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Espresso machines. Help!

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Must I sell a kidney to enjoy a decent expresso. I have seen machines listed from $249.00 all the way to $.3000.00 for a "home system" I am not opening a Starbucks. although that BMW designed machine looks great. All I want is a fine cup of expresso we have had in Portugal or Spain. What are the differences between a $12.000.00 Francis Francis and a $399.00 Briel Pro?And do I need 18 bars of pressure to enjoy a expresso? Help.

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  1. There is an excellent web site "wholelattelove.com" which sells machines, coffee etc. They have an excellent sales staff which can guide you to the perfect machine for you. (I am not connected to them in any way!) I finally bit the bullet and bought a grinder and espresso machine for a total of about $900 and have been in heaven ever since. Should have done it a long time ago.

    1. No one can really answer that question as well as you can answer it for yourself. I can share my personal experience with expresso machines, but it's a tale of what worked for me. Long story short, I worked my way up from a top-of-the-stove Italian two piece aluminum pot with the little blue cartoon guy stenciled on the side through a series of non-automatic electric espresso machines to my current Capresso super automatic that was over a thousand bucks. I consider it a lifetime investment. I've had it for a couple of years now, and I'm still as happy with it as I was the first day I got it.

      Do you need 18 bars of pressure? Well, depends. "Espresso" is not a blend of coffee, or even a roast of coffee. "Espresso" is a brewing method. Afficianados and experts insist that to make "true' espresso, the beans must be ground fresh, tamped into the cup, premoistened, then high pressure steam must be shot through the grounds to distill in the grounds and come out as "real" espresso. That takes a whole lot of pressure. Oh! And for "real" espresso, you have to have good "crema." The foam on top. I never got crema from the aluminum pot with the cartoon guy on the side. I never got crema from the fifty and hundred and two hundred dollar department store "espresso" machines. But they were cute toys. I've given them away. My Capresso does all of the things the experts say has to be done to brew "real" espresso, plus it grinds its own beand and rinses itself out and pays attention to hygiene. I do have to empty the grounds bucket, fill it with beans when they're all used up, and fill it with fresh water every morning. And I can adjust it to make small, strong shots of hit-you-in-the-brain-with-caffien espresso, or I can adjust it to make a calmer, more friendly 8 ounce cup of "normal" coffee. Or cappuccino, or latte, or whatever.

      I tried several super-automatics before I settled on Capresso. There are some super-automatics that keep the milk cold for hours in case you want cappuccino in the morning and afternoon, but don't want to get the milk container out of the refrigerator for that afternoon cup. There is a "built in" super automatic that is plumbed with water, but it doesn't have a drain so you still have to empty the grounds yourself. When it comes to super-automatics, it all depends on how lazy you want to be and how much you want the machine to do. Oh, and how much you want to spend figures into the equation too. Rule of thumb: the more the machine does for you, the more it costs. I don't know of any machine that disposes of its own used coffee grounds, or I' probably be lusting after it. Do I think a $5,000.00 machine makes better espresso than a $1,200 dollar machine, or a $600.00 machine? If you want crema, you've got to try whatever machine you're thinking of buying and see if it makes coffee the way you want it.

      Oh. And there is NO machine that will make good coffee with bad beans. '-)

      1. Have you ever tried using an aluminum stove-top espresso pot? It's not quite like "uma pica" but it's not that far off. It's the equipment I saw used in most homes in Portugal and Spain.
        The trick is to use a coffee that's already perfectly ground and roasted for this style. Spanish and Portuguese roasts might be easier for you to find than for me. I opt for illy or Lavazza and am pleased every time.

        1 Reply
        1. re: scarmoza

          I have a little macchinetta (stovetop) and love it - but mostly for its ritual and design. But as an espresso maker, I can attest to Caroline1's post above - it doesn't create enough pressure to produce the crema. I flood my coffee with steamed milk, so I'm not so concerned. But if you are looking for a stovetop, I definitely recommend the Giannini design - no need to screw in the top and ruining the threads.
          http://64.233.179.104/translate_c?hl=...

