Espresso machine

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MackemBrew

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One for the coffee drinkers on the forum. I've been using a stove top for last couple years and have really enjoyed it. However im now looking at getting a proper espresso machine. I dont want to spend a huge amount on it, around £80 or so, anyone got any recommendations?
 

chthon

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I have had two espressomachines between 2002 and 2015. One we bought (Francisfrancis), and one we got (I worked for Philips when it took over Saeco, and we all got an espresso machine as a gift).

They both failed in the same way: temperature is regulated through a thermic relay, and this relay starts to fail. I searched for a replacement, but it seems that there is only one manufacturer of those relays. Replacement is expensive. When looking at reviews for replacements, 200 EUR was not uncommon.

So when you get one, try to buy it at a place that can give you an idea of the failure rate of those machines and the possible price for reparation (if at all possible).
 

MackemBrew

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Thanks @chthon , something to keep an eye on

@Oneflewover I'd looked at the aeropress before but decided on the stove top. I dont believe either give you a true espresso though with that lush crema which is what I'm after clapa
 

Session

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I would say if you’ve got £80 to spend I wouldn’t do espresso. My recommendation for an entry level machine would be something like the Rancillio Silvia. It’s still only a single boiler machine, so you won’t be able to steam milk and pull a shot at the same time, but it’s built like a tank and makes decent espresso. They come up on eBay occasionally for around £250.

The machines you can buy for £80 are unlikely to make great coffee. I’m sure it’s possible, but it is likely to be frustrating and will need a lot of skill to do. It’s like buying a cheap single-vessel system. They exist but are usually poorly made, inaccurate at holding temperatures and prone to breaking. The more you spend (up to a point) the more consistency you are buying with your money.

You can make great coffee with a stove top, or a French press or Aeropress for that matter. The most important thing I would do if I wanted to improve my coffee for £80 is to buy a decent grinder and grind your own beans. I think you’ll find this will do far more to improve your cup quality than buying a cheap espresso machine.

For £80 I would get something like this:

I would strongly advise you to avoid electric grinders at this price point.

Without grinding your beans yourself you won’t be able to make good espress for two main reasons, freshness and control of extraction.
1. One ground, the aromatic compounds in roast coffee oxidise within a few minutes. To test this yourself, compare the smell of a freshly-opened bag of ground coffee from the supermarket to one that’s been sitting open for an hour or two. Similar to hops, coffee needs to be fresh.
2. In order to make good espresso you need to dial in the grind to your machine to ensure the coffee is being extracted from the grounds at the correct rate. If the grounds are too fine, you’ll have an over extracted, ashy cup of coffee. If the grounds are too coarse, you’ll have an under-extracted, sour/salty taste, with little crema. If the whole bag of beans are already ground to a certain size you won’t be able to adjust this and will instead have to manipulate the dose of coffee instead in order to regulate the flow of water through the puck, which is like trying to adjust IBUs by adding water to a pint of beer. You can do it, but it’s not the best way to solve the problem.

If you have any coffee questions I’d love to help! Like beer, it’s something I really enjoy ☕

I also appreciate you have asked for advice about an espresso machine and I have instead told you about a grinder... so feel free to ignore everything I’ve said.

Lastly I’m sure you’ve seen this video from James Hoffman, it really changed how I approached stovetop coffee:

 
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William Smith

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Getting an espresso machine for anything under 250 is a completely pointless effort, then adding a grinder of at least 100 to that.
It's a very complicated thing to get even passable and you're never going to get the temperature and pressure control on a cheap machine.
 

Richie_asg1

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I like a good coffee, but cost and waste is just as important to me. I prefer the choice of coffee, and often blend my own depending on what I can find.
Forget pods, of any kind as you can't get a choice, can't recycle them, and are tied to their coffee.
I started out with a french press and coarse ground coffee. Nice coffee - but used over 2 scoops of coffee for 2 cups.
I then tried an espresso machine using only one scoop of fine ground coffee split into to large cups, and let it run till I get full cups. You get 2 good coffees at around half the cost and less waste.
Choice of bean is important, and I have settled on mainly a columbian dark roast with a mix of whatever else I have.

