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Aug 24, 2010 08:52 AM

Expresso maker?

I have a regular coffee maker right now and I would love to buy an expresso maker - one that is good quality, will last and produce delicious starbucks-like combinations:) But also I dont want to spend a fortune. What are some recommendations? If it is too expensive I can always wait for a sale at WS or bloomies but I'm looking for the best but for a relatively good price too. What brands should I look into or stay away from? Any must have features? I don't know anything about the intricacies of expresso makers so any info or help would be great;)

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  1. cups123, Although this is a cookware forum, espresso is a world unto itself, and is a world where strong opinions -- VERY strong opinions -- are rife. The place to find the most expertise (and the strongest of the strong opinions) is the Usenet group, which is a surprisingly resilient community of regulars who have been arguing (mostly very civilly) among themselves about espresso-making and espresso drinking for literally decades. One member of (Mark Prince) started a website,, where equipment is reviewed and some of the wisdom (and opinions) of leak through.

    One caution, though: do not go to revealing that Starbucks is your standard; you might as well go to the Louvre or to the Uffizi extolling the artistry of Norman Rockwell; you will be seen by the regulars as lacking couth. (Reason: Starbucks, with its unmatched purchasing power, purchases the best green coffee beans in the market, and then incinerates the poor beans mercilessly to achieve the signature taste -- charcoal -- of Starbucks coffees; that is considered beanocide by espresso aficionados.)

    The bottom line is that the "gateway" model of true espresso machines is often regarded as the low-end Rancilio brand machines like the Silvia; that is a popular, though far from consensus, opinion. BUT! ... But real espresso lovers will tell you to spend at LEAST as much on the grinder as you do on the espresso machine itself; so your first purchase, if you are going to "do" espresso, is to get a good grinder. And that is a Whole 'Nother Question.

    "How to Buy an Espresso Machine"

      1. Are you looking for the ultimate shot and are you willing to grind, tamp, steam milk, fiddle around, and then clean the mess after, or do you want a great fast, easy latte and capp with little muss or fuss that's better than Starbucks? If the latter, I LOVE my Dolce Gusto machine. It's about $140, but there are frequent promos. So easy and nothing to clean. Just insert two capsules--one for the steamed milk and one for the coffee and you're done. Is it as good as if you ground, tamped, steamed and frothed--probably not, but if you enjoy it as I do, and it is VERY good, then I think you will be happy with it. Certainly gives Starbucks a run for their money!

        1 Reply
        1. re: blondelle

          okay so maybe I should learn how to spell correctly first:) lol

          I don't mind fuss and cleaning up as long as it's not too much and it is worth the extra effort. When I was in germany over the summer I had a latte in a small coffee shop that I've been dreaming was SO good. If I could make drinks like that I would be soo excited. I'm sure they were using a great coffee product to begin with but I'm sure they have a great machine to go along with it.

        2. As Politeness has pointed out, there are as many coffee opinions on what is best and what is not as there are coffee drinkers. You have the daunting task of wading through all of the opinions and trying to figure out what will work best for you. That said…

          I have trouble figuring out exactly what “price” means for me on any given subject. For an espresso machine, it just did not make sense to me to spend money on a machine that would not deliver premium espresso, no matter how much money it “saved” me. Before my current super-automatic (read “not cheap”) espresso machine, I worked my way through the years from the classic Italian “mocha” machines that are often misidentified as espresso makers, to the electric machines that require you to fill the coffee ground holder, tamp it, screw it back onto the machine, and then brew the “espresso.” Did more than one of those puppies. They are cute, and they impress neophytes, but there is one thing they do not do. They do not make true espresso capped with glorious crema!

          As any barista will tell you, true espresso must have the grounds tamped at proper pressure, be pre-moistened with steam, then have steam at very high pressure shot through it to produce a distillation of coffee that also has the perfect crema capping it off. The only home machines I know of that do that are not cheap. The most convenient are the “super automatics.” But for a bit more money, you can also get those copper and brass beauties that any barista would be proud to brew with, all topped with brass eagles and the like. And you load and clean them manually.

          A super automatic has a water reservoir for fresh clear brewing. It has a hopper where whole coffee beans (of your choice) are stored. It has a waste bucket where spent grounds are dumped. And it has a lovely electronic brain that will follow your directions to a T. When you first turn the machine on, it will spend time heating up, then invite you to push a button that allows it to rinse itself and get ready to make great coffee. Then you tell the machine how many cups to make (one or two?), how many ounces of coffee per cup, and when to start (well, it starts when you push the start button!). The machine will then burr grind (with steel gears) the whole coffee beans to the right texture and place them in the coffee chamber. It will then tamp the beans with the perfect pressure. Then it will pre-moisten the coffee grounds with steam to maximize flavor and crema in the finished cup. It will then generate steam at the proper pressure and shoot it through the grounds to make the best possible coffee from the beans you have supplied. When your cup or cups are filled to the requested amount, it will then dump the spent grounds into the interior hopper (where you don’t have to look at the ugly damp pucks of coffee grounds), rinse itself out to maximize the quality of your next session, and then sit and wait for further directions. If none are forthcoming in a specified period, it will turn itself off and have a nap.

          There are a lot of super automatics on the market today. Some are undoubtedly better than others. I have no idea whether any of them are actually “bad.” I shopped and compared all of the brands I could find when I bought my machine some years back. I ultimately chose a Jura Capresso. They are built in Switzerland, are well designed, and I’ve never had a bad experience with any Swiss products, from chocolates to watches. Mine is an Impressa E9, that I seriously doubt is still available today. It was far from the high end of the product line, but it wasn’t the cheapest either.

          I had a lot of qualms about spending that much money for a machine that “just” makes coffee. Then my very wise son said to me, “Mom, at one cup of really lousy espresso a day from Starbucks, how long will it take for that machine to pay for itself and give you the added bonus of really good espresso?” I ordered it that evening. I have never regretted it. Nor have my friends. They all LOVE my coffee! And all I have to do is push a button! ‘-)

          1 Reply
          1. re: Caroline1

            I was browsing the web to see what's happening with the latest super-automatics and found this website where you can get refurbished machines at incredible savings. WOW! Nooooo, Caroline, you do *NOT* need another espresso machine!


          2. i love my nespresso citiz. . works like a charm. i keep a zojirushi thermal for our morning coffee - i like a big cup of deep dark joe in the morning - and then late-afternoon my perfect shot of expresso done simply. no muss, no fuss.