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Budget Machines, are they really that bad?

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  • Budget Machines, are they really that bad?

    Having owned a Sunbeam, I know that you can get a half descent coffee out of one and you can get microfoam just as fine as I can get on my Silvia. It just takes a little longer. You will still get a coffee which is better than any instant.

    Yeah I know they have their faults.
    Comments on websites like "The thermoblock disintegrates as soon as you turn it on." Is, IMHO, in the same ball park as one that says "drinking unfiltered tap water is going to kill you!" The last person that told me that was trying to scare me into buying a $3000 filtering system. Are these websites there to perform a public service or are they trying to sell you something?

    One of the things I noticed is that many Retailers, Roasters and People who should know better, when you say "I have a (Budget machine)...." treat you with contempt or as tho you have no idea what a good coffee tastes like. None of the ones I spoke to except one said "Hey, they are a good place to start if your budget is limited and this is what you can do to improve things."

    I am just wondering why there is this attitude?

    Budget machines are excellent if you are not sure if it is going to be a fad or not.

    I have also heard that the $99 Sunbeam has a real boiler and makes better coffee than their more expensive machines. This I heard from a girl at "The Good Guys" as one of those "Im not supposed to tell you this but.........." things. I have yet to try it as Im looking for a machine for my personal use at work i might just give it a shot.

    Ive said it here b4 and Ill say it again I dont want this site to scare of newbies that do have a budget machine and have just started out.

    Food for thought


  • #2
    Re: Budget Machines, are they really that bad?

    It seems to me that the major benefits to come out of upgrading to a prosumer/semicommercial machine is the consistency and ease of use they offer. Ive got a Baby Gaggia, which is probably a step up from some of the really inexpensive home machines, but still a single boiler (small at that) machine that requires a lot of mucking around and a little luck to produce a great shot and then steam milk before the shot is passed its prime.
    So with a bit of mucking around and knowledge someone could produce a great shot using a relatively inexpensive home machine, but a HX machine would be much less hassle and IMHO produce great shots on a more consistent basis.
    I would advocate spending more than you can afford on a grinder though


    • #3
      Re: Budget Machines, are they really that bad?

      Rich....good question and it is "political"  as much as of real concern.

      You are right (in part), budget machines are a good place for someone to start and may even lead to upgraditis which is good for traders in real coffee machines, however from my experience the problems with "budget" machines go like this;

      a) there are now a never ending multitude of models, some work well, others dont. No one in real terms , knows which is which and the consumer is gambling when choosing a model, particularly if the choise is made from the "recommendation" of a dept store employee, many of whom know jack rabbit about espresso machines. The models keep changing, this is not indicative of a machine that will continue to be serviceable in the long term so in short, these are "throw away" items with limited life span;

      b) appliance barnd name machines have a limited life span. Most are not repaired even during the warranty, they are simple swapped over. At the end of the warranty, you may be lucky to find a repair agent and even if you do, you will be lucky to get parts. The repair agent is not an espresso machine repairer, he is an electrical appliance repairer. There is more than a subtle difference.

      c) On this basis of the above, it can be said that buying a budget or appliance brand esp machine exeplifies precicely the sentiments of an old saying that goes something like, paying too little can ebentuate in you paying too much, because if you paid too little and the item is not up to the job, it ends up costing you the price of the original machine plus the cost of its replacement... or words to the effect.

      d) thermoblock machines are in themsleves a bit of a bugbear. The thermoblock is "advantageous" from the point of view being able to obtain continuous steam (continuous injection of small amounts of water, therefore steam capacity is governed by amount of cold water in tank, not "boiler capacity"). This is great for steaming milk, but many models are not the best at actually brewing the coffee base, so the idea of thermoblock is one sided, geared to production of steam not necessarily coffee.

      e) The relatice price difference between between a so called "budget" machine and a "real" machine is only around $200.00 ( say for the purpose of the discussion, a budget costs 350.00, and a starter "real" machine, 550.00. This is a lot in terms of percentage, but very little in real terms.

      f) It could be said that buying a "budget starter" machine is good because it will lead to better machines, OR it is bad, because of the scenario surrounding the purchase. For example Couple A buys a starter machine from a dept. store. They know not what they are buying, and they think it is a good idea at the time. The shop asssistant knows not what he/she is selling. Couple A cant make a go of operating the machine properly, it ends up next to the rice cooker in the back of the cupboard, and these are the people who bag espresso machiones for ever more because..."oh that wretched thing never worked properly"... This kind of "bad experience" causes some people NOT to purchase an espresso machine in the future, particularly as they see it as a waste of their money, so a good quality machine, costing more, has no chance with them.

      g) many people buying budget machines are the ones that having made an absolute balls up of the purchase, as well as their resulting attempts to make good coffee, end up in the coffee merchants show room, seeking free advice on how to use the machine properly. This is time consuming and costs the trader money because he is not selling them one of his own machines, but doing the job that the department store assistant should have done and that is to give proper "after sales" service with the sale of the machine and teach the couple how to use it properly.

