilio Silvia and Rocky grinder is the most reccomended option. Tho slightly out of my budget, is this truly the best combo for that approximate price range? It sounds as if the Silvia isn't as user friendly as many other options. I've never used an espresso machine before, so I'd like one I can use with little experience. I would probably make an equal amount of plain old espressos and lattes. If I got a less grind-picky machine, could I get away with spending less on a burr grinder and still get comparable espresso quality? Thanks in advance for any suggestions or opinions.
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Luca
Senior Member
Luca
Joined: 27 Jan 2004
Posts: 2,658
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Espresso: H: Maver W: FB-80
Grinder: H: Super Jolly W: Brasilia...
Vac Pot: Hario TCA-2
Roaster: Sample Roaster at Work
Posted Mon Jan 8, 2007, 1:05am
Subject: Re: best espresso machine/grinder combo for about $600-$700 budget?
 

Hi there, and welcome to coffeegeek!

It is interesting that people always talk about coffee equipment in absolutes, but admit that taste is all relative.  Frankly, I think that the reason that the silvia has a reputation for being finnicky is that the sorts of people who buy it tend to be us obsessive-compulsive coffeegeek types and we notice all of these things!  I struggle to see how any other machine in the price bracket is going to be easier to use.  Which is not to say that I think that the silvia is a particularly good machine, just that it delivers a lot in comparison with other machines in the price bracket.

Unfortunately, you absolutely cannot cut corners on the grinder.  Personally, I think that the rocky isn't very good value for money.  I'd look at either getting a cheaper grinder with stepless adjustment and a conical burr set, knowing that it will be noisy, messy and will break down OR I would spend the dough on a mazzer mini.  I always found that the mini slaughtered the rocky in terms of espresso quality and ease of dialling in.  There have been many head-to-head comparisons to that effect, and one of them was directly on point for you: they paired the rocky and mini with a silvia and a semi-commercial machine and found that the mini produced much, much better results when paired with the silvia, but the difference wasn't as big when paired with the semi-commercial machine.

Needless to say, if I were you, I would pick up a very good quality grinder and then spend the leftover on an espresso machine.

Cheers,

Luca

 
General ramblings about coffee: http://www.pourquality.blogspot.com/

Reviews of Australian coffee: http://www.coffeereviewaustralia.com/
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TomP10
Senior Member
TomP10
Joined: 31 Dec 2005
Posts: 420
Location: East Coast
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: LaSpaz S1
Grinder: mini E-B; Virtuoso
Vac Pot: Yama; balance brewer
Drip: Aeropress
Roaster: Hottop
Posted Mon Jan 8, 2007, 6:32am
Subject: Re: best espresso machine/grinder combo for about $600-$700 budget?
 

I own a Silvia/Rocky combination.  I agree with Luca.... my sense is that the main issues with Silvia are true for all espresso machines in her price category, class (< US$500, single boiler).  If you can live with the limitations (wide temp range, delay in steaming milk) I think she is a great buy.  The temp range issue can be resolved by temp surfing (try reading this link for a good description http://home.surewest.net/frcn/Coffee/Coffee58.html ).     If you make a lot of cappas, you have to wait about 2 minutes for Silvia's boiler to get to steaming temp.  Not that big of deal of making drinks mostly for for just 1 or 2 people, but a real deal killer if you want to make 4-5 drinks at a time.  

I like Rocky.  Certainly a better grind than my Virtuoso.  I have not used a Mazzer, but I have little doubt that Luca is right --- spending more on the grinder is worth it. Probably my next "upgrade" will be a better grinder.  That being said, if you go with Rocky, you will have an excellent grinder.  Sure, there are better grinders, but Rocky does a great job.  If you get a Rocky, you ought to do a couple of the simple "mods" to Rocky that improve living with it.  See this thread... "New Rancilio Rocky - a few questions."

If I were you I would call the major vendors (Chriscoffee, 1st-line) and see if they have any buyer remorse returns.   If you can get a lightly used Silvia for $400, you could match her with a Mazzer.  

