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Should I buy an espresso maker?

Petrichor Jun 17, 2008 03:08 PM

I’m wondering if I should buy an espresso maker. I am spending incredible amounts on my almost-daily mochas, but I wonder if I’d actually use the espresso maker if I got it. It’s possible that the reason I love my mochas so much is that someone else is making them for me. Would they taste the same if I made them myself?

Any of you who have an espresso maker—do you actually use it? Is it as good as your fave espresso stand? Is it worth the money?

  1. Gooseberry Jun 17, 2008 03:29 PM

    when you say espresso maker, do you mean one of those machines which looks like a mini-version of the espresso machines in coffee shops? Because those are really expensive.

    I use a stovetop bialetti - the little metal jugs you put directly on the stove.Mine makes two shots at a go, and it works brilliantly (well, so long as you buy good coffee to put in it!), is easy to clean, and you can get cheap Chinese copies for about $12 (they work perfectly well - I've been giving them as gifts with a bag of decent beans for the last year. Very well received). I think they taste as good as the coffee made at my local coffee place, but the main reason we make our own at home is we usually like to have a latte in the evenings, when we're relaxing at home.

    My mother loves cappuccino, has probably two a day, but has no interest in buying her own machine (bialetti or otherwise) - she enjoys going out for a coffee, meeting up with friends, etc. For her, that's just as important as how the coffee tastes. Which is something worth considering if you're a social drinker.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Gooseberry
      Petrichor Jun 17, 2008 03:36 PM

      Good question.I've never heard of the stovetop thingy. What I'm picturing is the small machine w/ a couple spouts/nozzles that costs between $50-$150 at Target.

      1. re: Petrichor
        c
        chipman Jun 17, 2008 04:18 PM

        Real short answer, save your money and do much more research.

        1. re: Petrichor
          karmalaw Jun 20, 2008 08:31 AM

          not only is the stovetop maker one of the most common ways to make espresso at home -- there is an electric version of the stovetop model -- my local pharmacy, Navaroo, has those on sale this week for $16.99. The stovetop models are around $10 in stainless steel, less in aluminum.

          Here is what the electric one looks like:

          http://www.cookware.com/asp/show_deta...

          You should be able to find an inexpensive model at latino or italian grocery stores.

        2. re: Gooseberry
          Boccone Dolce Jun 17, 2008 04:34 PM

          A coworker gave me one of those small stovetop metal pots and a bag of espresso from some country she visited. The stove at work is an old gas range and the pot is super tiny perched over that flame and gets incredibly HOT. It's got a plastic handle for cryin outloud!! I hate to use it but it makes a great afternoon treat. If you get one of these, just get a well made one that has a handle that stays cool enough to touch (or the handle big enough to grab with a pot holder- this one is midget-ized.)

          I got a cheapy mini espresso maker from BBand Beyond- on sale for $30 one after Christmas season bargain. It was a no-name brand, and it blew up in my face (we think it was our fault, it wasn't coming on and my husband reached over and checked the top-said "It's on wrong" and before I could say a word he opened it- the pressure had already started to build up and when he opened it- well... it blew. I was fine (I grabbed my face and ducked) - but we ended up throwing it out because it never really seemed to work right.

          1. re: Gooseberry
            jbyoga Jun 20, 2008 11:23 AM

            Gotta say that after having $$ (but worth it) Gaggia machines and having them take up counter space/require preheating/steaming etc. That I have since moved on to a nice Bialetti stainless 6 cup moka pot (I love Cafe du Monde) and am super happy with it. Is there crema? No but for $50 on the high end it makes great coffee (and is what is in every coffee drinking Italian home) - If you need a proper espresso then get a Gaggia or Rancilio. But know that the cheap machines just lead to wailing and gnashing of teeth.

          2. c
            chuckl Jun 17, 2008 05:55 PM

            that's not an easy question to answer. A lot depends on what your standards are and how much you are willing to invest in terms of money and time and energy. I'm sorry, but those moka pots do not make espresso. they don't produce the pressure necessary to make the extraction. Those sub $200 machines dont make espresso either, they make dark coffee.
            To really make true espresso, with crema and the goodness you've come to appreciate, you're going to have to ratchet up your budget at least to $350-$400, but more likely more if you're serious about it. I have a Rancilio Silvia, and you're talking about $500 easy. And if you go this route, you're going to have to sink money into a real burr grinder, not one of those whirly blade bean chewers. A good grinder, you're in the $250-$300 range easy. So you're getting up there in money. Also, it will take you some time to use it properly. Silvia in particular is pretty finicky about fresh bean, roasted within the past week, and the proper grind. You're in the research phase now, go to whole latte love or home barista to learn more.

