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Old 05-11-2009, 12:27 AM   #1
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Default What is a very good Espresso machine

My LOML is a Cappuccino fanatic. She's wanting a very nice machine. Nothing over 500 or so. It'll be her X-Mas gift so I have to start planning now. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.
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Old 05-11-2009, 02:16 AM   #2
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Default Re: What is a very good Espresso machine

i don't want to be a smart-ass, but you answered your own question: 'Nothing over 500'.

The Rancilio Silvia starts at about $600 new, and then you still need a good burr grinder.

The Silvia can make good espresso shots, but it will not be as consistent as a machine with a heat exchanger group head. I upgraded from the Rancilio to a Nuova Simonelli Ocar, and the espresso is much better, and easier to get right. Oscars sell for a little under $1000.

Hope I didn't bum you out, but I don't want to see you waste you money on stuff that doesn't get the job done.
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Old 05-11-2009, 06:10 AM   #3
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Default Re: What is a very good Espresso machine

Bought my wife a Krups at Bed, Bath & Beyond about six months ago and she is loving it. It ran about $ 250. She wears it out daily!!
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Old 05-11-2009, 10:00 AM   #4
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Default Re: What is a very good Espresso machine

I have to add that while the Krups machines are labeled as espresso machines, they're not really producing espresso. It does make a good cup of coffee if you are consistent with how you make it, but all you're really ending up with is a strong cup of coffee, not espresso.

That being said, if you enjoy it, and it works for you, go for it...
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Old 05-11-2009, 10:35 AM   #5
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Default Re: What is a very good Espresso machine

Quote:
Originally Posted by Swampper View Post
...The Rancilio Silvia starts at about $600 new, and then you still need a good burr grinder... ... I don't want to see you waste you money on stuff that doesn't get the job done.
Yeah.

It's hard not to be a buzzkill but good home espresso necessarily starts with a good grinder. A good espresso grinder, these days, begins around Rancilio Rocky territory or 350 American clams. Add to that the requisite tamper, knockbox, frothing pitcher(s), espresso/cappuccino demis and a brace of 2-oz shot glasses and that doesn't leave any scratch for an espresso machine and two pounds of Intelligensia Black Cat to practice on. Damn it, Jim! I'm a doctor not a coffee economist!

Most people start with 2nd tier gear and slowly shovel it out into the garage; a few get the bug and budget-upgrade (over and over). Geniuses (both of them) bought a great grinder and then, long after, decided a great home espresso machine was still a good idea. Good home espresso is a very expensive indulgence, whereas, excellent home coffee is not necessarily insanely expensive. If you wanna do someone you love a real favor, get the best grinder you can afford. Plus a 3-cup Bialetti mokapot. The grinder will perform for a lifetime of great coffee from drip to espresso. If the mokapot gets boring after a year or two or three (mine NEVER get boring, by the way), that leaves the door open for an espresso maker down the road. I swing with the Swampper here, 100%. The 600-clam Silvia is the least you'd want if you REALLY want home espresso to do you proud. Even at that, the nutjobs who care end up modding Silvias like some kind of Mars spacecraft...

Basically, there are fake espresso makers, cheap espresso makers and good espresso makers. The good ones are not cheap and the cheap ones are not good. The fake ones, however, ARE fake.
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Old 05-11-2009, 11:23 AM   #6
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Default Re: What is a very good Espresso machine

I found with expresso equipment, if you don't do it right the first time, you will by the third or 4th try and have dumped more money than you needed to.

I'd love a Mazzer grinder and an Oscar machine, but do very nicely with a Baby Gaggia and a Gaggia MDF grinder and got the whole setup from Wholelattelove for somewhere around the price you are mentioning, maybe a little more.

i love the Baby Gaggia machine but can see a mazzer grinder in my future, in fact I am comparing prices now and am thinking of putting the MDF grinder up for sale or trade.

I agree the Silvia is a great machine and the bare minimum as far as quality goes , but somehow wound up with a Gaggia and don't regret it at all and pull great shots from it every day. In my narrow mind, it is a quality machine.

