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  • Recommendations for Very Good Used Machine

    Good day,

    I am looking to move up in the coffee apparatus world with acquisition of a real espresso machine. I want to spend as little as possible while getting the best machine possible. I am looking at getting an old machine from an auction or etc and slowly rebuilding it over the next 3 - 6 months. Actually would prefer resurrecting an old machine to spending money for a new one, even if I did have the money.

    Up to this point, I have been using an ancient Breville Espresso Maker, that my wife picked up at a Sunday market for $5.00. It has been fun, but getting consistently good coffee is a real struggle. Even so, I have been able to produce good enough coffee that I seldom buy coffee any more since it is usually a disappointment. I buy freshly roasted beans from my local roaster, and have him custom grind for me. I do this about every 4 - 5 days. I have literally come to point where I do not think I can get any better coffee with the machine that I have.

    I have seen quite a few machines at auctions, markets, and second-hand sources, but really do not know what to look for. What brands would you look for? Features? Etc? I have no issues with getting a machine that is 20 or more years old. I am not in a rush, so I am more than happy to spend some time and money rebuilding an old machine.

    Thanks for your time and advice.

  • #2
    Re: Recommendations for Very Good Used Machine

    Hi team-CTA and welcome to CoffeeSnobs

    Many of us here have rebuilt commercial machines.... but the demands of these machines (power, water, physical area and cost) vary considerably.

    Firstly it is only practical to tackle rebuilding one if you have the time and appropriate skills (electrical, plumbing etc).... so by the sound of it you meet that criteria.

    Then it comes down to size.... the two groups and bigger are much cheaper but require lots of space, special power runs and need to be plumbed in.

    Single groups attract a lot more dollars, fit in to a domestic situation better..... often run on a standard power outlet and may not need plumbing - so are far more attractive and get snapped up fairly quickly. They also often fetch almost the price of a new prosumer machine.... thus little cost saving initially - and after you consider the time and cost of replacement bits - arent all that cost effective.

    If you are not looking for a used commercial, then I wouldnt touch a 10 - 20+ year old machine with a barge pole!!!! They just arent built to a standard which will last that long......

    So if you can give us some idea of the sort of machine you are looking at (size etc) then we might be able to give you some ideas...

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Recommendations for Very Good Used Machine

      I have a used Wega 1-group commercial (Airy EPU, I believe). Best 2nd-hand purchase. Ever.

      ($1500 + $100 NZD for a service and couple of new bits). Built like a tank. Plumbed in and out - and makes better-than-cafe-espresso (at least in my hands, if I do say so!)

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Recommendations for Very Good Used Machine

        Hi team-CTA, and welcome to CS,

        If your goal is to have great coffee, you need a great grinder and you need to grind your coffee freshly for each roast. The coffee that your roastery is custom grinding for you will be considerably stale even after a few days. This will be the barrier that you are facing in getting better coffee now.

        As for second-hand machines, there are lots of different things to look for, but I would ideally look for a machine that DOESNT have volumetric controls, seeing as they are unnecessary, somewhat expensive to replace and they seem to fail more often than other random parts. I would also avoid any machine that has a group head that is essentially just a chunk of metal hanging off the boiler, such as a rancilio s series or a san marino lisa. Im sure that there are more things to look for, but they are at least the first two.

        Cheers,

        Luca

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Recommendations for Very Good Used Machine

          Originally posted by sultanoswing link=1195791192/0#2 date=1195800980
          makes better-than-cafe-espresso (at least in my hands, if I do say so!)
          depends which cafe you go to

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Recommendations for Very Good Used Machine

            Thanks everyone for taking time to reply and comment. Apologies for the prolonged absence due to family commitments, but I can assure that I was still drinking coffee and being snobbish!

            First, in regards to a grinder. I fully understand and agree with the need for a quality grinder and the part it plays in making quality coffee. (and yes, here comes the but)But I cannot convince my wife that we need to spent $XXX on a grinder when we can get it fresh ground coffee everyday from the roaster if we want. So I am stuck on that point for now, but in time...

            Back to a machine... I would prefer a smaller, single head machine that I will not have to plumb and run a circuit to, but I have plenty of room for a larger 2 head, commercial machine if that is what ends up being the best choice. That probably raises more questions than it answers.

            I am going to show my ignorance, but what are volumetric controls? Any brand and model suggestions that I need to start keeping an eye out for?

            As an aside, we started a coffee machine fund, within a few days after my first post. We are charging ourselves $2 a cup. Amazing how much coffee we drink!

            And can anyone make a recommendation of a really great barista in the City or Eastern Suburbs? I would really like to buy a coffee the makes me think my coffee is second-rate.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Recommendations for Very Good Used Machine

              Hi team-CTA,

              Lu-CKY you were still drinking coffee, uthawyz wed have to block your account! Dont do it again or we may have to send the caffeine police around to make sure youre not lying! ;D

              Volumetric controls are where you press a button and the machine keeps running until a certain amount of water has passed through the group. Its what most high volume low quality cafes rely on - load the portafilter in, hit the magic button and walk away to do the milk while the shot blonds and pollutes whatever good may have been there to start with. Since it relies on electronics and theres a lot of heat and moisture in an espresso machine, they dont tend to go forever so if you dont have a manual override it can be an expensive exercise, and thats if parts are even available! Semi-auto machines just have a switch you activate yourself to start and stop brewing.

