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getting into the world of espresso
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > getting into the...  
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scooterguy
Senior Member


Joined: 6 Dec 2010
Posts: 7
Location: winnipeg
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Mon Dec 6, 2010, 11:35pm
Subject: getting into the world of espresso
 

Hi all, thanks in advance for your feedback!  I am going to be buying a machine and grinder for my wife and I as a Christmas surprise.  I started looking at the Saeco Inox and maestro grinder...then I came on this forum and started listening to the "gurus".  My budget has taken a real beating by the way...thanks a lot!  Anyways, I would appreciate some feedback on some possible options.  

I am now looking to spend around $1000-$1100 CAD.  

Gaggia Classic and Vario - classic not available in Canada but can pay duty from US
Lelit Pl41 and Vario - some not so great reviews on reliability
Rancilio silvia - sounds like a great machine but complaints about ease of use
Grinder is not set in stone...this just seems to be the best choice in my price range.  Is there another grinder in this price range that would be better.  

I have also noticed that some posters indicate that if you drink mostly milk and water based drinks rather than straight espresso shots, the quality of the setup we buy may not be as important?  Am I understanding that most of the "gurus" on here drink straight espresso shots?

cheers!
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MikeReilly
Senior Member


Joined: 28 Oct 2007
Posts: 304
Location: Vancouver Island
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Cimbali Junior Gaggia...
Grinder: Pharos CC45 Mazzer Mini
Drip: Cuisinart
Roaster: Behmor, I-Roast 2, Popper
Posted Tue Dec 7, 2010, 8:55am
Subject: Re: getting into the world of espresso
 

If you are set on the price range, then the PL41/Vario is a pretty decent way to go.  If you have patience, you can find good deals on used high quality gear (some times easier if you are in or near a large metro area).  Craigslist is your friend (or possibly the buy and sell forum here).  I've seen two La Cimbali Juniors in the last few months for $650.00 (bought one of them - the first to come up, if I'd bought the second one, I'd have saved some $$$ on parts).  Gaggias are decent machines, as are the PL41's, but you do have a wait time between brewing and steaming.
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takeshi
Senior Member
takeshi
Joined: 12 Oct 2002
Posts: 963
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Alex Duetto 3.0
Grinder: Super Jolly
Roaster: Amaya Roasting
Posted Wed Dec 8, 2010, 9:32am
Subject: Re: getting into the world of espresso
 

scooterguy Said:

I have also noticed that some posters indicate that if you drink mostly milk and water based drinks rather than straight espresso shots, the quality of the setup we buy may not be as important?  Am I understanding that most of the "gurus" on here drink straight espresso shots?

Posted December 6, 2010 link

It's all a matter of subjective preference.  The straight espresso drinkers make it sound as if milk hides all wrongs but I can definitely distinguish a latte made with good espresso versus mediocre and even versus poor espresso.  YMMV depending on your taste buds.

If you mostly drink milk drinks an HX or DB would be a plus IMO but it sounds like they're out of your budget.
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LiteOnPhotography
Senior Member


Joined: 21 Nov 2010
Posts: 66
Location: arlington
Expertise: Pro Barista

Espresso: Braville Xl
Grinder: bunn
Drip: bodum
Posted Wed Dec 8, 2010, 1:54pm
Subject: Re: getting into the world of espresso
 

have you looked into a ranchilio silva?  makes decent coffee and can be had at a lower price
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TheMadTamper
Senior Member


Joined: 2 Nov 2010
Posts: 1,246
Location: US
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Salvatore SES; Izzo Duetto...
Grinder: Compak K10 WBC, K8 Fresh,...
Drip: /Pod: Bunn MCP
Roaster: /Other: Blender - BlendTec...
Posted Wed Dec 8, 2010, 2:13pm
Subject: Re: getting into the world of espresso
 

Your grinder choices are excellent, so you've certainly done your homework.  I've never used a Vario, but from all I've seen in that price range, that would be a VERY solid choice with very good grind quality.   Another excellent choice would be the Compak K3 Touch or K3 Elite, depending on your preferences.   Supposedly the Vario has superior grind quality to the K3 (K3 is compared to Mazzer Mini, Vario is compared to Mazzer Jolly), and it certainly has convenience going for it, however, if durability is more of a concern, the K3 is an excellent alternative at about the same price.  I upgraded from a Rocky to a K3T and there was a substantial improvement to my shots.  Had I upgraded to a Vario I'm sure there would have been a somewhat better improvement than that. (I then upgraded to the K10 which had a TREMENDOUS improvement in quality, but that's a whole different class (one of the largest grinders out there.) I still use my K3 as the dedicated morning latte grinder dialed in for my latte roast, and it never lets me down. Weigh durability vs. grind superiority if deciding between a Vario and a K3.  Vario=convenience/grind; K3=durability with a great grind (that some people prefer more).

Never skimp on grinder!  That's the most important part next to the beans.  SO buy whichever grinder you want, then pick the espresso machine based on the leftover budget.

As a 5 year Silvia owner, I can say that you'll learn a lot from Silvia, and it's capable of some very impressive shots.  You do eventually reach a point where it's just not stable enough for your skill, but that takes a long time.  It's not so much "ease of use"...*ALL* "SBDU" (single boiler dual-use) machines have pretty much the same usability issues (the wait between brew/steam, flushing the boiler after steam, etc.) What Silvia's famous for is being temperamental and unforgiving.  This is somewhat true.  Silvia is rather unstable for temp and pressure with a very wide deadband on the thermostat controllers.  The PL41 has a PID system so the temp is electronically managed....it's much easier to get a consistant shot.  From what I've heard, a Silvia on its peak shot will trump a PL41 on its best shot.....but getting Silvia to that perfection takes a lot of skill and even more luck.  In build quality/longevity, though, Silvia wins, hands down.  Silvia's larger boiler tends to produce more steam than the PL41, though, so if you're primarily a milk drink person, a Silvia may be worth considering still.

