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Thread: Are cheap espresso machines a bad idea?

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    Member ThankDog's Avatar
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    Are cheap espresso machines a bad idea?

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    I'm sure there are reasons why a $4000 espresso machine is a good buy but seeing as I'll struggle to get together $150 for a cheap one, they're not an option

    In fact, the reason I'm posting this question is because I'm wary of even spending $150. It's not that I'm cheap, I'm just poor. As someone once told me, "You have BMW tastes on a Torana budget." Regardless, are there any reasons why getting a cheap machine is a bad idea?

    Currently I use a stovetop percolator which is fine and all but I'm not keen on the metallic smell of it and I miss having crema. I know very little about espresso machines so I don't really understand why there is such a huge price difference between domestic machines. Any advice or help on this would be appreciated.

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    Senior Member Journeyman's Avatar
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    I had the same issue, re cash. I looked around and read quite a lot on here. The normal recommendations seem like a lot of work - to get some of the basic ones to work you have to stand on one leg, point your arse at Jupiter (but only when it is in opposition) and then pray twice to Mecca before temp surfing and fiddling with knobs.

    Everyone swears by them but if I had to do that every time I want a coffee I'd get treatment for it.

    I went for a twin thermoblock. It lets me steam milk AND pour coffee at the same time and it's at least $1500 cheaper than a twin boiler machine. I got a Sunbeam EM6910 for $350 and it came with an EM0480 grinder. Within a few days I was making better coffee than I got in many cafés and once I sorted the grinder it was no longer random.

    I've learned a lot and my coffee keeps getting better.

    There are cheap Brevilles (still cost more than equivalent generation SB's) but they are single boiler - back to the 'right heat for coffee, wait for steam' or 'right heat for steam, wait for coffee' issues - so my recommendation is for a SB - stay away from the 6900 - my reading suggests they can be problematic & I wouldn't get anything less than twin thermoblock. There's enough to learn as it is without adding in the mystic mumbo-jumbo of trying to temp surf or somehow find a way to let you make a coffee in less than 25 separate moves.

    You can get SB's for your $150 (sometimes) or even brand new for circa $450 or so. I'd go conical burr grinder to go with what you get. Which unless you've got a lot of cash, leaves you with something like the SB EM0480 or EM0450.

    Make sure they make you a coffee with the machine before you part with your cash.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Thankdog, there are a thousand answers to your question(s). There are many good (and less good) reasons why domestic machines differ in price (you don't suggest which ones you are referring to), but there are fundamental differences in brewing technology (thermoblock, single boiler, dual boiler and heat exchanger) , differences in materials used, differences in quality control, and of course differences in $ spent on marketing which have to be recouped somehow.

    If you are after bang for your buck at the bottom end, throw it at a grinder and continue to enjoy your stove top, or maybe try an Aeropress (not espresso but a very enjoyable strong clean filter style drink). You can very good coffee with fresh beans, basic brewing tech and a willingness to experiment.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThankDog View Post
    I'm sure there are reasons why a $4000 espresso machine is a good buy but seeing as I'll struggle to get together $150 for a cheap one, they're not an option

    In fact, the reason I'm posting this question is because I'm wary of even spending $150. It's not that I'm cheap, I'm just poor. As someone once told me, "You have BMW tastes on a Torana budget." Regardless, are there any reasons why getting a cheap machine is a bad idea?

    Currently I use a stovetop percolator which is fine and all but I'm not keen on the metallic smell of it and I miss having crema. I know very little about espresso machines so I don't really understand why there is such a huge price difference between domestic machines. Any advice or help on this would be appreciated.
    Hi ThankDog

    Where are you? I know a few CS's who upgrade & their old machines would be going around that price. It also means you get a well loved Toyota not a trashed repair job, which is becoming a big issue these days.

    New: All the $150 ones I have seen have dual floor baskets / p/f filters and are not 58mm baskets so they are a one way ticket to the tip. Generally it is not possible to tinker with standard baskets etc. and learn your craft with them. Note: Someone makes a single floor (54mm???) basket for a $150 Breville Cafe Roma, I have used it. However it does not take a standard shot of espresso, so it is more a curiosity than a fix.

    I agree w BOS, a decent grinder will do a lot more for your coffee than an espresso machine, especially if you do not have one and are using "plunger / drip grounds" via a supermarket (shudder). The whole grind is wrong for an espresso machine.

    Hope this helps.


    TampIt
    Last edited by TampIt; 22nd December 2013 at 09:13 PM. Reason: Bad hair day w typos

  5. #5
    Sleep is overrated Thundergod's Avatar
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    Short answer is "you get what you pay for".

    I started with a heat exchanger machine and an expensive grinder.
    I didn't work my way up from one cheap machine to the next and subsequently have saved money in the long run

    However I was fortunate to be able to do that at the time.

    Having said that, I used a Sunbeam 6910 at work for a while with a good grinder and fresh beans and it made decent coffee.

    If you're on such a limited budget I second the Aeropress ($50) but if you must have crema your quest may be impossible until you save more money.

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    Member ThankDog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thundergod View Post
    If you're on such a limited budget I second the Aeropress ($50) but if you must have crema your quest may be impossible until you save more money.
    Never say never!

