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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > Need help...  
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cronos1013
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Apr 2013
Posts: 5
Location: Boston
Expertise: I like coffee

Posted Sun Apr 14, 2013, 3:55pm
Subject: Need help deciding
 

OK so my fiancee wants a good coffee machine as she is tired of her morning trip to Starbucks before work.  I have been tasked with finding the "perfect machine for her" basically meaning if I buy something bad, I'll never hear the end of it.  Now to make matters difficult...I personally can't tell the difference between 2 cups of coffee brewed a week apart, one fresh, and one reheated in a microwave...so I'm fairly ill-equipped to make this decision.  Research on the internet has basically raised more questions than it answered...and made me realize that I am even more ill-equipped to make this decision than I had originally thought.  

So...if you had ~$800 of someone else's money to spend on a machine plus a grinder, what would you buy and why?  

The only requirements I have are as follows:

The grinder will be used for drip coffee (from another machine as from what I can tell, a nice combo unit doesn't exist,) espresso drinks, and from my french press.  
The grinder cannot be manual, as that means I would have to get up early and grind it every day...and since I'm paying...I'm not grinding.

The espresso machine cannot use ONLY the pods, I suggested either an iperEspresso or Nespresso machine figuring that the ease of one or the other combined with easy cleanup would be awesome, but I was wrong.  If it has a portafilter which will use pods, or some podlike creation in addition to not, that would be great, but not required.
The espresso machine cannot require a master's degree to operate, as I will be attempting to make myself something to drink from time to time, and I am not a barista nor am I enough of a hipster to ever be considered for the position.

Also, is there anything else I should buy, like one of those little tamper things to press the coffee down evenly, etc.  Think "stocking stuffers" coffee style...but not for Christmas...however I might give them to her in a sock just because.  

*edit* OK, so I got some info from my better half regarding the questions in the sticky.  

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.)

She will be making mostly lattes and cappuccinos, occasionally a straight up espresso.


2)  How many drinks, on average, do you see yourself needing to make at any one time? (This will tell us what you need in terms of a machine's ability to work continuously.)

On average 2 drinks at a time, perhaps a couple more should we have company, but that isn't often enough to influence the purchasing decision.

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.)
We will be making approximately 6 per day, assuming we're both working a normal schedule, twice that on weekends, so about 60 or so a week.  

4)  Can you plumb a machine directly into the water supply, or do you want/need a pour over machine with its own reservoir?
I can plumb it in, but would have to hire someone to come in and do it, so I'd rather have pour over capability, even if it did have a plumb in option.

5)  Do you have a 20-amp circuit available, or only a (standard) 15-amp circuit?
Only 15 amps.

6)  What is your budget for a new machine?  Does that also include a grinder?  If not, what is your budget for a grinder?
Our budget is around $800 and it does need to include a grinder .   It's not a hard limit, so if we see a great combo for $850 that's on sale...we'd love to know.  Also, I'm not opposed to buying refurbished stuff if that means I can get a much nicer piece for a lot less money, so if you know where we can look at whose got what for refurbished stuff (chris coffee's section is a bit out of our price range...seems like his whole site is) I'd love to hear from ya.

I really appreciate any and all advice!

-Chris
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dana_leighton
Moderator
dana_leighton
Joined: 11 Jan 2002
Posts: 1,939
Location: Little Rock, AR
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Isomac Relax; Caferina...
Grinder: Macap MXK; Baratza Vario-W;...
Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup
Drip: Technivorm; CCD; Melitta
Roaster: Poppery I w/PID controller
Posted Sun Apr 14, 2013, 5:00pm
Subject: Re: Need help deciding
 

Welcome to the CoffeeGeek forums! I will wish you a dubious congratulations for being tasked with this job. I fear you are being set up for failure, because there is no such thing as a "perfect" machine for anyone - they will all have advantages and disadvantages.

If you haven't already, you'll need to read the following: http://coffeegeek.com/guides/howtobuyanespressomachine

Also, you should have a look at: http://coffeegeek.com/forums/espresso/machines/620441

Good luck - you will get lots of advice here. Answering some of the questions posed in that last thread might help.

 
Dana Leighton - Espresso hack and CoffeeGeek moderator
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cronos1013
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Apr 2013
Posts: 5
Location: Boston
Expertise: I like coffee

Posted Sun Apr 14, 2013, 5:43pm
Subject: Re: Need help deciding
 

dana_leighton Said:

Welcome to the CoffeeGeek forums! I will wish you a dubious congratulations for being tasked with this job. I fear you are being set up for failure, because there is no such thing as a "perfect" machine for anyone - they will all have advantages and disadvantages.

If you haven't already, you'll need to read the following: http://coffeegeek.com/guides/howtobuyanespressomachine

Also, you should have a look at: http://coffeegeek.com/forums/espresso/machines/620441

Good luck - you will get lots of advice here. Answering some of the questions posed in that last thread might help.

Posted April 14, 2013 link


Thanks for the warm welcome!  I'm hoping that with enough research, and help from the community here, I'll at least make a good enough decision for the disadvantages to not be noticed.  

