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A well thought out request for help on getting my first machine and grinder
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > A well thought...  
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qualin
Senior Member
qualin
Joined: 30 Jun 2012
Posts: 665
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 Jun 9, 2013, 9:57pm
Subject: Re: A well thought out request for help on getting my first machine and grinder
 

Cafeshio Said:

I read a couple reviews about the Breville 900 that seems to make it a very nice contender.

Posted June 9, 2013 link

I would say that the Breville Dual Boiler is an excellent "starter" machine and gives you far more value than any SBDU on the market. Again, IMHO.
If budget is a serious concern, then the Rancilio Silvia is considerably cheaper and will last you decades with proper care and maintenance. They're
not the best value for the money, but there is a wealth of information about them on this forum and it seems everyone sells them.... Just be aware
that a Silvia with a PID kit costs almost as much as a BDB, so it isn't worth going down that road unless you are short on counter space.

Cafeshio Said:

...with the idea of getting a good grinder - but I cannot quite make myself get to $350 just yet.

Posted June 9, 2013 link

A good grinder goes hand in hand with a good machine, like everyone is saying. All the machine does is push hot water through a puck of coffee,
what matters more is the grinder which grinds the coffee into a consistent state. I suspect one of the reasons why espresso grinders are fairly
expensive is because they're for a niche market. Not everyone drinks espresso and not everyone needs espresso grind.

I won't even encourage you to go down the road of using pressurized baskets to compensate for a poor espresso grind, because it's like driving
a Corvette with four spare donuts in stop and go rush hour traffic. You won't get the results you expect and it is a serious compromise which hinders
the true performance of the machine.

I think that unless you go for a manual crank grinder, $300 is considered to be "Entry Level" when it comes to espresso capable grinders. They only
go up from there, but when you spend more money on a grinder, you are also getting quality, durability and dependability with them too.

Cafeshio Said:

My gut tells me that for $100-$150 a grinder should kick ass already.

Posted June 9, 2013 link

Initially, that's what I thought at first as well. However, there is this really strange price gap between the el cheapo drip coffee grinders on the market
and entry level espresso grinders. The sad thing is, even when a grinder says "Espresso" on it or has an espresso setting, it really isn't, not unless
you plan on going down the pressurized basket route, in which case it is a serious waste of time and money.

Cafeshio Said:

but considering a 50 inch TV can be gotten for $$400

Posted June 9, 2013 link

Economics of scale really. Samsung sells a LOT more TV sets in a year than Mazzer sells grinders. Not to mention, nobody keeps a TV set for 25 years.
Espresso grinders are typically built like tanks and they rarely fail if they are built to commercial standards. There is a bit of a used grinder market out
there, you can get a really decent espresso grinder used, as long as you don't mind giving it a good cleaning and change the burrs.

Cafeshio Said:

In today's cheap labor world, I can't quite understand what makes these puppies so pricey.

Posted June 9, 2013 link

Tell ya what.. Go to a coffee equipment place and pick up an espresso grinder. You'll find out quick why they're so pricey. :-)

Cafeshio Said:

Rancilio Rocky.

Posted June 9, 2013 link

I had one, don't buy one. Not unless you can find one used for around $150-$200. They use a stepped setting which forces you to adjust dose to
compensate for a grind which is either too coarse or too fine. (It rarely ever is perfect) They make for a good starter grinder, but only used. New,
there are better grinders on the market selling for the same price.

Cafeshio Said:

but if I'm not able to tell them apart, would it still make sense to go to the higher end?

Posted June 9, 2013 link

I saw more of an improvement in my shots going from a Rancilio Rocky, ($350 new) to a Mazzer Mini Electronic, ($1100 new)
than I did going from a Rancilio Silvia (About $650 new) to a Izzo Alex Duetto. (About $2500 new)

I'm sorry, I don't mean to brag, but I know first hand that the grinder does make all the difference.

