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My dilemma… Please help!
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > My dilemma…...  
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BarbaraWalsh
Senior Member


Joined: 31 May 2014
Posts: 3
Location: Boston
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Sat May 31, 2014, 5:43am
Subject: My dilemma… Please help!
 

Hello everyone, I'm a newbie here at Coffee Geek but have relied on your forum discussions (and this wonderful site) for *YEARS*. Some of the most amazingly nuanced conversations I have read regarding espresso machines have been here, and now it's finally my chance to jump in the fray with a legitimate question: for the life of me I cannont answer this myself, not matter how many reviews, forums and videos I watch. I hope that maybe your collective experience and deep thinking on all matters java might help me sort through my dilemma.

Here it is:

I'm long overdue for an upgrade, but $$ is always a challenge so I decided to go the used/refurbished route. The single most important thing to me at this point is shot quality, and (if I must be honest) Ristretto shot quality. However, I am not so obsessed with Ristretto to say that's the only thing I'll drink. At this stage in my life I'm just hoping to find a machine I can afford that gives me the opportunity to make the best quality expresso shots that I can, even it it takes a lot of time and effort to get to that point once I have found the right machine. In other words, I'm on that journey.

After half a year of searching for the "best machine for me" I am now, unexpectedly, faced with a choice: Two are available, but I can't get both (I would love to get them both, try them each for a few months, then make a decision but the shipping costs are too high and so I can choose only one). Below are the two machines and the descriptions that comes with them.

  1. $350 Rancilio Silva, late v1 model (although the owners says it is sometime considered a v1.5 because it has the same thermocoupler that the have in the v2). Below is the owners own description of the machine:
     
    "This was well-loved and cared for with backflushing, regular descaling and gasket replacements. I upsized to a larger machine years ago, but held onto Silvia for a backup.  Now it's time for the next owner to enjoy her, so I brought her out of retirement, cleaned and descaled again, and replaced gaskets again."

  2. $100  Breville Die Cast 800ESXL 11 Cups Stainless Steel machine. The owner say's it's in great condition, and it comes with a double and single filter cleaning tool and tamper and frothing container (none of the "extras" matter to me, however, just the machine itself!).


I have been going back and forth over this decision, and finally gave up. On the one hand the Silva is the one I would go in the blink of an eye if it were a newer model, but I am concerned about how old this one is (and couldn't find any details about later model v1 machines having the same thermocoupler as v2 machines). On the other hand, the Breville 800ESXL is a newer machine and it gets solid reviews for overall quality and shot quality.

BUT I am in no position to test them, so I have to make a blind choice. I have saved up my money for almost a year to get myself into the next level of machines, so I can pay for the Silva, but I'm not sure it's a good idea since it's old (do machines this old still produce the same quality shots after many years of work, and did the v1 always produce about the best shots around or was it the v2 that got them up to the quality they're now known for).

The owners of both machines say they're in great shape, so assuming that's the case… which would you choose?

My apologies if this is a simple question, or if I'm obsessing too much over something silly, but the moment of truth if FINALLY here for me and I have no idea which to buy.

What would you do?

With much thanks for any advice you have for me,
Barbara
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Cammie
Senior Member


Joined: 26 Jan 2012
Posts: 32
Location: USA
Expertise: I love coffee
Posted Sat May 31, 2014, 7:03am
Subject: Re: My dilemma… Please help!
 

I'd buy SJM's modded Gaggia Classic listed in the Buy/Sell forum she has listed for $300 plus shipping.  Susan is highly knowledgeable about Gaggia machines and runs the Gaggia forum.  With the mods she has on the machine, the Gaggia will produce excellent shots.  I bought a similarly modded Classic last year and gave it to my nephew for Christmas.  He loves the machine.

I'd skip the Breville.  My brother-in-law has a modded V 1 Silvia (PID, etc).  He's also pleased with his machine and has used it for the past 2 years.  I think the Silvia you are considering has not been modified.  Adding a PID would really help but will increase your costs.

Good luck with your search and have fun on this journey.  Don't forget a decent grinder is essential unless you already own one. :)
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boar_d_laze
Senior Member


Joined: 21 Nov 2006
Posts: 1,387
Location: Monrovia, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: La Cimbali M21 DT/1 Junior...
Grinder: Ceado E92; "Bunnzilla"
Vac Pot: Royal Coffee Maker
Drip: Chemex + Kone; Espro Press
Roaster: USRC Sample Roaster
Posted Sat May 31, 2014, 7:38am
Subject: Re: My dilemma… Please help!
 

Cammie Said:

I'd buy SJM's modded Gaggia Classic listed in the Buy/Sell forum... for $300 plus shipping....  With the mods... the Gaggia will produce (good) shots (with reasonable consistency).

Posted May 31, 2014 link

+1

Don't forget a decent grinder is essential unless you already own one.

