Espresso Machine: help, please: home use, semi-auto...

You actually think Gaggia is better over Silvia? Oh boy where do you get that. lol. If you think 200 dollar Gaggia is better then Silvia, you must be smoking something. Go and read reviews on their machine priced under 400 dollars, they are all chinese made crap. They are under powered, very dull and fragile machine. I also owned Silvia for 5 + years and I love the espresso it brings to me til this date. I also own 4 different commercial machine that cost over 8k and I still like my Silvia.
Yes there are many different machines out there that is cheap, decent, and pretty espresso machines are out there but IMHO most of them are Cheaply made including cheaper version of Gaggia, Krup, and other plastic constructed machines. Their durability is always an issue.

Like you said, you owned it for 4 years. If you hated it with all your might, why did you keep it for 4 years? And most of the damn cheaper espresso machine won't last that long.

I have list few of the machine I thought would be good for the price.
I do not think they are better then Silvia but they are worth looking at.

New Breville 800ESXL Commercial 15 Bar Triple Priming Die Cast Espresso Machine 021614037343 | eBay

DeLonghi Esclusivo Espresso Maker Cappuccino Latte Frother Machine 15 Bar Pump | eBay

Easy to Use High Quality DeLonghi ECO310BK 15 Bar Pump Espresso Machine Piano B 044387203104 | eBay

One thing I would agree with Poison is to invest more on good grinder. Don't buy 20 dollar grinder and think that is good enough but invest more on grinder. If you search on this forum, you will find great grinder recommendation.

Good Luck
 
I kept Silvia for 4 years because $650 was a lot of money to me at the time, aNd I couldn't afford to go crazy flipping machines. I also upgraded grinders several times, and attempted to upgrade myself as well (barista skills). Nothing helped. Here's why:

An espresso machines job is to provide properly heated water to the group head at the proper pressure. Silvia does neither. It brews too hot, and at too high pressure from the factory. People recommend silvia, then drop another couple hundred bucks to mod it and overcome the built in shortcomings. It's stupid, and extremely frustrating.

Nowhere did I say the Gaggia is of a higher quality build. Who cares though, if silvia feels solid, but reproduction of the random god shot you just pulled is not reproducible out of the box? Many, many people get suckered in to buying a silvia, and upgrade sometime thereafter. Why? Because temp stability sucks, and you just can't reproduce excellence at will. A gaggia is far more consistent. And I would rather have someone spend $200 to learn to brew on a much easier machine, and then decide to upgrade to a real machine, like an e61/hx, over buying a $700 silvia then having to upgrade.

At least a couple of the machines you recommend above use thermoblock heating elements to provide pressure. I'll assume you don't know why that's bad, but it's inexcusable, and one of the main reasons why a gaggia is the only cheap option. Using steam to provide pressure means pressure will not be stable, and the machine will be too hot. You must have a pump to drive pressure independent heat.

The Silvia can produce a better shot than a gaggia, it is got shot capable. But the hitch is you simply can't replicate that god shot again, at will. A Gaggia may not match that god shot, but it'll replicate 80-90% of it all day long, with far less frustration.

I have made incremental upgrades through the full spectrum of consumer machines, I am a coffee roaster, and this is my business. I have sold nearly 100 machines to people...by telling them what to buy from vendors. I do not sell machines myself. I recommend what is good, what works, and what I use.
 
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Skill and fresh coffee trump all else regardless of how much is spent on equipment. I've had espresso from $10K+ setups operated by wannabes and the taste was on par with the $50 steam machine I started with. Good espresso doesn't have to be super expensive to obtain consistently.
 
CJ, FWIW I've owned and used some really good espresso machines/grinders, home and commercial. My current setup is a KitchenAid Pro Line, which was made by Gaggia and a Baratza Vario grinder. The espresso I extract from this setup is definitely on par with anything I've used yet. I say this after consuming thousands of double shots. Unlike many shop owners, I actually consumed what I created.
 
Agreed. A $200 gaggia and baratza virtuoso, total $400, will have you beating nearly any cafe which might be in your area.
 
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Wow, this has been so helpful. I think I'll go with a Baratza Preciso 685 for $299 and 440 distinct adjustments over the Baratza Virtuoso ($229) which has 40 distinct steps. (I was going to ask about this: "PANAMA" Coffee Mill - Stainless Steel, by Zassenhaus., but I know it doesn't have near the adjustments of the Preciso or even Virtuoso).

Unless, of course, the Preciso is overkill for an inexpensive espresso machine?

