home espresso/cappuccino makers
We finally want to splurge on our first espresso machine -- one that also foams milk to make cappuccinos when desired. Is there one that also has a burr grinder...an automatic all-in-one? We will still be using our very dependable Cuisinart Automatic Burr Grind and Brew (this has been a workhorse and still makes very good coffee) daily but want to be able to have espressos or cappuccinos on weekends and some evenings. I have searched the boards and have not found any recent threads. Thanks!
Do your self a favor, read this to learn and save yourself a lot of headache and wasted money.
You will see the first link to that article is the importance of the grinder, which unfortunately yours is not capable of grinding for espresso.
I am no expert, by any means, but I do enjoy a good coffee. About six months ago I got a Saeco Vienna Plus. I think this is what they call a super-automatic, which is great for me because you can literally brew a shot with a push of a button. It has a built in grinder, you load the beans, fill the water tank and after that it's automatic. It also has the milk steaming attachment. I can walk into the kitchen in the morning, turn the machine on, once the indicator lets me know it it has heated up, I hit the button and in a total of 3-4 minutes my coffee is ready.
It's very self-contained and easy to clean, used coffee grounds go into an internal receptacle, so there is no mess on the counter. Saeco is a well known brand in Italy. I believe the machines are made in Italy.
The downside is that it is quite large, if you have limited counter space, and they cost about $400 retail (deals are available if you search).
Before I found this one I was considering a pod machine, like Illy, for the convenience. But the fact that I can use any beans (we have a lot of great coffee roaster choices in the SF Bay Area) was a deciding factor.
When I was researching it I did find a few threads here on CH. You might need to expand your search to include older topics. I also found a lot on the net including some youtube videos that demonstrate the machine. This link is random, I don't know this company, and I didn't buy my machine from them but they do a good job of demonstrating the machine.
First off, assess your priorities. If you want convenience and no muss or fuss, think about an all in one superautomatic. The trade-off will be in the quality of the espresso; I've never had what I consider true espresso in a super automatic or pod machine. If your priority is to make the best tasting espresso at home, then you'll need to invest in a high-quality grinder, which can easily cost as much as the espresso machine, if not more. The process will be more time consuming and messier, but if you're looking for real espresso, that's the only way to go. sweetmarias, homebarista and coffeegeek are some good resources for learning more about espresso.
Agreed that a great grinder is essential and if you are going to make that commitment then consider a durable and adjustable workhorse that can switch from superfine espresso dust to coarse French press grinds by dialing in their respective settings. Couple with second bean hopper so you can use different beans for different brews and you're on your way to coffee excellence. We have a Mazzer Mini that is 7 years old still in great shape, replace the burr grinders every other year, easy to clean out and doesn't suffer from static cling and allows you to grind just prior to brewing
Of course the other half of the equation is the coffee maker itself and as suggested there are plenty of options to consider. Having lived as ex pats in Italy for almost two years we graduated from the vapid drip of our parent's percolator to French press pots ( one of our standby stalwarts) to an incredible semi automatic espresso machine (Vibiemme) where we control the variables such as how much coffee, how compressed the puck, how much water to bleed in preheating/cooling the head, how much coffee to extract per cup, etc...... and while that sounds daunting it becomes pretty intuitive with repetition. Our friends with superfullyautomatica machine by krupp and Saeco have served us their best shots and they can be good, very good but they don't reach the heights of fragrant, thick reddish blond crema, sweet rich espresso we can make especially from a batch of fresh roasted beans from a top end purveyor.......which comes close to the religious experience of our favorite tavolas and coffee shops in Rome.
A "super-automatic" style of espresso machine is what you're looking for.
Quality of machine varies pretty much according to price, coffee less so.
A friend of mine had a Saeco Odeo Giro Plus & it made espresso as good as most cafes around here, so that seems reasonable (to me) for someone looking for "coffee shop quality" coffee with at-home convenience. Unfortunately, his machine failed after a year & he decided to return it (Costco) rather than replace it.