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Best machine $250 range
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Senior Member

Joined: 8 Oct 2012
Posts: 1
Location: colorado
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Mon Oct 8, 2012, 8:52am
Subject: Best machine $250 range

Hi all. I am new to the site, my name is Summer. I have a $200/month Starbucks habit that I'd like to give up. I have an old espresso machine, Krups Caffe Vapore that is maybe 15 years old and does not make very good shots of espresso and the steamer is weak. It was a fairly expensive machine in it's day and I'm not pleased with it. I know absolutely nothing about espresso machines and after hours of reading I still have no idea which machine to purchase. So I thought I'd ask for help on here. Could you give me a recommendation and tell me why it is better than the others, or tell me what I should be looking for in a machine?

Thanks so much!
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Senior Member

Joined: 25 Jan 2008
Posts: 881
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Londinium I, Arrarex...
Grinder: Gaggia MD85, Dienes Mokka,...
Drip: Behmor Brazen, Abid Clever
Roaster: Behmor 1600+
Posted Mon Oct 8, 2012, 9:06am
Subject: Re: Best machine $250 range

First thing to do is go read the article How to buy an espresso machine on this site. I'm afraid that unless you make a lucky buy on the used market, $250 isn't going to get you very much. And the grinder is the more important part of the equation. You need to budget a minimum of $250 for an espresso-capable grinder, or whatever machine you get won't be able to give you decent results.

The sad fact is that espresso is not an inexpensive hobby. The good thing is that you can make an investment that will pay off for a long time by learning to do it for yourself properly.
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Senior Member

Joined: 14 Jun 2012
Posts: 1,627
Location: South FL
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: CC1
Grinder: Baratza
Posted Mon Oct 8, 2012, 9:38am
Subject: Re: Best machine $250 range

If your spending 200 a month on coffee you can, and should easily up your budget, that's $2400 yearly on what is essentially fairly crappy coffee. Just as an example you can get machine and grinder for about $2000 and you'd still make out like a bandit especially after the 1st year saving over 2k yearly. Not saying to do that, but just an example. You should look into machines and grinders above $200 ;)

Just as an example my Crossland CC1 is an excellent single boiler dual use machine (sbdu) and is around $700 new with top notch features like full PID control for accurate temps and other things like fast thermoblock for steaming (makes it way easier and consistant vs cheaper machines that you'd have to learn temp surfing on or wait for boilers to cool). The Quickmill Silvano is around 1k and is a sbdu as well but has an extra pump to brew and steam at same time and is a solid built machine. The Breville Dual Boiler is around $1200 and has two boilers along with some cool inovative features. Pair any of those with a Baratza Vario for around $450-500 and you have a killer setup. Just as some examples. Or the cheaper Preciso grinder that i have which cab usually be had for $300 or less.

Read about the differences in machines as well, like heat exchange units (h/x).
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Senior Member
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 3,083
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Mon Oct 8, 2012, 10:52am
Subject: Re: Best machine $250 range

If you want to do this then save your coffee money for 3 months.  Get a  refurbished Presico or Vario grinder and then get a used or refurbished starbucks machine (seaco aroma) or gaggia.

That will be good for the 600$ you should have and give you nice espresso and you will save almost 2k a year even after you buy fresh whole beans to use.  If you can save for longer and start out with a better machine you should be happier, but this should get you started.  You can often find the rebranded saeco aroma machines (starbucks) on craigslist used for 80-125 range but they are a bit more risky in that they could be mistreated and need repairs.  I bought a used machine and was able to repair it, but I spent $475 on the machine that is about 1200 new.

The grinder is the most important, I know this is hard to understand but it is true.  A good barista can make a good espresso on a cheapo machine with a good grinder but can't on the most expensive machine with a cheapo grinder.

Click Here (www.seattlecoffeegear.com)


Buying advice: GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER. Don't cheap out on the grinder.

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Senior Member
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 3,682
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4, Pharos,...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Mon Oct 8, 2012, 12:31pm
Subject: Re: Best machine $250 range

great points made already, but just to reiterate...

You're already spending $2,400 a year for swill @ *$$.  Why is your budget only $200?  That doesn't make any sense.  Milk...what, $4 a gallon?...beans...$10-20 a pound...accessories like pitchers, cups, small scale, thermometer to get started...sweetener?

You might want to rethink your budget.  Then after you read the buying guide report here what features you'd like and tell us how many drinks you'll make a day and what kind, and whether you anticipate plumbing your machine, and if you have any space constraints, and if you entertain often.

