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Best espresso machine for home use

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eatsmart Aug 25, 2012 07:36 PM

Does anyone have a real espresso machine in their kitchen? (Not the single serve pod type.) And if so, what brands? I've seen really nice ones in businesses that look like vintage cars but they're huge and I'm guessing really expensive. Is there anywhere in Toronto where you can get a semi-pro one that is small enough for a home kitchen?

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  1. Caroline1 RE: eatsmart Aug 26, 2012 08:36 AM

    I've had great espresso with nice thick crema every morning for the past nine years now. I would hate being deprived of it! It's a Jura Capresso Impressa E9, which I am surprised to see is still available. You can check it out here: http://www.jlhufford.com/ProductDetai...
    The price has come down since I bought mine, but whatever the price, I think it's a great value. I confess it was very difficult to convince myself initially to pay this kind of price for a silly coffee maker. When I talked to my son about it, he said, "Look, Mom, if you bought just one cup of espresso from Starbuck's every day, how long would it take to pay for itself?" I did the math and ordered it that day! Jura Capresso has several models available, ranging right on up there to the 3K plus price range. If you absolutely prefer cappuccino to espresso, go for it. Jura Capresso is (I have discovered since buying mine) considered the prestige super automatic espresso machine. "Super Automatic" means that when you first power it up, it will rinse itself out before telling you it's ready. It grinds and stamps the coffee fresh for every cup, then empties the "puck" of grounds into a container, rinses itself again, and then settles down into wait-mode until you're ready for your next cup.

    There is one model on the market that I know of -- I think it's a Braun -- that is built-in (installed in the interior wall space between studs) that requires a water line. I've never drunk coffee from that machine, and at this juncture would not consider one simply because they haven't included a built-in drain and grounds disposer. You still have to do all of that yourself, which is the case with my counter-top Jura Capresso. If I have to pay a plumber and a carpenter to install my coffee maker, I don't want to have to do ANY of the chores myself! None.

    1. tim irvine RE: eatsmart Aug 26, 2012 09:26 AM

      I'd suggest you peruse Coffee Geek. A good answer is going to require more specificity on what your requirements and wishes are. There will be different answers depending on whether you are after te perfect shot, you are looking for a high level of convenience, whether you like lattes and cappuccinos, whether .you enjoy a drink or two at a time or need to be able to crank out dozen in short order. I'd check out the E61 offerings at Chris Coffee. The discussion will inevitably veer into the issue of grinders...Macaps, Varios, Mazzers, and Rockys. I love a great espresso but also take cappuccinos and lattes regularly. I rarely have to knock out more than to or three at a time. Cost constraints aside, a Macap doserless grinder and a single boiler Heat exchanger machine with an E61 group would be lovely and wouldn't crowd me out of my kitchen. Chris is not in Toronto, but from an informational perspective it s a good place to start.

      1. Sid Post RE: eatsmart Aug 26, 2012 11:46 AM

        http://shop.illy.com/online/store/pro...

        I got this one when Illy offered a 50% discount with their home delivery program. I really like it a lot. My mother's initial comment sums it up best, "this is much better then Starbucks!".

        Avoid the cheaper big box store models. They might work well for a little while but, the commercial brewing components of the better machines makes a better coffee drink (which ever you prefer) and lasts much longer (~7 years for mine so far).

        2 Replies
        1. re: Sid Post
          tim irvine RE: Sid Post Aug 26, 2012 01:09 PM

          Very nice.

          1. re: Sid Post
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            Mr. Toad RE: Sid Post Aug 27, 2012 10:27 AM

            Wow, you got a sweet deal. I've heard great things about the Livia.

          2. s
            sedimental RE: eatsmart Aug 26, 2012 11:59 AM

            I have a Brasilia commercial machine. I highly recommend brasilia equipment. Really well made. Really pricey too, but much less problems.

            1. c
              Chowrin RE: eatsmart Aug 26, 2012 01:58 PM

              Miss Sylvia, if you have the money. otherwise, get a Gaggia, and LEARN!