        2. this is a very personal decision and you will find a lot of opinions on here. You can do some research on sites like whole latte love and home barista. It's true, as you say, the choice can be daunting. For some people, the moka stovetop pots will be enough, whereas others will only settle for true espresso (fyi, re: Starbucks doesnt even grind anymore, at least in my area; they use pods). Caroline1 makes a great argument for the automatics and it sounds like she is making great coffee relatively effortlessly. Good for her. Many coffee lovers, me included, have taken an approach that requires that you invest time and patience into to getting it just right with more manual machines, like the Rancilio Silvia, which goes for around $500. Keep in mind, you'll need a good burr grinder too, maybe not a Mazzer or Macap (around $500), but something like a Rocky (around $300). The other variable is the freshness of the beans. Only get beans that have been very recently roasted. Working out the grind and the idiosyncracies of Silvia will require some patience and some time, but once you get the maching tuned in properly, you will be making crema rich, delicious espresso, with plenty of steam for making lattes or caps. Like others have said before, it all depends on what your priorities are in terms of your taste and temperment and how willing you are to invest in learning the art. For me, and I suspect most who choose this route, the process is at least as gratifying as the result.

          1. I am almost afraid to suggest this... check out Nespresso machines. If what you are looking for is a repeatable, consistently good espresso, then a Nespresso machine is your solution. For all the people who are going to attack me for this, note, I didn't say the best ever espresso, I said consistently good quality. I love crema, I get crema, every time.

            You can now buy the lowest end unit which has 18 bars of pressure for about $200. The catch is that you have to order the nespresso coffee capsules (not pods- a different airtight method), which come in sleeves of 10 and so a hot of expresso is about 50 cents every time.

            For a home method, I am perfectly happy with this. When I wake up in the morning, I'm not fully awake and don't want to deal with grinding coffee beans and the possibility of spilling grinds somewhere between grinding, tamping and fitting the holder on the machine. I also don't want to be disappointed when the grind doesn't turn out to be quite perfect and the espresso comes out too quickly and is weak, or comes out too slowly and is harsh. I went through a variety of other methods before being happy with this one.

            I have a friend who has a superautomatica and she is really happy with it. My SO offered to buy one for me as well. But the $2500 machine is only happy with a less oily bean, so she is limited to mostly milder roast coffees. It has also been in for maintenance twice at $250 a pop, every couple of years, so $125/year. She is happy with it and doesn't mind paying for the maintenance because it delivers what she wants.

            I have the $400 Nespresso concept machine. I would be happy with the newer $200 essenza models. I like and buy about five of the twelve choices of coffee available, depending on whether I am having an espresso or latte. Before Nespreso, I used to buy two, sometimes three different coffee beans from Peet's for my last espresso maker, so I've actually ended up with more choices with this solution. I've had it for 4 years and am still a satisfied customer.

            3 Replies
            1. re: souvenir

              Oops, sorry typo- 19, not 18, bars of pressure. All Nespresso units have 19 bars.

              1. re: souvenir

                It only takes 9-10 bars of pressure to correctly brew espresso

              2. re: souvenir

                We are very happy with our Nespresso machine too. Mostly we like a shot of espresso in the evening with dessert (or cookies in the afternoon), and its so easy... and is pretty darn good. And when my DH is not around in the morning to brew a pot of coffee, I use it to make a bigger cup as well.

              3. currymouth,

                don't jump into it. Check out sites like wholelattelove.com and coffeegeek.com. Read up, ask around. And avoid Nespresso like the plague. Nespresso turns into the most expensive way to drink coffee that you could ever imagine in your worst dreams.

                15 Replies
                1. re: bcc

                  LOL. I knew there would be reactions like this.

                  You definitely need to taste machines at various establishments.

                  Williams-Sonoma stores usually have a Nespresso machine set up for tastings. Many "serious" espresso stores have models for you to try.

                  Your mileage will vary.

                  And I just have to say fifty cents a shot for consistency at home is not what I'd consider "the most expensive way to drink coffee in your worst dreams". But whatever...

                  1. re: souvenir

                    I have two problems with any coffee machine that uses pre-packaged coffee. The first is I have yet to find a single brand that has paper I cannot taste in the coffee! But even scarier, what happens if they go out of business, or develop a new model with a different design coffee sachet? If you get a machine that just uses coffee-coffee, you will never have that problem.

                    Oh, and just to clarify something about any and all super-automatic coffee makers... The coffee mill (burr) is built into the machine so you don't have to buy one. Or give up counter space! '-)

                    1. re: souvenir

                      Perhaps "the most expensive way to drink coffee in your worst dreams" is overstating it; but there's no getting around that Nespresso is much more expensive than many other home espresso options and quite a lot more expensive per cup than a machine that uses regular coffee (that you can get as beans and grind yourself or get ground). 50 cents a shot versus, what, somewhere between 15 and 30 cents a shot for regular coffee....if you're single and drink espresso on weekends, that might not add up to a lot per year. If you're two or more and drink espresso regularly, that could add up very quickly, comparatively speaking. Still clearly less than the equivalent at a coffee house, but the amounts will be very different. You'd also have to take into account the purchase price of the machine.....but if you stuck with regular coffee and did the math over a few years, one might be able to get a much higher quality machine for the same money over the time.

