SconniLaw88 Senior Member Joined: 5 Dec 2013 Posts: 9 Location: Wisconsin Expertise: I love coffee
Posted Fri Dec 6, 2013, 7:54pm Subject: Seeking machine/grinder buying advice/alternatives, sub 1k, or save for what?
I've been researching machines and grinders for a while now and have supplemented that with the advice/opinions/rants of some on forums for a while now, but I decided it is finally time to seek out some of the wisdom so readily shared by the participants here on CG. So let's get to it!
Background: (skippable if you're not interested in me as a person, I won't be offended) I have always been a coffee drinker, and the last few years my at home endeavor for a great cup of coffee evolved to espresso. This was the best and worst thing to ever happen to me! A little stove top moka pot got me interested, but I knew there was something missing and a quick google search was the top of the rabbit hole. I wanted to learn/practice the espresso basics with a forgiving machine that I wouldn't mind upgrading from if I ended up really liking the process and once I was sure this wasn't just a fad for me and a big investment would just sit on the counter and collect dust. I ended up grabbing a capresso infinity grinder and an EC100 machine, and it has been a good tool to learn on, but now each day I look at the 2 in disgust knowing, despite their best intentions, they just were never meant to play in the big leagues...or maybe even AAA ball. I plan on giving either keeping the capresso for drip or giving it to my grandma who will otherwise continue to stick to pre-ground folgers. Gross. I feel it is my duty to help at least a little. Otherwise I might sell them on craigslist or on here (if I can work up the courage).
On to what I am looking for:
I am recent law school grad and the related loans are the reason I seek a "value" setup. I'd like to strike a balance between features/price, and ideally I would like to keep it around 800-1000, grinder and machine. I am not against used items, but I would prefer new. Why? I may or may not bring this into my office (once I get enough seniority to not get odd looks or be questioned about such things), and so I also appreciate the "wow" and "ooh, pretty" factor that normally I would not give a hoot about whatsoever. I want people to go "wow, this guy, this guy means business, just look at that coffee contraption!" NOT "Why does this guy have a giant toaster in his office, let's get out of here." Personally, I like americanos, typically iced, so the frother isn't a big deal to me. I may have friends/coworkers/clients that may like something milk-based, so I want it as an option, but if it isn't the best feature, totally cool. I don't see myself ever making more than a handful of drinks a day and no more than a couple at any given time, and so I am hoping to get away with a prosumer machine simply because commercial is just out of the question at this price point. If it takes off and I am rich someday, I would take this one home and put in a beastly commercial setup, but for now it remains a dream, the pot of gold at the end of my student loan payment rainbow. I doubt I will be able to plumb in at work (before I get my name on the sign anyway), maybe I could at home, but I don't mind stashing some gallon jugs of water down below. Standard 110 'Merica outlets, and I also have the basics covered.
I wouldn't mind an espresso-oriented grinder since I rarely make coffee, but I am not set on one. I've been watching for a deal on a Mazzer SJ and feel like I could fix up these sorts of things with the right instructions if it saves me decent money or results in a better machine for the same price. I'd be interested in what other grinders I should watch for, don't really know much about the rocky, but it seems popular. Any input here would be great!
If I can't find a good used grinder, I will probably pick up a refurb preciso from baratza. It seems like the Vario is better for espresso, but I can't seem to justify the extra $120+ on my budget. I would love to be convinced why I am wrong and should go the extra step. I've heard mixed reviews on the smart grinder, but have heard the new "series" is a lot better at espresso grind? No real evidence of that, just heard some people have have better luck with more recently produced SG's.