 
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: 3,052
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Mon Jun 10, 2013, 4:32am
Subject: Re: A well thought out request for help on getting my first machine and grinder
 

qualin Said:

I saw more of an improvement in my shots going from a Rancilio Rocky, ($350 new) to a Mazzer Mini Electronic, ($1100 new)
than I did going from a Rancilio Silvia (About $650 new) to a Izzo Alex Duetto. (About $2500 new)

Posted June 9, 2013 link


This is a hard fact to grasp but very important to get your brain 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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takeshi
Senior Member
takeshi
Joined: 12 Oct 2002
Posts: 1,006
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Alex Duetto 3.0
Grinder: Super Jolly
Roaster: Amaya Roasting
Posted Mon Jun 10, 2013, 7:43am
Subject: Re: A well thought out request for help on getting my first machine and grinder
 

Cafeshio Said:

I am also getting more comfortable with the idea of getting a good grinder - but I cannot quite make myself get to $350 just yet. My gut tells me that for $100-$150 a grinder should kick ass already

Posted June 9, 2013 link

You can rely on your gut or you can rely on experience.  Your mileage may vary but I find gut to be of limited use unless the gut is attached to someone with considerable experience on the matter at hand and even then the gut can be wrong.  I certainly don't trust my own gut on a number of topics as I know I don't enough to rely on my gut on those matters.  In other words, always consider the source.

A good grinder is a must and they're not attainable for $100 unless used or hand-operated.  $100 grinders will lead to poor results and frustration.  If you don't just give up you'll end up spending more in the long run for suitable equipment.  $350 is just above entry and grinders go up from there.

Cafeshio Said:

Perhaps it is because I don't quite grasp the economics of grinder manufacturing, but considering a 50 inch TV can be gotten for $$400, I'm amazed that an appliance whose sole purpose in life is to grind coffee can command such a price. In today's cheap labor world, I can't quite understand what makes these puppies so pricey.

Posted June 9, 2013 link

The price of a TV is irrelevant.  I wouldn't buy a $400 TV anyway.  My Mazzer Super Jolly will easily outlast my Panasonic Viera by decades and the latter isn't an inexpensive TV.  You're also severely underestimating what it takes to properly grind beans for espresso.  Yes, you can grind beans with a <$20 whirly blade grinder but it's not suitable for espresso.  The grinder is more important because it needs to provide a uniform grind.  It needs to have sufficient adjustability to deal with the required changes in grind due to difference in bean type/blend, time since roasting, humidity etc.  Those requirements don't come cheap and the Preciso is generally regarded as the minimal entry point these days.

If you can't understand why then you haven't read enough on grinders but it's very common for newbies to leave the grinder as an afterthought.  Spend more of your time and energy researching the grinder.

You also have to consider that some of the equipment discussed here is commercial gear.  The Vario, for example, is frequently compared to the Super Jolly in terms of grind quality.  The Vario's a consumer grinder and runs for ~$450.  The Super Jolly is commercial and runs for ~$700.  While performance may be comparable there's a fair difference in price between the two.

Cafeshio Said:

.So the budget is a bit variable however I expect a floor of $600 and perhaps as much as $2,000

Posted June 7, 2013 link

At $600, I'd allocate about half to the grinder.  Percentage can taper at higher budgets.  Unless your palate prefers a pricier grinder, a Super Jolly at ~$700 has pretty good odds of being sufficient with a $2,000 budget.

Cafeshio Said:

Finally, I would love to do a blind testing of a couple machines with a couple grinders - say, pitch a Rocket Cellisimo vs the Breville 900 and a Baratza Master vs Rancilio Rocky. Now that would be 4 shots, but if I'm not able to tell them apart, would it still make sense to go to the higher end?

Posted June 9, 2013 link

Not at all but you have to be careful with your testing.  If you're comparing grinders then make sure that the only difference is the grinder (i.e. machine, beans, etc are the same).  Each person needs to buy what works for that person.  What's in the cup and how happy one is with it is the most important consideration.  Do yourself a favor and ditch the Rocky.  It has been covered in countless recent buying advice threads with the same comments every time.  Its build quality is excellent but it does not have the adjustability needed for espresso.  One of my biggest improvements in the cup came as a result from upgrading from the Rocky to the Super Jolly.  If, however, you're looking for a grinder for drip the Rocky is an excellent choice IMO.

That said, you'll probably want to consider more than just what's in the cup.  Build quality, doser versus doserless, dosing by weight, etc are features that some consider to be important matters.

Freddo58 Said:

Save money on the machine - not on the grinder (that said, there are people who suggest that you need a $2k grinder - very false economy IMO for a few cups of espresso per day, but others think it's worth it - and it's not up to me to tell them they're wrong).

