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Q: budget espresso machine
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Discussions > Espresso > Q and A > Q: budget...  
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SimonHawkin
Senior Member
SimonHawkin
Joined: 3 Jan 2013
Posts: 1
Location: Massachusetts
Expertise: I like coffee

Grinder: Capresso Infinity
Posted Thu Jan 3, 2013, 5:42pm
Subject: Q: budget espresso machine
 

Hi guys,

However reluctant I am to post this, there is no way I can avoid it. This may be another one of those cheapo machine questions, for which I apologize, but I have done some online research and still cannot make up my mind. I do have specifics, however.

Here it goes.

Need: just an espresso machine (already have a grinder, Capresso Infinity, should do for now.)
Price range: up to $200. (Yeah...)
Kind of drink: espresso, americano. Occasional lattes and cappuccinos, perhaps.
Drink schedule: every morning, occasional daytime too. (We drink a traditional Turkish style coffee now but intend to switch to mostly espresso.)
Drink amount: 2-4 cups per seating for me and my girlfriend each (that's 4-8 cups total), if I correctly understand what the standard cup size is. That's minimum.
Water: pour, not a wall plug. From a filter pitcher.
Electricity: standard circuit.
Required feature: need to have both manual and auto or programmable controls (so one could press a button to start pouring espresso and the machine would stop when needed).

Background: for years, I have been enjoying coffee made in a traditional Arabic/Turkish coffee pot (ibrik, finjan, cezve, whatever you call it). Now my girlfriend wants an espresso and I do not object. :-) I do expect that we will vary our coffee with some mornings going for espresso and others for the ibrik kind.

Perhaps when we realize what we are missing we will go get a more expensive machine. Until then, these are our requirements. Thank you in advance for any helpful advice!
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diggi
Senior Member
diggi
Joined: 28 Nov 2011
Posts: 383
Location: Halifax, NS
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Spaz vivaldi S1 V2
Grinder: B Vario, OE LIDO
Drip: Chemex, Espro Press,...
Roaster: Poppery I
Posted Fri Jan 4, 2013, 3:30am
Subject: Re: Q: budget espresso machine
 

Welcome. Good to see you've done some homework...however, you've missed the mark in a couple key areas.
  1. That grinder is not adequate for true espresso. It may work with a pressurized portafilter in something like the cafe roma, but this is not a machine you will see recommended to make true espresso on this forum (it is in your budget though)
    You need something of at least the quality of baratza precisio or lelit pl43. ~$250 new. Otherwise a hand grinder, but for the consumption you are talking about, I don't think you'll be happy with a hand grinder.

  2. Like the rest of us, your eyes for a machine are bigger than your wallet. $200 won't even scratch the surface of something that will do what you want. You want volumetric dosing.....I'm thinking the cheapest is likely one of the bezzera machines; but in the range of $1300 or so, I'm guessing or the breville dual boiler for ~1000.
    If your budget is $200 total, espresso is out of the question, unless you want to use a pressurized portafilter on one of the machines I mentioned above. It doesn't make real espresso, there isn't much by way of adjustments to make, and it doesn't taste good or like anything you'd get in a good cafe. Some are happy with them, but not the coffee obsessed.  
    If your budget can be increased to, say at least $1000, then there are some options. You can still look for second hand, but you'll still need significantly more for a machine and grinder...the mypressi twist is ~$170. That may be an option, but no capps/latte's etc.

Let us know if the budget can be expanded.
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dspear99ca
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Joined: 17 Jan 2013
Posts: 93
Location: BC, Canada
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Coffee
Grinder: Mazzer Mini
Posted Mon Jan 21, 2013, 10:16am
Subject: Re: Q: budget espresso machine
 

I don't think you need to spend $1,000 for decent espresso.  I was just reading a post yesterday where a guy picked up a good machine and grinder for $625.  That's the kind of deal you need to look (and wait) for if you want to stick to anywhere close to your $200 budget.  Keep an eye on the Buy/Sell/Trade forum on coffeegeek, there are often older machines for sale in your range.  However, as the previous poster pointed out, you are NOT going to get any type of automatic machine for this price.  If it's too much trouble to stand in front of the machine for 30 seconds and turn off the pump when the shots are done, you will need to up your budget.  Unfortunately good espresso/cappucino/latté does not come cheap, especially if you insist on new equipment... I am just getting into it myself, and I have a (potentially) acceptable machine to start with.  I just bought the Precisio grinder and am awaiting a bunch of parts to get my machine to a place where it will push water through at 9 bar and 96C consistently and reliably.  I am already in the game for $500 and I am not done yet.

