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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > Need some coffee...  
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OilyEspresso
Senior Member


Joined: 27 Sep 2013
Posts: 17
Location: Alaska
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Fri Sep 27, 2013, 9:43pm
Subject: Need some coffee sage's advice on a machine.
 

Fellow espresso enthusists!

Greetings and well met! I'm new to the community but not entirely new to good coffee. Oily is my handle, at least it will be here.

I'm in the market for a good prosumer machine, one that is dependable and will last me a long time with proper care.

However, I'm in a bit of a quandry, and I could use your expert advice.

You see, I'm an Alaskan and I don't know of anyone in the area who sells prosumer machines, the best I can come up with is a guy who will repair Astoria and Rio commerical machines. He's suggested one of the Astoria Compact models. They look very functional, but I'm a bit more interested in a Rocket model, mainly for the classic look of the E61 headgroup, three-way valve, and large boiler.

Here's the thing: I don't know if I can find anyone in AK to actually work on a Rocket, so if I did buy one, I'd need to know the answer to a few questions:

  1. I would like a machine I can work on myself, but still can easily use in enteraining. I'm good with troubleshooting and fixing stuff as that's my job.

  2. I'd need a machine I can get parts for down the road so a company with a good track-record and a machine that isn't going to change to the point they don't make the parts anymore is a must.

  3. I really like the look of the Rockets but if you have a more reliable brand with user friendly accessability and excellent customer service, I'm happy to use it.

  4. Initially I liked the idea of the DBB R58, but due to the additional parts and peices, I figure that it'll be more complexed to repair than a HX model. Correct me if I'm wrong on this, the cost issue doesn't mean much to me.

Really, what I want is a sturdy machine that will last me for a long time, that I won't feel the need to trade in for a "better" model down the road, that I can work on when I need to, and that when I have family get-togethers, church functions, or just a little party I can make coffee quickly and effectively for four to six folks... and honestly, for the price I want a nice, classic, solid look.

The "general questions"

1)  What kind of drinks do you like/want to make?

I like variety, I'll drink lattes for a while, then americanos, then whatever.

2)  How many drinks, on average, do you see yourself needing to make at any one time?

Answered earlier, but I'm a single guy but do entertain, and would like to make coffee for several folks.

3)  How many drinks, on average, do you see yourself making in any given week?

7-15 easily, I make some for my little sister and friend and deliever to them at work.

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 can do this, gonna be in the kitchen and I'm sure I can figure it out.

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

Don't currently have a 20 amp circuit, could maybe install one for a compeling reason.

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'll just save up over a couple months or work a few extra hours to pay for it.

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?

Would LOVE to buy used for the right price, and would enjoy learning how to do repairs.

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

Yeah - I can get those, no biggy.

Thanks for reading and look forward to your replies!
Oily
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NobbyR
Senior Member
NobbyR
Joined: 10 Jul 2011
Posts: 2,061
Location: Germany
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Poccino Opus One, Ariete
Grinder: Eureka Mignon Istantaneo
Vac Pot: N/A
Drip: Melitta Linea Unica de Luxe
Roaster: N/A
Posted Sat Sep 28, 2013, 1:23am
Subject: Re: Need some coffee sage's advice on a machine.
 

Welcome to CoffeeGeek!

Because a lot of manufacturers have the same suppliers, most prosumer E61 HX espresso machines actually share parts like the Ukla vibration pump, for example. Also spare parts are widely available for online order. So even if you don't have an authorized dealer, you probably won't have a problem to find someone who's able to service such a machine. Unless you can't do the maintenance and repair yourself. You sound confident and apt enough in your post.

IMHO Rocket Espresso builds high quality, durable machines that can last a lifetime and are capable to brew excellent espresso. In that price range, you can't do anything wrong. If you like the design, just go ahead.