    I have some health issues which make finding and keeping work difficult but when I do get work I tend to save money very quickly. Living cheaply has its perks as it teaches you frugality and necessity. Coffee is a luxury I'm willing to work at finding a way to get the best I can for the least money. And when I finally manage to save up, I'll go buy a nice, broken, shop machine for cheap, fix it up, and have my first $4,000 coffee

    Until then, it's a popcorn maker and whatever else I can scrounge together

    As for grinders, there seems to be a lot of importance placed on them. I was looking at grinders but was considering something like that as a last on the list option. If a grinder is more important than the machine for beans I'm going to roast myself, then maybe that's where I should focus?

    Is the Hario Skerton commercial link removed per site posting policy hand grinder any good? Or is this something that requires a machine to get a good result? Sorry, I realise now that I should've asked a more broad question than just espresso machines but I'm still learning

    As for the AeroPress, whilst I've heard and read a lot of good things about it, I'm not really keen on it simply because it's a press. My understanding is that it doesn't make the richer, more concentrated coffee like you get from a percolator or espresso machine and my desire is to move up from a percolator to something more concentrated than down to a watery coffee. By all means correct me if I'm mistaken there as I'd love a $50 solution
    Last edited by Javaphile; 23rd December 2013 at 05:30 PM. Reason: Commercial link(s) removed

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    Member ThankDog's Avatar
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    I posted something to this thread before and it's disappeared? Was there a mod edit or did it get eaten by an internet blackhole?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ThankDog View Post
    I posted something to this thread before and it's disappeared? Was there a mod edit or did it get eaten by an internet blackhole?
    Blackhole.

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    Member ThankDog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TampIt View Post
    Blackhole.
    Well, in that case I won't go through and quote everyone I wanted to reply to again and instead generalise.

    It seems that a grinder is the most important start. I probably should've just made a general thread about starting gear on the cheap but I thought the machine would be the primary focus. My intention is to get a popcorn machine and try roasting my own beans. That's 90% of the reason why I came here as I was led here from OCAU by nefarious powers that be. I had thought that roasting at home was way beyond my means but it actually seems to be a reasonably accessible hobby. Plus I exist off of coffee. I have a fairly severe sleep disorder and have had it ever since I can remember so I've grown up with coffee as a staple just to remain remotely cognizant throughout the day.

    I rather like the idea of hand grinding and have seen a nice ceramic hand grinder for $60. Is that a realistic option or is a machine really required to get it fine enough?

    AeroPress is something I considered but after looking into it, it would seem that it's basically just a fancy French press which doesn't excite me. I was wanting the espresso partly for crema and partly for a stronger, more concentrated espresso than I'm currently getting in a percolator. So an AeroPress would seem like a move down not up.

    Umm... I think that was all from the post I lost. Hope the Doctor has fixed that black hole. Can't have them roaming about willy-nilly.

  10. #10
    Coffee Newbie okitoki's Avatar
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    I have started with a good coffee machine but with a bad grinder that was a bit of a disaster start;
    But i have also played with a cheaper coffee machine with a good grinder and it came out pretty good for my taste
    I was like you in the begining when I didnt know if I will keep on going with a hobby after the initial OMG phase, so I did not want to spend big money on getting a machine which I may loose interest in...
    I was fortunate enough to be able to pick up stuff cheap (from Gumtree and CSers here) that got me going on my coffee experience so far... but the end of the day, you make the best of what you have... (like the old saying about workman and his tools..)

    Good luck with your search

  11. #11
    Sleep is overrated Thundergod's Avatar
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    A hand grinder with ceramic burrs can grind fine enough.
    You didn't say which model you saw.

    You can make an Aeropress brew stronger with longer steeping time and less water.
    It's still not espresso though but more than a fancy french press.
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    There's a huge range of machines between "cheap" and $4000. I would recommend the $500 to $1200 range for most people who'd make 2-5 coffees a day. If you want a more sort of home user/beginner experiences the upper range Breville and Sunbeams are all great machines. If you want a more cafe like experience with levels and so on, Silvia, Expobar and so on can be had for a little more. The advantage with these ones is that after market parts (portafilters etc.) are more standardised and interchangable.

    With your kind of budget, $150 for a machine and grinder, even used... not sure if it can be done. You can have my old machine for free, still does the espresso part fine, the steam function has just lost power.

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    My travel kit is an Aeropress and Hario Skerton. Works well. Makes good strong coffee. Not espresso. Think its better than a percolator as in my experience they burn the coffee. Hand grinder is a bit of work though. You may not want to make coffee for a dinner party.

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    Member ThankDog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thundergod View Post
    You didn't say which model you saw.
    I wasn't sure about posting links or about products here as there seems to be site sponsors and whatnot. It's a Hario Skerton (full size). Ceramic burrs. Looks pretty and I've been able to track one down for $50 so when I have the spare cash I thought I'd pick one up if they're good enough for the job.

    Quote Originally Posted by Darkfalz View Post
    You can have my old machine for free, still does the espresso part fine, the steam function has just lost power.
    !

    Umm, I'm not sure what to say. I don't like frothy milk anyway?

    Quote Originally Posted by richard_m_h View Post
    Think its better than a percolator as in my experience they burn the coffee.
    I'm not sure if it burns it but I definitely smell a burnt smell at the end of it. As soon as mine starts making a noise I take it off the heat and let it sit for a minute. I once made the mistake of packing a larger percolator tightly and waiting for it to stop making bubbling sounds. I'm just lucky that it popped rather than exploded

    Quote Originally Posted by richard_m_h View Post
    Hand grinder is a bit of work though. You may not want to make coffee for a dinner party.
    Guests? Getting my good coffee? Pfft, instant is good enough for them

  15. #15
    TOK
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    Question:
    Are cheap espresso machines a bad idea?

