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Upgrade theory - Which machine next? And which one after that?
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > Upgrade theory -...  
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Ever
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Ever
Joined: 23 Dec 2012
Posts: 12
Location: San Francisco
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: EC155
Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Posted Tue Feb 19, 2013, 6:28pm
Subject: Upgrade theory - Which machine next? And which one after that?
 

I'm not in a rush to upgrade right now, but I'm simply curious what upgrade I'll make "when the time comes."

I currently have a DeLonghi EC155 with an aftermarket basket and bottomless mod. I use it alongside a Baratza Preciso, and I'm quite pleased with the results now that things are dialed in.

That said, I figure the next step would be a Gaggia Classic or Rancilio Silvia, and I'm curious just how much better of espresso this will produce than what I'm able to achieve with my current setup. Will upgrading to the "Silvia-tier" will even be noticeably worth it?

My long term goals are to slowly work my way up through having a slick setup. I began with a $100 machine and two years later added a $300 grinder. A year from now I could see myself spending ~$400-$800 on a new machine (if it's worth it), and down the line even further buying a $1,500++ machine with respective grinder.

So I guess my question is what kind of incremental improvements to expect within the $100, $600, $1000 and $1500+ ranges. Does espresso get better and better? Assuming variables like beans and technique are constant, at what point does the quality of espresso taper off? And what happens beyond that? Is it that you're simply paying for the ease of pulling consistent high-quality shots - followed by elite tiers that have features like pressure profiles...?

Looking forward to chatting upgrade theory!

 
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D4F
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Joined: 15 Mar 2012
Posts: 1,983
Location: USA
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Classic PID
Grinder: Baratza Forte-AP
Posted Tue Feb 19, 2013, 7:03pm
Subject: Re: Upgrade theory - Which machine next? And which one after that?
 

You are using Single Boiler Double Use and your intermediate possibilities of Classic and Silvia are similar.  I beleive that they have some advantages over EC155, but not enough to move sideways.  Save for the next machine and figure out what you want it to do, numbers of consecutive pulls needed and amount of steaming.

If you do not have a PID and have not used the mods on the EC155 thread that is a good place to start, to improve.

Some of the mentioned SBDU machines have more mass and may stabilize temperature more easily and may use the more standard heavy brass 58 mm PF.

 
D4F also at
http://www.gaggiausersgroup.com/
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Ever
Senior Member
Ever
Joined: 23 Dec 2012
Posts: 12
Location: San Francisco
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: EC155
Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Posted Tue Feb 19, 2013, 8:36pm
Subject: Re: Upgrade theory - Which machine next? And which one after that?
 

My main use is for daily double shots before work. Sometimes two back-to-back when the girlfriend joins. Then I make caps on the weekend and definitely fancy some awesome microfoam.

I'd love a machine that I don't have to "mod." I'm a tinkerer at heart, but it pains me to see threads about "necessary" mods to something like the Gaggia Classic - a machine I've considered to be an upgrade from mine.

So what tier is above the mentioned SBDU units (standard go-to machines)? And what about after that?

 
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D4F
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Joined: 15 Mar 2012
Posts: 1,983
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Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Classic PID
Grinder: Baratza Forte-AP
Posted Tue Feb 19, 2013, 8:51pm
Subject: Re: Upgrade theory - Which machine next? And which one after that?
 

I think that the SBDU machines such as the Classic and Silvia are upgrades, just not much of a step, as well as some SBDUs PID from the factory.  I would rather have a Classic than a Delonghi, but if I had the Delonghi, I would be looking for HX or Double boiler machines and probably one upgrade, not two.  I say that being happy with my Classic, but not a large enough step to spend the money for when you have a working Delonghi.  PIDs are relatively cheap and removable if DIY.

If you plan on SBDU for several years and it will give you the brew and steam that you need, then I might get the better SBDU.  Project your wants and needs for consecutive drinks and steam and you will get plenty of ideas.