            2 Replies
            1. re: chuckl
              Gooseberry Jun 18, 2008 02:44 AM

              Well, if the bialetti's don't make espresso, please don't tell the Italians - I've never met one that didn't use a bialetti for their daily, life-giving caffe'.

              The truth is, the sort of monetary outlay you're talking about here puts espresso at home well out of the reach of the average coffee drinker, and based on the OP's comments, I don't think he was looking to become the world's best coffee maker at any price - he just wants to make a mocha like he gets in coffee shops.

              When I have the money, I'm going to invest in a burr grinder. You talk about a 'good burr grinder', whereas I'll only be able to afford an entry level Krupps on my budget. Do you think it's not worth it? Bearing in mind that I'm not drinking 'real' espresso... ;)

              1. re: Gooseberry
                alanbarnes Jun 18, 2008 08:20 AM

                FWIW, the cheap burr grinders I've owned jammed and/or overheated, didn't deliver an even grind, and were difficult to clean (rancid oil is not something you want to add to your coffee's flavor profile). Read the amazon.com reviews of the Krups grinder and save your money.

                For about the same price as the Krups you can get a Zassenhaus hand-cranked mill. It's extremely high-quality, but requires a little manual effort on the part of the user. Otherwise save up your money for at least a Breville or a Baratza. $50 for a grinder that doesn't work well is no bargain.

            2. alanbarnes Jun 17, 2008 06:25 PM

              If all you're doing is making mochas, halfway decent espresso will probably do the trick. You can accomplish this with a mid-grade grinder and espresso maker, but the question is whether you will. In my experience there are only two types of home baristas who actually use their machines--fanatics and superautomatic owners. Most everybody else leaves their machine on the shelf.

              Fanatics roast their own beans, measure out coffee using a scale that's accurate to 0.1 grams, practice tamping their portafilters on the bathroom scale to see how consistently they can apply pressure, fantasize about buying a Mazzer Mini grinder, and talk wistfully about the "God shot" they pulled two years ago Thanksgiving. Coffee for them is a lifestyle, not a beverage. Visit www.coffeegeek.com to see them in their native habitat. "Mocha" is not in their vocabulary.

              The other end of the spectrum is occupied by the superautomatic crowd. These machines make consistently decent--but never great--espresso. You push a button and the machine grinds the beans, dumps them into the brew group, tamps, shoots pressurized water through, and ejects the spent puck into a dump box. Espresso in 30 seconds with no coffee grounds on the counter, no portafilters to clean up, and no risk of premature superheated discharge from a still-pressurized machine.

              Unfortunately neither great quality nor great convenience comes without a signfiicant price. Think in terms of your annual mocha budget. And speaking of mochas, be sure to get a model with two boilers: one to brew coffee (190F) and another to steam milk (220F). Trust me, you don't want to wait while a single boiler heats up or cools down.

              I've been using a Saeco superautomatic for about 8 years now. Dump the beans in the hopper, fill the reservoir with filtered water, and push the button. It only hurt until the credit card bill got paid off.

              1. scubadoo97 Jun 17, 2008 07:55 PM

                Some how I get the impression that you are really not into espresso but like the mochas you get in the stores. Guess what? Most of the coffee shops with their 5 digit $ machines don't make good espresso either. There is a lot of technical skill in making good espresso. Milk and sugar can hide a multitude of sins so they get by with their poor quality espresso. The least you can spend on a home espresso combo of machine and grinder would be about $600 to get something that is capable of making good quality espresso if YOU are up to task.

                So what can you use to make decent mochas that may resemble what you get in the coffee shops.
                Since many of the coffee/espresso bars in this country start with lousy espresso you can start with good strong coffee made in a moka pot http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moka_pot or a new press method that uses total immersion is the Aeropress http://www.aerobie.com Note this doesn't make espresso but you can get some great strong full flavored coffee that will go well with the milk, sugar and foam. The next step is how to get milk to foam. You can use a something like a small stick blender called an Aerolatte http://www.target.com/gp/detail.html/602-1214058-7371811?ASIN=B000BI8EC2&AFID=Froogle&LNM=B000BI8EC2|Aerolatte_Milk_Frother&ci_src=14110944&ci_sku=B000BI8EC2&ref=tgt_adv_XSG10001 or this press pot type of frother http://www.surlatable.com/product/id/124163.do or just whip milk and sugar in a blender. If you are doing iced mochas this is the best way. If you want to froth and heat milk a Capresso frother like this http://www.abt.com/product/14764.html... would work or even that cheap espresso machine at Target will work to froth milk but it will not make true espresso.

                1. m
                  Maximilien Jun 18, 2008 04:05 AM

                  Me think you don't need a machine.

                  One day, you will run out of coffee beans or milk or something else and just go to your usual place and get coffee and the next morning, you will still forget it, and the morning after, you will find that what you missed was the fact that you liked having someone making it for you, and you liked being around other people having the same "thing".

