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Need help! (Buying advice, please!)
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > Need help!...  
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Stephany
Senior Member


Joined: 9 May 2013
Posts: 25
Location: New england
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Thu May 9, 2013, 7:21pm
Subject: Need help! (Buying advice, please!)
 

I've been lurking on your review board for a while, trying to figure out this question for myself. But now, I am at my wits' end.
    Having recently returned from Italy, my love for espresso has been rekindled and I decided it is time to replace the old krups espresso machine I threw out last year, a gift for my engagement many years ago.
    My krups had fallen into disuse and disrepair because, not being used frequently, the beans got stale and I never got a good espresso.
    Realizing that freshly ground beans are the key, I am interested in a set up that will allow me to grind and pull without too much agita or counter space. Lets face it, if I have to pull out a grinder and machine every time I make a coffee . . . Not gonna happen. (Working mom of 2--crazy kitchen).
    So I've been through every iteration of what might be best for me:
Nespresso? Small, easy to leave on counter, makes quickly...but hello? Machines are expensive and then they've got you at their beans....cost ineffective.
Super auto? Well-reviewed ones are really expensive, cheaper ones are not. Also, every one I've seen gets spotty reviews for durability.
One with a built in grinder (breville, la pavoni) seemed perfect, get good reviews, but...well, not from the forums that garner my respect.
An online retailer made a suggestion that sounded good, but further research pointed at poor reviews with people trashing that retailer for recommending that machine. Am I stepping into a pile of espresso politics? I need you, dear CoffeeGeek members, to help me sort this out.

So here's the challenge:
What is your advice for the best set up for someone who doesn't want it to take up a lot of space, wants it easily accessible, wants to be able to make milk-based drinks, and wants the total price  to be $600 plus or minus.
Of course, I'm not a huge connoisseur, I just really like a good espresso.

I hope I've given you enough to go on...and it's my birthday and Mother's Day present. My husband will be mad a me If I don't buy it soon!

Thanks!!
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SStones
Senior Member
SStones
Joined: 24 Nov 2012
Posts: 484
Location: Canada
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: Giga 5, ECM Giotto, Rocket...
Grinder: Anfim Milano-Best
Vac Pot: No  :(
Drip: Some $30 thing from Walmart
Roaster: I buy pre-roasted.
Posted Thu May 9, 2013, 7:46pm
Subject: Re: Need help! (Buying advice, please!)
 

At that price you're going to get something used, but you might get lucky.  Or you're going to settle for something brand new but disposable.  Both have their merits, they will make espressos & cappuccinos and not cost as much as 100 espressos & cappuccinos from a coffee shop.
They will both, also, have their drawbacks.  If the used machine were perfect, the previous owner wouldn't want to be rid of it. If the disposable machine were a technological marvel of engineering that made outstanding espresso, then the manufacturer wouldn't build it as a disposable, they'd make it out of quality parts and sell it for a few thousand dollars.

You need to ask yourself if you'll be happy with a disposable, single boiler-dual purpose, little machine.  If so, then by all means check out the pricing of the Combo machines with the grinder on one side and all.  These machines are affordable and can last a few years if looked after.

If you want something more robust that you'll have for many years and you'll get repaired when it needs it, keep your eyes on the buy and sell page of this forum. Machines come and go at a range of prices. Once you have seen some potentials, check with local shops in your area to make sure you can get it repaired when the time comes.
My opinion here is biased, I suppose that's why it's an opinion. I always suggest buying used when unsure.  A used machine will still be worth most of its purchase price in a couple years if you decide to replace it.  A brand new machine won't be worth anywhere near its purchase price even if you change your mind this year.

Good luck and I hope you find a great machine that works out for you at a great price.
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CoffeeRon
Senior Member


Joined: 26 Apr 2009
Posts: 753
Location: Eatonville, 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 Thu May 9, 2013, 9:59pm
Subject: Re: Need help! (Buying advice, please!)
 

Hi Stephany,
  Seems you already know the importance of the beans and the grinder. Most would recommend you steer clear of machines that both grind and brew, for various reasons. I know it would take up a bit more space to have separate machines but then a machine that does both would take up a little more room anyway so you get a little back right there. I would suggest you start with a Baratza Preciso. There is a refurbed one on there sight right now, they stand behind their refurbs  and I wouldn't hesitate to grab it. I have a refurbed Virtuoso that has been used almost daily for I believe three years now and still going strong, (maybe about due for some new burrs though). They post their refurbs on Thursdays. Also there was a Preciso on the BST for $200 in late April that isn't posted as sold yet, you might check that out.
  Anyhow with that said if you go that route you will then have a grinder that will do a decent job for you for espresso with whatever machine you get now- and later if you end up upgrading- which is plausible as you're getting in pretty much on a shoestring budget where espresso is concerned. Also you would then have a grinder that is also well suited for other means of coffee brewing you might like to try.
  Now you would be left with around $350-$400 for a machine. That would get you a new Gaggia classic or better. Probably nothing with a PID so you'd be temp surfing, or maybe you'll get lucky and find a used PID'd machine in budget. There's also a Lelit PL041 in the BST with a number of accessories for $300 you might check out.
  I feel I've rambled enough now. Just tried to put myself in your shoes and ask myself what would I do on that budget. Although I believe I would probably stretch it just a bit farther and try a Crossland CC1 for the PID and thermoblock steamer. Hope my rambling helps a little.
     Good luck and whatever you get- enjoy the journey, Ron
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qualin
Senior Member
qualin
Joined: 30 Jun 2012
Posts: 662
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 Thu May 9, 2013, 10:57pm
Subject: Re: Need help! (Buying advice, please!)
 

