Joel_B Senior Member Joined: 9 Oct 2007 Posts: 1,826 Location: Pacific NW Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: Astra Mega II Grinder: Mazzer SJ, Virtuoso Vac Pot: Yama 5 cup Drip: nope, french press Roaster: Behmor, WP, BBQ drum
Posted Wed Apr 11, 2012, 7:56pm Subject: Re: Suggestions for newbie espresso maker to make great latte drinks
Hey John, welcome to coffeegeek!
Just to support, Wayne's recommendation of an HX, if you're making more than one milk drink at a time, a HX or double boiler is the way to go. It'll also be more forgiving (generally speaking) than a single boiler/dual use machine. And there's more! HX machines have crazy steaming power which you'll appreciate with building the drinks.
A semi auto like you're thinking is going to be more of a routine than a super auto, there's also a learning curve. But what I've learned is you do the routine enough times you don't think about the effort; you just do it because it's part of your routine like getting kids off to school.
Two entry level HX machines that come to mine are the bezzera and ns Oscar (sorry, don't have links at the moment). Both just over $1k. Grinders, new I'd look at a baratza Vario or Preciso. Used opens some options and Wayne may be able to help you out there.
OT: Wayne! When did you more than double my post count lol? Have I been gone that long?
calblacksmith Moderator Joined: 25 Nov 2007 Posts: 8,266 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 Thu Apr 12, 2012, 6:06am Subject: Re: Suggestions for newbie espresso maker to make great latte drinks
Great starter machines Joel. My first real machine was an Oscar. It is a great starter machine in the HX class. It is very counter friendly, has more than enough power for any family and I even used it for small events of up to about 30 people though not everyone was drinking coffee. To pair that with a good grinder your advice is again spot on. It would be hard to get more bang for the buck than what you recommended.
OH, as to the post count, I really need to get a life!
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!
JasonBrandtLewis Senior Member Joined: 9 Dec 2005 Posts: 6,598 Location: Berkeley, CA Expertise: I live coffee
Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -... Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -... Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup Drip: CCD, Chemex Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Thu Apr 12, 2012, 7:11am Subject: Re: Suggestions for newbie espresso maker to make great latte drinks
See, John? You're starting to become a coffee geek already! ;^) Congratulations for making the "mental switch" away from the super-auto -- yes, it will require a bit more effort on your part, but the exponential increase in quality is (IMHO) well worth the effort! And the good news is that, very quickly and with relatively little effort, you'll be making drinks so good that your wife will be wondering how she ever could stand that *$ swill . . .
If the HX type machine excel in milk drinks that is what we need. Like a mentioned, about $1000 is the budget but it is not set in stone. Are the HX machines listed as such on store websites? Care to recommend a specific HX and grinder?
OK, John . . . ready? Long post, but -- IMHO -- worth it. So, let's start at the beginning, OK?
ONE way to classify espresso machines is by their method/mechanism/capabilities for producing the shot.
-- Manual machines do not have a pump. They rely on the operator to force the water through the puck by use of a lever. With some machines, the lever is controlled manually by the operator -- like with the La Pavoni Europicola, or the Olympia Cremina. The operator lifts the lever up and pulls it down, pushing the water through the puck. With other machines, the lever may be spring-operated, like with the Elektra Micro Casa a Leva, the Bezzera B2006AL, or the Rancilio Class 6 LE models, in which the lever is controlled by a spring -- the operator pulls the lever down, and then a spring draws the lever back to the "up" position, moving the piston and forcing the water through the puck.
-- Semi-automatic machines have a pump to force the water through the puck, but the operator turns the pump on-and-off. Examples would include the machines like Gaggia Classic, the Faema Legend (the original E61 machine), or the Izzo Alex Duetto II -- which are, respectively, an SDBU, an HX, and a DB machine -- all in semi-automatic formats.
-- Full-automatic machines, also known as volumetric dosing machines, have a pump to force the water through the puck, like a semi-auto, but after a certain volume of water is dispensed (programed by the operator), the pump will shut itself off automatically. HOWEVER, the pump can also be shut off manually, just as with a semi-automatic. Examples would include the Bezzera BZ07sde, the Elektra Sixties T1, and the La Marzocco Linea AV models. Each of these , by the way, is also produced as a semi-automatic -- the Bezzera BZ07spm, the Elektra Sixties A3 (now discontinued, although plenty of other semi-autos are still made by Elektra), and the La Marzocco Linea EE models.
-- Super-automatic machines do everything for the user, who merely has to push a button, wait, and drink. These machines will grind the beans, tamp the puck, push the water through the grounds, froth the milk . . . everything. Examples include everything from a Gaggia Titanium, the Jura-Capresso Impressa S9, and the Faema X3 Prestige.
THEN you can classify machines by their boiler type (and please note, I am ignoring thermoblock units):
-- Open boiler machines are relatively rare, and date back many decades. These can heat the water for espresso, but cannot build up any pressure to steam milk. To the best of my knowledge, this are all manual lever machines, and include machines like the Arrarex Caravel and the FE-AR La Peppina.
