Perked Senior Member Joined: 24 Sep 2012 Posts: 30 Location: Ohio Expertise: I live coffee
Posted Tue Oct 9, 2012, 11:15am Subject: Re: Best machine $250 range
I agree with others that you need to re-think your budget. Using 1 month of beverages isn't realistic. You need to extrapolate that and think how long you will be using the machine for. IMHO going 10-12 months is an easy base point to calculate ROI.
Now, people have mentioned that beans and what not will up your cost, but I agree with one poster in saying if you do it right the first time, you will get exceptional espresso and that is more than worth it.
I would suggest starting with refurbished. Use machines you can run into issues...
iroast Senior Member Joined: 3 Nov 2011 Posts: 75 Location: NJ Expertise: I live coffee
Posted Tue Oct 9, 2012, 11:39am Subject: Re: Best machine $250 range
If you're spending $200/month on drinks outside, consider spending @1500 for a very nice espresso machine/grinder combo. Factor in costs for fresh coffee beans (@$60 per #5lb, which will last you a couple of months) and the time it takes to make a drink (@20min warm up time and 10min making the drink and cleaning up). You might miss the convenience of Starbucks, but you will find that your drinks will taste better once you get the hang of things. It does take practice to get the grind and the tamp (packing espresso into the portafilter) right.
Have you considered taking a coffee class? Or find a friend/family member who has a good espresso machine setup?
Markarian Senior Member Joined: 27 Jun 2012 Posts: 656 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, 12:10pm Subject: Re: Best machine $250 range
Don't get me wrong, like I put in my post, there's PLENTY of options under $1000. I meant decent, not just getting by. I dropped $250 on a Virtuoso and it still wasn't good enough, and the rest of this forum let me know it. $300 seems to be the minimum you can spend on a decent electric grinder that is considered acceptable for espresso (Preciso, Rocky, Bodum Bistro, all ~$300). I will admit I failed to mention the Gaggias because I'm not familiar with them and have not researched them thoroughly, so that's my bad. I've consistently heard the Silvia needs to be PID'ed to unlock its true potential--that's another $150 or more on top of the $600 pricetag. Here's where my logic was coming from for $1000:
This is excluding tamper, knock box, decent coffee, etc. It's going to add up.
And all of US have spent over $1000 on coffee. I've been at this for six months and already have spent well into the four figures on this hobby, so I simply warned that if one is serious about it, they will need to make the investment. If she's going to stay under $1000, she might as well stick with a Saeco and a cheaper grinder that doesn't matter for pressurized PFs. If she IS going to spend over $1000, she might as well go HX (heat exchanger) or even DB (double boiler) if she really saves her pennies.
That's one way to put it. :-) I don't consider myself to be an expert as I'm still learning myself. The figure that I put out there is an arbitrary one. Markarian's post really surprised me.
Then I thought about it. Cheaper espresso machines use something called a pressurized basket, which is very forgiving of inconsistent grind or imprecise grind. They'll make strong coffee, but you may not get as much crema as you would with a proper standard basket. You're not making the espresso they make in the cafes, but it's close and the milk you put into the drink will hide some of the imperfections. It'll be stronger than drip coffee though. If you like to make lots of milk based drinks, it's not a big deal.
Keep in mind, before I started out with my Silvia/Rocky, I had (and still have) a Bialetti Moka Pot and a Hamilton Beach blade grinder. I still use them when I want to make a strong coffee for myself at a friends place, because everyone has a stove and Moka Pots work with any kind of grind. Cost of entry? $99 for the Moka Pot and the grinder I picked up free, but I suspect it would have cost about $40. The distinct advantage about these two is that I can put both of them into a plastic shopping bag and carry them around with me. (The Moka pot is actually a Mukka Express, which can make cappuccinos as well.)
Unfortunately, a lot of the really low end "espresso" machines are actually just overglorified electric moka pots. (Think Krups or Braun.) The other members of the forum call them "Steam Toys" because they don't even have a pump. The work on the old fashioned way of making espresso, about 2 bars extraction using steam. It makes for some harsh tasting coffee if you don't add milk or sweeten it up with something.
You don't need to spend $1,000, or anywhere near that much money!
That's true.. I guess it depends on where you want to start. When I first started out, I went to Wal-Mart, Costco, Future Shop.. all of the main appliance stores. A lot of the espresso machines I came across seemed like low-end consumer grade junk to me. The steam wands were flimsy, there was chrome covered plastic, (Which will blister over time. I loathe it with a passion.) and cheap cheap cheap filmsy plastic. You'll know it when you feel it.
I then went to the boutique espresso equipment suppliers and nearly ran out of there screaming.. but not before I got to touch and feel a Rancilio Silvia. All I can say was that the difference between what I saw in the big box stores and what I saw in this boutique shop was like night and day. It seems like everybody sells these things. I would never buy one of these new, but used I would and I did! Now I have upgradeitis..
That's pretty bang on to what I said earlier, because you need things like steaming pitchers, a thermometer, a scale for dosing, stir sticks, a grouphead brush, shot glasses, cleaning cloths, some espresso cups and maybe cappuccino cups, a knockbox and maybe a tupperware container for cleaning/flushing and a backflush disc. So yeah, about $750-ish...
Buying used or refurbished equipment could save even more money
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