Stephany Said:

I am interested in a set up that will allow me to grind and pull without too much agita or counter space.

Posted May 9, 2013 link

You probably want to look at Single Boiler Dual Use machines. I don't recommend Thermoblock machines only because of thermal stability.
However, if space is an issue, they are slightly smaller than Single Boiler machines.. but they're not as durable either.

SBDU machines have a relatively small boiler, but good thermal stability and don't take up too much counter space. What I'd recommend you do
is take a look at a few different SBDU machines in person. They're not as big as you think they may be.

If you don't have the counter space, you should consider a portable cabinet instead and put all your coffee stuff ontop of it. I found that my old
Rancilio Silvia and Rocky took up about as much space as my old K-Cup machine with K-Cup stand beside it.

Stephany Said:

One with a built in grinder (breville, la pavoni) seemed perfect, get good reviews, but...well, not from the forums that garner my respect.

Posted May 9, 2013 link

A machine with a built in grinder typically has a few flaws, one of which is that the heat from the thermoblock or boiler can affect the freshness of the beans.
Not to mention that there are a few of these units which really produce a poor grind and are designed to be used with a pressurized portafilter. Anyone on this
forum who has one of these types of machines typically tends to outgrow the grinder fairly quickly.

Stephany Said:

...doesn't want it to take up a lot of space, wants it easily accessible, wants to be able to make milk-based drinks, and wants the total price  to be $600 plus or minus.

Posted May 9, 2013 link

Well, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a decent semi-automatic machine and grinder for that budget. I would start more at a budget around $1000. That's about $300 for the grinder,
$600 for the machine and roughly around $100 for accessories. It sounds to me like you should consider either a Gaggia Classic, Rancilio Silvia or a Lelit machine. All are very compact machines. As for
the grinder, I'd probably suggest something like a Baratza Precisio. Read the reviews on this site.

When you are making milk drinks, you want something with a lot of steaming power and any one of the machines suggested above are very capable. My own Silvia was very capable of
producing enough steam to foam up a 20 oz pitcher of milk quite nicely. I don't know much about the Gaggia or Lelit machines though.

Stephany Said:

Of course, I'm not a huge connoisseur, I just really like a good espresso.

Posted May 9, 2013 link

Then you should be focusing on a decent standalone grinder. The grinder, in a lot of ways, is more important than the machine. By buying a unit where you do not have explicit and complete
control over the grinder or you are forced to compromise by using a pressurized portafilter because the grinder sucks, you won't ever get the espresso you are looking for.

Perhaps if you could include some pictures of your kitchen, it might give us some ideas of where the machine and grinder could go? I've attached a picture of what my coffee setup used to be
before I switched over to my Alex. Before the Silvia and Rocky, I had a Breville K-Cup machine which took up most of that space.

qualin: Coffee_Setup.jpg
(Click for larger image)

 
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
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qualin
Senior Member
qualin
Joined: 30 Jun 2012
Posts: 662
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 Thu May 9, 2013, 10:59pm
Subject: Re: Need help! (Buying advice, please!)
 

In case you need much more precise measurements, I laid out exactly how the Silvia and Rocky were laid out on my counter
so I could figure out what kinds of machines I could upgrade to, but would still fit on the counter.. Perhaps this may help you ....

qualin: Current-Layout.jpg
(Click for larger image)

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


Joined: 26 Apr 2009
Posts: 753
Location: Eatonville, 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 Fri May 10, 2013, 5:19am
Subject: Re: Need help! (Buying advice, please!)
 

You expressed a need/desire to get something right away. To that I would suggest you get a grinder now and an inexpensive moka pot or aeropress for now. Explain to hubby that you honestly need a bit more time to research machines and, if you decide a used one would be a good choice- which it may well be- you'll want to take your time for the right one to come along. This isn't really something you want to rush into. In the mean time you'll be drinking pretty good "not quite" espresso, provided you buy fresh roast beans!          Ron
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steamer
Senior Member
steamer
Joined: 11 Feb 2005
Posts: 901
Location: socal
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Expobar Brewtus IV R
Grinder: Mazzer Mini-B Baratza...
Vac Pot: Krubs Moka Brew, vacPot
Drip: TechV, and many more
Roaster: Hottop
Posted Fri May 10, 2013, 7:52am
Subject: Re: Need help! (Buying advice, please!)
 

