Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >
Apr 28, 2013 03:30 PM

Home Espresso Maker

Does anyone have any experience with home espresso machines? I have had espresso at friend's homes and while they tell me it is good or the best that they can do, the results are a joke.

I think that their interest was in latte's and cappuccino and other coffee related items. Mine is solely in espresso.

I use a Zassenhaus manual burr grinder and believe in the difference. I think that the Rocky doserless grinder is fine. I am ok with the grinding time. I can taste the difference in espresso. I understand the grind needed for espresso and am willing to devote the time to get the sort of espresso that changes time and shifts priorities. It varies greatly by the roast and the coffee. I already live with that.

I understand the quality of the water required and the time and technique that is need to draw wonderful highly personal of espresso.

I have been to Italy and understand the differences. I am not so interested in creating Italy as I am incorporating outstanding espresso at home when I want it.

My goal is to do that with several cups of espresso daily. If I can brew espresso with extraordinary crema in 4-8 ounce batches twice a morning and twice at noon and two or three times in the evening I will die a wired and happy person.

Any recommendations of machines from all of you out there?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. As with most espresso posts, you will inevitably be directed to CoffeeGeek, but since that is now out of the way, I agree. Most home baristas I know are using machines that may make a good latte or cappa but not a solid straight shot. Most seem to use either super automatics or if they use semi automatics,they use ones with pressurized portafilters. If you are making just one or two shots at a time I'd think any of the single boiler machines will be a step in the right direction, from ones like Lelit or Silvia on up to the various machines with E61 heads, like Isomacs and Quickmills and the like. I'd guess if you grind with Zassenhaus, you like the hands on tinkering experience. I'd go with a lever machine, La Pavoni for the ultimate in hands on or the Elektra for more consistency. Or you can just get a cheap Gaggia or Saeco and if it has a pressurized PF, order a new PF. As your guests may want milk drinks, be careful about the steam wand and order a different tip if need be. phew...long post for me.

    4 Replies
    1. re: tim irvine

      I tend to agree with the Rancilio Silvia suggestion. Silvia is a little picky about coffee freshness and the right grind, but once you get her dialed in, you can produce very good espresso shots consistently. It's a single boiler machine, but it should be sufficient for the tasks you've stated. I've used the Silvia for many years and once I figured out the nuances, it's been a solid and reliable performer. For me, any discussion that begins with Illy or Starbucks sets the bar way too low.

      1. re: chuckl

        Your closing comment seems pointed to my last. I should note that the Coffeegeek forums actually esteemed the burr grinder sold by Starbucks circa 2000 when I got mine (it was rebranded from some pretty solid maker, and basically represented the best you could get for less than $400), and in fact it can grind good espresso if you know just how to work it. And a freshly opened pack of ground Illy is not bad, IMHO. It just goes downhill rapidly thereafter, so I don't buy it. Too much waste.

        1. re: Bada Bing

          Pre ground coffee for espresso? I'm placing my bar higher than "not too bad," but that's just my opinion.

    2. Tim, I am trying to come up with reasons not to get the Pavoni 16. I hope that it will pull the continuous shots that I hope it will pull. I am at a loss right now, because the public talks about the insconsistency of La Pavone, but also talks about the excellence, non pareil quality which is what I am looking for. I have the patience to learn. I want the machine to be up to the task.

      1 Reply
      1. re: theomordha

        If you want to pull a number of shots that is the one thing I have heard is the chrome peacock's weakness. Personally I'd love an Elektra a leva. For now I must satisfy my urge for espresso at Royal Blue. They have a big La Marzocco and folks who love and understand it.

      2. I use illy francis and i m pretty satisfied with the espresso.


          I use this machine with Illy coffee and can pull double shots until I get tired of doing so. My mother can't touch what I do with this machine at Starbucks and has commented several times that I put them to shame.

          Pasquini® Livia 90P all the way for me.

          1. "I have had espresso at friend's homes and while they tell me it is good or the best that they can do, the results are a joke."
            -- What kind of machine (style, brand) are your friends using? And what is it about their espressos that you dislike?

            "If I can brew espresso with extraordinary crema in 4-8 ounce batches twice a morning and twice at noon and two or three times in the evening ..."
            -- So you want to brew two to four back-to-back double shots at a time? Or do you want to do four to eight back-to-back single shots at a time? Or do you have something else in mind?

            Final question:
            With all of your grinder/water/time/technique knowledge, what is it that you're making to drink at home now?

            2 Replies
            1. re: Eiron


              Three separate machines were in use: a Krups, a Braun, and a Sunbeam. The espresso was watery, I think poorly ground, had no crema, and was generally deplorable.

              I want to drink four to eight shot singles as my replacement for coffee at the coffee house I hit at 6 AM, 11 AM and 2 PM.

              I grind the coffee with a quality hand burr grinder and use a French Press.

              1. re: theomordha

                Hi theomordha, sorry for the delayed response.

                Were the machines similar in design to the first picture I've attached? These machines are sold as espresso machines & all have little glass pots with up to "4" marked on the side, giving the impression that they actually make that many "shots" at a time.

                In reality, these machines are more similar to moka pots than they are to actual espresso machines, only I've never had one that brewed coffee as well as an actual moka pot. Since you enjoy french press I'd suggest you start with a real moka pot while you're exploring the wide world of espresso machines. (See the other pictures I've attached.) The coffee is similar to espresso, but different. As you can see in the last picture, you can produce very nice, rich coffee in the quantity you desire. Personally, I prefer stainless steel pots over aluminum.

                As for true espresso machines, the Gaggia machines are very well-respected for home use. Expect to spend at least $200 for a 'starter' machine. The biggest problem I see is the quantity of shots you're looking to brew. I think most machines in the 'starter' range (up to $500-$700?) will have boilers that are too small to provide even four continuous shots without stopping to reheat the water. (This is where the volume of a moka pot plays into your favor.) In order to gain a boiler machine with enough capacity (or a heat-exchanger machine), I think you'll need to expect to spend closer to $1,000-$1,500 on the low end of things.

                The La Pavoni Europiccola or Ponte Vecchio Export would both be very nice machines, but I don't know what their recovery times are between shots.