I realize this post may sound harsh, but I mean it in the friendliest way :)

Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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Joined: 9 Dec 2005
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Location: Berkeley, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
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Drip: CCD, Chemex
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Posted Mon Oct 8, 2012, 4:58pm
Subject: Re: Best machine $250 range

Hi, Summer, you've come to a great place to learn about and start your quest . . .

GVDub Said:

First thing to do is go read the article How to buy an espresso machine on this site.

Posted October 8, 2012 link

Great advice!

Second thing is to answer the following Standard Questions:
1)  What kind of drinks do you like/want to make?  (This will tell us what you need in terms of a machine's capabilities.)
2)  How many drinks, on average, do you see yourself needing to make at ay one time? (This will tell us what you need in terms of a machine's ability to work continuously.)
3)  How many drinks, on average, do you see yourself making in any given week?  (This will tell us what you need in terms of a machine's durability.)
4)  Can you plumb a machine directly into the water supply, or do you want/need a pourover machine with its own reservoir?
5)  Do you have a 20-amp circuit available, or only a (standard) 15-amp circuit?
6)  What is your budget for a new machine?  Does that also include a grinder?  If not, what is your budget for a grinder?

One of the biggest mistakes newcomers to this hobby make is not buying a grinder.  They think that they can have the store grind the beans for them, and that is a recipe for failure.  Absolutely!

To begin with, you must accept that only freshly roasted beans, freshly ground, will make the best espresso.  Pre-ground beans will make gawd-awful espresso. Honest.

Two things to keep in mind:

Babbie's Rule* of Fifteens:
-- Green (unroasted) coffee beans should be roasted within 15 months, or they go stale.
-- Roasted coffee beans should be ground within 15 days, or they go stale.
-- Ground coffee should be used within 15 minutes, or it goes stale.

The Four M's of Espresso:
1) the Macinazione is the grinder, and with it, the correct grinding of the coffee beans;
2) the Miscela is the coffee beans/blend itself;
3) the Macchina is the espresso machine; and
4) the Mano is the skilled hand of the barista.  

All four are important.  Nothing is more important than the grinder.


I wish I could tell you $250 is a great starting budget but -- as you have probably already gathered by now -- it's not.  Sorry.


A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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Senior Member
Joined: 23 Dec 2001
Posts: 3,520
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 Mon Oct 8, 2012, 5:30pm
Subject: Re: Best machine $250 range

What they all said..   ^ ^ ^ ^

$250 for an espresso machine? Hmmm...
What is more important to you:
 A - The best coffee you can make
 B - It HAS to be espresso.

If A, then the road is fairly easy to start. get a very good grinder to get started. Best bang for the buck, a Baratza. A Preciso Refurb for $239 or a Vario-W for $440.
Ya, I know that's a lot, but you can add something like a pour-over cone for about $10-15, an Aeropress for about $30, or (my favorite basic device) an Espro Press for about $75. When using fresh, high quality beans (ie. Not Starbucks) you can easily make really great coffee.

Now you save the money you would have spent at Starbies for a while, and later get a great espresso machine instead of a mediocre one now. For about 7 to 9 months of the cost of your present, health-destroying habit  {   ;-0  }  you can get a HX machine or maybe even a double boiler. And when you do, the Baratza grinder will serve your needs admirably.

If the answer is "B," and it has to be now, I can't help you with your stated budget.

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Senior Member
Joined: 27 Mar 2008
Posts: 68
Location: Fairview TX
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Q M Silvano, Gaggia Espresso
Grinder: 2xMazzer SJs, Major, WW2 era...
Drip: Hario pourover, presses,...
Roaster: Behmor, stovetop...
Posted Mon Oct 8, 2012, 7:38pm
Subject: Re: Best machine $250 range

Off topic, what part of colorado are you from?
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Senior Member
Joined: 30 Jun 2012
Posts: 682
Location: Calgary, AB
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Izzo Alex Duetto 3
Grinder: Mazzer Mini Elect. Type A
Vac Pot: Looking to buy
Drip: Manual
Roaster: Considering?
Posted Mon Oct 8, 2012, 8:23pm
Subject: Re: Best machine $250 range

There isn't that much more I could contribute to this thread because so many people here have put in good advice.

But let me mention a few things..

