jaymin Senior Member Joined: 3 Mar 2014 Posts: 4 Location: Montreal Expertise: Just starting
Posted Mon Mar 3, 2014, 12:57am Subject: First Espresso Gear (SBDU) Help
First post, you guys seem extremely knowledgeable so I figured I'd ask you all for some help. I've spent a fair amount of time researching, and now that I know what's out there and what to look for, I'm looking for some guidance on what to choose. I'll start by answering the 6 essential questions:
1) What kind of drinks do you like/want to make? I drink straight shots, but would occasionally like to make milk drinks (maybe once per week or so)
2) How many drinks, on average, do you see yourself needing to make at any one time? Typically I would probably be making one or two doubles, though with the occasional guests, this could be up to four or six (rare)
3) How many drinks, on average, do you see yourself making in any given week? 1-2 per weekday + 2-4 per weekend day: 9-18, so lets call it 14
4) Can you plumb a machine directly into the water supply, or do you want/need a pour over machine with its own reservoir? It would have to be a reservoir
5) Do you have a 20-amp circuit available, or only a 15-amp circuit? Standard 15-amp I believe
6) What is your budget for a new machine? As a student, I would like to stay sub $800 (canadian) for both machine and grinder
7) Are you willing to buy used or do you need new equipment? Do you or family member have the skills to repair used equipment? I'd much prefer buying new. I'd like to think I have the technical knowledge to repair equipment though I'm not entirely sure what would be involved
8) Do you have the essential accessories (decent tamper, knockbox, the works), otherwise budget about $100 for these. These would have to be purchased as well
With that out of the way I'll just provide some background. It's only been a year or so that I've been having "espresso", and it's amazing. I put quotations around espresso since I personally only own a moka pot, which I'm aware is really just strong coffee. However, I have had espresso at relatives' places and always loved it. I went to a local cafe recently, arguably the best in Montreal, and the shot they served was mind boggling-ly amazing. I almost couldn't believe how good it tasted. I'm not sure I can return to moka pot coffee now haha. I'm very much interested in developing and refining my barista skills, and definitely plan on upgrading my gear once I have a decent job when I graduate (the Elektra Micro Casa A Leva is calling to me, I definitely see manual machines in my future though that is a matter for a much later discussion). I'm not just looking for a quick drink before class, I want to spend the time and get the best tasting shot my equipment and skill allow for.
I've done a fair amount of research, and decided that for my grinder, I probably want to get the Baratza Preciso, as it seems to be a decent grinder for its price and has a good range for both espresso and french press. The Vario seems highly regarded, but it's a bit outside my price range. I was also wondering about the OE Pharos, as it is relatively cheap and seems to be very good as well and I have no issues with putting in some work.
In terms of a machine however, I'm pretty lost. I'm not sure if I should get something cheap like the Saeco Via Venezia (but with a non-pressurized portafilter), or pay a bit more for the Breville Infuser. I know Saeco's have a good reputation in terms of quality, something that seems to be lacking from Breville, but the features of the Infuser are really attractive (notably the PID and i think it can do a "semi-automatic" mode if you hold down the volume buttons). The reason I've been looking at these two specifically is because I can get a 20% discount on them from a friend, though honestly that doesn't really matter that much. The main reason I'm hesitant between the two is that I know I'll want to upgrade eventually, and I'm not sure if the Infuser is worth the extra money or if i should just make do with the Saeco until i can afford a good machine as the saved money could be used elsewhere. I know the Silvia and the Gaggia Classic are recommended, but they seem to have a lot of quirks that don't seem to add that much more value to the process or result, but once again I have no experience so I'm not at all qualified to pass that judgement.
If you have any comments or other suggestions please leave them, anything helps really
canuckcoffeeguy Senior Member Joined: 22 Aug 2013 Posts: 229 Location: Burlington, Ontario, Canada Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: Bezzera Magica, Mypressi... Grinder: K10PB, Vario, Hario Slim Vac Pot: I have a Dyson vacuum, but,... Drip: Aeropress, Bialetti Brikka,...
Posted Mon Mar 3, 2014, 6:01am Subject: Re: First Espresso Gear (SBDU) Help
For close to your budget, you can get a Preciso and a Crossland CC1. The CC1 is a much better SBDU than all of the machines you've listed. You get PID, preinfusion, dwell time, separate thermoblock for steaming and a larger boiler for the class. The package is on special right now for $849.00... looks like for only this week. This is a very good price for Canada, or the U.S. for that matter.
People here will frequently suggest the CC1 in the SBDU class of machines.
For your planned usage pattern, and your limited budget, I don't see a better option for you unless you go the used route. Or, unless you're open to a Mypressi Twist, which I have and am using to get-by until I buy a prosumer. It makes very good shots paired with my Vario. But, of course, it doesn't steam!
calblacksmith Moderator Joined: 25 Nov 2007 Posts: 7,864 Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A. Expertise: I live coffee
Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32 Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major Vac Pot: 40s era Silex Drip: Msl. Com. brewers Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Mon Mar 3, 2014, 8:06am Subject: Re: First Espresso Gear (SBDU) Help
New, Sylvia is a bit too expensive for me. The classic is a solid machine that in MHO, will serve you better than the two you mention. I would much rather see you spend money on a good grinder and perhaps a little less on a machine, the grinder will serve you through two or possibly more machines while a bare minimum grinder will need to be upgraded too when moving to another machine.