That just leaves selecting the model of Gaggia to purchase. I have to admit, I'm in love with the red color of the Gaggia 102534 machine, which is currently only $164 on Amazon. But, there are about a half a dozen Gaggia models in my price range, so I'm a bit stumped on which model to buy, although from what I'm reading, they all have the same basic "guts".

Honestly, I expect the grinder to way outlast the Gaggia.

I'm not in a huge huge hurry, so I welcome more suggestions.
 
The preciso is not overkill. It's the best bang for the buck grinder, and the grind quality may even be as good as $1k grinders. A good friend of mine bought her husband an astra pro and preciso setup for their anniversary, on my recommendation, and I just got home from dinner at their house. I made 25 shots or so using the preciso tonight, and do this fairly regularly. It's a great grinder. Baratza is a fantastic company to deal with, as well, if you ever need to.

The virtuoso would probably work fine, but you'd have plenty of instances where the appropriate level of grind would be between clicks. Not ideal. The preciso has clicks as well, but there are so many, and there is a separate micro adjustment, it's a total Non-issue. With the virtuoso, you'd probably want to upgrade if you ever step up to a better machine than the gaggia; with the preciso, you probably wouldn't ever feel like the grinder was holding you back.

As for the Gaggia, go for the pretty one, they're all the same. The $165 price is very good. The only thing you get with more expensive ones is a solenoid valve and stainless exterior. The solenoid doesn't change performance, or cup quality. It just prevents the oortafilter from spraying grounds if you remove it too soon after brewing.
 
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As you have said, you won't get the super shot from these crappy machines.
I am not saying Silvia is only machine to buy. But it is safer choice for people who do not really know what they are getting into.
That was my recommendation to this poster. I never implied Silvia was the best or the greatest. My thinking is without going over board or compromising the quality, used Silvia out perform any of the machine you have listed up there including my finding on Ebay.
My recommendation was purely on durability, maintenance, and parts availability. As you know, most of the espresso machine will require some type of maintenance and parts replacement within few years. However most of the CHEAP machines will be difficult to purchase any or all replacement parts or find the way to do it yourself. Yes, 650 dollars Silvia would be very expensive, but if you get 350 for the 2 years old or less used machine, I would think that would be the best buy. That is what i was talking about. Also quality of the shots can very but I never had any problem pulling the great espresso shot from Silvia like you have implied it is almost impossible.
 
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Wow, did my SO ever surprise me. He came over and was acting just a bit "off", when lo and behold the UPS truck drives up and delivers 2 large boxes from Amazon: the Gaggia, which is a beautiful deep red color (the pictures don't do it justice), and a Baratza grinder. Unfortunately, it was the wrong one, as he had ordered the Preciso, but the correct one will be here Friday. AND, although he is not a coffee drinker, he had done enough research on his own to know I would need a good tamper. (Rattleware) It's excellent! What a guy!

Thank you so much to all of you for all the help and pointers. It was very much appreciated!

A last question, are there any blogs you might recommend that I could follow to learn from in addition to reading here?
 
EsspressB,

I am not trying to burst your bubbles but this Gaggia is known to have problem with their durability and temp of their espresso.
Their heating unit is small and result in not very hot espresso. Also their product durability is very questionable. Some people have reported with machine they had to take it back.
I am sure not everyone one of them have problems.

Good Luck.
 
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EsspressB,

I am not trying to burst your bubbles but this Gaggia is known to have problem with their durability
Good Luck.

CoffeeJunky, you aren't bursting my bubble, I completely understand that the Gaggia machine I got is not a long-term thing. As a matter of fact, I told my SO that the Baratza will be a one-time purchase and should last for many years. I'm hoping for 2-4 years out of the Gaggia. I'm okay with that.
 
EsspressB,

I am not trying to burst your bubbles but this Gaggia is known to have problem with their durability and temp of their espresso.
Their heating unit is small and result in not very hot espresso. Also their product durability is very questionable. Some people have reported with machine they had to take it back.
I am sure not everyone one of them have problems.

Good Luck.

The Gaggia is designed with italians in mind. They drink espresso like there's no tomorrow, multiple times per day. The gaggias have small aluminum boilers designed to heat quickly: wake up, flip it on, and brew in 10 minutes or so, flip off. Silvia needs 20-30 minutes to fully heat, with the bigger boiler and much larger mass of the brass group. Again, it's much easier to brew better with consistancy with a Gaggia, than Silvia. And for the $160-200 price, you can buy 3-4 machines before you drop Silvia money.

Silvia has way too many issues for a $650 machine.
 
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