Speaking of expresso machines, I noticed something funny recently in little Havana, Miami.

Most of the little cafes have very modest decorations and tables and chairs, but i don't think I saw ONE that didn't have a Mazzer grinder and a Rancillio commercial expresso machine and many a really fancy orange juice squeezer.

Toss in the cigars down there, and it seemed as though they have thier priorities in order.
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Old 05-11-2009, 12:33 PM   #7
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Default Re: What is a very good Espresso machine

I have a the Rancilio Rock/Silva set and that will keep you loving the setup for several years. I am ready for an upgrade after owning this for about a decade.

Take a look in Craigslist. I have seen several nice setup's go for 50% off of what a new one would go for. Just the other day I saw a Rocky grinder go for $200ish. Sure they are used, but a nice setup should last a long time, and they are fairly easily repaired if you ever do need to fix it. A gasket on the group head and thermometer is all I have replaced in 10 years! Both are easy do-it-yourself repairs.

Certainly an espresso machine setup is not cheap, but it's not cheap in Italy or Switzerland either; just the name of the game.
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Old 05-11-2009, 03:42 PM   #8
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Default Re: What is a very good Espresso machine

Just to add.. I totally think that if you want a good setup and are a little short on budget, the refurbished stuff from WLL is better than buying new crappy stuff.

I was told that they totally strip the machines and replace all parts that are worn as well as warranty them.

Not sure if it's as good as new, but my grinder has performed flawlessly for 2 years now, as has my Gaggia.
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Old 05-11-2009, 06:37 PM   #9
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Default Re: What is a very good Espresso machine

I have a Breville Caferoma I use it several times a day for the past three years.
I paid around 250.00 great machine.
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Old 05-12-2009, 06:28 AM   #10
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Default Re: What is a very good Espresso machine

Good luck, guy. From your $500 starting point you now have rock solid recommendations from honest brothers for going grinder, going high, going low and going rebuilt in the middle. My take is, we're all right (for different reasons).

(Get the grinder and the moka pot.)
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Old 05-13-2009, 06:15 PM   #11
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Default Re: What is a very good Espresso machine

Brikkas are more fun and less work than regular old mokapots. Mukkas look great, too, and although I've never tried one the videos I've seen look pretty sweet. Consider getting her one of those two (or both!) and an Aeropress.

However, if you drop the cash for good equipment and she gets neurotic enough to make real espresso well, you should be in for a serious treat! Barista at home!
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Old 05-14-2009, 06:04 PM   #12
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Default Re: What is a very good Espresso machine

I love my breville and you can often find deals on them I got mine for about 370 usually goes for about 600. And capresso makes a great burr grinder for about 100 bucks.
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Old 05-15-2009, 07:52 PM   #13
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Default Re: What is a very good Espresso machine

Quote:
Originally Posted by mosesbotbol View Post
I have a the Rancilio Rock/Silva set and that will keep you loving the setup for several years. I am ready for an upgrade after owning this for about a decade.

Take a look in Craigslist. I have seen several nice setup's go for 50% off of what a new one would go for. Just the other day I saw a Rocky grinder go for $200ish. Sure they are used, but a nice setup should last a long time, and they are fairly easily repaired if you ever do need to fix it. A gasket on the group head and thermometer is all I have replaced in 10 years! Both are easy do-it-yourself repairs.

Certainly an espresso machine setup is not cheap, but it's not cheap in Italy or Switzerland either; just the name of the game.
I have the same set up and I'm loving it.
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Old 07-08-2009, 10:33 PM   #14
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Default Re: What is a very good Espresso machine

Bill, I really like my KitchenAid Espresso/Cappi machine. It's all manual operation, so you have to be good to get it right. Mine was about $750 with another $250 in the KitchenAid grinder. You might be able to find them used for the budget you are looking for. I don't use my machine as often as I'd like, but I use the grinder every day.
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Old 07-08-2009, 10:37 PM   #15
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Default Re: What is a very good Espresso machine

+1 on the Rancilio Silvia. It's the cheapest actual espresso machine you can buy. The rest aren't the real thing; they're missing stuffs. However the Solis Maestro will do the espresso grinding job pretty damn decently for $100 reconditioned, $150 new.

