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Espresso Machine Recommendations Please

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Chuckles

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My wife and I are celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary this week. We are looking to gift ourselves an espresso machine for the occasion. I am beginning the search now and have been around here long enough to know the right answer is going to come from KKF. Budget tops out around $1500. That would have to cover the grinder too if it is separate. I don’t drink milk but my wife does occasionally go for a cappuccino. The focus is mostly on excellent crema. I know that my budget doesn’t enter the realm of many of the machines I have adored at some of my previous jobs. I am wondering what is out there that KKF members are using and enjoying and why.
 

Moooza

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For that price range, the Breville dual boiler is probably the best value, with money left over for some accessories.

Also, I don't like the taste of crema, it's just a sign of good extraction I think.

I love the Cafelat Robot at the moment. But obviously it's a completely manual machine with no milk frothing ability.

The Niche Zero grinder is pretty good too, but the wait time is a few months unless you can find local stock.
 
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WildBoar

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Recommend sourcing a good used grinder on CraigsList, eBay, etc. A Mazzer or similar. This is more important than the espresso machine. For the machine, a Silvia with PID would be good for a few years (lots of used ones out there, too), until you can eventually spring for a solid double boiler. A used La Pavoni lever machine lever machine might be a good alternate.
 

Chuckles

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Thank you for the ideas. The Silvia looks like the front runner and first glance. Hadn’t thought to look for a used grinder that is a great idea! This seems like I am him going to have to dive in a bit to figure out. I am a little concerned about height after looking at pictures. I will have to measure counter to cabinet height tomorrow.

Thanks guys and keep the recommendations coming!!
 

MarcelNL

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Wildboar said it all, invest in a grinder, look for a second hand good pro quality burr grinder like Mazzer *Major, Super Jolly, Robur), Fiorenzato, Macap, Mahlkonig etc. bar grinders are usually built to last.

Buy the best you can as the grinder is much more important than the machine, clean it, install new burrs and go look for an espresso machine. Used SIlvia w PID is a good tip,depending on your usage a vintage lever of some sorts might be a nice start and it should also not break the bank unless you go crazy and want a really rare sought after model.

Grinders pop up regularly for reasonable prices, do your research on list prices as sometimes prices on the net are insane (used Mazzer Major ; ask price over 1k)
BTW: at home the large hoppers don't make sense, mods are out there to use it without making fitting it under cabinets easier.

Freshly roasted coffee is your next mission, check if you favor Arabica beans or blends with Robusta (which produces lots of crema next to the burnt car tyre taste it usually comes with)
 

Luftmensch

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Congratulations for your 15th anniversary 🎉. Thats great! :)

Good advice given so far. Particularly the advice to buy used. You can buy better quality for cheaper. If you buy used you might be able to find an Isomac, Vibiemme or Rocket at the right price.

These things can be robust - so if you do your homework, buying used is not so risky. I purchased a used Rocket Giotto for about 20% of the current equivalent. Albeit, it is 17 years old (or more) - the first model in its line. This was when commercial units were being 'domesticated'. Now the semi-commercial market is much bigger and the units are offering more features. My Rocket used to be in a mid-sized office of about ~100 people punching out coffees all day. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. A good machine can last indefinitely if you take care of it and keep it maintained (you should keep in mind you will want to either do that yourself or expect to pay for it on the odd occasion). Once in a blue moon you might have to replace a burnt out heating element or pump.

On the grinder, i would recommend stepless/micro adjustment. It is amazing how much little adjustment can change the flow rate through the group head. Also try and buy the biggest burr you can. It doesn't necessarily mean the coffee will be better. The machine will grind faster and be designed for high duty cycles. You may appreciate that if you have lots of guests over or want to grind volume for cold brew. The Rancilio Rocky is a pretty canonical entry-to-the-high-end home grinder (although it is stepped). In a similar price bracket I would preference the Mazzer Mini with its micro adjustments.

If coffee is an integral part of your daily rituals, you are spending your money well. Good coffee in the kitchen has made working from home pretty great.

Keep us updated!



Post note edit: I have tacitly assumed E61 group head machines. If you don't know what that standard is, it is the group head design that most semi-commercial and commercial machine are based on (sorry if you do know and I am over explaining). It is a big ecosystem, you are less likely to get vendor lock-in and will have more interoperable parts. I feel it also implies higher quality with correspondingly higher entry prices. While E61 would be my strong recommendation (and not Breville etc), I am sure there are other ecosystems that produce great coffee!
 
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Bensbites

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One piece of advice I heard was to plan on spending half your budget or more on the grinder. One think you didn’t mention was fully orvssmi auto.
I would also look at the main range required on any machine before you cut it.
 

ma_sha1

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I need an expresso machine too, just need a department store budet model, single serving size the smaller the better, but I want one with stainless steel boiler. Does anyone know what model has stainless boiler? I am trying to avoid aluminum.
 

lowercasebill

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I have had a silvia and rocky doserless grinder for years couldnt be happier
If you are in USA go to whole latte love. They got lots to choose from and they arr very helpful.
 