                  I don't have an espresso machine, first, I would only make some on the week-end, and probably not every week-end either because I like going to a good coffee place and order one latte (caffee italia in Montreal) and just be happy about it and be around other people.

                  1. f
                    foo1024 Jun 18, 2008 09:38 AM

                    I second the moka pot (some call it a stovetop espresso maker). If you are adding milk to your drinks you may not be able to tell the difference between a moka pot and a high end espresso machine. I can't tell the difference even when drinking straight espresso except for the crema. I use mine almost every day. Ikea has a $20 6-cup (6 single shots of espresso) and they have a little battery powered wand for $1.99 that makes great foam (both hot and cold milk). Moka is great for ice coffee too.

                    I tried 2 of those cheap espresso machines and they never worked right for me, were a pain to clean and eventually broke. The moka pot works the same way every time and is very easy to clean (just rinse and let dry on the counter).

                    However, beware of the chinese knock-offs. I am sure some of them work fine, but I got a $10 one at tjmax that did not work right. You can't go wrong with bialetti and my ikea has worked well so far.

                    1. j
                      jzerocsk Jun 19, 2008 12:44 PM

                      If you just want to see if making espresso at home drives you nuts or not, you can usually get cheap steam espresso machines free or cheap from friends/family/coworkers or thrift stores. I asked around at work and had one in my kitchen a week later for free. It's one of those things a lot of people think they want it and then never use it. Then you can decide whether spending more on a "real" machine would be worth it.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: jzerocsk
                        c
                        chipman Jun 19, 2008 03:03 PM

                        The only problem with a steam toy, free or not, is the results you get bare no resemblance to real espresso.

                        1. re: chipman
                          scubadoo97 Jun 19, 2008 03:35 PM

                          I've never frothed with one but it might be a method of frothing milk.

                          1. re: chipman
                            j
                            jzerocsk Jun 20, 2008 08:35 AM

                            If you want to figure out if the process of making espresso is something you will find is too much of a hassle WITHOUT spending $500, is there a better/cheaper solution? They call it "entry level" for a reason :-)

                            Also, considering Petrichor drinks mochas, is the coffeegeeks' unattainable ideal of "real" espresso really even a drop-dead requirement?

                            1. re: jzerocsk
                              scubadoo97 Jun 20, 2008 10:50 AM

                              $500 is about the entry level for espresso at home. Grinder and machine. Keep in mind the grinder is as important or more important than the machine.

                        2. t
                          tmso Jun 20, 2008 08:00 AM

                          I use mine on weekends or to make coffee after dinner when I have people over.

                          Don't go for the super-cheap ones at Target. Real espresso machines have a pump, and if yours doesn't have one it will be difficult to use *and* make crappy coffee. It looks like Starbucks has a $200 model that would be exactly what you want: http://www.starbucksstore.com/product...

                          You probably want to get a burr grinder as well, although chocolate hides many sins. If you have your beans ground at the shop you buy them, that might be good enough. You absolutely should go to a Starbucks that makes mochas you like and make an appointment to have them show you how to use the machine. Whether or not you steamed the milk correctly is the main thing you notice in a mocha.

                          Of course, there are other places you can go than Starbucks, but even having no idea where you live, I know there's one near you; and the style of machine they sell is I think exactly what you want.

                          1. j
                            josephnl Jun 20, 2008 10:27 AM

                            I recently bought a Nespresso machine and love it. Yes, it has its major limitation that you must use Nespresso coffee pods, but Nestles has been in the coffee business for years, and their coffee is quite good. You must order the pods from Nespresso, but they have this down to a science...its easy to do, and the coffee arrives in two days. Using the machine is simple, cleanup is essentially non-existent, and the espresso uniformly very good with an excellent crema on top. Now...I use it primarily for making espresso. I occasionally make a cappucino, foaming the milk with the Aerocino gadget that came with my machine. It works perfectly and produces excellent foam in about one minute. I have never made a mocha, but I assume you would have to make hot chocolate separately, and add the espresso to it...which would be a pain. This would defeat the incredible simplicity of the Nespresso system. But if all you want is espresso, or a taller coffee (a lungo), or an occasional cappucino, I would highly recommend the Nespresso machines. (I have the rather basic Essenza Automatic which works perfectly. Check out: www.nespresso.com

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: josephnl
                              t
                              tmso Jun 20, 2008 10:58 AM

                              Yeah, Nespresso is even further towards convenience on the quality/convenience continuum, but it's definately on one of the sweet spots. We have a Nespresso machine at work and I love it; you can get a perfectly drinkable coffee in a few seconds. The quality of the coffee is much better in non-capsule machines, even the ones that auto-adjust the pressure (like the one I linked to) which take all the artistry out of pulling a shot but give you a big load of convenience. I doubt this makes a difference to the OP, though, since a mocha is all about the milk.