My first espresso machine failed when the cup seal split - and not available anymore as a replacement.
Current one is ok but is not high enough for my cups so is a balancing act. - make sure your cups fit it!

My next one will be a steampunk version I make myself, as I have found some nice copper water tanks and most of the parts I need are available as spares for higher priced machines.
Just my few beans worth
 

Oneflewover

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I would say if you’ve got £80 to spend I wouldn’t do espresso. My recommendation for an entry level machine would be something like the Rancillio Silvia. It’s still only a single boiler machine, so you won’t be able to steam milk and pull a shot at the same time, but it’s built like a tank and makes decent espresso. They come up on eBay occasionally for around £250.

The machines you can buy for £80 are unlikely to make great coffee. I’m sure it’s possible, but it is likely to be frustrating and will need a lot of skill to do. It’s like buying a cheap single-vessel system. They exist but are usually poorly made, inaccurate at holding temperatures and prone to breaking. The more you spend (up to a point) the more consistency you are buying with your money.

You can make great coffee with a stove top, or a French press or Aeropress for that matter. The most important thing I would do if I wanted to improve my coffee for £80 is to buy a decent grinder and grind your own beans. I think you’ll find this will do far more to improve your cup quality than buying a cheap espresso machine.

For £80 I would get something like this:

I would strongly advise you to avoid electric grinders at this price point.

Without grinding your beans yourself you won’t be able to make good espress for two main reasons, freshness and control of extraction.
1. One ground, the aromatic compounds in roast coffee oxidise within a few minutes. To test this yourself, compare the smell of a freshly-opened bag of ground coffee from the supermarket to one that’s been sitting open for an hour or two. Similar to hops, coffee needs to be fresh.
2. In order to make good espresso you need to dial in the grind to your machine to ensure the coffee is being extracted from the grounds at the correct rate. If the grounds are too fine, you’ll have an over extracted, ashy cup of coffee. If the grounds are too coarse, you’ll have an under-extracted, sour/salty taste, with little crema. If the whole bag of beans are already ground to a certain size you won’t be able to adjust this and will instead have to manipulate the dose of coffee instead in order to regulate the flow of water through the puck, which is like trying to adjust IBUs by adding water to a pint of beer. You can do it, but it’s not the best way to solve the problem.

If you have any coffee questions I’d love to help! Like beer, it’s something I really enjoy ☕

I also appreciate you have asked for advice about an espresso machine and I have instead told you about a grinder... so feel free to ignore everything I’ve said.

Lastly I’m sure you’ve seen this video from James Hoffman, it really changed how I approached stovetop coffee:
Great post, but not sure why you are advising against an electric grinder? I have an electric burr grinder and very happy with it.....
 

Session

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Great post, but not sure why you are advising against an electric grinder? I have an electric burr grinder and very happy with it.....
You’re right - electric grinders are great, and you can get some good ones relatively cheaply, particularly if using them to make coarser grounds for use with a French press or aeropress.

What I meant to say in my original post was not ‘don’t get an electric grinder’ but that you’ll get a lot more for your money when going with a hand grinder as you’re not paying for all the electronics, switches and motors.

My experience when making espresso is that unless you spend at least a couple of hundred pounds on an electric grinder, it’s difficult to get a consistent particle size and therefore difficult to dial in a roast and get reproducible results. My reason for suggesting a hand grinder is not because they are better per se, but they give much more bang for your buck. To get the equivalent grind quality in an electric grinder you’d have to spend over twice as much money. I personally prefer the convenience of an electric grinder, and am lucky to have a Niche Zero which is a great. I could get a similar grind quality though with a hand grinder such as the Pharos by Orphan Espresso which costs £200 less than I paid for the Niche.

A hand grinder is more effort, and takes longer, however if you want to maximise the quality of your grinds (and therefore coffee) on a limited budget, I think they’re hard to beat.
 
