Salton vs. Mr. Coffee.... All On The Cheap (resend)

Q: I'm about to buy an espresso machine for my dorm room. My price range is $50-70 (I would love a 150 dollar range one but I have a nasty feeling it would get stolen) and the Krups Espresso Bravo is right in my price range. I also have the option of buying a Salton Three For All (an 8-cup coffee maker and 4 cup espresso/cappuccino machine). Both are the same price ($49.99). I can also get a Mr. Coffee espresso machine at the local WalMart for $39.99. I realize that the quality of the espresso I get will be exactly what I pay for - not too great, but which of my three options will give me the better quality espresso? Which of the three will be the easiest to use? Also, does anyone have any suggestions of other machines in the same price range? (all the stores in my area carry the same Krups line to the exclusion of just about everything else). I don't check the newsgroups too often, so I'd appreciate it if you would send me a copy at: as well.

A: All those machines don't make espresso - they make double-strength coffee. The steam pressure they produce is not nearly enough for espresso. Out of all of them, though, the Krups espresso bravo will be the only one that would make decent double-strength coffee, and the frothing wand included actually can froth milk without sputtering. If you want a decent espresso machine and don't mind refurbished equipment, spend the $50-70 on one of the refurbished Gaggia Coffee or Krups Novo machines that often pop up on the web auctions. Both are pump machines, and both can produce very good, authentic espresso. As far as the argument about which machine is best that goes on constantly in this newsgroup, both will make great espresso for the money you'd be spending. With a refurbished machine, if the job wasn't done right, it's usually immediately apparent. All have at least a 30-day warranty, so you can be reasonably certain that you'll get a good machine, if maybe on the second try. You give up some of the convenience for extreme bargains. I would recommend staying as far away from the Salton and Mr. Coffee machines as possible. A friend made me a Salton shot, and it tasted like aluminum from the boiler was leeching into the coffee. I've never sampled Mr. Coffee's results, but I've seen one, and it looks and feels very cheap. The steam machines use a "fine" grind (about a notch finer than you would use for a drip coffee maker) and are more forgiving with the type of bean you use, since less depends on getting the roast and grind exactly right. On a cheap mill grinder, about 15-20 seconds will do it. I've actually made decent double-strength coffee with Maxwell House French Roast in a Braun steam machine (hey, I was desperate!). You'll find many people on this group look at the steam-powered machines with disdain. They do not make espresso, despite the way they're advertised, but the coffee they do make can be pretty good.