Interesting, if lengthy read for anyone contemplating buying their first espresso machine, obviously meant for the US market but Im sure applies to Australia as well. *:)
Espresso Machines in the Global Market
By Sergio Louissaint.
September 18, 2009
All across America, the story is the same. Someone enters a retail store, purchases an appliance at what he or she thinks is a good price point, takes it home, and tries to put it to use. After the while, a time increment, ranging from a week to a few month, the appliance stops working and needs to be replaced. When that someone goes about replacing the worn-out appliance, one of two things happens.
That person had either learned his or her lesson and spends more money to purchase a better appliance or the same appliance again or one at the same price point and develops the same problem down the line.
The market for every appliance is different but its accurate to generalize and say that frugality isnt the consumers friend. This is particularly true when it comes to our area of interest, espresso machines.
When espresso machines first came onto the market over a hundred years ago, they were most likely status symbols. They werent perfect, but since there were half a handful of manufacturers, a certain level of quality was maintained.
The prices of espresso machines were high and they were machines built to last. Today, youll find that espresso machines are no longer a status symbol. The consumer market is saturated with cheap and low-quality espresso machines just as the consumer market in general is saturated with low quality appliances.
This form of market egalitarianism is great for manufacturers and for China, where half of the worlds manufactured appliances are produced, but not so great for consumers who have to wade through a market littered with low quality appliances.
It might be said that if consumers choose to remain ignorant about what theyre purchasing then what they get is their own fault.
I disagree. I dont think anyone should have to deal with espresso machine lids that dont close, faulty wiring and boilers that scald . Its unclear,(meaning no one has come forward to claim responsibility) went wrong here but somewhere the message that factory workers are producing items to help people, not hurt them got lost. Its a really a sign of the times, isnt it?
Products used to be made by made manufacturers to help people...but now, it seems, many of them are made mostly to meet earning expectations of stockholders. (The irony is that customer service has become a distinctive department in all businesses in the last 25 years.)
Public outcry wont change the environment that creates shoddy and sometimes dangerous products and thats an unregulated environment of intense economic competition. Work and supplies are sub-contracted more than ever, making it difficult to locate the original suppliers of materials.
Due to these unchanging circumstances, the use of lead paint used on name brands food poisoning and the practice of using cheap and dangerous substitute materials by isnt going to go away completely. There are safety laws in China and there have even been people put to death to make amends. but it remains dubious to whether China is willing or able to enforce the safety laws that it has on the books, because it will be, as theyve put it, difficult.
Among the hundreds of items that are recalled everyday, are espresso machines, all of which are made in China.
Here are some of the worst offenders.
Black&Decker Spacemaker Coffeemaker
Manufacturer: Black& Decker
Made in: China
The main problem with this machine is that its brew basket can become dislodged allowing hot water to spill out. This presents a general hazard for scalding. They can be returned to the Black& Decker, if they were purchased recently, for a new one.
That is, if someone wants another one.
Jura Impressa Automatic Coffee Center Espresso Machine.
Made in: Switzerland.
Its surprising that this product was made in Europe which is known for its strong safety laws. The problem with this machine is its faulty circuitry. Electrical connectors erode which creates a significant fire hazard. To give Switzerland the benefit of the doubt, the creation of the electrical connectors may have been outsourced to China.
On Eugster/Frismags website, they note that they have moved "production" into a tax free zone in Shen Zhen, China. This is great for investors but precarious for consumers.
Located in Seattle, Washington.
Just to show you that shoddy products or services arent just limited to faceless strangers working in other countries.
What they do: Sell obviously used coffeemakers but list them as new.
The only thing more frustrating than a deficient espresso or coffee machine is deficient customer service. Apparently, they refuse to do refunds. To their credit, they have an online presence which they use primarily to control public image. In other words, theyre out there Googling their company and actively replying to deny anything theyre accused of in online discussions.
There are a lot of other shoddy brands out there. There are more than I can reasonably address...but there are a few good brands out there.
These brands will be considerably more expensive but you will, in most cases, get what you pay for.
One brand that sets the bar for excellence is Lelit. Founded twenty years ago and located in Brescia, Italy, an area known for high caliber manufacturing, owes its excellence to a healthy R&D department in addition to its highly skilled workforce.
It sounds cliche, but theyre truly one of those manufacturers "committed to excellence". Id recommend the Lelit PL51 model. Itll bring you many years of great espresso.
There are a few other brands out there. New products are introduced and disappear all the time so it isnt easy to keep track of but there is no other guidance that can be given than to be other than to be informed.
How much information is enough appears uncertain. Its impossible to have all the information needed so there needs to be constant vigilance from everyone; industry, government, independent consumer groups, and consumers themselves.
notes: Because repair involves skilled labor interchangeable parts, and standardization it is avoided. Standardization would equal regulation of some sort. The silver lining of this cloud is if recent trends in product customization pick up pace, sooner or later, the appliance market will move in the direction of standardized parts and customization, the way cars computers, and other industrial goods have.