qualin Senior Member Joined: 30 Jun 2012 Posts: 458 Location: Calgary, AB Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: Izzo Alex Duetto 3 Grinder: Mazzer Mini Elect. Type A Vac Pot: Looking to buy Drip: Manual Roaster: Considering?
Posted Wed Sep 5, 2012, 2:32am Subject: Re: Whats a decent espresso for a novice in the $100-$200 range?
I would say you'd be hard pressed to make decent espresso for $200. It is doable if you keep your eyes open and know what to look for.
There are plenty of "Prefab" solutions on the market, Nespresso, Tassimo, Dolce Gusto, etc on the market which will make you passable drink.
Sometimes there are downright crazy promotions on these machines because they use the "Gillette Razor Blade" style of marketing. ie. The machine is cheap, but the coffee on a per cup basis is quite expensive. (At least, compared to grind your own coffee.)
I have a friend of mine who has a Tassimo and he personally can't see much of a difference between what his machine makes as a cappuccino and what I make as a cappuccino, except that my cappuccinos have a lot more foam on them. :)
Personally, I find that the Tassimo makes a very artificial tasting cappuccino, but the coffee is passable and does the job. Two cappuccinos from a Tassimo gives me as much of a rush as one cappuccino from my Silvia. :) I figured I can probably make a cap for probably about $0.50 a cup. Whereas it costs him roughly around $4 in cups to make the same drink.
Personally, I would probably recommend that you start out with a Mokka pot, like a Bialetti Mukka Express. If you can find one used, all the better. (As long as you find one with a good seal.) The cheaper Krups machines work on the same concept, using built up steam pressure to deliver coffee. I probably wouldn't recommend buying one of these machines, only because I'd be concerned about their longevity. The Mokka pot is simplistic, it's basically a piece of metal with some seals in it, there isn't much that can fail on it.
I personally used a Hamilton Beach blade grinder for the longest time to grind coffee for it. It makes a great grinder for drip coffee, but I wouldn't waste your money on buying one. A burr-style grinder will be a little bit more future proof. For a Mokka pot, any grinder will do.
I don't think there is any shame in buying used equipment. Sometimes cruising the local craiglist or Kijiji, you can find a smoking deal on an older home espresso machine. However, you do get what you pay for. The key thing to look for is that the machine has to have a pump. If it doesn't, it is basically an expensive version of the Bialetti Mokka pot.
Posted Wed Sep 5, 2012, 7:52pm Subject: Re: Whats a decent espresso for a novice in the $100-$200 range?
I'm late to the party here, but a good manual grinder ($75) and a used Saeco/Starbucks barista or athena...without the pressurized PF can produce MUCH better espresso than the Tassimo type brewers. Trick is though, there is NO way this can be done with stale, supermarket coffee, or even the bags at Costco. I'd advice the OP to make friends with a local cafe, or better still a roaster in the general area....even one 60 miles or more away. Offer to purchase their 8 day old coffee for 40% off. You'll still have 4-5 days to enjoy it before it will cease producing significant crema, and fresh tasting drinks.
scanfield Senior Member Joined: 21 Nov 2011 Posts: 168 Location: Texas Expertise: I like coffee
Espresso: La Nuovo Era Cuadra Grinder: Baratza Vario
Posted Wed Sep 5, 2012, 9:33pm Subject: Re: Whats a decent espresso for a novice in the $100-$200 range?
Trick is though, there is NO way this can be done with stale, supermarket coffee, or even the bags at Costco. I'd advice the OP to make friends with a local cafe, or better still a roaster in the general area
If you do have some decent local roasters, take a closer look at what your supermarket has on the shelves. Mine carries a decent selection of coffee from local roasters (Cuvee is my favorite) and the bags do have the roast date on them. I can usually find coffee less than a week old.
"Insane" is subjective and if you have no experience with home espresso machines that will affect your perception of pricing. $800 isn't insane if you're actually familiar with the market. It's entry level for many. The range certainly goes much higher than that and there's definitely a minimum range for coffee geeks. You're slightly under it at $100-$200. You can certainly spend $100-200 on new equipment but you'll probably be disappointed with the results unless your taste buds really don't care much.
Seems like it really is cheaper & much quicker overall to just go buy a shot.
Depends on what you drink, how often and what your preferences are. I'm a latte drinker and it's very easy for me to justify most espresso equipment purchases compared to getting a $3 latte from a shop. That translates to $6/day or $2190/year for me. My Silvia's now 10 years old. It paid for itself LONG ago (75 days of lattes when I bought it). As with anything subjective, YMMV.
