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Need help choosing an espresso machine

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  • Need help choosing an espresso machine

    I'm looking to get an espresso machine, preferably one without the grinder built in. I want to purchase a burr grinder separately, as I hear they give a consistent grind when compared to blade grinders (any advice on this is also appreciated).


    I came across the Breville BES840XL, which gets great reviews on Espresso Machine Reviews: How To Buy The Best Espresso Machines. I've also heard good things about the rancilio silvia.


    It's a lot of information to take in, should I just go for the Breville and be done with it? What do you look for when reviewing espresso machines?


    Any help appreciated.


    Thanks.

  • #2
    It may help those of us wanting to give advice to know your budget and preference for milk-based coffee or coffee only drinks.

    Also, whether this will be your first and only espresso machine, or just the first of many on your path to your ultimate dream espresso machine.

    Sam.

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    • #3
      If I was buying a Breville I'd buy the BES920 and the new Smart Grinder Pro. If I was buying a Rancilio I'd buy an S27 and pair it with a decent grinder like the Compak K6 doserless or Macap M4D.

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      • #4
        Hey tcheckley, have you had any hands-on with a coffee machine before, or is this pretty fresh to you?

        I only say this because if you haven't (and forgive me if you have) you're likely to be far more informed in your decision/thinking/research if you've managed to have a crack at pulling a shot or two and get a bit of a feel for the mechanics of the whole process.

        The Silvia is a bit of a different machine to the Breville, so it's worth having a look at what they offer you. Contrary to the link you posted - the Silvia is a semi-automatic machine and requires you to manually begin and end the shot you're pulling. The Breville (which is an automatic) will allow you to use the pre-programmed times/volumes in order to lock in your portafilter, press the 1/2 cup button(s) and just wait till it's done - or you can pull a manual shot on it as well.

        Really when it comes down to it, there are plenty of options available for you, and it's all about how you'd like to utilise the machine. Do you want to be able to just hit a button and wait? Then LeroyC's suggestions are along the lines that you should be looking for.
        Do you wanna be a little more hands on with the process in order to get a better coffee shot? You might think about a semi-auto instead, keeping an eye on the way the shot looks and making a call about when you want to end it.

        Also, it's worth thinking about how you're wanting to drink your coffee. Do you want it in milk? Then you might want to think about the way it manages transitioning from shots to steam, and the extent of it's steaming capabilities as well.

        I am, like you, in the market for my first machine. Fortunately I've been able to borrow my neighbours Silvia while he's overseas. It's been a really good learning opportunity, and ultimately, being hands on is what has taught me most about coffee - not trawling the forums (although there is plenty of excellent information out there!). I recommend at least once heading to a site sponsor and having a go on one of their single boilers they have on display (worth calling ahead and check if they've got one on the test bench for you) just so you get a feel for the thing and can make more of an informed decision.

        Whatever you decide, brewing coffee in your own home is pretty damn fun, but not without it's frustrations. Pick a machine you know you'll be able to enjoy using and will give you the flexibility to continue learning about the coffee making process and continue improving. This Silvia I'm borrowing, while currently managing to pull decent enough shots to satisfy both myself and the wife, I know I could spend a good few years enjoying learning about it's quirks and capabilities and becoming more efficient with it.

        The other thing you mention is the grinder, and you'll see all around this site how much emphasis is put on having a decent grinder. You're well on the way- burr grinders are essential for making a decent coffee, especially espresso. To be honest, the limitations I'm experiencing right now as a newbie is the limitations of my sunbeam burr grinder, not the coffee machine. Getting the grind just right in order to dial in a new lot of beans is a little difficult, and if you have a fairly inaccurate stepped grinder like me, it's going to be frustrating. I really recommend, don't skimp on the grinder. It's really important.

        Get back to us with an answer to Sam's questions and it'll be easier to guide you in the specifics of your choices.

        Al

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        • #5
          good thread and great advice already.
          i'm no expert but also been on the enjoyable learning wave to brew a great cup at home. i think i am getting there now after a couple of years!!
          my tip is don't underestimate the role of the grinder and the quality/freshness of the beans. i skimped on spending much on the grinder at first and am now on my third grinder before getting good consistency.
          I've only spent up one espresso machine so far but have used quite a few now at various office and friends places.
          I went second hand for my first machine and grinder and then later bought a new grinder. give us an idea of your budget so we can suggest options.

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