newbie here looking for advice

beanbuzz

New member
Jan 2, 2010
5
0
Hi all,

I am new to exploring this world of coffee passions....I use a free Gevalia drip coffee maker and thought I was really getting fancy when I bought an "evil" blade grinder. I would like to "move up" to some starter products that make real coffee/ espresso. I'm decided on buying a Capresso Infinity Burr grinder, but have no idea what is a good "starter" machine. I was thinking about trying out a Bialetti stovetop espresso maker (I know there is debate as to whether it makes true espresso, but I'm not that picky yet!) Has anyone here ever used one of these and have an opinion about them? Besides the Bialetti, I have been reading tons of reviews on espresso machines, specifically at a price point of under $300 USD. So far, reviews seem to be overall pretty good for Saeco Classico & Aroma, Gaggio evolution, espresso and carezza. Any opinions on those? I have no idea what to look for in a machine, whether I should get auto, manual, semi-automatic and have never used or tasted coffee from pods. I just need something easy for a beginner to use (even if it means I need to practice a bit), that's affordable, reliable, and makes good espresso. I should probably mention I am a busy mom of 4, so I need the espresso but not lots of hassle w/ a hard to use machine! Any advice and recommedations appreciated.
 

shadow745

Active member
Aug 15, 2005
1,599
6
Central North Carolina
The Infinity is a good all-around grinder. Not perfect for espresso, but is quite capable nonetheless and excels at all other brew/extraction methods. I personally wouldn't bother with a moka pot, especially once you've had good espresso and espresso based drinks from a proper machine/grinder/fresh beans.

Those machines are OK for home use, not great. Good for getting into the habit forming world of real coffee.

You surely don't want a manual machine. Also known as levers, either true manuals or spring loaded, these require alot of attention to detail and lots of practice to master. Semi-autos are the most common meaning you control the shot from beginning to end. Autos typically mean the shot is controlled either by time or volume automatically, usually programmable. The super autos do everything for you... grind, dose, tamp, extraction, dispose of puck and some steam/froth for you as well. BUT the best a super auto can muster usually can't come close to a decent semi-auto/grinder in the right hands.

Regarding pods... if you want consistency and don't expect great taste pods are ok, as are the single cup brewers. BUT these things cost alot more than what you pay for fresh beans to grind/brew yourself for the same amount in the cup.

I hope this clears up some things. Later!
 

CCafe

New member
Aug 11, 2004
1,553
1
Des Moines, Iowa
I know quite a few Italians who would be rather upset that you think you can't make a good espresso from a Moka pot! I think a lot of people have forgotten the rich history of espresso or simply don't know it. The truth on the matter is a Moka pot isn't going to make the same type of espresso that an automatic espresso machine will produce. If you look into the past you will see that the Moka pot was invented around 1933. Before that most home users brewed with some type of a peculator which was even less desirable.

Around the mid 1940's the piston machine was introduced. You have to go to 1961 before you get the famous Faema E61 machines which pretty much revolutionized how we make espresso. They set the bar pretty darn high with a bunch of improvements with the most major being a pump driven machine. All these improvement help make espresso what it is today, but lets not forget the past.

A Moka pot has its own unique flavor and you can't compare it to a lever machine as it too has a unique flavor. That being said lever machines are not hard to use at all. Yes there is a learning curve in producing a good shot. But with a little time, a lot of love, and a pound of espresso later most beginners are producing very good shots. I've had espresso on a lever machine that rivaled some of the best automatics out there. The way I look at is using the old ways must not be bad because people still drive old classic cars, audiophiles still seek out vacuum tube powered stereo equipment, and there are plenty of people using non-automatic espresso machines.
 

shadow745

Active member
Aug 15, 2005
1,599
6
Central North Carolina
A moka pot might be OK for those looking for a cheap, convenient, easy to clean solution for fake espresso, but that's about all the positive things I could possibly say about them.

And yes I do know the history of machine production and personally think the piston machines are the absolute best thing to ever happen to coffee. I proudly use my 32 year oldOlympia Cremina almost daily. I never said manual machines are hard to use, just that they require alot of attention to detail and practice, which is true 110%. I will also go on to say that a busy mom of 4 has no time to bother with a lever machine and to be honest most females don't have the physical strength to crank on the lever with 40+ lbs. of pressure to extract properly. Spring operated levers might be anohter story, but then again most people are intimidated by levers in general and won't devote the time/attention needed.