      In addition and whilst this is not the fault or probelm of the consumer, the dept stores, having seen there may be a buck to be made from jumping on the cappuccino bandwagon, have raped the budget end of the espresso machine market away from professional espresso machine and coffee vendors. Unfortunately they have also done this by reselling a multitude of models that some class as "electrical appliances" rather than espresso mahcines, many of which have the prOblems stated above, and in so doing are not necessarily doing their own clients a favour. I can therefore understand why some espresso machine merchants are at first taken aback by people landing in their showrooms wanting information about machines they bought from someone else who is unable to give them the proper after sales service required, although I will also say it is bad manners and disrespectful to the client and does not win you custom from that client in the future so it is self defeating.

      These are the reasons why I say this topic is good, and is more "political" than you might think.

      In closing, there is one more point to be made.  Whilst the object of sites like this is to foster an interest in all things coffee ( & therefore the "better" machinery) and therefore not scare new people with budget machinery away, it could also be said that the other side of the exact same attitude could scare people away, and that is to give the impression there are only a couple of "real" domestic machine brans / models that consumers should be buying. Nothing could be further from the truth, this attitude can scare away the owners of the more budget machinery, and the world does not revolve around only a couple of the more expensive domestic espresso machine brand names either !

      Somewhere in there, there lies a happy medium.



      • #4
        Re: Budget Machines, are they really that bad?

        Apart from being a coffee fan I am also an amateur astronomer and I find an increasing number of comparisons can be made:
        • There is a threshold dollar spend below which the equipment is generally classified as junk.
        • Good equipment is not normally found in a generic department store.
        • It pays to shop around as similar equipment can vary dramatically in price.
        • Accessories can add a lot of unexpected costs to your initial purchase.
        • Peer support is the single biggest influence on a satisfying experience.
        • A good relationship with a dealer is worth paying a little extra for IF YOU NEED IT.
        • Both coffee and astronomy keep you up at night. ;D


        • #5
          Re: Budget Machines, are they really that bad?

          I think that one other very important problem with "budget" machinery is that "it" gives the impression that something "really" good, can be had for a "low end" price. By this I mean, that someone that sets an arbitrary budget for something like an espresso machine invariably is not thinking about a grinder at all.

          Therefore he/she ends up with either

          a) a machine without a grinder (relying therefore on pre ground which is never ground correctly for any one particular model, let alone fresh, usually leaving the owner wondering about the elusive crema that is supposed to magically appear on top of the espresso) OR

          b) a machine with a budget grinder that may or may not be up to the job (again, leaving the owner wondering...)

          And in doing this (persuing equipment on the basis of a "budget") the consumer is unwittingly operating at odds with the purpose of purchasing the esp machine in the first instance, which is to get the best possible wet coffee according to an idea in his mind about what this will be.

          Reealistically, most consumers looking for that "wet" coffee that exists in their minds eye dont know where to start or what to do with the machinery once they have bought it, so they require a great deal of input from a coffee machine professional who will "fit" the equipment to the expectations of the client. This is not found in places selling budget machinery, and certainly not in consumer magazines testing electrical appliances.

          I think the "threshhold" for reasonable equipment (that which CAN do the job, long term, if operated & managed properly) in this market is around the $750 to $800 mark and this includes provision of a good quality matched grinder.

          So again, its not necessarily that budget machines are "that bad", its to do with coffee & coffee machine politics and consumer expectations. Solutions to this can only be obtained when dealing with professional esp machine vendors offering good, supporting & continuing advice after "fitting" the equipment to the client.



          • #6
            Re: Budget Machines, are they really that bad?

            One thing to thank the Sunbeam 4800 (I thank it was
            ) that if we never brought it this stie would not exist

            I think it wont be to long before China puts out something as good as the Gaggia Classic or Silvia.

            A grinder is a good place to start the upgraditis if you own a Budget machine at least it will get you off the preground.


            • #7
              Re: Budget Machines, are they really that bad?

              Of the "Are Budget Machines..." topic and other things.

              I dont know whether our Admins have noticed this however it appears to this participant that often there are times when by virtue of either of the Admins getting involved in a topic, it spells the end of group participation and trunkates a topic to perhaps, a premature end.

