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Upgrade-itis - What Next After Breville 800 Machine??

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  • Upgrade-itis - What Next After Breville 800 Machine??

    Hey there,

    I'm hoping you guys can help my research into upgrading my machine - I'm getting pretty decent results with my second hand Breville 800. In fact, given the awful things I've read on here about it I am thrilled with the shots and microfoam I've gotten out of it.

    However, it does seem quite inconsistent with the shots which is frustrating given I have an 11 month old baby and often have limited time to make myself a coffee and enjoy it before we lurch into the next child related disaster for the day.

    I'm looking to spend $600 (perhaps slightly more for the right thing) and am hoping to maximise the value of my dollars by getting a second hand machine. At the moment my main frustrations with the current machine are inconsistent shots, slow production of steamed milk leading to thinning out of crema, and wanting to improve milk texturing.

    I have looked at the Breville BES 820, 840, and 860. Alas I fear the BES900 is out of reach for now financially! Does anyone have any feedback on these machines? I'm getting very confused trying to compare features and read reviews. Also any other suggestions that might be achievable with my budget would be very greatfully recieved.

    I have a sunbeam grinder and would also like to upgrade that, but not just now - however any suggestions for best way to spend $200 on one would be very welcome (that's one reason I looked at the BES 860). I'm thinking a bit of help on the dosing front might assist me to add an element of consistency to my shot related experiments?

    Many thanks in advance - I'm awash in a sea of too much information here!

  • #2
    The shot inconsistency might be grinder related.

    You may want to consider spending all on a grinder which may never need replacing and leave the machine for a year or more.

    If it's at all possible to try your machine with a better grinder, try it.


    • #3
      Originally posted by Thundergod View Post
      You may want to consider spending all on a grinder which may never need replacing and leave the machine for a year or more.
      I agree. I am very happy with my Rancilio Rocky Doserless Coffee Grinder, although it may cost a little more than $200. I don't think dosing is important.


      • #4
        Hey, I have a sister called Kirsty on the sunshine coast... but she doesn't have an 11mo old!

        anyhoo, I had the Breville 820 and I found the same - inconsistent shots, and if I didn't do it exactly right (ie I was in a hurry) then it went drastically wrong. I could never get over the bitter and sourness, even when I upgraded to a Gino Rossi RR45. Partly due to the lack of OPV and inconsistent thermoblock heating, methinks.

        I ended up upgrading to a Giotto (which is delicious!), but this is outside your budget.

        The other machine I would recommend is the Sunbeam twin thermoblock. I yoinked a free one for my mum with matching grinder, and I am surprised at how good it is. The steaming is faster than the Breville 8x0 machines, the grinder is better than the Breville (except the Smart Grinder), and the shot quality is better. It took me much less time to get from the first ever turn on to nice shots.

        I think upgrading your grinder alone may help a bit, but for some reason the Breville 820 balanced so delicately on the knife edge of good vs crap shots, whereas the Sunbeam seemed more forgiving. Which Sunbeam grinder do you have? If its the EM0450 variety it will do for now, consider the Breville Smart Grinder when you have money.


        edit: how about this:


        • #5
          LOL I think we can safely assume I'm not her, hehehe.

          The grinder I have is an EM0458 and I've stuffed about with the shims to improve it. It is a bit inconsistent as I run low on a batch of beans and have less in the hopper but I'm learning to adjust the fineness of the grind to try and compensate as I work my way through my beans. I just get a bit frustrated with my current machine as there's times where I know I've done everything I can to make things consistent and I get a poor shot I'm not prepared to drink (my coffee time is very important to me).

          Oh I have machine envy - I'd love a Giotto.... one day though!

          Thanks for the Sunbeam advice I wondered about those but my head kept on swimming every time I tried to work out what was what. It's difficult to get research time with bub around and (oddly enough) sleep deprivation makes me forgetful.

          I really appreciate you taking the time to give an in depth response - hopefully I can get something that'll let me produce an improvement on the current set up!


          • #6
            I had a 800ES paired initially with an EM0480 grinder then upgraded the grinder to the Breville BCG800 (Smartgrinder). I also found the 800ES to be inconsistent in terms of shot quality despite trying to be as conisitent as one can be. I'd upgraded to both the Breville single wall and Krups single wall double shot baskets, a fitted Pullman tamper, fresh beans, grind on demand. My better shots were achieved using the Krups basket.

            Texturing milk was also quite slow although I could get a decent microfoam.

