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I need a 40th birthday present.
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > I need a 40th...  
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JakiChan
Senior Member


Joined: 24 Dec 2002
Posts: 17
Location: Silicon Valley
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: *$ Barista
Grinder: Solis Maestro
Posted Mon Jun 24, 2013, 6:14pm
Subject: I need a 40th birthday present.
 

A while back I started drinking milk drinks at *$s.  I liked them fine.  I liked the jolt from caffeine more.  I could never drink regular coffee (it doesn't sit well with my stomach) but I liked a good latte.  I bought a Solis Maestro and a Starbucks Barista and it was ok.  It was not great, though.  And I kinda left it behind.  Then I stated dating someone who likes coffee.  We started going to places like Ritual (in Napa, not SF) and I found out how amazing a really good shot of espresso can be.  I enjoy that a lot, even though I still don't like regular coffee.  But I also still like milk drinks because they seem to be easier on the stomach.

In the mean time I started a medically-supervised weight loss program.  The coffee bar at work would make my mid-day shake for me and I had them put a double shot of espresso in once.  Oh boy - it was a REALLY good iced/blended mocha.  So I started drinking a lot of espresso again - mostly in my shakes.  Once I started getting "mocha shakes" at work I decided to try and revive my Starbucks Barista and Solis Maestro at home.  It's an ok combo, but my 40th birthday is coming up and I'd love to get myself something that could let me try and pull a shot at home that I would enjoy on it's own.  

On to the 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.)

I mostly pull shots to put into my diet shakes.  I also like the occasional milk drink - cortados and whatnot.  It depends on how good the espresso is.  I would like to be able to make cappuccinos for my partner.  

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.)

2 to 3.  At most I would want a couple of doubles with or without some steamed milk.

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.)

7 to 10?  (I generally have 1 to 2 caffinated shakes a day, and my partner may want a drink at times.)

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 want a machine with it's own reservoir, or at worst connected to a water jug.  (Plumbing not an option.)

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

I only have 15-amp options right now.

6)  What is your budget for a new machine?  Does that also include a grinder?  If not, what is your budget for a grinder?

I would like to try and keep things under $2k if I can.  I had a machine/grinder combo that was about $2250.  Very upper limit for machine + grinder.

7)  Are you willing to buy used or do you need new equipment? Do you or family member have the skills to repair used equipment?

I might be open to used gear.  I do not have the skills to repair, however.  

8)  Do you have the essential accessories (decent tamper, knockbox, the works), otherwise budget about $100 for these.

Not really, but I'm not counting them in my budget either.


I had always thought I would get a Silvia/Rocky combo, but that combo doesn't seem quite as popular these days.  I have a friend who has had a PIDd Silvia for years and swears by it.  I'm leaning towards a Baratza Vario as the grinder, I just can't pick a machine.  I like what I read about E61 groups, I like what I read about PIDs, and when I combine the two...it rules out a lot of great machines.  I was thinking about an Alexia+PID but I worry a little that CCS doesn't sell them directly anymore.  The Brewtus IV looks great but spendy...and I don't know if I do enough milk drinks to justify a double boiler...but I also don't want to give up on the option either.  I think I've fallen into analysis paralysis.  (But the analysis is half the fun, isn't it?)
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 3,218
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4, Pharos,...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Mon Jun 24, 2013, 6:42pm
Subject: Re: I need a 40th birthday present.
 

You have a lot of room to play with in your budget. Vario is a good choice. Given you like E61, and you're ready to give a chunk of your budget to the Vario (i'd personally consider the W), you're left in HX territory. An HX machine will be great for your intended use, even if you entertain occasionally. If you do decide on a HX machine, you can forget about a PID as it'll be essentially useless (so why waste the money). There are a fair number of HX machines in your price range. For the reasons, you can afford new and you can't/don't want to make repairs, you should get something new under warranty. Take a look at the top vendors to see what's available. Read about the features and make comparisons. Then ask more questions. Like you, I'm kind of partial to CCS, but you should also look at least at 1st Line, if nowhere else.

