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Best espresso machine for beginner
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > Best espresso...  
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adrienneg
Senior Member


Joined: 2 Dec 2013
Posts: 1
Location: SSF
Expertise: I like coffee

Posted Mon Dec 2, 2013, 9:03pm
Subject: Best espresso machine for beginner
 

Who knew there was a forum for coffee drinkers?! Regardless, it's great! I stumbled across this site while doing some research for espresso machines.

I'm in my mid 30's and never had coffee until a few months ago, when I had my first cappuccino. I am hooked. Something about that frothy milk just makes my day. Last month, I spent over $100 at the coffee shop.  Now that it looks like this is going to be a permanent habit, I want to cut down on expenses and have the convenience of having a cappuccino or espresso whenever my heart desires.

I've been researching espresso machines, but shocked at the price tags (saw some upwards of $2K!).  Many friends have suggested the Breville Barista, which would cost about $480 w/o tax (20% off w/ coupon at Bed Bath & Beyond). But something about buying a machine w/ grinder combined just doesn't sound right… what if the grinder stopped working,… my gut tells me I should buy it all separately.  I use a Nepresso milk frother at work, and I love it, so I know I need a good frothed machine.

That brings me to my next question … any suggestions for an espresso machine w/o spending a fortune? I'd like to stay around $500, if at all possible. I'm the only coffee drinker in the house, and I don't have a lot of counter space for a huge fancy machine either.

Yesterday, I was at Philz, and bought 2 lbs of beans during their sale… which means I now need a grinder and a machine… the beans are just sitting in my car trunk, because frankly, I have no use for them at this exact point.. I don't even own a coffee machine!  

Costco had a Black Friday special for a Saeco for really cheap, but they ran out of stock. I know nothing about espresso or coffee machines (I'm so embarrassed). $150 for a machine just seemed like too good of a price to pass up, considering Costco's fantastic return policy. I was so sad to go home empty handed.

Any direction you can point me in would be great. Would love to be sipping a home made cappuccino by end of week. Thanks in advance!
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Coffeenoobie
Senior Member
Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 3,030
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Mon Dec 2, 2013, 11:11pm
Subject: Re: Best espresso machine for beginner
 

Please read

"Please read before you post New Machine buying question."

 
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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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 3,110
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 Tue Dec 3, 2013, 9:43am
Subject: Re: Best espresso machine for beginner
 

adrienneg Said:

Who knew there was a forum for coffee drinkers?! Regardless, it's great! I stumbled across this site while doing some research for espresso machines.

Posted December 2, 2013 link

There are actually several coffee forums!

adrienneg Said:

I'm in my mid 30's and never had coffee until a few months ago, when I had my first cappuccino. I am hooked.

Posted December 2, 2013 link

Welcome to the club! :)

adrienneg Said:

Last month, I spent over $100 at the coffee shop.  Now that it looks like this is going to be a permanent habit, I want to cut down on expenses and have the convenience of having a cappuccino or espresso whenever my heart desires.

Posted December 2, 2013 link

There is definitely a potential to saving money by owning your own gear...until you get upgraditis!  But nothing can beat the convenience of having a setup at home...even if you do find yourself saving for machines and grinder upgrades.

adrienneg Said:

I've been researching espresso machines, but shocked at the price tags (saw some upwards of $2K!).  Many friends have suggested the Breville Barista, which would cost about $480 w/o tax (20% off w/ coupon at Bed Bath & Beyond). But something about buying a machine w/ grinder combined just doesn't sound right… what if the grinder stopped working,… my gut tells me I should buy it all separately.

Posted December 2, 2013 link

Go with your gut instinct, definitely!  The quality of the combo machines leaves plenty of room to desire better gear.  There is a small sub-community here that advocates Breville products...the rest of us say avoid them.

adrienneg Said:

I use a Nepresso milk frother at work, and I love it, so I know I need a good frothed machine.

