What is differences between $50 and $200 espresso machine?

JJHippo

New member
Jan 12, 2005
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I need to buy a new espresso machine to replace my old $30 espresso machine, which was bought in Wal...

My old machine could not make the milk bubble within 5 minutes after the a cup of espresso was blew. Because of the sad experience, I would prefer to spend a hundred dollar more for a new machine, which has better performance than the old one and is able to make Latte within 5 to 10 minutes.

Of course, I know a little bit about the differences between $30 and $200 espresso machine. However, is it worth for me to spend $150-200 for buying a new espresso machine instead of buyging $50-80?

Would you mind to tell your favorite brand names and model numbers of espresso machine?
 

CCafe

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Aug 11, 2004
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Des Moines, Iowa
About 8 years ago I went to Wallyworld (Walmart) and purchased an espresso machine for around $40. At the time I thought it made great espresso, but back then I really didn't know my butt from a hole in the ground. Also my $40 really went a long way, about 1 year. It broke and I called to get it fixed. Wow for the price of the parts and repair I could buy at least 3.

So I set out and looked around and ended up buying a Capresso semi automatic. It had a wand and I had to manually make my shots and steam my milk. Now I paid about $200 for this machine and since then I have decaled it a few times and dismantled for a deep clean. I finally gave it to my mother in-law because she likes espresso. It is still running like the day I purchased it back in 1998.

I have since then started working for a company repairing espresso equipment and have acquired a Solis Master 5000 Super Auto. It makes descent espresso. I no longer have to grind and manually make my shots. My trade off was quality for ease of use, that and I drink a ton of espresso at work.

From what I see on the net, you can buy one for around $550! My boss told me when he 1st started to sell them they were around $1000. Personally I would like to get a hold of the Jura Capresso S9 demo unit we have. It has more features, plus it comes with a milk frother so now I can become even lazier at home.

So I guess what I am trying to say is that you may have to spend a little more to get something that is better in the long run. You know if I went with that old analogy that you get what you pay for, I would have probably spent close to $400 on crappy espresso machines at Walmart.
 

edna713

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Nov 17, 2004
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Yhe $30 unit? a steam powered machine which IMHO should not be even sold as an espresso machine! Briel has a NICE little unit for around $130!

check it out -- google "briel" :)
 

bloocanary

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Jan 23, 2005
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Boston, MA
There are many differences between a cheap machine and the more expensive machines. The price *does* make a difference, although it is a personal decision whether that difference justifies the price. Of course a BMW runs smoother than a Hyundai, but some people can't afford a BMW, and some people who can are just happy enough with a Hyundai.

Some of the major differences ... first, you need to realize what espresso is. It's supposed to be the essence of coffee, purified and concentrated. You're trying to take a mound of beans, and extract from it exactly all the good essence of coffee that's in it ... any less and you lose some of the flavor ... any more and you start getting the bad stuff. It's a pretty narrow window, really ...

So, to start, the cheap machines are essentially boilers connected to the portafilter (which holds the coffee). Water boils, forcing steam through the pipes and through the coffee. Since the good stuff in coffee is best extracted at a lower temperature than steam, these machines end up not only scorching the coffee (sometimes creating a nasty burnt smell/taste), but extracting mostly the bitter tastes. In addition, the amount of water that ends up in contact with the grinds is inconsistent, and the amount of time that it is in contact with the grinds is inconsistent.

More expensive machines basically control those variables better. First and foremost, they do not work by forcing steam thru the coffee. They typically heat water up in a boiler, to the proper temperature just below that of steam ... then, some mechanism (e.g., pump or piston) delivers that water to the coffee at exactly the right pressure (I think it's something like 9 psi). That's oversimplifying ... there's actually a complex interaction between how fine you grind the coffee, how hard you pack (tamp) the coffee, how much water you run through the machine, etc.

Anyway, as you can see, it starts getting pretty complicated. In addition, while it's easy to say "water at the proper temperature", it's actually a veritable engineering feat to maintain water temperature, especially considering the water is not static ... it's being pumped thru pipes, and more is being added to the boiler constantly.

These are some of the basic variables that differentiate machines. As you can see, the dept store espresso machine is pretty primitive comparatively. If you can't see the difference, consider this ... properly made espresso (which you won't find at most of even the "best" cafes/restaurants) shouldn't be very bitter at all.

That said, it's still a personal choice. My father likes the harsh bitterness of coffee. I still can drink a latte at Starbucks -- the milk and sugar mask the bitter taste -- but along with most of the good tastes, yielding a sweetish drink with a bitter undertone, nothing more. Once in awhile, however, I drop by Gimme Coffee in Brooklyn, and they serve me a drink that tastes yummy without any sugar at all ... and that's why I no longer own a $30 espresso machine.

Some suggestions for machines ... decide first of all if you're in it for the journey or the destination. If you want good espresso with minimal work, look at some of the automatics. If you can't afford that and are interested in spending some time playing with things, look into a Rancilio Silvia. If even that's too expensive, you could get away with a Starbucks Barista ... but that's really the absolute minimum, and you are likely to outgrow it quickly. If you're happy with drinking just milk drinks with sugar, and don't want to spend the money, you could be happy enough with a $30 steam machine.