Btw...Even if you we're to keep your current machine and get the Vario, you would see a huge difference in the cup.

.

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


Joined: 24 Dec 2002
Posts: 17
Location: Silicon Valley
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: *$ Barista
Grinder: Solis Maestro
Posted Mon Jun 24, 2013, 7:30pm
Subject: Re: I need a 40th birthday present.
 

emradguy Said:

Given you like E61, and you're ready to give a chunk of your budget to the Vario (i'd personally consider the W)

Posted June 24, 2013 link

I was wondering if the scale is really worth the extra $100?  I suppose it lets you skip the step of grind, weigh, grind, etc.  But you're then grinding into the hopper and you have to get the coffee into the portafilter, right?

As for liking E61 - I've just read good things.  I haven't touched one.  If it's overrated I'd hope to hear that too.

emradguy Said:

An HX machine will be great for your intended use, even if you entertain occasionally. If you do decide on a HX machine, you can forget about a PID as it'll be essentially useless (so why waste the money).

Posted June 24, 2013 link

From what I had read - HX machines require a lot of temp surfing to get consistency.  That's what I was hoping to avoid with the use of a PID.  Is what I've read about HX machines not quite true?  When I see videos of folks temp surfing with a Silvia, for example, it seems like a lot of effort and mostly "guessing".  (Which is why I suppose a PID for a Silvia is very popular.)

I haven't given up on a Silvia - I'm not sure why it's not so popular anymore but it used to be considered the bee's knees.  I know it's a tank, and I appreciate that - it's why my flirtation with the BDB hasn't gone very far.

emradguy Said:

Btw...Even if you we're to keep your current machine and get the Vario, you would see a huge difference in the cup.

Posted June 24, 2013 link

I've kinda considered that.  Get a Vario, get an unpressurized portafilter, tear the Barista apart and give it a good cleaning...but I also like the idea of a shiny new toy.  Who doesn't? :)
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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 Tue Jun 25, 2013, 5:02am
Subject: Re: I need a 40th birthday present.
 

JakiChan Said:

I was wondering if the scale is really worth the extra $100?  I suppose it lets you skip the step of grind, weigh, grind, etc.  But you're then grinding into the hopper and you have to get the coffee into the portafilter, right?

Posted June 24, 2013 link

I upgraded my Preciso with the Esatto attachment to make it function pretty much as the Vario-W does.  It feels like a big step in smoothing out the process of pulling a shot to me.  You set up the grinder once for a coffee, then just hit a button to grind the coffee while you do some of the other prep work or make breakfast, or whatever - pretty much equivalent to using a doser on an espresso specific grinder, but without the potential for lost grinds and stale grinds in the doser.  Tipping the grinds from bin into the portafilter is a whole lot quicker and less messy than holding the PF under the grinder while you wait for the grinder to do it's work.  Since I WDT, I also use a piece of a yogurt pot as a funnel, which both makes tipping the grinds in easier, and allows room to stir them and settle them before tamping.  Even before I had the Esatto, I was grinding single weighed doses into the bin, as it's less messy.

The only regret is that filling the hopper makes changing coffees between shots harder, but I don't do much of that, and use my hand grinder if I e.g. need to make a decaf shot or similar.
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Iluvdabean
Senior Member
Iluvdabean
Joined: 7 Mar 2005
Posts: 1,279
Location: Kentucky
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: La Nuova Era Cuadra/Gaggia...
Grinder: Baratza Preciso/K-A Pro...
Drip: Bonavita BV 1800 TH
Roaster: Nesco 1010/Behmor 1600
Posted Tue Jun 25, 2013, 6:08am
Subject: Re: I need a 40th birthday present.
 

I still say that if you can find a better machine than this for 1100.00 buy it. I love mine and Jim at 1stLine is first class....period.


Click Here (www.1st-line.com)

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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 Tue Jun 25, 2013, 6:39am
Subject: Re: I need a 40th birthday present.
 