              In this case, I honestly think the jury is genuinely split 50/50 on the subject, even despite there has only been one (well, 2 counting Admin) only response/s that budget machines are "good" because they get some people started with a genuine interest in coffee, and some of these people are likely to upgrade to better equipment and further their interest.

              As I see it, the 2 sides to the discussion are simple.

              a) On the one hand, budget machines are not good because there are a hell of a lot of people who having bought one and not for whatever reason, being able to get a good result from them, relegate them to the back of the cupboard and effectively "go off" the possibility of trying to further the interest in better coffee and

              b) On the other hand budget machines are good because they get some people started, and some of them WILL continue to grow their interest in coffee.

              Both as I see it, are genuine points of view, probably with no definitive resolution to the subject of the topic, but now the topic is stopped dead in the water after only a couple of replies.

              Isnt there anyone else who would like to "own up" publicly to having started with a so called "budget machine" and who DID after all continue on to bigger and better things? If they dont "own up", is it because they are worried to publicly do this in a Forum that sometimes appears to recommend only a couple of the more expensive or "politically correct to own" domestic espresso machines?

              I think this is a real life good topic, but is "political correctness" affecting its real discussion in the Forum?



              • #8
                Re: Budget Machines, are they really that bad?

                Dont we need to see the real picture here.... A cheaper machine might be the ideal machine for someone on a low income budget..... or someone who is just starting out.

                So the "Re: Budget Machines, are they really that bad?" Ide jump on the wagon and say no theyre not if a cheapie allows someone a indulgence of a home brew that satisfies their want then it has certainly done its job... and that thought is from a Non Admino.... If a cheap machine opens the door to the world of coffee then it has to be a good thing... Isnt the primary goal to introduce people to coffee?



                • #9
                  Re: Budget Machines, are they really that bad?

                  I started off in the world of coffee with a krups novo 2000 and have since moved up to a silvia. The krups was great for a starter because it was cheap (getting it off an online auction saved a lot of money). It was with that that i first began my coffee roasting adventure, and ever since then have had quite an interest in it.


                  • #10
                    Re: Budget Machines, are they really that bad?

                    Thanks HD



                    • #11
                      Re: Budget Machines, are they really that bad?

                      About 12 months ago my fiance and mother-in-law came home after a shopping expedition with a Baby Gaggia and Gaggia MM grinder, it was a package deal on sale. At first I was only mildly interested but pretty soon it magically became my coffee machine
                      Wanting to know more about making decent coffee, I turned to the good old internet. Sites like Coffeegeek and Coffeeco became favourites. The first thing that had to change was the MM (not Mazzer Mini) grinder. I scored a Gino Rossi RR45 grinder for free, but thats another story With the Rossi I noticed immediate improvement in my brewed coffee, but the size of the grinder and my preference for a doserless machine led me to the moderately priced, but well performed Cafe de Tranquilo. If I had a spare couple of thousand dollars Id buy a La Valentina tomorrow. Currently the La Val fund is about half way there. I like the idea of the Expobar Brewtus but they may never become available in Australia and not sure what the price will be.
                      So I guess my point is that I fit into the category of budget machine as a positive introduction to the wonderful world of coffee, as such I realise their limitations but also appreciate the what they have to offer.


                      • #12
                        Re: Budget Machines, are they really that bad?


                        I started out a long time ago (>30Yrs) with a Mellita 6-Cup Drip machine and for quite a while machines of this ilk were my mainstay.

                        The first "Espresso" style machine I bought was a Moulinex Duo (Steam Pressure only) about 12 or 13 years ago and satisfied my coffee cravings up until the beginning of last year when I saw my first Pump machine, a Sunbeam Crema on display in our local appliance store.

                        All this time I had been using packaged beans from the supermarket (or local shop in PNG) and grinding with my toy Braun burr grinder that Ive been using for the last 30 years or so and about 4 burr-sets along. To my dismay, I discovered that the Braun wasnt up to the task where Espresso grinds were concerned and then spent my first session on the Net searching for Online coffee retailers. This is were I discovered CoffeeCo and Alan Frew and definitely the best Ive done to date in my quest to obtain great coffee.

                        Anyway, after a very frustrating time trying to get a decent shot of Espresso from the Sunbeam and with much advice from Alan, I eventually decided that I was never going to get what I was longing for from the Sunbeam so opted to relegate same to the proverbial back of the cupboard (where it still resides) and purchase something more capable. Thats when I bought my Mokita and a Lux Grinder.