Many here drink straight shots for three reasons.  The first is it's the most pure way to taste your results, and the nuanced flavor of the beans.  The second is that a really great shot is a really great beverage...thick and syrupy with a hint of sweetness (but not as sweet as foamed milk.)  And last is because it boosts your Geek Image(TM) (and Italians mock countries that drink "hot, sweet, milk" :) ) In all honesty, though, MOST of the geeks here ALSO drink milk drinks....there's just more discussion on shots because that's the test & analysis of ones technique.....otherwise it would be like judging cakes by eating the icing.  The latte art forums have lots of dedicated milk talk.  And milk DOES mask certain attributes of the equipment...or rather, makes the flaws more palletable.  But don't underestimate a perfect shot in a perfectly foamed milk.  The flavors of a roast come out differently in milk, and many blends are designed to compliment that....i.e., a "chocolate" shot may easily pick up "berry and almond" flavors in milk.  It's its own art.

I'll second that for a mostly milk-beverage user, you'd find a *LOT* of value in a HX or a Silvano to spare the dreaded steam flush and transition times.  It will make your life easier.  But that would pretty much top the budget on its own, and I'd still recommend buying the better grinder at the cost of convenience of the machine rather than an inferior grinder and a state of the art machine.
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carlsilver
Senior Member


Joined: 19 Dec 2003
Posts: 231
Location: Portugal
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: La Pavoni Europiccola/La...
Grinder: la Pavoni Jolly/Ascaso i...
Vac Pot: Normax
Drip: Melitta (manual)
Roaster: no
Posted Wed Dec 8, 2010, 2:30pm
Subject: Re: getting into the world of espresso
 

takeshi Said:

The straight espresso drinkers make it sound as if milk hides all wrongs

Posted December 8, 2010 link

I'd rather say that milk hides the best in great beans...
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scooterguy
Senior Member


Joined: 6 Dec 2010
Posts: 7
Location: winnipeg
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Wed Dec 8, 2010, 3:26pm
Subject: Re: getting into the world of espresso
 

Thanks for all the input guys.  One of my relatives makes a lot of espresso drinks.  He is not as passionate or knowledgable about the process.  He is pleading with me to buy a great machine and buy the coffee from a specialty shop where they grind the beans for you with a $5000 grinder.  I realize that the issue here is time, freshness and probably cost.  Does anyone have any input?
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frcn
Senior Member
frcn
Joined: 23 Dec 2001
Posts: 3,356
Location: Northern California
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: Vibiemme Domobar Double
Grinder: Mazzer Kony, Baratza...
Vac Pot: Hario, 2 Cory pots, 1 Cory...
Drip: Behmor Brazen, Bunn A10 mod...
Roaster: computer controlled Hottop,...
Posted Wed Dec 8, 2010, 3:36pm
Subject: Re: getting into the world of espresso
 

scooterguy Said:

Thanks for all the input guys.  One of my relatives makes a lot of espresso drinks.  He is not as passionate or knowledgable about the process.  He is pleading with me to buy a great machine and buy the coffee from a specialty shop where they grind the beans for you with a $5000 grinder.  I realize that the issue here is time, freshness and probably cost.  Does anyone have any input?

Posted December 8, 2010 link

Nonsense.

Only the lowest machines with crema-enhancing portafilters fit your relative's plea. You NEED a good (if not great) grinder if you are serious about getting all you can from the bean into the cup.

 
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Beezer
Senior Member
Beezer
Joined: 17 Oct 2006
Posts: 456
Location: Fresno, CA
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Quickmill Anita
Grinder: La Cimbali Max Hybrid
Posted Wed Dec 8, 2010, 4:31pm
Subject: Re: getting into the world of espresso
 

Ground coffee goes stale within minutes, so getting your coffee ground by a shop, even if it is on a $5,000 grinder, is going to result in having stale coffee and little or no crema or flavor.  As Randy says, you need a good grinder first, before anything else.  

The Vario is an excellent choice for a grinder.  I recently got a refurbished one from Baratza, and I've been very impressed with it.  It's as good or better than my old Cimbali Max, which is much bigger and more "commercial" in style and build.

If you can stand to increase your budget a bit, the Silvano from Chris Coffee looks very promising.  PID controlled with a decent sized boiler, and a separate thermoblock for steam so you can steam milk and pull shots at the same time.  All for about $800, which is more than the other machines you're looking at, but still less than most HX and double boilers.  However, it's new on the market, so it's hard to say if it's going to live up to its promise.
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JasonBrandtLewis
Senior Member
JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,368
Location: Berkeley, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -...
Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup
Drip: CCD, Chemex
Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Wed Dec 8, 2010, 7:15pm
Subject: Re: getting into the world of espresso
 

The "Rule" of Fifteens:
--  Green (unroasted) coffee beans should be roasted within 15 months of harvest, or they go stale.
--  Roasted coffee beans should be ground within 15 days of roasting, or they go stale.
--  Ground coffee should be used within 15 minutes of being ground, or it will go stale.

OK, so it's more of a guideline than an iron-clad rule, BUT . . . just as clichés become clichés for a reason (because they're true!), so too do "rules" become rules.  They're just as true . . .

Get a grinder.

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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Step by step guide for easy brewing and steaming with the Rancilio Silvia
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