Want to get my wife an espresso machine for x-mas, but...


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Dec 7, 2006
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I need help quick! I am trying to get an espresso machine for my wife for x-mas but I don't know which one to get! I am trying to keep the price under $150.00 (the lower the better but I don't want to sacrifice quality too much!) Do you guys have any recommendations for an espresso machine in this price range? I appreciate any input!
I have not found any $50 to $150 machine that makes a drinkable espresso or credible steamed milk either.
Avoid the "machines" that are steam pressure driven because they are a cheap compromise. The folks I know who have received them as gifts use them once or twice and then give up because the machine is difficult to use and the cup quality is sub-standard.
The home use machines in the 400 to 2000 range that have an electric pump to create coffee brewing pressure can make a passable espresso. You need 9 bars of pressure to press an espresso. Also look for machines with two temperature settings - coffee brews best at 200 degrees Fahrenheit - just below water boiling point (212 F), while water has to be above boiling to make significant steam for heating milk.
I agree with the $150 investment for espresso. You're not going to find a good machine for extracting and frothing at that price range.

Really good espresso doesn't just need a capable machine but more importantly it needs fresh roasted beans and a very good grind. A good grinder capable of espresso will cost as well. Honestly, a set up that will produce good to very good espresso and froth for milk based drinks is hard to get for under $500US. Uncompromising quality comes from a semi automatic machine and burr grinder set up approaching $2000 US, IMHO.

There's lots of very interesting extraction methods that make very good coffee. The Aerobie is about $30 and it makes strong coffee that it claims is espresso like. A good french press also makes excellent coffee with fresh roasted beans and a good grinder. Turkish coffee is really good too. For $150 you can get a hand grinder capable of grinding for espresso/turkish coffee and a good ibrik and on a stove top brew very tasty turkish coffee. And/or you can get an Aerobie and/or french press and make very good coffee as well. Vacuum pressing is also an interesting option.

There's a few very good on line roasters that deliver fresh roasted coffee. Very fresh roasted coffee well ground and extracted would be better than any espresso you'd get from store bought beans brewed on a $50-$150 espresso machine.
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Thanks for the replies. I made a decision to get a stove top "espresso" maker. I know that these aren't nearly the best out there but there are some people that absolutely swear by them. I decided on the Bialetti Brikka because it produces crema (yeah I know... nothing like real espresso). I also found a refurbished burr grinder for $70.00 and a frother. All of this came to $150.00 shipped. I know that this isn't a real espresso setup but by judging from what others say it does turn out some darn good coffee. We are the kind of people that love to take our time to do things. I don't see us getting tired of using this setup. Maybe next time I can get a real espresso machine but money is tight right now. Ah, I also got some Ethiopian Harrar on the way... should at least be tasty.

Thanks for the tips!
Hey MrEctedl
I hope MsDrected loves the new coffee project too. You made reasonable choices to yield decent coffee in your price range...you will have much more satisfying coffee than a similar cost steam machine!
Stumptown Coffee roasters has an exceptional instruction tab on their website for brewing with your new Bialetti moka pot. Go to stumptowncoffee.com, find brewing instructions and moka pot (I know a lot of folks call it a stovetop espresso pot, but it is actually a moka pot). Your burr grinder will be handy, because you need to get just the right coarseness in order to yield good brewing from the moka pot without getting too much grind dust in the cup.
The Harrar coffee is famous for its wild, fruity-ness and red-wine taste character, distinctive blueberry tones are also typical. Most roasters take Harrar to a fairly dark roast, because the hard bean and bold flavor can stand up well to a dark roast profile. If the coffee is too dramatic for your taste, try blending it fifty/fifty with a more mainstream coffee.