                              So yeah, I guess if there are Nespresso machines that gave a good milk steamer, that could be another option, although I bet they're considerably more expensive than the cheap entry-level ones.

                              1. re: tmso
                                j
                                josephnl Jun 20, 2008 11:17 AM

                                Actually the Nespress Essenza automatic which we have may be their least expensive machine at $229 and it works perfectly. We bought it with the Aerocino in a package for $289, and the Aerocino froths milk perfectly with minimal hastle.

                              2. re: josephnl
                                e
                                epop Sep 26, 2009 01:34 PM

                                Tried the nespressos again today, a bunch of roasts. Expresso and Cappuccino. Not at all happy with the taste. Yes, about the level of a Starbucks drink. But that isn't very good to me.

                              3. k
                                kinkbmxco Jun 20, 2008 08:56 PM

                                There has been some pretty good advice already said here... I would like to add and reiterate some things. Definitely consider how often you will use your machine. My advice is either don't buy a machine, or be prepared to drop some bucks and spend some time learning how to create a proper extraction. Coffeegeek and Home Barista provide a WEALTH of knowledge about the subject. Also recognize that the grinder is more important than your machine! You can have a cheap $50 burr grinder and $7500 machine and your shots will taste awful. However you can invest $200-$400 on a grinder and $200 on a machine and you can get shots just as good as MOST coffee shops if not better. I started off on a Krups machine and a whirly blade grinder, upgraded to a Gaggia espresso for $200 and a Rocky Rancilio grinder for $260 (I know its hard to swallow spending more on the grinder!) Soon after I ended up getting a USED Mazzer super jolly for $275 off craigslist. This is what I would recommend if you want to take the plunge. Mazzer Super Jollys are tanks and will last a lifetime, they are probably the most commonly used espresso grinder in the commercial setting, and for good reason. Finally I upgraded to an Alex by Izzo machine. I pull 2-5 double shots each day. I hope to upgrade my machine and grinder again someday! Good luck, and I hope this helped!

                                1. Petrichor Jun 23, 2008 09:56 AM

                                  Thank you all for the info....I'll probably start small and see how it goes.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Petrichor
                                    alanbarnes Jun 23, 2008 09:05 PM

                                    If by "starting small" you mean buying a moka pot and pre-ground coffee, then you're on the right track. But seriously, don't get a cheap espresso machine or a cheap grinder. You're just wasting your money.

                                    1. re: alanbarnes
                                      Petrichor Jun 28, 2008 10:15 AM

                                      yes, i mean the moka pot. I just don't have the $$ to go for the expensive stuff. And right now, anything over $75 is expensive! And I may just keep going to the coffee stand because $4 here and there works better than a $1000 bucks for a good quality coffee machine. Penny wise, pound foolish maybe, but whattaya do? :)

                                      1. re: Petrichor
                                        alanbarnes Jun 30, 2008 10:50 AM

                                        If mochas are your beverage of choice, you can probably do just fine for way under $75. All you need is a moka pot and a milk frother. Use pre-ground coffee (illy has a grind that's specially designed for moka pots) and heat the milk in the microwave. Bet you can make a good mocha for a lot less than $4.

                                  2. j
                                    Jimmy Buffet Jun 23, 2008 07:47 PM

                                    If you are spending "incredible amounts", then I say to go get one... I think you'd enjoy it. Plus, you will probably find that the drinks you make are much better than your espresso stand.

                                    But so far as "starting small", be careful you don't get into a penny wise/pound foolish approach. I cheaped out on my first grinder - it didn't work and I ended up selling it at a loss to get the grinder I should have gotten to start with.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Jimmy Buffet
                                      scubadoo97 Jun 24, 2008 01:52 PM

                                      My Solis Maestro Plus now grinds for my wife's drip pot. Tried to use it for espresso for a year before moving on to the Mazzer.

                                    2. k
                                      kinkbmxco Jun 25, 2008 12:13 PM

                                      Yeah if you look through the coffee geek and home-barista forums there is a lot of heartache that goes into skimping on equipment resulting in upgraditis or people saying forget it! If you buy cheap stuff you are likely to be frustrated and unsatisfied with your results. Be warned though that there IS a degree of technique that goes into pulling shots. Just because you have a La Marzocco Linea and a Mazzer Kony doesnt mean you will be getting good shots. Also, another important factor is your beans! You MUST, and I cannot emphasize this enough, use fresh beans. Fresh = no older than 2 weeks. This is certainly not an absolute. Different beans from different origins with different roast profiles can peak in flavor in as little as 2-3 days after roasted and even up to 2 weeks! But as a rule of thumb when starting out, id stay with beans roasted within the last couple days, and use them all up before the week or two expires. If you don't use them all id suggest buying less beans next time.
                                      Another option to get your feet wet, is buying a decent grinder and an aeropress or quality fresh press. These both can produce great results without the price tag of an espresso machine. (Just make sure you use fresh beans!!)