Whatever you do, enjoy yourself.  Your life is about to get better!  My espressos and cappas at home are superior to those available almost anywhere!

- Tom

 
---------------------------------------------
Three Musketeers?? Nah... Four M's.
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mybs
Senior Member


Joined: 26 Jan 2006
Posts: 479
Location: Northern CA
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: QuickMill Anita
Grinder: Macap M4, La Cimbali Jr.
Drip: KitchenAid, Clever Coffee...
Roaster: FreshRoast+8, SC/CO
Posted Mon Jan 8, 2007, 9:19am
Subject: Re: best espresso machine/grinder combo for about $600-$700 budget?
 

In that budget range, you'd do well by purchasing a Mazzer Mini or Macap M4 as your grinder and matching them with a Gaggia Carezza or Gaggia Espresso.  You'll likely need to purchase a tamper and milk pitcher, and more importantly freshly roasted coffee beans (<2 weeks post roast).
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DigMe
Senior Member


Joined: 27 Jan 2006
Posts: 2,059
Location: Waco
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Expobar Office Pulser,...
Grinder: Super Jolly, Mazzer Mini,...
Vac Pot: Bodum Santos
Drip: Capresso ST600, Presto...
Roaster: Behmor, SC/CO, Poppery I,...
Posted Mon Jan 8, 2007, 11:55am
Subject: Re: best espresso machine/grinder combo for about $600-$700 budget?
 

blandeena Said:

If I got a less grind-picky machine, could I get away with spending less on a burr grinder and still get comparable espresso quality?

Posted January 8, 2007 link

IMO (and I think this is basically what you're hearing from everyone else) you never want to "get away with" spending less on your grinder.  I agree with Luca...spend as much as you can afford on the grinder and then buy as much espresso machine as you can with what you have left.  Then you can start saving for a better machine.  So...$700?  If you're buying new I'd get a Mazzer Mini and a Gaggia Espresso or a Solis SL-70.

You have more options used though.  You could possibly get a Mazzer Super Jolly and a Silvia.  I got my Mazzer Mini lightly used for around $300 on Ebay.  Be patient and use good judgement and you can make the most of your money.

bc

 
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EddieDove
Senior Member
EddieDove
Joined: 30 Jun 2006
Posts: 837
Location: Gulf Coast, Mississippi
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Carezza
Grinder: Mazzer Mini, Dienes
Vac Pot: Yama w/ Cory Glass Rod,...
Drip: Technivorm, Chemex, Bodum...
Roaster: RKDrum, Behmor, Gene Cafe,...
Posted Mon Jan 8, 2007, 12:09pm
Subject: Re: best espresso machine/grinder combo for about $600-$700 budget?
 

mybs Said:

In that budget range, you'd do well by purchasing a Mazzer Mini or Macap M4 as your grinder and matching them with a Gaggia Carezza or Gaggia Espresso.  You'll likely need to purchase a tamper and milk pitcher, and more importantly freshly roasted coffee beans (<2 weeks post roast).

Posted January 8, 2007 link

Agreed.  I have the Mazzer Mini and the Gaggia Carezza.

 
Respectfully,

Eddie Dove (a.k.a. eodove)
Vita non est vivere sed valere vita est
Home Coffee Roasting Blog and Reference
http://www.southcoastcoffeeroaster.blogspot.com/
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Fred1
Senior Member


Joined: 3 Sep 2004
Posts: 564
Location: Seattle
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: LaSpaziale S1 Mini Vivaldi...
Grinder: Mazzer Mini/NS MCF
Vac Pot: None
Drip: Chemex
Roaster: Hottop, FR+8
Posted Tue Jan 9, 2007, 7:21am
Subject: Re: best espresso machine/grinder combo for about $600-$700 budget?
 

