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Newb on the cheap
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > Newb on the...  
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micvog
Senior Member


Joined: 25 Oct 2012
Posts: 16
Location: Wisconsin
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: None
Grinder: OE LIDO 1, Bodum Bistro...
Vac Pot: None
Drip: AeroPress, Beehouse, Chemex
Roaster: None
Posted Tue Feb 26, 2013, 8:18am
Subject: Newb on the cheap
 

I am considering getting an espresso machine so my wife and I can enjoy lattes on the weekend.  My question is whether it would be worth even trying given our limited budget (<$400 for both the grinder and espresso machine).  Currently the only decent lattes (Alterra) are an hour away.

This has come up because the bean hopper on our current grinder, a Bodum Barista Conical Burr, has cracked.  I have e-mailed and left voice-mail messages for Bodum but have received no response (either to buy the part or have the machine replaced under warranty).  So, if we replace the grinder, I don't know whether I should just get a Baratza Encore and continue to use my Chemex to make good at-home coffee, and simulate frothed milk using an AeroPress, or make the plunge to try at-home espresso?  If we make the plunge, I am currently leaning towards the new Baratza Virtuoso ($230) combined with an espresso machine such as the Saeco Poemia ($159).

If we did the latter, would it be worthwhile to upgrade to the non-pressurized PF or is that beyond the ability of the Virtuoso?

We would make 2-4 lattes each weekend at most so we would be using the same beans we use for coffee (usu. Alterra Black and Tan which we buy and use within 10 days of roasting; Espresso Toro would be another option).  Any option would also need to support our pour-over coffee habit - we go through about 1lb. of coffee/week.

Thanks for the advice!
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Jmanespresso
Senior Member
Jmanespresso
Joined: 18 Jan 2009
Posts: 2,109
Location: Westchester NY
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Alex Duetto II
Grinder: Compak K10 - Vario
Vac Pot: Yama-SY5/SY8/TCA5
Drip: V60, Beehouse, CCD
Roaster: Hottop B
Posted Tue Feb 26, 2013, 8:44am
Subject: Re: Newb on the cheap
 

Personally, my suggestion is too take the money you were planning on spending on a whole setup, and buy the best grinder you can.  I use a Vario strictly for brewed coffee, and it is wonderful. I suggest buying one from the Refurb section, directly from Baratza.com

Make French Press, Chemex, Hario V60/Kalita Wave Pourover, Syhphon, Aeropress..  All manner of brewing.

Also, step up the quality of the coffee you are using.  Buy from top roasters, like Intelligentsia, Stumptown, Four Barrell, Counter Culture, Verve etc etc.  When you want a "LAtte", order an espresso blend from one of them, brew it in the french press, and add some frother milk by way of an aerolatte(electric milk whipper, cheap).

By doing this, you will seriously increase the quality of the coffee you are drinking.  By a factor of ten.  Seriously.

THEN, if you are so inclined, put money aside at your liesure.  When the time comes, buy yourself a proper espresso machine.  You'll aready have a grinder that is capable and worth using, and can be matched with even the top end machines and preform quiet well.. And still perform it duties as your brewing grinder.  =

Honestly, the quality of your coffee, if your follow this advice, will be very high.  

Trying to stuggle along with an espresso setup built on a $400 budget is going to be very frustrating, and the brewed coffee you will be able to make with a Vario and top Artisan coffee, will far surpass the espresso you will make with a barely capable entry level machine, and a barely capable for espresso grinder.



Having the knowledge that I have after doing this for a couple years, I KNOW this is the way to the best cup of coffee.  However, before I was ready to spend money on top end equipment, but still wanted to get into an espresso machine, had someone suggested this path to me, IDK that I would have listened.  I DO know that if for some terrible reason I woke up tmrw and all my equipment, everything, was gone and I had a 400 dollar bill to buy stuff with, that I would buy a refurb Baratza Vario, a Hario V60 Cone and a French Press, and a pound of the best coffee Intelligentsia currently is offering(Which aside from the Geisha lot, is likely the Kangocho Kenya)

 
Follow Your Bliss

Coffee makes your constantly overcome your prejudices and re-evaluate your own "received wisdoms" when it comes to judging cup flavors. -Tom Owen, SweetMarias
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 2,966
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4 x2, VDD...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Tue Feb 26, 2013, 8:50am
Subject: Re: Newb on the cheap
 

Aeropress isn't for milk frothing, it's for making a strong coffee concentrate, something similar to what one gets from a Moka pot.