 
***
"This drink of the Satan is so delicious that it would be a shame to leave it to the infidels." (Pope Clement VIII on coffee, when he was urged to ban the beverage)
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 3,305
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 Sat Sep 28, 2013, 5:02am
Subject: Re: Need some coffee sage's advice on a machine.
 

Welcome to CG!

I agree with Nobby.  However, you should know the R58 has a rotary pump, which in my opinion is better.  They tend to last longer (so I hear), and are quieter.   I believe they also function better when you plumb in...and since you can plumb in, you should.  All I've read is that it's waaaaay more convenient (unfortunately, I have not been able to, or I'd be able to say from experience.  It is one of the features of my machine I really, really wish I could exploit, as refilling a reservoir daily is a freakin' PIA.

Nothing wrong with the Rocket.  I think they are excellent machines from what I can see.  I also would suggest you consider the Vibiemme DB and the Izzo Alex Duetto.  All three are excellent and you'll be able to find parts for them for years to come.

You should really bump your OT or whatever (the extra work that will bring you more cash) up to the top of your list.  You aren't going to make anything good with an awesome machine like you're considering without an excellent espresso grinder and freshly roasted beans.  In fact, you could buy a mediocre machine and an excellent grinder and make better espresso than you could with an excellent machine and a mediocre grinder.  Whatever grinder you get, try to get a stepless one (or at least virtually stepless - ie, one with so many steps it seems stepless...talking hundreds here not 40 or 50).

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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JasonBrandtLewis
Senior Member
JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,475
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 Sat Sep 28, 2013, 7:24am
Subject: Re: Need some coffee sage's advice on a machine.
 

Welcome to CG . . .

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.

/ / / / /

Babbie's Rule of Fifteens:
-- Green (unroasted) coffee beans should be roasted within 15 months, or they go stale.
-- Roasted coffee beans should be ground within 15 days, or they go stale.
-- Ground coffee should be used within 15 minutes, or it goes stale.

Your choice.

Posted February 27, 2011 link

Cheers,
Jason

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


Joined: 21 Nov 2006
Posts: 1,481
Location: Monrovia, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: La Cimbali M21 DT/1 Junior...
Grinder: Ceado E92; "Bunnzilla"
Vac Pot: Royal Coffee Maker
Drip: Chemex + Kone; Espro Press
Roaster: USRC Sample Roaster
Posted Sat Sep 28, 2013, 11:30am
Subject: Re: Need some coffee sage's advice on a machine.
 

OilyEspresso Said:

I'm an Alaskan and I don't know of anyone in the area who sells prosumer machines, the best I can come up with is a guy who will repair Astoria and Rio commerical machines.

Posted September 27, 2013 link

Good espresso retailers are very thin on the ground.  Most of us, even those who live in big cities, end up ordering online, rather than buying from someone local.

He's suggested one of the Astoria Compact models.

Good choice, and if you were going to be dependent on him for service and repair, I'd say "great choice."  
They look very functional, but I'm a bit more interested in a Rocket model, mainly for the classic look of the E61 headgroup, three-way valve, and large boiler.

Here's the thing: I don't know if I can find anyone in AK to actually work on a Rocket, so if I did buy one, I'd need to know the answer to a few questions:

If it came down to something you couldn't do yourself, you'd have to crate it up and send it somewhere.  But...

I would like a machine I can work on myself, but still can easily use in enteraining. I'm good with troubleshooting and fixing stuff as that's my job.

The layout and assembly of prosumer and commercial espresso machines are straightforward.  It's not likely that someone who's reasonably handy will run into something he can't fix (or at least replace) himself.  

I'd need a machine I can get parts for down the road so a company with a good track-record and a machine that isn't going to change to the point they don't make the parts anymore is a must.

Lots of machines fit into that category.  Rockets included.  

I really like the look of the Rockets but if you have a more reliable brand with user friendly accessability and excellent customer service, I'm happy to use it.

