Wanting to get into the espresso game.

Discussion in 'The Cafe'' started by Mediumrarechicken, Jun 8, 2013.

  1. Right now I have a moka pot, I like it but am wanting more. I'm wanting to fine tune my coffee skills and Taylor it to what I like. I'm not a subtle hint of northern Colorado blackberry in the finish kind of guy, it's either damn that's really good it's good or this tastes like crap guy. I'd like a budget of around 300 bucks, not sure if anything is good in that price range though. I saw a show on TV once and they had a machine that could be adjusted for pressure and flow of the water I thought it was really cool but it was 20k. Is there any thing like that in my price range? Up till this year I've drank coffee just to keep awake, my wife would go to charbucks or whatever and I'd get what my wife got cus I didn't care. So this is totally new to me. Thanks guys.

  2. ~~~first, IMO, if you think you want to drink espresso, you have to understand what the parameters are. You're right about needing a machine that is able to adjust the pressure of the water going through the coffee puck (coffee basket, coffee, porta filter)...usually around 8-9 bars pressure. the strike water needs to be between 193-203 degrees f and collecting one ounce (of espresso) in approx. 25-30 seconds. Two ounces if you're pulling a double shot. That's basically espresso and refers more to the process of brewing

    most use a pump machine to make espresso and you need a machine that is or can be modified...the pump pressure modified to achieve the aforementioned pressure. with your $300 budget, believe it or not, it can be done but you're looking at used equipment

    the most important, the single most important piece of equipment is the grinder, but let's set that aside for now. What you could probably find in the $50 category is a consumer Gaggia espresso machine, probably found through craigslist, a local thrift store (for instance). Usually these machines are discarded for cheap when the original recipient finds it no longer works due to calcium clogging up the works or a $3 thermal fuse blows and it no longer runs, or what have you. The lessor priced consumer Gaggias aren't fitted with the necessary valve to adjust the pump pressure, but they can be retrofitted. You can temp surf with the oem temp stat to make it work/pull a decent shot but ultimately it's worth investing in a PID for it though that will blow your $300 investment (unless you get the machine for next to nothing). And you still have the grinder to budget for

    As to the grinder. I'll let others make suggestions. I thoroughly felt I started at the bottom of acceptability and bought a Rancilio MD-50 3rd hand. A very well worn one at that, and had $250 in it (including new burrs) + shipping to get it to my door. But, you can find better deals if you look for them. I ran mine for 5 years before buying a new grinder and if I were to sell it, I wouldn't let it go for less than $100 and the motor needs new brushes. It needs a new start switch too but I have a new switch that only needs to be installed

    What I like about this particular grinder is, it's commercial grade, has 64mm flat grinding burrs...low RPM motor. You'll get a ton of opinions on what grinders to consider so do your homework and figure out for yourself what you need but whatever you do, don't scrimp on the grinder. There really is a minimum standard and you don't want to go below it. Many n00bs looking at getting into the espresso scene blow their budget on an espresso machine and then don't have sufficient funds to buy the right grinder. Don't make that mistake. others may have better and different ideas


    Reddick Fla.
  3. jazzguy

    jazzguy Contributor

    The first thing you'll need is a good quality burr grinder. Baratza is probably your best option.
  4. professorchaos

    professorchaos Moderator Emeritus

    There'll be plenty of talk about this style machine versus that style machine. I'll spare you that and say, instead, that armed with even the best gear, it is frightfully easy to pull a terrible shot. Whatever you choose, learn to use it to get the best shot possible. That will entail reading, asking questions, lots poor shots. In the end, however, you will find that you can pull extraordinary shots consistently.

    And yes, a good grinder is an unavoidable essential. Consistent grinds are of paramount importance.
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2013
  5. The grind is key, so is the tamp. I get good results from my Gaggia MDF Grinder and Gaggia Coffee machine. I have had the set up for about 5 years now. The Coffee is discontinued. It has been replaced by the Pure. THat set up will run about $400 though.

