Posted Wed Nov 21, 2012, 3:45pm Subject: Looking for small footprint, inexpensive, moddable machine
Hello all - I was hoping someone could help point me in the right direction. I'm not a newbie to coffee or espresso, but I am a newbie to making my own at home. I can say that I've studied enough to believe that I should have a pretty solid technique down by the time I get a machine for home use. At any rate, I'm looking for a machine to fit my requirements and restrictions. I've spent the better part of a week watching YouTube videos from Seattle Coffee Gear in attempt to narrow down my search. There are definitely a few I think I would like (Nuova Simonelli Oscar, Rancilio Silvia, Breville Infuser) and would probably buy, however none of them meet all of my requirements.
I need, in order of importance:
Small footprint. Ideally about 8-11" wide and deep, and height anywhere under about 15".
Traditional steam wand (no panarello), or moddable to have.
I would really like, in order of importance:
Non-pressurized portafilter, preferably 58mm pro size.
Somewhat inexpensive, or at least doesn't LOOK like I paid an arm and a leg for it.
Hot water dispenser would be nice.
What I've found in my searching is that the machine I'm looking for doesn't seem to exist (can someone tell me otherwise???). What I have discovered, thanks to CoffeeGeek forums, is that many machines are moddable. So what I'm focusing my search on now is a cheap-ish (sub-$500, ideally $100-300) machine, let's say something from DeLonghi or Gaggia, that fits my footprint requirement and is at the very least moddable to have a traditional steam arm.
I'm not a straight shot drinker so getting a perfect shot is not my goal. My goal is a decent shot to be used for an Americano, and good microfoamed silky milk for a few cortados, macchiatos, and/or cappuccinos per day.
What is wrong with the three machines I listed above you may ask?
Oscar: the biggest problem is that it's too large. It also doesn't dispense hot water.
Silvia w/ PID: slightly too large, looks too industrial for my wife to tolerate it, probably too difficult for her to operate as well (boiler burn-out fears, general operation, etc)
Breville: the biggest problem is that it uses 1700 watts! Holy crap, that seems like a lot for my 90 year old home's electrical system to handle.... Definitely couldn't be using anything else on that circuit while the machine is on, and that's pretty inconvenient. The choice for pressurized or non-pressurized portafilters is great, just wish it was a full size portafilter.
Posted Wed Nov 21, 2012, 4:58pm Subject: Re: Looking for small footprint, inexpensive, moddable machine
Oscar does dispense hot water just fine. Just stick a portafilter in with no coffee in it and press the brew button. Unless you don't keep the group head clean, it makes a dandy hot water dispenser. Or use the steam wand to heat water in practically no time. Either way, you can get ample hot water out of it.
Other than that, you're looking for a unicorn. The inexpensive SBDU machines are inconsistent, require far more fussing to get even a passable shot, are a pain for milk drinks due to the wait to heat and cool for steam, and tend to be somewhat less long-lived. By the time you've modded them sufficiently to be serviceable, you might just as well have bought an entry level HX machine, IMHO, since the cheap machine will break much sooner and you'll have to start all over again, anyway.
Posted Wed Nov 21, 2012, 6:17pm Subject: Re: Looking for small footprint, inexpensive, moddable machine
Hi GVDub - thanks for the response. That's a good point about the Oscar being able to simply push hot water through an empty portafilter - and that would work for my Americano needs. Now if only the Oscar was just about 4" less deep, making it 11" deep instead of 15", it would be my dream machine!
I'm aware of the limitations of inexpensive SBDU machines and I guess I was willing to put up with the hassle and take the risk on one in order to meet my needs. I have severely limited space, and was told to "buy a cheap one". I simply won't settle for the really cheap ones out there, but figured if I compromised some I could at least get what I wanted, which was a machine with which to make a decent cappuccino. I was about to give up when I came across a thread on CG for modding a De Longhi EC155 to use a traditional steam wand from a Silvia and that gave me hope.
Maybe you have further suggestions for entry-level HX machines? Like I said, the Oscar would be perfect if it were just slightly smaller, specifically in depth. Also, what appeals to me so much about the Oscar is that it's a bit of a "sleeper"... it's much easier to pass off something covered in plastic as "not costing that much" as it is something that looks like a Rocket Giotto :-)
Posted Wed Nov 21, 2012, 6:35pm Subject: Re: Looking for small footprint, inexpensive, moddable machine
Hi frank828, thanks for your response as well. I guess I should say that in my measurement requirements I'm not including the length of the portafilter and how far it sticks out from the machine. Unfortunately the separate cart is already holding a microwave - it's difficult enough to find the space for an essential piece of equipment like a microwave in a 90 year old kitchen, not to mention a luxury such as an espresso machine (umm.... let's not debate whether or not an espresso machine is essential, ok? :-) I came up with my measurement requirements from looking at several different models out there. Take the Silvia for instance, it would be a perfectly capable machine for my needs and meets my space limitations by weighing in at 9.5w x 11d x 13.5h. This machine meets nearly all of my requirements... the only problem is that, because it has no fail-safes to protect against it, I'm afraid other users in the house would run it dry and burn out the boiler. Also, it looks like it was imported from East Berlin in 1945, and in such a small space things like aesthetics matter. Then, take something like the DeLonghi BAR32 - this machine clocks in at 8w x 8.5d x 12h which is well within my space limitations. However, with its pressurized portafilter and panarello I'm not jumping at the chance to own one. Although, if I could mod this to use a traditional steam wand it might be a real possibility. Even if it lasts only a year or two, I think it would still be worth it at only $100.
Posted Wed Nov 21, 2012, 8:12pm Subject: Re: Looking for small footprint, inexpensive, moddable machine
Excellent suggestion, Intrepid510, thank you. Gaggia does not appear to be carried by SCG and therefore was not on my radar. Looks like a panarello comes stock, but after a quick search I see it can be easily modified to use a Silvia traditional steam wand. This could be the one!
Posted Wed Nov 21, 2012, 9:07pm Subject: Re: Looking for small footprint, inexpensive, moddable machine
Ha! You're right Coffeenoobie, and I suppose that's what has kept me from pulling the trigger on a machine up to this point.
And for the record, I DO want an Oscar on my counter but my counter does not want an Oscar on it. It's just too much for my tiny kitchen. Couple the Oscar with the Baratza Preciso - the smallest footprint, decent grinder I could find that does both espresso and pourover grinds well - and there wouldn't be much room to spare.
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