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Aug 27, 2007 11:11 AM

Espresso Machine

I am thinking of going with an espresso machine rather than a new drip coffee machine. Does anyone have a suggestion as to the best value?

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  1. starbucks is supposed to be clearing out their barista espresso machines for $99 starting today. You can give your local store a call and see if they have any left. They're going fast because of their price. It's not the best machine, but definitely a good deal at $99. Review here:

    1. You will also need a good grinder; not a blade grinder, but a burr grinder.

      7 Replies
      1. re: Jimmy Buffet

        Yes. The espresso machine is the accessory to the grinder, not the other way around.

        Personally, I'd avoid any machine with a pressurized portafilter, unless it can be refitted with a third-party portafilter. Special deals aside, the most affordable decent machine I've seen is the Gaggia Carezza ($200+).

        1. re: carswell

          In most cases the pressurized basket can easily be replace with a standard basket and the portafilter does not need to be replaced. This is a very inexpensive replacement. Just make sure there is a basket that fits your machine.

          1. re: scubadoo97

            I dont understand what you mean. I have an Estro Vapore (same as the barrista I believe).

            I have a portafilter and a inner basket with little holes on the top. What's a pressurized basket? How can I tell what I have?
            What's the standard basket? How is it different?

            1. re: Weetje

              A non pressurized basket is a small stainless basket with tiny holes in the bottom. A pressurized basket has a gasket inside of the basket and and some plastic. It only lets water through when it's reached the proper pressure. Overall you can do a better job without it. I use my to flush the group head since the water backs up into the group.

              1. re: scubadoo97

                We have gone through 3 Gaggia Carezzas, one still surviving at a rental property in Brasil.

                As mentioned above they are good machines for the value, but require maintenance one a quarterly to bi-annual basis. This is not only limited to flushing the machine with scaling products, but taking the machine apart and cleaning it throroughly.

                In 20 years starting with a Krups, then Gaggia, I enjoy the taste and convenience of the Nespresso machines. That may admittedly be heresy to the cafe purists, but that is my choice and honest opinion.

                Conversely, I avoid Starbucks like the plague and have given gift cards from same away to my sons and others in need of the 3 litre/64 ounce coffe-flavoured mik drinks.

                If you have the time, money, and interest, start with a Gaggia machine and learn to be your own Barista. I'll save a Nespresso voucher for you later when you want it.

                1. re: SWISSAIRE

                  My espresso takes a back seat to my morning French press. I enjoy the more mellow coffee roast flavors in the morning. Seem to pull shots less frequently but go through phases

              2. re: Weetje

                (I dont know how to edit my post so I'm replying) Now I see that I have a non-pressurized basket.

                I have an Estro Vapore (looks the same as the Starbucks Barrista) and after sitting for 5 years it wouldnt steam. I decided that I needed to replace the gaskets and oops, I got so far and couldnt get the center-of-the-brewhead screw loose.

                I'm in LA on the Westside, no car. I'd appreciate any help you could give, info or referral. My budget is low, $30-$50. And thanks!

        2. If I may, please allow me to make a few suggestions.

          (1) Think about total budget and use that as a starting point. I say this because I think the best value (performance per dollar) out there in espresso machines are several of the machines in the $1,000 range (+- $200-$300). There are several machines in this range that will give you the results of a multi-thousand dollar machine, without all the bells, whistles, and high-work flow conveniences. However, I fear this may not be what you mean by "best value." Since espresso machines seem to run the gamut from $100-$10,000, knowing your budget will produce the best responses to the question.

          (2) As was said below, the espresso machine is, to some extent, an accessory to the grinder. I would put it this way. Unless you are planning on spending greater than $500 on your espresso machine, plan on spending more on the grinder than the machine. i.e. a $1,000 budget should be roughly split between the grinder and the machine. Now, if you are talking about a $2,000 budget, I'd recommend a $700 grinder and a $1,300 machine. On the other end, if your budget is $500, I say to spend $400 on the grind and scrounge a cheap, used, or refurbished machine. Honestly, I think you'll have a hard time getting set up to make espresso (machine and grinder) for much less than about $300 (i.e. a $200 grinder and a $100 machine).

          (3) Unless you are very committed to espresso drinks--in which case you will probably want to invest a little more into a machine and grinder--I would not recommend an espresso machine as a replacement for a regular coffee maker. A typical machine needs to warm up for a while for the entire boiler and group to come to temp; you need to make your espressos; and then you need to spend a bit of time (at least a few minutes) to clean the machine properly. And, if you want to make milk-based espresso drinks, and you don't buy a heat exchanger or double boiler machine, you will want to manipulate the boiler's water temp between espresso and milk (adding a little time to the process). If French Press sounds like a chore, forget an espresso machine!

