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Good coffee at home on a uni budget

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  • Good coffee at home on a uni budget

    Hi there everyone.

    As a light background Ive been making espresso coffee for about a year now occasionally at work, its a decent size commercial machine with 2 groups, but only 1 gets used. The beans are usually pre-ground and quite often not that good. However Ive developed quite a taste for coffee over this period and wish to make some decent coffee at home.

    Im moving into a larger living space where I will be able to keep a small amount of coffee-making equipment, but alas, I am a poor uni student so Im on a tightish budget. One big positive though is i dont drink milk in coffee.

    So, I am looking for possibly a grinder of some sort, and either a plunger (whats the general consensus on these?) or a cheapish machine. Id say $500 would be pushing my budget as far as it can go (at the present time anyway).

    I have read through quite a bit of the forums but am a bit lost in some of the lingo so if you use any, please explain it


  • #2
    Re: Good coffee at home on a uni budget

    Hi Adam,

    I would hazard a guess that the best value setup in your case (ie. milk frothing not required) would be a Presso and an Iberital Challenge grinder. Check with the site sponsors, but Im guessing the bundle would come just under 500 dollars.

    IMO, it would be fairly difficult to obtain a good machine & grinder combination under 500, some would even say it would be difficult to obtain a decent grinder & french press (plunger) for under 500! But that decision falls to you



    • #3
      Re: Good coffee at home on a uni budget


      High and welcome to CoffeeSnobs....

      As you have suggested above, fresh beans which are freshly ground produces by far the best coffee.

      The most important thing is to get yourself a good grinder...... and that of course depends on the dollars you want to spend.

      Plunger coffee - with freshly ground beans - is superb. The flavours are great and the cost is minimal. If you go down that path you could buy a cheap grinder.... most of the small cheap grinders like the Delonghi KG100 / Solis 166 are fine for plunger coffee..... but wont grind fine enough for an espresso machine..... so when you upgrade to an espresso you will need to upgrade your grinder as well.

      Or you could buy a quality grinder (the cheapest Id recommend would be the Iberital Challange) and then you could keep it to use with a machine.

      You could also think about a popper and roasting your own beans.... that way you will always have fresh roasted beans on hand.

      Re espresso machines - the cheapest which will do a really good espresso is the Gaggia Classic..... That and a grinder would probably push you over your budget...

      Good luck with your journey into great coffee.


      • #4
        Re: Good coffee at home on a uni budget

        I remember a similar thread to this where a hypothetical question being posed, maybe by Greg Pullman? Of what one would buy if they only had 300 dollars or some similar figure. I remember that Luca responded about looking out for a Peppina secondhand and replacing seal kit etc... So as long as I didnt dream all of that up, which would be quite the worry if coffeesnobs is effecting me that much, then that maybe an option worth considering. I would want to buy one because I think they are pretty funky. Just a further thought to add to the boiling pot for you.

        Welcome to CS!


        • #5
          Re: Good coffee at home on a uni budget

          Hi Adam,

          As a uni student, I can sympathise with you. In fact, I actually had a conversation about french press coffee with a friend of mine today.

          I love french press; it is a very straightforward way to make coffee that really gives you a sense of the difference between different coffee types. As a result, I tend to drink FPs of single origin coffees, which, Id imagine, would sit well with the consumption patterns of a beginning homeroaster. There are a few tips and tweaks to get the best out of your FP. Far and away the most important is to keep the dang thing clean. Regular detergent and a good soaking is a good option; buying a small tub of espresso machine detergent is an even better option. Dirty french presses tend to impart nasty bitter and smoky flavours. A water rinse wont dislodge the oils stuck in the filter and on the glass.

          A good grinder is just as crucial to the success of a french press as espresso ... if not more so. There are a lot of myths and a lot of misinformation about grinders. JavaB has hit the nail on the head in recommending the domestic conical burr grinders for FP. Their grind quality is almost up to snuff with the likes of the expensive stepless commercial grinders. If you want to keep your expenditure down, something like a Delonghi/Solis 166 (same grinder; different brand) or a sunbeam EM4050 would be perfect. These grinders use a stepped adjustment system that really doesnt give them enough resolution for espresso.

          Spending more money beyond whats listed above will improve the quality slightly, but you probably arent going to get much of an improvement until you hit four figures for your grinder, and even then you probably wouldnt think that the improvement is huge. On the other hand, you could get a very entry-level espresso machine and a decent grinder for the money. Like coffeechaser mentioned, I was actually fortunate enough to pick up an antique lever machine from evilbay for peanuts, but that was just luck - I wouldnt seriously suggest it.

          Personally, I would rather have french press coffee that is excellent than espresso coffee that is mediocre. If you are dead-set on getting an espresso machine, perhaps a good course of action would be to pick up something like an iberital challenge grinder, as JavaB said, so that you could use that with an espresso machine later on. If you want to pick up a gaggia, note that most of them are internally identical, the major difference being whether or not they have a pressure relief valve. Something like the carezza, without the pressure relief valve, represents a fair bit of bang for your buck.




