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Suggestions for newbie espresso maker to make great latte drinks
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > Suggestions for...  
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SeaNile
Senior Member


Joined: 11 Apr 2012
Posts: 13
Location: Chadds Ford, PA
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Wed Apr 11, 2012, 5:52am
Subject: Suggestions for newbie espresso maker to make great latte drinks
 

Newbie here and have been reading this site and forum for days now.  My wife, who is a Starbucks addict, wants to buy an espresso maker for our home.  Not knowing all the ins and outs of the machines, styles, beans, grinders, etc., I have become confused quickly.

Here are the basics.  The machine would be used 2-3x a day and would be used to make milky drinks 95% of the time.  As long as the latte is not bitter and has great foam then my wife is happy with the outcome.  We originally thought a fully automatic would be the way to go then i started reading on here and then thought a separate machine grinder is the best choice.  This AM we looked at what we really need and it does boil down to easy of use and back to the great foam and no bitter taste.  With 2 young kids and the typical morning rush to get to school I am not sure if a grinder/machine would work for us.

Realizing a fully automatic machine is a compromise, based on our needs/desires does it seem to be the best way to go?  Not sure on budget but around $1000 is fine...

Thanks for the help and suggestions!

JK
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JasonBrandtLewis
Senior Member
JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,467
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 Wed Apr 11, 2012, 6:42am
Subject: Re: Suggestions for newbie espresso maker to make great latte drinks
 

John, first of all, welcome to CG . . .

There is a problem with your request -- from a "coffee geek" point-of-view -- you aren't a coffee geek.  Well, not yet anyway!  ;^)  You want great drinks, easily, with little effort.  And that's fine!  But it's also much harder to do than you (appear to) realize.  And as for quickly becoming confused, relax!  That happens to EVERYONE who first comes here.

When I read your post, the two things that stand out to me are:

SeaNile Said:

As long as the latte is not bitter and has great foam then my wife is happy with the outcome.

Posted April 11, 2012 link

and

SeaNile Said:

we looked at what we really need and it does boil down to easy of use and back to the great foam and no bitter taste.

Posted April 11, 2012 link

At this point, the "guiding principle," if you will, should be "The Four M's of Espresso."

The Four M's of Espresso:
1) the Macinazione is the grinder, and with it, the correct grinding of the coffee beans;
2) the Miscela is the coffee beans/blend itself;
3) the Macchina is the espresso machine; and
4) the Mano is the skilled hand of the barista.

"When each factor of the four M's is precisely controlled, the espresso beverage that is produced is the ultimate coffee experience."

In other words, the responsibility for "great foam" and "no bitter taste" lies with the person operating the equipment.  No machine is going to "guarantee" that.

Given your present situation -- "mak(ing) milky drinks 95% of the time"; "2 young kids and the typical morning rush to get to school"; etc. -- I actually think that you would be best served by super-automatic machine (what you have been calling a "fully automatic" machine; a full automatic is something else entirely).  And I never recommend super-autos, except for small office environments where no one has the time nor the inclination to actually operate and maintain the equipment manually.  But there are certainly times when super-autos are great for home situations, as well, and I think this is one of them.

I would contact a store like Seattle Coffee Gear -- look at their videos of super-automatics, then call their toll-free number and ask their advice.  They are a highly regarded and trusted vendor by many people on this site (I have never used them).  Another option would be Whole Latte Love.  I would not buy a machine from a department store or a place like Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table; I would look to a store whose business is espresso.

Cheers,
Jason

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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SeaNile
Senior Member


Joined: 11 Apr 2012
Posts: 13
Location: Chadds Ford, PA
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Wed Apr 11, 2012, 7:20am
Subject: Re: Suggestions for newbie espresso maker to make great latte drinks
 

Great advice, thanks!  So after a stop at Starbucks, Whole Foods and 3 phone calls not one person recommended a super-auto.  The research and shopping continues....
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takeshi
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takeshi
Joined: 12 Oct 2002
Posts: 1,006
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Alex Duetto 3.0
Grinder: Super Jolly
Roaster: Amaya Roasting
Posted Wed Apr 11, 2012, 7:32am
Subject: Re: Suggestions for newbie espresso maker to make great latte drinks
 

A recommendation isn't useful if it isn't considering your specific needs/wants.  No CoffeeGeek would generally recommend a superauto but if convenience is your top priority then a superauto (or Nespresso, etc) may be a good fit.

SeaNile Said:

As long as the latte is not bitter and has great foam then my wife is happy with the outcome.

Posted April 11, 2012 link

Again, it really depends on your preferences.  I have yet to be happy with the texturing of milk for a latte from any superauto but your bar may be set at a different point.