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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fredk01
Senior Member


Joined: 20 Feb 2012
Posts: 136
Location: Canada
Expertise: Just starting

Espresso: Saeco Aroma
Grinder: OE Pharos
Posted Tue Feb 26, 2013, 10:01am
Subject: Re: Newb on the cheap
 

How much coffee do you drink during the week.  To get to a top quality grinder at a very reasonable cost you could consider an Orphan Espresso Pharos hand grinder ($245).  From there, save your pennies and find a good used espresso machine.
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DaninMaryland
Senior Member


Joined: 3 Jan 2013
Posts: 79
Location: US
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: V2 Silvia
Grinder: Vario-W
Posted Tue Feb 26, 2013, 10:09am
Subject: Re: Newb on the cheap
 

well, i am not going to be a debbie downer like other folks.  it is possible to get a good setup for $400.  i should know, i did it.  the key is patience and willing to buy used.

THis would be a good setup, and if you have time you can get it for $400

Used Baratza Preciso - via ebay/or coffeegeek BST - should be able to get this for around $230-$250
Used Gaggia Classic / Silvia - this one is tricky.  you can find great deals on local craigslist, but you have to wait while and jump on it right away.  I found a used V2 Silvia for $125.  I also had the opportunity for a used Classic for $150

If you can duplicate this, you have a very nice setup for $400.  the catch is it takes some time to do.  scour ebay for the preciso auctions and keep bidding till you get one for under $250, shouldnt take too long.

Then watch craigslist ever day.  they pop, but have cash in hand and offer the seller that you can be there that day to pickup.  they go fast, but dont come up often.  i still check craigslist everyday for deals.  saw a Classic come up again last week for $125 and was gone the next day.

Patience and you will get it!  no way you come close buying new with that budget
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scanfield
Senior Member


Joined: 21 Nov 2011
Posts: 181
Location: Texas
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: La Nuovo Era Cuadra
Grinder: Baratza Vario
Posted Tue Feb 26, 2013, 10:28am
Subject: Re: Newb on the cheap
 

micvog Said:

I am considering getting an espresso machine so my wife and I can enjoy lattes on the weekend.  My question is whether it would be worth even trying given our limited budget (<$400 for both the grinder and espresso machine).  Currently the only decent lattes (Alterra) are an hour away.

Posted February 26, 2013 link

Why are you only budgeting $400? If it's an hour each way, that's 4-person hours per latte. It seems like it wouldn't take very many saved trips to justify spending two or three times that amount.
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biochemgawd
Senior Member


Joined: 26 Mar 2006
Posts: 82
Location: Canada
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: BDB
Grinder: Vario
Posted Tue Feb 26, 2013, 11:00am
Subject: Re: Newb on the cheap
 

Good espresso can certainly be done on the cheap - but it requires good knowledge, inputs (beans) and minimum required hardware.

For a recent holiday I put together a budget setup for $137 that has worked wonderfully. (some luck involved)

For the grinder, I purchased a Hario Mini-Mill. It is a hand grinder with a high quality ceramic burr set that produces grinds fine enough for espresso for $38 on Amazon. You will only be able to live with this for a certain amount of time as it 1) takes some time and effort to grind and 2) doesn't have enough adjustability to really optimize your shots. Despite this, you can still make excellent espresso. The next step for grinders would be a Baratza Preciso or Vario - don't entertain any lower level motorized grinders because they won't grind fine enough for espresso.