Buying an espresso set up isn't like buying a toaster oven or a blender. You are buying a set of major appliances.
Think washing machine and dryer. Think refrigerator and stove. This is a purchase you will make once and it will
last you quite a long time if you look after it. Quality Espresso equipment is designed to last decades.

I know that it is scary when people start dropping four figures on you, but you are going to find that starting out with
a low end machine and a low end grinder results in nothing more than frustration and disappointment. I'm sure there
are lots of people out there who were like you, they spent $300 thinking they could replicate the cafe experience
and when they couldn't, they just gave up and sold everything on the local Craigslist.

Let me start off by saying that sometimes you can get a very good deal on used quality equipment. The key thing is
to look for and buy quality equipment from the get go. Don't skimp on something which will just break down in a few
short years. Don't buy anything which has crema enhancers, a pod-only basket or doesn't have a pump.

If you can give us some more input into what you prefer to drink and the volume of drinks you will make, we can start
recommending some really decent "starter" machines to begin with.

Personally, I think that if you save your pennies and start out with a budget of $750 for both grinder, machine and
accessories, you are at what I consider to be the absolute minimum of the true espresso experience. (I'm sure some
members on here would disagree with that.) You will have pair of machines which you won't get frustrated with and
will last you a long time if you don't move on and upgrade them.

I started out with a used Rancilio Rocky/Silvia combo, which I paid $700 for. (They're $1200 new here.)  I figured I was
getting a good deal and wanted a pair of basic machines I could learn on. I had no idea if I would just give up and sell
them a few months later, but I got hit with upgradeitis pretty fast and the results paid off. I knew it would happen, I
just wondered how soon.

I can feel like I can make a Latte or a Cappuccino which is just as good if not better than what I can get at a local cafe.
I figure that making a short latte costs me about $1.50 to make and about 10 minutes of my time. (That's set up,
grinding, tamping, brewing, clean up, steaming, more clean up and food prep.)

One last thing, please do not buy a Super-Automatic machine. Don't even consider it unless you want to save time,
not really learn anything about preparing espresso and you just want to "Push a button". Most consumer grade
Super-Automatics are quite expensive and have a short lifespan. You can get much better tasting coffee out of a
cheaper machine/grinder combo which will last you much longer.

Good luck on your quest.

Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
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Senior Member
Joined: 27 Jun 2012
Posts: 658
Location: Seattle Area
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: ECM Technika IV Profi WT-WC
Grinder: Baratza Forte AP, HG One
Vac Pot: Bunn Trifecta MB
Drip: Moka, Aeropress, Hario V60
Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Tue Oct 9, 2012, 4:08am
Subject: Re: Best machine $250 range

What everyone on this forum is saying, is that you need to spend nearly or over $1000 to get a good setup. It's like going onto a photography forum and asking for a decent camera in the same pricerange. Everyone on there will tell you to save for a few months to get a proper DSLR.

I do cherish the time-honored value of instant gratification. You want it now and that's awesome. That being said, here's what I recommend:

As mentioned before, a used Saeco machine, like the Starbucks Barista/Estro Vapore or the Aroma/Classico. The latter is $199 refurbished at Seattle Coffee Gear. A good grinder is essential, which is why I would recommend a Hario Skerton. It's a manual grinder, but is superb for espresso and gives you an even, consistent grind in its finer range. That will set you back around $40. This setup will almost guarantee better results than the burnt stuff from Starbucks, provided you're using halfway decent beans.

However, if you're willing to wait, it's well worth it to purchase a nicer machine, such as a Rancilio Silvia or Nuova Simonelli Oscar. But these machines require you to actually learn grinding and tamping and properly making microfoam (forget about the latter on the Saeco machines with any consistency, but again, will be better than Starbucks) . Both of these are real pains in the ass and will eat up hours of your time and pounds and pounds of coffee and gallons of milk. But for those with a deep passion for espresso, like us crazies, these skills are fun and rewarding to learn, especially when you see that first 30 second pull ooze out of the portafilter and into the cup. This is a journey, a big, expensive journey. But if you have patience and don't get frustrated, it will be the most delicious journey of them all.

PS-I should also mention the Estro Profi. It's a discontinued, lesser-known SBDU machine that's basically a Starbucks Barista/SIN006 with a basic burr grinder added on. For use with its pressurized (read: automatic, no tamping) portafilter, it's a nice starter machine.

It IS very easy to get discouraged, hence this poor soul in Denver who is offering one hell of a deal:
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