The machine! Again, I am mainly interested in the espresso side of things over the frothing capabilities, but I don't think a lever machine makes sense for me. I have read all sorts of pros and cons about various machines, and I have it down to a few options. I know there are a ton of people who seem to love to hate on Breville for their shotty reliability in the past, but, emotions, anger and past aside, I like a lot of what the Breville Infuser has going for it. It looks sleek (superficial, but annoyingly important in my case), has a lot of features rare on machines at this pricepoint (PID, pre-infusion, hot water spout, guage which would be helpful and fun to teach others with, etc) and from what I have read there haven't been too many complaints about the machine's reliability. Bed Bath and Beyond has these guys for 499, and despite their coupon stating otherwise, I was told by an employee they will honor the 20% on almost everything they say the won't on the coupon, just ask and act sad you cant spend your money there. So I could get this for around 400 at the most, and from what I was told they have an UNBEATABLE return policy. Basically you can bring it back at ANY point and they will exchange it. I am sure this is within reason, but I really like the safety of a guarantee. This to me counteracts some of the concern about reliability. Some of the cons I see with the machine: THERMOCOIL :(, 1-hour auto-shutoff is annoying, i'd prefer a 58mm basket, it's not a programmable PID, and the constant worry that if it breaks that some on here will be able to go "SEE! I TOLD YOU SO! TOLD YOU NOT TO BUY THAT, IDIOT!" In response...
I've considered other machines, and I would really prefer a boiler machine, but it seems like the other commonly suggested machines are the gaggia and the silva, both of which I don't find especially aesthetically pleasing and both of which require upgrades to PID, and will probably end up costing more in the end than the infuser. Also considering a cc1 (like looks, price, pid, 58mm, but still thermoblock...right? And no pressure gauge) and oscar (wish it was less expensive and plastic-y), I would love for someone to share with me the link to that reasonably priced, sleek-looking, great-espresso-makin machine that I know I was meant to find... Even if you don't have that link, I would love to hear any opinions or suggestions on what to look at/where to look for a deal, packages are okay along with decent condition used stuff.
I saw that breville is coming out with the BES 920 in Jan, and my other option would be to just wait and save for a $1000+ machine, or perhaps there will be a deal on the breville dual boiler (bes900xl) once the 920's come out. Are there any consistent objections with the 900 beyond seemingly machine-to-machine reliability issues? I know the 920 has some small changes, but if I could get a deal on a 900 and not regret passing on the 920 I might be tempted... Listed improvements I can find on the 920 over the 900:
2400W Heating system Descale access by the user Adjustable Steam Boiler Temp (pressure) Volumetrics: able to select either time based or volume based Exclusive Razor precision dosing tool
In closing, I've seen a surprising amount of hate on the breville threads in particular on here. I don't mind if you want to share your thoughts, even your opinion, but I would ask that if you only plan to share your disdain for the breville brand without any constructive input then I would ask that you refrain from posting. I am very open to suggestion and up in the air at this point and greatly appreciate any and all help. I just ask that this thread not devolve into one that belittles me or the "level" of product I am hoping to acquire. I wish I could drop $5000 on a setup, but I just can't. It seems it is really tough to find a balance between quality and value in espresso, so I appreciate the time and input you care to share!
Coffeenoobie Senior Member Joined: 11 Dec 2011 Posts: 3,079 Location: PNW Expertise: I like coffee
Espresso: N S Oscar Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Sat Dec 7, 2013, 9:48am Subject: Re: Seeking machine/grinder buying advice
If I were you I would leave out the future office wants for now. By the time you can bring one to the office you can probably afford a different one for the office, and you probably will not want to have your home without one. Simplify your list a bit and focus on home for now.
Did you read my sticky on the top of the forum? So, GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER. Spend more than you want on the grinder. Vario W rocks, my K30 rocks even more. Taste in the cup is all about the grinder.
I agree that the Breville DB looks good on paper and the only espresso I had from one was very good. (vario grinder) I wanted more robust machine. If I knew I was going to have a really good income stream in the future I might risk 1k on it not lasting after warranty. I would not buy any other lower end Breville, period. I don't recommend a Breville DB often and my guess is you could want to upgrade it pretty fast like you did your starter machine. So, I would probably not recommend it for you unless you got it at half price when the new BDB comes out. At half the price I have less qualms about it, but at 1k I expect more from an appliance. For the record my qualms are about lack of owner repairs and longevity.
I want bang for buck and I am not rich and not likely to be any time soon. I wanted to be in the 1k total ball park, I had space issues, I did not care that much about looks. I went used NS Oscar because they are robust and cheap because they are not shiny.