    Answer (1 of thousands of possible answers, but the first one that comes to mind) :
    No. They sort out who you are and what you want. If you are after convenience, are anal about cleanliness, and want great coffee straight up, and are not prepared to carry on with this then....you're out of the ball game. If you are prepared to carry on and find something better, you're off and running, upgradeitis has set in.

    In a way, el cheapo machines are good for business because sooner or later, the owners of want something better.

    For the owner, it does mean however that he has to keep spending money.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Vinitasse's Avatar
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    The OP's question reminds me of when I starting playing guitar many years ago. My father went out and bought me a cheap guitar that set him back all of $20. I did manage to learn the basics but it was a shit-fight the whole way(excuse my French). The damned thing wouldn't stay in tune for more than 20 minutes at a time and even when it was, it sounded flat and dead. A couple of years later I had saved up my pennies and bought myself my first serious guitar... an Ovation Balladeer. The change in sound and the change in my playing was instantaneous and somewhat amazing. With a fine instrument in my hands, it was suddenly doing what I wanted it to, rather than requiring me to fight with it in order to get something semi-reasonable to happen. The quality of this guitar motivated me to push all previous boundaries and before I knew it, I was a "guitarist" rather than a mere student.

    What I'm trying to say is that a "cheap" coffee machine will teach you the basics and you will be able to produce the occassional semi-worthy coffee... BUT... it won't be easy or a whole lot of fun and a fine machine will bring out the barista in you far sooner and be far more of a joy to play with along the way.

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    A moka is more forgiving for stale/supermarket stale pre-ground beans. It will actually taste better than trying to make espresso with them. I remember the first time I tried fresh roasted beans and it was night and day to the supermarket beans, which themselves are greatly improved over pre-ground supermarket.

    If you don't like milk, I'd recommend a grinder and an Aeropress...

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    Junior Member goodbyesoberday's Avatar
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    I bought a used Gaggia Classic from eBay a while ago. At eighty bucks it definitely qualified as a cheap espresso machine.

    And I'd say it was definitely not a bad idea, though coupled with home-roasting and a hand grinder the morning coffee is a fairly involved affair but it is well worth it and is value for money too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by goodbyesoberday View Post
    I bought a used Gaggia Classic from eBay a while ago. At eighty bucks it definitely qualified as a cheap espresso machine.

    And I'd say it was definitely not a bad idea, though coupled with home-roasting and a hand grinder the morning coffee is a fairly involved affair but it is well worth it and is value for money too.
    It seems there are some good deals to be had for coffee machines on ebay. Generally I avoid ebay and Gumtree as I've rarely had good experiences with them but I figure if it's something I'm going to be picking up, I can at least check it out properly before I hand over any cash.

    Here's one I seem to have just missed out on: eBay link removed per site posting policy
    Last edited by Javaphile; 23rd December 2013 at 11:27 PM. Reason: eBay link removed

  20. #20
    TC
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    Yes- We pick up the pieces and reassemble them for the owners of bargain buys- often at significant expense each week. Bothe sites can be great places to procure a dead machine "recently serviced and in perfect condition".

    If you don't know what to look for find somebody who does. They're only bargains if you don't blow your dough.

    PS- suggest you have a read over http://coffeesnobs.com.au/coffee-har...icy-rules.html to save you breaking them.

  21. #21
    TOK
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    Yup you're right C. When I read the original question I took it to mean cheap NEW machines. Never thought about the things people will spend their hard earned on, in strange "auction" sites. I wouldnt buy a USED / CHEAP machine unless it could be demonstrated to be fully functional at time of pick up and seeming to be absolutely fine. Dont know how anyone could do that when purchasing off a website.

    As an aside I know directly of an instance where someone bought a cheap crappy old thing off unsaid site. The purchasor afterwards jacked up at my employers and wanted a water pump fitted "under guarantee". This is because the vendor had done exactly what you wrote and put on his add words to the effect of : "...recently serviced by ...". What they omitted to say in the add was they had been told (amongst other things) the water pump needed replacement but they had elected NOT to go ahead, as they were going to sell it shortly and didnt want to spend the money. The machine was running but not fully functional, our advice had not been taken, and as far as we were concerned it was for the dump (condition and age etc).

    And all of a sudden, we were having demands placed to supply a new water pump to an unrelated third party, at our cost under our service guarantee......!

    Yeah, right on that one !

    So our client purchased a water pump from us to give to his auction site client......resulting in that person having bought a machine that was still for the dump, but sporting a nice shiny new water pump

    If you dont know what you are looking at in any of those sites, dont buy that stuff.
    Last edited by TOK; 24th December 2013 at 08:14 AM.

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    Member ThankDog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee View Post
    PS- suggest you have a read over http://coffeesnobs.com.au/coffee-har...icy-rules.html to save you breaking them.
    Apologies, I had thought that because the auction had ended that it was ok to post.

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    On a budget, if you have a grinder a stovetop is still the way to go.

    If you don't have a grinder then a nespresso is worth consideration.

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    Member ThankDog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by herzog View Post
    On a budget, if you have a grinder a stovetop is still the way to go.

