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Discussions > Espresso > Q and A > What's the right...  
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PaulDenver
Senior Member


Joined: 16 Mar 2013
Posts: 1
Location: Denver, CO
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Sat Mar 16, 2013, 1:15pm
Subject: What's the right machine for me?
 

I've been reading everything I can for months and my budget has slowly been creeping up as I learn more... This will be my first real espresso machine, upgrading from a Nespresso D290. Forgive me if this post is a bit long winded =)

I know what I want in the end. I drink mostly milk drinks (caps and lattes) so steam is important and non-HX single boilers are out. I want my shots to be full bodied, smooth, rich, chocolaty, and not overly bitter or at all sour. I know that a lot of this is grind so I think I've settled on a Vario grinder. (Thoughts?)

For a while I was looking at either the Breville Dual Boiler or the Nuova Simonelli Oscar but as I read further, I started leaning towards the Rocket Cellini Classic. This led me to the Izzo Alex II. I really like the idea of the machine being plumbable and I also like the longevity and quietness of a rotary pump.

The BDB is really appealing but I don't like the non-flushable steam boiler and I would like more steam power. Also, there is still some question as to longevity. The Oscar gives me the steam power, but flushing it doesn't seem to be as easy as I'd like and I don't want to regret not having a hot water spout down the line. (We will likely need to descale atleast few times a year based on our water and experience with our drip coffee maker).

That's what brought me to the Rocket Cellini Classic. It's easy to flush, non-burn steam arm, has good steam power and isn't significantly more expensive than the BDB or Oscar.

From there, though, it isn't a big jump to the Alex II. I really like that it is plumbable, and the rotary pump should last longer and make flushing easier because there isn't the same type of duty cycle as a vibe pump to worry about.

So... Have I talked myself into buying more machine than I should or are these steps above the BDB worth the money? I know 'worth' is subjective, but assuming I can budget either, is it a sound investment? Are there other machines I should consider?

Thanks!
~Paul
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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 Sat Mar 16, 2013, 4:40pm
Subject: Re: What's the right machine for me?
 

Before we begin, what is your machine budget? That can have a huge say in what kind of machine you will get.

PaulDenver Said:

I've been reading everything I can for months and my budget has slowly been creeping up as I learn more...

Posted March 16, 2013 link

This happened to me as well. The stupid thing is, starting out at $1200 gets you an entry level HX machine, then add $100 here and then $100 there and you get so much more.

PaulDenver Said:

I drink mostly milk drinks (caps and lattes) so steam is important and non-HX single boilers are out.

Posted March 16, 2013 link

This puts your machine budget somewhere around $1200-$2200, depending on what kind of machine you are looking at.

PaulDenver Said:

I want my shots to be full bodied, smooth, rich, chocolaty, and not overly bitter or at all sour.

Posted March 16, 2013 link

This all depends on four things:

  1. Miscela - Blend. The Coffee Blend makes a huge difference in the taste of the coffee.
  2. Machinazione - The Grinder. This is considerably more important than the machine. This is what brings out all of the flavours in your coffee.
  3. Macchina - The machine itself.
  4. Mano - The hand. You only make espresso as good as how you make it. If it is overly bitter or sour, you are doing something wrong, it isn't the machine or the grinder that is at fault.

PaulDenver Said:

I know that a lot of this is grind so I think I've settled on a Vario grinder. (Thoughts?)

Posted March 16, 2013 link

The Baratza Vario is a great grinder. If you can afford it, consider upgrading to a Baratza Vario-W. Although, if you can really afford it, consider a Mazzer Mini Electronic instead.

PaulDenver Said:

For a while I was looking at either the Breville Dual Boiler or the Nuova Simonelli Oscar but as I read further, I started leaning towards the Rocket Cellini Classic. This led me to the Izzo Alex II. I really like the idea of the machine being plumbable and I also like the longevity and quietness of a rotary pump.

Posted March 16, 2013 link

If you are considering plumbing in, IMO a rotary pump is a must. Unfortunately, a rotary pump machine now adds roughly around $500 to your budget over a vibe pump machine. The Alex II is a fantastic machine. I opted
for the Alex Duetto because it wasn't that much more and I liked having the temperature stability and control for straight shots. However, if you primarily like drinking milk drinks, temperature stability in your shots isn't as critical.

The Alex II offers great value for the money. It is one of the few machines on the market which allow you to switch between reservoir and water line operation while having a rotary pump. However, the Nuova Simonelli Oscar
can be purchased with a plumb-in kit if you do decide to install it later, the disadvantage to plumbing in with a vibratory pump is that a pressure regulator is mandatory.

