Posted Wed Apr 16, 2014, 8:40pm Subject: Re: $1300 max budget for espresso
So $1700 total? $1300 for machine, and $400 for grinder? Just a thought, how about at least $700 for a grinder, and $1000 for a machine? For that price you can get the excellent bomb proof Mazzer Super Jolly, and a Nuova Simonelli Oscar. Or if you are anal retentive about brew temps over making milk based drinks like me, you can get the Quick Mill Silvano for that budget. But looking at it for a value perspective, I would prefer the Oscar...
btw, if I sound like a drunk madman, it's because I probably am. I just decided to enjoy my bottle of "Enjoy by 4/20" double IPA from Stone brewing. BTW, amazing double ipa with wonderful tasty grapefruit notes. Highly recommend! Except, I can't handle alcohol.
Back on topic, spend as much money on a good grinder as possible. Remember, the machine's purpose is to pump hot water. The grinder is vital since its grind quality will have a greater impact than the machine. The larger commercial machines may also produce less residual heat than consumer grinders due to their heavy duty construction.
calblacksmith Moderator Joined: 25 Nov 2007 Posts: 8,151 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 Thu Apr 17, 2014, 8:35am Subject: Re: $1300 max budget for espresso
I agree too, skip the consumer BDB, up your grinder budget and depending on what your preference is, choose a machine at about the $1K mark. If you are handy, used equipment is a good way to go, you could go pro gear for both machine and grinder if you went used and took your time with searching for gear. YMMV!
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!
Posted Fri Apr 18, 2014, 8:18am Subject: Re: $1300 max budget for espresso
Bezzera BZ10 You should look into it. It's a compact HX, like most compact HXs, but it uses a proprietary, low mass, independently heated group instead of an E-61 or other "thermo-siphonic" temp stabilized type. The advantages are some temp stability and cost savings; the disadvantage is lack of pre-infusion. But since the BZ10 (as well as everything else you're considering) uses a vibe pump, pre-infusion isn't as important as it might otherwise be.
I'm familiar with a few Bezzera machines, but don't know the BZ10 personally. Bezzera machines provide a lot of build quality for the price, and the BZ10 shares the reputation.
If you've got a "cozy" kitchen, a compact machine is a very good thing. If you have the room for something -- anything -- bigger, unless you have small hands, and are never in a hurry, a compact is a huge, scaldingly hot PITA.
Expobar Office Lever Semiautomatic The usual E-61 limitations (which aren't very limiting), but the E-61 in question is a rather low-end clone; inexpensive box; small, cramped layout. Note that Expobar's reputation for build quality and QC isn't bad, but isn't at, say, the ECM. Like most compact HXs, it steams reasonably well and has a decent recovery rate for steam and brew. Overall, it's a decent entry-level HX in the same class as the Bezzera BZ10.
Nuova Simonelli Oscar It's basic, obsolete, small and requires housebreaking. That is, unless you open the box and add Musica (next level up in NS machines) gicleurs (aka flow restrictors), an OPV, and a vac-breaker valve the Oscar will pull to hot, pump too much pressure, and can't be warmed up with a timer. Internally the Oscar is simple, well laid out, and indestructible. Externally, it's plastic.
The Oscar's been around forever. Ten years ago, I had an unmodified Oscar for almost a year in my office (long enough ago, that it may have been before anyone figured out that it could and needed to be modded). My staff (who were very competent by the way) could never figure it out to the extent of making consistently, good espresso. That meant either I was making espresso for the staff as well as for clients, or had to live with crap coffee. Neither alternative was acceptable, and I replaced it with a Bezzera which worked out fine.
I'm given to understand that the Oscar is much better with the mods, but can't bring myself to recommend the source of so much personal misery.
Quick Mill Silvano (and Crossland CC1) Let's cut to the choice. It's a hybrid, and you're a milk-drink drinker who doesn't always drink his milk-drinks alone. The Silvano probably doesn't have enough steam for you.
Ditto CC1. In spades.
Cue the sad violins. Hybrids are your best bang for the buck, but the best of them are -- at best -- marginal. Less means a descent into the SBDU class, and for a lot of reasons, including steam and recovery, SBDUs won't work for you.
Breville Double Boiler 920XL Wayne (calblacksmith) makes a big deal about the BDB being "consumer" quality; others make a similarly big deal about its Chinese construction. Both things are true, but their meaning is open to interpretation.