    If you don't have a grinder then a nespresso is worth consideration.
    It turns out I do have a stovetop. I had thought they were called percolators and that the drip/filter things were called something else. It's also been recommended that I look for a stainless steel stovetop so recommendations for those would be appreciated as well.

    If the Hario Skerton hand-grinder is a good one and there aren't any recommendations for something of similar price range, I'll probably go that first up.

    As for the Nespresso, I would've thought they'd be anathema to people here? I have an ALDI Expressi solely for the convenience of it but have stopped using it because I need something stronger, plus the expense of the pods no longer seems worthwhile to me.

  25. #25
    TOK
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    ThankDog, if you already have an aluminium stop top espresso machine (moka, bialetti, whatever name its all the same) you already have a great machine for someone on a budget. The aluminium is porous and for that reason it seasons with coffee oils over time and the coffee gets better.

    A stainless steel stove top espresso machine does not season over time because the stainless steel is not porous so what you get straight up is what you get forever. Less forgiving of operator, I would stick with the aluminium machine but that's just me.

    Some people dont know how to use them to best effect (same story as with any coffee making machine or device) so there is always room for improvement. If you manage it well, it will reward....no risk.

    If you are on such a tight budget, preground could be the way to go as was written in a roundabout way somewhere above, stovetops are forgiving of preground coffee and make a reasonable brew with it (as long as you have chosen your brand well).

    OR god forbid, I cant tell you how many Italian families have used stove tops in conjunction with el cheapo spinning propeller coffee (grinders) for decades and make a bloody good cup of coffee. It all comes down to knowing your equipment and using it properly, and again the stove top is rather forgiving of the uneven grind produced by spinning prop "grinders".

    The trouble with forums is that people can start to feel insecure about what they are already doing, want more or "better" and get caught up in the whirlwind of upgradeitis, when, there may be absolutely no need to feel insecure about what you are already doing.....as long as you are doing it well.

    We dont know what your technique is for making coffee in your stovetop, so there could be room for improvement and no need to get caught up trying to buy something else that may not deliver what you expect and where you may in fact waste valuable coin.

    Hope that helps.
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    Making good coffee is not complicated. People make it complicated.

    However, at the lowest starting price you can get a very nice coffee with an AeroPress and Hario or similar small ceramic grinder.

    Machine this, machine that, there is more than one way to making exceptional coffee, and it doesn't have to involve a $4,000+ prosumer coffee machine- mind you, there's nothing at all wrong if it does. I'm just pointing out, you don't have to go down that road, if you don't want to. I mostly agree with everyone's comments re buying used machines. It is absolutely true that good machines keep their value well. If something appears too good to be true, blah, blah, blah.

    As many have pointed out, 'cheap' generally means low quality which can greatly frustrate and hinder your efforts. Don't go there, at any price point.

    However, it is possible to buy a sub $1,000- machine that produces exceptional coffee. In this price range though you don't get all the 'bells and whistles' and to a greater or lesser extent you become more engaged in the coffee making process.
    If you do some more extensive 'research' you will find many very experienced home barista's own and use a 'Arrarex Caravel'. This is a humble kettle type manual lever espresso machine that has an excellent reputation for producing excellent espresso, in the cup.
    You can't buy these new anymore, but most people buy them (used) from Europe and there are several reputable sources for good used machines. Parts are available, but might take a bit of probing to find.

    If you want more basic manual espresso machines, there is the likes of the Bahco and Otto, 'the little guy' which can both produce genuine high quality espresso shots- but within their own limited profiles. Both are well under $1,000-

    Having said all the above, the first money you spend should be on the grinder. The advantage of a manual grinder is you can get a high end commercial grinding burr for much less money than an electric with the equivalent burr set. IMHO the best bang for buck is the OE Pharos. It sells for USD$245- plus postage and for that investment you will have a higher-end large (commercial burr) conical grinder. You would need to be spending upwards of $1,500- to get this burr set in a good quality electric grinder.
    PS. Lot's of people have a Pharos, but I've never seen one for sale secondhand. That right there should tell you something.

    If you want to take your espresso coffee up into the heady world of amazing coffee, then I'd highly recommend the Rossa Portaspresso. It's a completely manual extraction, but the results are unequalled by anything in this or virtually any price range. It is an astonishing device that is hugely undervalued. These do come up for sale occasionally. I bought mine here at the snobbery. They are not difficult to use, but they are not for everyone and like a piano can take a lifetime of practice to keep getting more of the very best out of it.

    For the record, I have no commercial interest in any equipment, but I do own and use a Pharos (VD Mod) and Portaspresso, so I speak from my experience.

    I also have a Bodum 'Pebo', which is an all glass coffee siphon. It only cost me $50- and whilst it doesn't produce espresso's, the blacks are an incredibly pleasant clear flavour. People who 'never drink black' coffee have thoroughly enjoyed a brew from the Pebo. The coffees whilst not as intense as espresso are also very satisfying.

    The overriding caveat on all of the above is good quality 'Fresh' roasted beans. To get the best coffee, you must learn about fresh roasted coffee and how and when it reaches it's peak. Then you know what to look for and which questions to ask when you buy your beans. (Or roast your own)

    The good news is you can enjoy amazing coffee with quite a modest budget. Enjoy!!!
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  27. #27
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ol_Grumpy View Post
    Making good coffee is not complicated. People make it complicated.