              2 Replies
              1. re: Chowrin
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                chuckl RE: Chowrin Aug 27, 2012 10:02 AM

                The Rancilio Silvia and the Rocky grinder have served me well for several years. Theres a bit of a learning curve, but I enjoy the process nearly as much as the result. Check out coffee geek and home barista and be prepared to be overwhelmed with information.

                1. re: chuckl
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                  Chowrin RE: chuckl Aug 27, 2012 03:42 PM

                  Sweet Marias also has tons of good helpful stuff.

              2. a
                akmike RE: eatsmart Aug 27, 2012 08:07 AM

                Coffee is a slippery slope.... I started out buying super-automatics, which are not inexpensive, then moved to a semi-automatic machine, which was even more expensive. Then of course you need a good grinder, then you have the beans, so that adds up too. At any rate, what I have now, and have had for the past two years, is a La Spaziale Vivaldi II. This machine is manufactured for Chris Coffee. http://www.chriscoffee.com/products/h...

                It has two boilers, and you can pre-set the amount of water for the shot, pre-infusion and water temp. You can do this for two different buttons. These pre-set buttons are why it's a "semi" automatic. You still get to grind and tamp your shots. My grinder is a Baritsa Vario. It has worked quite well for me for about two years now. They have a new version out now that has a built in scale and will grind until it reaches a pre-set amount, which sounds quite useful, but I have no idea how well it works.

                1. m
                  Mr. Toad RE: eatsmart Aug 27, 2012 10:24 AM

                  I have an older-model Olympia Express Cremina. It's a manual lever-operated machine, so it's very quiet with no pump noise. It has terrific steam pressure for lattes and capuccinos. It's a simple machine, which means for one thing that it's very easy to work on (change out the gaskets once a year and so forth) if you want to do that yourself. The simplicity also means that there's very little that can go wrong with it. Mine was made in 1977, and it's still going strong. I use it every morning. The grinder is just as important as the machine. I use a Mazzer Mini.

                  I definitely second the recommendation to browse the reviews on Coffeegeek.com. There's lots of great information there about a staggering variety of machines.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Mr. Toad
                    tim irvine RE: Mr. Toad Aug 27, 2012 05:22 PM

                    This is sage advice. Heed it. Manual machines seem to be where foodies end up because they love the control and personal involvement with the end result. I'd love an Elektra, myself.

                  2. j
                    jljohn RE: eatsmart Aug 27, 2012 07:24 PM

                    Hi eatsmart,

                    Let me start by recommending that you really read up on espresso machines and grinders before you slap any amount of coin on the counter to buy one. Coffeegeek is a great place to start. Read up on the differences between a single boiler, heat exchanger, and dual boiler machines. And, as others have mentioned, understand that the grinder is probably more important than the espresso machine.

                    Moving on to specific recommendations, in the single boiler espresso machine & grinder category, I'd recommend the Rancilio Silvia and Rocky (approx $1,000 total package). In the heat exchanger category espresso machine & grinder category, I'd recommend one of the Quickmill machines--the Anita is my favorite--and a Mini Mazzer grinder (about $2,250 total package). I'll leave you to look at dual boilers on your own if that is what you want and need. :)

                    As for a place to buy, I don't know of any places in Toronto, but I HIGHLY recommend Chris Coffee Service in Albany, NY. I have no affiliation other than being a happy customer. They are tremendously helpful and knowledgeable, and they carry stock that you just can't find anywhere else. They have technicians who are always more than happy to help with any questions or issues. And, they sometimes have machines that go out and get returned almost right away (customer wants a different machine, regret purchase, etc) that they clean up like new and sell at a steep discount, so it's worth asking.

                    Oh, and just in case you haven't seen it, there is some good advice in this thread:
                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/435466

                    Best of luck in your search!

