Cheap espresso machine?

jm21

New member
Jan 31, 2008
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So I drink a pretty good amount of espresso and often Americanos (tall, triple, room for cream but don''t put any cream or sugar in)....but I''ve only recently been looking into buying a good espresso machine for home and would like some advice.

My parents gave me a cheap machine of theirs because they never used it, but it didn''t produce very good espresso (actually, it barely tasted like espresso...after reading from these forums and elsewhere, I guess it uses a steam brewing method and has very few bars of pressure...). I had always heard that the good espresso machines, aside from being expensive, require a grind that''s hard to get without an expensive grinder, so I gave up on the idea for a while...but then visited an uncle over Christmas and their Saeco machine is apparently very forgiving on the grind needed, and I started looking into machines.

I''m just looking for something that''s relatively inexpensive and can either brew enough coffee for me (I''m single) quickly or can do everything automatically...I use a french press right now, and although I enjoy the coffee out of it, I enjoy espresso more and I also usually don''t want to take the time to boil water, put it in the press for 3-4 minutes, then let it cool off to drink (I have a bit of a cat''s tongue), in the morning. It takes too long and I don''t like setting the water to boil while I take a shower, which is what I sometimes do to save time (seems unsafe, and then it starts whistling when I''m shampooing my hair or something). Sometimes I get doing something else while it''s brewing too and it brews too long.

I want something that''s quick or automatic but still gives me a nice cup of coffee.

I got an automatic tea maker for Christmas (the Zarafina one.. http://www.amazon.com/Zarafina-Maker-Su ... 015&sr=1-2) and love the set and forget, while still producing a good cup of tea, so the super-autos are very tempting and I''ve seen the Saeco Italia for a bit under $300...but $300-400 is getting a bit pricey and I''ve heard they have big reliability issues.

The Keurigs (or something like them), although they don''t make espresso, have some setting for a very strong cup of coffee, and do automatic single serve, and have an adapter to use normal coffee grounds...so that''s kind of tempting too. It seems like that might taste like an Americano?

If I didn''t get some automatic machine, from what I understand, to make the best espresso for the money, with relative ease, I''d want a decent grinder (I saw several posts here recommending the....infinity grinder i think? for $90 or something?) and a pump espresso machine with 15+ bars of pressure (semi-automatic too? Don''t know exactly what semi-auto means in this context...).

There seem to be a lot of brands, and I know from a reliable source that the Saeco ones work and are easy to use, so they''re at the top of my list, but I''m sure the other brands are competitive...I just don''t know enough about them.

So...any advice on something that might suit my needs would be great! I''m just waiting, researching, and looking for good deals right now.

I saw that Illy had a deal where you get a Francis!Francis! X5 machine for only $150+S&H if you sign up to order coffee...which seemed like a good deal, but the machine didn''t seem to get good reviews, except that it had great styling...but I actually don''t like the Euro styling. I''ve never had Illy coffee either, although it''s supposedly a good brand. I usually get my coffee from a small roaster that I like. And I prefer tea sometimes so I''m not sure I''d drink that much coffee in a month.
 

shadow745

Active member
Aug 15, 2005
1,585
2
Central North Carolina
I'll make this easy and simple. For the money you can't beat the Gaggia machines. You can find something in the $250-300 range that will blow anything less than $500 out of the water. All Gaggias in this price range have a good pump, 58mm chrome plated brass portafilter, chrome plated brass grouphead, external heating elements, etc. Contrary to what people say about the hybrid boiler(s) in these machines, they require the same simple care any other good machine does.

Personally I'd stay away from autos and super autos. If you want simplicity and consistency then that's what you'd want. If you want great shots with a little hands-on effort, then a good semi-automatic is where you need to look.

The machines like the Tassimo and Keurig work OK (from what I've read) for what they are designed to do, but they do not produce true espresso. And how long will the craze last with them? What happens if manufacturers of the capsules they utilize stop making them? Beans will be around forever.

Regarding a good grinder, the $90 Capresso Infinity will work just fine with pretty much any home machine out there and is a great all-around grinder if you need it for other extraction methods. Later!
 
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jm21

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Jan 31, 2008
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Thanks for the replies!

The SS Mokita seemed to be no longer available at most places, and a little pricey...I'd like to stay under $350 for everything combined, shipped (though that seems more and more difficult, without compromising a lot on quality...). I'll definitely keep it in mind though.

Thanks for the advice shadow, some of your advice in other posts has been very helpful as well! I've been looking at the Gaggia's a bit, but wasn't sure if they were a good option.

The reason I was considering the Keurig was because it had an adapter to use your own coffee grounds. I wouldn't be buying any of the pods or k-cups or whatever....I know it's not espresso, but they're significantly cheaper than an espresso machine, hands-off, and supposedly can produce a strong single serve coffee which would be all right...not as good as espresso but maybe between espresso and drip coffee I thought.

I like the idea of a super-auto, but they do seem very restrictive, especially the cheap ones, and not big on reliability...and it'd be nice to have a nice separate grinder (my current one is worthless) for when I want to use a french press or something (I'd like to try making turkish coffee sometime too, and saw what seemed like an easy way to make it on these forums when I was browsing around, with a steam wand).

Does anyone have an opinion on the following Briel machines (or Briel in general?)? As compared to say, a Gaggia Carezza? Or maybe a Saeco Gran Crema or Aroma?

Briel Chamonix
http://www.amazon.com/Briel-ES35AF-Cham ... 147&sr=1-2

Cadiz
http://www.amazon.com/Briel-LExpresso-A ... 147&sr=1-5

Versatile Uno
http://www.amazon.com/Briel-ES37SFB-Ver ... 147&sr=1-3

The capresso ultima seemed like it might be an OK deal too...not many options, ugly, but very easy to use and not as much to break as the super-autos (as well as cheaper)...
http://www.amazon.com/Capresso-121-01-S ... 70&sr=1-15
 
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jm21

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Jan 31, 2008
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Wasn't sure how to edit my post to add something, but I found a review of the Carezza at www.coffeegeek.com and it seemed pretty impressive, as you (shadow) said the gaggia's would be...I didn't realize the difference a 58mm portafilter could make, or the material it was made from. After reading reviews of the Briels, the Gaggia definitely seems a better option.
http://www.coffeegeek.com/proreviews/fi ... za/details

The review of the Krups Moka Brew seems like an interesting idea too though...
http://www.coffeegeek.com/proreviews/qu ... psmokabrew
 

shadow745

Active member
Aug 15, 2005
1,585
2
Central North Carolina
The Briel machines (from what I've read) use thermoblocks and some sort of pressurized system, either baskets or portafilters. For the money you can't beat the Gaggia line. Now the cheapest Gaggias might have aluminum portafilters, but I'm not sure. I have seen pics of older Gaggias that had that issue. But all the ones I've read about recently have chrome plated brass. Same with the grouphead.

If you're looking for true espresso then I'd say stick with the Gaggia and a good grinder. If you want something a little easier to use with alot less challenge that will give consistent espresso-like taste, then the Keurig or MokaBrew might be the ticket. Later!
 
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