At the risk of piling on, the Gaggia Espresso or Carreza teamed with a Mazzer Mini or Macap M4 stepless are a great choice.  The cheaper Gaggias don't have a three way solenoid valve and live in a plastic rather than a metal case, but, teamed with a superior grinder will produce better espresso than a Silvia teamed with a lesser grinder or no grinder at all.  

Fred
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ericnorby
Senior Member


Joined: 30 Apr 2006
Posts: 159
Location: Lincoln, NE
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Expobar Pulser
Grinder: Mazzer Mini, Solis Maestro,...
Vac Pot: Yama
Drip: Melitta Manual, Chemex, FP,...
Posted Tue Jan 9, 2007, 11:23am
Subject: Re: best espresso machine/grinder combo for about $600-$700 budget?
 

I'd go for the Gaggia Espresso simply because it has a larger, more visible water reservoir.  Mazzer Mini, of course, because it's a beast.  Get a good tamper - preferably one with a screw-on base because they are less likely to break.  The tamper I use is actually a $16 {http://espressoparts.com/product/3006LT_CLEAR]Lava Tamp because my $50 and $90 tampers have both broken.  

Or, in the long run, you could save money by buying an Expobar Pulsar or something similar (low-end HX) and a fantastic grinder....   Upgrade fever will hit you.
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mrgnomer
Senior Member
mrgnomer
Joined: 16 Oct 2005
Posts: 2,286
Location: NA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Vetrano, Silvia, Olympia...
Grinder: Zass., Macap M4 stepless,...
Vac Pot: Yama, Bodum E Santos
Drip: French Press, ibrik, Moka...
Roaster: Hottop programmable, IRoast2
Posted Tue Jan 9, 2007, 6:47pm
Subject: Re: best espresso machine/grinder combo for about $600-$700 budget?
 

Get one of the good grinders like a Macap, Mazzer or LaCimbali and an o.k. machine, maybe a used Silvia, Solis or Gaggia.  You'll get the best the machine has to offer with a good grinder and if/when you upgrade to a really good machine you'll have the grinder and grinding experience already.  If I had to do it again that's what I'd do if my budget were in the $600-$700 range.

To make it all worth while some accessories like a good tamper and a supply of good fresh roasts would make for good espresso.
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blandeena
Senior Member


Joined: 7 Jan 2007
Posts: 19
Location: Austin, TX
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Quickmill Anita
Grinder: Macap M4 stepless w/ doser
Vac Pot: Bodum French press
Drip: walmart $5 special
Posted Tue Jan 9, 2007, 8:29pm
Subject: Re: best espresso machine/grinder combo for about $600-$700 budget?
 

Wow, it seems unanimous. Apparently it's not about the machine, but the grinder. As someone new to making my own espresso, I can see why so many people end up with poor results at first. I never would have expected so many replies saying how much more important the grinder is, than the espresso machine. It almost sounds counter-intuitive to me. 'If you want good espresso, get a good espresso machine? Nope, it's: If you want good espresso get a great grinder.' Before everyone's responses, I was definitely thinking: 'Grinder, what? Yeah I guess I can go grab one of those too, they're all the same, right?' But thanks to all of you coffeegeeks, I can learn about all of this before I go out and just buy a fancy machine and a not good-enough grinder.

It sounds like the Mazzer Mini is overwhelmingly the top grinder choice in my price range. I was looking up information and pictures of the Mazzer mini, and came across several different models. Now I would like to know what the difference is between them. It looks like maybe one is more automatic than another, one has a doser, and one doesn't. Just for making a shot or two at a time, I wouldn't want a doser, correct? And the big hopper on top? It sounds as if it works better if there are lots of extra beans in it, is this true for all models? I wouldn't want too many extra beans to be wasted in the hopper, or much excess grounds to be trapped in a doser. Can someone help me decipher the different models?

Also, ericnorby mentioned HX machines. What does an HX machine do, that a non HX machine can't?

I am very grateful for all the responses I have recieved! This is a big investment, and I'd prefer to do it right the first time around. If this means saving up a bit more before I make my purchase, then that is what I will do. Thanks again!
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