That sounds like a pretty good deal posted above if it is possible, that combo can keep you happy for quite a while.
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!
At first I dismissed the CC1 as being too expensive, but this deal seems amazing.
I would much rather see you spend money on a good grinder and perhaps a little less on a machine, the grinder will serve you through two or possibly more machines while a bare minimum grinder will need to be upgraded too when moving to another machine.
The Preciso is bare, rock-bottom, minimum for espresso. While not a bad choice to couple with a Gaggia Classic or Gaggia Baby, it is, in my opinion, too little grinder for the CC1. I have no idea what discounts Slawa (Slawa owns and runs idrinkcoffee) gets on different Baratza grinders, but I'd certainly ask him for his best deal on the CC1 + Vario combination.
While the Vario is, perhaps, a bit on the flimsy side, it's "in the cup, dosing capabilities, and user-friendliness qualities are good enough to partner a mid-level prosumer machine.
Note though, that statement is a little misleading, because most mid-level prosumers pull good enough espresso to benefit from grinders far better (and far, far more expensive) than the Vario. Also note that I'm neither saying that mid-level prosumers pull as good a shot as high-level prosumer or commercial machines, nor that all machines at any given level are the same. For that matter, I'm not taking any stand at all on those things as they're highly contingent.
Don't even think about a Silvia. It's overpriced AND obsolete. As Wayne (calblacksmith) said, if your budget forces you to make a choice between scrimping on the machine or the grinder, skimp on the machine.
My opinion is that the Preciso + CC1 combo is a great starter setup. Though I do think the Preciso would be ok for a higher end machine, I would recommend upgrading it as well. In fact, I would recommend upgrading the grinder first, and then when ready to improve your setup again, upgrade the machine (not the other way around).
Alternatively, what you might want to do is get an even better grinder, such as a Vario, and pair it with a Gaggia Classic, then all you have to do is upgrade the machine later).
Alternatively (again), you may be happy with a Preciso + CC1, or a preciso + G. Classic, or a Vario + G. Classic for many, many years. Ya know, some people are happy driving a VW bug forever, while others constantly dream about getting a Porsche. It all depends on what you want and how far you want to take this. And for another example...until very recently, I have a very good prosumer machine and very high end home model grinder (entry level commerical they say). The setup could have easily served me well for the rest of my life (don't tell my wife). I decided I wanted to "go commercial". I got myself a high end commercial grinder...and hope to one day in the future (years from now, maybe even after my kids are grown) get a small commercial machine.
. Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
I might be trying to do the impossible here, getting a good grinder and decent machine without compromising on either, but does anyone know how the OE Pharos carries over with good machines? As I said, I wouldn't mind putting in the time and energy in hand grinding if it gives good results. Plus it would save me some money down the road too if it's good enough.
If not, I have looked more into second hand grinders and machines, though there's not that much available locally and I haven't found that much in general. I'm still hesitant on the Gaggia Classic, because of the modding associated with it as well as temperature surfing since getting a PID kit would make it more expensive than it seems to be worth IMO.
If the Pharos isn't a good call and I opt to get a more expensive grinder than the Preciso like a Vario, what would be another alternative to the CC1 or Classic I could look at? I think that Preciso + CC1 deal might be the best bet at this point despite the grinder.
Posted Mon Mar 3, 2014, 5:26pm Subject: Re: First Espresso Gear (SBDU) Help
The Preciso is not a good choice for espresso grind, and the reason is simple. (if a bit complicated to explain).
Being a conical burr, the cutting surfaces are cone shaped and require the burrs be precisely aligned on all axis (x,y,z). Compared to a flat burr where the most important alignment is that they be co-planar, they are more tolerant of x,y alignment as the cutting occurs on a plane.
The Preciso has a micro adjustment of the 'burr spacing' up and down (z motion) but the burr carrier itself does not hold the upper burr in precise alignment for x,y motion; there is 'play' in the carrier. This causes more uneven grind issues.
As you grind more coarse for drip, the burr spacing is wider and the alignment is less critical. Drip grind is also not nearly so critical for consistency... (though my testing with a Virtuoso showed improvement in grind consistency at this more coarse grind as well using a more rigid burr carrier mod)
The best, (and perhaps only...), conical burr espresso grinders in this price class are the 'Tre Spade' burr with a stepless adjustment. ( the Lelit PL53 is example, there are several others) It is a light weight, and noisy, but it is about the lowest price fully espresso capable grinder.
Why it never gets a mention here, I don't know. Talk to the marketing and sales dept. It's not my job....
The Pharos is a great choice, first rate burrs, and they know about the importance of burr alignment....
Posted Mon Mar 3, 2014, 8:30pm Subject: Re: First Espresso Gear (SBDU) Help
I still find the Gaggia Classic and Preciso an adequate setup, especially if little steaming. You are budget constrained and already mentioned that the Vario is out of your range. Many users on CG started with Classic or Silvia and then moved up as budget allowed. Silvia has become overpriced, but the Classic is still a good machine for budget constraints, IMHO.
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