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Thread: A few options - help appreciated

  1. #1
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    A few options - help appreciated

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Hi everyone,

    We have recently bought a Breville bes820 machine on impulse - $500 down from $900 (were in New Zealand, so this is probably around $50 to you at the moment!). Before opening it we started looking at online reviews, got a little concerned with what we read and are now considering other options (we can return it if we havent opened the box). We are unlikely to go beyond $500, and although the usual price tag would suggest the bes820 as a tier above entry-level machines, I believe that the coffee and milk-steaming innards are actually the same as some of the Breville models below it? (Please correct me if I am wrong) . If this is the case, I was hoping I could get some feedback on some of the options I see as available.

    Firstly, in response to the common "what is your grinder?" question that meets many of these requests for starter-machine recommendations, I understand the importance of a grinder in terms of getting great espresso (and the argument that grinder + plunger will make more delicious coffee than espresso machine + bad coffee). However, Im also very keen to make my niece (and husband!) delicious hot chocolates, and also look forward to having lattes at home and making creamy milk. We will look out a good burr grinder after we have our machine set up (and new house bought), but in the mean time will get coffee ground at a local shop, and accept the lack of absolute freshness for a while.

    So, regarding our options, looking around, there dont seem to be a lot of others in NZ in our price range. There are a variety of Brevilles and Sunbeams, some Delonghi (nothing in our price range looks worthwhile in this). Of the Sunbeams, we are most considering the Cafe Latte 5600. This is because our Consumer magazine (like Choice magazine), like Choice, recommends the Sunbeam 5600. The Saeco Via Venezia is also potentially an option Ive seen online, and we might even consider a Starbucks Barista depending on price - I worked for them many years ago, and I remember our test model was very reliable (which I understand was a Saeco rebranded). Does anyone have any thoughts that might help us choose between these?

    My biggest concern is reliability. The part of the Breville bes820 reviews that most bothered me was all of the claims of it breaking down - the gauge not working correctly, odd malfunctions, etc. But, after reading how great the Sunbeam 5600 was on Consumer, the online reviews said a similar thing (drip tray issues aside - I believe they are now all plastic?). It seems like almost every entry level machine review Ive read sound similar in this regard. Is this just an automatic hazard of this level of machine? Are any of the machines Ive mentioned above better or worse in this regard?

    Another thing that is important to me is the ability to make decent quality steamed milk (or at least, to practice this!), and descriptions of the Breville 8200 worry me a little with regard to this - people have said it adds an unusual amount of water into its steaming - have others found this to be so? Are any of the Sunbeam models better?

    The next part is checking that what I have looked up is correct: regarding coffee-making, from what Ive seen, all the models in the range we are looking at have some kind of crema-enhancing system (such as double walled filters), and well have to get a replacement. Breville looks easiest with regard to this. Id appreciate being corrected if Im wrong about this. Also, from what Ive seen, all of the models in our range have only a basic thermoblock system. Ive seen a double system in the more expensive Sunbeam EM6910, but from what I can tell there is nothing like this in my price range in the available machines. Again, I would appreciate correction if wrong concerning this!

    My husband is also interested in boiler systems. If boilers are a better system, could anyone recommend some models to look for? Are they much more expensive?

    OR, after all of those questions about what seem to be a variety of machines that dont have any stand-out stars, does anywhere have any alternative places we can look for new and exciting brands of machine in this kind of price range? Weve checked TradeMe, Briscoes, Noel Leeming, LV Martin + Son, Harvey Norman, betta electrical, Albany Extreme, fishpond, coffeemachines.co.nz, housecoffee.co.nz, and coffeesystems.co.nz already. I realise this is an Aussie site, but Ive seen a few Kiwis on here, and you never know...

    Thanks very much in advance for your help. As mentioned elsewhere, there is an almost overwhelming amount of information on here, but I am also glad to have somewhere I can go to ask where people have given the matter of coffee machines some considerable thought!

