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Advice on buying first semi-automatic espresso machine please?
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > Advice on buying...  
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JaniceAnn
Senior Member


Joined: 15 May 2013
Posts: 185
Location: Virginia
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Wed May 15, 2013, 7:24am
Subject: Advice on buying first semi-automatic espresso machine please?
 

I just joined today after doing about 6 weeks of research on which machine to buy.

I am still undecided and thought I would ask for advice from people much more knowledgeable than myself.

I have owned three super automatics over the last 15 years and when the last one died, about 6 weeks ago, my husband said he is tired of spending $1200 or more on a super automatic machine that lasts three years or, with luck, maybe five.

I said that a good semi automatic would likely last at least 10 year with care so he told me to do my research and let him know which ones I thought would be best for us.

He drinks Americanos with sugar and I drink cappuccinos with sweetener.  He has two or three cups a day and I have three or four.

I have been looking at HE machines mostly, but am concerned about the cooling flushes as we have hard water and I am thinking that I will be buying either RO water or Distilled water and mixing with our tap water.  The local water is around 18 grains of hardness according to the water report we get every year.

I would consider a Double Boiler machine but money is a consideration.  I need to keep the price below $2000 at the most.

I have been looking at the Mini Vivaldi II, the Silvano, the Rocket Cellini Premium, the Alex II and the Crossland CC1.  I do love the Alex Duetto III but that is out of my price range.

I would probably be buying from Chris' Coffee Service or Seattle Coffee Gear but am open to suggestions of other stores.

Thanks for your help!
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JMFishtown
Senior Member
JMFishtown
Joined: 18 Jan 2013
Posts: 38
Location: Philadelphia
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Breville Dual Boiler
Grinder: Compak K3 Touch
Drip: Aeropress, Espro Press
Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Wed May 15, 2013, 7:38am
Subject: Re: Advice on buying first semi-automatic espresso machine please?
 

I'm assuming you don't have a grinder since you've been using super autos: Does your budget include a grinder?

If it doesn't I'd recommend either a Mazzer SuperJolly (720) or a Compak K-3 Touch (500) and a Quick Mill Anita (1600)

All three of those options will deliver an extremely high quality shot of espresso for a long long time, and the Anita has a large enough boiler that you can steam and brew at the same time.
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dyqik
Senior Member


Joined: 7 Oct 2011
Posts: 383
Location: Cambridge, MA
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Bezzera BZ07 PM
Grinder: Baratza Virtuoso Preciso...
Vac Pot: Cona D
Drip: Bona-Vita, CCD, Aeropress.
Roaster: Gene Cafe, Modded Poppers
Posted Wed May 15, 2013, 8:07am
Subject: Re: Advice on buying first semi-automatic espresso machine please?
 

I take it that, as you are coming from super automatics, you don't have an espresso capable grinder, so that needs to be in the budget?  At up to $2000, that's not so much of problem.  I'm also going to assume that you want things to be fairly easy to use with good consistency, so that there's not a huge learning curve from the superautomatics.

For ease of use and consistency, I'd suggest a Baratza Vario-W as the grinder - it can be set to automatically weigh out the dose of grounds for your drinks, to very good accuracy.  These grinders maybe aren't quite up to shop standard reliability, but the Baratza customer service is good, and the adjustability and consistency is a really good way to learn semi-automatic espresso production.  Prices are $575 new or $440 refurbished.  Personally I'd go refurbished, because the $135 saving will buy the accessories you need for the machine and brewing.

That leaves about $1450 for the machine itself.  At that kind of price I think you have two things to consider - firstly, new, your dual boiler option is pretty much only the Breville DB, but there's still question marks over the reliability and servicing of this machine, particularly for descaling.  That leaves you with medium price HX options.  There are a few options in this price range.  Making americanos suggests that you want a hot water tap, and a reasonable size boiler (the 1.5L boiler on my BZ07 takes a couple of minutes to recover after drawing water off for an americano, although this can be avoided if you pull your shots first).  Something that can take a grouphead thermometer will help with the learning curve, and will make learning flushing very easy, although it's not hard at anyway.  I don't think that a full automatic (i.e. switches the pump on to pass a fixed amount of water) is worth the extra cost, unless there's a specific machine with a good price on that.  Also, don't be suckered into a PID controlled HX machine if you want to instantly switch from brewing to steaming, as there's no real benefit there.

For the hard water, you could consider getting a small scale water softener for use with your machine, (and other appliances!  scale hurts them too).  I'm not sure what the prices and consumable costs are for those though.

I don't know exactly what to recommend here - my Bezzera BZ07 does a good job of making an americano and an espresso or cappucino every morning for me and my OH, and is easily within budget, but the hot water tap is in a slightly awkward location, and there's no way to fit a grouphead thermometer.  The La Nuova Era Cuadra is also well within budget, and should do a good job, with enough cash left over for a grouphead thermometer and water softener.  Both of these are available from 1st-Line.com  The Oscar is well within budget, but has a few other drawbacks.  Then there seems to be a big gap to the $1800 machines.
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JaniceAnn
Senior Member


Joined: 15 May 2013
Posts: 185
Location: Virginia
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Wed May 15, 2013, 8:29am
Subject: Re: Advice on buying first semi-automatic espresso machine please?
 