The Rocket Cellini Classic is a great machine in it's own right, but another competitor to the Alex II is the Rocket Cellini Evoluzione, which is a direct competitor to the Alex II. Both of those have rotary pumps and are switchable.

The BDB is a good consumer-grade machine, but if you want something which is prosumer grade, consider the Nuova Simonelli, Rocket or Izzo machines.

PaulDenver Said:

I would like more steam power.

Posted March 16, 2013 link

The key trick to having good steam power is to buy a machine with a larger steam boiler. This means that you should only consider prosumer grade or low end commercial grade HX machines.

PaulDenver Said:

(We will likely need to descale atleast few times a year based on our water and experience with our drip coffee maker).

Posted March 16, 2013 link

This depends. If you plumb in, you can put in a canister water softener which prevents the requirement for descaling. For reservoir operation, you can use an in-line resin water softener, but replacing those can get expensive.

PaulDenver Said:

make flushing easier because there isn't the same type of duty cycle as a vibe pump to worry about.

Posted March 16, 2013 link

Realistically, for home use, the duty cycle of a vibe pump isn't much of a concern. Where it becomes an issue is for low volume commercial operation. Flushing the machine really isn't a lengthy process.  

PaulDenver Said:

So... Have I talked myself into buying more machine than I should or are these steps above the BDB worth the money?

Posted March 16, 2013 link

IMO, you do get what you pay for. I like how quiet the rotary pump is on my Alex Duetto.. I actually started out with a Rancilio Silvia and after I learned how much more I can get, I saved my pennies.

PaulDenver Said:

is it a sound investment? Are there other machines I should consider?

Posted March 16, 2013 link

The machines you mentioned are all decent machines, it's more of a matter of how long it would be before you "outgrow" the machine. The main limiting factor for buying a machine isn't so much the machine itself,
but rather the budget you decide you want to set for yourself. I say that if you can budget it, get the most you can afford or save your pennies until you can afford the machine you want instead of compromising and
getting something you will want to upgrade from later on.

Here's the kicker though. Having the ability to plumb in adds considerably onto the cost of a machine. Plumbing in just adds considerable convenience to the whole espresso making process. I tend to get a little neurotic
at times wondering if there is enough water in the reservoir to complete the shot, so I decided to plumb in so I wouldn't ever have to worry about that again. (I really don't need to think about that at 7 AM in the morning.)

If you decide that plumbing in really isn't worth the convenience, then your budget shrinks considerably and your options open up, only because there is a wide variety of prosumer grade HX machines which have reservoirs
on the market. If you decide you want to have the flexibility between tank and water line operation, this limits your options considerably.

Good luck!

 
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
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IMAWriter
Senior Member
IMAWriter
Joined: 4 Jul 2002
Posts: 5,874
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 Sat Mar 16, 2013, 8:22pm
Subject: Re: What's the right machine for me?
 

Welcome to the CG Forums, Paul.
You've obviously done your homework.
I'll reserve comment on the grinder, as all grinders mentioned so far would be excellent.

Get a wee bit more machine than you can afford, but make sure it's looks also please you. It will be the visual centerpiece of your coffee bar, maybe even your kitchen.
Also, chose a vendor who whom you can relate, one that has a service department, even if it's just to call and ask how to install a part.

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


Joined: 1 Apr 2013
Posts: 13
Location: Near Cleveland, Ohio
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Wed Jun 26, 2013, 5:28am
Subject: Re: What's the right machine for me?
 

Crossland cc1 is a nice beginner machine.
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,766
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 Wed Jun 26, 2013, 6:23am
Subject: Re: What's the right machine for me?
 

Welcome to the board.

It seems that one of the biggest points of confusion for most new people and a few older ones is that there is some mystery in a cooling flush, that it is temp surfing, that it is a big deal, that it uses gallons of water.

None of that is true.

It is just one step in the process and EVERY machine needs a CLEANING flush and nearly every DB machine needs a WARMING flush, there  is no way around it, a flush is part of the process.

Are you going to miss a hot water wand? Not really, my personal view is that it is a bit over rated and rarely used. If you want hot water, you can get it from the brew group, just "pull a shot" without any coffee in the PF. Even with my 2.5L boiler (very large in home machine terms) more than a few oz of water used and the pump turns on, filling the boiler and cooling the water. If you try to take 6 or 8 oz of water, the pressure drops to near zero due to the cooling of the influx of make up water. To "stay ahead" of the cooling of the make up water, you need to take the water slowly or at about the same speed as the brew group will deliver it. Not to mention that the boiler water is above boiling temp so the first water you get will be heavy with steam and sputtering, it drops to smooth flow for a few oz then the pressure drops and everything slows down. honestly the brew group is just as fast to get hot water and it has the added advantage of not cooling the boiler. But like anything, YMMV.