Really at >500$ you can't get much new in a machine that you will not outgrow really fast. You already have proof of that with your starter set up. You can get a nice grinder, used Super Jolly, Vario W or maybe a refurbished Forte. (I think it is +700 new) And save up for a $1-2k machine that will really give you looks and features you will love for a long time. Anything you can afford new with your current budget you will probably want to upgrade in 6 months. I suggest waiting. I know that is rough but I believe you will be happier longer. Using a improved grinder with your current machine will really drive home the GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER point.
Buying advice: GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER. Don't cheap out on the grinder.
CMIN Senior Member Joined: 14 Jun 2012 Posts: 1,610 Location: South FL Expertise: I like coffee
Espresso: CC1 Grinder: Baratza
Posted Sat Dec 7, 2013, 10:03am Subject: Seeking machine/grinder buying advice/alternatives, sub 1k, or save for what?
CC1 isn't thermoblock, it has a boiler, actually the largest boiler in it's class at 17oz a lot larger then the Silva and waaaay larger then the Gaggia. The thermoblock is separate for steaming only so your not waiting a long time like a normal single boiler machine.
Buying brand new, there isn'ta better combo for around 1k then the CC1/Preciso setup, or slightly more if you get the Vario. In your case I would go with a CC1 and refurb Vario, killer starter setup and the the Vario is a better espresso grinder with it's larger flat ceramic burrs vs the smaller conical set of the Preciso (Vario gives a lot more depth and flavors).
If you go use, well that's a whole new ball game and opens up tons of more options. I like the BDB especially for the price and know some owners, not a fan of the Infuser though. What Breville should of done is made the Infuser a stripped down single boiler only version of the BDB, I don't know why Breville is so obsessed with thermocoils/blocks.
I also came across the cuadra in my search and really like the look and some of the features you get with the extra money. Really considering waiting and getting a hx or e61 machine as I really like the constantly hot portafilter idea. Any input on a good value e61 machine or hx?
z0mbie Senior Member Joined: 26 Sep 2013 Posts: 396 Location: Online Expertise: I live coffee
Posted Sun Dec 8, 2013, 4:02am Subject: Re: Seeking machine/grinder buying advice
For less than $1000 you will have to make some serious compromises.
If your goal is to impress people and showing them you're a hard-core coffee snob, skip the Espresso... It's not going to happen for under a grand.
If you're serious about coffee, here's what you need to do. Stick to coffee shops for great espresso. You won't make very good espresso with that sort of budget so why bother. Because it starts with a great grinder.. And that leaves very little for the machine (unless you want to go with a MyPressi device, which are very capable but require significant skill over using a machine).
Please don't take this the wrong way. It's just advice. Take it or leave it, it's yours to keep if you want it :)
Personally I think you should do the following:
Assuming you have a $1000 budget to spend towards your new found love, go out and buy a high end grinder like a Mazzer Mini Type B or a Mazzer Super Jolly Low RPM Commercial Grinder (both under $800) and 13-cup hand-blown glass Chemex coffeemaker ($110) with a Bonavita electric gooseneck kettle ($60).
Jumping right into espresso is the wrong move for a beginning hobbyist. You can still drink espresso, but learn to make a great cup of joe first. Plus you're investment in the grinder will go towards your future espresso setup.
After that, once you've trained palate to pick out subtleties in various blends, regions, SOs, of coffee, then you'll be much better prepared for making great espresso because you'll know exactly what beans you want, where to source them, and you'll already have the grinder.
Then buy your espresso machine of your choosing. So long as it makes great espresso. Don't worry about buying a great looking machine.. Learn to make great espresso first. Otherwise you're going to come off a pretender if you can't even make a great cup of espresso with it.
For a beginner setup, my suggestion is you buy a Silvia w/PID or a Crossland CC1. Both are solid machines and offer you the capability of mastering your techniques without struggling with the equipment, unlike cheaper machines. If you can spend more, you can go for the gusto and save some money in the long term.. Just don't offer to make anyone espresso until you've mastered it :)
If you prefer the Breville DBD, sure go for it. Decide for yourself only then will you know whether or not they are great or crappy machines.