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: kinkbmxco
                                        alanbarnes Jun 25, 2008 12:19 PM

                                        Or better yet, if you're serious about it, roast your own. Roasted beans have about a one-week lifespan, but green beans will last for years. I recommend the Hearthware iRoast. It has programmable roast profiles that can rival the best commercial roasters'.

                                        1. re: alanbarnes
                                          c
                                          chipman Jun 25, 2008 01:25 PM

                                          Roasting beans is really fun, and quite satisfying after you have learned the basics of espresso. Fresh beans , grinding, distribution, tamping, and finally if everything has been done correctly a good drinkable shot of espresso. Having said that, I would never recommend a newcomer to start off roasting their own beans. I would say buy fresh beans from a respected roaster, get that part of the equation out of the way before you start down that long and interesting path of roasting .

                                          1. re: chipman
                                            alanbarnes Jun 25, 2008 01:36 PM

                                            Up until recently I'd have agreed with you wholeheartedly, but these latest-generation fluid bed roasters really take the guesswork out of the process. Put the coffee in, select the roast program, push the button, and in a few minutes you have well roasted coffee. Not foolproof, but pretty dang close. It only becomes a "long and interesting path" when you start developing your own roast profiles.

                                      2. j
                                        josephnl Jun 25, 2008 01:23 PM

                                        I posted earlier about my having recently purchased and liking my Nespresso machine. I've now had it a month, and I love it...the coffee is very good with a terrific crema, the convenience is unbeatable, the machine is attractive. The only drawback is that you are locked into using Nespresso coffee, and that is a significant drawback. Nevertheless, I am really happy with the machine, and the companion Aerocino, to steam milk.

                                        1. k
                                          kinkbmxco Jun 25, 2008 05:18 PM

                                          I received a Behmor 1600 Coffee roaster for Christmas last year and have had fairly mixed results. Seems to be hit or miss. It's taking me quite a while to get into the swing of things. I must say though my BEST roast ever was done in a Whirly Pop Popcorn Popper and Monkey Blend Green Beans from Sweet Marias. Made the best, smoothest, most chocolaty, cappuccino ive ever had.
                                          I agree with the poster who suggests NOT starting out roasting. You first must learn what a proper roast should taste like, and perfect pulling those shots before you start roasting.

                                          Does the nespresso machine only take pods?

                                          11 Replies
                                          1. re: kinkbmxco
                                            j
                                            josephnl Jun 25, 2008 05:33 PM

                                            Unfortunately you must use Nespresso coffee pods and that is the only disadvantage of the Nespresso system...and it's a biggie for some people. Nevertheless, the coffee is quite good and the machine makes a perfect cup of espresso...or a lungo (a demitasse) with an excellent crema. There is essentially no mess or cleanup, and there are 12 coffees to choose from. Nespresso machines start at about $225 and go up from there. The coffee must be ordered from Nespresso either online or with a toll-free phone call, and it arrives in 2 days. Their customer service is outstanding. The machines are available at Williams-Sonoma, Sur la Table, Bloomingdales, and many other stores. Check out their website at: www.nespresso.com

                                            1. re: josephnl
                                              c
                                              chuckl Jun 25, 2008 08:59 PM

                                              I'm going to be a curmudgeon here, and say I don't think the nespresso coffee tastes like much of anything, though i wish it did ( I don't think it's "real" espresso, but I'll leave that debate to someone who knows the intricacies better than i do, but i think it has to do with pressure and makes a sort of faux espresso). It might be better than what you'd get from a not very good barista, but it's not as rich as espresso from a good one, at least to my palate. I'm not putting it down, I'm just saying, if you are on the quest for the perfect shot, mystical as that may seem, nespresso ain't gonna hack it.

                                              1. re: chuckl
                                                j
                                                josephnl Jun 27, 2008 09:05 AM

                                                I guess I need to disagree with you regarding Nespresso being "real" espresso. The four factors which need to be addressed in making "real" espresso are: the coffee itself, the water quality, the water temperature, and the pressure with which the water interacts with the coffee to extract the flavor. Although one can claim that ground Nespresso coffee may not be the very best on the market, it is certainly reasonably good and probably the equal of that produced by most very large coffee producers, and it certainly is "espresso coffee". The water quality is obviously up to the user. The water temperature and pressure are carefully controlled in the system and are supposedly at the optimum level...the pressure is 19 bars, which is supposedly ideal. Sure I've had better espresso than I can make with my Nespresso machine, nevertheless for the convenience, it makes one heck of a cup of espresso, with as beautiful a crema as any barista can produce. I'm very happy with my machine.