Well I will say this, I have a Gaggia "Espresso" model machine, basic as it is, I am getting good results with my Baratza Virtuoso grinder. Between the two it cost me $375. The grinder was a refurbish and the Gaggia was new. It may have taken me a few months to get it consistently dead on, but that's a learning curve. You mat get a  refurb. Gaggia Classic for $300 from WLL. the rest into a grinder, I think a Lelit new is about $250 and has good reviews. Your last effort is fresh beans. I but mine from a local roaster and get 1/2 pound which gets me 10 days. I do roast my own beans but haven't got it where I want my espresso beans to be just yet.
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takeshi
Senior Member
takeshi
Joined: 12 Oct 2002
Posts: 991
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Alex Duetto 3.0
Grinder: Super Jolly
Roaster: Amaya Roasting
Posted Fri May 10, 2013, 10:03am
Subject: Re: Need help! (Buying advice, please!)
 

Stephany Said:

Lets face it, if I have to pull out a grinder and machine every time I make a coffee . . . Not gonna happen.

Posted May 9, 2013 link

Stephany Said:

I just really like a good espresso.

Posted May 9, 2013 link

Stephany Said:

total price  to be $600 plus or minus.

Posted May 9, 2013 link

Tell us the exact order of your priorities above.  Which is most important?  Which is least important?  We all want a solution that excels at everything and costs nothing but the reality is that you have to compromise in one or more areas and this applies to everything in life -- not just espresso equipment.

If you want good espresso you have to grind fresh with a good grinder and properly pull the espresso.  If buying a separate grinder is right out then you're probably best served with a single serve machine which comes with the increased expense of the packs and decreased quality.  Asking about single serves and superautos (and all-in-ones) here is fairly pointless as CoffeeGeeks aren't going to recommend either as we place the quality of what's in the cup above all else.  If you pursue the single serve route you'd be better served by hitting up a single serve discussion forum site.

You have to let us know what's most important and where you're willing to compromise.  There's really no solution that is extremely convenient, taking up little counterspace, produces excellent espresso and costs ~$600.  Are you willing to eke out additional space for your espresso gear?  Would you settle for mediocre espresso?  Could you forgo espresso entirely and settle for a moka or other brewed coffee?  Can you expand your budget or make one purchase now, settle and make another purchase later?  Are you flexible on more than one of those constraints?

It's always "grinder first" here (as you said, "freshly ground beans are the key") and then the remainder of the budget for the brewing solution.

Stephany Said:

Super auto? Well-reviewed ones are really expensive, cheaper ones are not. Also, every one I've seen gets spotty reviews for durability.

Posted May 9, 2013 link

Greater complexity typically means more points of failure.  Better engineering and build quality to help mitigate that don't come for free.  Again, there are tradeoffs to be made with any decision.
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Stephany
Senior Member


Joined: 9 May 2013
Posts: 25
Location: New england
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Fri May 10, 2013, 11:30am
Subject: Re: Need help! (Buying advice, please!)
 

Okay, you've given me a lot to think about.

It's possible I could dedicate some space in the dining room to the setup.

If I'm to prioritize, I would say that I need a grinder...
I can play a little with the cost, or could buy used, I'm not picky about that. I can't justify thousands of dollars, though. My palate is not so delicate, so I think I could have a less than amazing espresso and not really notice it. Again, I'm not a connoisseur...I just know bad when I taste it.

I have an arsenal of Moka pots already, and a stovetop frother. I've been using them to get my fix since I returned from Italy.

While at first I wasn't against the pod idea, I do not like being beholden to a company that wants to charge me $60 a pound for coffee...repeatedly.

I'm not in as big a hurry as I sound. It's just that I've told my hubby that it would be my combo Mother's Day/birthday present and I think he's getting nervous that I won't get it and he'll be on the hook for a gift! ;)

Maybe there are some good, small grinders? I also liked the idea of grinding right into the portafilter..saves a step.

Again, thanks for your sage advice.

PS: pictures of my kitchen would have you all running away screaming. It's a disaster! Or, maybe "lived in"is a better word.
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Stephany
Senior Member


Joined: 9 May 2013
Posts: 25
Location: New england
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Fri May 10, 2013, 2:16pm
Subject: Re: Need help! (Buying advice, please!)
 

Btw, what is the WLL? And now with a little bit of further research, I see that grinders can have dosers, where I can grind straight into the portafilter. I think that will be the best option for me, so it looks to me like my first step is to find a decent grinder with one of these, then make up the difference with a machine.
Thanks.
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