                        At this time I was purchasing my pre-roasted beans from Alan too so there was definitely nothing wrong with the coffee. After some coaching from Alan I slowly but surely improved my technique with Mokita and learned how to dial-in the grind to suit different blends and atmospheric conditions, etc.

                        By the time a couple of months flew by, some of our friends, neighbours and rellies discovered that the coffee isnt too bad at Mals place and before I knew it, I was churning out cappas, lattes and the occasional espresso to the tune of 10 to 12 cups per day.

                        This started to tax the little Lux a fair bit (a bit slow and a bit noisy) so I then decided that an upgrade to a more purposeful grinder was in order and subsequently bought a Rocky. Best thing I ever did in my view as the finer step gradations definitely allow for better fine tuning of the grind for any given situation.

                        Where do I go from here? Dont know really as Im pretty happy with the quality of brews being produced now and am in no hurry to step up to a more commercially oriented machine design. The Mokita is capable of producing some damn fine brews when coupled with Rocky so if I do decide to upgrade, then it will probably be for some other reason. Cant think of anything worthwhile or compelling enough at this time though.

                        Excellent Espressos everyone,


                        • #13
                          Re: Budget Machines, are they really that bad?

                          A number of valid points have been made in the previous posts. But, I would like to add my 2 bobs worth.
                          Budget machines can be a place for persons interested in caffeine to start. Especially those who are genuinely interested and are on A BUDGET.

                          Id say 90% of them were not purchased by those on a budget, but were purchased because of the home coffee fad. There is a big difference between the two.

                          Many of these fad machines purchased over the last 12-18 months, are now sitting in the bottom of the cupboard alongside the breadmmaker and rice cooker.
                          1. In some cases the fad in the particular house died.
                          2. Toooooo fidd illy
                          3. Took to long for mum to make 10 lattes for the kinda group.
                          4. Took to long for dad to make 10 caps for his golfer mates.
                          5. Due to lack of proper instruction the operator could not make a reasonable espresso, let alone steam the milk.
                          6. After, continually breaking down and being replaced 4 or 5 times under warranty; warranty now expired; so has the machine.
                          7. to 107 I could go on.....................
                          108. In many cases these budget machines were purchased as GIFTS for hubby, wifey, girly/boyy friend etc. Many of whom have no interest in playing BARISTA

                          How do I know the above, I have had a number of calls or emails asking if I would like to purchase these as new second hand machines.
                          I have a few in the shed that I accepted as a trade in. I usually say to put them in the Trading Post or EBAy.

                          On the other hand, I know of a number of persons that have an assortment of these budget machines that are extremely happy with their purchases. However, these persons (from what I can gather) are at their pre-geek stage and if the budget could afford it, would upgrade to a Silvia, Diadema or the like in a flash. How do I know this? Again I receive calls and emails requesting prices for various types of equipment. When I get an inquiry, I always ask as to what type of equipment is currently in use. I often get calls from these persons wanting to find out if they can tweek their machines.

                          So my summary from a long time user (over 20 years) and reseller of an array of espresso type equipment, including the $99 screamers is that:

                          1. Do your homework before buying.
                          2. Identify your needs before purchasing.
                          3. Decide if you intend to be in espresso for the long or short term.
                          4. Make sure you get a demonstration of the machine you are intending to purchase. No DEMO - No BUYEEE.
                          5.The DEMO is supa critical, as it will show the purchaser if the style of beverage being produced is up to his/her standard.
                          6. The Demo should include an opportunity for the purchaser to ave a go, if you cant ave a go, DON"T BUY IT.
                          7. to 107. .........
                          108. Yes, budget machines do have a place. In the right hands, and for the right reasons the machine was purchased for.

                          Happy New Year.


                          • #14
                            Re: Budget Machines, are they really that bad?

                            It would be a wonderful thing to live in a world where we know everything there is to be known before we start out....sorry, but it seem to me that sometimes we can miss the real picture…

                            Not everyone has the plethora of hindsight as we all seem to have. Not all of us live in cities where the access to the local supplier is, not all of us started out thinking that the every day machine from Harvey Norman or Myers etc might not be really what we want... Markets are driven by the people who purchase the goods and how many goods are purchased by the spur of the moment thought? Where I live there is One business that sells Coffee Machines and he’s more interested in flogging off fully Autos and then there are the Retail Chains.

                            When I first started out my local supplier assured me the Saeco Royal professional would do everything I would ever want and be able to cater for a small group... Sales pitch should have been OK for making 2 cups but it takes time.