You have mentioned why I don't like the BDB so that is all I will say about it.

Spending just a little more then a little more and oh heck a little more is easy to do. What you should do is forget about what machines you have seen. Make a list of features you want to have then match the features against the machines available, do not forget to put a price in the mix as a feature you want to have.

HX vs DB, that is a hot topic and one that really should not be so. They are two ways to get to the same end point. A DB is no more stable in the shot than a HX in any real way that matters in the cup. Some people like the readout of a PID and feel it makes a better product. A PID does not add anything to stability in a HX machine but they make HX machines with a PID just because of the perception on the uninformed public that a digital readout and control is automatically better just because it is there. A case can be made that a solid state device may have a longer life span than a mechanical device but that is entirely a different discussion than stability in the shot.

Plumbable is a big plus for me as is volumetric dosing. Now that I have it, I really do not like "going back" to manual pulls. It helps you to be consistent in shot volume and you can stop it any time you like if the shot seems to be going bad. A win / win in my book.

Rotary pump is nice but they are not always quieter than a vibe pump. I get just as much noise from my rotary pump as the vibe pump on Sylvia makes, I own both. I like the heavy duty aspect of a rotary pump and it is a feature I look for. The pump on my two group commercial machine is not as noisy as my single group machine. The way the pump is mounted has something to do with how much noise is transferred through the frame and then to the room, again YMMV.

Good luck. You will tend to get a lot of "I love my brand X machine so you should buy one of them" comments. This is only natural as if you like what you have then you want others to be as happy as you are. My personal advice is to discount the happy owner comments. Don't ignore them but do not put as much weight on them as your own list of features that you decide you need to have. Again, I will say that on that list of features should be your price point and just as important as the price point and possibly higher, what you like to look at, you need to like the looks of what you buy!

 
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!
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 3,109
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 Wed Jun 26, 2013, 7:30am
Subject: Re: What's the right machine for me?
 

I agree with most of what's been said already.  I haven't seen many recommendations for the Mazzer Mini Electric.  In truth, I don't see many recommendations for the Mazzer Mini at all - no matter which subtype.  Why?  I think it's because there are other machines that are either the same or less money or maybe even a couple of hundred dollars more, that are better quality in the cup.  Some of those are cleaner and/or easier to adjust.  Some of them are built just as well. Some of those are other Mazzer grinders (such as the Super Jolly).  That said, there's nothing wrong with it that I know of, and it's probably still the gold standard in its class.

I couldn't agree more with Wayne's comment on the hot water wand. I find mine to be nearly useless.  The water is far too hot to use in anything drinkable, except maybe if you wanted to melt ice?  From there, it becomes a glorified cup warmer, a function that really is satisfactorily performed by the passive action of the machine top (in most cases).  Of course, if one were to walk up with a cold cup and want to use it right away, the cup warmer utility of the hot water wand is a great convenience.

I applaud you on doing your homework...it's actually pretty rare for people to come asking the which machine is right for me question, let alone, having done as much pre-decision making as you did!  I'm sure everyone else here appreciates it as much as I do.

One question you asked that I think has been answered (somewhat) indirectly thus far...


PaulDenver Said:

Have I talked myself into buying more machine than I should....

Posted March 16, 2013 link

my opinion is...NO

PaulDenver Said:

...are these steps above the BDB worth the money?

Posted March 16, 2013 link

my opinion...YES

PaulDenver Said:

...Are there other machines I should consider?

Posted March 16, 2013 link

my opinion...YES.  Take Wayne's (calblacksmith) advice.  Now that you seem to have decided on what type of machine you want, look at features and decide which ones are important to you, which ones are undesirable and then see what machine(s) fit the bill.  Then decide on price and appearance (you will have to look at it everyday for years to come). In doing this, strongly consider Rob's (IMAWriter) too.  Parts availability and service (even if it's just availability of techs to answer phone calls and/or emails) are important.

Lastly, as Bud (qualin) pointed out, mouthfeel and flavor profiles are going to be most dependent on beans/blend and grinder once you develop your skills. Water quality is also an issue, but that is dependent on source and, to some degree, your ability to adjust the mineral content. Water temp is important to some degree as well, but in the class of machines you're considering, you can't go wrong there.

Good luck!

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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