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Thread: Help with purchasing a coffee machine

  1. #1
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    Help with purchasing a coffee machine

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Having persisted with a couple of 'appliance' grade coffee machines for several years and getting increasingly frustrated with the quality of coffee, my wife and I are now finally ready to upgrade to a decent coffee machine.
    As per usual whenever I look to research a purchase, I invariably end up with scope creep and what started out as a simple exercise to purchase a relatively good coffee machine has now been subsumed by whether or not I need one with PID, do I go for one with built in grinder or separate. If separate what type of grinder is best value, do I need dual boiler???

    So I thought instead of going round in circles, I'd ask some questions here and hopefully the answers will help focus my purchase on some suitable candidates.
    I have predominantly been looking at the Lelit range and am trying to determine which is the machine best suiting our needs.

    How often would we use the machine- Dual or Single Boiler?
    We usually make 2-4 coffees of a Friday evening for my wife and I, and similar on Saturday and Sunday morning and nights. We rarely have guests over, so I've doubted whether dual boiler is necessary. I guess I need to know how big an inconvenience would it be if I only had a single boiler but had to make a round of 6 coffees?

    To PID or not to PID?
    Whilst my wife is a barista.. I am not. And given she has made it clear she has no desire to be my personal home barista. I am wondering whether with my inexperience a PID is important.

    Ease of use
    As per above, I am not a barista, and have been using appliance level Sunbeam coffee machines for a long time. Stepping up to a Lelit - for a novice like myself- is it going to be daunting?

    Importance of size of group handle?
    I hadn't given this a thought until looking at a lot of different models, and noting that even within the Lelit range, it's not until you go up to the dual boiler PL60T(V2) that the group changes from a 57mm to a 58mm? Is this an important feature or not?

    Grinder
    I am keen to make sure I am not having to replace an expensive grinder every year or 2. Is there a consensus as to what provides the best sweet spot between performance, longevity and value for money?

    Overall, whilst covering off on the above, I really want a machine that when looked after well, is going to last for a long time. We don't have the disposable income to end up purchasing something that works great, but is unreliable. To justify what is a large purchase for us, we are really after something that is going to last us a long time

    Ideally I'd like to keep whole machine + grinder under $2,000, but not sure really if this is realistic. Would consider going above this price point if it is significant to do so in terms of the queries I've raised above.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by YankeeHotelFoxtrot View Post
    Having persisted with a couple of 'appliance' grade coffee machines for several years and getting increasingly frustrated with the quality of coffee, my wife and I are now finally ready to upgrade to a decent coffee machine.
    As per usual whenever I look to research a purchase, I invariably end up with scope creep and what started out as a simple exercise to purchase a relatively good coffee machine has now been subsumed by whether or not I need one with PID, do I go for one with built in grinder or separate. If separate what type of grinder is best value, do I need dual boiler???

    So I thought instead of going round in circles, I'd ask some questions here and hopefully the answers will help focus my purchase on some suitable candidates.
    I have predominantly been looking at the Lelit range and am trying to determine which is the machine best suiting our needs.

    How often would we use the machine- Dual or Single Boiler?
    We usually make 2-4 coffees of a Friday evening for my wife and I, and similar on Saturday and Sunday morning and nights. We rarely have guests over, so I've doubted whether dual boiler is necessary. I guess I need to know how big an inconvenience would it be if I only had a single boiler but had to make a round of 6 coffees?
    Making a large batch of milk coffees on a single boiler takes longer than if you had a dual boiler or HX. For those who don't make large batches of milk coffees regularly, a single boiler machine is usually more than adequate. Switching between modes (coffee to steam or steam to coffee) takes about a minute.

    Quote Originally Posted by YankeeHotelFoxtrot View Post
    To PID or not to PID?
    Whilst my wife is a barista.. I am not. And given she has made it clear she has no desire to be my personal home barista. I am wondering whether with my inexperience a PID is important.
    A PID is a "nice to have" but in terms of importance to the final result, comes after: 1. technique, 2. grinder, 3. coffee and 4. a suitably cleaned and maintained machine. The PID gives you feedback regarding the boiler temperature and whether the machine is in steam mode or not. It improves steam strength and consistency. It removes temperature variance in the brew water which gives you better shots more consistently - but note that this improvement is small compared to the 4 factors above. How small? Well this is the million dollar question, but we will recommend a PID version to customers who, at least occasionally, drink black coffee or at least strong milk coffee (without sweeteners).

    Quote Originally Posted by YankeeHotelFoxtrot View Post
    Ease of use
    As per above, I am not a barista, and have been using appliance level Sunbeam coffee machines for a long time. Stepping up to a Lelit - for a novice like myself- is it going to be daunting?
    The thing that often makes the biggest difference when stepping up from an appliance to a prosumer espresso machine is going from pressurised filter baskets to unpressurised. This results in a much clearer picture of where your technique, coffee and grinder are at. The coffee coming out of your Lelit may actually look worse than your appliance coffee even if you don't change anything except the machine. But this is just because the "veil" has been lifted. You are now seeing the shortcomings (if any) in the rest of your setup. It's not until you can see these issues that you are able to address them. And after you address them, you will be able to make the same delicious coffee that your favourite barista makes!