                    Jeremy

                    1. TraderJoe RE: eatsmart Aug 28, 2012 04:00 AM

                      If your going to Pull shots then really pull shots. At least that's my view. ;)
                      LaPavoni machines are awesome. As others have mentioned a quality grinder is key and not all grinders will grind well for a select esprsso machine. Espresso machines each require a very specific grind to perform their best.
                      The least expensive all around grinder I would suggest is a baratza virtusoso preciso. Beyond that you can surely spend several hundred on a quality grinder alone.
                      As well as the other sources that have been listed I'd suggest Seattle Coffee Gear. They have a lot of review videos that can be really helpful and the service has been great on the items I've ordered from them.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: TraderJoe
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                        jljohn RE: TraderJoe Aug 28, 2012 06:54 AM

                        Trader Joe raises another aspect of espresso machines that you should read up on. The pressure needed for a shot to pull can be created manually or with a pump. Further, there are two types of pumps--vibratory and rotary. Unless you know you want a manual or rotary pump, you will probably wind up with a vibratory pump.

                        "Old fashioned" machines use a manual pull, which some folks still prefer. It is, in a way, the ultimate in control, and it brings you much closer to espresso making process. Most people use a machine with a pump, and are happy to have it. It's just another layer of decision you will need to assess.

                      2. Eiron RE: eatsmart Aug 28, 2012 01:32 PM

                        No replies/comments yet from eatsmart? ;-)

                        Tim's suggestion of more specificity regarding requirements & wishes is essential to a meaningful dialogue (up to now, only a series of monologues)...

                        Basic info, "machine types":

                        1) Lever - fully manual operation, consisting of only a boiler (to heat the water) & a hydraulic piston (to create the pressure needed to force the hot water thru the (very) compressed coffee grounds) actuated by means of a long handle/lever. Pulling the lever controls the amount, & sometimes the force, of the water thru the coffee. (This is where the term "pulling a shot" comes from.) You get to control almost everything about the brewing process. A separate control & nozzle for steaming milk, which you also do yourself. A separate grinder is needed to grind the coffee, & you have to compress the grounds yourself.

                        2) Semi-automatic - almost the same as as a lever machine, but replaces the piston & lever with a pump & an On/Off switch. You control how much water you use with the switch instead of pulling the lever. No control over water pressure, as the pump is preset. You now have a choice of water-heating methods, each with their own benefits & detriments. You also have a choice of "plumbing configurations" (for lack of a better term). Some machines will give you precise water temperature control. You still steam milk yourself. Still need a separate grinder & need to compress the coffee into a "puck" yourself. (Some machines have coffee baskets that don't require compressing the grounds, but you (generally) want to stay away from those.)

                        3) Fully-automatic - almost the same as a semi-auto, but now you have a switch that automatically shuts the brewing water off after reaching a pre-determined volume. Some machines may help automate the milk steaming process (I haven't checked around lately). Some machines may include a (separate) grinder in the packaging. You have similar water-heating & plumbing options to the semi-autos. You still compress the coffee yourself.

                        4) Super-automatic - does it all for you. You pour in beans & water, hook up the milk dispenser, push a button & get your drink. The machine grinds, dispenses & compresses the coffee, brews your shot, steams your milk, combines everything into your cup, then cleans its internals for the next go. You (typically) have fewer water-heating & plumbing options than on either the semi- or fully-auto machines.

                        Deals can be had on just about every level of eqpt. I bought $750 worth of brand new eqpt (semi-auto & grinder) for $335. You just need to do a little searching & be patient.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Eiron
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                          PepinRocks RE: Eiron Sep 5, 2012 12:11 PM

                          Eiron,

                          What grinder did you get, how much and from where? I'm looking to upgrade my grinder once I finish my kitchen remodel.

                          Tx!

                          1. re: PepinRocks
                            Eiron RE: PepinRocks Sep 6, 2012 04:22 PM

                            Hi PepinRocks! Are you looking for an espresso-specific grinder, or something new for the types of coffee you're currently making (steeped and/or filtered)?

                            I got this espresso-specific grinder from Vaneli's because it was capable of producing consistantly ground espresso AND I got it new for about 1/2 price ($135 vs $250):

                            http://www.quickmill.it/MyIndex.php?L...

