How to pick an espresso machine...

carlamoose

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Dec 31, 2007
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PA, USA
I want to buy a better espresso maker when I have enough money saved. Now, I've been searching past topics on this forum and have some ideas on what I want, but I still need some guidance. There are so many features, and I'm just not sure what makes or breaks picking one over the other.

I want the cheapest-costing machine without sacrificing quality. In other words, I want to spend as little as possible but not buy a crappy machine that I have to replace a year from now. I currently have a steam machine, which I know is bad, so I want to buy a pump machine. Gaggia was suggested a lot. Are there any other brands to consider? I have a Capresso Infinity grinder, which I love, so I'm thinking maybe a Capresso espresso machine (http://www.capresso.com/espresso-machin ... luxe.shtml for $200). What features should a machine have and what are solely preference? For example, one machine has 18 bar power while another has 15 bar power. I know some machines use those pods for coffee grind. I prefer grinding my own beans. Also, I want one that lasts a long time (unlike mine where the frother broke after a year).

And what about a french press? I read the grind is bigger than an espresso grind, so I'm guessing I want an espresso machine and not a french press. But what makes an espresso taste like an espresso from an espresso machine? I know to make a latte, you use foamed milk + espresso. I have a hand-held frother, so if I use the coffee from a french press and add foamed milk to make a latte, do I even need an espresso maker? I know a latte is technically espresso + milk, but why not use french press coffee?

I know the hand-held frother won't steam the milk, but that doesn't bother me when I make lattes with what I have now.

Ok I hope I explained myself well.
 

ElPugDiablo

New member
Jul 16, 2004
991
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Hartford and New Haven, CT
carlamoose said:
I want to buy a better espresso maker when I have enough money saved. Now, I've been searching past topics on this forum and have some ideas on what I want, but I still need some guidance. There are so many features, and I'm just not sure what makes or breaks picking one over the other.

I want the cheapest-costing machine without sacrificing quality. In other words, I want to spend as little as possible but not buy a crappy machine that I have to replace a year from now. I currently have a steam machine, which I know is bad, so I want to buy a pump machine. Gaggia was suggested a lot. Are there any other brands to consider? I have a Capresso Infinity grinder, which I love, so I'm thinking maybe a Capresso espresso machine (http://www.capresso.com/espresso-machin ... luxe.shtml for $200). What features should a machine have and what are solely preference? For example, one machine has 18 bar power while another has 15 bar power. I know some machines use those pods for coffee grind. I prefer grinding my own beans. Also, I want one that lasts a long time (unlike mine where the frother broke after a year).

And what about a french press? I read the grind is bigger than an espresso grind, so I'm guessing I want an espresso machine and not a french press. But what makes an espresso taste like an espresso from an espresso machine? I know to make a latte, you use foamed milk + espresso. I have a hand-held frother, so if I use the coffee from a french press and add foamed milk to make a latte, do I even need an espresso maker? I know a latte is technically espresso + milk, but why not use french press coffee?

I know the hand-held frother won't steam the milk, but that doesn't bother me when I make lattes with what I have now.

Ok I hope I explained myself well.
A French press steeps coffee for about 3 - 4 minutes, pretty much like you steep tea. A espresso machine use high pressure hot water, usually about 9 bars (9 times the atmospheric pressure) to extract a small coffee concentrate known as espresso. It usually take about 20 - 30 seconds to extract a espresso. French pressed coffee is sort of a deeper brew coffee, espresso is much smaller and more concentrated.

As far as which espresso machine to get, you will need a rotary pump machine that can produce 9 bar of pressure, they are unfortunately not cheap and do need some regular maintenance. I don't know much about consumer machines that will make good espresso, and is long lasting in the $200 range.
 
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carlamoose

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What if a machine produces more than 9 bars of pressure? I get that it means more pressure on producing the espresso, so would that affect the taste? I did a quick search and conclude that having more pressure does not make a difference, but I don't know if they are referring to producing espresso in general or the taste.
 

CCafe

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Aug 11, 2004
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Des Moines, Iowa
Oh trust me pressure plays a big role. Most of these machine have a pressure balance valve of some kind built in. Yes they broadcast that they have an impressive 18 bar vibrating pump but I can guarantee that its not delivering 18 bar to the espresso. Without going in to much detail about the type of tubing inside the machine, there's not to many tubes out there in the size range of your espresso machine that can withstand 100C at 9bar let alone another 9 to go on top of that.

As for what the Pug said I agree. I would look for a rotary vane pump machine. But your looking at machines that will start in the thousand dollar bracket. Heck a good Procon vane pump costs about $120 so the machine built around it is not going to be cheap.

In your case I would suggest just buying a Capresso and being happy with it. Pick up the French press to just so you can make a better coffee then most drip brewers can offer.
 

shadow745

Active member
Aug 15, 2005
1,588
2
Central North Carolina
Well I think Capresso makes some good machines, but not great. Most of them use thermoblock or thermocoil heating systems and pressurized baskets. That is good for a newbie, but you'd outgrow it soon after. For the $$$ you can't go wrong with any of the Gaggias. Most of them, even the ones in the $200-300 range, will have proper 58mm portafilters and nickel plated brass groups, which makes alot of difference in shot temp. stability.

Your Infinity grinder will serve you well for espresso. No it's not an espresso-specific grinder, but it will allow you to pull good shots. I know because I have one and have pulled some really good shots at work using my Infinity with a 3 group LaMarzocco Linea machine. Had the grinder at work to grind for drip and I must say that the Infinity grinds better in the coarser ranges than the Nuova Simonelli MDX espresso grinder there. Just be sure to clean the grinder out often (daily if you use it for espresso) because any stale grounds will really show in espresso. It is the most demanding form of coffee extraction. Also lots of cleaning, prepping, fine tuning, etc. if you want to do it right.

Lots of people like the press method because it's cheap to do and offers some of the best coffee out there. Another thing to think about is beans. You need good fresh beans on a regular basis. The "fresh" beans at the local market usually won't pull it off. Later!
 
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carlamoose

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Dec 31, 2007
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I agree about the Capresso grinder. I bought it because any grinders priced lower didn't grind the beans fine enough. I also know about the freshness of beans and buy online. In fact, I just bought a pound from Essential Wonders. Cleaning daily may be a slight problem because I'm lazy haha But no, if I get into the habit, I can probably get in the routine of cleaning daily. Thanks!
 

marcusclark

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Jul 23, 2009
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I've used a couple or more burr grinders and last week i bought a brand new Capresso Infinity Burr Grinder.I am pretty astonished to see the way it works.It is just opposite to other dusty burr grinders making irritating noise.
 
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