    However, at the lowest starting price you can get a very nice coffee with an AeroPress and Hario or similar small ceramic grinder.

    Machine this, machine that, there is more than one way to making exceptional coffee, and it doesn't have to involve a $4,000+ prosumer coffee machine- mind you, there's nothing at all wrong if it does. I'm just pointing out, you don't have to go down that road, if you don't want to. I mostly agree with everyone's comments re buying used machines. It is absolutely true that good machines keep their value well. If something appears too good to be true, blah, blah, blah.

    As many have pointed out, 'cheap' generally means low quality which can greatly frustrate and hinder your efforts. Don't go there, at any price point.

    However, it is possible to buy a sub $1,000- machine that produces exceptional coffee. In this price range though you don't get all the 'bells and whistles' and to a greater or lesser extent you become more engaged in the coffee making process.
    If you do some more extensive 'research' you will find many very experienced home barista's own and use a 'Arrarex Caravel'. This is a humble kettle type manual lever espresso machine that has an excellent reputation for producing excellent espresso, in the cup.
    You can't buy these new anymore, but most people buy them (used) from Europe and there are several reputable sources for good used machines. Parts are available, but might take a bit of probing to find.

    If you want more basic manual espresso machines, there is the likes of the Bahco and Otto, 'the little guy' which can both produce genuine high quality espresso shots- but within their own limited profiles. Both are well under $1,000-

    Having said all the above, the first money you spend should be on the grinder. The advantage of a manual grinder is you can get a high end commercial grinding burr for much less money than an electric with the equivalent burr set. IMHO the best bang for buck is the OE Pharos. It sells for USD$245- plus postage and for that investment you will have a higher-end large (commercial burr) conical grinder. You would need to be spending upwards of $1,500- to get this burr set in a good quality electric grinder.
    PS. Lot's of people have a Pharos, but I've never seen one for sale secondhand. That right there should tell you something.

    If you want to take your espresso coffee up into the heady world of amazing coffee, then I'd highly recommend the Rossa Portaspresso. It's a completely manual extraction, but the results are unequalled by anything in this or virtually any price range. It is an astonishing device that is hugely undervalued. These do come up for sale occasionally. I bought mine here at the snobbery. They are not difficult to use, but they are not for everyone and like a piano can take a lifetime of practice to keep getting more of the very best out of it.

    For the record, I have no commercial interest in any equipment, but I do own and use a Pharos (VD Mod) and Portaspresso, so I speak from my experience.

    I also have a Bodum 'Pebo', which is an all glass coffee siphon. It only cost me $50- and whilst it doesn't produce espresso's, the blacks are an incredibly pleasant clear flavour. People who 'never drink black' coffee have thoroughly enjoyed a brew from the Pebo. The coffees whilst not as intense as espresso are also very satisfying.

    The overriding caveat on all of the above is good quality 'Fresh' roasted beans. To get the best coffee, you must learn about fresh roasted coffee and how and when it reaches it's peak. Then you know what to look for and which questions to ask when you buy your beans. (Or roast your own)

    The good news is you can enjoy amazing coffee with quite a modest budget. Enjoy!!!
    Excellent post Grumpy, its nice to see an even handed post like this with out the dogmatic overtones and ludicrous statements we have been subjected to of late.

    Merry Christmas.

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    Are cheap espresso machines a bad idea?

    Quote Originally Posted by ThankDog View Post
    As for the Nespresso, I would've thought they'd be anathema to people here? I have an ALDI Expressi solely for the convenience of it but have stopped using it because I need something stronger, plus the expense of the pods no longer seems worthwhile to me.
    Sure pods aren't nearly as good as an HX + fresh beans + grinder + competent user, but if you don't have a grinder they are the only way to produce remotely fresh espresso. They also are pretty consistent.

    Given we're talking about a $150 budget, it's definitely an option. There's no grinder + machine combo for that price that's in any way satisfactory.

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    Quote Originally Posted by herzog View Post
    pods
    >remotely fresh
    >espresso.
    Lawl.

    Not that I disagree that it's the best/only option, but sometimes you just have to admit that you'll have to save up for what you're asking to become obtainable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by herzog View Post
    Sure pods aren't nearly as good as an HX + fresh beans + grinder + competent user, but if you don't have a grinder they are the only way to produce remotely fresh espresso. They also are pretty consistent.

    Given we're talking about a $150 budget, it's definitely an option. There's no grinder + machine combo for that price that's in any way satisfactory.
    And if you cant afford pods (they are probably the most expensive way of buying coffee) then I guess its instant for you.
    Great Coffee POD Scam - Gadgets

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    Hi TD
    We're about to head away for 2 weeks sans-machines.
    I roast my own beans, so they're super fresh, and honestly once you get the proportions and technique right, the plunger coffee I make away using the little chopper/spice grinder my folks have is lovely. I'm sure a ceramic burr hand grinder would do even better. Not espresso of course, but no reason you can't get good coffee on a budget.
    Just Mmy two cents - hand grinder, plunger/aeropress and then splurge for fresh beans
    Happy hunting!
    Matt
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    Quote Originally Posted by TOK View Post
    . The aluminium is porous ....
    Err ....No it is not !
    I agree that his Al stove top is the best option he has currently in the low budget range, and well capable of producing some excellent strong "espresso like" coffee ( with crema if done well !) ,...but its not because Aluminium is porous.
    Thankdog,..look up some of the Youtube vids of how to get the best from your stovetop, you may surprise yourself. !