FWIW, the replies I got re: machine all told me that pretty much any machine is going to make espresso.  Those that don't do it well can be modified (like mine) but you cannot overcome a shitty grinder.  It's a show-stopper.
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emradguy
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emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 3,110
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4 x2, VDD...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Mon Jan 21, 2013, 10:28am
Subject: Re: Q: budget espresso machine
 

yeah, agree, you need to consider you may actually have to watch he shot and stop it when it's done.  Even very expensive machines require that.  And even fully automatic volumetric machines should be monitored during the extraction, as you sometimes may need to stop the shot before the machine does.  So, I guess what I'm saying is, all machines should be monitored during the extraction so that you can stop it when it's done, if that occurs before the machine is programmed to do so.

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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JasonBrandtLewis
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JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,391
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 Mon Jan 21, 2013, 1:08pm
Subject: Re: Q: budget espresso machine
 

You don't have to spend thousands, but you DO have to spend something . . . and $200 isn't enough for a machine, nor is your grinder adequate.

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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CraigA
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CraigA
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Drip: Behmor BraZen, BUNN VPR-APS,...
Roaster: Refurb Behmor 1600, BBQ...
Posted Mon Jan 21, 2013, 1:17pm
Subject: Re: Q: budget espresso machine
 

Thread moved from Coffee: Questions and Answers to Espresso: Questions and Answers.

 
http://twitter.com/CoffeegeekCraig
http://www.facebook.com/craig.andrews.169

Excellent coffee doesn't just happen!
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qualin
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qualin
Joined: 30 Jun 2012
Posts: 654
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 Tue Jan 22, 2013, 1:24am
Subject: Re: Q: budget espresso machine
 

Hi Simon.

People ask all the time on this forum about doing espresso on a budget. However, there is a reality that I learned quite quickly.

You have to stop thinking that espresso equipment costs the same as a small kitchen appliance. Buying an espresso setup is not like buying a blender, a toaster oven or even a microwave oven.

Buying an espresso setup is more like making a major appliance purchase.. Start thinking about kitchen ranges, refrigerators, washing machines, etc. Do not let this scare you off! Let me explain a bit further.

In order to keep it cheap, espresso equipment manufacturers have to make all kinds of compromises. The first of which is the dreaded "Pressurized" portafilter. This kind of portafilter is designed to work with grinders like yours.
It gets around a serious shortcoming with a lot of budget espresso setups by making sure that a sloppy, poor, inconsistent grind is brewed at the proper rate to produce something resembling espresso. This kind of machine is
specifically designed and engineered around people like you, who are on that $200 budget. Something like a Breville Cafe Roma is a perfect example of that.

Now, if you decide that you don't want to make that compromise, things will start getting expensive.. I kind of figure that if you buy new equipment and you want to make espresso using an unpressurized portafilter, you should
budget at LEAST $1000. Let me tell you why.

First, espresso relies very heavily on a proper grind to regulate flow through the puck. In order to grind fine enough and consistently enough for espresso, you need a decent espresso capable grinder. You need to spend at least
$250-$300 on a grinder which is capable of doing it. That's assuming you buy new. If you buy used, you can pick up something around $150-ish.

Second, I'm of the opinion that if you can easily lift an espresso machine by the portafilter handle, it probably is junk. You should be budgeting at least $500 on a new machine, or roughly around $300 for a used one. This is what I
would consider "Entry Level" and it will typically be a Single Boiler Dual Use unit. Again, this is another compromise to keep the cost down. Considering that your drink volume is low and you won't be making a lot of milk based drinks,
it should be an acceptable compromise for your situation.

