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What's the best prosumer espresso machine?
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > What's the best...  
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qualin
Senior Member
qualin
Joined: 30 Jun 2012
Posts: 649
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 Thu Oct 25, 2012, 6:13pm
Subject: Re: What's the best prosumer espresso machine?
 

I wasn't really expecting this thread to get into a HX vs DB debate. It seems like it is a sore spot with a lot of people.

tglodjo Said:

I've decided to hold off on upgrading and stick it out with the Silvia

Posted October 25, 2012 link

That's kind of the position that I'm in right now. I'm afraid that if I were to buy something like a Quickmill Anita to get around the limitations of my Silvia, I'll just yearn for upgradeitis. Considering that a vendor where I live is selling this
machine for $1600, I figured, if I'm already at least 2/3rds of the way there, why not save up another $800 and get my "dream machine" and stave off the upgradeitis permanently?  (BTW, in case you were curious, my "Dream Machine"
is the Izzo Alex Duetto II... which pretty much would be the last machine I'd probably buy for a very long time.)

If you can save your pennies, you might get something which is overkill for your needs, but you'll be happy with it and that's what matters the most. That's the problem with buying overkill, it's needlessly expensive. In your case,
(The OP) the only reason to buy something cheaper is more of a budgetary thing where you want it NOW and you don't need all of the extra features these high end machines offer.  

tglodjo Said:

I was more just interested in hearing people tell me why they chose their machines and why the prefer that machine

Posted October 25, 2012 link

Heh.. I picked the Silvia, like you did, because I wanted to get a start into the espresso hobby and I wasn't sure if I'd like it or not. I found a great deal on a used Silvia which was only six months old and lightly used. (Don't they all
say that?) I'm suddenly running into a lot of limitations I don't like about the machine, even though it is adequate for my coffee drinking habits... and just so long as I don't have company over. Considering that my wife doesn't drink
coffee, I could have probably gone with an Elektra Casa da Leva machine and it still probably would have been good enough for what I would use it for... except it would probably use less counter space.

I think it is a very common thing on this forum, that people started out with something like a Silvia, then upgraded to a mid to high end HX or DB machine. I get the feeling that is where the both of us will end up going, except that
your demands are much more than mine, so it won't be as much overkill for you as it would for me.

 
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
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JasonBrandtLewis
Senior Member
JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,368
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 Oct 25, 2012, 7:16pm
Subject: Re: What's the best prosumer espresso machine?
 

Well . . .

tglodjo Said:

What's the best prosumer espresso machine? <and> I would love to get everyone's thoughts on what the best machine to get.

Posted October 23, 2012 link

. . . is, of course, very different than . . .

tglodjo Said:

I was more just interested in hearing people tell me why they chose their machines and why the prefer that machine so I could get a picture of all the different uses and the machines people choose for those uses.

Posted October 25, 2012 link

So . .  .

Back in 1980 or so, I bought a Coffee Gaggia -- a now-discontinued SBDU machine identical to the Gaggia Classic except for the lack of a 3-way solenoid valve.  (The Classic is Gaggia's equivalent to Rancilio's Silvia.)  It worked great -- or so I thought at the time -- so when it died after a dozen or so years of continuous daily use, I replaced it with another one.  That second one lasted roughly the same length of time, but in the intervening time,a horrible thing happened . . . Al Gore invented the internet!  ;^)  As a result of that, I discovered Coffee Geek and, shortly thereafter, Home-Barista, and I realized just how much more I could do/how much further I could go.

If, for example, you never know about the ability to pull shots and steam milk at the same time, then you don't mind that an SBDU makes you do only one at a time.  If you don't know that there is a "middle" tier of espresso machines out there (prosumer) -- if all you think is that there are home machines and commercial, multi-group machines -- than you're quite happy with having a home appliance-type of machine.  But CG and HB changed all that . . . and I wanted an more "serious"machine, whatever that meant, and a better grinder!  After all:

JasonBrandtLewis Said:

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.  

All four are important.  Nothing is more important than the grinder.

