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A few questions to point me in the right direction (Purchasing a machine)
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > A few questions...  
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Bgranger
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Joined: 27 Apr 2013
Posts: 6
Location: Maryland
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Sat Apr 27, 2013, 10:58pm
Subject: A few questions to point me in the right direction (Purchasing a machine)
 

Hi everyone,

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.)
Espresso exclusively.  I am not a morning person so being able to get my espressos without spending considerable time waiting for the machine to heat up will be a requirement.

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.)
Likely one or two double shots.

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.)
15-20 per 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?
Not going to plumb.

5)  Do you have a 20-amp circuit available, or only a (standard) 15-amp circuit?
15-amp standard as far as I know.

6)  What is your budget for a new machine?  Does that also include a grinder?  If not, what is your budget for a grinder?
Resale value and reliability are two huge factors here.  If two machines are priced differently but will likely hold value equally I will buy whichever makes the better espresso shot (I prefer darker beans if it makes a difference).  Roughly $1000-$1500 including grinder.

I've researched the machines and techniques thoroughly but could use a point in the right direction from those of you that have the experience here.  Keep in mind I'm wanting to add espresso to my "cut it close" morning routine, so if any of the machines take more than 10 minutes to heat up I might want to avoid them.  Grinder I see myself getting is the Baratza Vario.  Machines I'm considering are La Pavoni manual lever, Ranchilio Silvia, Crossland CC1, Breville Dual Boiler, La Nuova Cuadra or another E61 based machine.  Would also consider used machines.  

Just so I get an idea of the differences between machines (in general or just the ones I listed), what am I paying for?--  Consistency?  A better espresso shot by a large margin?  Bells and whistles that I'll never use if I plan to configure the machine to make espresso with one type of bean (dark) and don't care about milk?

Do any grinders have a automatic grind feature with a timer, a "wake up and smell the coffee" sort of thing?  Or would this be ill-advised since the coffee beans would be exposed to oxygen while sitting in the grinder if I weigh them out the night before?

And a curve ball to make this interesting- For someone like me who has a up-and-out morning routine and wants to add espresso to this routine, would it make sense to just buy a super-automatic like the Delonghi Magnifica S if I can get a deal on one for ~$600?  Maybe just find the perfect bean for this machine to make something that's drinkable during the week?  Do any super-automatics have an alarm clock to make drinks in the morning?  Starting to think a super-automatic and a semi-automatic (or manual lever) both might have a place in my house.  If anyone would advise getting two machines, the ability to entertain (and hopefully impress) guests may also be a factor.  

Any input from the real geeks is appreciated!
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Coffeenoobie
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Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 3,023
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Sat Apr 27, 2013, 11:22pm
Subject: Re: A few questions to point me in the right direction (Purchasing a machine)
 

  1. All good machines take more than 10 minutes to warm up.  My machine is on a timer set 1 hour before I get up.
  2. Take a barista class before you buy to let you know if you will have the time.
  3. Built in grinders are mediocre at best.  Super autos that do everything for you are mediocre at best, break down often, and are expensive to fix.  Read amazon reviews if you don't believe me. If you really don't have the time in the morning for espresso I would get a capsule machine.  
  4. I would get the vario and a La Nuova Era Cuadra for your budget. You can get less but this is a good set up for your budget and needs.  Also buy a timer and surge protector.

 
Coffeenoobie

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

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emradguy
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emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 3,068
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 Sun Apr 28, 2013, 5:37am
Subject: Re: A few questions to point me in the right direction (Purchasing a machine)
 

Bgranger Said:

I've researched the machines and techniques thoroughly but could use a point in the right direction from those of you that have the experience here.  Keep in mind I'm wanting to add espresso to my "cut it close" morning routine, so if any of the machines take more than 10 minutes to heat up I might want to avoid them.

Posted April 27, 2013 link

As Helen said, all good/decent machines need more than 10 minutes to heat up.  30-45 minutes will give them good temp stability for the best possible espresso. As she also said, you may be able to accomplish this with a programmable timer, but you have to make sure your machine has a boiler that autofills. In other words, you should not put a Silvia on a timer.  Any machine that has a plumb in option can go on a timer.

Bgranger Said:

 Grinder I see myself getting is the Baratza Vario.  

Posted April 27, 2013 link

That's a good choice and I also agree with Helen's recommendation for a Cuadra...though I've never used a lever machine.  You might want to research those a little more, maybe there's a thread or two on the La Pavoni you could look at? I personally would cross off the Silvia and the Breville DB machines from your list. Since you'd consider used machines, you can get something even better than the Cuadra, though it may be overkill.