I don't know if it's good news or bad news but espresso machines tend to be far more alike than different.  There are a few stinkers out there, but nothing which really jumps out of the mid to high prosumer group as hugely better.  Rocket is as good a choice as any.  

Initially I liked the idea of the DBB R58, but due to the additional parts and peices, I figure that it'll be more complexed to repair than a HX model. Correct me if I'm wrong on this, the cost issue doesn't mean much to me.

Stand by to be corrected.  As long as you're not talking about disassembling and reassembling electronics (as opposed to simply removing and replacing) the big difference is that DB machines tend to be a little more crowded than HXs.  In some ways, DB plumbing is more straightforward.    

Really, what I want is a sturdy machine that will last me for a long time, that I won't feel the need to trade in for a "better" model down the road, that I can work on when I need to, and that when I have family get-togethers, church functions, or just a little party I can make coffee quickly and effectively for four to six folks... and honestly, for the price I want a nice, classic, solid look.

Prosumer steam production, largely a function of boiler size, is anemic for large family get-togethers and church functions.  Rebound time (from one drink to the next in a long chain of drinks) can be a little sketchy as well -- but that's usually less of a problem.  

If making coffee for groups of twenty or more is going to be a something you do once a month, and little parties happen once a week, I think you'd want to go with a professional machine if you can afford it.  Some good choices are Astoria Perla, Astoria Divina, Electra T1, La Cimbali M21 Casa, and the La Marzocco GS/3 (should you want to go double boiler).  The Elektra and Cimbali are both around $3K (in the lower 48), the La Marzocco streets for around $5,500.  I'll let you ask your guy about the Astoria pricing.

Considering what you've said about how much you like the looks of the E-61 head, you'll probably love the Elektra T1 (similar looking head to an E-61, but a better group).

If we're talking about doing that kind of volume once or twice a year, you can get by with a prosumer.  

I've had a few prosumer machines over the last couple of decades; bought a La Cimbali M21 Casa a few years ago; am deliriously happy with it; very seldom do large groups; and would never settle for a prosumer for reasons which include build quality, ergonomics, "touch," and looks, as well as consistent quality in the cup; with the Cimbali and Elektra, for instance, we're talking about making coffee as well as it can be made.  But our budgets, counter-tops, and priorities might not be the same.    

Because of the high price of commercial DBs, the choice to go commercial will probably limit you to an HX machine.  After deciding on prosumer v commercial, make up your mind about whether you prefer an HX or a DB.  Most of the advantages noobs see in DBs are illusory (they aren't really faster or easier to temp); but that doesn't mean there aren't differences in use nor that you won't prefer one to the other.    

If you can plumb in, do plumb in.  It's hugely more convenient.  Most people find that the extra convenience encourages them to make better drinks.  

Some of the commercial machines are 20A.  Some are not. As long as you have sufficient service and space on the panel, running a 20A line is no biggie.  

A grinder good enough to bring out the best in a top prosumer or entry-level commercial machine is a non-trivial expense.  You're looking at a group of five or six grinders with lower 48 prices of somewhere between $900 (Baratza Forte, 54mm flat burrs) and $1400 (Compak K10 PB, 68mm conical burrs).  Buy a lesser quality grinder and you defeat the purpose of a high end machine.  In fact, a better grinder coupled to a lesser machine will produce better coffee than a lesser grinder paired with a better machine.  

I'm not trying to sell you anything, just provide a little orientation.  The best advice I can give you is to buy what you really want.  

Hope this helps,
BDL
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OilyEspresso
Senior Member


Joined: 27 Sep 2013
Posts: 17
Location: Alaska
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Sat Sep 28, 2013, 5:40pm
Subject: Re: Need some coffee sage's advice on a machine.
 

Thanks a lot for the direction! I enjoyed reading everyone's imput.