I will also say that my better shots from the Cremina lever have beter taste, texture, color than the best shots from our 2 group NS Aurelia, which is a fantastic commercial machine. Later!
 
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beanbuzz

New member
Jan 2, 2010
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Thanks for the interesting coffee history lesson! Let me ask this, if I want to make a good latte, does that affect the choice in machines? Also, my husband has different taste (he does not go for the coffee shop fufu drinks, but drinks his coffee black). I am wondering if he will be happy with an Americano from an espresso machine. I imagine there is a different taste that I am unaware of, so please advice me if it really matters. Heck, maybe I should just go with a french press! :)
 

PinkRose

Super Moderator
Staff member
Feb 28, 2008
5,218
6
Near Philadelphia, PA
Hello "beanbuzz"

Welcome to the Coffee Forum website. You will find lots of useful information here.
I noticed that you've posted several questions regarding topics that have been discussed on this forum in the past. It may be helpful to know that we have a handy search option here. If you scroll up to the top of your screen, you will see a search box. Just type in your topic and click on "search" and a lot of information should appear. For example, there have been discussions on the French Press and the Aeropress as well as some of the other topics that you've posted questions about. While you're waiting for responses from forum members, you may want to explore the forum archives a bit. You'll be surprised when you see all of the informatiion that this forum has to offer.

Again, welcome....and we hope you'll visit often.

Rose
 

shadow745

Active member
Aug 15, 2005
1,599
6
Central North Carolina
Well yes it does affect it. For milk based drinks you need a machine capable of producing microfoam (technique helps alot as well), which not only changes the taste of the milk, but also adds a nice velvety texture to it... kind of like melted ice cream. Basically you need something that will give plenty of steam and good control over it. Most machines like the Gaggias and higher up will do the job nicely for this. Any monkey can steam milk and I see alot of "wannabe baristi" doing this. They will put the pitcher under the wand, open the steam wide open and walk away. That is steaming milk, not texturing.

An Americano is a great way to give him his drink as well. Of course there is a different taste, but that really depends on the type of bean used.

You can go with a french press and decent conical burr grinder. Also can get some sort of device to whip some steamed milk. Lots of people love that type of setup, but for me there is no substitute for espresso. Just my opinion of course... Later!
 

CoffeeLoverCA

New member
Feb 3, 2010
2
0
I don't think that you have to pay an arm and a leg to get good espresso. You probably do to get GREAT espresso.

Just today, my Capresso Classic arrived. It's a refurbished unit that I picked up for $79 from J&R in New York (quite a savings, and with the same warranty, and quality controlled multiple times since it's refurbished.. so works like new and is probably more likely to function well than a new one).

I did quite a lot of research before I bought a machine, and I was looking for one under $200, and preferably under $100, that would pull a consistent shot of espresso. The Capresso has 18 bars of pressure, as opposed to the usual 15 bars from most entry level machines. I urge you to check out its many features, including a milk steaming nozzle that easily slides to two settings, one for lattes (steamed milk only) and one for cappuccinos (steamed and frothed).

To that I added an Infinity conical burr grinder, which I hear is quite good as an entry level machine, and it is also less than $90 on Amazon.

By the way, I pulled several shots from my Capresso Classic today, and it was delicious! I am also not an advanced user, but I am learning. I know what I tasted today was very good stuff. There was a nice, rich crema on the top of the espresso, and it pulled the right sized shot in about 25 seconds, which is ideal (this depends on the tamp as well as the grind size).

So with your already savvy purchase of a conical grincer, please, DO NOT stop there. Get a good entry level espresso machine to go with it, and you will be making mocha lattes, cappuccinos to your heart's content. You won't regret it, especially if you shop around and find a nice machine for a bargain like I did. Happy shopping!
 

MikeRocha

New member
May 20, 2010
3
0
Sunrise, FL USA
I'm a newbie too. I guess both to this coffee forum and to forums themselves. So please forgive me if I fumble about for a while. I picked this line to make my first post just because it was from a newbie. So I thought I might fit in.

Most of my life I thought coffee was coffee. Not much else. One coffee maker was the same as the next. Then a friend at work started talking about espresso. It seemed really boring until he showed me how to make that light fluffy foam on top. That was cool. I asked how he learned to do that. He said in a forum. So I joined up to see what I can learn.

Anyway, I hope I'm not doing anything wrong posting here.