If you want to use SBDU for a few years, plan on a PID to make it easy to use, not necessarily better.  Either one that comes with PID or added.

 
D4F also at
http://www.gaggiausersgroup.com/
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emradguy
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emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
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Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
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Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Wed Feb 20, 2013, 6:59am
Subject: Re: Upgrade theory - Which machine next? And which one after that?
 

I don't see the point of doing an "intermediate" upgrade.  Well, I suppose if you were to upgrade , and then later decide you wanted to do so again, that's a different story, but to plan it out...doesn't make sense to me, especially as Fred (D4F) pointed out, from one SBDU to a slightly more capable SBDU.  For us to help you, I'd recommend the following.  First off, find the "standard questions" we ask of all people who want to buy a machine or upgrade.  They've been listed numerous times, especially by JasonBrandtLewis (in case you want to try the search tool).  Second, read the espresso machine buying guide.  Third, start saving your money now for when you figure out what you ultimately want.  A cup or jar next to your current setup is a great receptacle for dollar bills and loose change.  Coffeenoobie came up with the excellent idea of using it to give yourself a tip every time you make a drink...I just throw all of my change in mine.  I keep one for quarters and dollar coins, and another for nickels, dimes and pennies.

 
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Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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JasonBrandtLewis
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JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
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Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
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Posted Wed Feb 20, 2013, 7:13am
Subject: Re: Upgrade theory - Which machine next? And which one after that?
 

Ever Said:

I'm not in a rush to upgrade right now, but I'm simply curious what upgrade I'll make "when the time comes."

Posted February 19, 2013 link

So, let's start at the beginning, OK?

ONE way to classify espresso machines is by their method/mechanism/capabilities for producing the shot.  

-- Manual machines do not have a pump.  They rely on the operator to force the water through the puck by use of a lever.  With some machines, the lever is controlled manually by the operator -- like with the La Pavoni Europicola, or the Olympia Cremina.  The operator lifts the lever up and pulls it down, pushing the water through the puck.  With other machines, the lever may be spring-operated, like with the Elektra Micro Casa a Leva, the Bezzera B2006AL, or the Rancilio Class 6 LE models, in which the lever is controlled by a spring -- the operator pulls the lever down, and then a spring draws the lever back to the "up" position, moving the piston and forcing the water through the puck.

-- Semi-automatic machines have a pump to force the water through the puck, but the operator turns the pump on-and-off.  Examples would include the machines like Gaggia Classic, the Faema Legend (the original E61 machine), or the Izzo Alex Duetto II -- which are, respectively, an SDBU, an HX, and a DB machine -- all in semi-automatic formats.

-- Full-automatic machines, also known as volumetric dosing machines, have a pump to force the water through the puck, like a semi-auto, but after a certain volume of water is dispensed (programed by the operator), the pump will shut itself off automatically.  HOWEVER, the pump can also be shut off manually, just as with a semi-automatic.  Examples would include the Bezzera BZ07sde, the Elektra Sixties T1, and the La Marzocco Linea AV models.  Each of these , by the way, is also produced as a semi-automatic -- the Bezzera BZ07spm, the Elektra Sixties A3 (now discontinued, although plenty of other semi-autos are still made by Elektra), and the La Marzocco Linea EE models.

-- Super-automatic machines do everything for the user, who merely has to push a button, wait, and drink.  These machines will grind the beans, tamp the puck, push the water through the grounds, froth the milk . . . everything.  Examples include everything from a Gaggia Titanium, the Jura-Capresso Impressa S9, and the Faema X3 Prestige.

THEN you can classify machines by their boiler type (and please note, I am ignoring thermoblock units):

-- Open boiler machines are relatively rare, and date back many decades.  These can heat the water for espresso, but cannot build up any pressure to steam milk.  To the best of my knowledge, this are all manual lever machines, and include machines like the Arrarex Caravel and the FE-AR La Peppina.

