subaquatic Senior Member Joined: 18 Feb 2013 Posts: 1 Location: Da Big Apple Expertise: Just starting
Posted Mon Feb 18, 2013, 11:23am Subject: Refurb Semi Automatic
Hello kind people,
I'm looking into my first real espresso machine, and I'm a believer in manufacturer refurbished products. After a few days research, it seems like the market is so flooded with mahcines, its hard to know where to begin, and I don't have a lot of money for mistakes (like most people).
I'd like to hear the two cents from anyone who can recommend a decent semi-automatic refurb for $250-300. Counter space is at a premium so an included grinder is a must. I'm looking at the Breville BES860XL now, but I see many in the forums seem to think one can do better for the money.
Don't get a combo machine with a built in grinder, heat under the beans just makes them stale faster. Grinder affects the taste more than the machine does so put your money where you can taste it, invest in good grinder. Combo grinders are normally cheap grinders that fit over quality of the grind.
Hand grinders are small and cheap. I would rather see you get a $40 hand grinder than a built in one.
I got my used Oscar for 475. He had some issues but I fixed them. He has a no burn plastic shell so sells for less than the shiny ones, he is good bang for the buck. You might find one for less if you are lucky or willing to rebuild him. Mine is the Steve Austin of Oscars, I made him better, faster, stronger.....
Buying advice: GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER. Don't cheap out on the grinder.
At first, I had your thinking, but after a while, I kind of realized, "What if the grinder stops working?". So, I pretty much nixed the whole idea.
It's better to keep your coffee grinder separate from the machine itself because many of us upgrade the grinder first before the machine.
While you can make espresso for your budget, it relegates you to buying used equipment, not really refurb stuff.
I personally recommend upping your budget to $1000. That will get you a fairly good machine and grinder and will last you for many many years. A Rancilio Silvia or a Gaggia Classic and a Baratza Vario will cover that budget quite nicely. The Silvia is a great starter machine IMHO. They tend to be a little overpriced for what you get, but they have great resale value if you decide to get rid of it down the road.
Now, when I say $1000, that includes grinder, espresso machine, steaming pitchers, a precision scale, 2 shot glasses, a grouphead brush, a cheap knockbox, a small measuring cup, a steaming pitcher thermometer, one large container of Cafiza (For cleaning backflushing) and one large container of Grindz. (For grinder cleaning)
That's pretty much an entire espresso setup right there.. so roughly $600 for the machine, another $300 for the grinder and $100 for accessories.
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
Maybe, just maybe, after a month or two of practice and study, you could pull a decent espresso shot using the refurbished Saeco Aroma from SCG for $129, paired with the Gaggia MDF on sale for $229 at Whole Latte Love. You would have to de-pressurize the PF on the Aroma and get a fast reading digital thermometer to be able to temp surf.
Microfoam is a little tough to produce on the Aroma, but I'm convinced it can be modified to work. (I just haven't figured it out yet)
I would suggest reading the forums for all the tips and techniques, because you'll have to work at getting consistent shots.
I don't own the MDF, so my main concern with suggesting this set-up would be the quality of the grind. But maybe some others in the forum could comment on this.
But in the spirit of trying to get drinkable shots for a beginner for around $300, with equipment that would last at least a few years, this is one set-up for consideration.
You could call the Good Coffee Company in Seattle (no website, just google or bing their phone#) and ask about the refurbed Ellimatics they have, an HX machine. I bought a refurb from Joe a while back and was please with his work in getting it in good shape to sell. I think the price is less than $400.
I agree that if you wan't something good that will last you will need a higher budget than $300. I picked up my Silvia 2nd hand for $350 and a Macap MX for $350 also. If you are stuck at $300 I would consider a used Gaggia Classic, and a hand grinder like the Hario Slim or Skerton. Machines like the Delonghi EC155, Starbucks Barista/Saeco Via Venezia can be modded to be unpressurized. The Hand grinders can produce decent espresso grind but don't allow a lot of room to change your grind. You will have to adjust your technique via tamp pressure.
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