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Who Knows Espresso Machines?

Good Afternoon, Fellas. I have another request of information for you.

As the title indicates, the subject deals with espresso machines and I did do a search in the forum on it. While I've gotten some good info out of this, I'd like some more.

The scenario is this. My mother is an avid coffee drinker. She has been for a long time. She is a difficult coffee drinker, something I blame on her Euro roots. For the longest time she used to brew coffee herself, then stopped for a year or so altogether, and then started drinking coffee house coffee (aka sbux and the like) about two years ago. She knows virtually all the coffee places within 20 miles and which employee makes the best coffee. She drinks a cafe latte and never anything else.

Being the fresh college grad that I am, I mentioned that her coffee addiction worries me twofold. One, I suggested she drink tea (like me :biggrin1: ), but that was hopeless. Two, I mentioned that she could probably do better by buying an espresso machine and making the coffee at home.

This thought came to me once I actually saw the price those places charge for coffee. I figured that one cup of coffee costs her close to $5, given the coffee itself and gas mostly. Seeing as how she drinks up two dozen of these per month, I calculated that even if she bought a one thousand dollar espresso machine, it would pay itself of within 18 months.

Skip to now! She likes the idea and doesn't mind spending less than a thousand for a machine. Since both of us never used one, I came to you fellas to tell me what I need to know.

What are some of the quality brands?
What models do you recommend?
What features are a must-have? Which are a preferred option?
What is entailed in using one of these?
What is the maintenance like?

Any other input is much appreciated.

Thank you one more time,

Ernie
 
Hey Ernie!

Espresso machines are like razors, and cigars, and golf clubs, and ...........

You get the idea!!!:biggrin:

First, decide what you want to do with it.
  • 90% Espresso and 10% Cappuccinos / Lattes
  • 50-50
  • 10% straight Espresso and the rest milk drinks.

Personally, I have a Gaggia Classic machine and a Gaggia MDF grinder and it serves my purposes of about 75% Espresso and 25% Cappuccino.

I would suggest going to www.coffeegeek.com. There's as much info there on coffee as there is here on shaving. Just 2 hints, be patient, both in choosing the machine and after you get it. It isn't easy to learn. I'd guess I went through 3-4 lbs of beans worth of crap coffee before I got the "knack" and I'm still learning.

Good luck, and ANY questions you have, don't be afraid to ask
 
What about grinders? People might as well chime in with those recommendations as well.
Meant to mention that, thanks Bob.

Ernie, almost all CoffeeGeeks will tell you that the quality of the grinder is more important than the machine itself. You'll get decent coffee from a OK machine paired with a GOOD grinder, but you use a crappy grinder with a La Pavoni, and you get crappy coffee. Almost without exception. Also, never NEVER use prepackaged / preground coffee. That's like using a bar of dollar hand soap to shave with!!!!
 
What about grinders? People might as well chime in with those recommendations as well.
Good point. That shows you my tea nature. :001_tongu
Hey Ernie!

Espresso machines are like razors, and cigars, and golf clubs, and ...........

You get the idea!!!:biggrin:

First, decide what you want to do with it.
  • 90% Espresso and 10% Cappuccinos / Lattes
  • 50-50
  • 10% straight Espresso and the rest milk drinks.

Personally, I have a Gaggia Classic machine and a Gaggia MDF grinder and it serves my purposes of about 75% Espresso and 25% Cappuccino.

I would suggest going to www.coffeegeek.com. There's as much info there on coffee as there is here on shaving. Just 2 hints, be patient, both in choosing the machine and after you get it. It isn't easy to learn. I'd guess I went through 3-4 lbs of beans worth of crap coffee before I got the "knack" and I'm still learning.

Good luck, and ANY questions you have, don't be afraid to ask
Alright, the intended use would mostly serve her latte consumption, which as far as I know is an espresso based drink. Occasionally, one may want to serve a cappuccino, but the espresso would be the primary drink for this machine.