                                                1. re: josephnl
                                                  c
                                                  chuckl Jun 28, 2008 02:57 PM

                                                  i'm glad you're happy with nespresso, clearly we shall agree to disagree. there's no question the nespresso system is convenient to use and relatively easy to clean, quite unlike the silvia i use. and for a newbie, it's perfect. and clearly a lot of people are happy with it. I think Starbucks uses pod (correct me if i'm wrong), and Starbucks is quite popular. How does your nespresso compare with Starbucks? I think for those insane enough to use semi-automatics, the process is almost as important as the outcome, though I have a feeling that if you're well dialed in on a semi auto machine, you have the capability of coming up with a really good espresso. So convenience and consistency are probably more reliable in your nespresso, while trancendent espresson might be more attainable with a semi auto machine, a good burr grinder and a great deal of patience.

                                                  1. re: chuckl
                                                    j
                                                    josephnl Jun 28, 2008 03:07 PM

                                                    I think that Nespresso coffee is better than Starbucks. I'll be the first to admit though that Nespresso coffee is good...but not great. Its consistency and convenience are clearly its strong points. Interestingly, Nespresso is far more popular in Europe than it is in the U.S. They have boutiques in essentially every major European city.

                                                    I like it because I can have a good espresso or demi-tasse (lungo in the Nespresso lingo!) in about one minute, with really no cleanup.

                                                    1. re: chuckl
                                                      c
                                                      chipman Jun 28, 2008 03:13 PM

                                                      chuckl, I find it puzzling that chowhound has a separate forum for beer, wine, and even spirits has it's own forum. Sadly coffee is not very high in importance to most of the people who post here. Maybe if they ever experienced a 'god shot' or a capp that you could taste the perfectly sweetened foam and chocolate of the espresso, they will see what so called geeks have discovered. Maybe someday?
                                                      I do find it ironic though, that a forum that is devoted to excellence would Pooh-Pooh the importance of the drink that more of us drink than anything else. Most still look at coffee as a means of ingesting caffeine while others want to experience the taste.

                                                    2. re: josephnl
                                                      alanbarnes Jun 30, 2008 10:38 AM

                                                      One minor quibble--the "crema" you get from a Nespresso machine is the result of a pressurized portafilter, not an indication of a properly-pulled shot. Nothing wrong with that--as noted above, I use a superautomatic, and it produces "fake" crema in exactly the same way--but it ain't the same.

                                                      IMHO, Nespresso (and all other pod machines) make espresso that's "real"; it's just that the quality is limited on the upper end by the fact that you're using pre-ground coffee. For somebody like the OP, who's just going to make a mocha, the difference in quality may be unnoticeable. For others, myself included, the difference just isn't worth the hassle involved in using a Silvia or a Pavoni on a daily basis.

                                                      Really, really good espresso requires the right equipment, the right ingredients, and, perhaps most importantly, lots and lots of practice. I know a barista at a local coffee bar that has all of the above.

                                                      1. re: alanbarnes
                                                        c
                                                        chuckl Jun 30, 2008 11:19 AM

                                                        You're right, Alan, it's certainly a tradeoff. Silvia is not convenient to use, is messy and can be a little fussy about grind and temperature. Keep in mind, it's trying to replicate the coffee shop experience but on the level of what's practical at home. So while a coffee shop machine will be plumbed (no need to refill the reservoir) and have a couple boilers running simultaneously (no need to wait til the boiler reheats to foam your milk), the Silvia is even more demanding than a coffee shop machine. I was helping out in a coffee shop over the weekend using a high-end machine, and i couldn't believe how relatively easy it was to use. Having said that, I think Silvia does a reasonable job and is reasonably consistent. In no way however is it as convenient as a nespresso or other pod machines. If convenience is your goal and you are content with reasonably good espresso, it's a no brainer. If your goals are a little loftier and you are as invested (financially and in terms of effort) in the process as much as the result, it's something to think about. As to why there's not a separate board on chowhound related to coffee (and i would vote for coffee and tea, as the search for the perfect cuppa is as interesting as it is for coffee) I would think that maybe chowhound has ceded this territory to the myriad sites dedicated to coffee, like whole latte love, home barista, coffee geek, et al. Or maybe there's just not enough interest on chowhound. Hard to say. But I would certainly be interested in a coffee/tea board. What say you other hounds?

                                                        1. re: alanbarnes
                                                          j
                                                          josephnl Jun 30, 2008 12:32 PM

                                                          Agree completely with your assessment. Although as stated, I love my Nespresso for the convenience and good espresso it produces. It does not compare to the excellent espresso which is available at some (not many) coffee houses.