Hope that helps. You gotta just remember, espresso is the king of coffee ... it's an attempt to pull out the best parts of coffee as efficiently as possible. It's a perfect balance of time, pressure, heat, water, and coffee.

Oh, and remember ... the first most important step is to get a good burr grinder. That's probably the single best first step to take, since coffee beans start losing flavor quickly as soon as they're broken up. Within minutes, a good part of the flavor is gone. Within a day, all the good stuff is gone, leaving you with a kind of dull "coffee" smell. If you don't believe, me, go to a gourmet store and grind some coffee ... smell it right away, then smell it again the next day. Better yet, order some fresh-roasted coffee from some online roasters, like Intelligentsia, Vivace, Gimme, Terroir, Stumptown, or Sweet Maria's. They ship you coffee roasted within a few days, instead of months like most grocery stores. The smell will knock your boots off, I promise.

j
 

valcs

New member
Mar 12, 2004
56
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CA, USA
i agree with bloocanary

hi,

i am in the coffee business for a while now and to learn it i had to experiment a lot. Espresso is more then a coffee it is an art. As said before a 30$ espresso maker " burns coffee " and it is not an espresso. I would not recomend bying that mashine. I would rather use french press or filter coffee then drinking burned espresso.

If you buy an espresso maker make sure that it is pump driven. I think for the first-begginer mashine a Krups or if invested more a Gaggia would be perfect.

I would not recomend automatic mashines like saeco, aeg, jura etc. They are built in a very flimsy way. They are expensive and they break pretty often.
 

CCafe

New member
Aug 11, 2004
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Des Moines, Iowa
I don't the last Jura Capresso S series you looked at, but they are not built flimsy by any means. The espresso quality is not that of a traditional machine. But what do you expect when you buy a super automatic. Then again there are a lot of 1 group machines on the market that are worthless too. Any machine that uses a vibrating pump is worthless when it comes to making good espresso. And as much as it pains me to say that, even some of my favorite manufactures use this type of pump to cut corners and save money.
 

edna713

New member
Nov 17, 2004
14
0
SC
Vibrating pumps no good?? Pah!!

How silly! there is Nothing wrong with vibe pumps!! Zillions of espresso machines use 'em. all a pump has to do is provide pressurized water! nothing more. the SKILL of the operator, the grind, the rest of the machine, the temp control, the coffee are all far more important!

So there!

dave
 

valcs

New member
Mar 12, 2004
56
0
CA, USA
ccafe

they are :))) you change the brewing head and the grinder like a tonner in laser printer.
i was goint to buy myself a saeco incanto and i contacted my dealer. because our good relation and passion for la cimbali mashines he showed me some of these automatic mashines dissasembled and it was a shock for me. also the saeco i have chosen for myself has a touch screen. he said that after some time the steam starts to leek and destroys electronical parts. then i wanted to go for jura but he shuwed me the number they have in service for different repairs... not convincing.

i do not see problem with vibrating pump. if you buy a higher end mashine they have all ULKA. even if they say something else you can look at the small metal tag, where the producer is listed and you find ULKA. to invest into a mashine for home with motor pump is silly, because you have to hook it up to the mains. usually these mashines have higher capacity boilers, and that takes up to heat it longer. especially on 110v outlets. and anyway we are talking about mashines in the 2500 USD price range.

the masic formula for espresso is 95 degrees celsius water, pressure 9-9.5 bar. it cannot be delivered by mashines which are pressured by steam... but can be delivered by mashines with pump.

and yes producers are cutting edge where they can, because they want to offer 200 USD mashine and also 1000 USD mashine. Except a vibrating pump I will go also with a three way solenoid, but thats more $$.... check Gaggia, maybe they will fitt into your price range.

BTW your jura is most likely using ulka - vibrating pump :wink:
 

CCafe

New member
Aug 11, 2004
1,557
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Des Moines, Iowa
Yes all a pump does have to do is provide pressure, except a vibrating pump will always give you a constant pressure. The last time I checked that pressure is about 15 bars. 15 bars is just to high to make perfect espresso. Espresso is best extracted at 9 bars.
 

CCafe

New member
Aug 11, 2004
1,557
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Des Moines, Iowa
I already knew that the Jura comes with a vibrating pump. I also know that as much time that I have spent with Jura's that I have never been able to make shots as good as traditional machine. The same goes for the Nuova Simonelli Microbar, an all Jura Capresso machines.
 

valcs

New member
Mar 12, 2004
56
0
CA, USA
9 bars

hej, hej, hej it is 15 bars at the pump end and until it gets to the head it should be 9 bars.... 15 bars is just a commercial trick, but most of the good quality mashines deliver aroun 9 bars at the head....my la cimbali makes exactly 9.2 as it should be :))))))
 

edna713

New member
Nov 17, 2004
14
0
SC
You are correct. Vibe pumps just won't hold up to the very heavy use common in a busy commercial establlishment. that's why rotary pumps. Pressure is pressure! hehehjavascript:emoticon(':grin:')
Very Happy
 
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