For *really* cheap, though it's more like the output of the lesser espresso machines and technically it's espresso strength coffee, I recommend the Aerobie Aeropress very highly.
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Old 07-09-2009, 12:11 AM   #16
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Default Re: What is a very good Espresso machine

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pat1075 View Post
I love my breville and you can often find deals on them I got mine for about 370 usually goes for about 600. And capresso makes a great burr grinder for about 100 bucks.

Yeah, and the way I was grinding a half-pound a day for my habits, that Capresso was dead by the third month. New burrs were nearly as expensive as the machine was.


I bought a used Mazzer Mini from a local coffee shop for $150. It needed a rewiring job (they did SOMETHING to rip off the power cord SOMEHOW) and new burrs, which cost me about $70 bucks shipped.

Given the manufacturing date is sometime 2008, I expect to get, at minimum, a thousand pounds out of this thing before it lets go for good.


Moral of the story is check with your local coffee shop. If you're in real close, they may even buy one and sell it to you at cost (for them Mini's run about $450 I was told).
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Old 07-09-2009, 06:57 AM   #17
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Default Re: What is a very good Espresso machine

Still waiting for my Oscar to arrive but my Baratza Vario arrived with all my espresso toys. I looked at all the usual suspects for a grinder, madcap, mini mazzer, compak k3 and the 24" tall super jolly. The Vario beats all the grinders except for the jolly in blind espresso tasting and it comes in just behind or tying the jolly. It may also be able to switch back and forth from espresso grind to the extreme of press grind with little effort to find the sweet spot returning to espresso, which means 1 grinder on the counter instead of 2. If I have to go with 2 it looks very at home sitting next to the Baratza Virtuoso. The Vario is not stepless but does allow 10 macro grind changes with 22 micro steps of each macro setting. Compared to the Virtuoso it is amazing, I have been over caffeinated dialing in grind for my moka pots, instead of 1 click coarser or finer taking me out of the sweet spot with the virtuoso there are 22 increments at least to play with.

Bored with a moka pot, 20 years of using them and I am still getting more out of the darn things. I have to agree with Mr Moo 100% on grinders, you can't have great coffee without a great grinder.

Edit: Oh yeah...Oscar, Vario, espresso toys $1500... Look on my wife's face, priceless until I realized it was murder in her eyes.
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Old 07-17-2009, 07:38 AM   #18
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Default Re: What is a very good Espresso machine

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silound View Post
Moral of the story is check with your local coffee shop. If you're in real close, they may even buy one and sell it to you at cost (for them Mini's run about $450 I was told).
The Mazzer Mini are up to $599 for new. That probably translates into the $550 range with a phone call but if you just go to amazon expect to pay over $650.
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Old 07-17-2009, 09:38 AM   #19
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Default Re: What is a very good Espresso machine

Humidor Minister? This is Houston. Come in.

Have you made a move yet or have we left you more confused than ever?

I've read it all in this thread and here's my consolidation opinion: if you want to make great cappuccinos for $500 you are shopping hard for used equipment which means you need a mechanics eye to fixing a few things.

a. Silvia IS the first real* espresso machine mentioned for around $600;
b. a $30 AeroPress DOES make a cappuccino-passable brew;
c. a $20 mokapot will produce cappa-passable brew with practice;
d. you gotta have a grinder ($150 to $600); or
e. limit yourself to commercial preground cans (not the greatest but no up front money for grinder); but
f. without the Silvia you need a way to froth milk which means -
i. you need a plunger-frother (cheap but not hardly the real deal), or
ii. you need a stovetop frother mokapot with steam wand (Bellman style**)

Seriously... making a "real" good cappuccino at home is a labor of love and it ain't cheap to play. The combination of a steam-powered stovetop frother (say $50), mokapot or AeroPress ($30) and a low-end burr grinder (which is fine for AeroPress or mokapot - $130) isn't too pricey for very good quality. If you wanna make a not-too-shabby cappa at home with the press and the frother you'd find them OK, too, using commercial espresso pre-ground coffee - thus saving the cost of the grinder.