                                                        2. re: josephnl
                                                          scubadoo97 Jun 30, 2008 06:16 PM

                                                          Actually, 9 bars of pressure is what is recommended for espresso. If one looks at the history of espresso, steam machines pre dated the pump machines. It was around 1900 when Luigi Bezzera patented the first espresso machine using steam. Desidero Pavoni acquired the patent and Gaggia improved on the design and added a spring piston devise around 1948. The electric pump didn't come around until 1960.

                                                        3. re: chuckl
                                                          e
                                                          epop Sep 26, 2009 01:37 PM

                                                          Agreed, Chuck. I don't even think it is average, let alone perfect.

                                                    3. David A. Goldfarb Jul 1, 2008 07:56 PM

                                                      We've had a Briel Estoril espresso maker for about ten years now, and we've been pretty happy with it. We use it almost every day. I think it originally cost around $150, and we once had it serviced after about 5-6 years for around $70. It doesn't have a slick chrome body or fancy copper and brass accents or a brass rooster on top--so all the money goes into the pump, which produces 15 bar pressure, and makes a consistently good crema with most coffees we've used--

                                                      http://www.briel.pt/en/produtos_gama_classic_estoril_es33ge_chld.html

                                                      Ignore the built-in tamper and get a decent tamper.

                                                      The downside of espresso machines in this price range is that the same heating element is used for producing steam and for boiling water, so if you want steamed milk and coffee, you've got to wait for the temperature to adjust between them. Fancier machines have separate heating elements, so you can make all kinds of different coffee and milk drinks quickly without waiting, but we're usually just making a couple of cappucinos or café au lait or espressos in the morning, and maybe another later in the day, or at most a few of them after dinner for guests. It's handy to have a spare filter or two for making several espressos round robin style, when you need to.

                                                      We use a Kitchen Aid KCG200 burr grinder. It grinds nicely, but occasionally needs more disassembly than it should to clean, and the tradeoff for the convenience of not having the coffee go into a container that is fixed to the grinder (there is just a spout), is the inconvenience of having to clean up stray coffee grounds, but there are other decent grinders.

                                                      Our favorite coffee is Malulani Estate from the island of Moloka'i--

                                                      http://coffeesofhawaii.com/catalog/pr...

                                                      If you decide to go with a simple stovetop caffetiere, try Lavazza Crema e Gusto, which makes an okay crema with the stovetop pots.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: David A. Goldfarb
                                                        scubadoo97 Jul 3, 2008 02:29 PM

                                                        "The downside of espresso machines in this price range is that the same heating element is used for producing steam and for boiling water,"

                                                        Yes this is true for the entry level home machines. The more prosumer models have double boilers and you don't have to wait.

                                                        1. re: scubadoo97
                                                          c
                                                          chuckl Jul 3, 2008 06:49 PM

                                                          i don't find having to wait a couple of minutes much of a downside with the Silvia, it's not a big problem. Back the the OP's original issue with paying lots of money for espressos. Over time, you can amortize the expense, though it is a large outlay of cash all at once. Plus the convenience of not having to go out. You're still buying coffee, but I think Silvia paid for herself after a year or so of producing espressos, caps and lattes, at least 3 times a day for me and my wife. As you can see there are always tradeoffs and a lot of people are happy with their methods for some very valid reasons. Bottom line, there is no one right answer. Having said that, there's also nothing wrong with good coffee made from a french press. It all depends on your needs, your personal requirements and situation and your goals. Peace

                                                          1. re: chuckl
                                                            scubadoo97 Jul 3, 2008 07:43 PM

                                                            I have a single boiler machine paired with a Mazzer Mini grinder. Fine for me since I'm only making a double espresso for one. My wife doesn't like espresso. Personally I've been enjoying my Aeropress for my morning brew. I made a couple of lattes for my kids with the Aeropress and frothed the milk with the espresso machine. Not espresso but not a bad trade off and for $30. A versatile little coffee maker.

                                                      2. k
                                                        kinkbmxco Jul 3, 2008 07:16 PM

                                                        From what I have heard the Silvia is about to take have another price jump. I would recommend starting out with a Gaggia espresso. You can often find these on Craigslist and/or ebay for under $100. This is a fabulous starting machine. Once you are comfortable with this, you can save your pennies and upgrade, and enjoy the luxuries of a heat exchange or double boiler machine. The price difference between the Gaggia espresso and a Rancilio Silvia is pretty significant, however I don't think that extra money is justified when comparing results. The Silvia is also a bit more difficult to work with and far more finicky from what I have heard. Whatever you do just make sure you're not skimping on the grinder. A quality built hand grinder like a zassenhaus is a consideration. Although it is a bit of a workout grinding your beans, results are comparable to much higher end grinders in the 300-800 dollar range.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: kinkbmxco
                                                          c
                                                          chipman Jul 3, 2008 09:38 PM

                                                          Kinkmxco, solid advice all around, however I have to disagree on one point. I have an Giotto and mazzer mini, which has been a solid performer for me for five years or so. I also have a zassenhaus. And i can tell you with 100% assuredness that it is not capable of a good consistent grind fine enough for decent espresso. The burr carriers are not sturdy enough and consequently does not grind with the consistency espresso requires. For FP, Moka, drip, pour over it is more then adequate.

