wagmanm Senior Member Joined: 24 Sep 2012 Posts: 1 Location: Pennsylvania Expertise: I like coffee
Posted Mon Sep 24, 2012, 7:00pm Subject: 1st Super auto machine decision
I want to purchase a Super auto machine. I spent awhile living in europe and had the pleasure to use a saeco s-class incanto de luxe machine every day, while it was totally set up in german and I could not read most of what it would display it made an amazing cup of coffee and a great expresso. Since then I have missed them and want to get my own machine. From what I can tell the machines I have looked up do not claim they make a cup of coffee. I think that since I know I drank many cups of coffee from this machine that once the amount of coffee grinds are set, when you select the amount of water picked this determines wether you get a expresso or a cup of coffee?
With all this said you can tell I do not know enough about these machines other than that I want one. Can anyone give me advise on which machine would be my best option and why? I would like to keep the price under $1000 dollars.
Posted Mon Sep 24, 2012, 7:27pm Subject: Re: 1st Super auto machine decision
First off, there is no "x" in espresso.
I would really suggest that you read all the other threads here concerning super-autos. I suspect you'll find that this isn't necessarily the place to get advice about one, as they are held in extremely low regard by most around here. Super-autos exist on the "convenience" side of the equation and most folks here exist on the "taste" side. As always, the old maxim about "fast, cheap, and good" applies here. You can pick two of the three, but you can't get all three.
Super-autos are mostly plastic, have generally crappy grinders, poor thermal stability, aren't user-serviceable, use proprietary parts that become impossible to get as manufacturers change designs, and have a disconcerting tendency to break in a unrepairable fashion after about 4-5 years. The Nuova Simonelli Ellimatic I own, by contrast, hasn't been made in about 20 years, uses mostly standard parts, and will probably keep going, given proper care and maintenance, for another 20 years. The commercial grinder I own will probably last the rest of my life.
I'm not personally as anti-super-auto as many here are. My first machine that make anything approaching espresso was a Gaggia Synchrony Digital, and what it made was certainly better than what big-name national coffee chains were serving up as espresso. But it was a gateway drug, as it led me to going and trying espresso in small cafes and coffee houses that knew what they were doing, so it wasn't long before I wasn't satisfied with what the super-auto could produce. If fast, convenient, but mediocre espresso is all you're after, you can certainly get that in a super-automatic machine. What you won't get is superb, or even merely excellent espresso - at least not yet, and certainly not for under $1000.
If you absolutely insist on a super-auto (and there's no shame in not being as coffee obsessed as the folks who hang out here. We are, after all, self-identified coffee geeks), you'll need to look at least at the mid-to-high end Jura machines or the QuickMill Monza Deluxe, which, though expensive, is actually made of metal and contains a decent grinder, usually the weakest point of a super-auto. That's $2600.
JasonBrandtLewis Senior Member Joined: 9 Dec 2005 Posts: 6,479 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 Mon Sep 24, 2012, 8:28pm Subject: Re: 1st Super auto machine decision
Uh, yes; no "x" is espresso.
First off, think of "convenience" and "quality" as opposite ends of a see-saw. Both ends can't be "up" at the same time. One is a trade-off for the other. Thus, GVDub is absolutely right when he writes, "I suspect you'll find that this isn't necessarily the place to get advice about one, as they are held in extremely low regard by most around here."
Secondly, while I've been known to recommend a super-auto upon occasion, it's only after I caution against them. I wouldn't look at any in the sub-$1,000 range, so you might want to dig in the cushions of your couch, or wait until you have some more $$$$ saved up.
These machines sell for around $2600. Judging from the construction, they do appear to be solidly built. Apparently, McDonalds are using these in Italy. Don't let the price freak you out. This is like the Lamborghini of Super Automatics. It probably would be better to start off with something a little cheaper. :-)
The problem is that there is a lot of technology that goes into a Super Automatic machine, so manufacturers tend to cut a lot of corners in order to keep the machine inexpensive. They do it by chintzing out on components by using plastic instead of metal, use cheap components and use designs which just simply have questionable longevity. One individual on this forum got about 4 years out of his Super Auto with daily use. That's a decent lifespan for those machines. In comparison to that, other forum members have been using the same semi-automatic machine for over a decade with regular serviceable maintenance.
For under $1000, you would be best to consider using a Single Boiler Dual Use Semi-Automatic machine. They're not too complicated to use but they certainly do require a bit more skill to use than a Superautomatic. It's not hard to learn how to use one though and they're not too time consuming either. (As long as you are just making straight espresso.) A lot of Semi Automatics don't have any electronics in them at all, they're mostly electromechanical devices. (Except for the ones with a PID, which is kind of like a special kind of electronic thermostat.)
