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Researching espresso makers (what machine are you using)

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Ok so for those of you who remember I bought a Nespresso espresso machine a few years back (you can read about it here: http://www.cheftalk.com/forums/cooki...o-machine.html) and have been pretty happy with it for the most part. The problem with this machine (and with all Nespresso machines) is that you are locked into their coffee and over the years it has gone up in price. Want to move to the next stage of my home espresso brewing education I have been considering a new machine. Let me tell you if you start doing any kind of research you will be blown away by the thousands of espresso machines available and the amount of money you can spend.

For the last year I have been considering the Capresso brand machines, doing taste tests at Williams and Sonoma and price shopping. Although I like the idea of a "Super Automatic" the price with the Capresso brand machines can really put a damper on your pocket book (anywhere from 800 - 3,000 dollars American).

Felling a bit frustrated I did more research on the internet (if you have not been to CoffeeGeek - News, Reviews, Opinion and Community for Coffee and Espresso then get on over there for some great coffee info) and started reading about two very popular models: the Gaggia Classic and the Rancillio Sylvia both in the 600-800 dollar range. These are considered Semi-Automatics which you have to grind, tamp and control the water temp and flow. What this means is that they have a much higher learning curve to get the espresso right.

For the purists the Ranicilio Sylvia is the way to go but the more I read it just seemed like an incredibly temperamental machine. To be honest I was not really interested in spending hundreds of dollars to have to spend hours and hours getting the grind just right, the tamping just right etc etc. While I really like how well built the Rancilio Sylvia is (Brass boiler, heavier gauge metal etc) I was leaning towards the Gaggia classic simply because it seemed easier to use. But the gaggia had it's drawbacks mainly with a boiler made out of aluminum and it was not as I said just didn't seem as well built as the Sylvia.

I have decided against both of the machines and my most recent research has lead me to the Ascaso brand machine. This is a semi-auto that accepts ESE (Easy Serve Espresso) pods and is in the 600.00 range. Pods are important simply because I prefer a simpler espresso especially in the morning. The thought of banging out yesterday's grounds then grinding fresh, tamping then running a machine at 5:30 AM and waking up my wife sounds like a nightmare.

Now here is were it really gets just crazy. You have found the machine of your dreams only to find out that home brewed espresso is highly dependant on the coffee (of course right?), and the grind, and the tamping. This means that not only do you need to spend hundreds of dollars on a machine but you have to also spend around 200.00 or so dollars on a good grinds such as the Rancilio Rocky. And you need to get a good tamper which can run you between 30-100 or more dollars.

Are you getting the picture here? We are no longer talking about 600 dollars we are talking about close to a thousand to get the right set up at home. And if you want you can ever go to a higher level and get a machine like the Livia D90 which is around $1,700.00 (really). A Franke super automatic from Switzerland can run you around $4,000 and the prices can really get out of hand.

Let me tell you friends you can go crazy researching the perfect espresso machine there are literally thousands Saeco, Jura Capresso, Nespresso, Franke, Ascaso and many many more. It looks like we are going to go with the Ascaso Steel Uno "Special Edition Versatile" Espresso Machine. Has a brass boiler, heating element is outside of the boiler to prevent damage from a dry boiler, and it is ese pod friendly.

My question is what espresso machine are you using? Is anyone using the Rancilio Sylvia, Gaggia classic or Ascaso Uno? I would really love to hear from others about the machine your using.

One last point. If you are thinking about a machine go to Youtube.com. I was blown away by how many coffee making videos there are of people using all of the machines that I was considering. It is a great way to see the machine in action (if you can stand the cheesy music people play). Also CoffeeGeek - News, Reviews, Opinion and Community for Coffee and Espresso is a great review site for coffee makers.
Thanks,

Nicko 
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Thanks,

Nicko 
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post #2 of 9
Thread Starter 
Ugg, sorry that was such a long post... :(
Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
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Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
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post #3 of 9
I have a Vintage single group Rancilio. That I rebuilt.

I purchased this New Ranchilio and have been very happy with it. It is pricey as I purchase commercial equipment for home use. I entertain a lot.

I am a reduction of my youthful mistakes mixed with the roux of a few adult successes
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I am a reduction of my youthful mistakes mixed with the roux of a few adult successes
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post #4 of 9
I have been using the Capresso for about 6 years, I find it make great expresso with just the right amount of crema on top, as well as a pretty respectable latte.