    Sincerely,
    Natalie.

  2. #2
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    Re: A few options - help appreciated

    Hi Nat,

    Choices, choices !! Its always hard knowing which one is the right machine, and then how long its going to last, will it be able to produce good coffee, etc. Unfortunately I cant speak to he quality or otherwiseof the Bes, but it seems like you have two options -
    1. Keep it, learn to use it and work with it within its limitations, and get yourself a grinder ASAP (I think at least as much for the ability to adjust grind and dose as much as freshness, given once its ground its then impossible to adjust depending on humidity, age of the beans, etc).
    2. Take it back, and keep saving while you keep an eye out for something second hand that gives you the quality you are seeking AND your price point.

    I know it does sound so snobbish, but the grinder really is important. Its fundamental to the ability to get that 20-30mls of pure gold in the cup in 25-40secs of the pour; without the ability to adjust the grind you will very frequently end up with under or over extracted coffee, which wont do anything for your taste buds. To me this kind of defeats the reason for getting a coffee machine in the first place :-?

    Perhaps some other options may be:
    grinder plus stove top espresso / plunger / aeropress / etc while you look for and save for -
    Second hand grinder / machine to budget when possible

    I think another issue is that most people who truly get into coffee outgrow their Sunbeam / Breville / other thermoblock machines fairly quickly, and generally will replace them within 2 years due to mechanical issues, desire for better coffee, etc., so perhaps keeping an eye on the longer term goal whilst settling for the Bes now isnt such a bad thing either. Personally I dont like thermoblocks, and feel that they fit a price point for a time period, but are designed with a limited lifespan and are intended to be replaced reasonably regularly. In contrast a boiler machine (ie Lelit, Sylvia, etc) is designed to produce heat and be capable of sustaining it within the boiler without damage, so the lifespan will always be longer because it is more sturdily built, but also therefore more expensive.

    Difficult choices really, and sorry if I havent done anything but confuse you more, but my one major piece of advice would be to consider that getting that grinder is probably more important than whatever particular machine you end up getting :)

    Jon

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    Re: A few options - help appreciated

    Hi everyone, I am a newbie to Coffee Snobs, and wish to get help to decide which one of the two Sunbeam EM4800 I own I should keep or make one good one out of the two. Please do not tell me both as yet!
    Machine No.1 makes reasonable coffee but leaks a little hot water as it brews from the brew head. The group handle have to be turned to 5 oclock to get minimum water leak and that is after a group head seal is replaced with a new one, which seem to indicate the group head collar is worn as well. It also has a problem? in that puck is wet and water on top. Other than that it seems to work ok.
    Machine No.2 does not leak water but makes a more bitter coffee (my imagination?) but has dry puck and no water leak. It takes much longer (30 to 40 seconds) for the steam to come out of the milk froth nozzle. The group handle at twelve oclock.
    Both machines have been descaled. Group handles have been switch between machines with no apparent change in the results.
    I would like to keep at least one machine or make one good machine out of the two, so I can concentrate in getting a good grinder and coffee beans (currently using ground coffee from super market and local nut shop) before I upgrade my coffee machine.
    I bought the second hand EM4800s to see if brewing is better than my drip and plunger coffee making units. But after joining Coffee Snobs I am hooked and have learned a lot but I have not made a descent cup of coffee yet.
    Thanks in advance for any help

  4. #4
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    Re: A few options - help appreciated

    Why not buy the grinder ASAP, and see how you go with the two machines. Take it from there once youre working with real coffee! ;)

  5. #5
    Senior Member GregWormald's Avatar
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    Re: A few options - help appreciated

    Hi Catsnstuff,

    I have no recommendations about a machine--most of even the cheap entry level machines are capable of a decent cup of coffee PROVIDING THE GROUND BEANS ARE UP TO IT. I used to make quite good coffee with a Breville Ikon, and a Kyocera hand grinder.

