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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > Buying my first...  
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Coffeenoobie
Senior Member
Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 3,013
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Sat Oct 19, 2013, 11:00am
Subject: Re: Buying my first real machine
 

For example, after 2 years I have upgraded the grinder (last night) and believe me it makes a world of difference, same beans (same batch even from yesterday morning) same machine, same dose and prep and I have a much smoother, much more tasty shot.  The flavors are separated now, hard to explain but when you taste a shot that has the flavor notes separated you will understand what I mean.

 
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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qualin
Senior Member
qualin
Joined: 30 Jun 2012
Posts: 652
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 Sat Oct 19, 2013, 5:21pm
Subject: Re: Buying my first real machine
 

valgouin Said:

I also have little counter space so it should be small.

Posted October 19, 2013 link

Both Thermoblock and Single Boiler Dual Use (SBDU) machines are fairly compact machines. Thermoblocks moreso. However, I can't in all honesty recommend a Thermoblock to anyone because
they produce inferior quality drinks to a boiler based machine and they have limited longevity. (ie. About roughly 5 working years, assuming your drink volume.)

valgouin Said:

Rarely more than two at a given time, once or twice a day at most.

Posted October 19, 2013 link

Again, for your use, a Single Boiler Dual Use machine would work fine for your needs. The big problem with SBDU machines is that they have two modes, Brew or Steam. You have to wait for
the machine to warm up for steam when you are making milk drinks. For small volumes, it's fine but for larger volumes of drinks (ie. Like if you have company over) it's not really suitable.
You'll be making your drink after everyone else has finished theirs.

valgouin Said:

About 400 total. Looking for entry-level and I'm not one to always upgrade my equipment regularly.

Posted October 19, 2013 link

Well, I was looking on some of the vendor websites and I figured that what I consider to be entry level is about $300 for a grinder and about $500 for a machine. Anything less than that
and you are making some very serious compromises on both the quality of the espresso you'll be making and the longevity of both the grinder and the machine. I realize that is double your
budget, but you said you wanted something which would last. Anything less than these prices and I consider them to be close to approaching junk.

Now, in saying that, if you don't mind using a machine with a pressurized portafilter, then something like the Saeco Aroma @ $349.99 coupled with a lower end grinder like the Breville Smart
grinder @ $199.99 would suit your needs. That would be about $150 over your budget, but I don't recommend going cheaper than that. I can't honestly recommend purchasing either one of these
because I've never used them and I know from my point of view, they would make an inferior drink over an unpressurized portafilter machine.

BTW, All of the prices I'm quoting here are from idrinkcoffee.com which seems a bit more competitive over the link you had posted, unless you really can get discounts.

If you can wait, it would be better to save your pennies and buy something good rather than burning all of this money on something which you won't be happy with later, especially
if you get hit with the upgradeitis bug, it'll end up costing you more in the long run.

Again, I can't stress this enough.. Please read the reviews on this site and judge for yourself!

 
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
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valgouin
Senior Member


Joined: 18 Oct 2013
Posts: 7
Location: Montreal
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Sun Oct 20, 2013, 2:34pm
Subject: Re: Buying my first real machine
 

qualin Said:



Now, in saying that, if you don't mind using a machine with a pressurized portafilter, then something like the Saeco Aroma @ $349.99 coupled with a lower end grinder like the Breville Smart
grinder @ $199.99 would suit your needs. That would be about $150 over your budget, but I don't recommend going cheaper than that. I can't honestly recommend purchasing either one of these
because I've never used them and I know from my point of view, they would make an inferior drink over an unpressurized portafilter machine.

Posted October 19, 2013 link

I've been reading a lot of comments in reviews about transforming a pressurized portafilter into an unpressurized one...what does this mean exactly and what does it change?

If you can wait, it would be better to save your pennies and buy something good rather than burning all of this money on something which you won't be happy with later, especially
if you get hit with the upgradeitis bug, it'll end up costing you more in the long run.