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    Quote Originally Posted by blend52 View Post
    Thankdog,..look up some of the Youtube vids of how to get the best from your stovetop, you may surprise yourself. !
    I did.

    And although I didn't get crema, I did manage to find out that under high pressure my Moka Pot leaks

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    blend52. Always happy to learn something, and on the basis of your comment
    "Err ....No it is not !...".....not because Aluminium is porous..." I will come clean about not being a metallurgist

    But that raises the very serious question as why traditional aluminium stove top espresso machines ("moka pots" etc) season for a period from new and subsequently make better coffee, while the stainless steel machines dont.

    Your thoughts?

    Re the subsequent comment "espresso like" wrt to the type of espresso made by traditional Italian stove top espresso machines....if that is not a form of "true espresso", then in the words of the great Slim Shady, would the real espresso machine please stand up !

    ThankDog. You wrote that "...under high pressure my Moka Pot leaks...

    Without knowing anything about your technique or what you have tried with the moka pot, there can only be one conclusion from your comment:

    Have you possibly ground, or bought the coffee too finely ground, for the application? Or are you tamping / packing the grinds down into the funnel.They would be the only reasons for a pressure higher than normal. Moka pots are not meant to be used with grinds as fine as say, a commercial espresso machine, or to have the grinds forced in. They take a grind something akin to what in Australia people would use for a filter "machine", and it should only be "settled" in.

    There wont be any crema (except that which appears as the coffee flows from the tube and immediately dissipates), but that is the nature of the beast. The stove top is what it is and if used per standard moka pot technique will make great espresso coffee in the style of the method.

    And when all is said and done, it aint espresso but there is absolutely nothing wrong with a great plunger coffee. It doesnt get any more budget than that.

    Hope that helps.
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    Quote Originally Posted by herzog View Post
    Given we're talking about a $150 budget, it's definitely an option. There's no grinder + machine combo for that price that's in any way satisfactory.
    A $50 porlex and a <$100 machine with a single wall basket, will do better than any pod machine - given that they will share a pump/thermoblock/etc with the pod machine.

    There used to be a cheap sunbeam (EM2300) and a cheap saeco (can't remember the model now, but it was not much over $100) that were single boiler in this price range, too.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TOK View Post
    ThankDog. You wrote that "...under high pressure my Moka Pot leaks...

    Without knowing anything about your technique or what you have tried with the moka pot, there can only be one conclusion from your comment:

    Have you possibly ground, or bought the coffee too finely ground, for the application? Or are you tamping / packing the grinds down into the funnel.They would be the only reasons for a pressure higher than normal. Moka pots are not meant to be used with grinds as fine as say, a commercial espresso machine, or to have the grinds forced in. They take a grind something akin to what in Australia people would use for a filter "machine", and it should only be "settled" in.

    There wont be any crema (except that which appears as the coffee flows from the tube and immediately dissipates), but that is the nature of the beast. The stove top is what it is and if used per standard moka pot technique will make great espresso coffee in the style of the method.
    It was in reference to trying something new from YouTube videos. Normally I just level out the grinds and don't tamp at all. But it was suggested that I could get crema and one of the methods in a YouTube video was to leave a "mound" before screwing the top on. This... did not work well.

    I alternate between Vittoria and freshly roasted beans (ground) from Coffee Max in Camberwell, primarily because of travel and budget limitations. As finances allow, however, I'll be attempting to roast and grind my own and eventually get a machine.

    Quote Originally Posted by TOK View Post
    And when all is said and done, it aint espresso but there is absolutely nothing wrong with a great plunger coffee. It doesnt get any more budget than that.
    I've never been able to make a French press coffee that I've liked. Plus it seems to require more grounds just to get anything even near the strength of a moka pot or espresso. Unless there's some method I'm unaware of, it's just not my thing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ThankDog View Post
    I've never been able to make a French press coffee that I've liked. Plus it seems to require more grounds just to get anything even near the strength of a moka pot or espresso. Unless there's some method I'm unaware of, it's just not my thing.
    That's intrinsically true. Aeropress is massively different, though.

    (French press needs coarse grounds or else it clogs and routes around the sidewall. Aeropress has reduced clogging tendencies, depending on filter, and doesn't leak around the sidewall so can take much higher filtering pressures.)

  38. #38
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    Re stovepot: I dont know what you saw on ewechoob, but if you are going to mound the grinds in the funnel it has to only be very slight....take a look at the angle of the top filter that the grinds go against in the top part of the machine. Its only slightly rounded. That is in fact what I do... The leak you had meant it was mounded too much and when you did the two halves up, some grinds were pushed into the area of the seal...

    Re plunger: dont be put off just yet. I bet you are using or have used one in the "traditional Australian" way which is to use a coarse percolator grind....and you get weak as weasel p*&$# coffee. You can go as fine as you like its up to you, given the inadequate filter is never going to stop any fines getting through including when using a coarse grind. Its a con, and other nationalities use different methods and get far more acceptable coffee. If you dont care about the fines, suggest using a much finer grind - try an espresso grind - some people go even finer - and play with the dose to see what works for you. The plunger will then give a much different, much more flavoursome, stronger coffee. If you go too far, the coffee will suffer so.....you back it off and try again until you work out what suits you.