Chris
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strawberrykoi
Senior Member
strawberrykoi
Joined: 11 Oct 2012
Posts: 43
Location: USA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Izzo Alex Duetto 3,...
Grinder: baratza vario, Hario...
Drip: chemex
Roaster: whirly pop
Posted Sun Apr 14, 2013, 7:12pm
Subject: Re: Need help deciding
 

I totally understand your dilemma. The science and art of (good) coffee and espresso making is a dangerous rabbit hole to fall into (for your wallet). It can be super fun too though, learning and discovering new challenges, and developing your techniques... but in the end, it's about making good coffee, so the decision-making is seriously intimidating (for me too). Just about any espresso machine and/or grinder recommended by this community is a good start though... because anything truly "awful" really isn't even featured as a possibility.

It's said again and again, but it's still rings true. Get the best grinder you can! Even the best grinder can make a crappy machine better. I bought a Baratza Vario for my first grinder, and will be upgrading soon enough... but the Vario is a GREAT place to start and sort of at the tippy-top of the low-end grinders or near the bottom of the high end, depending on how you look at it.... And it's got plenty of settings for espresso, french press, chemex etc etc. It's even won taste-tests, so it's done very well for itself... I don't think you'd be disappointed!

Might I suggest the Mypressi Twist for your espresso machine? I absolutely love mine, and I'm using it while I save up for a high-end espresso machine. At only $150, it would allow you to get a GREAT grinder with the remainder of your budget... otherwise, the Rancilio Silvia is about as cheap as it gets for still being a decent choice...
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qualin
Senior Member
qualin
Joined: 30 Jun 2012
Posts: 653
Location: Calgary, AB
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Izzo Alex Duetto 3
Grinder: Mazzer Mini Elect. Type A
Vac Pot: Looking to buy
Drip: Manual
Roaster: Considering?
Posted Sun Apr 14, 2013, 8:40pm
Subject: Re: Need help deciding
 

Well, your budget is close but is a little short still.

The Baratza line of grinders is a good place to start.. The Precisio or the Vario are both great grinders to start out with. However, that's already roughly around half your budget right there.
There are a lot of good views on the Vario and the Precisio.

Now, with your budget, $800 is cutting it close but it is doable.

Due to your budget though, you would be purely limited to SBDU (Single Boiler Dual Use) machines. The problem is that you may find it a little inadequate when you
are having company over. Making drinks for two people in the morning would take approximately 15 minutes to make with an SBDU.

So, due to your budget, you would be looking at $400 for a grinder and about another $400 for your espresso machine..

The closest you'll be able to come to that is a Baratza Precisio and a Saeco Aroma. If you can spend an extra $100-$200, get yourself a Gaggia Classic instead.

Good luck!

 
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
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Coffeenoobie
Senior Member
Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 3,023
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Sun Apr 14, 2013, 9:10pm
Subject: Re: Need help deciding
 

The Single boiler will be tough to learn on and she will probably get discouraged. I suggest you get the vario and a good french press (espro has a nice one) and awesome fresh beans.  Then move on to espresso when you have the budget, tip yourself with a jar for change to save up.  I did it on a shoe string and I still managed to spend about 1k on my set up.  Used Oscar was 475 and vario w is 550. However, I don't have upgraditius.  

ALSO, Before you buy,make her take a barista class to make sure she will keep it up.  Espresso making is messy and challenging at best.

Edited for clarity.

 
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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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 3,051
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 Mon Apr 15, 2013, 6:15am
Subject: Re: Need help deciding
 

I think the advice you got about buying a great grinder and a mypressi twist is good.  Once you can save up for a HX or thermoblock machine (like the CC1), you will still have the twist for travel.  Another option is an Aeropress.  It doesn't make "espresso", but it does make a strong coffee concentrate, and it's great for travel.  The downside to those recmmendations (twist/aeropress) is they don't have frothing capability.  You could get a Nespresso Aerocino to cover that (~$100), and then that's also great for travel when you get a nicer home setup. I've got an OE Lido grinder, Espro press, Aeropress and an Aerocino in my office at work, which I use for travel occasionally as well.  It's a heck of a lot better than the crappy mermaid across the street.

Don't discount the benefits of having a capable machine for company because it's only occasional.  It is extremely frustrating to prepare more than a couple of espresso-based drinks at a time when you're entertaining...been there, done that...wouldn't recommend it...unless you don't mind having the first person finish their drink while you're preparing the third or fourth one.  Of course, if you entertain only a couple of times a year, well...that's a different story.  Since you didn't say how often you entertain, one can't really gauge it...so my recommendation is you look at how often you entertain coffee drinkers and take it from there.