                      1. re: ccbweb

                        I hoped that my point about the consistently good results I achieve with the Nespresso machine would come across. If you've tried and don't like the Nespresso results, then we simply have different preferences.

                        I started buying and using espresso machines at home about, wow, 15 years ago. I went from stovetop stainless units to various electric models, reading reviews and "upgrading" each time. I was sort of a fanatic about it for awhile.

                        Fast forward to now. I'd say on average three Nespresso capsules/shots a day are consumed in our house. It varies anywhere from 3-6 capsules/shots. You are right that buying coffee beans at Peet's was less expensive, but my point was that I wasn't as happy with the results, day in and day out. The longest I think any of my previous electric models lasted was about 3 years. If my 4 year old $380 model broke tomorrow and wasn't fixable, I'd still feel I've gotten good value from it. Knocking on wood, it doesn't appear in any danger of stopping anytime soon. If it did, I'd turn around and buy the smaller $200 model immediately. The $200 model delivers the same 19 bars of pressure that my $380 model does. I don't use the steaming milk wand on mine. I am only speaking about shots of espresso.

                        What kind of machine do you have, how much was it, how long have you had it, how often is it used and have you had to pay to have it repaired or "maintained"?

                    2. re: bcc

                      I can't possibly buy a machine that only uses a "pod". My wife and I travel as much as we can and one of the most important buys we bring back home is good coffee beans. At the moment we use a stovetop model we picked up in Portugal but i think it's time we moved up. I have had expresso made on several top brand machines and all has impressed me ,but I'm leaning to the cool looking and very capeable Francis Francis. Does any of you chowhounds own this machine,? and how do you like it?

                      1. re: currymouth

                        I LOVE my Francis Francis. Excellent crema. Easy to use and so, absolutely gorgeous (yellow).

                        1. re: currymouth

                          Where do we start? First of all the Francis Francis looks great, and is one of the biggest pieces of you now what ever made. Read the following link and hopefully it will help you in your espresso journey. By the way, there is much better coffee available here than anything available over seas.

                          http://coffeegeek.com/guides/howtobuy...

                          1. re: chipman

                            Gee, I've had such a different experience. What do you object to?

                            1. re: onefineleo

                              I bought a Francis Francis as my first so-called serious machine and while I initially loved it, I was sadly lacking in espresso knowledge. After awhile I realized that it could not do what other machines at the same price could do. I ended up giving it away and I think the person who has it now just uses it for a cool looking coffee machine.

                              I wish I had done more research before I bought the FF. If I had I probably would have started out with a Gaggia or a rancillia Silvia. I am Very happy with my ECM Giotto and Mazzer Minni, which I have used daily for the last five years.

                            2. re: chipman

                              Man. maybe you should cut back on the caffeine. your starting to sound bitter, but thanks for the advice.

                            3. re: currymouth

                              Well there you go. No more need to talk about Nespresso machines and their proprietary capsules (not pods).

                              I too used to bring back coffee from travel. Now I just enjoy it when I'm there.

                              I continue to strongly recommend that you get a demonstration of whatever machine you are leaning towards and a lesson on how to use and clean or maintain it to make sure you are clear on the whole process and can repeat it. Good luck with your search!

                              1. re: souvenir

                                does anyone know of a retailer that sells/demonstrates the Silvia? I've only seen them available online.

                                1. re: chuckl

                                  Your from the bay area, correct? Although most of the decent espresso dealers are on line, depending where you are, there are some dealers you can visit.
                                  There is a company in Santa Cruz that is really competent, and quite helpful.

                                  http://www.greatinfusions.com/

                                  1. re: chipman

                                    gracias, chipman, that's a good resource. Strange we don't have one of those in san fran. There's plenty of places to buy good beans, but so far as I've found, none that showcase the range of semi-automatics available at great infusions.

                              2. re: currymouth

                                Wise move. It's 2008. There's absolutely no reason we should be succumbing to stale, pre-ground beans that have been oxidizing for weeks in their sealed packages. If you wouldn't buy pre-sliced fresh bread in hermetically sealed containers, there's no reason you should buy your coffee that way either.

