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Home Espresso Maker

theomordha Apr 28, 2013 03:30 PM

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?

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  1. tim irvine Apr 28, 2013 03:49 PM

    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
      c
      chuckl May 1, 2013 12:46 PM

      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
        Bada Bing May 1, 2013 01:52 PM

        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
          c
          chuckl May 1, 2013 10:02 PM

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

          1. re: chuckl
            Bada Bing May 2, 2013 02:26 PM

            Buon gusto!

    2. theomordha Apr 28, 2013 04:02 PM

      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
        tim irvine Apr 28, 2013 04:22 PM

        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. Giannis Apr 28, 2013 04:28 PM

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

        1. Sid Post Apr 28, 2013 04:34 PM

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

          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. Eiron Apr 28, 2013 05:23 PM

            "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
              theomordha Apr 28, 2013 06:13 PM

              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
                Eiron Apr 30, 2013 11:10 AM

                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.

                 
                 
                 
            2. Bada Bing Apr 28, 2013 07:02 PM

              My Gaggia Espresso machine from 1996 works great for an espresso with crema. No pods or anything like that. You have to tamp your grinds yourself. Maybe someone can add if the current Gaggia Espresso (classic) models perform as well.

              I only make espresso--never cappuccinos or the like.

              7 Replies
              1. re: Bada Bing
                theomordha Apr 29, 2013 04:30 PM

                Bada Bing, that is exactly what I want. 4-8 ounces of espresso with crema. I am good with a fully manual like La Pavoni or a semi like the Gaggia. No need for steaming or foaming or doing anything other than espresso. Any and all machines that will do this.

                1. re: theomordha
                  Bada Bing Apr 29, 2013 04:41 PM

                  Check out the coffeegeek forums, where they can tell you things about "bar" pressure needed for crema, etc. One thing I've noted: I still don't have a grinder of the grade that they recommend. I have a Barista burr grinder sold by Starbucks some years ago at maybe $125 (I got it on sale), and it's actually very good bang for the buck, but the word is that you need to shell out $300-$400 for a solid grinder that will give you good crema from ground beans. I notice that my Gaggia works best when it's good and hot (well-preheated) and also when I have a fresh bag of pre-ground Illy coffe. That comes out great. But once the bag has been open a day or two (even sealed tightly) the quality declines.

                  Now that I have a vacuum sealer, though....

                  1. re: theomordha
                    scubadoo97 Apr 30, 2013 09:47 AM

                    4-8 ounces? From one shot? A double shot should be something like 1.5 oz

                    From CoffeeResearch

                    "A double espresso is a 47-62.5 mL (1.5-2 ounce) extract that is prepared from 14-17 grams of coffee through which purified water of 88-95°C has been forced at 9-10 atmospheres of pressure for a brew time of 22-28 seconds. The espresso should drip out of the porta-filter like warm honey, have a deep reddish-brown color, and a crema that makes up 10-30% of the beverage. "

                    1. re: theomordha
                      Bada Bing May 2, 2013 02:29 PM

                      Yeah, following scubadoo: your ounce numbers are either mistaken or unrealistic. Eight ounces would be like two thirds of a typical soda can. That would be like 4-6 espresso shots, I'd guess...

                      1. re: Bada Bing
                        scubadoo97 May 2, 2013 02:36 PM

                        I'm just not sure if the OP is talking about making successive shots and combining them or making a single 4-8 oz shot. It wasn't clear.

                        1. re: scubadoo97
                          theomordha May 2, 2013 05:01 PM

                          Scubadoo97 and Bada Bing. I am talking about drawing successive shots and combining them in to a single glass and then enjoying them. In short the espresso maker I want needs to be capable of brewing successive double shots. Right now I am leaning towards the La Pavoni 16.

                          1. re: theomordha
                            scubadoo97 May 2, 2013 06:22 PM

                            Gotcha.

                  2. s
                    sedimental Apr 30, 2013 03:17 AM

                    I am not a huge coffee geek, but I have had a Brasilia commercial machine at home for years. They discontinued the model that I have now, but they have a lot of options. It has been excellent for decades, great espresso which is important to me as I don't drink milk anymore but my family and friends always ask for a latte or cappuccino. It is also easily repaired when needed (rarely needed), looks great and is reliable every time.

                    If you don't want such a big one, they now make a compact one called a Gabriella. Even though it is significantly smaller than their other machines, that is what I would probably replace my bigger machine with if I need to.

                    Mine is in the portofino line and I can vouch for that line as great!

