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Former pro barista, newbie to home espresso...ready to invest in a real machine
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lcbaker
Senior Member


Joined: 13 Oct 2013
Posts: 3
Location: Atlanta, GA
Expertise: Pro Barista

Posted Sun Oct 13, 2013, 1:33pm
Subject: Former pro barista, newbie to home espresso...ready to invest in a real machine
 

Hi! I'm brand new to the forum and new to seriously considering buying a home espresso machine. I worked as a barista for years, so I know how to pull a shot and steam foam (pretty darn good at both, or at least I was, but it's been a while!), but I know next to nothing about choosing or maintaining a machine. At the shop of course I backflushed and cleaned daily, but I never descaled. I did adjust the grind every day, since I was a shift manager. So I've got experience and basic maintenance knowledge, but no in-depth knowledge about machines or features. I've been researching all day and I'm getting kind of overwhelmed!

When I quit working coffee, I resigned myself to buying my drinks at a shop from then out, because I didn't think I could get real espresso at home for under $2000 + plumbing and electricity. None of which I've ever been in a position to do. However, I recently bought a cheap machine at a sale (retails for $180, got it for $25), which I knew wasn't going to make actual espresso, but I thought it might be fun for a strong afternoon cup when I just want a single cup instead of a whole pot. But, not surprisingly, the mere act of attaching the portafilter has given me the bug to start making my own drinks. And lo and behold, now that I actually sat down to research it, it looks like I might be able to get good shots with a machine I can afford.

Right now all I've got is a French press and a blade grinder. (The little "espresso" toy I just bought doesn't count. ;) )I want to spend about $400 on a grinder and around $1000 on a machine. I don't want to have to install plumbing. (We do own the house, but probably won't live here forever). Ideally I'd love a machine that's semi-portable (or at least not TOO heavy) so I can bring it to parties at other people's houses sometimes (um, I know...I'm weird...but that just sounds so cool in my head...What are you bringing to the party? Lasagna? Oh, no, I'm bringing espresso).

I usually drink...eh, I don't have a usual drink. I will definitely be drinking straight espresso, but I'll make a lot of lattes and cappuccinos too. At a guess, I'd say I'll make a cappuccino or two per day for my husband, plus a couple of lattes and maybe one double for me. So probably around 6-8 shots/day on average. But I want to be able to make 10-20 drinks at a party without much waiting (half the fun is for me to show off my speedy barista skills!). I *definitely* want to be able to pull shots and steam milk at the same time -- that's an essential for me. Oh and I drink a lot of tea, too, so instant hot water is a nice feature.  

I'm not sure if I want automatic or semi-automatic...I love the idea of more control, but of course I was used to the automatic commercial machines I used in the past, so I'm torn on that. Definitely don't want a lever (I'm sure *someday* I'll want one just for the bragging rights, but right now I want a workhorse that doesn't give ME a workout!). And I also definitely don't want superautomatic -- grinding and tamping is 99% of the point for me. Aesthetics are pretty important to me, too. I really like stainless steel and don't want much color or plastic. I also don't have a lot of counter space so I'd rather something with a smallish footprint. (Although I'm probably going to end up getting rid of some cabinets and adding some wall storage for unimportant things like wine and spices for the sole purpose of making room for my coffee bar. ;) )

I love love love the look of the Nuevo Era Cuadro, and I'm happy to stalk ebay and craigslist for a while to try to find a used one in my price range. I'm also looking at the QuickMill Anita (you'll notice both of these are out of my supposed price range. Sigh). Of course there's also the Pasquini Livia 90, which I thought looked great until I started reading the reviews here. It's not as pretty as I'd like, but there's one on Craigslist for $700 that I'm super tempted by.

So: I need advice! What are the major differences between the Quickmill and the Nuevo? Is there anything a little less expensive that you'd recommend? And which grinder should I get? I'm very tempted by the Mazzer Mini (a bit out of my price range, again -- see a trend? -- but combined with the used Pasquini I'd be well within my budget), but it looks like the Anfirms are pretty good too? Or would a Baratza Vario be easier for switching between press and espresso? I'm pretty sure I want one with a doser; I'll want to use it for my French press too but I plan to make a lot of espresso.