          I don't mean to scare you away from espresso machines--I LOVE mine. (We are a French Press on the Weekdays and Espresso drinks on the Weekends kind of family.) Just really think through the process--why you want one, how often you will use it, how many you will make espresso for, just espresso or espresso based-drinks as well, are you an espresso junkie, and how much you want to spend all-told, etc.

          I hope this helps a little!

          2 Replies
          1. re: jljohn

            Great advice. I bought a Rancilio Rocky (grinder) and a Rancilio Silvia (espresso machine) about 5 years ago. Then I bought a Technivorm Moccamaster coffee maker. I find that I make drip coffee most days and rarely use my espresso machine much anymore unless I have guests over.

            Definitely spend your money on the grinder. You'll use it whether you are grinding for french press, drip or espresso and a good machine will be worth every penny.

            1. I LOVE my Nespresso Pixie. You can pick on up for about $150-$160 on sale. Awesome coffee and no mess or fuss. I froth powdered whole milk with a frother and make great lattes with it. Also makes a great shot of espresso. Excellent coffee without all the work.

              7 Replies
              1. re: blondelle

                The Nespresso Pixie is my travel coffee machine of choice.

                It is filled capsules in the water tank, and 4-6 additional sleeves. I have found that when entering North America, even TSA is well aware of the Nespresso machines without creating any problems, even considering my small step-down converter (240-100v). Nice to have at any time on the road, after a good meal, or whenever one feels like coffee. They also make excellent gifts.

                As to value, I agree with Blondelle. A manual espresso stove-top brewer ( inox / stainless- Italia ) is 70 CHF and up. Gaggia coffee grinders are 100 CHF+, and the last Carezza I purchased was 200 CHF. $ 150-160 USD for a Nespresso Pixie is an excellent value compared to most Superautomatic machines.

                1. re: SWISSAIRE

                  It's not just the economics that are important to me but the labor and mess. I have no desire to grind my own beans, fill the machine, tamp it down and steam and froth my milk, and then clean it all up. There are some that enjoy this ritual. Unfortunately, I'm not one of them.

                  1. re: blondelle

                    Your post sounds like a person who loves good food, but, by golly, putting that TV dinner in the microwave is so much easier.

                    1. re: blondelle

                      I respect your choice. I happen to enjoy the process, and I am a bit of an espresso junkie. Your method is going to be consistent and a lot less hassle beginning to end, but for me, buying really fresh beans, grinding them at just the right consistency and pulling a good to excellent espresso shot is worth the effort.

                      1. re: chuckl

                        Previously, I also enjoyed the espresso process, which can be very involved. And my wife and I are old enough to have actually seen baristas years ago pulling steam levers for espresso steam machines in the Tichino region, before it became pushing a button for coffee as it is today. But that term was never common to Europe, or the UK: The first time I heard it was in California.

                        But returning to the discussion, along the way there is only so much time to work, cook, and enjoy life. My decision was to spend more time preparing meals, baking, and cooking when home, and more time around the home and out in the open for sports. I even purchased a handpresso next door in France to enjoy when sailing or kayaking. It seemed like a good idea at the time I was using the Carezza, but now also sits packed away.

                        Frequently when I get going, coffee or juice if poured just sits there, perhaps for an hour or so, until bread is proofing, baking, or some dinner creation finally starts cooking, before I can step back and enjoy a quick espresso. And that is usually on my feet.

                        Which I believe is why we are discussing this on CHOWHOUND rather than CoffeeGeek or another such espresso forum. To some of us it is form follows function, and coffee follows cooking.

                        1. re: SWISSAIRE

                          Here's a cute (but sub-standard re affincianados) alternative you might like.

                          I can heat up milk on the stove and then use the whisk on it and I get some foam - sans machine! Makes it "special".

                  2. re: blondelle

                    Titally easy to roll your own with the Nespresso machine too:


                  3. While this is five years too late for the OP, for the amusement with others, here's some heresy: I was given a small, pedestrian DeLonghi espresso maker as a gift and happily used it as my coffeemaker for years. The drinks I made were as good or better than whatever I could get from a coffeeshop.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: guilty

                      You must have been going to some pretty nasty coffee shops.

                      1. re: guilty

                        I had one of those too, and it was never anywhere near real espresso. The first thing you should notice is theres no crema on the top.