    Unfortunately, from the finance view, the grinder and fresh beans are much more vital to a good cup of coffee than the machine. Higher end espresso machines usually only make the job easier, while a good grinder makes it possible.

    You will be doing yourself a great disservice if you buy pre-ground as the flavours that make great coffee great will be TOTALLY absent a day after grinding. The deterioration can easily be tasted in an hour, and many will say within 3 minutes.

    If you cant afford an electric grinder, then the Kyocera or Hario hand grinders will do the job with a bit of circular effort!

    Greg

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    Re: A few options - help appreciated

    Quote Originally Posted by 604257504D5057564545230 link=1291461248/0#0 date=1291461248
    However, Im also very keen to make my niece (and husband!) delicious hot chocolates, and also look forward to having lattes at home and making creamy milk.
    OP, I have a question - so are you planning to make more non-coffee drinks or coffee drinks?

    By "creamy milk" did you mean frothy milk?
    If so, this takes practice regardless of how good your machine is and it is very difficult without decent crema, which in turn means the coffee needs to be good which is why there is so much emphasis on fresh beans and decent grinder.

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    Re: A few options - help appreciated

    Hi Lilmeh,
    Lilmeh, yes, by "creamy" I meant "with foam". In terms of drinks made, possibly 50/50, but it will be hard to say until we get it : I suspect Ill be drinking a lot more coffee than currently! My husband doesnt like coffee a great deal so hell probably be mostly for hot chocolates, as of course will my young niece. I enjoy well-made coffee, but I actually also like steamed milk by itself, and look forward to experimenting with making other hot, foamy drinks (with tea, grated chcolate, etc).

    And yes, I realise this isnt "milk snobs". ;)

    Dr John, thanks for that - weve been keeping half an eye out for second hand machines as well, but with all I hear of machines breaking, I am quite keen to get one under warranty. Do you think getting a good quality second hand one would mean it would tend to break less, or be easier to fix?

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    Re: A few options - help appreciated

    Firstly - great site! *Wish Id found it before my recent purchase of a Breville BES 250 for $200. *As this is the nearest post I can find to this particular item Im adding my 2 cents worth here. *FYI> My usual poison is a flat white (with an extra shot for taste).

    Having very limited knowledge of how to actually go about making a great coffee - other than knowing Id rather drink a litre of paint than a cup of instant, and that most cafe bought coffee tastes great - I really had no idea what I should be looking for in a machine. *

    My experience thus far with the one we got (Ill attempt to use some of the terminaology of the site):

    No I dont have a grinder - Ive read a lot of the advice here and will be purchasing the best I can ASAP.

    The actual espresso portion of the coffee seems to look and taste as it should based on what Ive read here, gives a nice crema but will continue pouring water for as long as the switch stays on espresso. *The cup (puck?) is always full of a slushy coffee/water mix once brewing is finished. *I use the 2 cup filter as it seems to be slightly deeper, in the (mistaken?) belief that more coffee equals stronger brew. *I tamp the grounds into the cup before use (not sure how much pressure to use here - Im attempting to experiment).

    Frothing/texturing/steaming the milk is simple enough I guess, taking about 60 to 90 seconds to heat enough milk for one mug (not very purist of me I know). *The major issue I have with this machine is that it seems to add 75 to 100 mls of water to every mug of milk that is steamed. *I go through the whole purging process etc. (water comes out of the wand for a couple of seconds followed by steam). *The steam itself seems to be very wet and though Ive watched what comes out of the nozzle during a standard steaming period I cant say Ive noticed any more actual water coming out of the nozzle following the initial amount. *Any suggestions in this area would be greatly appreciated - fixing this problem would make me a happy purchaser (until our inevitable next up-grade).

    Thanks a bushel.


  9. #9
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    Re: A few options - help appreciated

    Hi Nat - I was away when you first posted, but in case youre interested I too have the BES820.

