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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.

              2. best espresso machine for $200 is a nespresso machine. Yes, then you are stuck buying their capsules forever but it's worth is in my book. The machine has enough pressure to deliver a tasty European espresso with lots of creama.

                1. living in nyc, space is a luxury, so we have a stovetop 9-cup Bialetti espresso maker (~$45) with the electric Nespresso milk frother (~$90)

                  both are excellent. both are very quick. and both can travel!

                  1. IMHO, it will depend, as others have implied, on how serious you are about your espresso and how finicky you are about how it tastes. I've tried the pods and sad to say, they don't do it for me. I know they are more convenient and easier to control, and the crema looks pretty, but for my taste buds anyway, the coffee tastes weak. I've been using a Rancilio Silvia for about a year now, and it requires a pretty serious commitment, not to mention a serious grinder (I have a Rancilio Rocky to go with Silvia, though if I were to move up, I'd think about a Mazzer Mini or a Macap), which is not an issue with the pods. Silvia, I've found, is pretty finicky about the grind and if you grind too coarsely, will gush ugly; too fine and she'll hiss and not much else. Those caveats aside, if you are willing to put in the time and commit yourself to wasting some beans while you perfect your technique, you can pull a shot at home worthy of the finest coffee shops. Starbucks doesnt even come close. Also, she's picky about beans. They have to be freshly roasted and ground just as you're ready to make espresso. If you're passionate about espresso, get a Silvia and a Rocky or other good grinder. If you're looking for a machine to look cool on your counter and pull a pod shot , get a Francis Francis. As others have mentioned, Silvia has a passionate following and there's no shortage of tips and valuable information available.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: chuckl

                      I agree pod machines are horrible. Nespresso capsule machines on another hand are miles away ahead of the curb.

                      PS: Starbucks makes horrible tasting espressos imo (the use of dark roast beans to make espressos is flawed, at least by European espresso standards).

                      1. re: joebelt

                        Great point, Joebelt, i use medium roast to make espresso, dark roasts are way too bitter.

                    2. Well, you said any and all recommendations, so on that note... Not quite within the prices mentioned above, but I've had Capresso C-1500 for three or four years now and love it. I don't think they make that model any more. It's a "super-automatic" that rinses itself, grinds the coffee, tamps it, premoistens it, then brews and dumps the grinds into a waiting container and rinses itself again. GREAT crema! I love it, and guests love it. It also does cappuccino and lattes and all that jazz.

                      Now, if you have a small kitchen, own your own home and can handle the priciness, there is one super-automatic on the market that is plumbed right into your water supply. I do get irritated when a friend drops in, I plan on making two cups of coffee, I get one made and the light comes on saying, "Fill water tank." But hey, not everyone is as lazy as I am.

                      I've never used any other super-automatic, but I've had all sorts of espresso pots, from the old fashioned stove top aluminum Italian jobs, to the counter top fill-the-cup and shoot the steam kind. I am really happy with the Capresso.