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MackemBrew

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Thanks guys some really good points made above, and to be honest it was the sort of responses i was expecting, unfortunately I'm not really in the position to be spending £300 for my weekend coffee haha

With regards to the grind, I have a bog standard, generic electric grinder which I hardly use to be honest, I have the shop I buy my coffee from grind it for me. They do ask what it will be used for but maybe I need to have a go at grinding myself, albeit with a poorer quality grinder to see the difference and maybe dial in the grind.

@Session I hadn't actually seen that video, pretty good, I always use cold water so will give it a go with hot water, see what the difference is
 

johncrobinson

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I was gifted an expresso machine about 4 yrs ago

Its SO good I now drink more coffee than beer.
 

MickDundee

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I wouldn’t have thought it would be particularly easy to get a decent espresso machine at that price. Anything at that price point will use steam-led pressure rather than a pump so won’t give you the level of crema you are looking for. Keeping an eye out on Gumtree or Facebook marketplace might be an option though once we are no longer social distancing.

Brand new, If you are prepared to stretch to the £120-£150 mark the Delonghi machines are often on sale. I got one in 2015 for about £140 reduced from £220 and it was good. About 18 months ago we got a Krupps bean to cup machine (housewarming present from my parents because they love theirs, the Delonghi was still going strong) and it knocks spots off it.

Buy a decent machine and it’ll last you years, don’t go for the cheap option.
 

Hazelwood Brewery

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I’m not sure if it’s a specifically an espresso machine or whether you’d be happy with a coffee machine that can make espresso. I use a reasonably priced (£250) bean-to-cup machine and get good results from it. I think once you have a reasonable machine the biggest difference comes from the coffee beans.

I use this Delonghi machine, had it for years.

 
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Subtle Duck

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A 'TINY' bit obsessive but every one has its perfect moment. Who needs an espresso machine?
20200322_103402-1.jpg
 

MickDundee

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I’m not sure if it’s a specifically an espresso machine or whether you’d be happy with a coffee machine that can make espresso. I use a reasonably priced (£250) bean-to-cup machine and get good results from it. I think once you have a reasonable machine the biggest difference comes from the coffee beans.

I use this Delonghi machine, had it for years.

My BiL has that machine and loves it. I can’t vouch for the quality of the coffee because they only make weak as s**t lattes in their house regardless of me asking them to make it stronger, less milk etc.

Going bean to cup was definitely a game changer for us, we have a Krupps Quattro Force machine (can’t remember the model number). If it broke down out of warranty I’d stretch the finances to get another one,
 

Hazelwood Brewery

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My BiL has that machine and loves it. I can’t vouch for the quality of the coffee because they only make weak as s**t lattes in their house regardless of me asking them to make it stronger, less milk etc.

Going bean to cup was definitely a game changer for us, we have a Krupps Quattro Force machine (can’t remember the model number). If it broke down out of warranty I’d stretch the finances to get another one,
The coffee is good for me, I drink a lot of strong black coffee - over a litre every day! I also have a couple of friends who are well travelled and coffee fans, they love the espresso and comment favourably on the crema from this machine.

I wouldn’t want to oversell it but I think this machine may be better than it’s price. It does only have one boiler though and that can be a pain when I have several rounds to make after dinner with friends.
 

northof49

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Have you considered roasting your own coffee? For me that was the single biggest change in the quality of the coffee I make.
 

terrym

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We have a DeLonghi fairly standard espresso coffee maker, which is about 5 years old, and I am waiting for the day when it gives up. The HP pump is the weak leak on many of these machines as far as I can tell although you can buy replacements, and we did notice ours struggled following a descale, so as we only live in a medium hardness area I don't bother any more.
As to the quality of the coffee you get from these machines, my experience is that it is entirely down to what coffee you use. We like Italian fairly dark roast type coffee, and used to get our coffee from a small specialist shop in Wallingford but can't get there any more, and so tried most of the supermarket coffees and found most of them to be very bland often not suitable for a machine and so in the end have settled on Lavazza Rossa which suits the machine, has about the right ground size, usually widely available, is consistent, and is relatively inexpensive compared to some coffees out there.
 
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