MoabDave

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Also recommend whole latte love. Also, coffeegeek.com is kind of the KKF of coffee. I haven't been on there for years, but it used to be super useful.
 

beneficialapricot

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Eureka mignon specialita + rancillio silvia. I have this grinder myself and love it, but I have a dual boiler since I make lots of milk drinks. If you don't, the silvia is an awesome option, especially if you can get one with a PID installed.
 

slickmamba

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I would get something with a PID. The silvia is solid, easily accessible PID upgrade, e61, nice wand and power, but has a single boiler. The breville dual boiler is solid, costco used to have it for 1000, bedbathbeyond has the coupon you can apply for it. You might be able to find a solid rocket or silvia already upgraded used on reddit or homebarista.

As for grinder, the sette is pretty solid and will fit in your budget with a decent machine, but takes up alot of space. I personally use a hand grinder(kinu).
 

Jaszer13

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Big congrats on the 15!

I will most likely get a lot of **** for this, but I use the Saeco PicoBaristo. I found it at the local HomeGoods for like $699. Usual retail is $1099. The Crema is more on the medium range, but I find that the more mileage I put on it the better it gets.

I brought it to my office to get more use out of it and about 10 co-workers started using it on a daily basis, so it has seen over 1K espresso cups in a year and it has worked flawlessly.

Hear me out though. Going with a "Super-automatic" machine in my opinion out weighs the minor quality difference between the hand pressed units. I had a Bezzera BZ10 before and I honestly just spent my mornings waiting for it to heat up (15 mins!), grinding the beans then cleaning that damn machine.

Now, I can have a double espresso poured out in under 4 mins when the machine is cold and 2 mins when already hot. I enjoy the extra time I get in the mornings more than the "better" espresso I would get out of my Old Bezzera. Plus, I can easily brew up a cap as the milk carafe is removable and can be stored in the fridge.
 

Chuckles

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So something like this does seems very intriguing to me so far. I like the durability and robust build it seems to boast as compared to the Breville machine.


There seems to be some consensus that the PID would go a long way to making the machine more foolproof for the less passionate users in the house.

I think my wife was maybe thinking something more along the lines of the Saeco PicoBaristo mentioned by @Jaszer13. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. There are so many variables in the coffee world, it certainly feels like jumping into straight razor shaving like I did a few months ago.

Now gotta find a grinder...
 

Tristan

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Second Rocket.
However with that total Budget I would urge you to read up on Expobar dual boiler. Full E61 group head and really solid build for the low price

Grinder many options, but a used and well loved higher end grinder might be the ticket. Else check out Malkonig good for home use and fairly inexpensive
 

Luftmensch

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I don’t drink milk but my wife does occasionally go for a cappuccino
Just highlighting this.... If you are only making the occasional cappuccino, a single boiler will be fine. Dual boiler machines are great! But it is a feature that doesnt match your needs. Allocate the money towards a better single boiler

On PIDs, since they have been raised, they are a nice feature but not one that becomes the difference between a good coffee and a bad coffee. Again, skipping this feature may save you money (better grinder?).


There are so many variables in the coffee world, it certainly feels like jumping into straight razor shaving like I did a few months ago.
I think you and I would get along! This is part of the reason I suggest E61. If you really want to play around and explore the space, there tend to be quite a few products for these machines (and even mods/hacks). On the other hand, if you just want to learn to make a decent a coffee with the machine you have (and not decent into madness; aka coffeegeek.com :p)*, then a basic E61 machine without bells and whistles will serve you very well.


My utilitarian take on it is: with any good E61 (basic or fancy), the biggest variables affecting the quality of a shot are the grind settings and how you packed the portafilter. Inconsistencies created by the machines do exist but they arent the primary source of variance. You are. And trust me, there is a wide range of grind settings and ways you can pack a portafilter that make a really, really nice coffee. The system isn't that fragile and it isn't hard to find a good spot. All the bells and whistles (expense) and obsession (time) make it easier for you to repeatably make the so called 'god shot'. But that doesn't mean all the other shots are 'bad' in anyway!

Point being; I think a well-built, single boiler E61 without bells and whistles, paired with a stepless/micro adjustment grinder will offer you plenty of variables to play with. It will be capable of making truly excellent coffee and be your cheapest entry into the high-quality bracket.



* surely somebody out there on coffeegeek.com is saying "look, if you want a decent knive that cuts well without being obsessive about it" 😂
 

Moooza

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Just back on the crema thing, I bought some emergency beans today from a lower quality roaster (covid reasons - better beans on the way).

For my usual 17g in 36g out, I got so much crema, like 1cm thick. But it was not a good coffee. The beans were over-roasted, were too fresh (they couldn't tell me roast date), and my grind size was slightly too fine so it was a bit over-extracted with some slight woody flavours.

Anyway, I'll let it sit, do a longer pre-infusion, change grind settings, etc. to help, but the large amount of crema was not an indication of a good shot.
 

Corradobrit1

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I need an expresso machine too, just need a department store budet model, single serving size the smaller the better, but I want one with stainless steel boiler. Does anyone know what model has stainless boiler? I am trying to avoid aluminum.
I owned one of these LaCimbali Junior's before I got my current manual lever machine. It has a SS boiler. They can be purchased quite cheap used.
 