          • #6
            Re: Good coffee at home on a uni budget

            FYI the "What for $300 thread" Coffeechaser eluded to can be found at



            • #7
              Re: Good coffee at home on a uni budget

              Good I am not going made after all

              I tried to google it yesterday but was unsuccessful.


              • #8
                Re: Good coffee at home on a uni budget

                Thanks for all the replies everyone and the warm welcome.

                Sounds like the plunger/grinder is the way to go for me, now to decide where to buy from!



                • #9
                  Re: Good coffee at home on a uni budget

                  How about this..

                  Sunbeam (Boiler) "Ristretto" espresso machine (RRP $99) and a EM0480 (RRP $199) and buy some Krups or Seaco depressurised Baskets... bingo... you should be able to do this for under $300... just....

                  Obviously you can walk into Good Guys, offer cash and drop the price of the 2 above units but 10%, and the saving would cover some fresh coffee and the coffee baskets


                  • #10
                    Re: Good coffee at home on a uni budget

                    mmm...being a uni student myself, I can also sympathise with you. I first started in coffee by picking up a job at a new coffee shop as a barista and realised coffee can be done so much better and went off and read everything I could on coffee.

                    After I decided to get in to the home espresso thing, I did heaps of research online, and even though my budget was very tight, I knew I had to have a Silvia. I also knew from my research that the grinder is nearly more important than the machine itself. I picked up a La Cimbali Cadet for nix, and spent all my coin on a Silvia. $300 is really hard to get started off with. $300 is barely cutting it for a decent grinder, let alone machine. The Silvia cost me $500ish...a lot more than what I initially was willing to spend...but oh so worth it. The cadet was a beautiful grinder (commercial cafe grinder)..and maybe youll luck in to finding a really cheap or free grinder like me. At best, all is needed is a burr change, costing maybe $60.

                    So my advice to you is to start saving...but for now...a simple press pot or even a Presso or for even less an Aerobie Aeropress matched with a good grinder would set you on a very good path!

                    Some suggestions...

                    Option 1:
                    $20 on a press pot
                    $300-$400 on a grinder

                    Option 2:
                    $60 on a Aerobie Aeropress
                    $300-$400 on a grinder

                    Option 3:
                    $200ish (not sure on exact price) on a Presso
                    $200 on a grinder (eg Sunbeam conical burr)

                    With the first 2 options, a grinder in the $300 to $400 price point would get you a very good grinder that would be good for starting off in espresso, should you choose to spend $$ on an espresso machine.

                    Good Luck


                    • #11
                      Re: Good coffee at home on a uni budget

                      Dont forget what goes INTO the brewing device!

                      CS Starter Pack: $25?
                      Stainless bowl, colanders, wooden spoon, heat gun: $50-100

                      To which Id add:
                      plunger: $15
                      and spend the rest on a grinder.

                      I used to have a Sunbeam EM5800 and it was pretty decent with de-pressurised filters. You can find them pretty cheaply.


                      • #12
                        Re: Good coffee at home on a uni budget

                        One thing at a time. Forget the home roasting till you can perfect press pots and/or espresso...otherwise how are you going to know your home roasted stuff is actually any good compared to the boutique stuff?

                        Then hell come back to this forum Ive taken the "plunge" but my coffee tastes like crap...what now? > >


                        • #13
                          Re: Good coffee at home on a uni budget

                          Have to support Wushoes on that point.
                          Too many variables to start with is not good.
                          Leave the home roasting for later.


                          • #14
                            Re: Good coffee at home on a uni budget

                            Just a quick little update bump.

                            Have finally got around to doing some purchasing and am currently drinking my first at-home coffee! I ended up buying a Sunbeam EM0450 conical burr grinder ($143), a plunger and some beans off one of the site sponsors ($25). Thats under $170! God Im cheap. Never again will I have to buy a positively crappy coffee at uni again!

                            My first impressions are pretty good, but theres a few things I need to fix, please let me know if Im not going about it the right way...

                            First of all, the grind looked pretty fine to me, which Im sure needs adjusting. Loaded 3 tablespoons into the plunger (after preheating it) and filled it up with 2 "cups" of slightly cooled boiled water, then stirred with a ceramic chopstick for a few seconds then put the lid on. I think infusion went for about 3 and a half minutes. It felt like I needed a 2-tonne press to get the plunger down, but slowly but surely it depressed.

                            First taste impressions were very bitter, not sure whether it was just my tastebuds or not but seemed to lessen in bitterness as it cooled a little. Ended up with a nice fat sludge on the bottom of the cup, not quite Turkish dregs, but close

                            Next time I think I should use a coarser grind, and/or less infusion time.

                            Also, anyone have any tips on cleaning my plunger?



                            • #15
                              Re: Good coffee at home on a uni budget

                              nice one adamt

                              how big is your plunger? theres a nice how-to on coffeegeek about plunger coffee (with step-by-step photos)...

                              the grinds should be quite course. if it is difficult to plunge, then coarsen up the grind setting. dont trust the sunbeam manual recommendations...

                              as for cleaning... cafetto does a darn good job. seriously...