    Like others said, the most important thing it not to skimp on the grinder. I think the Gaggia works well for around $200. Buy a heavy metal tamper since the plastic ones that come with most machines is useless. And consider a digital kitchen scale to weigh your grounds. That will help with the learning curve.
  6. I drug up our espresso machine tonight (it's been in the basement for about a month now). Had 3 cups of fantastic brew... BUZZING still as it nears 1 am... gonna be a late night tonight... I can feel it... Up by the crack of noon tomorrow I am sure.....
  7. 300 is going to be tricky. A grinder will probably consume most or all of that budget unless you go with a hand grinder.

    As has been stated above, the grinder matters more. Don't fixate on the espresso machine and leave the grinder as an afterthought (common mistake).

    I can understand where you're trying to go with that comment but you're still describing a wide range of preferences. I don't note all the subtle tastes and nuances but I am very picky with my espresso. I'd fit your description above but, from context, it still sounds like our preferences are completely different. Keep in mind that what your tastes can change with experience and exposure.
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2013
  8. I was researching espresso machines a bit over a year ago, and came to the conclusion that money spent on the machine is wasted if you didn't spend at least that much on the grinder. Assuming you're buying new, I think this holds true up to about the $300 mark (for the grinder, not both). The appropriate comparison would probably be someone spending several hundred dollars on a razor, and using a $10 brush and $2 soap with it.

    I ended up with a Lelit PL41TEM, and the grinder that goes with it (I forget the model number). I can get pretty good coffee out of it, though I seem to be using my French Press, Moka pot and Ibrik more often these days. If I don't use it for a few weeks, the first few shots I pull from it suck, probably due me losing the feel for it.

    As has been said already, if you don't put in the time learning to use it, even the fanciest equipment will produce terrible coffee. Probably the reverse is true- someone taking their time on a low-end machine may well make better coffee than someone on a professional machine who isn't really putting the effort in.

  9. If the $300 budget is definitely your max, then I am afraid "true" espresso is likely a no-go. Oh wait a minute I forgot about the hand-presso thing. But anyway for an introductory setup a Hario hand grinder would work. No it is not anywhere like optimum but it is better than one of those twirly whirly blade chopper/pulverizer gizmos.

    As for the machine there is a cheaper option but bear in mind that it does not make espresso as defined by the Italian ministry of coffee or whoever it is that everybody quotes. The pressure is simply too low. The water is probably too hot. But it makes a more satisfying shot than a moka, even though I do like moka coffee. The machine is made by Mr Coffee and is steam powered. Steam pressure forces hot water through the tamped coffee. The only way to increase the pressure is to grind finer and tamp harder and then the shot takes longer and who knows if the machine could blow up or not. But I have enjoyed some tasty cappuccinos from the Mr Coffee steamer. The texture and richness are not the same. Not as much crema on top. But it is not bad until you get really really spoiled.

    My current machine is a $900 DeLonghi Magnifica and I am liking it. 10 minutes start to finish for a triple shot cappuccino. Beans go in the top. Water goes in the tank. Espresso comes out the spout with the touch of a button. Another button puts it in milk frothing mode and I have to manually hold my milk pitcher under the steam wand but no biggie. I can't easily set the pressure. It I can adjust the grind, the amount of coffee to grind, and the amount of water in the shot. Pucks are ejected into a little bin that I have to empty once in a while. The machine cleans itself. Very convenient though purists will insist that an all manual machine is way better and I can see their points but I don't have time when I got to go up to the bridge and relieve the watch. I like the convenience, yeah though I am thinking about a manual La Pavoni for my little sailboat.

    If you got to go cheap then go cheap. Do remember though that you can do a LOT better if you are willing to upgrade to a proper espresso machine and a better grinder. And you don't have to make any excuses. You are drinking your coffee, not selling it.
  10. You might want to give this thread a look over: http://badgerandblade.com/vb/showth...e-have-experience-with-ROK-espresso-machine-y

    The Rok doesn't look half bad, in the right hands.
  11. Find a nice Cafe that makes what you like and stick with that.
    The AD with coffee can be a tad pricey :001_cool:
    I started with the smae thoughts as you, first machine I bought I just wanted a nice drinkable strong brew ($150 I think I spent) and then AD and OCD kicked in and many machines later $4.5k Espresso machine and grinder $3.5k then commercial coffee roaster and every brewing method known to mankind.
    Nowadays I am happy with either a swiss gold pour over ($35) or Aeropress ($40 back when I got mine) paired with a German vintage hand grinder ($25)
    Sorry strayed a bit off topic but heed the AD warning, its another reason I love wet shaving you don't have to spend thousands to feed your disorder but you can if you want.
    Enjoy your coffee !!

