JasonBrandtLewis Senior Member Joined: 9 Dec 2005 Posts: 6,465 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 Nov 23, 2011, 6:14pm Subject: Re: Decent Espresso Machines for $300
Not really . . . unless a good deal comes her way on a used machine.
Are you familiar with "The Four M's of Espresso"? -- the Macinazione is the correct grinding of the coffee (in other words, the grinder and its settings); -- the Miscela is the coffee blend (or beans themselves); -- the Macchina is the espresso machine itself; and, -- the Mano is the skilled hand of the barista (i.e.: the user). When each factor of the four M's is precisely controlled, the espresso beverage that is produced is the ultimate coffee experience. Long story short: the barista will improve over time, but even the world's best machine will produce nothing but $#!+ without a great grinder!
Even buying used, $300 is simply not enough to get a decent machine and grinder. One need not spend thousands, but one has to spend more than $300.
Posted Wed Nov 23, 2011, 7:58pm Subject: Re: Decent Espresso Machines for $300
Maybe a modded EC155 with a capresso infinity? That's $90+$70. My rommate has an EC155, it's meh. The only time I get espresso is when I go to the coffee shop (Barefoot Coffee ftw!). I'm still new to good coffee so take my advise with a grain of salt. If I was her, I'd get a used preciso for $230 and then buy a CCD or something. Then save money for a silvia later on. From what others have been telling me, when new to good coffee, get a good grinder first, then go from there.
This will make decent espresso without any tamping, and it won't be nearly as picky about the grind. If she decides that it isn't good enough, she can try depressurizing the portafilter. After depressurizing it will require tamping so she should invest in a good 53mm metal tamper which will fit snugly in the filter basket.
Depending on your friend's experience with espresso, the pressurized portafilter might be good enough.
Posted Thu Nov 24, 2011, 5:38am Subject: Re: Decent Espresso Machines for $300
Assuming the $300 budget is for the machine only, I would second the idea of a lower end Gaggia. The New Baby can make a decent shot when paired with a good grinder. I used one for some years and was reasonably happy until it was time to upgrade. However the New Baby is closer to $400 from dealers (though $329 at Amazon). If $300 is a firm ceiling, maybe the Gaggia Evolution? Just a thought ...
Coffee is the common man's gold, and like gold it brings to every man the feeling of luxury and nobility. - Sheik Abd al-Qadir
Posted Thu Nov 24, 2011, 7:13am Subject: Re: Decent Espresso Machines for $300
How about a setup that delivers decent espresso for under $150?
At my house on the shore, I'm using a Hamilton Beach espresso machine (about $70 from Wal-Mart) which you can find reviewed here at CoffeeGeek, coupled with a Turkish hand grinder. You can find a good new hand grinder at Orphan Espresso for about $75 (the Japanese units sound good).
The espresso I make at the shore is not quite as good as what I get from the Electra Mcal/Rossi combination at home, but it's significantly better than what I can get in most coffee shops.
If your friend is looking to make a couple of espressos a day, she might want to consider this option.
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