              OK shameless plug here, though I only mention this because I think it may be of interest, not because I happen to be the one selling it. Ive got a machine for sale on the For Sale section here http://coffeesnobs.com.au/YaBB.pl?num=1196903081 which may or may not be suitable. Its not a 2 group commercial, in fact its not even a commercial machine. But there are a few reasons you may be interested:
              1) its a heck of a lot better than what youve got already
              2) possibly the deal-maker - it has a good entry-level grinder built-in so you dont have to make an argument for getting one separately (the grinder being generally more important than the machine, this is probably a good way to overcome what is probably your main hurdle to getting excellent results as Luca said)
              3) the price tag will set you back a lot less than most commercial machines would (youd probably spend at least as much on a restoration as you would on this complete machine, let alone the cost of buying the commercial machine in the first place), and you should get most of your money back on this one if you later decide to upgrade to a commercial in 12 months time. In the meantime youve got good coffee to enjoy during the restoration; plus...
              4) once youve given your wife a few coffees made with real freshly ground stuff, itll make it a lot easier to build an argument for a separate grinder on your next machine, because most higher-end machines dont come with grinders built in.

              I really think it sums up your sentences "I want to spend as little as possible while getting the best machine possible" and "I would prefer a smaller, single head machine that I will not have to plumb and run a circuit to". For the price I think this is hard to beat, and Id be prepared to negotiate on it.

              This may not be the machine youll keep for the next 10 years; but it may just be that crucial stepping stone that gets you to a machine and grinder youll keep for the next 10 years.
              </shameless-plug>

              Re recommendations for a cafe, which state are you in?

              Greg

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Recommendations for Very Good Used Machine

                Greg,

                You being downright devious, I am on the loosing side of the grinder argument, but oh... to kill two birds with one stone, would be so sweet! I read your description of the machine you received, and it sounds like a good machine to as the next step up the slippery slope of caffeine addiction. I sent you a PM...

                Now off to make my morning coffee and discuss the situation with the Minister of Finance. Wish me well!

                And I am a Sydney-sider...

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Recommendations for Very Good Used Machine

                  Hey team-CTA,

                  Ive got one of those machines Greg is offering (new model). They are a good unit and, especially at that price, great value for $. (By the way, Im in no way affiliated or associated with Greg or his shameless plug ). Im very happy with it, making real good coffee and (so far) not interested in an upgrade (maybe PIDing it down the track).

                  And the inbuilt grinder makes it a nice tidy unit (and, reading this thread, Ill reiterate that a good grinder is essential to you - IMO as well).

                  For Sydney cafes, check out where the CS Sydney Coffee Crawl went last weekend.

                  Greg

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Recommendations for Very Good Used Machine

                    OK, I will soon the proud owner of a Imat Napolatana I, thank to CS member Greg Pullman. Looking forward to trying my hand a real coffee machine. Thanks to Greg, I have landed a good machine and decent grinder in foul swoop. And the finance minister never blinked!!

                    I am also getting a Pullman tamper, any thoughts or preferences on a flat or convex tamper? Would love to hear some input on this.

                    Am I a certifiable Coffee Snob yet?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Recommendations for Very Good Used Machine

                      Well on the way, well on the way! Re flat vs convex, we only have flat at the moment so maybe that makes your decision a bit easier? Weve sold about 6 convex in 12 months, compared to about 500 flat, so if you go flat youre in good company! Convex tends to be more popular overseas and in commercial environments; Aussie home baristas tend have a very flat view of the world!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Recommendations for Very Good Used Machine

                        IRRC a former convex user was converted in their opinion of which was better after trying a Pullman flat tamper.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Recommendations for Very Good Used Machine

                          I guess the choice between flat and convex is very simple!! Flat it is...

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Recommendations for Very Good Used Machine

                            Originally posted by Greg Pullman link=1195791192/0#10 date=1198456573
                            Weve sold about 6 convex in 12 months, compared to about 500 flat, so if you go flat youre in good company! Convex tends to be more popular overseas and in commercial environments; Aussie home baristas tend have a very flat view of the world!
                            Yeah; I have to say that I find that really weird. IIRC, almost all of the dudes who tested out your prototypes down here wanted to see a convex base as an option ... but your target market just didnt turn out to be interested. Im almost sorry that we all recommended it, but I think that you do need to offer it.

                            I suspect that some of the popularity of the flat based tampers might simply be due to the status quo re-enforcing itself. You know; you get a bunch of people who buy a flat based tamper, theyre very happy with it and so for a new buyer theres the whole risk of the unknown vs security of going with what many people already have. I think that we see that a lot in coffee. But I hope that you continue to offer convex bases nonetheless. For what its worth, Simon loves the extreme convex base that you made for him - I gather that the only reason why he didnt use it at the comps was because he liked the handle on the other tamper that he used, or because he had the base made a bit big or something. But not a knock on the base at all - he loved that.

                            Cheers,

                            Luca

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Recommendations for Very Good Used Machine

                              hah! I got a C-flat reg barber for kicks. Found out the c-flat base blows monkeys *** and swapped bases for Dave Makins flat base....would prefer a convex though. Aint anything wrong with experimenting!

                              Simons base is ludicrously convex...and think it would promote channeling than anything else....another debate in itself...but after using a c-flat, tamping 30 kg of coffee....youd come to the same conclusion.

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