In buy and sell

"Sold"
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,942
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 Tue Jun 25, 2013, 6:43am
Subject: Re: I need a 40th birthday present.
 

JakiChan Said:

I was wondering if the scale is really worth the extra $100?  I suppose it lets you skip the step of grind, weigh, grind, etc.  But you're then grinding into the hopper and you have to get the coffee into the portafilter, right?

As for liking E61 - I've just read good things.  I haven't touched one.  If it's overrated I'd hope to hear that too.



From what I had read - HX machines require a lot of temp surfing to get consistency.  That's what I was hoping to avoid with the use of a PID.  Is what I've read about HX machines not quite true?  When I see videos of folks temp surfing with a Silvia, for example, it seems like a lot of effort and mostly "guessing".  (Which is why I suppose a PID for a Silvia is very popular.)

I haven't given up on a Silvia - I'm not sure why it's not so popular anymore but it used to be considered the bee's knees.  I know it's a tank, and I appreciate that - it's why my flirtation with the BDB hasn't gone very far.



I've kinda considered that.  Get a Vario, get an unpressurized portafilter, tear the Barista apart and give it a good cleaning...but I also like the idea of a shiny new toy.  Who doesn't? :)

Posted June 24, 2013 link

EDIT, that price in the BST forum for the HX is the SAME as a PID Sylvia, see what I mean below?

E61, it has been around since 1961, hence the name. It looks nice, is very temp stable and is my personal fav at the moment. There are others out there for sure that can do a good job too so it is not mandatory to have a E61 for great espresso but it is not outdated either, just a choice.

HX do NOT require temp surfing, not anything like an SBDU, The way they work is think of a tube running through a boiler but is not connected to the water in the boiler, it just runs through the water. It is designed so that when in use, the water is heated to the proper temp. If you stop pulling shots for a while, the water in the tube warms to the same temp as the boiler. The easy fix to remove the over heated water is to flush it from the system. Most machines this is 3 to 5 oz of water. My machine is 3 oz and I flush it straight into my cup to warm the cup while I finish preping for the shot. Once the water is clear of the system, it is stable and consistent. If you WISH, you can play with slower or quicker shots to adjust on the fly your brew temp a deg or two otherwise, just flush and go.

This is totally different than the SBDU which uses a click thermostat  to heat the water in the boiler, the same water is used for both steam and brewing. The thermostat is not accurate and swings up to 20F thus the need to temp surf. In a HX, the boiler is kept at steam temp all the time. The temp regulation is via a pressure stat, this keeps the temp of the steam water within about 3 to 6 F or so. The BREW water is heated by flowing THROUGH the boiler and the pstat dose not control the brew temp at all. A PID on a HX controls the STEAM temp, not the brew temp, so for an accuracy point of view, it is worthless. An arguement can be made that SS components are more durable than mechanical components but that is a different point.

YOU DO NOT TEMP SURF ON A HX MACHINE.

Sylvia is a good machine, I own one and it travels with me. I installed a PID on it to make it more consistent. The reason she has fallen out of favor a bit is due to the expense, a NEW Sylvia with PID is within spitting distance of a HX machine and the stability that they offer, not to mention that you can steam and pull shots at the same time with an HX, this is something that Sylvia can not do. This is a huge time saver when making more than one milk drink at a time. Other SBDU machines have come onto the market and they are every bit as solid as the Sylvia and only cost 2/3 as much.

The Barista can pull good shots too, what is it that you want? One SBDU machine is a lot like all SBDU machines, some are better made than others and some have better pressure regulation and 3 way valves but for use and making drinks they are all about the same, while a HX is a totally  different creature.

 
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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gophishin
Senior Member


Joined: 1 Mar 2013
Posts: 66
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: ecm technika iv profi
Grinder: baratza vario
Drip: bonavita immersion dripper
Posted Tue Jun 25, 2013, 7:11am
Subject: Re: I need a 40th birthday present.
 

