Need help choosing an espresso machine

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Need help choosing an espresso machine

Postby tcheckley » Mon Jul 13, 2015 8:52 pm

I'm looking to get an espresso machine, preferably one without the grinder built in. I want to purchase a burr grinder separately, as I hear they give a consistent grind when compared to blade grinders (any advice on this is also appreciated).

I came across the Breville BES840XL, which gets great reviews on I've also heard good things about the rancilio silvia.

It's a lot of information to take in, should I just go for the Breville and be done with it? What do you look for when reviewing espresso machines?

Any help appreciated.

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Re: Need help choosing an espresso machine

Postby dr.chris » Tue Jul 14, 2015 6:38 am

Well there will be better people then me to give some advice but there are a few questions that might help to get us in the right direction on this path to madness..

First is what do you actually want to drink (e.g. espresso alone or milk based or both) At the bottom end of the market you have machines that if you are lucky and do the right things sometimes they produce decent espresso but there are a heap of compromises over steaming.

Next is how much can you afford :) (there are always second hand options) And there is this terrible, expensive thing we call 'upgradits' if your interest really takes off. If you are just after something simple that makes something like an espresso you might be better off getting an aeropress and a decent handgrinder, or a stove top. Generally the advice you are going to get is spend money on a decent grinder first.

And probably the last is how, err 'technical' you want to get. As in do you just want something you can press a button and go or are you happy temperature surfing and modding machines. The rancillo for instance has a good reputation but does appear to need time to master.
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Re: Need help choosing an espresso machine

Postby Danomar » Tue Jul 14, 2015 7:33 am

Dr. Chris put it well. There are many different options and paths to follow. You can get a basic one-pushbutton type machine that requires almost no effort to something as complicated as a lever espresso machine.

Conventional wisdom suggests that the most important components to making good espresso are, in order or priority, the user, the beans, the grinder, and the espresso machine. You can get a reasonable facsimile of coffee from a Nespresso machine; if you want to make this a hobby, then it would be prudent to invest time in some training. Also, research reliable sources for beans and be sure to start with a good grinder. The espresso machine you get is more a matter of preference than outright performance—but there are clear divisions of quality and performance for the investment.
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Re: Need help choosing an espresso machine

Postby bruceb » Tue Jul 14, 2015 11:00 am

The answers posted above should give you much to think about. The Breville uses a "pressure portafilter," i.e. a restricted flow portafilter that is intended to make up for poor grinding. No basket or machine can really do that, it just gives the operator the false satisfaction that he's dong something right. The machine itself is probably fine otherwise. It receives relatively good reviews, whereby I must admit I have never seen one in person.
That said, it is more important to consider a good grinder. A great barista with the best beans and best espresso machine cannot pull a good shot if he has a mediocre grinder to work with. It can't be said that the grinder is more important than anything else, because a great grinder cannot make bad beans taste good, or correct for poor distribution and tamping, or wrong water temperature, but it certainly can be said that without a good grinder none of the other things will make a good espresso.
Don't chose a grinder because it looks great or matches the machine well. Grinders made for home use, even very expensive ones, are not very good. If you want to get good results without a long path of upgrading watch e-bay for a used commercial grinder. They often turn up at a price equivalent to a new "home" grinder and the results will be much more rewarding. Even if you have to replace the burrs (a good idea anyway) you will save money in the end and eliminate a great deal of frustration. I have 5 commercial grinders that all work perfectly, are relatively easy to adjust and I didn't pay more than 100 GBP for any of them. Mazzer, Rossi, LaCimbali, Rancilio, etc. are all good any many rebadged examples are found as well. If you unsure you can always ask here. Someone will have had experience and can share it with you.
Good luck on your coffee trek and please let us know how you do or ask more questions here. We love to spend your money. :-)
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Re: Need help choosing an espresso machine

Postby tecnora123 » Tue Jul 14, 2015 11:03 am

Hey tcheckley,

Thanks, this is really very good coffee machine review site. :)
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