I'm really not in a hurry anyway and really want to learn about the machine I'm going to purchase before doing so. Extensive research is my goal
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Coffeenoobie
Senior Member
Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 3,013
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Sun Oct 20, 2013, 4:41pm
Subject: Re: Buying my first real machine
 

In order to make up for the short falls of cheap grinders they use a system to make fake crema with pressure mod in the portafilter.  If you can remove that mod it will work like a normal machine.  But you need a better grinder before you do that or you will be sorry you did it.

 
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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qualin
Senior Member
qualin
Joined: 30 Jun 2012
Posts: 652
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 Oct 20, 2013, 8:00pm
Subject: Re: Buying my first real machine
 

]

valgouin Said:

I've been reading a lot of comments in reviews about transforming a pressurized portafilter into an unpressurized one...what does this mean exactly and what does it change?

Posted October 20, 2013 link

Switching to using an unpressurized portafilter is seen as an upgrade to using a pressurized portafilter, because it allows the machine to make real espresso as opposed to fake espresso.
I'll explain below. IMO, It is better to consider spending your money on a better grinder and an unpressurized portafilter machine from the get go instead of upgrading later, unless budget is
a very serious concern and you need your coffee NOW. It seems from your posts that you are willing to wait. If you can save your pennies, do so and you won't regret it.

I've seen this happen before where someone buys a machine and grinder, they are disappointed with the output because its nowhere near cafe quality, so they relegate the machine and
grinder to a shelf in the basement and forget about it. If anything, that costs them more money in the long run because they're not getting any use out of it at all.

Here.. Maybe this will help... Here's a good picture comparing a pressurized portafilter basket to an unpressurized basket. Some machines use an even more complex proprietary system.

Picture of Pressurized Basket compared to unpressurized basket - Click Me

On the left is a portafilter basket which has one teeny weeny little hole, while the portafilter basket on the right has plenty of holes. The one with the single hole is a pressurized basket.

This page is a better example of how a pressurized or enhanced portafilter works:

http://www.frcndigital.com/coffee/enhanced.html

Espresso machine manufacturers learned that there was a sizeable market for people who didn't want to spend a lot on espresso gear, so they developed a method of brewing
which could compensate for a cheap grinder. Cheap grinders cannot grind consistently or evenly enough to create a coffee puck which can slow down water flow through the
portafilter, so they had to find another way to do it. They did this by forcing all of the coffee through one teeny hole.

So, why are we making such a big deal out of it? It's because that teeny hole doesn't extract everything out of the coffee. Everything that is in an espresso, like the mouthfeel,
the strength and the various flavours from the beans is emulsified into the coffee from the pressure, but with a pressurized portafilter, that can't happen, especially when the
grind isn't good enough to hold back the water.

Here's a good review of the Saeco Aroma, which I consider to be an entry level machine:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEkg9Bqn_Ws
Click Here (www.seattlecoffeegear.com)

BTW, I was wrong about the Saeco Aroma, it is a boiler based machine. Considering its price, it's a much better alternative to thermoblock machines.
SGC is based out of the USA, so the prices are a bit cheaper on these machines, but be aware of import duties.

Fortunately, I just learned in the video that there is an aftermarket unpressurized portafilter you can buy for this machine, so if you do decide to buy a better grinder later,
you have that option. By the way, store bought pre-ground coffee is a no-no. It's already stale and you'll never get a great tasting cup of coffee out of it. I made the mistake
of going to the supermarket and pre-grinding my coffee before using it and by the time I got to the bottom of the bag, it was the nastiest tasting coffee I'd ever drank.

(This was back when I was using a Moka Pot by the way.)

valgouin Said:

I'm really not in a hurry anyway and really want to learn about the machine I'm going to purchase before doing so. Extensive research is my goal

Posted October 20, 2013 link

IMHO, you should save your pennies and consider something that will grow with you and prevent your want for upgradeitis. I can also understand starting out small too.
However, if you do start out too small, you'll quickly outgrow your equipment and it will cost you more in the long run.