For the espresso machine, you need something with an unpressurized portafilter and temperature consistency. At the entry level, this is typically a Gaggia Classic or Baby, Rancilio Silvia, or Lelit PL074. I was able to find a used Gaggia Baby for $99 on Craigslist that was in pretty good condition. This might have been lucky, but you should be able to find something used and suitable for $250 or less if you look around. Ask us for advice if you find something that might work before you pull the trigger!

As I mentioned, this equipment will only set you on the path to good espresso. You NEED good beans that are freshly roasted, and you need to develop a preparation technique that is sound (discussed ad nauseum on this board and elsewhere!) and then optimize your dose and grind to get a great shot.

Good luck!
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DaninMaryland
Senior Member


Joined: 3 Jan 2013
Posts: 79
Location: US
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: V2 Silvia
Grinder: Vario-W
Posted Tue Feb 26, 2013, 11:14am
Subject: Re: Newb on the cheap
 

DaninMaryland Said:

well, i am not going to be a debbie downer like other folks.  it is possible to get a good setup for $400.  i should know, i did it.  the key is patience and willing to buy used.

THis would be a good setup, and if you have time you can get it for $400

Used Baratza Preciso - via ebay/or coffeegeek BST - should be able to get this for around $230-$250
Used Gaggia Classic / Silvia - this one is tricky.  you can find great deals on local craigslist, but you have to wait while and jump on it right away.  I found a used V2 Silvia for $125.  I also had the opportunity for a used Classic for $150

If you can duplicate this, you have a very nice setup for $400.  the catch is it takes some time to do.  scour ebay for the preciso auctions and keep bidding till you get one for under $250, shouldnt take too long.

Then watch craigslist ever day.  they pop, but have cash in hand and offer the seller that you can be there that day to pickup.  they go fast, but dont come up often.  i still check craigslist everyday for deals.  saw a Classic come up again last week for $125 and was gone the next day.

Patience and you will get it!  no way you come close buying new with that budget

Posted February 26, 2013 link

I just checked on ebay for completed listings on used Precisos...anywhere from $180-240 is what i saw, with quite a few around the $200-$220 range.  That leaves you with $200 or so to find a used craigslist machine like i mentioned.  i think you find find a Classic/Silvia for that if you are willing to wait a month or two.  In the mean time you can enjoy coffee using your Preciso grinder and be set once you find an espresso machine!
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Coffeenoobie
Senior Member
Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 3,014
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Tue Feb 26, 2013, 11:15am
Subject: Re: Newb on the cheap
 

It can be done but you have to be smart and shop around.

I second spend all you have on a grinder. It is most bang for buck and if you get a good one now you are less likely to need/want to upgrade it. (I like my vario w because I like weighting out my grinds and like that it does it for me and tastes as good as a super jolly and it much smaller on my counter)

After you get the best grinder you can and put a tip jar out.  Tip yourself pocket change and save up for the machine.  I would watch craigslist if you are at all handy.  Some times people sell machines that they never used and are practically new or lightly used for insane deals.  Be ready to jump when you see them cash in hand.  I wanted steam power and thermo stability so I found a used Oscar (HX low volume commercial machine that uses 110) for less than 500.  I wanted a robust machine that I would have for a while on a low budget.  I am not sorry I by passed temp surfing and waiting a long time for steamed drinks. (I drank much more milk in my coffee at first)  The machine is waiting on me not the other way around.

 
Coffeenoobie

Buying advice: GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER. Don't cheap out on the grinder.

My coffee treasure map...
Click Here (maps.google.com)

Oscar trick out: http://s156.photobucket.com/user/GandBteam/story/14231
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D4F
Senior Member


Joined: 15 Mar 2012
Posts: 1,981
Location: USA
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Classic PID
Grinder: Baratza Forte-AP
Posted Tue Feb 26, 2013, 11:21am
Subject: Re: Newb on the cheap
 

Baratza.com in the refurb section for Preciso refurb for $239 when available, frequently.  Ahipping about $10 - $12.  Posts come out Thursdays.  That is routinely the best electric grinder buy as it is updated by Baratza.

 
D4F also at
http://www.gaggiausersgroup.com/
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