Chuckles

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Thanks all for pointing me in the direction of Whole Latte Love. It’s a great site, reminds me of some of our fantastic vendors here at KKF.

When I started looking at size the Bezzera Hobby has begun to take the lead. Good capacity at 3L. Love the small footprint for my small kitchen.



Grinder:

I make coffee at 4:30am and my kitchen is very close to my kids’ rooms. Is there a volume factor I should be keeping in mind when looking at grinders?

When looking at the Rocket grinders is there a distinct advantage to the doserless version?

I just saw this one and might be falling in love. It is refurbished too for a price break. It says mini so I am assuming it is smaller than the rocket. Thoughts?


These two look pretty ideal to me at this point. This is quickly turning into a speak now or forever hold your peace scenario. :)

Am I missing anything that I should know?
 

GoodMagic

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I have a rancillio sylvie and rocky both from WLL, bought 20 years ago, both going strong. I don’t think you can do much better for the price. The sylvie makes a nice crema, but you need to get the grind right and you need to have a good tamper. The frothing bar on my machine is suboptimal but I think they redid it a while ago. The rocky is a bargain and is one solid grinder. The burrs last a long time, in fact I think mine are the original ones. Good luck and congrats.
 

Moooza

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I would still consider the Niche Zero grinder. It's very quiet comparatively, and generally highly recommended. Single dosing will change your workflow, but I definitely prefer it, YMMV.
 

Corradobrit1

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I have a rancillio sylvie and rocky both from WLL, bought 20 years ago, both going strong. I don’t think you can do much better for the price. The sylvie makes a nice crema, but you need to get the grind right and you need to have a good tamper. The frothing bar on my machine is suboptimal but I think they redid it a while ago. The rocky is a bargain and is one solid grinder. The burrs last a long time, in fact I think mine are the original ones. Good luck and congrats.
Thats the setup i started out with. Really needs PID to shine though.
 

Corradobrit1

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And remember to source freshly roasted, high quality beans. The best grinder or machine won't make bad beans taste good. I usually go to Klatch, Redbird, Caffe Lusso or Chris' Coffee, buy 5lb bags (free shipping) and portion 250g quantities into zip lok bags and freeze.
 

Luftmensch

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Is there a volume factor I should be keeping in mind when looking at grinders?
For coffee machines, rotary pumps are quieter than vibrating pumps (can be quite loud). And for grinders... generally speaking bigger can be quieter.... So that might be another factor encouraging you to buy the biggest grinder you can.


is there a distinct advantage to the doserless version
Depends on your workflow.... Grinders with dosers are really for high throughput. You can set the grinder on without bothering to monitor what volume of grounds enter the doser chamber - you know you will use them for that queue of orders lining up. The doser just means you can fill the portafiter without a cascade of grounds spilling everywhere. So yeah... the advantage is efficiency in a cafe environment. But there is no advantage at home (and just another part to clean and maintain).

At home 'grind-as-you-need-it' makes more sense, that way you always have fresh coffee grounds. I have a big grinder with a fairly ludicrous bean hopper. Each time I make a coffee I put one measured amount of beans in the top and grind them directly into the portafilter. So the bean hopper is close to being simply aesthetic!!

I wouldnt avoid a grinder because it had a doser (the Mini Mazzer is great)... but all things being equal, I'd buy the grinder without one.




I would still consider the Niche Zero grinder.
Nice grinder but probably too expensive for this budget :)
 

QCDawg

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Thank you for the ideas. The Silvia looks like the front runner and first glance. Hadn’t thought to look for a used grinder that is a great idea! This seems like I am him going to have to dive in a bit to figure out. I am a little concerned about height after looking at pictures. I will have to measure counter to cabinet height tomorrow.

Thanks guys and keep the recommendations coming!!
I had that rancillio for damn near 10 years till it quit. Neapolitan Italian fella picked it for me.. told me not to get a bunch of spendier ****.It was awesome. Great portafilter double and single size. Grind was the key ..get his brother, the Rocky..for the grinding. Course enough for French press, fine enough for espresso. Enough pressure for beautiful crema. Watch that tank in the back tho...keep it full ... she’s an “always on”..And if you let it all boil out? It will burn up the hose in the machine. Just my $.02
 

WildBoar

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Mazzer Mini is a great grinder. You can pull off the top hopper, load the beans, and put an extra tamper in the throat so it fits under a counter.

But please know any grinder like this will be loud. Just a fact of life. But is is definitely a worthwhile grinder for espresso.

Mine has a doser, but I really do not use it as such. I grind for each pour. I do not leave grinds for later shots, as the ground coffee goes downhill fast.
 

captaincaed

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I'll second wildboar. Fresh grind is chemically important to crema since you're doing a solid state extraction/emulsification. Old ground coffee, especially so fine, offgases really quickly and you lose the ability to make crema.

If your kids complain, you can sell them into hard labor and use the proceeds to buy a Synesso.

Edit : yeah that hand grinder sounds like a better idea
 
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