Oh, Just as a FYI, Star**** uses Super Automatic machines with the equivalent of pressurized portafilters. If you want to see the difference between how unpressurized
and pressurized portafilter coffee tastes, go to a Star**** and order just a cappuccino. Then find a real cafe (Ahem) which uses a machine that uses unpressurized
portafilters (Which is most of them) and order a cappuccino. You'll notice a considerable difference in the quality of the coffee. Ask yourself what is acceptable to you and if
spending the extra cash is worth it. If the Star**** coffee is perfectly acceptable to you, then maybe all you do need is a pressurized portafilter machine.

I wish you the best of luck.

 
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
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psavoie
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Jun 2012
Posts: 31
Location: laval, québec
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Ascaso Steel Uno Pro PID
Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Posted Mon Oct 21, 2013, 5:31am
Subject: Re: Buying my first real machine
 

If you are looking for a second hand entry level machine, I have the Saeco Aroma for sale on Kijiji Montreal.
Purchased in January 2012, well taken care of,  I'm asking 200.00 negociable, paid 325.00. I used to have a non presurized filter, but sold it seperatly.
Reason for selling, I'm mostly drinking espresso and I'm a big fan of the third wave coffees.

Click Here (montreal.kijiji.ca)


If you are interested you can reach me by email.

Paul
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valgouin
Senior Member


Joined: 18 Oct 2013
Posts: 7
Location: Montreal
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Mon Oct 21, 2013, 11:31am
Subject: Re: Buying my first real machine
 

qualin Said:

IMHO, you should save your pennies and consider something that will grow with you and prevent your want for upgradeitis. I can also understand starting out small too.
However, if you do start out too small, you'll quickly outgrow your equipment and it will cost you more in the long run.

Oh, Just as a FYI, Star**** uses Super Automatic machines with the equivalent of pressurized portafilters. If you want to see the difference between how unpressurized
and pressurized portafilter coffee tastes, go to a Star**** and order just a cappuccino. Then find a real cafe (Ahem) which uses a machine that uses unpressurized
portafilters (Which is most of them) and order a cappuccino. You'll notice a considerable difference in the quality of the coffee. Ask yourself what is acceptable to you and if
spending the extra cash is worth it. If the Star**** coffee is perfectly acceptable to you, then maybe all you do need is a pressurized portafilter machine.

I wish you the best of luck.

Posted October 20, 2013 link

Or I could just by an unpressurized portafilter separate, right?


I'm starting to look at a Lelit model, (Lelitpl41tem) with a PID. I was told a lot of info on it so started doing research there. Only thing I would have to be careful about parts-wise is that the portafilter is 57mm, not the standard 58. All around it seems like an interesting option, and paired with a Virtuoso Preciso grinder would cost me a reasonable 800$ on Idrinkcoffee. (save your pennies, you say? haha!)

I've decided to stay away from companies that don't concentrate on just coffee, like Philips..so the Gaggia and Saeco will be out of question for me.
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qualin
Senior Member
qualin
Joined: 30 Jun 2012
Posts: 652
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 Oct 21, 2013, 11:39pm
Subject: Re: Buying my first real machine
 

valgouin Said:

Or I could just by an unpressurized portafilter separate, right?

Posted October 21, 2013 link

You could if you wanted. Again though, I don't really see the point if you are buying new, unless you absolutely don't want to spend money on a decent grinder and you
actually would like drinking coffee produced by a pressurized portafilter with an imprecise grind. For the price difference, it's not really worth it in my eyes unless budget
is a very serious concern.

valgouin Said:

I'm starting to look at a Lelit model, (Lelitpl41tem) with a PID.

