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Looking for Espresso Machine Recs

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My husband is interested in buying an espresso machine. On the high end, he likes the Francis Francis X1 at about $500+. On the low end, he's looking at the DeLonghi BAR32 at about $150. Looks matter, but mostly it's about not being too honking big (we have a really small galley kitchen) and, of course, mostly quality. Long lasting, ease of use and ability to make tasty coffee. Any and all recs and feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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  1. Well depending on how much looks matter.... I have the Saeco Aroma espresso machine and I am totally happy with it. It's not a beauty, very utilitarian, but it puts out a consistently good shot with nice crema. I bought it through Costco (online), so it's easy to return if you don't like it, plus it was $100 cheaper than anywhere else I found it. I did lots of searching on the web for reviews of machines under $400 and finally decided on the Saeco, a year later I'm still happy with the machine.

    1. I second the Saeco Aroma rec. Got mine at Fry's Electronics. Easy to use, delish espresso, around $300 if I remember correctly. I also needed to purchase separately a tamper, a milk pitcher and thermometer. A lesson I learned from Alton Brown...I love dark coffee and espresso so I assumed my espresso beans needed to be dark also (like the french roast I use for drip coffee). Wrong. He suggests a medium roast, ground for espresso, and that has been the best taste so far. Maybe that is something everyone already knows, but I didn't, so I pass that along just so you don't buy 5 wrong coffees like I did.

      1. the Francis is generally thought of as an overpriced dog.
        I have a very old delonghi that although it can no longer foam, it still makes great espresso. The Saecos are well thought of.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Fritz

          Saeco is probably OK for that range, but I'd argue the machine with the most fans in the $400-$500 range would be the Silvia. Go on CoffeeGeek.com and take a look at the espresso machine threads. Seems more folks have more comments, suggestions, tips and mods for the Silvia than any other single brand. I've never used one personally and most folks I know spend $800-$1800 on their units, but Silvia has a big base of users.

          Forget anything under $400. And don't forget you need to drop another $200 minimum on a decent burr grinder if you really want that "tasty" cup.

          For the record, we took a loaner Oscar (~$1K) out to a charity gig this week and the thing performed like a champ. A 2-liter reservoir but the power to steam pro microfoam where we could do some pretty good art. Even got a little tiger striping from the Black Cat we were using. It's a plastic shell, no sharp edges, so no chance of injury, but it really makes a good cup. We were pleasantly surprised.

          1. re: Panini Guy

            I just bought a Silvia and a Rocky grinder and couldnt be happier! It is built like a tank and makes some of the best espresso I have ever had!
            The grinder is just as important as the machine.....
            Consider it an investment...I plan on having the Silvia for a long time!
            In that price range The Silvia is hands down the best machine!

            1. re: Panini Guy

              $400--500? Apparently you haven't checked out the Silvia lately--it sells for just under $600 now. To me that makes it less than an absolute go. On the other hand, it does have better resale value than BMW....

              1. re: ecustard

                You can get them refurbushed at 1stincoffee.com for $425. That's how I got mine, and I don't have a single complaint.

          2. Having lived in Italy and the proud owner of a great Gaggia machine I'd say either a Gaggia Coffee or the highly recommended Silvia Rancillio - thought to be the best in the $500 range.

            Check out www.wholelattelove.com for very detailed reviews of every quality machine available (really)

            1 Reply
            1. re: jbyoga

              second the wholelattelove rec, think trekkie level coffee obsessives.

            2. About two years ago, two friends both bought Francis Francis machines.

              Friend One drinks espresso by the hogshead. Within three months her FF had
              given up the ghost. She returned it and got something a little more reliable
              (if less memorable, I don't recall what it is). She was pretty unhappy with the FF.

              Friend Two makes espresso once a month maybe. And she likes spiffily-designed
              objects. Her FF is still going strong, though in two years it probably hasn't made as
              many espressos as Friend One's had made in two weeks. She loves her FF.

              If you think you're going to be like Friend Two -- and there's nothing wrong with
              that -- then the FF might be a good choice. But if there's any chance of being
              like Friend Two then I'd say get something else.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                I've used a Gaggia Classic for the past 5 or 6 years & really like it. It pulls consistently good shots with excellent crema. I think I paid about $450 for it when I bought it. It's probably more now. I use a Saeco grinder, which does a great job on the grind but is the messiest machine I've ever used. It's the only burr grinder I've had that will grind fine enough for Turkish coffee also. I don't think you can go wrong with the Gaggia.