                                And any coffee format where consumers lift a page out of the inkjet printer playbook and start fabricating their own "ghetto pods" to save money or make a better product is ultimately a doomed format.

                            4. I highly recommend the Baby Gaggia. I've found it to be an absolute beast made of quality components at a very reasonable price and will serve you well for years. On a side note, your name wouldn't happen to start with a "J" ,would it?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: gastronomical

                                I have have been on line now for several weeks looking into expresso machines and the Gaggia has had many good reviews.I'm off to the city to try to find a wide selection of them for my final choice. No not "J", That I will leave to the famous "J Food"

                              2. First of all, keep calling it "expresso" [sic] and you'll definitely not get the results you want! ;)

                                Second, there's a flood of profiteers out there looking to cash in on the Starbucks effect by selling inferior equipment for under $400 (or, in some cases, gouging you up to $2000) that's push-button convenient but makes espresso no better than any monkey with a push-button machine. They'll tell you how you can save money next to your daily Starbucks habit, but you'll end up spending more: because the machine will end up in the landfill as you realize the coffee is often worse than even Starbucks, that it takes you 400 home cups to break even, and it's far less convenient than having someone else make your espresso for you.

                                So either stick with a cheap home non-espresso device, like a stove-top Moka pot for under $30. Or keep the daily café habit. Or be one of the few perverse home espressophiles like myself, who really have to spend at least $400 on a machine, at least $200 on a decent burr grinder, and countless hours of obsession to do it right. One of those three options will work best for you. The rest is a waste of time and money.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: swag

                                  Amen, Swag, well put, unless you're a psycho espresso fanatic like i am (and like you apparently are) and willing to shell out hundreds of bucks for a real home espresso machine, either lever or semi automatic, searching out the freshest beans, and investing the time to learn how to match grind and tamp and machine, endure the occasional sink cup and still perservere, you should probably stick to good coffee from say a French press or resign yourself to getting your shot from a barista. The ubiquity of Starbucks, IMHO, is dumbing down what is expected from an espresso. In fact, a lot of the automatic machines' coffee reminds me of Starbucks: bland, odorless, tasteless and effortless. True espresso really is the essence of coffee in my opinion, and unless you set your sights high, why bother?

                                  1. re: chuckl

                                    This post is about coffee rather than espresso, but I thought of it when reading these last two posts:

                                    http://blog.ruhlman.com/ruhlmancom/20...

                                    1. re: souvenir

                                      This guy should not ever be allowed to write anything that has to do with food or drink!

                                      1. re: souvenir

                                        Hey, I used to have a percolator like that! They were PRETTY!!! But the thing he fails to tell you is that sooner or later (mostly sooner) they developed a metalic taste that wouldn't scrub out, and because of the rough interior surface of the metal, oils would dig in and turn bitter. But other than that, they were pretty...!

                                  2. Curry-
                                    Let me state upfront that selling and serving coffee is what I do for a living. I've spent a lot of time exploring, experimenting and trying to understand this craft.

                                    First off, here are the general parameters you should be looking for with any espresso machine in any price range. Your machine should be able to heat water to a range of 198F to 202F. It needs to achieve a brew pressure between 8 to 9 bars (18-19 is just absurd). It needs to produce steam pressure right around 1.5 bars.

                                    A machine that can consistently deliver those parameters to you in any price range is one worth investigating. The others who have suggested researching coffeegeek, wholelattelove and home-barista.com are guiding you in the right direction. Should you choose to pursue it, the craft of espresso can be very deep indeed.

                                    However, if you're like a very close friend of mine, who is an espresso lover but married to a woman who does not want to learn the nuances of the craft just to make an Americano in the morning, then investigate the super-automatic machines. He's got the Solis Maestro Digital 5000 and he's had it for about five years now. He's pulled thousands of shots through it and it keeps rockin'. From what I've seen, it's a great machine. It certainly cannot produce a shot equal to what my baristas can do by hand, but he understands the coffee and he understands how to tweak the machine and adjust the grind and gets great results.

                                    One of the keys is to source great coffee. Fresh and properly roasted. Far too often, lesser roasters think that "espresso" means "dark" coffee. Similar to a well-done piece of steak, a "dark roasted" coffee is just burnt, nasty and a waste of good coffee. If you can find a thoughtful roaster who provides freshly roasted coffee (within two weeks of the actual roasting), you can do some really great things with the simplest of machines.

                                    Conversely, another very good friend posits himself as a "coffee-lover", spends too much money on a "cool" espresso machine, doesn't know how to really use it, indiscriminately buys beans from any random source and routinely makes dreck.