-- Single Boiler Dual Use (SBDU) machines are the most popular machines for home use.  These have one boiler and two thermostats; the boiler will either heat the water within to brewing temperature or to steaming temperature.  The operator must wait for the boiler to move up/move down before continuing, i.e.: the machine can only brew or it can steam milk -- one or the other -- at a time.  The best known example, at least here in the States, would be the Rancilio Silvia

-- Heat Exchanger (HX) machines also have one boiler, but it is permanently set to steaming temperature.  Cool water, either from a built-in reservoir ("tank") or from a water line ("plumbed-in" or "direct connect"), is then flash heated to brew temp via the use of a heat exchanger.  Examples would include machines like the Izzo Alex II, Quick Mill Anita, or the Vibiemme Domobar Super.

-- Double Boiler (DB) machines have two boilers, one for heating the brewing water, the other for making steam.  Examples would include the Izzo Alex Duetto II, the La Spaziale Vivaldi II, or the Vibiemme Double Domobar v.3.

ALSO, machines can be classified by their components, if you will, and their target market.

-- Consumer machines are just that, designed for home use by the consumer.

-- Professional (or commercial) machines are designed for high-volume use in busy cafés, restaurants, etc.  They use more robust parts than consumer models, able to withstand their heavy, constant usage.

-- "Prosumer" machines fill in the gap; they are actually low-volume commercial machines that can also by used in a home environment.

So you can have a commercial lever machine, or a consumer lever machine; a full-automatic HX prosumer model, as well as a full-auto HX commercial model, and so on and so on and so on . . . .

Ever Said:

I currently have a DeLonghi EC155 with an aftermarket basket and bottomless mod. I use it alongside a Baratza Preciso, and I'm quite pleased with the results now that things are dialed in.  That said, I figure the next step would be a Gaggia Classic or Rancilio Silvia, and I'm curious just how much better of espresso this will produce than what I'm able to achieve with my current setup. Will upgrading to the "Silvia-tier" will even be noticeably worth it?

Posted February 19, 2013 link

Well, some may say that any upgrade from a DeLonghi is worth it, but it's certainly a workable setup and being pleased with what's in your cup is what it's all about!

Ever Said:

My long term goals are to slowly work my way up through having a slick setup. I began with a $100 machine and two years later added a $300 grinder. A year from now I could see myself spending ~$400-$800 on a new machine (if it's worth it), and down the line even further buying a $1,500++ machine with respective grinder.  So I guess my question is what kind of incremental improvements to expect within the $100, $600, $1000 and $1500+ ranges. Does espresso get better and better? Assuming variables like beans and technique are constant, at what point does the quality of espresso taper off? And what happens beyond that? Is it that you're simply paying for the ease of pulling consistent high-quality shots - followed by elite tiers that have features like pressure profiles...?

Posted February 19, 2013 link

My first thought is save more, and buy fewer machines.  While some machines (like DeLonghi and Breville -- let's say "department store machines," such as you'd find at Macy's or Sur La Table) tend to be in the "small appliance" category and more "disposable."  So-called "serious" machines -- even a Gaggia Classic and Rancilio Silva -- will last for years and years.  So to upgrade even to a more "serious" machine would yield improvements (IMHO) in both quality and longevity.

That said, as has already been pointed out, you'd still be in the SBDU Class of machines, as opposed to the HX/DB classes . . .

So the question must be asked, why are you thinking of/planning to upgrade?  Is this the idle musings of a caffeinated mind, or are there some serious reasons behind the question?

There is a serious problem with the original premise of your post ("Upgrade theory - Which machine next? And which one after that?"), and that is that it, as least, implies that a) there are steps, and b) that -- worse -- one size fits all.  The process of upgrading one's "kit" is different for each of us, and the time may never come for some, and come rapidly -- again and again -- for others.  It depends upon your needs -- which can change due to planned or unplanned circumstances -- and your budget.

