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Hunting for a budget espresso machine

I'm searching for an entry-level home espresso machine, around the $300 range. Figured I should get used to one of those and work my way up to a truly great one such as the Rancilio that I'm sure will be suggested to me!

Any suggestions for a retailer in Calgary I might be able to find someone knowledgeable enough to help? I've done a fair bit of research, and the Gaggio Espresso line (Pure/Color/Dose) seem to be a good fit, but many of the retailers who sell online either dont ship to Canada, or charge very high shipping fees.

If someone in the know has any other suggestions, it would be much appreciated. As a good grinder is key to the perfect espresso, I'm also in the market for one of those as well.

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  1. I have the Cuisinart espresso machine that sells at the Bay and HBC Home Outfitters. It was $399 when I bought it although since I've seen it for sale at lower prices. I use it daily for espresso and really enjoy it.

    The main drawbacks of this machine are the time required to froth milk and the time required to re-heat between shots. So if you have guests and they want, say, 4 lattes, it'll take quite a while.

    This machine is decently sturdy with mostly metal construction. There are a lot of other lower end machines out there that I honestly would not buy due to the shoddy construction with lots of plastic. This is an area where I would recommend going as expensive as you can afford. The Rancilio Rocky gets very good reviews and is around $500-600. If you're a person who has a daily habit at Starbucks/Second Cup, even spending that much money would pay for itself within a year. I bought the Cuisinart because I had $500 to spend at HBC so a more premium machine like Rancilio etc. wasn't an option.

    As for a grinder I have a Capresso Infinity model that was about $129 from http://www.idrinkcoffee.com (they are based in Canada so they ship here). It has also given me really good performance for the price. I figured there wouldn't be a point in going with a very high end grinder since my machine is a basic model.

    1. I suggest you do your research on a coffee site such as coffee qeek forums, espresso machines,ink below:
      Far more detail. We have some coffee fans on chowhound, but coffee geek has many thousands and many with Gaggia equipment. On their site, pay attention to the fact that Gaggia was purchased by Saeco, and that some of the lower priced Gaggia espresso machine have a thermoblock instead of a boiler. Since I haven't posted in coffee geek in years I don't know what has happened in the interim. Still, they are a infinitely better forum than chowhound for answers to your question.

      1 Reply
      1. re: rosetown

        Forgot to mention that I purchased my equipment here:

        Cappuccino King
        410 - 23rd Avenue N.E.
        Calgary, Alberta, T2E 1V9
        Phone: 403-277-5169

        Just off Edmonton Trail and 23 Ave.

      2. I bought my first espresso machine slightly used 13 years ago in the Bargain Finder.
        Nowadays, if you don't mind if a machine is gently used, to start with I recommend KIJIJI


        1 Reply
        1. re: worldwidestuff

          I agree with this approach if you have to stick to a $300 budget. I bought a brand new Swiss made El Espresso pump machine around 1992 at an estate auction for $25. I just retired it last year when I gat a Rancilio Silvia, but it still works and served me well for 18 years.

          Some people get these nice machines and never, or rarely use them. Check this nice Elektra out (no connection with seller, but I'd go have a look if I was you). ;-)


        2. Thanks for the responses! I have been doing most of my research at coffeegeek.com, but with such a non-canadian member base there, its hard to find opinions on reliable shipping options to Canada. I was able to take away some useful info from there though: namely that I want a boiler (not thermoblock) and a good quality portafilter. The Gaggia Espresso line seemed a good fit because it includes both those things, and is low-priced enough that if I realize I dont use it as much as I thought I would, it wont be a huge hole in my pocket.

          I will give Cappucino King a call, thanks for that tip. Will also check idrinkcoffee.com as well.

          If anyone else has suggestions for local purchase (within Calgary), please share... I'd like to avoid shipping if possible, too much potential for breakage and warranty hassles later.

          4 Replies
          1. re: flamesfan81

            You seem to have it well researched. The Gaggia Espresso and its ilk with a boiler is considered a very good entry level choice. It's cheaper because it lacks a 3 way valve, which is just a nice convenience.
            I purchased locally for the reasons you stated. Good luck.

            1. re: rosetown

              Gaggia will have a 3-way- all pump espresso machines will.

              The thing to avoid is a pressurized portafilter- I had a Saeco Nero years ago, about $300, and managed to get a replacement portafilter for the pressurized POS it came with.

              1. re: John Manzo

                The three way solenoid is not included on the Gaggia Espresso. The lower end consumer machines do not necessarily include them as they really are a convenience item. Without one you just have to wait for a small amount of time before releasing the portafilter so that the water pressure is dispersed through the puck. Without doing that you risk the mess of "portafilter sneeze". I'm sure that machine would suit your requirements. I've used similar machines years ago, and they are fun with decent capabilities.

                1. re: peter.v

                  Ah- I just figured since every pump machine I've owned, from my $130 Krups Novo to my $1000 Brasilia Lady has had a 3-way that this was standard. I stand corrected.

          2. I'll play devil's advocate and suggest that you just blow the budget and get your dream Rancilio Rocky and Silvia if it's within your means... or if you're really strapped for cash, look for a good deal on a used machine.

            These things last forever, and it's an investment that will pay for itself over and over and over. I bought my Gaggia Evolution (boiler, no solenoid, plastic body) on ebay for $150, thinking that I'd upgrade to a Silvia a couple years down the road. It's now well into its 7th year of daily lattes and pulls shots like it did on day one, with only the occasional descaling and one spring valve change. And since I couldn't bear to part with a perfectly working machine, I don't know if I'll ever have the opportunity to upgrade.

            1. Why don't you just get yourself a $20 2-cup Bialetti from Lina's and then save up for your dream machine.

              1. I bought my Gaggia Classic a few years ago after doing alot of research as well, I was able to find a Canadian supplier in Richmond, B.C ,called espressotec. http://www.espressotec.com/

                They offer many different models besides Gaggia and they offer free shipping on orders over $250. They were excellent to deal with and they also sell grinders as well. Don't know if you have heard this but getting a good burr grinder is as important as the espresso machine itself. The cheap blade grinders do not grind the coffee beans evenly or finely enough.

                1 Reply
                1. re: bruleetoday

                  The only issue with the Gaggia line is the aluminum boiler and you know what they say about aluminum, cheap isn't always the best route to go.