Whew! Thanks for reading if you made it this far! I look forward to learning from you all!
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Burner0000
Senior Member


Joined: 28 Jul 2011
Posts: 1,011
Location: Cambridge, Ontario Canada
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: Rancilio Silvia, VFA Expres...
Grinder: Macap MX/VFA N1464/Kyocera...
Drip: Manual Drip, French Press
Roaster: Behmor 1600 / Sonofresco
Posted Sun Oct 13, 2013, 2:54pm
Subject: Re: Former pro barista, newbie to home espresso...
 

Hmm... I assume you mean the Nuova Simonelli Oscar?

NS Oscar
Boiler: 2.3 L
Tank: 2.3 L
Heat: 1200W
Weight: 39 lb
Hot Water: No

Dimensions
Height 15.75 inches, Width 12.00 inches, Depth 15.75 inches


QM Anita
Boiler: 1.6 L
Tank: 3 L
Heat: 1200 W
Weight: 47 lb
Hot Water: Yes

Dimensions
Height 15.75 inches, Width 10.75 inches, Depth 17.25 inches


I think for what your asking the Oscar would fit better.  The Specs are better and you just not getting the SS looks of the Anita. If you want hot water then spend $50-$100 on a good pour over kettle. :)  The Oscar you unplug carry and go. Grinder.. I think The Macap M2 or Baratza Preciso would be good.  Both can hop from espresso to press easily and still have a ton of options to dial in each grind setting.  Either with the Oscar are in your price range.   Used tho.. Anything is possible if you wait long enough.
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GVDub
Senior Member


Joined: 25 Jan 2008
Posts: 845
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Londinium I, Arrarex...
Grinder: Gaggia MD85, Dienes Mokka,...
Drip: Behmor Brazen, Abid Clever
Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Sun Oct 13, 2013, 3:12pm
Subject: Re: Former pro barista, newbie to home espresso, etc.
 

And the Oscar does hot water just fine. All you have to do is wipe off the screen and pull hot woter through the grouphead (or through a portafilter with a clean basket). With the price of the La Nuova Era Quadra going up to $1400, Oscar is the best value in a NSF-certified prosumer HX machine, unless you absolutely have to have an E-61 head.
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Burner0000
Senior Member


Joined: 28 Jul 2011
Posts: 1,011
Location: Cambridge, Ontario Canada
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: Rancilio Silvia, VFA Expres...
Grinder: Macap MX/VFA N1464/Kyocera...
Drip: Manual Drip, French Press
Roaster: Behmor 1600 / Sonofresco
Posted Sun Oct 13, 2013, 4:09pm
Subject: Re: Former pro barista, newbie to home espresso, etc.
 

GVDub Said:

And the Oscar does hot water just fine. All you have to do is wipe off the screen and pull hot woter through the grouphead (or through a portafilter with a clean basket). With the price of the La Nuova Era Quadra going up to $1400, Oscar is the best value in a NSF-certified prosumer HX machine, unless you absolutely have to have an E-61 head.

Posted October 13, 2013 link

There ya go. :)
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Coffeenoobie
Senior Member
Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 2,972
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Sun Oct 13, 2013, 4:22pm
Subject: Re: Former pro barista, newbie to home espresso...
 

The Oscar is very portable and I would use it over the others you listed for parties.  In fact I have.  The plastic makes for lighter weight, no burn and less trauma/drama about scratching when tossed in a trunk.  I would not want to drag my stainless steel, pride and joy dream machine to parties.  In fact I plan to keep Oscar for parties when I get my dream machine. (Londinium 1 commercial lever.)

 
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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Markarian
Senior Member
Markarian
Joined: 27 Jun 2012
Posts: 652
Location: Seattle Area
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: ECM Technika IV Profi WT-WC
Grinder: Baratza Forte AP, HG One
Vac Pot: Bunn Trifecta MB
Drip: Moka, Aeropress, Hario V60
Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Sun Oct 13, 2013, 5:06pm
Subject: Re: Former pro barista, newbie to home espresso...r
 

The Oscar can take a surprising amount of abuse and makes great coffee. Also, you'll be hard-pressed to find any home machine with as much raw steam power as the Oscar. I still think it slightly edges out my new Technika just a bit in that regard. If you buy a working Oscar, you will NOT be disappointed. See my user avatar?