FWIW, although I've never used the Vario-W, I personally don't think it's worth the additional $100.  I weigh the beans on a .1 g scale I got for around $10 on amazon that has been great, and dump in my vario for single dosing.  I have weighed the in and out of the grinder and find it is typically within .1 g, with very little retention.  I personally like this method best so I don't have beans sitting in the hopper getting stale, it allows you to switch beans, and I can then grind directly into the portafilter (with no clumping issues) and not have to worry about spilling grinds all over.
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Coffeenoobie
Senior Member
Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 3,047
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Tue Jun 25, 2013, 8:43am
Subject: Re: I need a 40th birthday present.
 

Having a Vario W and before that a precisio, I can tell you the W is worth it to me.  I like hitting the button and getting other stuff ready and knowing it is doing a good job at weighing the beans for me.  I grind into a yogurt cup sitting in a sauce cup stuck to the scale with a command strip.  It is neat and almost effortless.  

It is like electric windows in a car, once you have had them you can't imagine going back to hand cranked.

 
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takeshi
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takeshi
Joined: 12 Oct 2002
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Location: Houston
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Grinder: Super Jolly
Roaster: Amaya Roasting
Posted Tue Jun 25, 2013, 11:23am
Subject: Re: I need a 40th birthday present.
 

JakiChan Said:

I could never drink regular coffee (it doesn't sit well with my stomach)

Posted June 24, 2013 link

Tried cold brew?  Depending on what causes your problem it may be better for you.

JakiChan Said:

As for liking E61 - I've just read good things.  I haven't touched one.  If it's overrated I'd hope to hear that too.

Posted June 24, 2013 link

Not necessarily overrated.  There are a lot of excellent E61 machines.  There are also a lot of excellent machines that don't have the E61 group.

JakiChan Said:

I was wondering if the scale is really worth the extra $100?

Posted June 24, 2013 link

Worth is highly subjective no matter what the topic and if you need evidence with regard to this specific topic it's provided in several posts above.  If it works for you then it's worth it.  If it doesn't or does not provide any perceived advantage then it's not worth it.  The catch-22 is that you won't know without trying it but you'll have the same problem with other features like dosers.  It's a matter of preference and suitability for the person and that varies from person to person.  Weighing will definitely improve consistency but there are several options out there for weighing your dose.

JakiChan Said:

From what I had read - HX machines require a lot of temp surfing to get consistency.

Posted June 24, 2013 link

They require flushing.  I don't have one and have very little first hand experience with them but the HX users report it isn't the big deal it's made out to be.  It's not as convenient as walking up to a machine with a PID but, once again, you're back to that topic of worth.  Is it worth the added cost of a PID'ed dual boiler?   Is a PID worth the added cost on an SBDU -- and the added inconvenience that comes with an SBDU?  Your call to make.

JakiChan Said:

I haven't given up on a Silvia - I'm not sure why it's not so popular anymore but it used to be considered the bee's knees.

Posted June 24, 2013 link

Covered in countless recent threads.  It's overpriced.  IMO there's no point in paying for the top of the price range of SBDU's -- especially if you know you're going to make milk drinks AND you're looking to upgrade from an SBDU.  You're virtually in HX territory and might as well cross over the line.  I have a Silvia but I bought mine 12 years ago when they were selling for $450 and the options were very different back then.

JakiChan Said:

I've kinda considered that.  Get a Vario, get an unpressurized portafilter, tear the Barista apart and give it a good cleaning...but I also like the idea of a shiny new toy.  Who doesn't?

Posted June 24, 2013 link

A lot of people do.  I'd suggesting getting a good grinder and seeing how it goes.  If you still feel the need to upgrade the espresso machine you can certainly do so -- assuming you didn't spend your espresso machine budget on other stuff.  I suspect you probably will upgrade the machine (I originally bought a Barista until I finally took the advice from Coffee Geek, returned it and got the Silvia) but that will give you more time to research espresso machines and reach a decision.
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