Posted December 2, 2013 link

I have a Nespresso Aerocino at work too.  It does a decent job, but the microfoam I'm able to make at home is in a whole different league, eons ahead.  My advice is leave your Aerocino at work and get a decent or good machine for your home.

adrienneg Said:

That brings me to my next question … any suggestions for an espresso machine w/o spending a fortune? I'd like to stay around $500, if at all possible. I'm the only coffee drinker in the house, and I don't have a lot of counter space for a huge fancy machine either.

Posted December 2, 2013 link

As Helen (Coffeenoobie) said, read the sticky she started and answer the questions.  It will help us give you the best advice possible for meeting your specific needs and wants.

adrienneg Said:

Yesterday, I was at Philz, and bought 2 lbs of beans during their sale… which means I now need a grinder and a machine… the beans are just sitting in my car trunk, because frankly, I have no use for them at this exact point.. I don't even own a coffee machine!  

Posted December 2, 2013 link

Uh, car trunk...bad place to store beans...when you get your grinder {assuming you buy a new one, not a used one), use those beans to season the burrs; i.e., grind them all up and toss the grounds in your garden to feed your plants, then your grinder will be good to go.  Buy fresh beans as close as possible to when you will be using your new gear.  Fresh coffee beans (especially important for espresso) have been roasting within the past 2 week or so by the time you finish them.  Many of us get our beans online from places that ship them on roast day. Those beans arrive at our door within three days usually.

Assuming SSF in your profile stands for South San Francisco, there are several great roasters near you, but you'll probably have to pay a premium price to get their beans. Not a problem once you get your technique down, but costly during the steeper part of the learning curve. As a starter, I'd suggest buying a 5lb bag of Red Bird Espresso (www.redbirdcoffee.com). When it arrives, break it down into Ziploc freezer bags, and place them in the coldest part of your freezer (or better in a deep freeze).  Put about 2 cups of beans in each bag and squeeze or suck out as much of the air as possible before freezing. Remove one bag at a time as needed, but do it just enough ahead of time for the beans to come to room temperature before opening the bag.

adrienneg Said:

Costco had a Black Friday special for a Saeco for really cheap, but they ran out of stock. I know nothing about espresso or coffee machines (I'm so embarrassed). $150 for a machine just seemed like too good of a price to pass up, considering Costco's fantastic return policy. I was so sad to go home empty handed.

Posted December 2, 2013 link

Consider yourself lucky. Fate saved you from making an unwise purchase.

Welcome to CG!

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,774
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 Dec 3, 2013, 10:13am
Subject: Re: Best espresso machine for beginner
 

Hi, welcome!
What they said!
As the name implies, we GEEK out over coffee, many of us have gear worth a nice used car on our coffee bar, don't ask. :D
Espresso CAN  be done at that price point but it will be more difficult on you. As Jason says, you don't need to spend a fortune on gear but you do need to spend something!
The grinder is MORE important than the machine and at this price point, your grinder will be MORE than you spend on the machine. About the low end of electric grinders that are able to grind for espresso run in the $300 range, this leaves only $200 in your budget for a machine. Something from the used section of our board perhaps will give you more for your money, even then though, pickings will be slim.
Fresh coffee, less than two weeks FROM THE DAY IT WAS ROASTED is mandatory for espresso, it can be stored for longer but when done properly but if it is two weeks at the time of purchase, it is pretty much done. FRESH ONLY!!!!!!

 
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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frcn
Senior Member
frcn
Joined: 23 Dec 2001
Posts: 3,404
Location: Northern California
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: Vibiemme Domobar Double
Grinder: Mazzer Kony, Baratza...
Vac Pot: Hario, 2 Cory pots, 1 Cory...
Drip: Behmor Brazen, Bunn A10 mod...
Roaster: computer controlled Hottop,...
Posted Tue Dec 3, 2013, 10:23am
Subject: Re: Best espresso machine for beginner
 

Hi, welcome!

calblacksmith Said:

As the name implies, we GEEK out over coffee, many of us have gear worth a nice used car on our coffee bar, don't ask. :D

Posted December 3, 2013 link

HEY! I resemble that remark!   :-D

Espresso at home is a road that can take you on the journey unfathomable. I started out much the same way (as documented in detail on my website). "$125 should be plenty to spend on a machine that just makes coffee," I originally thought. That was 13 years ago. As Wayne said, my espresso machine and grinder I now use costs about the same as I paid for my used car (which I love), I actually work in the coffee industry now, and am world famous.    ;-)