Bgranger Said:

Just so I get an idea of the differences between machines (in general or just the ones I listed), what am I paying for?--  Consistency?  A better espresso shot by a large margin?  Bells and whistles that I'll never use if I plan to configure the machine to make espresso with one type of bean (dark) and don't care about milk?

Posted April 27, 2013 link

Primarily paying for consistency and machine durability. A Silvia can produce good espresso in the right hands, but it is very difficult to produce great espresso on it every time. An E61 HX machine can produce great espresso regularly and once in a while you'll get something exceptional from it.  Of course, this all depends on you, the grinder (covered) and the beans. So, without further ado, sorry to tell you dark isn't a type of bean.  I suppose/hope you already know this and "mis-spoke". The darkness of the bean/blend comes from the roast and with it comes roast flavor, and simultaneous decrease in inherent bean flavor.  There's a balance to achieve, which is well surpassed once the bean looks like it's slathered in oil.  Rather than focus on dark, focus on flavor profiles, chocolates, caramels, citrus, berry, etc (kind of like wines)...then you'll be able to find beans/blends you'll like.  Of course, if you like ash or charcoal flavor, that makes it a lot easier (just go to your local *$$ and pick up their espresso roast).

Also, if you have a machine on a timer, pre=warmed when you're ready, and you have a routine down, you'll be making espresso shots in about 3 minutes on a regular basis.  So, do you need a class to tell you that?  No.  Would a class help you learn to do it well?  Definitely.

Bgranger Said:

Do any grinders have a automatic grind feature with a timer, a "wake up and smell the coffee" sort of thing?  Or would this be ill-advised since the coffee beans would be exposed to oxygen while sitting in the grinder if I weigh them out the night before?

Posted April 27, 2013 link

bingo! You definitely do not want this.  In fact, you may as well get reground.  Grinding for the shot is measured in seconds, even if you use a manual grinder.

Super-auto? no, just go to *$$

Oh, and hey...welcome to CG!

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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CoffeeRon
Senior Member
CoffeeRon
Joined: 26 Apr 2009
Posts: 749
Location: Tacoma Wa.
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Wega Lyra, Europiccola(still...
Grinder: Macap M7D, Pharos, Vario W,...
Vac Pot: Sunbeam CoffeeMaster
Drip: Melita BCM-4
Roaster: FR SR500,B-1600, SC/TO
Posted Sun Apr 28, 2013, 7:12am
Subject: Re: A few questions to point me in the right direction (Purchasing a machine)
 

Not to be off topic but I would like to elaborate on the bean thing as there are common misconceptions held by people new to good espresso. I know I had them!
  1. Darker is stronger-- Well there is definitely a stronger roast flavor but actually a little less caffeine in darker roasts as it is roasted out as the roast goes longer.
  2. Lighter tastes like Folgers-- As said above well roasted beans can be really tasty, you don't have to be a connoisseur to taste the flavors that are roasted out as the roast gets darker, *$'s gets their consistency and doesn't have to be as picky about the beans they roast by just roasting all the flavor out!

Now more on topic, can't really add to what's been said, but there's nothing wrong with predosing into the grinder so your first shot in the morning you just hit the button. A machine like the Cuadra is just your basic HX with no bells and whistles really. It would give you the ability to easily make back to back cappuccinos for the occasional entertaining. You may want to add a group head thermometer to help get your brew temps dialed in. As well as a bottomless PF to dial in your grind and tamp to eliminate channeling.
   Welcome to CoffeeGeek!
            Cheers, Ron
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CoffeeRon
Senior Member
CoffeeRon
Joined: 26 Apr 2009
Posts: 749
Location: Tacoma Wa.
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Wega Lyra, Europiccola(still...
Grinder: Macap M7D, Pharos, Vario W,...
Vac Pot: Sunbeam CoffeeMaster
Drip: Melita BCM-4
Roaster: FR SR500,B-1600, SC/TO
Posted Sun Apr 28, 2013, 8:38am
Subject: Re: A few questions to point me in the right direction (Purchasing a machine)
 

I think the comment "the ability to entertain (and hopefully impress) guests may also be a factor." was a part of that, as well as maybe the ease of not trying to temp surf first thing in the morning. And really how much more is a low end HX machine, possibly used, than a decent SBDU? I paid around $800 for my Wega from someone here on CG looking to upgrade, and I wouldn't call my Wega low end.
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Coffeenoobie
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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 28, 2013, 8:39am
Subject: Re: A few questions to point me in the right direction (Purchasing a machine)
 