I do have a grinder which is probably barely able to grind fine enough for espresso.  It is the Breville Smart Grinder which I bought to use with my drip coffee maker while I was trying to do research on a semi automatic machine.  I did see a couple of videos from Seattle Coffee Gear which showed it being used to grind beans for the Mini Vivaldi II and one of the Rockets and they said the espresso was really good so the Smart Grinder might just get by.  For the Mini Vivaldi it was set to the finest grind setting and a little lower for the Rocket.

I called QVC and was told that I was still in the 30 day window to return it.  I was thinking of keeping it and buying a better grinder next year after I save up for one.

I know that a good grinder is necessary for the best espresso but I was leaning toward getting a better machine now and delaying the purchase of a better grinder for a while.  

Since neither my husband or I drink espresso, I thought that have a really good grinder might not be as important.

Any input on this is most welcome, of course.
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JaniceAnn
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Joined: 15 May 2013
Posts: 185
Location: Virginia
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Wed May 15, 2013, 8:30am
Subject: Re: Advice on buying first semi-automatic espresso machine please?
 

That would put me over my price limit and that is fixed.  I can go lower but not higher.

Sounds like a good combination though.
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JMFishtown
Senior Member
JMFishtown
Joined: 18 Jan 2013
Posts: 38
Location: Philadelphia
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Breville Dual Boiler
Grinder: Compak K3 Touch
Drip: Aeropress, Espro Press
Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Wed May 15, 2013, 9:14am
Subject: Re: Advice on buying first semi-automatic espresso machine please?
 

In that case I'd go with  a Rocket Cellini and the K-3 Touch.  I think the K-3 is on sale right now for 449 and the 1500 Cellini fits in your price range
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JaniceAnn
Senior Member


Joined: 15 May 2013
Posts: 185
Location: Virginia
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Wed May 15, 2013, 10:23am
Subject: Re: Advice on buying first semi-automatic espresso machine please?
 

I was looking at the Rocket Cellini Premium which is $1800.  The Cellini Classic is $1500 but isn't the one I want.
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 2,947
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 Wed May 15, 2013, 11:10am
Subject: Re: Advice on buying first semi-automatic espresso machine please?
 

JaniceAnn Said:

I was looking at the Rocket Cellini Premium which is $1800.  The Cellini Classic is $1500 but isn't the one I want.

Posted May 15, 2013 link

Ah, but if you return the BSG, you can perhaps get a combo deal from one of the online vendors dor the Cellini Premium and a Vario or K-3 Touch, or a Macap M4 (would only get for espresso only) that will stay within or slightly push your budget.

Places like Chris' Coffee Service and 1st-line are often willing to make deals over the phone that aren't necessarily advertised.  They often don't particularly care all that much which machine and grinder you're buying, just that you're buying both, so they frequently will cut you a combo deal - you just have to call and ask.

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,662
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major
Vac Pot: 40s era Silex
Drip: Msl. Com. brewers
Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Wed May 15, 2013, 12:18pm
Subject: Re: Advice on buying first semi-automatic espresso machine please?
 

One thing you brought up but I have not seen addressed, though I could have missed it, is your concern over the flush.

Understand this, ALL MACHINES REQUIRE A FLUSH, the time of the flush is more the issue. Most DB machines require a WARMING flush then ALL machines require a flush to clear spent grounds from the group head before pulling a shot.

Much is made of the cooling flush, mostly from people who have never used a HX machine. You simply let it run until the water does not flash to steam, for most machines this is only 3 to 4 oz of water but the way your machine is setup can change that. I simply flush the water into the cup to pre-warm the cup, no waste of time, no waste of water and no big deal at all.

If you do have hard water, an under counter filter/softener system would be a good investment. Machines that monitor and maintain the boiler level themselves, require that the water is able to conduct electrical current for the level probe to work, RO or distilled water is TOO pure and is not conductive, and then there is the flat taste of the water that comes from those sources, water NEEDS SOME minerals to have good taste.

The grinder is what makes the espresso and the machine is an accessory to the grinder, not the other way around. You will NEVER get a better quality of espresso than the grinder is able to turn out, regardless of the price of the machine, thus, around here, we say, GRINDER FIRST!

 
In real life, my name is
Wayne P.
Anything I post is personal opinion and is only worth as much as anyone else's personal opinion. YMMV!

Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
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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 Wed May 15, 2013, 1:43pm
Subject: Re: Advice on buying first semi-automatic espresso machine please?
 

The La Nuova Era Cuadra at $1,000 would give you lots of machine and leave you $1,000 to cover the grinder and taxes.  It is an HX machine.
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