                            I don't think this grinder is readily available in the US any more, but Vaneli's does have a comparable "house brand" (Mini Pro II) grinder for about $200. The Quick Mill is an excellent grinder, especially for the price I paid. But it's not ideal as an espresso grinder simply because it deposits the grounds into a bin, & then you have to scoop them out of the bin & into your portafilter. I also wouldn't want to use it to grind both espresso AND French press because the detented grind-selection ring would require so much turning! If you're interested, here's my review of the grinder:

                            http://www.coffeegeek.com/reviews/gri...

                            I think the "best deal" in an espresso-specific grinder is probably the Cunill Tranquilo:

                            http://sovranastore.com/esgrin.html

                            My own 'next' espresso grinder will probably be a Baratza Vario:

                            http://www.baratza.com/baratza-grinde...

                            And the best deal in a grinder for your current style of coffees is probably going to be a Baratza Encore (same as the Starbuck's Barista):

                            http://www.baratza.com/baratza-grinde...

                            Wait for the Encore to show up on Baratza's 'Refurb' page & you'll easily save 30%!

                            1. re: Eiron
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                              PepinRocks RE: Eiron Sep 6, 2012 08:04 PM

                              Thanks! Yes it is actually for espresso specifically that I'll need a new grinder. I currently have the Capresso infinity. It's not too bad and works well for everything OTHER than espresso. Since I roast my own, it's always very fresh, but to get a true espresso at home ... ah that will elude me for a while. I miss the ease in which one can get a killer cafe for like 75 cents throughout most of Europe.

                              I've got 2 espresso machines and one has a pressurized portafilter so I get pretty good results from that, even still. But ... not so much ... with my Quick Mill espresso machine. This thing is kinda ugly but has a proper commercial head on it, and I also got it from Vaneli's about 4 years back for perhaps $200 -250. But ... as you know, it needs a good grinder! Lesson learned.

                              So, I'll continue with my Capresso for making "coffee" and need something new for espresso. Thanks very much for those links. Once we get the kitchen remodel DONE ... it will be time to reward myself with a new grinder! I can't honestly justify it to myself right now :-)

                              Thanks again!

                              1. re: PepinRocks
                                Eiron RE: PepinRocks Sep 7, 2012 08:31 AM

                                LOL, I'll bet we have the same espresso machine! The Quick Mill 0930 "Quick Espresso Plus"? I got mine from Vaneli's almost 5 yrs ago for $200. It was retailing at that time for $500!! But as you say, it's not the prettiest face in the class, & Gene couldn't move them for several years because of it. He finally decided to sell his entire pallet of 0930s at his cost just to get them out of his warehouse. (He's currently selling the Stretta for $295, which seems like a reasonable price to me, & it looks a little nicer with the stainless top section. It also looks even smaller than the 0930!) The grinder I bought from him is the same unit that comes in the combo "Superiori Profi" machine, except that the separate grinder has a much wider grinding range. Here's my CG review of the 0930 machine:

                                http://www.coffeegeek.com/forums/espr...

                                There are some tips in the review for coaxing better espressos out of the Quick Mill thermoblock units. The other thing I found with this machine is that I get much better tasting extractions using a "traditional Italian" espresso blend, rather than using a single-origin or American espresso blend.

                                1. re: Eiron
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                                  PepinRocks RE: Eiron Sep 9, 2012 10:21 AM

                                  OMG. YEAH - exact same machine, all right. LOL I just KNOW that my grinder is the issue, for sure I've got an excellent heavy stainless tamper and my beans couldn't possibly be any fresher. The kitchen better damn well be DONE in the next 3 months or so ... so I'm thinking that I can then gift myself a nice grinder - thanks for the recommendations in that regards. I'd definitely come back and read up on that stuff when I can. Today I'm interviewing carpenters and contractors ... (oh fun, oh joy ...).

                                  1. re: PepinRocks
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                                    chuckl RE: PepinRocks Sep 12, 2012 08:02 PM

                                    The grinder makes all the difference.

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