Honestly, it's unlikely that a BDB will last as long as a well maintained Oscar. Not because it's Chinese or built with cheap components, but because it's more complication and more croweded internally. BDB proprietary components (such as the group and electronics) are extremely well made; and the non-proprietary components (valves, pump, etc.) are sourced from the same manufacturers from whom the big-name Euro makers source theirs.
The new BDB 920XL has only been in the market for around a month. Compared to the previous model, the 900, Breville made just enough changes to justify a new model number. The changes are of two general types. One, the 920 is considerably more user serviceable; and Two, the 920 allows the user a little more flexibility in shaping the shot.
Up until Breville introduced the 900, it had a deservedly lousy reputation in the espresso market for making fragile machines which produced crap coffee.
And, in its first few months on the market the 900 had some design and QC teething problems. But Breville addressed them as thoroughly and quickly as I've ever seen done by anyone making a mass-market product. Their commitment to user satisfaction was (and apparently still is) beyond exemplary to the point of in-frikkin'-credibly awesome! If a 900 stopped working for just about any reason it was replaced with a new one, entirely at Breville's expense, including shipping.
You can't do better than that; and
Before very long their reliability became very high.
If you go through the BDB threads on the enthusiast sites you'll see what I'm talking about. You'll also see a few user-dissatisfaction stories repeated endlessly as though they were typical. Of especial note is the Canadian guy who gave up after not being able to get any of four machines (one original, and three "free" replacements) to work at all. I don't know how many times I heard that story from the very vocal group of BDB naysayers. But... y'know... many, many.
My understanding of the market, the internet, and human nature is -- considering how many copies Breville put out there, if there were widespread problems there wouldn't be controversy. Instead the wailing and gnashing of teeth would be pervasive and deafening.
If you're worried about Chinese construction, I don't know what to tell you other than that I wish most of the things I used were made in the US of A, but that ship sailed a long time ago. A lot of things are made in low-wage markets.
If you want a machine that you can hand down to your kids, a BDB 920XL probably won't last long enough to fulfill your hopes. On the other hand, if you like your kids, you won't want to will them an Office Semi or an Oscar.
If I were buying a machine for my either of my (adult) kids it would be a BDB. If I were buying for myself, I'd drink press while I saved $2000 to spend on a Bezzera Strega, mostly because I'm curious. But you're neither me nor one of my kids. You're also not Wayne. This is about you.
GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER
Bottom Line The machines we're talking about, with the exception of the unmodified Oscar, are at the level of competence that, if used skillfully, the type and identity of the grinder will make much more difference in the cup than the type and identity of the machine.
What you're really looking at in terms of machines is ease of use, consistency, steaming, recovery time, feature set, build-quality and things like that, rather than (pardon the repetition) quality in the cup.
In your price range, you simply cannot have it all. Or even most of it. You're going to have set some priorities, and they have to be your own. However, there are a lot of good choices, and if you don't make the best one, your world won't come to an end.
Your weekday bang-bang-double-double-steam is not an easy thing for an espresso machine. But, because it's what you do, it's got to be the starting point for priority setting. While it's a better idea for most people on a particular budget to shift some money away from the machine to the grinder, but given what you've said about yourself, it appears that you're not going to get what you want from a machine going below $1300.
It's crap advice, but sadly the best advice I can give: If possible, find a little more money for the GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER. Hopefully, when you said $1300 plus enough for a Rocky or Vario you left room for budget creep
The Vario is considerably better than the Preciso and infinitely better than the Rocky.
It's one of the two most user-friendly, espresso-capable grinders on the planet (Baratza Forte is the other), but has build quality (plasticky) and -- even though it's definitely in the "good" class -- also has in the cup limitations (lacks top-end sparkle, separation, clarity, nuance and mouth-feel) as well.
If you can afford the money and counter space to do better than the Vario, you should.
But if you can't, you can't. The Vario is certainly good enough to (cough) live with for a couple of years while you enjoy your coffee and put away every nickle you save by not going to coffee houses towards a grinder which won't fit in your house but everyone at CG thinks you should have (and until you do we won't teach you the secret handshake).
Alternatively if you can live with the inconvenience (I couldn't), you might consider an OE Pharos. $275 of between-the-knees, hand-cranked PITA which competes in the cup with grinders priced a thousand bucks higher.
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