The responses on the machine was very helpful... I guess my next question would be on grinders. I had kind of settled on a mazzer mini due to the popularity and many positive reviews but thoughts are always welcomed.
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boar_d_laze
Senior Member


Joined: 21 Nov 2006
Posts: 1,481
Location: Monrovia, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: La Cimbali M21 DT/1 Junior...
Grinder: Ceado E92; "Bunnzilla"
Vac Pot: Royal Coffee Maker
Drip: Chemex + Kone; Espro Press
Roaster: USRC Sample Roaster
Posted Sat Sep 28, 2013, 7:01pm
Subject: Re: Need some coffee sage's advice on a machine.
 

Mazzer Mini is okay, but you can do better for the money.  A Mazzer Mini upgraded with SJ burrs is significantly better than a Mini, and will fit under most counters.  More expensive than a new Super Jolly though.  A new Super Jolly is probably the best bet when it comes to mid-priced Mazzers; but Jollys are very tall.  

Mazzers are strong and reliable, but they're a PITA when it comes to making fine adjustments.  

As I wrote earlier, I'd consider the new Baratza Forte ($900) as the least expensive, new grinder worth serious consideration to pair with an espresso machine of the quality you're talking about.  

The Baratza Vario is okay, but not nearly as well made.  

The three best flat burr grinders are probably the Mahlkonig Pro M, Mahlkonig K30 Vario and Compak K8 slots in there as well.  

At $1100, the Fiorenzato Doge is a hugely good deal on a "Titan" conical.  The current conical fave seems to be the Compak K10 "Pro Barista;" it's a great grinder, and available for $1400 in chrome.  

The La Cimbali Max Hybrid is a fantastic performer, but has a tendency to lodge broken beans in a crease in the hopper; the area can only be cleaned if the hopper is empty; the hopper can only be removed after unscrewing three screws; and it's an all around PITA to clean -- which is why Cimbali's US importer, Chris Coffee, stopped bringing them into the country.  Last time I looked you could still get a Max Hybrid from some Canadian retailers for $1200ish.  

Even if you get a grinder which is supposedly easily adaptable for all grind sizes, none but the Mahlkonig K30 and possibly the Forte do an adequate job of accurately returning to a particular espresso setting, after doing coarser grinding -- the Vario in particular is notorious for this.  Consider dedicating one grinder for espresso.   As an example only, we use a La Cimbali Max Hybrid (love/hate) for espresso, and a Breville Smart for siphon and French press.  

By the way, French press is not easy for any grinder.  If you do French press the Smart is an outstanding grinder, and at $200 it's quite reasonably priced.  No good for espresso though.  

If I were buying a new espresso grinder tomorrow, it would be a Compak K-10.  

Bottom Line:
It's easier and better if you tell us how much you want to spend, whether you want to use the hopper or single dose, whether you prefer conicals or flats, and mention any features you either want or hate; then let us give you some suggestions instead of everyone throwing names against the wall.  

The same is true for espresso machines.  Rocket is a good choice, but it's by no means the only good brand, nor the only attractive one.  

BDL
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russel
Senior Member
russel
Joined: 12 Mar 2010
Posts: 464
Location: Los Angeles
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: Conti Princess 2grp, GS/3...
Grinder: Super Caimanos x2, Forte BG,...
Drip: V60, Kalita Wave, Clever,...
Posted Sat Sep 28, 2013, 7:53pm
Subject: Re: Need some coffee sage's advice on a machine.
 

OilyEspresso Said:

I would like a machine I can work on myself, but still can easily use in entertaining. I'm good with troubleshooting and fixing stuff as that's my job.

...

I'd need a machine I can get parts for down the road so a company with a good track-record and a machine that isn't going to change to the point they don't make the parts anymore is a must.Would LOVE to buy used for the right price, and would enjoy learning how to do repairs.