I like coffee but I don't hold my pinky up that high
Probably my biggest shock was when I had to start considering espresso machines as something more than just a simple small appliance, not like buying a toaster oven or a waffle maker. I had to treat it more like I was buying a large appliance like a washing machine or a refrigerator. It blows me away whenever I watch a home reno show and some couple is showing off their Sub Zero fridge, Viking Stove and there's a $200 Breville Cafe Roma (Which is one of the cheapest new "espresso" (Notice I used quotes here) machines you can buy on the market.) sitting on their granite counter.
Espresso machines are bargain priced in comparison to vacuum cleaners though. A vacuum is nothing more than a motor, a fan and a bag, in a canister with a hose sticking out of it. For that, a salesperson tried to sell me a Filter Queen for about $3000. As you can imagine, my jaw hit the floor. Imagine what kind of computer system or television you can buy for that!
A high end espresso machine is a considerably more complicated device. It has boilers, thermostats, pressure regulators, electronics, a pump, pressure gauges, a brew group, portafilter, switches, valves, wiring, etc. Yet, entry level espresso machines sit somewhere around the $500 mark and go all the way up to the $6800 mark! Here, there are members on this list who will tell you that a $1200 machine will produce just as good a cup of espresso as the $6800 machine. I'll probably cause a flamewar by mentioning it, but I've seen those posts.
So, in relation to vacuum cleaners or cars, I think espresso machines can give you good value for the money. You can spend $1.3 Million on a car, but it still will only get you to point A to point B. (Mind you, it will do it quickly and illegally, but that's beside the point.) You can spend one heck of a lot less on a decent espresso machine and get a great cup of syrupy goodness in your hands that is every bit as good (Or maybe even better!) as the $20k machine sitting in your local boutique coffee shop if you know what you are doing. You'll see people refer to the "4 M's" a lot on here.
Miscela - The Italian word for "Mixture". The Coffee Blend. Every Roaster is a little different. Some people roast their own coffee. Macinazione - The Italian word for "Grinding". The Proper Grinding of the Beans. A good grinder is the start of every good cup of espresso preparation. Macchina - The Italian word for "Machine". The Espresso machine itself. Mano - The Italian word for "Hand". The skill of the person making the drink.
Any of of these which is a weak point is also the weak point of the entire drink. Start out with quality beans, don't skimp on a grinder, keep the machine clean and well maintained and experiment through trial and error what produces the best tasting drink for you! Even the most expensive grinders and machines can produce a poor tasting drink if the beans are burnt and the barista is clueless!
I'm a latte drinker and it's very easy for me to justify most espresso equipment purchases compared to getting a $3 latte from a shop.
This is where you justify your "Return on Investment", if you want to look at it that way.
A one kilogram bag of coffee, on average, sells for about $36 here. Considering that the average double shot is 16 grams, you will get about 60 double shots of coffee out of that. (This is taking into account waste, spillage and a sink shot.) That works out to $0.60 per drink. If you want a latte, assume you are using 250 ml of milk and a 4 litres of milk is $4.00. That adds $0.25 per drink, or a total of $0.85 cents per latte.
Now, let's assume that your local coffee shop wants $4 per latte.. That means you are saving $3.15 per latte, not counting your time to make it.
Now, let's pick a low end heat exchanging machine like a La Caudara Nuovo machine. They sell for about $1000. Way outside your price range, but I'm just going to use it as an example. I'm picking a more expensive machine to justify my example a little better.
You would have to make about 318 lattes to make that machine pay for itself. Assuming that you drank two lattes per day, every day, that would pay for itself in about 159 days.... or roughly about six months taking into account holidays, weekends, etc. Doesn't seem so bad now, does it? :-)
When you think about it, Espresso machines have this unique ability not to be money pits like cars and they actually give you a measurable return on investment. You can't say the same about that for other large or small appliances!
Just to let you know, Most people, when they drink coffee, just want something which wakes them up in the morning. I was at that point myself for a while, until a coffee shop in San Francisco changed my mind. :-) All that higher priced machines offer you are durability, serviceability, features, convenience, speed and most importantly, consistency. Would you rather learn how to drive in a Chevy Aveo or a Bugatti Veyron? :-)
My first experience going to buy an espresso machine was a frightening one because I felt like the guy walking into a Ferarri dealership expecting to buy basic transportation. I wasn't about to drop $1800 on a "starter" machine that I had no idea how to use. Do not be ashamed to Start out small, take small steps and work your way up. If you become really passionate about this whole thing, dropping "Insane" amounts of cash will seem like nothing.
I dare to say that the machine is the least important factor of the 4 M's, because without good fresh beans, a capable grinder and an experienced (home) barista even the most sophisticated and expensive espresso machine will not produce great caffè. Then again, with all of this at hand a bartista can brew a decent cup of espresso even with an entry level machine.
*** "This drink of the Satan is so delicious that it would be a shame to leave it to the infidels." (Pope Clement VIII on coffee)
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