Thanks for the link and the analogy. :lol:
 
Meant to mention that, thanks Bob.

Ernie, almost all CoffeeGeeks will tell you that the quality of the grinder is more important than the machine itself. You'll get decent coffee from a OK machine paired with a GOOD grinder, but you use a crappy grinder with a La Pavoni, and you get crappy coffee. Almost without exception. Also, never NEVER use prepackaged / preground coffee. That's like using a bar of dollar hand soap to shave with!!!!
Interesting. Why is this?
 
Interesting. Why is this?
With Espresso, the water is forced at ~ 9 Bar (~ 130 PSI IIRC) through coffee packed under pressure in the Portafilter. So grind size, and uniformity of particle size, is of the utmost importance. Basically, blade grinders and cheap burr grinders are useless for any type of quality coffee.

If your mom is happy with spending $1000 on a set-up, she'll do fine with a grinder / machine combo purchased with that budget in mind.

Also, might I suggest a super-auto machine if easy of use is important and quality of coffee & creativity aren't on top of the list. Check 'em out. That may be an option too.
 
Newfie's right about determining what she's going to be drinking and then select the machine.

For latte: the bona fide coffee geeks heads are gonna explode with this recommendation, but from a practical point of view a good quality super automatic is probably the best way for your mom to go. Grinder is built in and there's no futzing or temperature surfing required.

Capresso makes some good super autos I think.

1st in coffee has some refurbished machines with full warranty.
 

ouch

Stjynnkii membörd dummpsjterd
Moderator Emeritus
I heard there's a guy on the site named Din that knows a thing or two about a thing or two.
 

Dinder1

Moderator Emeritus
I'll add my two cents (the short version)

Fresh coffee!: It all starts with the coffee, if you don't use quality beans that are fresh (7-10 days old max) you will not get a decent shot/crema, period.

The grinder: I agree that a good grinder makes all the difference in the world, plus if you buy one of high quality, such as a Mazzer, you will never need to buy another grinder. Be prepared to spend almost, or as much on a grinder as on your espresso machine.

Espresso machines: There are countless makes and models to choose from, but just make sure that whatever machines you are considering are of a solid build/ more metal parts than plastic ones.
I also highly recommend that you buy a machine that uses a commercial grade/size 58mm portafilter. Rancillio makes a nice entry level machine called Sylvia.

Go naked: At our shop we use bottomless portafilters, sometimes referred to as "naked" portafilters. These portafilters yield a superior shot, with fantastic crema. These P-filters are also a great tool for learning proper tamping technique, as you can see the entire shot being poured without obstruction through the bottom of the filter.
 
+1 to coffeegeek.com

+1 to investing in a good grinder. I love my Mazzer grinder personally.

Look for an E61 machine, such as those made by Isomac.

Finally you should invest in a few accessories, such as a good tamper. Look for Reg Barber and/or Thor tampers.

Best wishes.
 
I do not confess to being an expert, however i do drink a fair amount of espresso. We bought a NESPRESSO machine and I have to say it is about the best espresso I have had aside from a barista in Italy. It's simple to use, has an excellent crema, and is a snap to clean up. It may be a bit more expensive as the coffee comes in capsules, but you use less and its always fresh. It is a huge success in Europe which is where we first saw it and I have one at the office which is used all the tiime and it never breaks.

Unless you are a true gourmet, (and even if you are) go with the Nespresso. Its made by Nestle.
 
The part that has not been touched onhere yet is the cleaning and maintenance. If your mom likes lattes ratehr than espresso, then you will need to steam and/or foam the milk. This requires regular cleaning of the steam spout as hardened milk forms on the spout. Cleaning the machine and the grinder regularly are a part many people do not think about when going this route. She should be prepared to spend almost as much time making and cleaning the machine as she does driving to her local coffee shop.

Also, IMHO, part of the lure of Starbucks is the atmosphere and experience, not just the coffee. I can cook a gourmet meal including really nice sauces, but do not have the time to do so daily.