I am recent law school grad and the related loans are the reason I seek a "value" setup. I'd like to strike a balance between features/price, and ideally I would like to keep it around 800-1000, grinder and machine.
While this is a decent "starter" budget for an espresso machine and grinder, this is only a step. This also really limits what you can buy. Your options won't start opening up until you increase that budget by at least $500-$1000.
I may or may not bring this into my office (once I get enough seniority to not get odd looks or be questioned about such things), and so I also appreciate the "wow" and "ooh, pretty" factor
The Mazzer SJ is a great grinder. If you can find a used Mazzer Mini Electronic, it is doserless and can take the same burrset as the SJ. (I don't like dosered grinders personally.) Other grinders to watch out for would be the Compak K3 touch or a used Compak K8 Fresh. The Macap MC4 doserless may also be an option. Personally though, I'm not recommending any of these, please read the reviews on them. I personally have a Mazzer Mini Electronic myself and its a great grinder, but it does have a few minor shortcomings.
The best thing about buying used grinders is that there really isn't much that can go wrong with them. My own personal experience with Mazzer grinders makes me think they are nearly indestructible. They're mechanically simple and easy to service. I don't honestly know if I could say the same thing about Compak and Macap grinders because I've never owned one before.
don't really know much about the rocky, but it seems popular. Any input here would be great!
... and you don't want to. The Rocky is a grinder which is usually paired with a Rancilio Silvia as part of a bundle deal. The Rocky has some serious limitations. I'd only consider buying one if I was using it to make drip coffee with. As an Espresso grinder, it's quite limited as to how much control you have over setting up the grind. It is capable of grinding fine enough for espresso, but it is an afterthought. There are better grinders on the market for espresso.
It seems like the Vario is better for espresso, but I can't seem to justify the extra $120+ on my budget.
I can't say this enough. I noticed more of an improvement in my espresso when I went from a $300 Rocky to a $1200 Mazzer Mini Electronic grinder than I did going from my Silvia, a $600 machine, to my Alex Duetto, a $2500 machine. If you can't justify the extra $120 on your budget for a better grinder, then you really should consider buying a used grinder instead. My wife thought I was crazy for spending that much on a grinder, but this Mazzer will outlast me. Whatever you do, don't skimp on the grinder. Especially for such a small amount. You WILL regret it later. Especially when you could have spent the extra money now instead of spending it later.
If I had known what I knew back then, I would have saved my money on the grinder and used that to buy a used SJ or a Vario.
I am mainly interested in the espresso side of things over the frothing capabilities, but I don't think a lever machine makes sense for me.
I'd say to stick with a decent pump machine with good temperature stability and pressure stability. Lever machines are only for very low volume usage. If you plan on drinking straight shots a lot and Americanos, you want a machine with a stable output temperature. For your budget, a PID controlled SBDU is the only route to go. However, if you want Americanos, then a hot water spout will drastically speed up prep time. In which case, a prosumer grade Heat Exchanging machine will do the trick as long as you understand the caveats behind how heat exchanging machines work.
I like a lot of what the Breville Infuser has going for it.
Nope. Don't even think about it. It's junk. Consumer grade garbage that will only cost you more in the long run when you have to replace it within a few short years of service. It won't give you the proper temperature stability you need for a decent espresso shot, thermocoils tend to have limited longevity and I don't like the build quality of Breville espresso machines (Excluding the BES900XL).
It looks sleek (superficial, but annoyingly important in my case),
I would really prefer a boiler machine, but it seems like the other commonly suggested machines are the gaggia and the silva, both of which I don't find especially aesthetically pleasing and both of which require upgrades to PID, and will probably end up costing more in the end than the infuser.
Well, unfortunately, the SBDU market segment is a neglected one. Both the Gaggia Classic and the Rancilio Silvia have been neglected for many many years and are using a design bordering on being 20 years old now. This is probably why you don't find them very appealing. I've suggested some other SBDU machines you can consider which you may find appealing to look at, but they still bust your budget.