Posted June 9, 2013 link

There's no right or wrong -- just what works for the individual.  I may not be able to appreciate a $2k grinder.  The SJ seems to be about at the limits of my taste buds and palate without further attempts at refining which I'm not interested in.  However, that doesn't mean that another person won't benefit from a $2K grinder.  Economy also depends on the individual.  A $2K grinder will easily last a lifetime.  $3+/cup at the coffee shop quickly adds up.
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jamierayo
Senior Member


Joined: 24 Mar 2013
Posts: 111
Location: Alaska
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Breville DB, Rancilio Silvia
Grinder: Mazzer Major, Mini E,...
Drip: Aeropress, Kalita Wave
Roaster: iRoast2, Behmor
Posted Mon Jun 10, 2013, 8:03am
Subject: Re: A well thought out request for help on getting my first machine and grinder
 

Most of this has already been said, but I'll say it again with my take on the matter.

Don't skimp on the grinder. If you're thinking of spending $150 on a new grinder, you're throwing money away.
Buy a cheaper hand grinder instead. You can still make great espresso, and you can upgrade later without taking a big loss.
When budget is a concern for an electric grinder, look for a used Rocky. Yes, it has its shortfalls, but it's a good starter and can be found in the $200 range. The biggest issue is the stepped design, but that can be easily modded.
A much better budget choice would be a used Mazzer. There's a Super Jolly on Home Barista for $350.
I'm sure others will say there are better choices out there, and I might agree when buying new. If buying used, however, the Rocky & Mazzers are hard to beat for the money. They're relatively inexpensive, readily available, and all very sturdy.

I too think the BDB would be a great choice. I have one, and it has its quirks, but you won't find another machine with all it has to offer for anywhere near that price.

Don't go SBDU unless you can't afford the DB or HX. It's not just the time, but the quality of the cappucino will suffer because of the wait between brewing & steaming. You can make good milk drinks, but not as good as with a db or hx.
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Cafeshio
Senior Member


Joined: 7 Jun 2013
Posts: 17
Location: Seattle
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Breville Dual Boiler
Grinder: Cunill El Cafe Tranquilo
Vac Pot: wha..?
Drip: My fawcet
Roaster: Car without a rof?
Posted Mon Jun 10, 2013, 9:47am
Subject: Re: A well thought out request for help on getting my first machine and grinder
 

Wow - so many nice replies. Thank you.

OK - I get the point of the grinder (at least intellectually - even if my gut still rebels).

takeshi Said:

You can't rely on gut when you have no idea what pricing is like on a given subject.

Posted June 10, 2013 link

and

qualin Said:

(...) what matters more is the grinder which grinds the coffee into a consistent state.

Posted June 9, 2013 link

and

takeshi Said:

You're also severely underestimating what it takes to properly grind beans for espresso.  Yes, you can grind beans with a <$20 whirly blade grinder but it's not suitable for espresso.  The grinder is more important because it needs to provide a uniform grind.  It needs to have sufficient adjustability to deal with the required changes in grind due to difference in bean type/blend, bean age, humidity etc.

Posted June 10, 2013 link

Point taken.

What resonated with me, was that the secret is in the grind and that the machine "simply" pushes hot water through the puck. I get that, a better puck will mean better coffee but a better water push will only mean better coffee if the puck is good to begin with. In other words, using the Ferrari analogy, a Ferrari with a Pontiac Fiero engine, would make for a poor Ferrari experience. On the other hand if you were to mount a Ferrari engine on the Pontiac, you'd get a comet on wheels. So either get a Ferrari outright or get the best engine possible for that Pontiac.

However, if I was struggling to justify $350 on a grinder, imagine how long I passed out when I saw the Mazzer is $1100. LOL.

qualin Said:

I saw more of an improvement in my shots going from a Rancilio Rocky, ($350 new) to a Mazzer Mini Electronic, ($1100 new)

Posted June 9, 2013 link

Which brings me to my next point. I feel that I am swimming out of my depth. You are surely connoisseurs and have a level of appreciation for coffee that I don't think I have yet. I must confess, I have many times drunk yesterday's coffee re-heated in a steel jug with some fresh milk added. Would not call that a highlight of my existence for sure, but I survived every time :) All I mean is that I am far less knowledgeable at this point and not sure whether I will be able to appreciate the difference between a good and a superb grinder for quite some time yet.

So, would it make sense for me to buy a high end grinder or should I first commit to this epicurean hobby with a more moderate investment (the manual option is intriguing although counterintuitive) and once I achieve connoisseur level refine my equipment accordingly?

So based on the feedback this is where I sit now:

Grinder - Preciso or Hand or used Mazzer (how do I test the quality of a used burr?) or used Rocky and be willing to mod it to make it stepless (least favored option).