-- Single Boiler Dual Use (SBDU) machines are the most popular machines for home use. These have one boiler and two thermostats; the boiler will either heat the water within to brewing temperature or to steaming temperature. The operator must wait for the boiler to move up/move down before continuing, i.e.: the machine can only brew or it can steam milk -- one or the other -- at a time. The best known example, at least here in the States, would be the Rancilio Silvia
-- Heat Exchanger (HX) machines also have one boiler, but it is permanently set to steaming temperature. Cool water, either from a built-in reservoir ("tank") or from a water line ("plumbed-in" or "direct connect"), is then flash heated to brew temp via the use of a heat exchanger. Examples would include machines like the Izzo Alex II, Quick Mill Anita, or the Vibiemme Domobar Super.
ALSO, machines can be classified by their components, if you will, and their target market.
-- Consumer machines are just that, designed for home use by the consumer.
-- Professional (or commercial) machines are designed for high-volume use in busy cafés, restaurants, etc. They use more robust parts than consumer models, able to withstand their heavy, constant usage.
-- "Prosumer" machines fill in the gap; they are actually low-volume commercial machines that can also by used in a home environment.
So you can have a commercial lever machine, or a consumer lever machine; a full-automatic HX prosumer model, as well as a full-auto HX commercial model, and so on and so on and so on . . . .
OK, so now you know (approximately) the differences between machine types and why an HX is so much better at milk drinks than a super-auto or an SBDU. But . . .
A recommendation isn't useful if it isn't considering your specific needs/wants
Standard Questions: 1) What kind of drinks do you like/want to make? (This will tell us what you need in terms of a machine's capabilities.) 2) How many drinks, on average, do you see yourself needing to make at ay one time? (This will tell us what you need in terms of a machine's ability to work continuously.) 3) How many drinks, on average, do you see yourself making in any given week? (This will tell us what you need in terms of a machine's durability.) 4) Can you plumb a machine directly into the water supply, or do you want/need a pourover machine with its own reservoir? 5) Do you have a 20-amp circuit available, or only a (standard) 15-amp circuit? 6) What is your budget for a new machine? Does that also include a grinder? If not, what is your budget for a grinder?
We know you want 1) mostly milk drinks, and we know 6) that your budget is approximately $1,000 -- but does that include the grinder?
Answer the above, and you'll get some specific recommendations. The more specific you are, the better the recommendations will be. In the meantime, take a look at these machines (listed in alphabetical order):
espresso_jim Senior Member Joined: 13 Jun 2002 Posts: 325 Location: Austin, TX Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: Mini Vivaldi II Grinder: Mazzer Mini E Drip: Technivorm Moccamaster... Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Thu Apr 12, 2012, 7:47am Subject: Re: Suggestions for newbie espresso maker to make great latte drinks
....and of course, the "Mano" part. Once you get whatever equipment, there will be a learning curve. However, once you get comfortable with your grinder and espresso machine, I think you will discover that making espresso shots and other drinks won't really take any more time than making a pot of brewed coffee and that includes cleaning your equipment, too.
I do have a timer on my espresso machine so it it is ready to go when I get up. I can pull two drinks in less time than it took to write this response. I clean up and have spent no more time than I would making coffee and cleaning a regular coffee (drip) machine.
New things take time to learn but does become more routine as you go along. However, I think you will discover the real reason we coffee geeks do what we do. You will also learn why most of us really do not like espresso shots/drinks from the big chain/commercial stores.
All this does not have to cost an arm and a leg so keep reading, researching and learning. Welcome to our corner of the world.
ccolton Senior Member Joined: 23 Jan 2012 Posts: 132 Location: Wilmington DE Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: Bezzera BZ07 Grinder: Le 'lit PL53
Posted Thu Apr 12, 2012, 11:10am Subject: Re: Suggestions for newbie espresso maker to make great latte drinks
Welcome to the CG forum.
I went through a similar search recently and, based upon recommendations here, decided to purchase the BZ07 with a LeLit PL53 grinder. Here are my impressions: First, everything Jason said, especially about the 4 rules; second, I found that I was making consistent and very tasty lattes within about 3 weeks - with a lot of input from everyone at this site; third, I am extremely pleased with my purchases and so would recommend them to you.
A little background; I am a value consumer so price is not my primary constraint; e.g., I was considering a much more expensive machine and a less expensive machine. After listening to the advice here, I decided that the BZ07 was a great value and I have not been disappointed. Is it the perfect machine, no. But, as mentioned, I am making great coffee. I also think the look of the machine is important - the BZ07 is smaller than similar quality HX machines and I like the joysticks better than knobs. That, of course, is personal preferenece.
I must also say that the beans I use, fresh and highly recommended here, are so different (better!) from *$ that they deserve a lot of the credit for the great coffee I am drinking - back to Jason's rules!
I like my grinder and it works great for me. It looks good, not great, but what's most important for my use is the stepless grind settings capability. The negative, of course, is that when I change coffees, I need to remember the number of turns and direction to dial in the new grind setting. Is the grinder recommended here better than this one - maybe. You should look at more than one.
I am the weak-link in this espresso-making-chain! But, it all seems to be working out. My biggest problem now seems to be that I drink way too much coffee!
Finally, I have had a couple of issues with my machine that may be worth noting: a spec of tiny detrius or debris clogged a valve - this could have come from the machine, my water, who knows - 1st line took care of the problem; the wand has sprung a tiny leak - I suspect a wrench and a little torque should solve this problem.
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