                                    So take your time. Investigate the possibilities. It is possible to spend just a few hundred dollars and come away with a great deal and make good coffee for yourself.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: onocoffee

                                      Excellent points onocoffee.

                                      I got lucky one day when I walked into W-S and saw the KitchenAid Pro Line for 50% off. I just happened to be in the market for an espresso maker and was looking at Gaggia and Racilio models. I knew the KA had Gaggia internals and jumped on it. I paired it with a Baratza burr grinder and 2 years later I'm still happy with the purchases.

                                      I've also used Saeco fully automatic machines. They are great for those daily morning before-my-eyelids-can-open double shot.

                                      At the end of the day it's all about the coffee beans. I order fresh roasted monthly usually from Counter Culture or Intelligentsia.

                                      1. re: onocoffee

                                        What he said about getting good coffee.

                                        If you can handle a pound a week, set up an account with Blue Bottle and *enjoy*

                                        My machine is a CMA 1-gang which has the benefit of running on 110v unlike most others, with a standard mazzer grinder. I bought it from a going-out-of-biz .com for $400. It's true pro.

                                      2. I got a $2000 jura capresso for a present a few years ago, and i adore it. I had pretty much stopped drinking coffee until i got this gem. now i have it every morning again.

                                        1. You don't have to sell a kidney, but you should consider it. Okay, I'm kidding. But only slightly. About 6 months ago, we visited Thomas E. Cara's espresso store in San Francisco and learned just about everything there is to know about espresso machines. He sells Pavoni, Riviera and a few others -- in all sizes and styles. And many consider Mr. Cara one of the foremost authorities on espresso machines. He can order you whatever you want, and it comes direct from Italy or France (depending on the brand you pick). He even services machines in his shop. One extra note -- once you become a customer, he'll place regular orders of his famous coffee beans for you and have them ground while you wait. It is without question the best coffee I've ever had. We opted for the smaller Riviera machine from Italy, and I think it cost $600. But, truly, ask our neighbors and friends -- it produces the best coffee they've ever had time-and-time again. Check out this link about Mr. Cara's shop: http://www.sallys-place.com/beverages...

                                          Good luck! I'd love to know what you decide!

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: foodiesf

                                            From your link
                                            "The espresso comes out black and thick as oil from the machine and tastes rich and strong but surprisingly mellow with no bitter aftertaste. I was an immediate convert. "
                                            I've never heard of good espresso described like that.

                                            1. re: chipman

                                              Well, now you have. I pulled the link quickly becuase it talked a bit about Thomas Cara and his shop. It gave the address and the names of machines he carries. If you're looking for info on espresso dealers, that article will be helpful -- but the main point is go talk to Mr. Cara and visit his shop. Don't quibble with a particular quote from the article. Just go taste the espresso that comes out of his glorious machines. Then let's talk about that, and not the quote.

                                              1. re: foodiesf

                                                foodiesf, a few years ago I visited Cara's shop. Unusual guy,but I really didn't have much interest in the lever machines he was selling. But a nice shop non the less. By the way, I thought the Riviera machines are no longer in production. Are you able to get service Ok?

                                                1. re: chipman

                                                  It's my understanding that the Riviera machines are now Zacconi. We purchaed a manual-pull Zacconi from Mr. Cara about a year ago, and we love it. Mr. Cara refers to it as a Riviera.

                                                  I can't say whether service is a problem because we've had no problems with it. Mr. Cara services Zacconi (and others too) in his store, and it appears that he stays busy taking care of these machines that are notorious for being temperamental. But we love it. And so far, no problems and no service needed.

                                                  1. re: foodiesf

                                                    Hi,
                                                    I hope I am not breaching etiquette here but may I ask what you paid for your Zacconi? And was it a single or double serving unit?

                                          2. Currymouth, I went through the same angst before discovering Silvia & Rocky. I had burned through several cheapo Braun machines over the years before I decided to get serious. Like you, I balked at donating a kidney, and refused to consider the pod systems.

                                            I wholeheartedly recommend the Rancilio Silvia espresso machine and her hunky companion, the doserless Rocky burr grinder. Both are available at wholelattelove.com. Silvia will run you around $595, and Rocky is about $300. Silvia is a work horse with all metal parts. She's never disappointed us in the 7 or so years we've had her. The Rocky makes a perfect grind, but you'll have to experiment a lot to get the right setting. Silvia is a little fussy about her grind, but performs well when you get it right.