After the bargain route above there is the Silvia with preground commercial coffee - in your range; or the Silvia with a matching grinder - nearly double your range.

Germ'robs experiences will be interesting on this subject since he recently passed from low-tech mokapot to high-tech HX commercial-guts espresso maker with monster grinder. I am interested to hear how he'll compare a mokapot cappuccino to an Nuova Simonelli Oscar cappuccino.

*sufficient heat, 58mm basket and a three-way solenoid

** I have read very mixed reviews on the Bellman that cover the range from impossible to use to very good. I never hand my hands on one to make an honest call. I suspect it works well if you take the time to really figure it out.
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Old 07-17-2009, 12:58 PM   #20
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Default Re: What is a very good Espresso machine

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mister Moo View Post

Germ'robs experiences will be interesting on this subject since he recently passed from low-tech mokapot to high-tech HX commercial-guts espresso maker with monster grinder. I am interested to hear how he'll compare a mokapot cappuccino to an Nuova Simonelli Oscar cappuccino.
Moo, I believe you said once that going down the path to make real espresso and frothing milk is an exercise of insanity, or something like that. I agree, but man this is some good stuff!

20+ years of pretty much just using a moka pot, I love her dearly and her sisters as well. They are heart broken as they sit there and oxidize while Miss Oscar does her sexy thing. Miss Oscar is an animal, I can have friends come over and we play with her all night and she doesn't complain at all in fact she can satisfy all our needs. Maybe I am just being hard on the old lady since this fine young thing came around and I may long for the company of an old familiar, but at this point I just can't get enough. I visit Miss Oscar 3 times in the morning ( gotta get my 3rd cappa in before 10am) once or twice for a quicky after lunch and my wife joins in when she gets home from work.

Can a moka pot come close to a true espresso? NO, not even close. A moka pot is a great way to brew and should be enjoyed and figured out as exactly what it is, a moka pot.

I will say the AeroPress delivers a closer representation of an espresso taste. I will try one with some frothed milk from Miss Oscar and get back to that (Ha, it happened again, I thought about brewing a different way and it just isn't going to happen yet). The AeroPress, a microwave, and a battery hand frother should put you in the game for $50 if you have the microwave, $100 if you don't. I would not turn down a false cappa from this setup and would enjoy it as well if the beans and water are up to my standards that is.

Even if a person has money to burn and bought a great espresso machine (easily can spend $10k) if they don't know how to use their machine it is worthless. That is why there are super auto machines, they can't do it as well as a real person that knows what they are doing but they will do a good job. Now I am a complete newb to this espresso machine thing but as a roaster I am obsessed with the taste of coffee so it only natural for me to gravitate towards having my own machine. That's my story and I am sticking to it. Even as a newb I was able to get some of the local cafe's fresh beans and tune in after a few attempts the same shot the owner pulls (this is why you must have a good, no a great grinder). Frothing milk is a different story, I have practiced with 2 gallons and can only get decent foam 50% of the time and 10% of the time I can get some microfoam, so this is the hard part for me.

Something else about buying equipment at this level is the attention the good shops and the companies that make this equipment give you. They have been excellent taking their time and getting things working proper with a newb like me. N.S. is sending a smaller hole frothing tip to help with my piss poor abilities. Baratza has been working with me to re-calibrate the Vario fine grind, I am waiting to here from Kyle the designer of the Vario to get his help with tuning it just right. Kyra, the VP from Baratza just wants to send me a new one since it seems like I got one of first shipments that seems to have been calibrated for a coarser grind.

This has been a pleasure getting involved with the crazy world of espresso.
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