    And as I said before, that's coffee on a budget!

    Others will disagree I'm sure, and thats ok. You do what works for you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ThankDog View Post
    I alternate between Vittoria and freshly roasted beans (ground) from Coffee Max in Camberwell, primarily because of travel and budget limitations. As finances allow, however, I'll be attempting to roast and grind my own and eventually get a machine.
    Caffe Romeo in North Balwyn roasts their own beans and are better than most. Use them when I forget to order from Andy.

    KMart in Burwood had popcorn poppers for under $20 a while back.

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    Quote Originally Posted by richard_m_h View Post
    KMart in Burwood had popcorn poppers for under $20 a while back.
    $12 from Target currently. Will be picking one up next week

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    If I had $150 to spend and was starting from scratch I would buy :
    1_ Porlex mini grinder
    2_Stovetop mokha
    3_Aeropress
    4_a popcorn popper

    You can do an awful lot with those items.
    You might get lucky and find a decent espresso machine s/h for $150 (I got a Sunbeam 6910 for about that and a Gaggia evolution for similar before that but it takes a lot of hunting.

  42. #42
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    There's a neat stovetop espresso machine on ebay. Neat little unit if it works as shown and only $149 brand new...

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    Quote Originally Posted by ThankDog View Post
    $12 from Target currently. Will be picking one up next week
    You need to be aware that the Target "own brand" poppers are a bit under-powered. They will usually work OK in Summer, but may not reach crack temps in cold weather. Have a read through this thread for lots of info :- http://coffeesnobs.com.au/home-roast...orn-maker.html

    Also, their safety thermostat may cut off the heat before you get much past first crack, or maybe even before you reach it. See this more recent thread re the thermostat cutting out too soon :- http://coffeesnobs.com.au/home-roast...-than-one.html

    This thread has info on popper roasting in general, and mods you can do to make them better for roasting coffee :- http://coffeesnobs.com.au/home-roast...icks-mods.html

    Re good coffee on a budget - I have a Hario Skerton grinder which works quite well for the price, and I bought a good S/H sunbeam EM 0480 for $95 which also gives good results for the money.

    I also bought a fairly old but working Gaggia Classic off Gumtree for about $85. The seller gave me a demo before I paid for it. Then I bought another at $50 for spare parts. It was not working, but when I got it home I found it could be simply and easily fixed.

    I have since bought another in working condition for $150 to give to one of my daughters. It was a bit newer than the others and in good working order. They are good little machines, and I have become a big fan of them.

    You may have to be patient, but they do come up for sale at these prices from time to time.

    Cheers, deegee.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThankDog View Post
    I did.

    And although I didn't get crema, I did manage to find out that under high pressure my Moka Pot leaks
    Hi ThankDog

    Two "stove top espresso makers" thoughts here for you to consider.

    1) Replace the seal. The only time my Carmencita's (stove top espresso makers) leak is when the seal is cracked and in need of binning. The early warning sign: the coffee develops a slightly burnt taste which is persistent. You nailed both symptoms in earlier posts. If overdone constantly, some aluminum pots do pick up the burnt flavour.

    2) The stainless / aluminium controversy. IMO, the aluminum stove top espresso makers do season. Then all the coffee that comes out of them is the same flavour range no matter what beans you put into them. As long as that is to your liking, it may not be a bad thing. The better grade stainless ones just give you the actual taste of whatever beans you are using. Lower grade stainless are simply horrible, so you need to know your grades before parting with your readies, especially if they are limited.

    The other repeated thought: try for a good conical grinder before you actually pay for a machine. If one drops into your lap, fine, take it.

    Hope this helps.

    TampIt

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    I think Aluminium should season. The furore over using Al and it's connection to Alzheimers and senility symptoms brought a reaction in the sense of testing - the advice was do NOT scrub Al pots with metal scrubbers as it removes the patina (think they called it that) that forms on the surface and exposes the Al to leeching into foods etc.

    So I think using coffee in an Al container would perhaps flavour the patina a little like a cast iron pan picks up flavours when you season it - and likewise with them you never scrub them or else you have to run the seaonsing process again.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Journeyman View Post
    I think Aluminium should season. The furore over using Al and it's connection to Alzheimers and senility symptoms brought a reaction in the sense of testing - the advice was do NOT scrub Al pots with metal scrubbers as it removes the patina (think they called it that) that forms on the surface and exposes the Al to leeching into foods etc.

    So I think using coffee in an Al container would perhaps flavour the patina a little like a cast iron pan picks up flavours when you season it - and likewise with them you never scrub them or else you have to run the seaonsing process again.
    I recently started using the Moka pot again after having let it sit for several months. The water chamber had been left clean since my last use but when I went to use it again there were... bits in it. Almost like metal filings. I'm not even sure what it was but it was like the aluminium had "rusted" with a sort of white metallic powder.

    So I scrubbed it with a metal scourer. Oops.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ThankDog View Post
    I recently started using the Moka pot again after having let it sit for several months. The water chamber had been left clean since my last use but when I went to use it again there were... bits in it. Almost like metal filings. I'm not even sure what it was but it was like the aluminium had "rusted" with a sort of white metallic powder.