                    1. strangemd Apr 30, 2013 08:35 AM

                      I have 2 Olympia Cremina lever pull machines and the espresso is fantastic. My first machine was bought new 20 years ago, and is still the source of my morning coffee. The second one was bought used on Ebay (since they're now a bit pricey) and is equally good. My brother owns a lever-pull Pavoni, and I think the Cremina pulls a better shot.

                      1. j
                        jljohn Apr 30, 2013 09:21 AM

                        Since there is good info in abundance here and elswhere, I'll offer my experience: Using Black Cat ground in a Mazzer Mini, I get fantastic 1.5-2 ounce ristretto double shots that leave the Quickmill Anita's portafilter as pure crema that settles out to a lovely thick head of crema in short order.

                        I'd think what you want is a machine that will pull back-to-back double shots (I'm not aware of any machines offering quad-shot portafilters.)

                        I think you should pick based primarily on what machine you want to interact with. Yes, you will need a quality grinder and espresso machine, but you can pull great shots with a decent single boiler with a pump, an HX, double boiler, or fully manual machine. Each will present its own unique learning curve, but since you know what you want in your cup, your path to it will be easier. I think far too many folks assume that they can buy a decent machine, plug it in, and it makes great espresso without any input, practice, tweaking, or understanding on their part.

                        1. Diving Chef May 1, 2013 03:16 PM

                          I am at a loss as well for a 4-8oz batch?
                          I have a Silvia with a Rocky grinder (6yrs) it works flawlessly and short of replacing a gasket and a new screen nothing has gone wrong. There is a learning curve, but once mastered it works great! I also roast my own beans and there needs to be some tweaking for that as well..Good Luck!

                          1. b
                            blackpippi May 1, 2013 04:16 PM

                            About 8 years ago my husband bought a Pasquini espresso maker and a burr grinder. Total cost about $2600.
                            We have a warehouse full of coffee gadgets, but once he bought these the purchases and the endless wining about not having the perfect cup all but stopped.
                            Also, I do all the cooking in the house, but he's never expected me to maintain the machine, which it should be noted, needs to maintained.
                            My point, If you truly want the perfect cup, then you're going to have to spend for it and any shortcuts just aren't going to cut it and if you cheap out on yourself you will be sorely disappointed.

                            1. b
                              Bryan Gros May 1, 2013 10:20 PM

                              I'm not sure what you will get out of this thread. CoffeeGeek and HomeBarista.com forums will give you much more detailed debate on the different machines.

                              I had a Silivia for about ten years (and a Rocky) and had it dialed in pretty well. I forget now, but there was some surfing with the lights to get the best results.

                              I finally upgraded straight to a Vivaldi 2 from La Spaziale, and I really like it. I make both straight espresso and milk drinks. The dual boilers is great, but not a big deal if you're not steaming milk.

                              I thought long and hard about the E61 machines, but I was a bit concerned about the flushing of the water to get the brewhead at the perfect temperature.

                              With the dual boiler, you set the water temp you want and hit "go". I rarely change water temps, so I focus on the grind and the tamp, and then watch the espresso and shut off at the right time. It will shut itself off when it hits the programmed amount of water, so you could go automatic, or manual with the volume.

                              Vivaldi has its own forum here: http://s1cafe.com/

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Bryan Gros
                                scubadoo97 May 2, 2013 09:20 AM

                                That is a pretty sweet machine

                                1. re: Bryan Gros
                                  j
                                  jljohn May 2, 2013 10:30 AM

                                  That Vivaldi II seems like a spectacular machine. I honestly can't ever come up with a reason to change machines (I'm using an Anita), but the only reason I wouldn't pick a Vivaldi II would be to go the fully manual (spring) lever route with an Elektra Micro Casa A Leva S1C.

                                2. b
                                  Bryan Gros May 2, 2013 12:13 PM

                                  I'm not sure what you will get out of this thread. CoffeeGeek and HomeBarista.com forums will give you much more detailed debate on the different machines.

                                  I had a Silivia for about ten years (and a Rocky) and had it dialed in pretty well. I forget now, but there was some surfing with the lights to get the best results.

                                  I finally upgraded straight to a Vivaldi 2 from La Spaziale, and I really like it. I make both straight espresso and milk drinks. The dual boilers is great, but not what you need.

                                  I thought long and hard about the E61 machines, but I was a bit concerned about the flushing of the water to get the brewhead at the perfect temperature.

                                  With the dual boiler, you set the water temp you want and hit "go". I rarely change water temps, so I focus on the grind and the tamp, and then watch the espresso and shut off at the right time. It will shut itself off when it hits the programmed amount of water, so you could go automatic, or manual with the volume.

                                  Vivaldi has its own forum here: http://s1cafe.com/

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