            About 5 months ago, I spied a 6910 on Gumtree that I picked up for $320, it was barely used. I back flushed and descaled after buying and paired with the BCG800, it's been MUCH easier to achieve consisitent results. The steam wand is much faster to texture milk when compared to the 800ES and after some programming of the steam temperature and wetness, my microfoam is quite good.

            I've been in Adelaide over Xmas and New Year and staying with family who didn't have a machine so I have managed to find them a 2 year old EM6910 and EM0480 (also on Gumtree) which I paid $250 for both about 3 weeks ago! Over Xmas and New Year it's been churning out 12 to 20 milked based (and the occasional long black) everyday.

            if you want better espresso than the 800 series by Breville can produce and are short on $, a decent used 6910 is, in my humble opinion, a very worthy upgrade.


            • #7
              Wow I bet you are popular with your family in Adelaide!

              I've found a couple of 6910's in good condition locally on Gumtree for a fairly decent price so I will have a bit more of a hunt there and on ebay and see what I can do - I may just see if I can get one for around $300-ish and then get a better grinder at the same time with the money I've got put aside for my mini upgrade.

              I've also been using the krups single wall basket and find the shots better. I won't be getting rid of my machine - I'm putting it in the cupboard at my mother's house. She drinks Bluebird instant coffee - no way no how for me

              Thanks to you for your input also, very much appreciated!


              • #8
                With Gumtree you can at least physically see and test the machine, eBay can be, well, hit and miss and it is a bulky, heavy machine so postage charges can be very high unless you do local pickup. I kept my 800 for a while but once I started using the 6910 there was no turning back. I also had my Pullman tamper resized and bought a VST basket but found I get better results with the stock Sunbeam single wall double shot basket.

                If you can get decent results with an 800, the 6910 should be a breeze, and if you manage to find one paired with the EM0480 grinder then you'll be set for a while. Being able to start the pour and then steam at the same time I've found to be very handy when compared to any of my previous single boiler/thermoblock machines.

                I sold the 800ES a month or so ago.

                My Tassie machine was about 3 years old and had the older steam tip which I have replaced with the newer rounded tip (far easier to clean), i replaced the group head seal and the markings on the steam knob had worn slightly so I replaced that too. The Adelaide unit was newer and nothing needed replacing or changing.

                The Sunbeam instructional videos are available on youtube and a PDF of the manual is also easily found online.

                EM6910 Sunbeam Espresso Machine Product Guide - YouTube



                Manual, link to PDF version of the manual on the Sunbeam website; EM6910 - Sunbeam
                Last edited by whowe; 4 January 2013, 03:09 AM.


                • #9
                  Thanks for those I will read them during baby's afternoon nap.

                  I've found a reconditioned 6910 for $300 and I feel that's quite a decent offering so I'm seeing about getting hold of that! It's just had a service, descale, and all seals replaced. I'll also see about a VST basket to play around with.... oh lord I'll likely need a new tamper now too. Thankfully I've just sold an old TV for $65 so I'll pop that in the campaign chest! I have the EM0480 grinder already but as I had $600 in my budget I may have a look around and see what I can find that may be better. I won't do that immediately as it'll change too many variables for me all at once and I'll feel like an utter newbie again (suffering through rubbish coffee till I get it right is not an option. I'll run both machines together for a while!)

                  How much difference does a really top notch tamper make? Are the training tampers worth it or given that I'm already getting coffee that makes me say "ooohhh yeah!" from my Breville should I assume I'm not doing too badly there?!

                  Thanks again!


                  • #10
                    Your tamper should be comfortable to use. A tamper base of solid stainless steel is best as they have a nice weight and feel to them.
                    It should also have a really good fit in your basket(s) of choice, a sloppy fit will generally result in edge channeling and
                    loose grinds, which can be messy and get up into the shower screen.
                    By 'training' tamper' do you mean a 'click' tamper, such as an Espro? Six years into my espresso trip, I still use one.
                    Some tampers have parallel grooves turned into the base to help with a level tamp.
                    Both these types of tampers are 'top notch' and may end up being a lifetime choice, yet have learning applications in their design.
                    There are also tampers that are made to fit the actual basket you use, such as the Pullman (site sponsor), send in your basket
                    and wait by the mail box for a perfect fit!
                    And you might have noticed that some people collect tampers...........after all, they are quite personal
                    and are works of functional art.

                    Some people also use bathroom scales to get a 'feel' for a consistent tamp, usually about 15kgs of pressure.

                    It isn't necessary though, to have the world's 'best' tamper in order to make the world's best coffee!
                    Use the tamper that you like, which feels good in your hand and helps you with consistent results.
                    It's more about your technique, of grind, dose and tamp and what you are achieving 'in the cup', than the brand, or price, of tamper you have.