    Also, a prosumer machine will generally have bigger filter baskets which hold more coffee. (the standard double in a Lelit holds about 20g) This makes a noticeable difference to the quality of the shot, especially if you're trying to get a full double shot.

    The bottom line is that stepping up to a Lelit (or other prosumer machine) won't be daunting so much as enlightening. And that is the only way get on the path to real espresso.

    Quote Originally Posted by YankeeHotelFoxtrot View Post
    Importance of size of group handle?
    I hadn't given this a thought until looking at a lot of different models, and noting that even within the Lelit range, it's not until you go up to the dual boiler PL60T(V2) that the group changes from a 57mm to a 58mm? Is this an important feature or not?
    No. As mentioned above, the 57mm double basket in a Lelit holds around 20g of ground coffee. More than enough to make a proper double shot.

    Quote Originally Posted by YankeeHotelFoxtrot View Post
    Grinder
    I am keen to make sure I am not having to replace an expensive grinder every year or 2. Is there a consensus as to what provides the best sweet spot between performance, longevity and value for money?
    No. Because everyone has different requirements when it comes to performance and functionality. Some customers want a reliable grinder that will make great tasting coffee without the bells and whistles - circa $300 to $400. Others want more speed, digital timer, aesthetics to make visitors jaws drop ... $1K, $2k .... But even the cheapest grinder in our range is built to last for years to come.

    Quote Originally Posted by YankeeHotelFoxtrot View Post
    Overall, whilst covering off on the above, I really want a machine that when looked after well, is going to last for a long time. We don't have the disposable income to end up purchasing something that works great, but is unreliable. To justify what is a large purchase for us, we are really after something that is going to last us a long time
    Buy something that has more metal than plastic and look after it. Machines like this are more likely to last 10 or 20 years than 1 or 2.

    Quote Originally Posted by YankeeHotelFoxtrot View Post
    Ideally I'd like to keep whole machine + grinder under $2,000, but not sure really if this is realistic. Would consider going above this price point if it is significant to do so in terms of the queries I've raised above.
    I hope that the above will give you a good basis for working out what you'll need to spend.

    Quote Originally Posted by YankeeHotelFoxtrot View Post
    Thanks in advance.
    You're welcome,

    charlie
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by JetBlack_Espresso View Post
    Making a large batch of milk coffees on a single boiler takes longer than if you had a dual boiler or HX. For those who don't make large batches of milk coffees regularly, a single boiler machine is usually more than adequate. Switching between modes (coffee to steam or steam to coffee) takes about a minute.


    A PID is a "nice to have" but in terms of importance to the final result, comes after: 1. technique, 2. grinder, 3. coffee and 4. a suitably cleaned and maintained machine. The PID gives you feedback regarding the boiler temperature and whether the machine is in steam mode or not. It improves steam strength and consistency. It removes temperature variance in the brew water which gives you better shots more consistently - but note that this improvement is small compared to the 4 factors above. How small? Well this is the million dollar question, but we will recommend a PID version to customers who, at least occasionally, drink black coffee or at least strong milk coffee (without sweeteners).


    The thing that often makes the biggest difference when stepping up from an appliance to a prosumer espresso machine is going from pressurised filter baskets to unpressurised. This results in a much clearer picture of where your technique, coffee and grinder are at. The coffee coming out of your Lelit may actually look worse than your appliance coffee even if you don't change anything except the machine. But this is just because the "veil" has been lifted. You are now seeing the shortcomings (if any) in the rest of your setup. It's not until you can see these issues that you are able to address them. And after you address them, you will be able to make the same delicious coffee that your favourite barista makes!

    Also, a prosumer machine will generally have bigger filter baskets which hold more coffee. (the standard double in a Lelit holds about 20g) This makes a noticeable difference to the quality of the shot, especially if you're trying to get a full double shot.

    The bottom line is that stepping up to a Lelit (or other prosumer machine) won't be daunting so much as enlightening. And that is the only way get on the path to real espresso.



    No. As mentioned above, the 57mm double basket in a Lelit holds around 20g of ground coffee. More than enough to make a proper double shot.



    No. Because everyone has different requirements when it comes to performance and functionality. Some customers want a reliable grinder that will make great tasting coffee without the bells and whistles - circa $300 to $400. Others want more speed, digital timer, aesthetics to make visitors jaws drop ... $1K, $2k .... But even the cheapest grinder in our range is built to last for years to come.


    Buy something that has more metal than plastic and look after it. Machines like this are more likely to last 10 or 20 years than 1 or 2.


    I hope that the above will give you a good basis for working out what you'll need to spend.



    You're welcome,

    charlie

    Excellent advice Charlie, well done.