Posted February 27, 2011 link

After a bunch of research, including this review, in 2005 I purchased the full-automatic (volumetric dosing) Ala di Vittoria La Valentina HX machine.  (Keep in mind that, in 2005, the only single-group DB machines out there were the La Marzocco Linea Semi-Auto for $6,000+ -- the full-auto version was $1k more -- and, IIRC, the now-discontinued La Spaziale Vivaldi I.)

But within three years, I wanted to upgrade to a plumbed-in machine.  Having to refill the reservoir was an all-too-frequent occurrence, not to mention a PITA!  So, once again, I did lots of research, I asked a lot of questions here and on HB.  Again, the only DBs out there were the Linea and the new and improved La Spaziale Vivaldi II -- which didn't appeal to me (or to my wife) from an aesthetic point-of-view.  The most important things that I read were the Buyer’s Guide to the La Cimbali Junior DT1 and the Buyer's Guide to the Elektra "Sixties" A3 over on HB.  I've no doubt I would have been happy with either machine, but I ended up with the Elektra T1, the volumetrically dosed version of the A3.  (See below.)

JasonBrandtLewis: New Home Setup.jpg
(Click for larger image)

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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frank828
Senior Member


Joined: 23 Feb 2011
Posts: 581
Location: Los Angeles
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: GS3
Grinder: RoburE, Kenia
Vac Pot: Hario
Drip: Brazen, CCD, Aeropress, V60,...
Roaster: Behmor, Air Crazy
Posted Thu Oct 25, 2012, 7:48pm
Subject: Re: What's the best prosumer espresso machine?
 

load that laundry, Jason.  :P
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tglodjo
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tglodjo
Joined: 16 Oct 2012
Posts: 209
Location: Jackson, TN
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi II
Grinder: Baratza Vario, Virtuoso
Drip: Wave, V60, Chemex, Clever
Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Thu Oct 25, 2012, 7:59pm
Subject: Re: What's the best prosumer espresso machine?
 

Qualin,

You're thoughts are encouraging. I was definitely beginning to get in over my head and rationalizing my budget. You should have seen my wife's face when I told her what I wanted to do! (And that's just when I was trying to get her on my side for an Oscar!)

Jason,

It's just like you said: the Internet has informed me of how much more there is to do and to learn on all kinds of different machines! I haven't had the Silvia long, so I definitely need to practice more of my skills before considering the upgrade. I certainly appreciate all your thoughts and advice!
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russel
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russel
Joined: 12 Mar 2010
Posts: 435
Location: Los Angeles
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: 73' Cremina, '74 Club,...
Grinder: Super Caimanos x2, Forte BG,...
Drip: V60, Kalita Wave, Clever,...
Posted Thu Oct 25, 2012, 9:12pm
Subject: Re: What's the best prosumer espresso machine?
 

__________ Said:

Skip the "prosumers" until you have the space/cash/enthusiasm for a proper machine.

Posted October 25, 2012 link

I don't like that this seems to be where this thread is heading.  I own/have owned three light duty commercial HX machines; an Electra Deliziosa, a Cimbali Junior D/1, and an Astra G.A.P..  I have owned 2 SBDUs, 2 prosumer HXs, at least 7 different levers, and 4 Liviettas + 1 Maximatic (my second favorite machine).  I use a GB/5 at work.  I have owned more grinders than I can remember to count.  I think the idea that the best use of the OP's time/money is to spend it saving to up his budget from $1000-$1700 to the $2000-$3000 range is ridiculous.  I fully understand feature lust and upgradeitis, but the idea of sticking with a Silvia because you have to have a $2500 machine to really get the best espresso making experience is wrong.  The difference between what an SBDU is capable of and what just about any decent HX can do is massive.  The difference between a good prosumer HX and a small commercial machine (DB or HX) is very small by comparison and, as a home user, completely dependent on your skill as a barista and how well your palate is developed.  How long would it take to double a budget from $1250 to $2500?  All that time spent saving up money is time wasted focusing attention on tricking a machine into performing in a way that it isn't really capable of, and not spent developing the ability to taste espresso, effectively manipulate grind/dose/extraction %, and to understand/control milk texture & temperature.
 
The most cost effective and value conscious route is to sell the Silvia and buy a used prosumer HX from a trusted member on the BST (local if you can) for a few hundred dollars more.  Use the machine to make a lot of coffee using a large variety of very good beans.  When you have enough budget and feel that you have reached the limits of what your machine can do, sell it and upgrade.

