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Deciding on an espresso machine
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gobolts
Senior Member


Joined: 23 Sep 2013
Posts: 4
Location: Florida
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Mon Sep 23, 2013, 5:21pm
Subject: Deciding on an espresso machine
 

Hi everyone,

I've been reading for a while now and am still unsure what I want to do. I am not new to coffee at all, I've been roasting my own coffee for about 12 or 13 years, and normally I use a French press. I don't like filter coffee much, it seems bland. (I do drink it when out though but with no expectation of good coffee. I do NOT like Starbucks.) Espresso is something I never paid any attention to, although I enjoy cappuccinos quite a bit. In fact, I bought a Lavazza Blue machine earlier this year just for that reason (milk drinks), and we (myself, family, friends) have been enjoying it. However, it has unfortunately given me the itch to try proper espresso now as I'm developing a taste for it and I'm stuck with a capsule machine so I can't use my own roasted coffee.

1)  What kind of drinks do you like/want to make?  Probably a lot of cappuccinos and lattes, and some regular espresso.
2)  How many drinks, on average, do you see yourself needing to make at any one time? One to four. On average probably one or two at a time.
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.) Probably around 30 average.
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 interested in plumbing a machine.
5)  Do you have a 20-amp circuit available, or only a (standard) 15-amp circuit? I guess standard?
6)  What is your budget for a new machine?  Does that also include a grinder?  If not, what is your budget for a grinder? No fixed budget but since I am totally new to espresso I don't want to spend thousands. So let's say up to around $1000. I have a Rocky grinder, I'll probably upgrade it but unsure what I want to upgrade to right now.
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 don't mind buying used if there isn't anything wrong with it. I don't want to have to fix it.
8)  Do you have the essential accessories (decent tamper, knockbox, the works), otherwise budget about $100 for these. I'll buy those things, no problem.

The machines I have been considering are Crossland CC1, the Lelit that 1st Line has with the PID, the Ascaso Steel Uno Professional PID, or possibly the Cuadra. I thought about the Oscar too but I read something about the steam wand being a problem so I don't know. Anyway, not sure if I'm on the right track or not.

Thanks for any input!
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 3,114
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 Mon Sep 23, 2013, 8:11pm
Subject: Re: Deciding on an espresso machine
 

Welcome to CG!

Probably any of those would meet your average needs.  The Cuadra is certainly the most machine in the group (as in, most capable of keeping stride), and with it on the table, I'd probably ditch the idea of the others.  As soon as you have a few friends over and want to make several drinks at once, you'll be glad you did.  There are other machines in the general price range, depending on how high you'd actually be willing to go.  My typical advice is to recommend reading about features, make a list rating the features by need, want, don't care, don't want, won't accept, then go find what machines fit the bill in your target budget.  You might find that there are several.  Then you have to decide on aesthetics, serviceability, cost, user reviews, etc.  As you make the list, ask questions here and people will try to answer them.

There's a thread on here about modifying the Oscar.  Since you would consider the machine, you might want to take a look at that, because the things they did apparently make the machine really rock!

I would recommend starting to plan for a grinder upgrade.  You don't have to do that now, with the Rocky, but in my opinion, you'll be better off once you do.  The Rocky (I'm a former owner of one, btw) has a small enough number of steps and wide enough breadth of grind adjustability to matter.  What I mean is, you can go from press pot coarse to turkish fine over the span of the grinder's total range with rather large leaps in each adjustment.  The problem with that is, the number of steps that are in the espresso range is very small, such that you often find yourself wanting to be in between two adjacent ones (one is "too coarse" and the next one is "too fine").  To compensate, you'll have to modify your dose in the basket (put a little more if "too coarse" and put a little less if "too fine").  People do this, and I did it for several years, so you can do that while you save money and decide what you want to upgrade that to.  There are still a few people who post here who are very happy with the Rocky, but I haven't heard one single person say they would have been just as happy with the Rocky after upgrading.  Sure, people aren't typically going to say they made a mistake and wasted their money, but the reaction is usually something more like wow, I wish I'd done this sooner (mine sure was).

Standard electrical in the US is 15 amp outlets, even on newer homes that have 20 amp Romex cables coming out of the breaker box. Something to be careful about is how much other stuff you have on the same circuit.

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


Joined: 23 Sep 2013
Posts: 4
Location: Florida
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Mon Sep 23, 2013, 9:59pm
Subject: Re: Deciding on an espresso machine
 

Thanks for the info. Good idea on making a list of the features. I think what always throws me off is I read about a machine that sounds great and then see one negative review and start questioning. Totally agree on the grinder, although I'll keep the Rocky for non-espresso grinding. I thought maybe the Mazzer Mini without the doser, so that would be the E I guess, and then there's the Compak K3 Touch that people seem to like. Sweet Marias sells that one so it must be good, they're pretty picky about what they sell. I know a lot of people recommend the Vario but I'm not a big fan of the looks of that one. I'll figure out the grinder once I decide on the machine.