Mike Rocha
 

PinkRose

Super Moderator
Staff member
Feb 28, 2008
5,218
6
Near Philadelphia, PA
Hello "MikeRocha"

Welcome to the Coffee Forum website!

There are many places on the Internet where you can find information about the world of coffee, and we're certainly glad that you found us! We have a lot of interesting information here, and if you're looking for anything in particular, you can always use the search box at the top of the page.

Again, welcome to the Coffee Forum website, Mike. We hope you'll visit us often.

Rose
 

shadow745

Active member
Aug 15, 2005
1,599
6
Central North Carolina
CoffeeLoverCA... how well is that Capresso working for you? I had a similar starter machine from Capresso and I will say it was just OK for a newbie, but you will outgrow it quickly if you want real espresso. Clearly you have been mislead by the "18 bars of pressure" as that is what the pump is capable of in a MAX situation, not under an actual load. That pump might be under 18 bars of pressure because of the restricted flow in machines such as that, meaning small plumbing, thermoblock heating systems and those idiotic pressurized baskets Capresso is known for. Has been proven time and time again proper espresso is best achieved at 8-9 bars MAX. The Capresso machines have no real way to control the pressure during extraction as they simply stall in an effort to achieve a proper extraction. Companies use pressurized baskets or portafilters because they are a cheap alternative to a proper pump/plumbing system in any given machine. They are touted as being "user friendly" but actually hinder your skills because you will MAX out that machine far sooner than your skill level.

Also, that 2 way frothing attachment is a joke as all it does is introduce more/less air to make it easier to use. Again, just another cheap alternative to go along with the rest of the machine's capability. True microfoam just can't be achieved with these entry level machines because they simply don't have the pressure or volume to do so.

A do agree on the Infinity as being a great grinder for the money and is actually overkill for your Capresso machine. Later!
 

CCafe

New member
Aug 11, 2004
1,553
1
Des Moines, Iowa
shadow745 said:
CoffeeLoverCA... how well is that Capresso working for you? I had a similar starter machine from Capresso and I will say it was just OK for a newbie, but you will outgrow it quickly if you want real espresso. Clearly you have been mislead by the "18 bars of pressure" as that is what the pump is capable of in a MAX situation, not under an actual load. That pump might be under 18 bars of pressure because of the restricted flow in machines such as that, meaning small plumbing, thermoblock heating systems and those idiotic pressurized baskets Capresso is known for. Has been proven time and time again proper espresso is best achieved at 8-9 bars MAX. The Capresso machines have no real way to control the pressure during extraction as they simply stall in an effort to achieve a proper extraction. Companies use pressurized baskets or portafilters because they are a cheap alternative to a proper pump/plumbing system in any given machine. They are touted as being "user friendly" but actually hinder your skills because you will MAX out that machine far sooner than your skill level.

Also, that 2 way frothing attachment is a joke as all it does is introduce more/less air to make it easier to use. Again, just another cheap alternative to go along with the rest of the machine's capability. True microfoam just can't be achieved with these entry level machines because they simply don't have the pressure or volume to do so.

A do agree on the Infinity as being a great grinder for the money and is actually overkill for your Capresso machine. Later!

Please tell me you do realize that inside almost every machine that has a vibrating pump there is a pressure relief/expansion valve of some sort? Most vibrating pumps are either 15 bar or 18 bar setups. Simply put that is what they are designed to produce for pressure. There is no tuning like there is on a rotary pump. That's why they have a relief valve inside so they can produce around 9 bars. When those pumps stall its because they are getting old, could be dirty, or are defective somehow.

I've taken the time to test some of the pump pressures on vibrating pump machines and normally the group pressure is around 9 bar. I think you may want to reexamine the statement you are making and come back with some facts next time.

Oh and welcome back.
 

shadow745

Active member
Aug 15, 2005
1,599
6
Central North Carolina
And I must say DUH... dude don't call me out unless you know what you're talking about as there are lower end home machines that have no pressure relief or expansion valves. I know for a fact that the Capresso I had didn't as the pump would keep humming away until it would shut itself down as the pressure wasn't regulated at all.

I do know that vibratory pumps are designed to crank out 15+ bars under no load, but I'm tired of reading all the newbies thinking "more pressure equals more power equals better espresso" when that is hardly the case.

Many of the better home machines have adjustable OPVs that allow them to be fine tuned just as you would on a rotary.

I come back and try to post useful info and of course you swoop in and add what you have to say to negate my comments. Simply put I do know quite a bit more than you might think. Later!
 
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