Lylarose Senior Member Joined: 12 Feb 2013 Posts: 2 Location: Kc Expertise: Just starting
Posted Tue Feb 12, 2013, 9:24pm Subject: Espresso machine suggestions?
I will confess that I do not drink coffee or espresso, but I love my husband and I want to purchase a quality machine for him. I would like to buy the machine locally (KC), not too pricey (less than $150), durable. What are your suggestions?
You'll need an espresso machine and a grinder, the later being more important than the machine. Have you read the article on How to Buy an Espresso Machine yet? It'll give you a lot of usefull information.
In order to give you good advice, we'll need some answers first:
How many cups per session and per day will your husband probably brew?
What kind of coffee drinks does he prefer? Straight espresso or espresso based milk drinks (like cappuccino or latte)?
Does your budget include the grinder?
For (less than) $150 it's very hard, if not impossible to get a decent set-up.
*** "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)
I don't know this machine very well, but it's got a 12oz brass boiler, a three way solenoid, and comes with a relatively okay--if not temperamental--grinder. This setup isn't ideal, but for $200 it's like an answer to a prayer. I would highly recommend pursuing this for the price they're offering. If both items work, I think your husband will have something to work with. Best of luck!
What kind of grinder do you have? If it's got turning blades, it's not a grinder--it's a chopper. Espresso requires extreme grind precision, and often the grinder will cost more than the machine itself.
At your price point, the best thing to do is to find out where he currently gets the espresso he likes and then find out if they will grind the beans and sell the ground espresso to you. Forget the grinder for now. You will need a good espresso grind and the local coffee shop can probably do this better than you can.
Look through the consumer reviews here at CoffeeGeek. Most of the machines lie outside your budget. One that you might consider is the Hamilton Beach, which sells for about $70. I purchased one for a home we were fixing up and, while not as good as my regular machine, it produces a decent cup of espresso. If your husband likes lattes or cappuccino, none of the low-end machines is very good at steaming milk, so you may need to extend your budget.
I'd echo this. The sub-$150 machines aren't known for their durability either. I went though one of these each year (drinking terrible espresso) until I purchased a proper espresso machine. He could probably make do with one of these machines but a good grinder is a must -- as always -- and should be considered first.
At your price point, the best thing to do is to find out where he currently gets the espresso he likes and then find out if they will grind the beans and sell the ground espresso to you.
I would probably jump on the craigslist deal if it is new and works for a year then you got your moneys worth. Other than that I would do a really nice espro french press and a good grinder from baratza or hand grinder and in a year use your tax refund to get a good set up if he is till interested.
Buying advice: GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER. Don't cheap out on the grinder.
Please don't be discouraged by all these responses. We're just being honest and want your husband to not be put off of home espresso by a mediocre machine. The reason people pay $5 for milk drinks at a good cafe cafe is because the machine costs as much as a car and the skill involved in preparing the coffee and milk foam involve hours and hours of practice.
That being said, most of us have machines that retail at over a thousand dollars and grinders that cost at least half as much as that, if not more. That is NOT necessary for good espresso, but it gives an idea of the kind of cost involved throughout the range. As we've said, there is a minimum cost. It's like asking "I really need a solid daily driver that will get me from point A to point B, but I've only got $500 to spend." There are options at $150, but not for brand new equipment.
It's stylish and on the higher end of Saeco's machines, which are great entry level starters. What's more is you can pop the plastic part out of the portafilter assembly and make it a real portafilter. Even better, you can use the handsome bottomless portafilters made for the Gaggia machines if he ever wants to upgrade. Combine this machine with a Hario Skerton hand grinder ($40) and a tamper ($20) and you have a very respectable entry level setup. It will take practice and skill on your husband's part, but it will produce good espresso, so long as your beans are fresh and the machine is in good order. Hope this helps!
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