                                            Good luck and keep us posted on your decision.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Cafe Mich

                                              I have the Rancilio Silvia (for around 3 years now) and it is a fantastic machine. I had a starbucks barista beforehand (the higher end model - they had 2 models), and I think I overground the coffee - and pressure built up to the point it destroyed the machine. The Rancilio Silvia this cannot happen, if things become plugged the pressure is released back into the tank. The place where you pack the coffee into is the same as is used on restaurant grade machines - so it is solid. Again, this is the best machine I have seen for home use - not fancy - just built well.

                                            2. I have a Vibiemme semi-automatic machine coupled with a Mazzer Mini burr grinder and the results when using premium, fresh roasted beans (Vivace Dolce from Seattle) replicates the best espresso, huge golden-red crema, long cocoa flavors from the St.Eustachio cafe just off the Piazza Navonna and near the Pantheon that was near our home in Rome. If you want first class service for espresso machines, shopping, trials, delivery, setup, etc. try 1st-Line Coffee out of Hazlet, NJ. Website is informative but their personnel will literally spend hours with you on the phone helping you to make the right choice of equipment for your budget and your needs. Shopping anywhere else is a joke. Admittedly this is our third machine and follows a simple Moka stovetop pot that got us through art school. We moved up to a simple Krups maker that had beautiful proportions but spit out flavored water, moved up to a Starbucks Barrista machine that made passable espresso but never consistently. On the other hand, our Vibiemme cranks out about a dozen or so shots each day and handles family gatherings most weekends of 20 to 30 shots with brilliant consistency.

                                              1. Well, just to toss in my own 2¢, however belatedly . . .

                                                First off, let me say that I purchased my first espresso machine -- a Pavoni Europicola -- in 1976, and have been making espresso at home ever since. Five years later, I moved on to a Coffee Gaggia with a Gaggia MDF grinder, and that combination lasted 20 years. In 2006, I purchased an Ala di Vittoria La Valentina espresso machine from 1st-Line, and a Mazzer Mini grinder, moving the Gaggia equipment to my office. Then, this year I acquired a used Olympia Caffarex machine off eBay to replace the Gaggia in the office, and a La Cimbali Max Hybrid grinder from Chris' Coffee Service to replace the Mazzer at home.

                                                There are a few websites I would STRONGLY recommend . . .

                                                For information, first and foremost, http://www.home-barista.com/ followed by the previously mentioned http://www.coffeegeek.com/

                                                For sales and service, the two best web-based retailers are, IMHO, http://www.1st-line.com/ and http://www.chriscoffee.com/ -- I am a VERY satisfied customer of both retailers, which carry equipment BOTH for commercial and home use. Whole Latte Love -- http://www.wholelattelove.com/ -- focuses much more heavily on home machines, and I would from personal experience rank WLL below Chris' Coffee Service and 1st-Line in terms of knowledge, assistance, and reliability. That said, I would still rate them positively.

                                                Keep in mind that everyone has their own preferences. Personally, I wouldn't be caught dead owning a super-automatic (defined as a machine which does everything for you, taking the human element out of the equation). I've never had what I would consider a great espresso shot from one of these machines -- and I've tried drinks from several different types of super-auto machines. Good? OK, I'll admit to good, but the chief benefits to a super-auto is that any ***** at Starbucks can (and does) use them, and that type of mediocre consistency is what has turned Starbucks into the "McDonald's of Espresso."

                                                Nor would I ever get a machine that uses pods or Nespresso cups or K-cups or ANY type of pre-ground coffee. Coffee goes stale, period, but it happens VERY quickly once it's ground. Again, I have never had a great espresso shot from any machine that uses pods or other pre-ground coffee system. Not even what I would consider "good."

                                                Keep in mind that the GRINDER is just as -- if not MORE -- important that the machine itself. Don't scrimp on the grinder!

                                                As for which machine -- or machine-type -- is best for you depends upon your desires and your usage. The various types of "true" espresso machines are a) single-boiler/dual-use; b) heat-exchanger, aka HX, machines; and c) dual-boiler machines. Some machines use a pump to force the water through the portafilter; others use a manually-operated lever. There are three variations of pump machines -- those which use a manually operated "levetta" to turn on-and-off the pump; those which start and stop with a flip of an electronic switch; those which are activated by the push of a button, and stop automatically after a certain volume of water has been forced through the coffee. These are known as manual, semi-automatic, and automatic machines (and thus, you know why that other type is called a "super-auto"). All three types can come in pour-over or plumbed-in models.

                                                Cheers,
                                                Jason