  12. ~~~Ha-Ha!, yeah, you got sucked in...

    OTOH, I'm real happy where I'm at with my espresso. Stuck in a rut I like to call it, happily. I'm basically pulling two double ristretto caps daily...it's been like that for 5 years going on now. I'm real firm in that regard. I know what I like and I drink it. No flip flopping for me


    Reddick Fla.
  13. Riff Raff

    Riff Raff Contributor

    Spend your $270.00 on a conical burr grinder and the other $30.00 on an Aeropress. Seriously. It is the best coffee I have ever tasted. All of the top barristas in the world rave about this thing. I have never had a more flavorful cup than what was produced from the Aeropress. It is manufactured by an Australian company called Aerobie. You can get the Aeropress at ThinkGeek.com. I have spent way too much money in the past on grinders and espresso machines. This is the real deal. And for $30, what do you have to lose? it is only 10% of your budget anyway!

    I have no affiliation with either Aerobie or Think Geek. I am just a coffee enthusiast that is convinced that this is the best cup I will ever have. Don't get me wrong, grind and bean quaility is extremely important. Bad beans still taste bad. But the Aeropress will get you the best cup out of those beans.
  14. And at the very least, you'll have a good grinder. I die a little inside when I see blade "grinders" in people's kitchens, and it actively bothers me that Harry Palmer uses one in the Ipcress File.

  15. Riff Raff

    Riff Raff Contributor

    LOL I have a Braun blade grinder...

    that I use to grind whole spices with! Never on coffee beans!
  16. You could probably swing a Hariro Skerton or Kyocera hand grinder and a MyPressi Twist (version 2), for under $300. The MyPressi makes some GREAT coffee... you've just REALLY got to pay attention to the details.
  17. Turtle, what kind of setup do you have?
  18. A lot of good advice above.

    I agree wholehartedly that your first budgetary outlay should be for a good grinder. A Baratza conical burr, a Gaggia MDF, or if you can swing it a Rancilio Rocky. If you get a Rocky, you'll probably never need another for home use. Beyond that price range lies commercial machines, which unless you're thinking of running a cafe you probably don't need.

    Then use that grinder to master making really good pour-over drip, French press, moka, cold-extraction, Turkish, etc. coffee - all of which benefit from a consistent grind and require minimal other equipment. You can get more immediate benefit from a solid grinder while you plan your espresso adventure.

    In the meantime, save your dollars and shell out for a decent pump-driven semi-auto espresso machine when you're ready. Gaggia New Baby, Saeco Aroma, and even the new Krups pump machines are affordable starters. Then, if the bug bites you can spend to your heart's (and wallet's) content and ability. :laugh:
  19. Dantheman

    Dantheman Contributor

    I'll get this thread going again. I've been letting my coffee AD get out of control lately. I've gotten a great maker(Bonavita) a great grinder (Capresso Infinity) and now roasting my own beans on my Behmor 1600(still very much a work in progress). I've recently been enjoying some espresso from a local place here, but don't have the equipment to have this at home. I've been lookng around, there's so many options and so many $$ levels. I have been looking at the Breville Barista Express BES870XL. Here's a link:

    i like the fact it has the grinder incorporated and also like the size of the machine. It says it has pressure of 15 Bar and integrated PID control. I seems to be a great entry level machine to hone my extraction skills. As has been said in this thread and many others. You can pull a terrible shot on a $2,000 machine just as easily as you can on a $500 machine.

    Anyone care to add their .02? I'd appreciate any input, advice, or suggestions. Thanks.
  20. I'm not a super automatic fan. No real reason other than I think you have less control and for the money have more choice if you buy a semiautomatic machine and a grinder. I do know many people that have then and love them.

    I would caution using a hand grinder for espresso grinding. I have both Harios and I think it would take quite a while to grind a shot that fine. However after a shot a day for a few weeks you'd have forearms like Popeye.

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