 
Visit My Website
www.EspressoMyEspresso.com
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steven_meyer
Senior Member


Joined: 19 Jul 2003
Posts: 506
Location: San Bruno, ca
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Alex Duetto 3.0, ECM  Giotto...
Grinder: HG-One, Mahlkonig K-30 vario
Posted Tue Dec 3, 2013, 10:30am
Subject: Re: Best espresso machine for beginner
 

Hi neighbor, You've gotten good advise. My only suggestion at this point would be to take a drive down to Santa Cruz and visit Great Infusions. They have a good selection of espresso machines and grinders at different price points. The owner, Sebastian is really knowledgeable and helpful. He will not try to hard sell you anything that is not right for you.

http://greatinfusions.com/
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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 Dec 3, 2013, 1:11pm
Subject: Re: Best espresso machine for beginner
 

adrienneg Said:

Who knew there was a forum for coffee drinkers?

Posted December 2, 2013 link

There are forums for just about any topic out there.  Coffee really isn't that obscure of a topic and, as stated above, there are several sites with some variety (e.g. single serve machines, etc).

adrienneg Said:

I've been researching espresso machines, but shocked at the price tags (saw some upwards of $2K!).

Posted December 2, 2013 link

$2K isn't even at the top of the range.  I can understand the sticker shock as a newbie.  I initially balked at spending $450 on my Silvia over a decade ago but I was tired of dealing with cheap steam toys that broke after a year of use and was disappointed with what I thought were "expensive" $200 & $300 machines that couldn't perform.  Back then the Silvia was the go to machine on CoffeeGeek and it did not disappoint.  Considering that I can easily spend $2500 per year myself on going out for coffee the Silvia quickly reached its break even point before the first year.  Earlier this year I had no problem justifying the purchase of a Duetto 3 despite its $2,500 price tag.  Experience and time can definitely change one's perspective.

adrienneg Said:

That brings me to my next question … any suggestions for an espresso machine w/o spending a fortune? I'd like to stay around $500, if at all possible.

Posted December 2, 2013 link

$500 can be a bit tricky.  The grinder, as always, matters more.  A capable grinder for espresso will typically start at about $300 unless you're willing to go used and/or refurb.  A refurb Preciso is $239 from Baratza.  The typical entry machine recommended is the Gaggia Classic.  Pairing those two exceeds your budget by quite a bit.  Others tends to be better at suggesting more cost effective alternatives so hopefully they'll chime in.

adrienneg Said:

Many friends have suggested the Breville Barista, which would cost about $480 w/o tax (20% off w/ coupon at Bed Bath & Beyond). But something about buying a machine w/ grinder combined just doesn't sound right… what if the grinder stopped working,… my gut tells me I should buy it all separately.

Posted December 2, 2013 link

It's not just the combo machines but some aren't fond of Breville's espresso offerings in general.
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 3,110
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 Tue Dec 3, 2013, 1:23pm
Subject: Re: Best espresso machine for beginner
 

Hey Don...when did you get the Duetto?  How do you like it?

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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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 Dec 3, 2013, 1:39pm
Subject: Re: Best espresso machine for beginner
 

emradguy Said:

Hey Don...when did you get the Duetto?  How do you like it?

Posted December 3, 2013 link

Trying not to wander off the topic too much but I managed to work its purchase into the kitchen & wet (coffee) bar remodeling that my wife and I started in July/August.  I've been very happy with the Duetto.  I totally understand what people mean when they say that pulling espresso is so much easier and consistent upgrading from the Silvia.  Despite being primarily a latte drinker the improvement in the espresso is something I definitely appreciate -- as well as how quick it is to simultaneously pull and steam.
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,774
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 Dec 3, 2013, 3:04pm
Subject: Re: Best espresso machine for beginner
 

It is a sad truth that the lower priced equipment is so much harder to work with. I know that is the draw to the BDB, it seems to be a great price for what you get, I am just not sold on long term quality

 
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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