Machine - Breville 900 seems to have quite a few accolades for entry level or a used HX (I really liked that Cellini someone suggested). The Rancilio Silvia is a staple, but I don't like the looks of it - silly I know, but I cannot make myself love it.

However, this puts me squarely in the $1250-1700 range which I'm not sure I will be able to pull off (it truly depends on the generosity of others) - in fact I may need to do a reality check and lower my sights to $1K for both things. Can't believe only a couple of months ago I was just thinking about buying a $100 DeLonghi espresso machine.... oh, ignorance is bliss...
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EndTwo
Senior Member


Joined: 13 Mar 2013
Posts: 89
Location: Denmark
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Apscaso uno steel prof
Grinder: Mazzer Major DR + Mahlkönig...
Drip: french press, ceramic v60...
Roaster: skillet
Posted Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:47am
Subject: Re: A well thought out request for help on getting my first machine and grinder
 

Don't worry, when you know your budget, there's a lot of clever people, who can help you make the most of it.
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qualin
Senior Member
qualin
Joined: 30 Jun 2012
Posts: 665
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 Jun 10, 2013, 11:25am
Subject: Re: A well thought out request for help on getting my first machine and grinder
 

I don't normally respond to this forum on my lunch break, but I really felt like I had to respond to this.

Cafeshio Said:

I feel that I am swimming out of my depth.

Posted June 10, 2013 link

At first I thought it was intimidating, but I picked up on it quick. Felt like I needed to start off cheap because I wasn't sure how committed I was, fell in love with it
and within the last year or so, I've learned an amazing amount of stuff.

Cafeshio Said:

I have many times drunk yesterday's coffee re-heated in a steel jug with some fresh milk added.

Posted June 10, 2013 link

I can't speak for other people, but in the mornings I used to be content with flavored K-Cup coffee, now I can't stand it because I've tasted so much better.

Cafeshio Said:

at this point and not sure whether I will be able to appreciate the difference between a good and a superb grinder for quite some time yet.

Posted June 10, 2013 link

Well, Good I would consider to be entry level. You don't need to spend $1000 on a grinder to get started, but you do need to spend something and $300-$350
is where I would consider entry level to be.

Cafeshio Said:

So, would it make sense for me to buy a high end grinder or should I first commit to this epicurean hobby with a more moderate investment (the manual option is intriguing although counterintuitive) and once I achieve connoisseur level refine my equipment accordingly?

Posted June 10, 2013 link

In all honesty, $1000 is a good starting point in this hobby.. That's roughly $400 for the grinder and $600 for the machine. That guarantees you that you'll be making something
resembling the stuff they serve you in the cafes (Probably even better) and stops you from buying what I consider to be toys. Then again, my own personal opinion is if
you can easily pick up an espresso machine by the portafilter handle, or if you can easily hold a coffee grinder in one hand, it's probably a toy. :-)

Cafeshio Said:

Grinder - Preciso or Hand or used Mazzer (how do I test the quality of a used burr?) or used Rocky and be willing to mod it to make it stepless (least favored option).

Posted June 10, 2013 link

IMHO, there have been a lot of good reviews about the Baratza Vario, which is a step up from your Precisio. I think the Vario, judging from articles from Mark Prince himself,
is pretty much on par with the quality you'll get from a Mazzer. Durability-wise? That's up for debate. The Vario is designed for home use, the Mazzer for commercial use.
The Mazzer is less kitchen friendly than a Vario, especially if it happens to be a Super Jolly.  

I wouldn't buy a used Rocky unless you can find one for around $150 and you really want to skimp due to a limited budget, but I'd avoid it, if at all possible. Stepped grind makes it
easy to dial in for a beginner, but it doesn't give you a lot of flexibility on what you can do with dosing. There are far better grinders on the used market for marginally more.

Cafeshio Said:

The Rancilio Silvia is a staple, but I don't like the looks of it - silly I know, but I cannot make myself love it.

Posted June 10, 2013 link

Well, like one board member said, you have to look at this machine every morning you wake up. You have to look at it every time you walk by it in your kitchen. You have to
stare at it when you are chopping carrots or boiling noodles. So, don't buy it and buy something you'll enjoy looking at in your kitchen! Heck, maybe something which may
impress your guests a little. :-)

If you are a little leery about spending too much money, consider buying used equipment at first which is in good shape. Later on, when you decide you want to outgrow it,
you can sell it for something a bit newer. Although, be aware that this could be as soon as 2-3 months down the road, or it could be 10 years down the road, depending on
how passionate you become about your coffee.

