Ever Senior Member Joined: 23 Dec 2012 Posts: 12 Location: San Francisco Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: EC155 Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Posted Sun Dec 23, 2012, 12:21pm Subject: Upgrade machine, or buy my first grinder?
Happy holidays everyone. Long-time lurker, first time poster.
I have a low-end DeLonghi machine (EC155, http://amzn.to/Uhd0i1), and I have no grinder. I've used it for two years, and I'm confident that the "hobby" is here to stay!
I'm wondering which upgrade will bring the most drastic result to my homebrew espresso - upgrading the machine first, or first buying a grinder to pair with the existing machine. Considerations:
*Budget constraint, <$300 if possible
*I live in San Francisco - plenty of fresh beans within walking distance.
*I don't have a grinder, so I wind up buying good coffee and having it ground at the store. However I only drink an espresso a day, so the end of my <Blue Bottle, Stumptown, 4Barrell, Ritual> has been ground for over a month before I see the bottom of the bag.
*I don't see myself going to the coffee store for new beans/grounds more than once every two-three weeks.
With this in mind, will I see the biggest increase in quality from buying the best machine $300 can buy, or the best grinder?
I'm personally leaning towards the latter after some recent reading. It seems the importance of having fresh beans (~2-4 weeks since roast) and fresh grounds (<15 minutes if possible) is paramount. Much moreso than the increase I'll see from going from a $100 to $300 machine while keeping the same, poor technique I've had to use use with bean purchasing and handling.
Posted Sun Dec 23, 2012, 12:34pm Subject: Re: Upgrade machine, or buy my first grinder?
Welcome to CG. I used a Delonghi 701 for years, similar to yours. The machine is not great, but certainly capable, and threads on CG show some helpful mods. A grinder will be the best band for the buck and fresh beans. Consider buying 1/2 pounds more frequently, or getting a freezing routine.
Baratza.com refurb for Preciso or Vario is in your range.
JasonBrandtLewis Senior Member Joined: 9 Dec 2005 Posts: 6,509 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 Sun Dec 23, 2012, 1:59pm Subject: Re: Upgrade machine, or buy my first grinder?
Wasn't intending to be be rude, but . . .
With this in mind, will I see the biggest increase in quality from buying the best machine $300 can buy, or the best grinder? I'm personally leaning towards the latter after some recent reading. It seems the importance of having fresh beans (~2-4 weeks since roast) and fresh grounds (<15 minutes if possible) is paramount.
Keep in mind that the Baratza and Ascaso are, in a sense, short-term solutions. In other words, they will work, but in an ideal world you'll want something better. Indeed, you'll want something better (probably) in a couple of years. So the other option is to look for a used Mazzer Mini or Macap, and get a new set of burrs.
Happy holidays! I agree, a grinder is the best next step. I think your coffee buying schedule is fine as long as you store the roasted beans airtight (at room temp).
I've used an EC270 which is a clone of your machine. It is actually capable of very good quality.
With your machine using pressurized baskets, a Baratza Encore is all you need. You can also get unpressurized baskets, and the Encore will work OK, but you could do better with a Preciso or used Mazzer Mini. The Mini might be over $300 though.
I think the Encore is a good value and is a good way to go. I have a Virtuoso and a Mazzer Mini and they are also great choices. The refurb Preciso is a great idea.
I'd recommend doing a little reading -- which you're already doing! -- to decide whether you want to switch to using unpressurized baskets and make espresso the traditional way.
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