  4. #4
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    To Paul from dodgy x Coffee & Charlie from Jet Black Espresso, thank-you so much for your considered insights. You've really given me a lot to think about.
    In hindisght I think I may've let my heart rule my head in setting my budget to $2000. As much as I love the idea of getting a heat exchange machine and grinder.. I think I need to temper that with some reality.. Given we only drink coffee at home from Friday evening through to Sunday morning, I am not sure with our financial situation and with two young children whether it's the most justifiable way to spend our limited discretionary income.
    Perhaps a compromise position may be the best way forward for us.
    With that in mind, given I'm coming from a machine that was a mid range Sunbeam...from a few years ago, the real questions I need to answer are as follows.

    Would buying a good quality single boiler like a Lelit PL41TEM plus a good grinder be a substantial improvement upon what I previously had? And secondly, provided I looked after it, would it last for many years?

  5. #5
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    I suggest keeping an eye on the Coffee Harware for Sale listings. A HX/dual bolier machine will be much easier to live with than a single boiler.

    The prosumer machines are built to last, so don't be put off by the age of these machines. I would look at how well the machine has been looked after.

    Good luck with your search.

    Cheers,

    Sam
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  6. #6
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    I'd avoid the 57mm portafilter whenever possible, choosing 57mm means you would have lot less choice of tampers and aftermarket precision baskets (VST etc) would be hard to find. and would be a hassle if you want to upgrade in the future.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by symphonie View Post
    I'd avoid the 57mm portafilter whenever possible, choosing 57mm means you would have lot less choice of tampers and aftermarket precision baskets (VST etc) would be hard to find. and would be a hassle if you want to upgrade in the future.
    That's not as big an issue as most people might think, and it only matters if buying lots of aftermarket accessories is really important. 57mm is one of the more common group head sizes after 58mm so there's plenty of options for tampers and filters, and if you upgrade in the future to a different size group head you just sell all the bits and pieces with your machine. I would say it's one of the least important considerations when buying a machine and I'd urge the OP not to worry about it too much. The reality is that many 58mm parts aren't interchangeable either. I've got a machine with a commercial 58mm group head yet I can't use any e61 parts with it.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeroyC View Post
    That's not as big an issue as most people might think, and it only matters if buying lots of aftermarket accessories is really important. 57mm is one of the more common group head sizes after 58mm so there's plenty of options for tampers and filters, and if you upgrade in the future to a different size group head you just sell all the bits and pieces with your machine. I would say it's one of the least important considerations when buying a machine and I'd urge the OP not to worry about it too much. The reality is that many 58mm parts aren't interchangeable either. I've got a machine with a commercial 58mm group head yet I can't use any e61 parts with it.
    I couldn't agree more Leroy. Thanks for saving me a paragraph!
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  9. #9
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    Thank-you again to everyone who has provided feedback to my thread, really helpful. Hopefully will be in a position to go check out some places here in Brisbane shortly. Having said that, I'm not averse to purchasing interstate providing it would not compromise my ability to get my machine serviced locally in Brisbane?
    I shall be sure to recommend this site to my friends, and once I've settled on my machine I'll no doubt be back to ask for further tips! Cheers.
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  10. #10
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    Investing in some training + used single boiler + used decent grinder for somewhere around the $1000 should make your weekend coffees very enjoyable
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by YankeeHotelFoxtrot View Post
    Thank-you again to everyone who has provided feedback to my thread, really helpful. Hopefully will be in a position to go check out some places here in Brisbane shortly. Having said that, I'm not averse to purchasing interstate providing it would not compromise my ability to get my machine serviced locally in Brisbane?
    I shall be sure to recommend this site to my friends, and once I've settled on my machine I'll no doubt be back to ask for further tips! Cheers.
    Di Bartoli has local service agents in every capital city, including Brisbane, if that helps. Also, I could think of few other options for machine & grinder under the $2k mark. Would love to tailor a quote if you have few minutes to answer some more questions here Cheers, Ofra
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  12. #12
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    Apologies to site sponsors, but I found a local Lelit supplier in the suburb next to me, who was able to show me their machines and whom also offer training. I ended up purchasing a Lelit Combi with PID. Extremely happy with the product, and it's a massive upgrade on the coffee I was getting out of my old Sunbeam machine. Obviously some nuances to several aspects of the process I will need to work on, but I'm really enjoying the experience so far, and intend to undertake a course the local supplier runs.
    Once again thank-you to the site sponsors and others who have given their time and expertise in helping me with this. As per above I will be sure to recommend this community to my friends to help them with their coffee machine purchases.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by YankeeHotelFoxtrot View Post
    Apologies to site sponsors, but I found a local Lelit supplier in the suburb next to me...
    In doing so, you still supported site sponsor Jetblack (the importer) by purchasing from your local Brisbane dealer.

    I'm pretty certain that Charlie would consider that to be the perfect outcome...

    Hope you enjoy your new kit. With a little care, it should deliver great coffee for many years.
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  14. #14
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    Nice choice YHF and a great result for all concerned,

    charlie
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