    So I scrubbed it with a metal scourer. Oops.
    Hi ThankDog

    Where are you and what size (in ml or litres, cup sizes were fictional) do you want? PM me with the contact details. I have quite a few stainless ones in my shed plus a spare seal for most of them. I will send you one for the postage alone if you like. I probably have the original packaging for most of them, so it should arrive "wherever" OK. Think of it as a Xmas present plus doing me a favour (gotta start getting rid of the stuff I do not use any longer). Comes from commuting across three houses for five years in the late '90's, the shed stuff is a bit bureaucratic (everything in triplicate).

    Although I haul out my favourite one every so often, the other ones haven't been touched since 2002. Just for the humour: my favourite one is a cheap Chinese knockoff of a Vev original from the brief period when the Chinese made world class stainless steel (i.e. just before world nickel prices soared and the Chinese started cutting corners). Way better steel than any of my other "true blue Italian ones". A very slightly different shape (have to put them next to each other to see it) and it makes better coffee. Go figure. Three months later and the same brand's "steel" was not even suitable to turn into a sink (or a street drain for that matter).

    Anyway, if you have scrubbed the patina off your aluminum one, I would hesitate to use it as you would have to re-season it all over again. Also, you described the really cheap (think mafia bribed construction quality) ones that came through in droves in the '80's & 90's: more like white metal than aluminum. Yuk. They shed & will never be any good.

    BTW, nothing to do with the Alzheimer / aluminum thing. The '70's paper that promoted that was disproved in months. Another example of crap "scientific research" with seriously flawed data. FYI, no aluminum in the brain, you are rather late (like the Monty Python parrot).

    Anyway, enjoy your NY.

    TampIt
    Last edited by TampIt; 27th December 2013 at 12:20 AM. Reason: typo
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  48. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThankDog View Post
    I recently started using the Moka pot again after having let it sit for several months. The water chamber had been left clean since my last use but when I went to use it again there were... bits in it. Almost like metal filings. I'm not even sure what it was but it was like the aluminium had "rusted" with a sort of white metallic powder.

    So I scrubbed it with a metal scourer. Oops.
    Moka pots should (must?) not be scrubbed, and must (should?) always be stored disassembled as in the two halves not screwed together, with funnel out. You could store it on the bench instead of in a cupboard where the flow of air is restricted. And if you wanted to take it further you could take the seal and top filter out as well but I cant see the point of that while the machine is in regular use (although if you were in a very humid environment maybe you would consider that too???)

    I dont know that I would ever again "trust" an aluminium machine that's been scrubbed with a metal scourer, so I think you just lost your one coffee making utensil and need to decide what you are going to try next...first! Someone should also mention, I am not sure why you want to venture into roasting coffee when the method of brewing hasnt been decided or the method of operation nailed yet, especially if a cheap popper is the only way you can go at the moment. At least at first if not for a long learning curve, that is the way to roast the worlds worst and most variable coffee, which will have you chasing your tail questioning if its the coffee, or the machine, or your technique or whatever.... I would rather be sussing out my method of brewing and a grinder and learning them properly before going anywhere near the roasting of coffee.

    Nevertheless, you gotta do what you gotta do, and I hope you enjoy your coffee journey.

    PS...does all of this mean that aluminium IS or IS NOT porous, or has the issue simply been sidestepped in the apparent agreement that aluminium moka pots do season regardless

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    Quote Originally Posted by TampIt View Post
    Also, you described the really cheap (think mafia bribed construction quality) ones that came through in droves in the '80's & 90's: more like white metal than aluminum. Yuk.
    I have two. One's a cheapie steel one from ALDI that I only use when making more than one cup. The other is a proper Bialetti Moka that is the AI one and just a single shot. I scrubbed the boiling/water chamber because of the weird white metallic growths.

    Quote Originally Posted by TOK View Post
    Someone should also mention, I am not sure why you want to venture into roasting coffee when the method of brewing hasnt been decided or the method of operation nailed yet, especially if a cheap popper is the only way you can go at the moment.
    I have a tendency to rush into things. I think it's borne of never having a long-term, stable income despite trying everything under the sun (including owning and operating my own business and just about every crappy job you can think of) to make a career happen. So when I fixate on something I consider it a goal to work towards and jump in head first, using whatever money I can put together from whatever jobs I can get. Then I wait until I find a good deal, buy whatever I can to make it happen and then learn everything I can about it. It's a mentality of, "If I don't do it, I'll never have the chance to try again," that has made me the dilettante I am today

    Besides, part of my interest in learning about all of this is to maybe one day turn it into a job/career. I learn by doing as theory tends to be retained by other people's brains from all the leakage from mine. Plus I tend to make so many mistakes in everything that I do that I've become used to the methodology of learning from them

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    I would also strongly recommend you start with quality roasted beans from a quality supplier. There are many, many variables in getting a good coffee, consistently. And starting with a reliable and predictable roasted bean is a good foundation to build on.

    Although, really, having said that, Roasting coffee is not hard, you can roast green beans in a fry pan on your stove. : simple
    However, Getting consistency and predictable flavours in the roasting of the beans is an entirely different conversation altogether.

    I always found my camping grade mocha pot delivered a good strong coffee hit. Head and shoulders above anything instant. And I suppose any beans will do!
    It's your journey and you take it any way you want!
    But if you want to start getting into the many delights and nuances of SO, well I guess it's time to get a little upgradeitis going on.....

    I would really encourage you to 'jump-in' and get started... Fine coffee is a journey of a thousand steps and there's no better time to get started than right now! Enjoy!
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