If you are considering making more than 1-4 drinks per day, you will have to reconsider your budget. Making a lot of milk drinks with a SBDU machine can be time consuming. Does your budget also include a good grinder to grind that coffee with? It should. The grinder should be about roughly 1/3rd of the cost of the machine when it comes to capability. Are you having company over and serving them drinks? That may change my recommendation. Also keep in mind the cost of accessories, which can add as much as $200 to the total cost. This includes things like steaming pitchers, tamper, knockbox, shot glasses, cups/dishes, thermometer, scale, etc.
Assuming that you are making a small volume of drinks and don't mind waiting for the machine to warm up to steaming temperatures and cooldown for brewing, Something like the Lelit PL4TEM machine coupled with the Lelit PL43 grinder would put you somewhere around $900 excluding tax. That would present a decent value for the money. Both of these machines I would consider to be great starter machines. (I nearly was going to buy this pair myself until I found a great deal on a lightly used Rancilio Rocky/Silvia pair.) The PL4TEM offers a PID, which controls the temperature of the boiler precisely, it's a must have feature if you like drinking lots of straight espresso drinks.
Sometimes, keep an eye out for machine + grinder specials. Sometimes you can get a decent deal on both since an espresso machine should always be paired with a decent grinder.
Some advice... If you walk into a boutique espresso equipment supply place, be prepared for sticker shock. It has been my experience that they sometimes can get quite elitist and it could deter you. Don't let it. Just understand that you're not buying a toaster oven here, you are buying what I would consider to be a major appliance.
I don't think that $1000 is unreasonable. You can buy used equipment, but it can be like dancing in a minefield if the seller doesn't know a lot about the machine, or it had a previous life in a commercial environment. You can consider the buy & sell forums here. My advice is, if the seller is obsessive about maintaining their equipment, that's the equipment you should be buying if you don't plan on buying new.
Can we convince you to up your budget another $500? If so, you could consider something like a Breville Double Boiler machine coupled with a decent espresso grinder like a Baratza Virtuoso, that would bring up the total amount to around $1500. The BDB doesn't have the limitations that a SBDU machine has and comes with a huge variety of features, making it ideal as a starter machine. I'd recommend going this route if you plan on entertaining occasionally.
Good luck on your search. There is a lot of information out there.
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
NobbyR Senior Member Joined: 10 Jul 2011 Posts: 2,071 Location: Germany Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: Poccino Opus One, Ariete Grinder: Eureka Mignon Istantaneo Vac Pot: N/A Drip: Melitta Linea Unica de Luxe Roaster: N/A
Posted Tue Sep 25, 2012, 12:37am Subject: Re: 1st Super auto machine decision
+1 on the QuickMill Monza.
QuickMill is about the only manufacturer I know that offers prosumer superautomatics with a metal brew group and without a so-called crema valve, which is a device similar to a pressurized portafilter producing foamed coffee instead of a real crema.
*** "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, when he was urged to ban the beverage)
wayne423 Senior Member Joined: 9 Sep 2010 Posts: 92 Location: Chattanooga Expertise: Professional
Posted Tue Sep 25, 2012, 11:49am Subject: Re: 1st Super auto machine decision
(If you must, check out Costco for their sub 1000 dollar range machines. They have several, and one of the best return policies in the business. I had one of these models (Click Here (www.costco.com)), worked great but do not expect top of the line. However it was abused by workers, etc., and was minimal in maintaining and repairing. It is big, but designed better than the home trash models. It is also not up to the Monza level by far. It also saves you 1600 bucks.
I am with the rest of the guys though. For the money, you can have much better coffee but a very time consuming hobby. Ask my wife.
Posted Tue Sep 25, 2012, 12:03pm Subject: Re: 1st Super auto machine decision
Saeco Royal is basically the same machine as the Gaggia Synchrony Digital i used to own - same guts, different cosmetics. It was better than Starbucks, but still not top-quality extractions. Steaming milk was always a problem, and dosing was weird - 6-9 grams, which is low for a single on the bottom end and not yet a double at the top. At least you could program how much water you were pumping through.
Lasted 5 years, then failed in a non-repairable way.
Posted Tue Sep 25, 2012, 7:11pm Subject: Re: 1st Super auto machine decision
Repair guy (Dave at HiTech Espresso here in L.A. who's a certified Gaggia repair guy and very reputable tech) couldn't figure out just what had gone wrong. new thermoblock boiler, new brain, new almost everything, and it still wouldn't come back to life. Sort of a general systemic failure.
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