    Its not a bad machine, but its not great either (IMHO). Ive had mine now for about 1 year. To start off I used the supplied BCG450 and shop beans, but quickly moved to some fresh roast from a sponsor. Then I purchased a krups un-pressurised basket found the grinder was too course (about 10 second pours!). So I modified the grinder to make it a bit finer, but the grinds were a bit inconsistent.

    Not long ago I purchased and rebuilt a big cafe grinder. As fine as I can go with the machine only gets me to about 30ml in 20s (you should aim for 30ml in about 30s). Its a fine line, as the machine will completely block up and sound miserable if I go a step finer. My coffee has gone from slightly bitter to slightly sour, which I think means the water is too cold as I approach 30s. So Ive reached the limit of the machine - it still tastes good but it doesnt compare to the "real" espresso machines.

    wrt milk, it does take a while but I can get a really nice creamy non-bubbly froth. It took lots of practise - I think about 6 - 8 months before Id perfected it! You have to keep the steam tip clean, as a part-blockage will squirt too fast. You have to "bleed" it as well - point it over the drip tray until it dries up a bit.

    Having said that, nobody complains about the coffee I make (maybe theyre too nice?) but then I havent had any snobs over either! I do enjoy using it and making coffee, but if I had my time again I would go for a better second hand machine, or save up a bit more. I hear the BES860 is pretty good.

    hope this helps :)

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    Re: A few options - help appreciated

    Hi iaindb, thanks for your reply.

    We decided to take back the Breville and got the Sunbeam 5600. At $200 cheaper, its freed up a bit of money to consider spending on other stuff, possibly a grinder (theres a special on the Sunbeam EM0480 at the moment). Ive only made one cup of coffee with it so far, with my SILs supermarket beans as the real coffee stores were closed, but Im very hopeful. The milk steaming was definitely better for me than on my other SILs Breville 800, and I was really pleased with my first attempt.

    We were strongly considering the Via Venezia since after reading into it more we realised it was seemed to be the only available cheap boiler, but I was just so put off by the plastic bit on the steam wand. I had assumed, before we went into a store, that it was a cover on a metal wand, not an extension on an otherwise too-short wand. The sample coffee the man made us was pretty unpleasant, too, although perhaps this had more to do with him (we should have asked to try ourselves, I know, but Im not sure how much of a difference it would have made): the taste was not great and the milk was very sudsy.

    And, it turns out Starbucks in Auckland doesnt seem to sell coffee machines any more *- we called around several big stores before giving up - so we were put off the Barista as an option (although it was always a bit of an outside choice as I expected the price to be too inflated). *They also seem to have stopped selling a range of beans, which I must say Im a bit sad about. I always knew this aspect of their stores was overhyped, *theyre a big commercial chain blah blah blah, but when I worked there many moons ago I did enjoy learning about and comparing the different origins/roasts/etc., and now its like theyre not even trying to be there for people who are interested in coffee (instead of coffee-based-beverages). I hate that kind of cynicism, and the stupid economic pressures that make it more likely. *

    Ahem. Anyhow, Im relatively confident that we made the right choice for our needs. Thanks to people who offered advice regarding the machines.

  11. #11
    guv
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    Re: A few options - help appreciated

    Hi Natalie - welcome to the forum from another Kiwi.

    Just PMd a couple of options for equipment and bean supplies in the auckland area to you.

    Cheers
    Andrew

  12. #12
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    Re: A few options - help appreciated

    Quote Originally Posted by 4E4C5E4A5F5B4A5F5F442B0 link=1291461248/2#2 date=1291465116
    Thanks in advance for any help
    Where are you (please update your profile).

    Sometimes there might be someone nearby willing to take a look.

  13. #13
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    Re: A few options - help appreciated

    When I was in Napier I had some coffee from a shop that also sold beans - they said they were roasted in Hawkes Bay somewhere (cant remember the name). It tasted pretty good - I think its a franchise with a black shop front... not very helpful I know!



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