SeaNile Said:

We originally thought a fully automatic would be the way to go then i started reading on here and then thought a separate machine grinder is the best choice.

Posted April 11, 2012 link

Best is always highly subjective, regardless of the topic.  A good grinder and a semiauto can produce better results in the cup but will come with a steeper learning curve.  Whether that's best for you and your wife is an entirely separate matter and it should be your foremost concern.

If you've been happy with Starbucks then I suspect that you don't need the advice of CoffeeGeeks who don't find Starbucks drinkable.  Always consider the source.
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azerik
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azerik
Joined: 6 Jun 2009
Posts: 281
Location: tempe
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Expobar Pulser, Cuisenart...
Grinder: Compak K6
Drip: Hario Pour over
Roaster: Bemhor
Posted Wed Apr 11, 2012, 8:22am
Subject: Re: Suggestions for newbie espresso maker to make great latte drinks
 

Sadly the Super Auto my uncle has makes fluffy clouds of foam. He seems to like it as it yields about 6 oz of 'latte' and 10 oz volume of foam. He's a starbucks drinker and goes for consistency over quality. He consistently has lots of foam so he's happy. The only supers I;ve seen that make a coffee 'house' style latte are $3k+ Trying to do all that in one might come back to bite you. Another option would be something like a Nepresso and a Milk frother. My experiance has been if they try to make 1 machine be 4 (or 5 if you count the barista as one) they skim out on 2 or more of the machines. Hence the grinder might be crap but it makes great foam, vise versa. Perhaps a HX machine with pods (yup I said it) would be consistant, Frothing milk really isn't that hard but it does take adjustments that super autos don't do in order to get micro foam. My wife has still yet to attempt to grind-tamp-pull, but she'll froth her own milk in 25 seconds. Just a thought.
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Coffeenoobie
Senior Member
Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 3,052
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Wed Apr 11, 2012, 10:22am
Subject: Re: Suggestions for newbie espresso maker to make great latte drinks
 

After 5-6 months of doing the espresso thing I am getting much better but I still can't seem to get one made fast in the morning and I can't really imagine trying to do that with kids.  I love doing it on the weekends/evenings.  I like the ritual.  In the morning on the way to work I still take my cold brew and toss it in a large travel cup and top with milk and sugar and stir. (some days chocolate) That seems to be all I can handle in the mornings.  YMMV.  

Even so, I am not wishing I had a super auto.  I am glad I got my semi auto because when I want to do something different the machine lets me do it.

 
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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Coffeenoobie
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Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 3,052
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Wed Apr 11, 2012, 11:07am
Subject: Re: Suggestions for newbie espresso maker to make great latte drinks
 

I see a lot of super auto capsule machines on craigslist cheap.  If I did the super auto route I might spend as little on it as possible so if you upgrade to a real espresso machine in the near future it will not as big a deal and then your wife could take the cheap one to work or what-have-you.

 
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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SeaNile
Senior Member


Joined: 11 Apr 2012
Posts: 13
Location: Chadds Ford, PA
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Wed Apr 11, 2012, 5:23pm
Subject: Re: Suggestions for newbie espresso maker to make great latte drinks
 

Watched a few youtube videos and the semi-autos seem to be the way to go.  I like the idea of grinding the beans and making your own cup.  Sure it looks like a small mess and takes a bit of time but the results seem to be well worth the effort.
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calblacksmith
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calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,950
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major
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Drip: Msl. Com. brewers
Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Wed Apr 11, 2012, 5:54pm
Subject: Re: Suggestions for newbie espresso maker to make great latte drinks
 

Your chances for a good cup are MUCH higher with a semi or full auto. A SUPERauto, will be OK at best and they have a tendency to need lots of repair and expensive ones at that.

If your main interest is milk drinks, look to a HX machine. It will cost more right now but they can crank out milk drinks like no ones business. You can steam your milk at the same time as you are pulling the shot, thus saving a lot of time, you will always have steam at hand and there is no waiting for the machine to switch between steam mode and espresso mode.

You will need a good grinder so expect to start looking at the $300+ mark for one that you will not out grow in 3 months, new electric grinders anyway, hand cranked grinders that are able to do espresso are a bit less but there is LOTS of hand crank turning with them so be sure you know what you want before you buy.

 
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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SeaNile
Senior Member


Joined: 11 Apr 2012
Posts: 13
Location: Chadds Ford, PA
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Wed Apr 11, 2012, 6:30pm
Subject: Re: Suggestions for newbie espresso maker to make great latte drinks
 

Now we are getting somewhere!  I like that advice.  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?

Thanks again.

John
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