Well, I think you are looking at it the wrong way. If you buy a used Silvia with a PID, you can get a decent deal. If you buy a new Silvia and then put a PID on it, you're not saving money at all. What you are saving is the hassle of having to bring the machine back to the store when it breaks down. Silvias are a proven machine. They're bulletproof and they just work. It doesn't make sense to retrofit a PID onto an existing Silvia because there are a few options, like the Crossland CC1, which are on the market now which directly compete with that.
Also considering a cc1 (like looks, price, pid, 58mm, but still thermoblock...right? And no pressure gauge)
Well, pressure gauge isn't all that important on an SBDU. It has a Thermoblock for steam, but uses a PID controlled boiler. For your budget, if the Unica and the Alexia are too expensive for you, the CC1 is a great option for your budget.
I saw that breville is coming out with the BES 920 in Jan,
I wouldn't wait. If you want to wait to save your pennies on a machine, consider the Rocket Line of espresso machines. They'll completely destroy your budget, but they'll outlast anything Breville can make.
Are there any consistent objections with the 900 beyond seemingly machine-to-machine reliability issues?
Well, for the Coffeegeeks that have one, the performance of the machines have been very impressive. They're rock solid and stable. Breville is still working out the kinks, which I believe could be worked out with the 920. I would have considered purchasing one as my very first espresso machine, had they been out when I was looking to buy a machine.
Probably the biggest issue I've been hearing about are the people on this list who have been doing machines swaps because they produce obtuse error codes or just fail outright. The BES900 is designed as a consumer machine, but it is very feature rich. Its price point kind of comes in right around the entry level prosumer class machines. It presents great value for the money and is the cheapest double boiler machine on the market that I'm aware of right now.
If you are prepared to accept the possibility that you may have to swap out the machine at the store, then go for it and consider that machine.. but IMO, there are prosumer grade machines you can buy which will give you decades of trouble free service provided that you maintain them. They won't give you obtuse error codes, they'll just give you coffee.
I wish I could drop $5000 on a setup, but I just can't.
That's understandable. There are coffee geeks on here who are downright masters at producing a decent cup of espresso with equipment that would make any hardcore coffeegeek reel in horror. :-)
When you are buying new, things get expensive fast. When you are buying used, you can pick equipment up for a steal. Used grinders especially. Just so that you know, you don't have to hit the ground running. Yet, you can't have it both ways. If you want quality equipment, you have to pay for it. If you want quality espresso, you have to pay for it. (Fortunately, that's not as expensive.) If you want looks, that's a whole other thing entirely and things start getting expensive quick.
It seems silly to consider looks over the coffee though. What matters more is what is in the cup. You can't taste bling. :-) Although, I will admit, once you start getting past the $1300-$1400 mark in new machines, there are some really beautiful machines out there. Grinders, IMO are designed to be ugly from the get go, excluding the Mahlkonig K30 Vario and the Versalab.. but those are just into crazy money territory. (The exception to this is the HG ONE, which is a work of art, but it's something you have to hand crank. Good luck finding one of those used!)
It seems it is really tough to find a balance between quality and value in espresso
Espresso equipment suffers from one very serious problem. It's still a niche market. As long as espresso equipment stays as a niche market, the equipment will be expensive. The Breville BES900 is a great step towards the commoditization of espresso equipment, but we all still have a long way to go. Espresso equipment is where Microwave Ovens used to be back in the early 1980's, kinda sorta.
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.
calblacksmith Moderator Joined: 25 Nov 2007 Posts: 8,215 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, 7:50pm Subject: Re: Seeking machine/grinder buying advice/alternatives, sub 1k, or save for what
A minor point to your post.
Also considering a cc1 (like looks, price, pid, 58mm, but still thermoblock...right? And no pressure gauge)
Posted December 6, 2013 link Well, pressure gauge isn't all that important on an SBDU. It has a Thermoblock for steam, but uses a PID controlled boiler. For your budget, if the Unica and the Alexia are too expensive for you, the CC1 is a great option for your budget.
I think you intended to say CC1 not SBDU but OTW.... OK :D
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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