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


Joined: 13 Nov 2012
Posts: 203
Location: Atlanta
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Breville BES900
Grinder: Baratza Preciso + Esatto
Vac Pot: Yuma
Drip: bah-humbug
Roaster: Hot Top 2K P
Posted Mon Apr 15, 2013, 11:58am
Subject: Re: Need help deciding
 

Coffeenoobie Said:

The Single boiler will be tough to learn on and she will probably get discouraged. I suggest you get the vario and a good french press (espro has a nice one) and awesome fresh beans.  Then move on to espresso when you have the budget, tip yourself with a jar for change to save up.  I did it on a shoe string and I still managed to spend about 1k on my set up.  Used Oscar was 475 and vario w is 550. However, I don't have upgraditius.  

ALSO, Before you buy,make her take a class to make sure she will keep it up.  It is messy and challenging at best.

Posted April 14, 2013 link

Coffeenoobie makes very good points here, a lot of the flavor of the espresso experience can show up in a good french press. Preparation is relatively straight forward, and the Espro products are the class of their type.  A Vario or Preciso will service very well as the cornerstone of you future coffee expeditions. [Just remember, only adjust (especially going finer grinds) when the grinder is running. A wedgie is a bad thing.]  You may have enough left to get a variable temperature wireless kettle. This will help you find the brew temperatures which open different coffees and their flavors.
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strawberrykoi
Senior Member
strawberrykoi
Joined: 11 Oct 2012
Posts: 43
Location: USA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Izzo Alex Duetto 3,...
Grinder: baratza vario, Hario...
Drip: chemex
Roaster: whirly pop
Posted Mon Apr 15, 2013, 4:25pm
Subject: Re: Need help deciding
 

emradguy Said:

I think the advice you got about buying a great grinder and a mypressi twist is good.  Once you can save up for a HX or thermoblock machine (like the CC1), you will still have the twist for travel.  Another option is an Aeropress.  It doesn't make "espresso", but it does make a strong coffee concentrate, and it's great for travel.  The downside to those recmmendations (twist/aeropress) is they don't have frothing capability.  You could get a Nespresso Aerocino to cover that (~$100), and then that's also great for travel when you get a nicer home setup.

Posted April 15, 2013 link

On that note, I use an Aerolatte I got off of Amazon for only 99 cents!!! I'm even able to make a little bit of latte art :)

strawberrykoi: a3ce7b42a58711e29caa22000a1f96f6_7.jpg
(Click for larger image)
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qualin
Senior Member
qualin
Joined: 30 Jun 2012
Posts: 653
Location: Calgary, AB
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Izzo Alex Duetto 3
Grinder: Mazzer Mini Elect. Type A
Vac Pot: Looking to buy
Drip: Manual
Roaster: Considering?
Posted Mon Apr 15, 2013, 4:59pm
Subject: Re: Need help deciding
 

emradguy Said:

Don't discount the benefits of having a capable machine for company because it's only occasional.

Posted April 15, 2013 link

I would certainly agree with this. I used to own a Rancilio Silvia. (A great machine BTW) I found that while a SBDU was good enough for one person who wanted a drink in the morning, maybe two, It took me about 10 minutes,
from start to finish to make a single cappuccino. With a HX or DB machine, I could do it in under 4 minutes. That adds up quick when making drinks for multiple people. Since I upgraded from my SBDU, I've
found that I have enough time to have two drinks in the morning instead of just one.

Of course, keep in mind that the times I've included above also include set up and clean up as well.

I guess the thing I should have mentioned is that SBDU machines are a compromise. It's a compromise to keep the cost down. They use a single boiler and two different thermostats so you can brew or
steam but not do both. The next step up from a SBDU is a SBDH (Single Boiler Dual Heater) and those are outside of your budget. I don't recommend them anyway unless steaming isn't very important.
HX, Or heat exchanging machines, start out at roughly $1200 new and go up from there, which clearly violates your budget, but realistically, that price point is where you stop making compromises.

Now, at the risk of getting flamed here, The whole entire super-automatic market is designed for people like you. No fuss, No muss. Nothing to learn, just push a button and coffee comes out. The problem with
these is the quality of the coffee and the durability of the machine. You can find super-automatics for around $800, but IMO they're mostly junk. (At least in my eyes anyway) I kind of figure that for the price of a
decent super-auto, (Think somewhere between $1500-$2500) it is better to consider buying a semi-automatic machine with a considerably longer lifespan, durability and reliability as well as serviceability.

Like anything, using a Super-Auto is like driving an automatic, using a Semi-Auto is more like driving a manual transmission. It's not difficult, it's not impossible and the rewards far outweigh the work.
But more to the point, if you are passionate about driving, then a manual transmission gives you the control and excitement you simply can't get from an automatic.

To re-enforce a point though, we don't usually focus on Super-automatics, only because they don't really make great coffee. In my own experience, the Super-Auto we have at work makes weak coffee,
relative to if you were to brew very strong drip coffee.

You don't need to spend a metric ton of cash to get great espresso, but if you want a machine and grinder your wife will be happy with, don't skimp either. I'd say that a budget
of at least $1000 is a bare minimum. ($600 for machine, $400 for grinder) If you can bump that budget up to $2000, That leaves you $1400 for a decent HX machine, $500 for grinder and $100 for accessories.

Maybe that's not quite the answer you are looking for, but hopefully that should help you with your options.

 
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
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