<---- This photo was taken using my Oscar, $6/lb grocery store single origin beans, and the stock Nuova Simonelly 18g basket.
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lcbaker
Senior Member


Joined: 13 Oct 2013
Posts: 3
Location: Atlanta, GA
Expertise: Pro Barista

Posted Sun Oct 13, 2013, 5:19pm
Subject: Re: Former pro barista...
 

Oooh. Thanks for all the advice, everyone. Markarian, that picture might push me over the edge for an Oscar! I can taste it...!

If I wanted to spend more, would you recommend the Nuevo Era Cuadro? Or is there something better in that range? The Cuadro IS the one I meant; I saw the $945 sale from a while back...now I'm kind of in love with the look of that one, though. I hate the plastic on the Oscar. Although you make a compelling point about portability. Or is there a nice one with the stainless steel look in the $1000 price range? Aesthetics are important to me too... :)
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Coffeenoobie
Senior Member
Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 2,972
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Sun Oct 13, 2013, 6:17pm
Subject: Re: Former pro barista, newbie to home espresso...
 

That Nuevo Era Cuadro price is gone now I heard..... for that old price I recommended it.  They are now up at about the same price as Oscar new I hear.

Yes, Oscar is not purrty but he is rugged and has steam power to spare.  Used, he is a bargain that can't be beat for 500$ range.  No, not to my knowledge, is there a machine the 1k mark new that will touch him.  Part of why he is a bargain is because people are hung up on the stainless look.  And frankly cleaning stainless, and touching hot stainless is not as much fun as you would think. I would not toss a stainless machine in my trunk and take it places. (weight and damage issues)  I travel with Oscar without a second thought.

For portability and your list of stated needs, he is the best choice.  Looks are not everything -  He has power under the hood where it counts.  And trust me, he is impressive when he is cranking out the drinks.

 
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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johnmyster
Senior Member


Joined: 13 Oct 2013
Posts: 2
Location: Virginia
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Dalla Corte Mini
Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Drip: Technivorm
Posted Sun Oct 13, 2013, 7:37pm
Subject: Ready to invest in a real machine
 

...and a $400 used Oscar that just appeared in the classifieds. Even if it does need some work, it'd be my next project if I didn't already have a disassembled machine on the workbench.
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takeshi
Senior Member
takeshi
Joined: 12 Oct 2002
Posts: 935
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Alex Duetto 3.0
Grinder: Super Jolly
Roaster: Amaya Roasting
Posted Mon Oct 14, 2013, 9:23am
Subject: Re: Ready to invest in a real machine
 

+1 on the portability versus stainless.  I also wouldn't recommend moving a stainless machine around too much.  Just normal use without moving requires enough upkeep as it is.  Plastic will be better for moving from a cosmetic and burn standpoint as mentioned above.  You'll have to decide where you want to compromise.

lcbaker Said:

When I quit working coffee, I resigned myself to buying my drinks at a shop from then out, because I didn't think I could get real espresso at home for under $2000 + plumbing and electricity.

Posted October 13, 2013 link

It's definitely possible for far less.  Even with an entry level single boiler and an entry level grinder (though, of course, it's not just the machines) once can easily surpass many coffee shops out there.

lcbaker Said:

I don't want to have to install plumbing.

Posted October 13, 2013 link

Keep in mind that a plumbed machine can be run off a bottle and a Flojet as well.  Though that would still be less portable.

lcbaker Said:

I'm not sure if I want automatic or semi-automatic...I love the idea of more control, but of course I was used to the automatic commercial machines I used in the past, so I'm torn on that.

Posted October 13, 2013 link

IIRC most autos can be run as semiautos.

lcbaker Said:

I'm very tempted by the Mazzer Mini (a bit out of my price range, again -- see a trend? -- but combined with the used Pasquini I'd be well within my budget), but it looks like the Anfirms are pretty good too? Or would a Baratza Vario be easier for switching between press and espresso?

Posted October 13, 2013 link

Vario's performance is generally regarded as better than a Mini and comparable to a Super Jolly.  Never used a Mini or a Vario myself so I can't comment on those.  As always, the grinder matters most.  If you're going to stretch your budget then do so with the grinder.
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