So, now you're up to about $800 for a new grinder and machine. Then budget in another $200 for the following equipment:

Grouphead Cleaning Brush, Steaming Pitchers (12 oz and 20 oz), Steaming Pitcher Thermometer, A Cheap Knockbox, Espresso/Cappucino/Latte Cups, A scale capable of weighing to 0.1 gram resolution up to 1 Kilogram,
A small paintbrush (For cleaning grounds), a blind basket or backflushing disc, two shot glasses (For measuring shots), Cafiza (For cleaning the machine) and Grindz (Cleaning the grinder), A sugar dispenser and a salt shaker,
(If you like cinnamon or chocolate on your cappuccinos/lattes) .. As well, a water pitcher for filling up your machine wouldn't hurt either. :-)

Now that you've budgeted about $1000 for all of this stuff, now you can start making decent cafe quality style espresso. Now all you have to do is find a local roaster who can supply you with fresh beans.

Now that I got that out of the way, let me hit you with a bit more reality....

SimonHawkin Said:

Drink amount: 2-4 cups per seating for me and my girlfriend each (that's 4-8 cups total), if I correctly understand what the standard cup size is. That's minimum.

Posted January 3, 2013 link

I guess the question is now, how long do you want to spend making those drinks? With a SBDU machine, you have to wait for the machine to reach steaming temperature to make a milk drink and you have to
cool it down to go back to brewing coffee again. If all you are making is just straight coffee drinks, it really isn't a problem with a SBDU. However, if you are making a combination of milk and straight drinks, you are
going to want to upgrade from a SBDU very quickly.

Unfortunately, the next step up from that is a heat exchanging machine and those machines typically start out new at roughly the $1200 mark and go up from there. Don't let that scare you off. You could probably
find a used one at roughly around half the price. In which case, a used Nuova Simonelli Oscar is more of a candidate for your requirements if buying used is an option.

SimonHawkin Said:

Required feature: need to have both manual and auto or programmable controls (so one could press a button to start pouring espresso and the machine would stop when needed).

Posted January 3, 2013 link

I should mention that this feature is very over-rated and shouldn't be a requirement. You never brew espresso by a fixed water volume. You always brew espresso either by fluid volume vs time or you brew
by beverage weight vs time. Volumetric machines are only for people who really don't care about the quality of their espresso and just want a fixed amount of coffee now. :-)

Just to humor you though, I would say that the lowest priced volumetric machine on the market is the Breville Double Boiler. Unfortunately, that's already a $1200 machine.
On the upside, it comes with both pressurized and unpressurized baskets. On the downside, using a pressurized basket with a machine like that would be like driving a car with the handbrake on.

If you are willing to compromise with a semi-automatic SBDU or a used HX machine, you can find a machine which is half the price.

 
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
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qualin
Senior Member
qualin
Joined: 30 Jun 2012
Posts: 654
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 Tue Jan 22, 2013, 1:32am
Subject: Re: Q: budget espresso machine
 

Now, another thought I had, I thought I should at least break it up and put it into a separate post...

Have you considered using a traditional Italian Moka Pot, such as the ones from Bialetti?

They produce very strong coffee, it's not quite espresso, but it is still very intense.

They're very forgiving about grind and are a good place to start without buying a complete espresso setup.

You can find one for less than $100 and they'll work quite nicely with your current grinder.

I started out with a Bialetti Mukka Express and a Hamilton beach blade grinder and upgraded from that.

 
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: 2,044
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 Tue Jan 22, 2013, 2:07am
Subject: Re: Q: budget espresso machine
 

As you've already learned by now, your budget and your grinder won't do for a decent espresso set-up. If you absolutly cannot raise your funds, you might consider going for a Nespresso machine. It's only an approximation of espresso, but meets most of your specifics, and it's tastes better than most other pod or capsule systems, which is still not great, but acceptable.

 
***
"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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