Grinders are grinders. They all chop up beans to whatever consistency you want--it depends on how long you have them grind. Espresso machines? Now that's another story. It depends on how much you want to "do" to get a shot of espresso. You can get a decent espresso shot from equipment that costs ten bucks. You can also get one from equipment that costs five thousand. How much work and cleanup are you willing to do? How much cash are you willing to cut lose? Just as important, how many shots do you want to pull at a time? If you are entertaining fellow espresso lovers, manual equipment can be a pain in the rear-end. Put more info about what your limits and situations are. You'll find a ton of advice coming from other espresso aficionados.
I plan to enjoy the espresso with others as well. Generally 2-3 shots at a time for myself, and 2 for my wife at least in the morning. I do want to get a quality maker that will hold up and allow me to service friends/guests as well. I am hoping to not break my bank although in doing this if possible.
I would recommend the Saeco Italia automatic espresso machine. I've looked at and sampled shots from several automatic machines for home use, and I selected the Italia. It's pricey, but then again I want the quality. I also bought it when it was on sale.
If you plan to make espresso-based drinks while entertaining at home, I think an automatic machine is a must. Otherwise you're spending a lot of time in the kitchen cleaning and preparing for the next shot.
I can recommend the Baratza Solis Maestro Plus ($150) for the grinder. I know others have recommended the Rancilio Rocky ($260). Check out www.coffeegeek.com and look under consumer reviews. Can't say anything about espresso machines, as I am looking for one too.
OK all of this talk about home espresso and entertaining. Where's the party at? 8) :mrgreen: Truthfully you don't need an expensive espresso machine for home. Besides unless you decide to open as a business Nuova Simonelli makes a great pour over model called the "Oscar". It is a single group with a steam wand and it pours pretty good shots. And it won't break the bank. They sell for around $1,000 to $1,200. Look into it.
If you want ease of use I would suggest a Vienna Superautomatic. $399.
Does it all for you and won't break your bank. If you want to make them your self, that depends on how much you want to spend? You can get an OK machine for about $100, but then you need a grinder. They start at $100 and go up. The more you pay for anything the better the quality, usually. Then you have to learn to brew your espresso, steam your milk, etc. That’s another story.