Yes I'm sure 15 amps would be correct.
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,775
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 Sep 24, 2013, 3:54am
Subject: Re: Deciding on an espresso machine
 

Cadure and Oscar are the best choices in that list, and good choices not on any list.  They may be more than needed when by yourself but with any guests at all, you will be very glad to have them. Either  will last a long time with proper maintenance and if you want to sell it, they will have the best return there too.

 
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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takeshi
Senior Member
takeshi
Joined: 12 Oct 2002
Posts: 976
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Alex Duetto 3.0
Grinder: Super Jolly
Roaster: Amaya Roasting
Posted Tue Sep 24, 2013, 9:45am
Subject: Re: Deciding on an espresso machine
 

gobolts Said:

I think what always throws me off is I read about a machine that sounds great and then see one negative review and start questioning

Posted September 23, 2013 link

There's an art to reading reviews and it involves going beyond what is said in the review and attempting to determine information about the reviewer.  For any product out there you'll find negative reviews so it's more important to aggregate than to fixate on individual reviews.

gobolts Said:

I'll figure out the grinder once I decide on the machine.

Posted September 23, 2013 link

Keep in mind that the grinder is more important.  Sort it out and then worry over the machine.
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takeshi
Senior Member
takeshi
Joined: 12 Oct 2002
Posts: 976
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Alex Duetto 3.0
Grinder: Super Jolly
Roaster: Amaya Roasting
Posted Tue Sep 24, 2013, 9:49am
Subject: Re: Deciding on an espresso machine
 

gobolts Said:

I think what always throws me off is I read about a machine that sounds great and then see one negative review and start questioning

Posted September 23, 2013 link

There's an art to reading reviews and it involves going beyond what is said in the review and attempting to determine information about the reviewer.  For any product out there you'll find negative reviews so it's more important to aggregate than to fixate on individual reviews.
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JasonBrandtLewis
Senior Member
JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,391
Location: Berkeley, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -...
Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup
Drip: CCD, Chemex
Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Tue Sep 24, 2013, 12:20pm
Subject: Re: Deciding on an espresso machine
 

Grinder first . . .

#1:  

JasonBrandtLewis Said:

The "Rule" of Fifteens:
--  Green (unroasted) coffee beans should be roasted within 15 months of harvest, or they go stale.
--  Roasted coffee beans should be ground within 15 days of roasting, or they go stale.
--  Ground coffee should be used within 15 minutes of being ground, or it will go stale.

OK, so it's more of a guideline than an iron-clad rule, BUT . . . just as clichés become clichés for a reason (because they're true!), so too do "rules" become rules.  They're just as true . . .

Get a grinder.

Posted December 8, 2010 link

#2:  

JasonBrandtLewis Said:

The Four M's of Espresso:
1) the Macinazione is the grinder, and with it, the correct grinding of the coffee beans;
2) the Miscela is the coffee beans/blend itself;
3) the Macchina is the espresso machine; and
4) the Mano is the skilled hand of the barista.  

All four are important.  Nothing is more important than the grinder.

Posted February 27, 2011 link


 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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docdvm
Senior Member


Joined: 15 Oct 2009
Posts: 83
Location: Ottawa Ontario
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Giotto, Cremina
Grinder: Baratza Vario, Versalab
Drip: Bunn VP-17
Roaster: HotTop
Posted Thu Sep 26, 2013, 10:47am
Subject: Re: Deciding on an espresso machine
 

I agree 100% that the grinder Is very important given that the beans are good quality and fresh. In my case I have had a Sylvia and rocky grinder. A Giotto and mazer mini and now Cremina and versalab. I roast as well. Apart from roasting the grinder has made the greatest difference in my espresso. Since getting the versalab I find that distribution and tamping are not that relevant. If the grind is set right the tapping the grinds down and a very light tamp are all that I need to produce great espresso with my Cremina. The other variables can cause the shot to be a bit sour but still drinkable. If the grind is just not consistent then you can end up with a sink shot.
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cinci_trader
Senior Member


Joined: 6 Sep 2013
Posts: 14
Location: Midwest
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Salvatore Semi Auto
Grinder: Baratza Vario
Drip: Bonavita and Melitta Pour...
Posted Thu Sep 26, 2013, 5:07pm
Subject: Re: Deciding on an espresso machine
 

I almost grabbed a Cuadra and found out their sweet 1099 price is now 1399 - making some other machines more appealing. Of you find a source for them at the old price I'd be interested but was told to look at some other options based on their new pricing.
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gobolts
Senior Member


Joined: 23 Sep 2013
Posts: 4
Location: Florida
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Thu Sep 26, 2013, 5:10pm
Subject: Re: Deciding on an espresso machine
 

cinci_trader Said:

I almost grabbed a Cuadra and found out their sweet 1099 price is now 1399 - making some other machines more appealing. Of you find a source for them at the old price I'd be interested but was told to look at some other options based on their new pricing.

Posted September 26, 2013 link

I just noticed this myself. Going to pass on that one now.
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