Posted September 27, 2013 link

Given your remote location and desire to handle repairs yourself with local parts...I would do what you can to track down an Astra Gourmet (Gourmet Auto, Gourmet Auto Pour-over).  They are built like tanks here in SoCal and use standard fittings instead of metric fittings and all commercial grade internals.  If you can't find one from a reliable used source or don't feel like doing so, you can give Astra a call and see if they have any rebuilt ones that they would be interested in selling you...they're really nice.

They may not have an e61, but I once beat out a LM GB/5 with a little Astra Pro...so they aren't to be trifled with.
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OilyEspresso
Senior Member


Joined: 27 Sep 2013
Posts: 17
Location: Alaska
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Sat Sep 28, 2013, 11:41pm
Subject: Re: Need some coffee sage's advice on a machine.
 

Well you guys have me moving towards the commercial machines... And your were right BDL... I do really like the look of the Elektra T1 or A3. The interesting part of the whole thing is that the commercial machines are actually more available up here, as we have an espresso stand nearly every twenty feet. (Tourism... Go figure).

So I could actually buy a blasted three head or two head espressimo machine for about a thousand bucks. Gotta say, I am enjoying the journey!

What got me into this was my little sister had a cuisinart cheapie machine that I used to make frothed milk and fake cappuccinos with. I would tinker with that until one day I finally got an amazingly nice for it's flavor espresso shot along with milk that was just naturally sweet, combined together I was beating or matching some of the espresso wagons around town. Well, that little machine couldn't really last as long as I could and eventually it stopped making good espresso. I suspect the pressurized filters are clogged, as well as the valves just don't hold well enough anymore on the steam/water wand. So being very poor at the time I got out of espresso making and just went back to an occasional stop at an espresso shop.

Fast forward a few years, I am finally out of college and working steady at a great job. Our break room houses a few mechanics, engineers, process operators, and process instrumentation techs so, believe it or not, these kinds of folks are naturally drawn to the process of cooking elaborate food or drinks. So naturally, we have a commercial grade espresso machine in the office.

So, I jumped in and started experimenting on break. First thing I learned was that I still loved making espresso. The second was I really loved making them for others. There's nothing like a nice hot espresso drink in the hands of a person who doesn't get a good cup very often. After many videos on YouTube, I can say that my tamp isn't too bad and I can make a pretty smooth shot. Smooth enough my co-workers ask for a cup now and I get to play barista for a few minutes every few days. It's a simple thing, but were stuck in the middle of nowhere and skills like that really help us stay content when we share them.

When I realized how much I enjoy making espresso for people, I thought to myself, "I have a great job, I am single, no big costs, plenty of spending cash. When I am home, I buy espresso for my relatives and deliver it to them at work... Why not make myself!?"

So that's what really started this. As I think about it, espresso to me isn't as much about the drink as it is the fact that people appreciate it so much, and it's stupidly expensive to just buy at a cart that may or may not have a well trained barista.

Well, time to save up for the commercial machine. Ill throw my PFD at the 900+ dollar grinder, here we go!!
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 8,038
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 Sun Sep 29, 2013, 6:36am
Subject: Re: Need some coffee sage's advice on a machine.
 

Sorry I am late to the partly as I am a commercial kind of guy, I feel they are a great way yo go if you have the room and the budget.

You don't need to go multi group if you don't want to. I am at this moment sipping on a drink from my M32  that I just finished working on.
"Someone, stop me please!    Now also M32 rehab  AND NOW ALSO WITH PICS!"
They are pretty inexpensive all things considered, but like in this case, be prepared for some work, they tend to not get proper care in a commercial environment.

Rocket is a very good machine and they use a lot of the same parts as commercial machines do. There is no difference in the cup between a HX and a DB, though they require SLIGHTLY more skill to operate, skill quickly picked up and then they are more flexible than a DB when brewing temp may be wanted to nudge up or down shot to shot, a rapid adjustment that the DB can't do.

They are not more complicated to work on than a DB, just slightly different. DB cost more to buy because they have more parts inside, not because they are better for everyone.

 
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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