WHEN the time comes to upgrade, you should consider the Standard Questions:

1)  What kind of drinks do you like/want to make?  (This will tell us what you need in terms of a machine's capabilities.)
2)  How many drinks, on average, do you see yourself needing to make at ay one time? (This will tell us what you need in terms of a machine's ability to work continuously.)
3)  How many drinks, on average, do you see yourself making in any given week?  (This will tell us what you need in terms of a machine's durability.)
4)  Can you plumb a machine directly into the water supply, or do you want/need a pourover machine with its own reservoir?
5)  Do you have a 20-amp circuit available, or only a (standard) 15-amp circuit?
6)  What is your budget for a new machine?  Does that also include a grinder?  If not, what is your budget for a grinder?

Remember that once you get out of "disposable kitchen appliance" and into a "serious" espresso machine, upgrades to your grinder will be more important (i.e.: providing a more significant improvement to your espresso) than upgrades to your machine.

Cheers,
Jason

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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jwoodyu
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jwoodyu
Joined: 31 Dec 2010
Posts: 847
Location: Michigan
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Allex Duetto II
Grinder: Mazzer Major
Posted Wed Feb 20, 2013, 7:46am
Subject: Re: Upgrade theory - Which machine next? And which one after that?
 

Dang Jason you should save that to part and just pate it into threads as needed, that is an awesome explanation.

 
Yes i have a reason for leaving SCG off my list, yes it is my opinion, yes it is subjective as opinions are by definition, no don't start a flame war because you disagree.
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brianl
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Joined: 1 Dec 2012
Posts: 441
Location: Chicago IL
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Classic (w/PID)
Grinder: Baratza Vario
Drip: chemex
Posted Wed Feb 20, 2013, 8:39am
Subject: Re: Upgrade theory - Which machine next? And which one after that?
 

I don't think I saw anything about a grinder except that it was $300, I would upgrade that first because i'm not sure of any in that price range that i'd settle on.

As for the machines, I took the same route that you did. I started with the EC155 and then modded it into oblivion. I now own a Gaggia Classic and am in the process of modding it into oblivion. I would recommend getting a used one cheap on ebay, as they seemingly last forever, and then cleaning it up and adding a couple mods. I would not go to a silvia because at that price (you'll need a PID) you might as well just go up to an HX or DB machine. I would be happy to talk more about it with you, if needed.

It also didn't hurt that I passed on old machines to my mom (i now have espresso when i visit her!). Therefore, it was a win/win for me!
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emradguy
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emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 2,979
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
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Posted Wed Feb 20, 2013, 8:45am
Subject: Re: Upgrade theory - Which machine next? And which one after that?
 

If Jason comes on here and says he types that out every time he posts it, you're going to have to do CPR on me, cause I'll be in deep shock.  I agree, it is an awesome post that I wish we'd see even more often...ah, but Jason only has so much time in the day and I'm pretty sure he has a job somewhere :)  I have it saved, but I would think it immoral to paste it here on CG - plagiarism comes to mind.  The reason I saved it is for friends and family that ask me about buying espresso gear.

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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Coffeenoobie
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Coffeenoobie
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Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Wed Feb 20, 2013, 9:26am
Subject: Re: Upgrade theory - Which machine next? And which one after that?
 

We need some sticky threads and the standard question post should be one of them.

I am on my first espresso machine I did not want to upgrade all the time so I started with a used HX a bit over a year ago.  I have moded it a bit, less than 200$ and repaired it for less than 100$.  I am tickled and this will last me for years.  I might never upgrade.  If I do I will probably keep this for parties. (it is portable) and get a plumb in lever machine for the house.

It is fun to mod a bit but my goal was to get a machine I would not have to mod to get good drinks on and I wanted steam power.  My machine is better now but I was getting good espresso before the mods and I enjoyed it for a year.

I would rather see you save and get something you really want to keep for a long time than get a different machine every year.

 
Coffeenoobie

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