Sorry for the rant.  I guess these days I'm ever more strongly in the "Mano" camp, and I'm not talking about distribution or tamp,  I'm talking about an ability to understand what you're tasting and to manipulate your equipement and your technique to really make a roast sing.
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frank828
Senior Member


Joined: 23 Feb 2011
Posts: 581
Location: Los Angeles
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: GS3
Grinder: RoburE, Kenia
Vac Pot: Hario
Drip: Brazen, CCD, Aeropress, V60,...
Roaster: Behmor, Air Crazy
Posted Thu Oct 25, 2012, 9:21pm
Subject: Re: What's the best prosumer espresso machine?
 

i'm in similar camp...probably in the same national forest...wait, that's not right.

personally, i dont see the value of these machines in that middle price range.  i have an oscar that I picked up for quite cheap(under 300) and somewhat restored(after everything probably about 450 in) and also an excellent condition used super jolly grinder plus new burrs that put me right at about 400.  I have no doubt that my setup is producing espresso as good as most of those machines in that "middle"(ridiculously high to me) price range.

now, if i had money to burn...i'd probably have a robur E with a GS/3 or similar...one day.
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GVDub
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Joined: 25 Jan 2008
Posts: 849
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Londinium I, Arrarex...
Grinder: Gaggia MD85, Dienes Mokka,...
Drip: Behmor Brazen, Abid Clever
Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Thu Oct 25, 2012, 9:31pm
Subject: Re: What's the best prosumer espresso machine?
 

^ What Russell said.

I'm extraordinarily lucky in having found CG and HB at exactly the right time to have my first serious espresso setup end up being a Caravel and a handful of espresso capable hand grinders, thereby skipping the whole SBDU thing (other than the Gaggia Super-Auto I had for a while that was, in effect, a  tarted-up SBDU). What that particular fortunate happenstance led to was my conclusion (and, of course, as in all of this, it's strictly my opinion, YMMV, etc...) that, of the "4 M's," the least important is the machine. Beans, grind, and skills (which include tasting/cupping) are the most important things to master. The machine is really, when you come down to it, just a way of forcing hot water through a puck of coffee grounds, and there are a great many ways to do that. Not saying that a better machine won't help - they definitely will - but, like many of the musicians I've known who always believe that it's fancy new guitar that will make them great, not the endless practice, study, and gigging, it's easy to fixate on the shiniest part of the chain.

Personally, I'd love to see barista competitions done on Silvias, Gaggia Babies, or other such machines, as that would be a true test of the skills and understanding of the baristas. But that's a whole other rant.
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qualin
Senior Member
qualin
Joined: 30 Jun 2012
Posts: 649
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 Fri Oct 26, 2012, 12:47am
Subject: Re: What's the best prosumer espresso machine?
 

tglodjo Said:

You should have seen my wife's face when I told her what I wanted to do! (And that's just when I was trying to get her on my side for an Oscar!)

Posted October 25, 2012 link

Well, it was a huge uphill battle for me because my friends and my wife kept saying to me, "How come you just don't buy a Tassimo, Dolce Gusto or a Nespresso? They're much cheaper and they make espresso!"

I'm sure some of the members of this forum just cringed just now, but that was the argument I got into before buying the Silvia. My friends thought I was nuts that I bought a used Silvia and a Rocky.
In retrospect, I'm kind of glad that I didn't buy the pair new, so far my Silvia has given me five months very reliable daily service.

Then it was yet ANOTHER argument when I caved and finally upgraded the Rocky to a Mazzer. The thing that ended that argument was when the vendor I was dealing with, saw what was going on
and he calmly said to my wife, "Lady, this is the last grinder your husband will ever buy." ... That ended it pretty quick and now one is in my kitchen. :-)

GVDub did say it best though... A guitar is only as good as the musician which plays it. I guess my opinion earlier kind of stems on the idea that if I dropped $1200-$1600 on a prosumer machine,
then got upgradeitis, it would be yet ANOTHER argument. I can hear it now. "But you just bought it!"  .. "What wrong with the one you have now?" .. "You're spending too much money!" ...
"What does the machine that you want to buy do, that the one you have doesn't do now?" ... Ugh. I really don't want to go there. They just don't understand. God, I sound like a teenager....

tglodjo Said:

I haven't had the Silvia long, so I definitely need to practice more of my skills before considering the upgrade.