Sadly, +1 again.  

Sadly because the two, least-expensive, "decent," new, motorized grinders are run $250 (LeLit PL53) and $300 (Baratza Preciso).

If you don't already have a decent grinder, or can't afford one in that class, my suggestion is to get the Preciso now and use it for brew (it's an excellent brew grinder) until you can afford a decent machine.  I also suggest regarding a PID and OPV as necessities for any SBDU machine.

Dialed-in grinding and temping are essential parts of a good ristretto. There's no amount of technique or work-arounds which can make an SBDU without a PID temp consistently, nor give a lesser grinder the critical particle size distribution and range of adjustment. Similarly, without an OPV, a pump which will run overpressure at the tight grind and dosing required for good ristretto won't do you any favors.    

Rich
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BarbaraWalsh
Senior Member


Joined: 31 May 2014
Posts: 3
Location: Boston
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Sat May 31, 2014, 2:39pm
Subject: Re: My dilemma… Please help!
 

Thank you both! I will definitely look at the one you said SJM is selling. So you think hers would produce better shots than the other two? I like that she's a trusted member of your community (I have NO idea who the sellers of the other 2 are!).

Thanks, also, for your advice on the grinder. I think I have a decent one. In fact, I spent a lot more $ on my grinder than I wanted to (instead of putting that towards a better machine) thanks in large part to all of the conversations you've had here. I have a Gaggia MDF grinder, but don't know if that's going to be enough for something like SJM's Gaggia?

Barbara
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Angman
Senior Member
Angman
Joined: 7 Apr 2012
Posts: 239
Location: Vancouver BC
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Strega, MCal, Cimbali M20L
Grinder: K10 Fresh, HG One 83mm,...
Vac Pot: Nope
Drip: Technivorm, Hario Woodneck,...
Roaster: Hottop 8828P
Posted Sat May 31, 2014, 11:16pm
Subject: Re: My dilemma… Please help!
 

You're on the right track and your grinder should be sufficient.  In my opinion that Sylvia is also overpriced being so old.
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SJM
Senior Member


Joined: 17 Nov 2004
Posts: 1,723
Location: CA
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: SAMA (2), Maximatic, Cremina...
Grinder: K-10PB, Rancilio MD-50
Vac Pot: no like
Drip: no like
Roaster: HotTop   Huky en route
Posted Sun Jun 1, 2014, 8:52am
Subject: Re: My dilemma… Please help!
 

That MDF might be okay, but if you didn't already have it I would recommend against buying one.  
Since you already have it, you should do some research on how to make it "stepless" since that will go most (or all) of the way to making it workable if pairing it with a Gaggia.

Susan
who is sorry you missed out on her Classic
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IMAWriter
Senior Member
IMAWriter
Joined: 4 Jul 2002
Posts: 5,917
Location: Brentwood, TN
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Bezzera Strega
Grinder: Forte, OE Pharos,...
Vac Pot: Adcraft SS, Yama 8 cup
Drip: Brazen, Kalita, Chemex,...
Roaster: Behmor 1600+, CO/UFO combo
Posted Sun Jun 1, 2014, 9:54am
Subject: uick Mill Anita owner
 

As a long time LEVER machine user...and formerly a Quick Mill Anita owner, my opinion FWIW is that you'll get the best ristreto shots from a lever machine.
My suggestion, both for easiest path to consistency, and cost would be a well cared for La Pavoni Europiccola manual lever.
The newer one with the 51mm basket/PF. With a bit of practice, you can pull really lovely shots, big enough for 4-5oz of milk, or wonderful as straight espresso.

The trick is to find one from a reputable source. I'd look FIRST either on CG "Buy/Sell/Trade Forum, or Home-Barista.com's Selling Forum.
A lever is darn fun to use, takes up less space, has far less parts, so less to goi wrong., There are hundreds of threads on maintaining, replacing the piston gaskets, etc. All stuff you can do yourself. Parts are relatively cheap.

 
Rob J (LMWDP #187)
My Music Production web site:
www.robertjason.com
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BarbaraWalsh
Senior Member


Joined: 31 May 2014
Posts: 3
Location: Boston
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Sun Jun 1, 2014, 3:02pm
Subject: Re: uick Mill Anita owner
 

Funny you should say that! Lever vs machine was my other dilemma, and I have been on the fence about just sticking with the "ok" machine I have now and going for a good lever like those made by La Pavoni or Elektra (although I did have sticker shock when I saw the prices on their used top-end machines…yikes!).  So instead of going for the top-end levers I was thinking about an older model that I might be able to get in the $300 to $400 range. I recently read that someone swore, for example, that they could get the same quality shots on an old La Pavoni Europiccola as they could on the La Pavoni. I'm in no position to judge, but if that's true I sure would like to know! What do you think?
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