                                                          As you said in one of your previous posts, it is all about the grinder. If you can, do not scrimp on the grinder.It is far more important then the espresso machine itself.

                                                          1. re: chipman
                                                            ecustard Jul 3, 2008 11:48 PM

                                                            I, too, own a Zassenhaus and have to chime in. There are plenty of Zass hand grinders out there that will grind consistently and fine enough for espresso. The problem is that no particular model that one purchases can be sure to do so, only particular individual grinders, and the best shot at getting an espresso-capable Zass is by buying an older used one, not those currently available at retail. www.orphanespresso.com sells restored used hand grinders from a variety of manufacturers and certifies some as espresso-capable based on their own active and thorough testing. eBay is another source but much more of a roll of the dice. The up side of giving it a try is that hand grinders draw enough interest so that one can always sell a used one for a good return on the original investment if it's a respected brand and in reasonable condition.

                                                          2. re: kinkbmxco
                                                            c
                                                            chuckl Jul 3, 2008 09:48 PM

                                                            i agree, I have heard lots of good things about Gaggia, and it seems like a reasonably good way to go as long as you get a good burr grinder. I've also heard good things about the aeropress, which would be another good option

                                                            1. re: kinkbmxco
                                                              scubadoo97 Jul 4, 2008 06:11 AM

                                                              I've also heard that Gaggias share the same internals so the cheaper lower end models have the same boilers and pumps as the more expensive ones.

                                                            2. thew Jul 4, 2008 06:16 AM

                                                              i got a ridiculously expensive super automatic as a gift. i adore it. would never had paid that much myself, but im so happy i have it

                                                              1. k
                                                                kinkbmxco Jul 4, 2008 10:51 AM

                                                                I have heard the same thing Chuckl, the only difference between the lower end gaggias vs the higher end gaggias is the outer shell and a 3 way solenoid valve. (This releases pressure after the shot has been stopped). So if you are thinking in terms of shot quality results should be the same. Aesthetics and convenience however the higher end Gaggias have a slight edge. I have also heard that those Starbucks barista machines made by saeco are comparable to the gaggia once you get rid of the pressurized portafilter. I see those things popping up on craigslist fairly often.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: kinkbmxco
                                                                  j
                                                                  Jimmy Buffet Jul 4, 2008 12:53 PM

                                                                  petrichor, go ahead and take the plunge. Ya won't regret it... : )

                                                                  1. re: kinkbmxco
                                                                    c
                                                                    chuckl Jul 4, 2008 02:24 PM

                                                                    here's a pretty decent review by a Gaggia Classic owner

                                                                    http://coffeegeek.com/reviews/consume...

                                                                  2. w
                                                                    werewolf Jul 4, 2008 09:43 PM

                                                                    Buy a Vietnamese coffee maker for $3 at an Asian market -

                                                                    http://www.ineedcoffee.com/04/vietnam...

                                                                    1. r
                                                                      rtms Feb 23, 2010 04:51 AM

                                                                      yes.

                                                                      I have a stove top Moka espresso maker (4 cup espresso with milk for drinking temperature) and prefer my coffee to shops.

                                                                      Something that you may want to consider is the calories found in a mocha. yikes.

                                                                      1. d
                                                                        designla Aug 8, 2010 01:24 PM

                                                                        I have a Nespresso D290 given to me as a gift. I used to have a cheapo Braun electric. I don't like the Nespresso because it uses proprietary pods , which cost a fortune( 50 cents per pod and use 2 x cup ) if you drink a lot of cappuccino or espresso. I also prefer to use different brands of coffee, not just Nespresso. The whole ordering coffee online experience was just plain annoying. I am selling mine .

                                                                        I find that the cheap Braun makes a very good espresso/ cappuccino when used with good quality coffee.

                                                                        DLA

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: designla
                                                                          thew Aug 8, 2010 04:55 PM

                                                                          you can totally refill the pods & close them with foil

                                                                          1. re: designla
                                                                            c
                                                                            chuckl Aug 9, 2010 04:55 PM

                                                                            I find that the cheap Braun makes a very good espresso/ cappuccino when used with good quality coffee.

                                                                            compared with what?

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