My point here is not to discourage her or you from this idea, just to point out that there is more effort required. That may be why several people recommended the super auto machines.
 
Don't forget to find out if your mom is into the coffee, or just likes getting out and about. Going for a cuppa Joe is a good excuse for a mini road trip.
 
Thanks for the further input. She certainly enjoys the coffee more than either the drive or the atmosphere. Her favorite place to drink it is at home, in the backyard. I also do not think that the maintnance should be a problem, since she does a lot of work in and around the house and enjoys this, as well.
 
Starbucks sells some fairly good home espresso machines http://www.starbucks.com/retail/espressoMachines.asp

I'm not saying you should buy from Starbucks, but that you should consider the models they offer as a baseline of what you ought to be looking for.

Jimro
De’Longhi machines are prone to problems compared to other more reputable brands.

Do go to CoffeeGeek.com The folks there are very helpful and if you pose this question to them, be prepared for countless different points of view, all of which may be worth considering. :tongue:
 
The part that has not been touched onhere yet is the cleaning and maintenance. If your mom likes lattes ratehr than espresso, then you will need to steam and/or foam the milk. This requires regular cleaning of the steam spout as hardened milk forms on the spout. Cleaning the machine and the grinder regularly are a part many people do not think about when going this route. She should be prepared to spend almost as much time making and cleaning the machine as she does driving to her local coffee shop.

Also, IMHO, part of the lure of Starbucks is the atmosphere and experience, not just the coffee. I can cook a gourmet meal including really nice sauces, but do not have the time to do so daily.

My point here is not to discourage her or you from this idea, just to point out that there is more effort required. That may be why several people recommended the super auto machines.
You raise good points here. My wife and I drink caffe latte almost every day. My wife is the expert here. She scalds the milk and makes the strongest of the Nespresso coffees right in the mug we drink from- nice Deruta mugs (adds to the ambience!). This preserves the crema of the espresso. She then gently pours in the scalded milk and the crema rises to the top. The result is incredibly good. Cleanup? You remove the holder and get rid of the capsule; done.

I drink my coffee while I have a nice shave. She reads the paper. On Sundays, we read the Times and sit outside on our patio when Houston weather is not oppressively hot and humid (i.e., the next two months).

We have never used the foamer on the Nespresso but, I would guess it works as well as the coffee making feature. I have no stock in Nestle, I just think this is such a great product that more people should at least look into it. We've had other machines that fell into disuse because they were a bit too much of a pain to use. There is none of that here.

Here's a whimsical YouTube commercial featuring Clooney.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfyeXrdZZ1o

Here's a wikipedia link:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nespresso
 
De’Longhi machines are prone to problems compared to other more reputable brands.

Do go to CoffeeGeek.com The folks there are very helpful and if you pose this question to them, be prepared for countless different points of view, all of which may be worth considering. :tongue:
You know, I am well accustomed to that after reading various threads on here about the "best" product for any given shaving need. :biggrin:
You raise good points here. My wife and I drink caffe latte almost every day. My wife is the expert here. She scalds the milk and makes the strongest of the Nespresso coffees right in the mug we drink from- nice Deruta mugs (adds to the ambience!). This preserves the crema of the espresso. She then gently pours in the scalded milk and the crema rises to the top. The result is incredibly good. Cleanup? You remove the holder and get rid of the capsule; done.

I drink my coffee while I have a nice shave. She reads the paper. On Sundays, we read the Times and sit outside on our patio when Houston weather is not oppressively hot and humid (i.e., the next two months).

We have never used the foamer on the Nespresso but, I would guess it works as well as the coffee making feature. I have no stock in Nestle, I just think this is such a great product that more people should at least look into it. We've had other machines that fell into disuse because they were a bit too much of a pain to use. There is none of that here.

Here's a whimsical YouTube commercial featuring Clooney.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfyeXrdZZ1o

Here's a wikipedia link:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nespresso
Interesting commercial.

While those machines seem practical, being limited to only their capsules may not be the perfect solution.
 
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