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Thread: First Coffee Machine Advice - Please Help!!

  1. #1
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    Cool First Coffee Machine Advice - Please Help!!

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

    My name's Richard. I'm on a tight budget (student living out of home). I've been using a cheap pod machine to get by and was planning to buy a real machine later in the year. Long story short, the cheap machine has packed it in and I dont want to buy another cheapo item.

    Ok so a bit about my needs. I drink espressos or long blacks, very rarely have milk, never entertain people, so the max I would ever make is 2 espressos per day. I am a complete newbie to the barista world but I am very eager to learn. I have a budget of about $700 (inc. grinder) give or take $100.

    After initial searches I was set on a NEW Gaggia Classic and a Gaggia MDF. The more I read, the less confident I become. I see most people seem to out grow their Classic very quickly and I understand that a good grinder is essential. Now I think I should find a 2nd hand Classic and buy a new Rocky (or something as good or better) with the intension of upgrading in say a year or two. My only concern is that I'll end up with a machine that is riddled with problems and will be more heart ache than it's worth.

    So my question is: considering my needs and budget. Is the 2nd hand Classic and quality grinder a good place to start or should I save a bit more and get say a new machine around the $700 range and a good grinder around the $400 mark. Or I'm open to any other suggestions for machine/grinder combos in my budget, there are so many brands and models to pick from!

    Thanks in advance for any help/advice you can provide.

  2. #2
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    Seems to me you have a couple of options - get something 'good enough' for now with the intention of upgrading later or go for the best possible combo now and hope you make the right choice.

    I bought a Sunbean em6910 which came with a Sunbeam EM0480 grinder - I had to fix the grinder but the combo is serviceable - as in it delivers better coffee than most cafes. However it has been made very clear to me that I need to improve my grinder. The 6910 seems more than adequate for now, but the grinder is doing to me what a number of people hinted, implied or outright told me - making it difficult for me to perfect my techniques.

    My advice would be to get a good 2nd hand machine - if you're not going to be doing a lot of milk stuff the twin thermoblock machines may be an unnecessary expense, and pay extra for a good grinder. Maybe go visit a site sponsor for advice or to try out machines, or browse on here specifically for grinders to see what is in your price range.

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    Grinders in Carlton will sell you a silvia for $499 (look on their web site). You should be able to get a Breville Smartgrinder for $200 ish and you're away.
    Have you tried an aeropress? Not espresso but good coffee. Still need a decent grinder though.

  4. #4
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    You can spend less on the grinder like a Pharos hand grinder $290 delivered and still have good quality grinds.

    and more left for the machine, just a thought.

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    The classic can knock out great espresso in the right hands. Coupled with fresh, well roasted beans that are to your taste and a good grinder.
    You can pick up a 2nd hand classic quite often on evilbay for around $100 pretty regularly. However the condition of the machine will be a gamble.
    If you are technically minded / mechanical aptitude they are very easy to pull to pieces, replace seals, add a PID all for about $60. Add a Breville smart grinder for around 220 and its very possible to knock out very very good espresso.

    However if none of the above appeals, get the NEW silvia for 500 and scrounge around for an extra 20 - 30$ in your budget for a smart grinder as mentioned above.

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    Thanks heaps for the advice guys.

    I have picked up a 2nd hand classic on the cheap, going to replace some of the basic serviceable items, buy a good grinder and see how I go.
    The only thing I'm wondering is, in what year did they change the pressure to suit coffee pods? I have a feeling this model might be before then.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve82 View Post
    If you are technically minded / mechanical aptitude they are very easy to pull to pieces, replace seals, add a PID all for about $60.
    Don't forget the boiler at $75.

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    Bit of an update/info for anyone looking at getting into their first machine.

    I did a minor service on the Classic; I pulled the group head bit apart (with great diffculty) and it was very dirty but not very corroded so I hope the internals of the boiler etc are ok. I cleaned everything I could and installed a new group head seal and shower screen. Descaled (let the descale fluid sit for a bit too). Back flushed it a few times and it was ready to go.

    Next I went and got myself a Smart Grinder and some beans and started having a crack at making my first real espresso. Obviously still learning but from reading a lot I'm making progress.

    All up I came in well under $500 and I'm already enjoying the experience and the coffee!

  9. #9
    Senior Member Dragunov21's Avatar
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    Just a little random tidbit - carb-cleaner is great for cleaning the metal parts like the shower-screen and the block above it (when removed from the machine). Obviously you'll want to hand-wash in detergent afterwards

    Quote Originally Posted by R1CHYY View Post
    Thanks heaps for the advice guys.

    I have picked up a 2nd hand classic on the cheap, going to replace some of the basic serviceable items, buy a good grinder and see how I go.
    The only thing I'm wondering is, in what year did they change the pressure to suit coffee pods? I have a feeling this model might be before then.
    Dunno, but mine has a build date of 2003 (or maybe even 2001, I'm not sure)and running at 12.5bar static so IMO it's probably worth the $30 for a gauge/fitting/plumbers-tape (3/8" BSP is the thread on the PF, if I recall). You can drop that down to <$10 if you buy a gauge on eBay.

    There's a suitable PID/thermocouple/SSR set on eBay for $40 delivered that will allow you to control both steam and brew temperature, if you're confident in setting that up yourself as opposed to one of the $120+ kits from Auger or wherever. Being able to get a consistent, correct brew temperature was my biggest hurdle, so I'd suggest a PID is pretty much a given on a Classic. Not allowed to post links so PM me if you want a prod in the right direction.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hildy View Post
    Don't forget the boiler at $75.
    Hmm? Why would he need to replace the boiler?

  10. #10
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    because the design of the gaggia boiler makes it prone to corrosion.

    Commercial non-sponsor link removed per the http://coffeesnobs.com.au/general-ne...icy-rules.html
    Last edited by Javaphile; 8th April 2013 at 01:40 PM. Reason: commercial link removed

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hildy View Post
    because the design of the gaggia boiler makes it prone to corrosion.

    Commercial non-sponsor link removed per the http://coffeesnobs.com.au/general-ne...icy-rules.html
    While this is true, it depends entirely on the water used and how well maintained the machine is. Any espresso machine on bad water will corrode at some stage, but yeah the design of the classic can require a touch more TLC.

    I have pulled apart 4 different gaggias now ranging from 7 - 10 years old, one of the boilers had a small amount of corrosion but nothing drastic worth worrying about. The other 3 are pretty much near perfect.

    Probably just lucky, i bet there are plenty to find that have been mistreated.
    Last edited by Javaphile; 8th April 2013 at 01:41 PM. Reason: commercial link removed

  12. #12
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    the galvanic couple, though, means that even with perfect water the gaggias will corrode whereas the others need quite bad water to corrode rather than scale.

    did you pull open the boiler to have a look at the inside?

  13. #13
    Senior Member Dragunov21's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hildy View Post
    the galvanic couple, though, means that even with perfect water the gaggias will corrode whereas the others need quite bad water to corrode rather than scale.

    did you pull open the boiler to have a look at the inside?
    I did mine (circa 2001-03) and found no significant pitting. Even if there is corrosion, there is no need to replace the boiler unless it is either leaking or affecting the taste. While you're correct, I'm not sure (actually not sure, not saying I think you're definitely incorrect) that the issue is that problematic from a practical standpoint.



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