                    Sounds like you may already have it....................


                    • #11
                      Yes, I meant a click tamper like the Espro - sorry. Bad terminology hehe.

                      I noticed that the click tampers are around $140 on ebay - I'm happy to invest in one if it really will help me create a top notch brew at home. I'm already finding I can create cuppas that really hit the spot for me so I will add it to my list of things to investigate and buy when the family budget allows (or rather the secret cash stash I keep on Paypal from things I sell online!).

                      Thanks for the response and I think my tamp is OK although I do seem to sometimes get a squint result if I'm not concentrating!


                      • #12
                        There's more than one element to a top notch brew.......... having a good tamper, that you like using, just means a top notch brew
                        more often!

                        If it's an Espro (good choice) you're after, you might want to ping the sponsors with a quote request first, they are sold by a few of them.
                        There's also the issue of convex versus flat base, there is a thread on it here somewhere which may or may not help! 8-D

                        I have both but only use the flat, I think the flat is more likely to reveal dosing/channeling problems in a bigger filter basket (18 gms+)
                        while the convex is more suited to shallow and/or small baskets that are sort of cone shaped.

                        Check out the Espro website for more info and remember that a perfect fit isn't an exact fit, as you don't want the sides or
                        ridges in the filter basket to prevent free movement of the tamping action. Get the right size.......another reason where using a sponsor
                        is better than the 'bay. 8-D



                        • #13
                          Having just come back to Tas from holidays in SA and using the machine I bought my sister in law with the included tamper to using my Pullman, I must say I prefer the weight and feel my my Pullman tamper. The polished surface of the Pullman enables me to get a much better "polish" after tamping, the standard Sunbeam number has a brushed finish and almost rips the surface when performing the polish.

                          Whether this gives me a better extraction who knows but once you use a well weighted tamper, it's hard to go back to the standard unit. That said, the standard Sunbeam is better than most included tampers.


                          • #14
                            Very tempted to get a good tamper now after this feedback - I have a cheap-ish metal tamper for my Breville. Its nice and solid and does a decent job and seems to polish the puck OK but I'd be fascinated to see how something created with more quality and engineering in mind actually performed by comparison. I managed to get my first ever so teeny latte art heart on my Breville today - I am so excited to upgrade and try all these subtle ways of improving my coffee workmanship. It's funny, I never even drank coffee this time last year! I'm loving exploring all the nooks and facets of this wonderful stuff - it's a such a treat every day

                            Thanks again, so far this weekend you have helped me spend just over half of my "make better coffee" budget and I'd still be sitting wondering what best to do without your advice. I'm getting my Sunbeam later in the week and have ordered an unpressurised basket for it. Can't wait to try it all out


                            • #15
                              All of us started somewhere and in the early days I just stumbled on this site and it's been a great resource. The coffee journey is an interesting one which becomes an obsession for many.

                              Your new, reconditioned Sunbeam should hopefully come with both pressurized and non pressurized baskets in single and double shot size. It should also come with a tamper, steaming pitcher, small group head brush and single and double pour spout.

                              I bought a flat "scratch and dent" Nexus base and handle from Pullman Tamper when I had the 800 and it was sized to fit the Krups basket, I couldn't see the scratch or dents...Saved me quite a few dollars. When I went to the 6910, I sent the base back and it was resized for the 58 mm VST ridgeless basket. It fits the standard Sunbeam basket as well.

                              Things Coffee | Pullman Tamper, Coffee Tamper, VST Filter Basket, VST Refractometer, Hottop, Coffee Roaster, KN-8828B-2

                              The above link is for the convex base so he may not have any flat bases at present that are not quite perfect. Having used both convex and flat bases previously, I personally prefer flat. An email to Greg is a good idea, he replies quickly and is very helpful.

                              People complain that using these manual machines where you have to; grind, tamp, extract, texture, flush, cleanup as a chore but I love the process. Even with 3 kids, breakfast, school lunches and the usual mad morning routines, I make time for coffee. Some days, if we're too rushed the results are crap but that makes you appreciate the days when the results are super.

                              The pod machines with little to no mess and the instant coffee brigade don't know what they're missing.

                              I showed the brother and sister in law in Adelaide how to use the machine and the grinder I got them before I left (also got them measuring shot glasses for calibrating the grinder and a lovely red knock box) and they are going ok, they are finding texturing milk hard (because it is) and getting an even tamp also a challenge but I'm sure they'll get there. They also have the Sunbeam YouTube videos bookmarked if they get stuck. Latte art will come later.

                              Hmmm, time for a coffee...