Well, OP said time was an issue, so if you can't put a silvia on a timer then that one is out.  I don't know about Gaggia on a timer either.  Starter machines need a higher level of skill to compensate for the lack of thermal stability and boiler size. So, it is harder to learn to pull good shots on a single boiler because it takes finesse to temp surf.  If you can afford for the machine to have more thermal mass to be temp stable and fill the boiler for you then you are better off right out of the gate. If OP has the budget, and he said he did, why would you recommend a machine that most people on this board out grow over time? (some people in a matter a few months)  I would hate to recommend a machine and have someone want to replace it in a few months or give up because it is too hard to temp surf.  That is a waste of time and money.  That is why I started with a used HX and avoided the single boiler.  Over a year later, I think I have enough knowledge to tackle a single boiler but I believe I would not have stuck with it if I had started with one.  I believe I would have been frustrated.

It is a paradox but starter machine are named so in price only, more expensive machines are really easier to learn to use.  You can learn to drive a car for the first time with a stick shift, but I believe it was easier to learn to drive on an automatic and learn to drive stick shift after driving has become second nature.


Also, just because he likes no milk doesn't mean that when has a good machine he might start having friends over to show off his skills and they would want milk.  If someone has the means, I think it is better to give them a machine they can grow into rather than spend time and work on one they will leave behind.

 
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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CoffeeRon
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CoffeeRon
Joined: 26 Apr 2009
Posts: 749
Location: Tacoma Wa.
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Wega Lyra, Europiccola(still...
Grinder: Macap M7D, Pharos, Vario W,...
Vac Pot: Sunbeam CoffeeMaster
Drip: Melita BCM-4
Roaster: FR SR500,B-1600, SC/TO
Posted Sun Apr 28, 2013, 8:45am
Subject: Re: A few questions to point me in the right direction (Purchasing a machine)
 

Very nicely put Helen.
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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 28, 2013, 10:03am
Subject: Re: A few questions to point me in the right direction (Purchasing a machine)
 

Thanks, I think the learning driving and learning stick shifting is a really good analogy to learning espresso and temp surfing.  Once you have mastered driving you can concentrate on stick shifting, but learning it all at once makes the it that much harder.  In this case there was no need, I believe those items are the best bang for his buck.

 
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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Jmanespresso
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Jmanespresso
Joined: 18 Jan 2009
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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 Sun Apr 28, 2013, 10:31am
Subject: Re: A few questions to point me in the right direction (Purchasing a machine)
 

Ill play the other part and suggest you buy the Breville Dual Boiler.


Two main types of espresso machines.  Heat Exchangers and Dual Boilers.   And like anything in life, there are people who think one is better then the other, on both sides.

As someone who has owned both types of machines, I can say with 100% honesty, I will not own another HX machine.  I will stay with a DB until new/better technology is developed, because in MY mind, the Dual Boiler is a superior design to the HX design.  I think you will have a much easier time getting going, and I think you will be up to speed quicker and with less fuss.

With any HX machine, there is the learning curve of the machine itself.  Not only are you learning how to pull a shot of espresso, but also how to control the temperature of an HX machine.  Day 1, yes, you can make some acceptable drinks.  But it will be a few weeks, to a few months(depending on your usage), before you are fully comfortable with using the machine and knowing what to do to achieve the results you want.  Pretty much any HX is like that.  Can you make great espresso with one?  Without a doubt.  



For the new user, going with a dual boiler is a much easier route.

But for the experience user, really it doesn't matter.  I can make great espresso with both machine types, but I prefer the DB.





The suggestiong for the Vario, I totally agree with.

 
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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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Coffeenoobie
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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 28, 2013, 10:55am
Subject: Re: A few questions to point me in the right direction (Purchasing a machine)
 

I agree with a double boiler being a better idea from a purely technical standpoint and I am not bashing BDB- I am saying why I did not even consider suggesting it to him.

  1. BDB would put him over the stated budget while what I suggested is right on it.
  2. I am personally not convinced a BDB will last as long as the machine I suggested.  I don't want to recommend a machine at that price point that I personally believe will not last. And it can't be home maintained/serviced and the home maintenance/service is a deal breaker for me. As such, I will never recommend the BDB till the price comes way down or they change the maintenance/service deal.  (really I would want both done before I recommended it)

That said, if wants to up his budget and take a risk that his $1200 dollar machine might be a paper weight in a few years, then yes I think it will make nice espresso but I can't in good conscience recommend it.


Don't let this become a BDB bashing thread, I think I have summed up the cons and Jmanespresso has the pluses.

 
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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