 
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
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tglodjo
Senior Member
tglodjo
Joined: 16 Oct 2012
Posts: 209
Location: Jackson, TN
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi II
Grinder: Baratza Vario, Virtuoso
Drip: Wave, V60, Chemex, Clever
Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Mon Jun 10, 2013, 2:52pm
Subject: Re: A well thought out request for help on getting my first machine and grinder
 

Cafeshio Said:

Machine - Breville 900 seems to have quite a few accolades for entry level or a used HX (I really liked that Cellini someone suggested). The Rancilio Silvia is a staple, but I don't like the looks of it - silly I know, but I cannot make myself love it.

Posted June 10, 2013 link

While I would certainly love for you to buy my Cellini up in the BST forum (you're getting a $500 discount from a new one for only 7 months of use!), I thought I'd let you know I got an email today from Seattle Coffee Gear advertising their refurbished BDBs for $799. You can't beat that. Unless you just want a sexy Rocket like mine :)
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Freddo58
Senior Member


Joined: 16 May 2013
Posts: 36
Location: New Zealand
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Mon Jun 10, 2013, 4:11pm
Subject: Re: A well thought out request for help on getting my first machine and grinder
 

tglodjo Said:

While I would certainly love for you to buy my Cellini up in the BST forum (you're getting a $500 discount from a new one for only 7 months of use!), I thought I'd let you know I got an email today from Seattle Coffee Gear advertising their refurbished BDBs for $799. You can't beat that. Unless you just want a sexy Rocket like mine :)

Posted June 10, 2013 link

If the refurb BDB doesn't come with full manufacturer warranty, I'd say forgetaboutit.   Once the mfr warranty expires on these things, unless Breville make parts and service instructions freely available, then they're junk.
There's a used Mazzer Mini (doser) for sale on the BST forum for $400.  Not a bargain of the century, but an okay price.  Together with your used Rocket, that's a total spend of about $1600.
Is it worth ~50% more than a refurb BDB and cheap grinder?  IMO no contest - especially if the OP has to get up and look at it in the morning.  With routine care and maintenance, both will still be going in 10 years time.
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jchung
Senior Member
jchung
Joined: 1 Apr 2013
Posts: 21
Location: Northern Virginia
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Baby Twin, Breville...
Grinder: Baratza Encore, Breville...
Posted Tue Jun 11, 2013, 4:24am
Subject: Re: A well thought out request for help on getting my first machine and grinder
 

I guess I'll play the role of contrarian here. I'm not terribly experienced as having gotten my first espresso  machine in September of last year. And I started at the low end of what people here recommend. And I started with a grinder that most here would probably say not to get. But it was the START of a journey.

So... the first grinder I had was the Baratza Encore. I still have it. It retails for $129. It can do espresso grinds. Is it the best espresso grinder? No. Does it have the range of $500 espresso grinders? No. Can it do espresso grinds? Yes. With the Baratza Encore, I was in a narrow range of maybe 2-3 steps to grind the beans. Not much range at all. But it will work. And thats probably the lowest you want to go for a grinder. But I see it as a journey and it was a low cost entry into espresso grinding. One where I could learn what "I" wanted in an espresso grinder. For example, I learned that I don't want to single dose. I also don't want a doser model. I want to dose directly into the PF. I learned I want either a timer or weight based grinder so it will grind the amount I want. This low cost entry model which I used for 7 months helped me to learn what worked for me so that I didn't spend $500 - $1000 on a grinder with features that might annoy me and then have to purchase something else. Buying the high end is great if you already know what you want. If you don't know what you want, then that could be an expensive mistake. I would advocate getting an inexpensive model that you are willing to take a loss on so you can gain experience which you can use to purchase the better grinder later.

I have a Breville Dual Boiler (BES900XL/B) and I like it a lot so far. But I've only had it for 2 months. Compared to my previous machine (Gaggia Baby Twin) it is worlds better. Its been great so far. No complaints really. But I don't have the years of experience like others here do.

If I had to do it all over again, I'd probably get the Crossland CC1 as my first expresso machine instead of the Gaggia Baby Twin. But then I don't think the CC1 was out when I bought the GBT. I'd personally pick the CC1 over the Silvia at the moment because I prefer not having to temp surf.

Joo
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