Posted October 25, 2012 link

Jason, I made a deal with my wife which seems to have helped somewhat if you find that you may be getting some resistance. I told her that I'd keep the Silvia for six months, only after that, will
I consider upgrading it. During that time, I've learned what an over extracted and under extracted shot tastes like. I've learned what failing to temperature surf tastes like. My milk steaming skills have
improved but I still have a long way to go. I'm not going to put it mildly, I have feature lust. Damn, I want to plumb in just so I don't have to fill a reservoir, but reality is hitting me hard. I'd like to
apologize if my own feature lust seems like a "good" machine is out of reach for you. I didn't mean to convey that.

This same vendor did a very good job explaining to my own wife why I was experiencing upgradeitis from my Silvia. We all know the pain points of wanting to move from an SBDU. I guess I'm just
trying to avoid the step of going from a prosumer machine to a light commercial machine just so I can avoid another argument from my wife and friends. I guess I'm afraid of being stuck with the
same machine for ten years and ending up loathing it because I'll never get the shot the way I want it. Perhaps my fears are a little overblown. :-)

russel Said:

I fully understand feature lust and upgradeitis, but the idea of sticking with a Silvia because you have to have a $2500 machine to really get the best espresso making experience is wrong..

Posted October 25, 2012 link

I agree with this, at least to some degree. It seems to me that the prices just start getting crazy as soon as one wants to stop considering a vibration pump over a rotary pump. I'll admit it, there isn't any
"Cheap" _new_ rotary pump machines out there unless one is willing to buy a used machine. Entry level from my own experiences seems to be about $2000. (Quickmill Vetrano) It is required to make espresso?
No. Does it make a better cup over a vibratory pump? No. Can you plumb in a vibratory pump machine? Yes, but with caveats. I've detailed those caveats already. If the OP is willing to accept the limitations behind
vibratory pump machines, then I don't see any reason to spend the extra money on going light commercial. I've already stressed that to some degree already. In fact, your post got me thinking about my own set up.

Getting "Hand me down" equipment isn't such a big deal if you happen to know that the person who used it knew what they were doing, did their backflushes regularily and looked after it. I just wish it was more of
an option for me. Unfortunately, where I live, customs charges and shipping charges do a very good job of deterring me from buying used machines and other equipment from the States.

The used machines which are for sale in my own area are limited to things which are too large, too unsuitable (ie. 220 v operation) or too old, so I'm very tempted just to bite the bullet and find a decent "Open Box"
or "Demo" machine from one of the vendors here. Doing that could save both you and I a lot of money, especially if it is a previous generation machine with some shortcomings which you (Or I) could live with.

It's kind of like how in the grinder forum, a lot of people keep recommending refurb Baratza's because they are cheaper. Shame that companies like Izzo, Rocket, etc don't offer "Refurb" machines!

 
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
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NobbyR
Senior Member
NobbyR
Joined: 10 Jul 2011
Posts: 2,021
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 Fri Oct 26, 2012, 2:06am
Subject: Re: What's the best prosumer espresso machine?
 

The trouble is that there's no limit to the amount of money you can spend on espresso equipment. If only the secretary of the treasury of my home (aka my wife) would see the need to upgrade the way that I do ... ;-)

 
***
"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)
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__________
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Joined: 12 Sep 2006
Posts: 883
Location: .
Expertise: Just starting

Espresso: Awaiting spare parts ;o(
Grinder: None
Vac Pot: None
Drip: None
Roaster: None
Posted Fri Oct 26, 2012, 2:31am
Subject: Re: What's the best prosumer espresso machine?
 

russel Said:

I fully understand feature lust and upgradeitis, but the idea of sticking with a Silvia because you have to have a $2500 machine to really get the best espresso making experience is wrong.  

Posted October 25, 2012 link


Well, that's just your opinion.  And it is just that.  Don't tell me that my equally held opinion is "wrong" just because it doesn't chime with your own.

The OP is looking for a range of views to help inform his own decision making.  His basic question is not capable of an objective answer, only subjective opinion.
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