                            Not all of us have the access to what many of you have and that be the access to a hands on examination.... How many salesmen are really going to put down their own machines and really give you the down to earth truth... 0.5% would be my estimate.
                            Your thought of many machines lying at the bottom of the cupboard might be true, but I just wonder how many there are still sitting on the bench tops of many a kitchens churning out a little brew each day to the enjoyment of their owners?

                            You’re in an environment where you sell these machines and what you say might be true but in a realistic world the amount of sales generated from the larger retail outlets out does the sales of the more dedicated Espresso machine sellers (I could be wrong here).

                            20 years association with Coffee is a long time and you know as well as I do that currently there is a fad on coffee machines and with this is certainly going to bring on an influx of rubbish machines and there is nothing anyone can do about it, but people will learn and try to do as most do and that is "lets try one out and see if it is any good" this is the way most of us learn, deep down inside none of us like to admit that we are wrong….

                            We are CoffeeSnobs and Snobs we are, but I really do think that we have to examine the point that we Snob off a machine that is a bit cheaper for a machine that might cost $1000 or more or do we accept the fact that these machines are here and we might as well use them to our advantage and encourage the Instant drinkers to try the real stuff.

                            My machine is getting on in years but it still makes a great coffee whenever I ask it to, but it’s a commercial machine and cheaper machines are not even in the league of it, but, I wouldn’t begrudge the owner of a cheaper machine the fact that his little $150 machine can make a nice coffee, if he is pleased with it then good. Cheaper machines have a place and that might not be what we want in our set ups but not every one wants to spend hundreds of dollars buying a coffee machine some might just be content with the dreaded cheaper machines, but all in all they still have a place.

                            I think we need to see what is happening in the real world.
                            Some of us might drive a Cheaper Vehicle and some of us might drive a nice European vehicle both have four wheels on the ground but they are not the same but they all fit a niche in the market and not all of us can afford an up market vehicle and so to do the cheaper coffee machines compared to the dearer Coffee machines

                            That’s my slant at least.



                            • #15
                              Re: Budget Machines, are they really that bad?

                              Originally posted by Fresh_Coffee link=1104147278/0#6 date=1104620758
                              Of the "Are Budget Machines..." topic and other things.

                              Isnt there anyone else who would like to "own up" publicly to having started with a so called "budget machine" and who DID after all continue on to bigger and better things? If they dont "own up", is it because they are worried to publicly do this in a Forum that sometimes appears to recommend only a couple of the more expensive or "politically correct to own" domestic espresso machines?

                              LOL Ill own up there FC. My first espresso machine was one of the small home boiler types when they first hit the market here many years ago. It was all I could afford and after some experimenting and tweaking of it I was able to produce a drinkable cup. Drinkable, but it was not the real espresso I so badly craved. I suffered through with this screamer until 11 years ago when I bought a Briel pump model. This was better, but still lacking. I managed to live though the coffee it produced for 11 years until one of the deals Id been working on for a commercial unit finally happened. Two months ago I finally was able to strike a deal agreeable to both parties for a non-working Cimbali M-28 Basic 2-head unit that the owner had finally given up on being able to repair and 2 Super Jolly grinders, all for only $250US. After spending 4 sleepless days tearing it apart, descaling all components, and rebuilding it with all new gaskets/seals/filters etc I finally had the true espresso at home Id been so badly craving for all those years at a price I could afford!

                              Of course as soon as I got it some friends wanted me to put it in their resturant! So the search for another home unit started all over again. Im happy to report though that this search didnt take decades to come to fruitition. Two days ago I went and picked up my newest toy. A Cimbali M-52 Dolcevita Cappuccino Station. It had fallen from a freight truck and sustained serious external damage, basically destroying all the external panels and the bean hopper. Functionally however alls it needed to be usable for espresso was a solenoid and some tweaking of the frame to get everything properely aligned. Once Ive confirmed that it is capable of making a real espresso, and not just strong coffee, Ill replace the frother assembly on it and itll be fully functional. LOL Not a bad deal as I only paid $37US for it and the solenoid cost me another $150US. The frother assy will run $600US but its not required for brewing just expressos as the unit has a steamer wand for manual frothing.

                              I guess the long and the short of it is to buy what you can afford and if you want a commercial quality unit shop around and look for one that needs repairs. You can usually pick them up very cheaply and with a few days work and $50 or so for new gaskets, O-rings etc. you can have a virtually new unit that properely used and maintained will last you the rest of your life. Theres deals on commercial units out there, you just have to hunt them down, and be prepared to bide your time until the deals right.

                              Java "Off tweaking the M-52" phile
                              Toys! I must have new toys!!!