Posted October 21, 2013 link

That would give you a step up over some of the other SBDU machines on the market. For example, while the Rancilio Silvia actually has a 58mm portafilter and shares a few
of its components with its more commercial brothers (ie. The Switches and the Portafilter), it also has an annoying thermostat with a deadband. A PID based machine doesn't
have a deadband and is a blessing and a bit of a timesaver if you can afford the extra money to pay for it because there isn't a need to temperature surf.

There are PID retrofit kits for the Silvia, but they add an extra $250 to the cost of the machine. It's not really worth doing unless you already own a Silvia, you picked up a
used Silvia for cheap, or you love to modify machines. Great machines, but in bad need of updating.

valgouin Said:

Only thing I would have to be careful about parts-wise is that the portafilter is 57mm, not the standard 58.

Posted October 21, 2013 link

Unfortunately, that is one of the biggest things that bugs me about these machines. I don't see why they did that. That limits you to the baskets you can buy, but if that
isn't important to you, then no reason why not to run with it. Finding a 58mm portafilter on a consumer grade machine, especially at very low price points isn't too common.

That's one of the reasons why I picked the Silvia as my own first machine. Buying one used in great shape does present a good deal, but buying them new? Meh. Everyone agrees
they are a bit overpriced for what you get and there are competitors (ie. Such as Lelit) which offer better value for the money. Then again, there isn't that much that can go wrong
with a Silvia and when something does, there is a huge wealth of knowledge about these machines. Not to mention, everyone and their dog sells these things. :)

Like anything, if you want to save money, you have to compromise on something. As a "Starter" machine though, a Lelit is a great way to start out.

valgouin Said:

and paired with a Virtuoso Preciso grinder would cost me a reasonable 800$ on Idrinkcoffee. (save your pennies, you say? haha!)

Posted October 21, 2013 link

Well, even though this is nearly double the budget you were considering, this pair is a great idea, they'd go well together. Nothing too fancy and its a machine which will
keep up with your coffee drinking needs for a long while. (Although, that's subjective.)

valgouin Said:

I've decided to stay away from companies that don't concentrate on just coffee, like Philips..so the Gaggia and Saeco will be out of question for me.

Posted October 21, 2013 link

Well, I've heard a lot of positive things about the Gaggia Classic on this forum. It's a direct competitor to the Rancilio Silvia and shares all of the same shortcomings that
the Silvia does, but it comes in at a lower price point over the Silvia. Personally though, if you can afford a PID based machine and get a good grinder like the Precisio with it,
that would be a great place to start.

Good luck!

 
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
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valgouin
Senior Member


Joined: 18 Oct 2013
Posts: 7
Location: Montreal
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Sat Dec 14, 2013, 6:51pm
Subject: Re: Buying my first real machine
 

I have my setup!!

So finally, I completely changed direction. I was lucky enough to be GIVEN a Mokita. My sister in-law thought it was broken...it wasn't!
I paired it up with a Doserless Rocky which I received today.

I've started testing different grinds, amounts, tamp pressure (although I don't have a good tamper yet...next purchase!)

I'm getting close to a good grind in that my puck is nearly dry but I think my beans are not fresh because I have little to no crema with a bitter taste. We'll keep on testing!

I got scared from reviews on Baratza grinders because it seemed most were having trouble with some parts falling off, so I went for Rocky instead. They look pretty good together on the counter.

Trying to post a picture at the same time..

valgouin: 1483269_10153597388090007_156023987_o.jpg
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,672
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 Sat Dec 14, 2013, 7:31pm
Subject: Re: Buying my first real machine
 

Hey, congrats!
Rocky will be OK for a while. Look into the stepless mod for it, the large steps are one of the most glaring problems with him.

Free is a good price :D

FRESH coffee is mandatory for espresso. If it was older than about 15 days SINCE THE DAY IT WAS ROASTED it is getting too old to be much good for espresso. The bag should have a ROASTED ON date, not a BEST BY date, the best by date is often as far as a year and a half from the roast date which would put the beans just a little outside the 15 day window LOL!

 
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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