asou Senior Member Joined: 12 Nov 2012 Posts: 7 Location: PA Expertise: I love coffee
Posted Wed Nov 14, 2012, 5:49pm Subject: Re: New to Espresso
I think you would be hard pressed to find a machine that comes with an unpressurized portafilter for $150-$200. See if you can double or even triple your machine budget. Worst case scenario, see if you can find a used machine of higher value. I don't usually recommend doing this because you don't know what you are getting and you don't know what to look for. However, if you buy something from this forum, perhaps you can get a decent machine for a decent price which you know has been backflushed regularly, cleaned and serviced when needed instead of getting someones old clunker.
I actually found a refurbished Gaggia for $175 that was unpressurized. However, I was going that route if I was skimping out on the machine and saving up for the DB, but you said that was overkill for me, so I won't be doing that. I'll get a nice SBDU and a nice grinder and call it a done deal! Possibly the Breville BES840XL(the PF isn't commercial size, 54mm, not a problem but I find that annoying) or the Rancilio Silvia.
Brands like Gaggia, Baratza, Lelit, Nuova Simonelli, Mazzer, Macap, Compak, Rancilio.. They're all fairly common in the industry. For your volume, a doserless grinder will work fine. If you have any doubts on what to buy after seeing an ad in your local craigslist of Kijiji, make a post on the grinders forum and ask. Go down to your local coffee shop and unless they use a super-automatic, make a note of which grinders they use. Also read up on doser vs doserless grinder and see what you would prefer. I personally recommend going doserless, but that's IMHO.
The Breville Smart Grinder is an entry level espresso-capable grinder, but if I had the choice, I'd pick the Vario over both of them, Rocky second when it comes to grind quality.
The grinder decision is going to be a hard decision... I'm highly considering the Vario but it's at the top of my budget right now and I can't find any used/refurbished ones. I'm trying to look for a refurbished one, but hey, black friday/cyber monday is right around the corner!Ok so in this department, I'm thinking:
Ascaso iMini - $249
Baratza Preciso - $299
Pasquini Lux - $305
Rancilio Rocky(doserless) - $339
Baratza Vario - $449
Last time I responded to this question, we inadvertently caused a discussion which completely freaked the OP out. :-)
IMHO, Get started with a good machine and grinder which will give you some decent rewards for your hard work. See if you like making your own espresso and get familiar with screwing up. :-) Find out what works and what doesn't work. Get your feet in there with a $750 budget at the very minimum! Also keep in mind that you should also budget for all of the little accessories you'll need if you want to make milk drinks, clean your machine, etc. Any espresso equipment place will be quite glad to sell that stuff to you. Things like shot glasses, steaming pitchers, a grouphead brush, espresso machine detergent, grinder cleaner, decalcifier tablets, steaming thermometer, knockbox, tamper, tamping stand, shot timer, dosing scale, etc.
A used Baratza Vario is an excellent place to start, then something like a SBDU (Single Boiler Dual Use) machine with a non-pressurized portafilter is a good way to get into this hobby economically.
A SBDU would be fine for your needs. The pain point when it comes to SBDU machines is switching from brewing to steaming. Since you won't be doing that all the time, it's not a big deal. The volume of drinks you are looking at makes a SBDU machine a good match for your needs.
Well, IMHO a double boiler machine would be complete and total overkill for your needs. I personally noticed more of a change in my espresso when I went from the Rocky to the Mazzer instead of going from the Rancilio Silvia to the Izzo Alex. IMHO, Stick with a middle of the line consumer grinder for now. If you spend too much time saving up for an expensive grinder and machine, you won't be able to have any decent coffee at all!
Someone on this forum once said to me, "Buy Quality". At least that way when you go to sell your equipment to trade up, you can get some money back out of it to put towards your next machine when you upgrade.
OK, The pricing I commented on was only for new machines. If you can get refurb, that certainly is an option. Especially if the place selling it is willing to stand behind it. What kind of Gaggia machine is it?
saving up for the DB, but you said that was overkill for me, so I won't be doing that. I'll get a nice SBDU and a nice grinder and call it a done deal!
Well, that's a good place to start. I recommend sticking with an SBDU for at least six months to explore all of the limitations of the machine. Once you find that you want more, you can look at upgrading piecemeal... first the grinder (Which I've noticed makes the bigger difference) then the machine. If you find that the coffee is just "Good enough" for you and you don't want to take it any further, you haven't invested a fortune and you are getting coffee which you are enjoying.
Possibly the Breville BES840XL(the PF isn't commercial size, 54mm, not a problem but I find that annoying) or the Rancilio Silvia.
The reliability is questionable on Breville espresso machines. The Silvia is a much better buy when it comes to quality. When it comes to value, I wouldn't buy a Silvia new but I would buy one used. I should know, I have one on consignment and these machines are designed to last. There is a broad support base for them since it seems like everyone owned one at one point in time, everyone sells them and they have a good resale value. People will argue and say that they're overpriced and new, they are. They're one of the very few appliances that don't have any electronics in them, which astounded me actually. I bet if the Silvia was manufactured in North America, they'd probably sell for half as much.
I'm highly considering the Vario but it's at the top of my budget right now and I can't find any used/refurbished ones.
I own owned of these. These grinders are built like a brick craphouse. They have excellent build quality, they are fairly "quiet" and they produce really good quality espresso. Massive drawback to these grinders is that they use a stepped grind setting, so you have to adjust by dose as well as grind setting to get the pour you want. My primary motivation for upgrading from it was mainly due to the lack of timed or weighted dosing and the stepped grind selection. Not to mention, you can't remove the bean hopper.
This grinder is somewhat unique in that even one of the more experienced coffee geeks out there says that the Vario grinds just as well as some of the Titan class commercial grinders costing nearly 4x the price. When a hardcore coffee geek shows love for what I consider to be a prosumer grade grinder, that's awesome. If I had the cash, I'd actually consider buying a Vario-W for when I want to grind for drip or I just want to dial in a decaf blend. It's the same grinder, it just doses by weight instead of time.
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
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