Since I am addicted to those latte's (drink about 3 - 4 daily) this machine made lots of sense for me....I stagger morning blind to the machine, press a button...poof expresso...steam for a few minutes,...and then drink my way to waking up.

great thing about the company, the machine over the past few years has had to have a few tune ups (minor fixes) but the company never worries about it being out of warranty, they just send me a box, I ship it to them, they return a fixed machine....

great for home use, worth the money....perks my coffee!!

ria
post #5 of 9

Don't Forget to Join Home Barista

I've had the same Pasquini Livia 90, serial no. 500, since the model first came around twenty years ago. The sucker keeps putting out good coffee and refuses to need more than the cheapest and most occasional repair. Over the years I've thought of replacing it with something REALLY serious like a big boiler HX (heat exchange) Elektra Sixties or a Nuova Simonelli Appia, or even a La Cimbali Jr., but could never justify the (now) more than $3,000 prices when I already had "almost as good" at home.

I'm not a big fan of "water-dancing" (the method OCD home baristas use to stabilize brew temperatures), and am fortunate that once the Pasquini is fully warmed up it's pretty stable -- given my brewing MO which includes making Linda's morning latte immediately before my first doppio. The first pull is the second pull's best friend.

IMO if you're serious about espresso, there are too many compromises until you get to around the $1500 mark for an HX semi-automatic. The biggest problem is keeping stable water temperatures all the way through the shot -- or at least keeping the temperatures in a very narrow range. The Rancilio Rocky is a case in point of a machine that is very hit or miss -- one cup is good, the next bad and so on. There's really no way to stabilize it without adding a PDS. Then, for a couple of hundred dollars more you actually get a pretty decent machine -- if not quite as friendly as an HX. Even if you can get a moderately priced single boiler to produce a consistent cup of jake, you never get good steam.

There are only a few really top-line machines for under $2000 that don't involve many compromises in coffee and steam quality. The double boiler La Sapzia Vivalde 2 is a good one, and IMO is the standout in the price range.

That said, the grinder is probably a more sensitive link in the espresso chain than the coffee machine. The LaCimbali hybrid (flat, then cone) grinder is excellent and sized for home or small shop. There are a few slightly less expensive grinders that do a good job -- but "less expensive" is relative. You're not going to get a good home grinder for much less than $500. Adequate you can get. But adequate is not the same thing as good -- and odd as it seems, if you don't fill your coffee with milk and flavorings, the grinder is something you very much taste in the cup.

Finally, while Coffee Geek is a good forum and well worth searching. You'll get much better information concerning better machines and grinders at Home Barista. Excellent, if obessessive forum; and the reviews are thorough, excellent and trustworthy.

BDL
post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 
BDL, do you have the Pasquini Livia 90 semi-auto or the automatic? Any experience with the Ascaso steel machines?

BBally that looks like a beautiful machine where did you purchase it? I could not find the price on it.
Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
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Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
Reply
post #7 of 9
I've got the semi. They didn't make the automatic back then. Unless you're going commercial AND have training and volume issues, it doesn't make much difference. Most fully automatics are sufficiently programmable that you can set one of the buttons for a temperature-stabilizing flush (right around a double shot for most machines, anyway)

There are some very good HX machines once you climb over a certain price threshold, but I'm not sure whether I'd put the my Livia up there or not. On the one hand, I'm happy with it and have been for decades -- which is a lot. On the other, there are bigger boilers, better pressurestats, pre-infusion setups, etc., all of which make a difference.

I bought my Pasquini from Pasquini in Los Angeles, with whom I've maintained a sufficiently friendly relationship that I can still drop in for a cup of coffee -- and sometimes do. Old man Pasquini is a trip. But, if your the sort who negotiates, negotiate with someone else. He's a tough cookie.

If I were buying online my first choice would be Chris Coffee, with a couple of other dealers on the list.

Unless there's some particular reason not to buy it, I really believe the LaSpaziale Vivaldi II makes the most sense for home and light commercial duty if espresso quality is a primary concern. There are a number of sound engineering reasons why the machine makes such a controllably good cup of coffee, including the excellent pump and the pre-infusion cycle. But, the most important reason is the steady (and user controllable) intra-shot water temperature -- which has an essentially flat curve. Compare this to even the best big boiler heat exchange machines which have an intra-shot variance of many degrees. A small boiler like the Acaso can't even compete.

The LaSpaziale Vivaldi II are available plumbed in, and are fully automatic. As I understand it, that's the configuration you want.

The old barista mnemonic is quatro emmes -- miscela, mano, macchina dosatore, e macchina espresso. In English, that's the quality of the cofee beans themself (including roast and blend); the skill of the barista; the grinder/doser; and, the espresso machine. Order is important in that list, and the espresso machine comes last. That means if you're considering a grinder -- choose carefully. The big names are Mazzer, MACAP, and Cimbali.

Now, let's drop down to reality when it comes to your price range. IMO there's another standout in espresso machines, and that's the Silvia which has been adatped to use a PID for temperature control. I'd buy new from HiTech. eBay Store - HITECHESPRESSO.COM since 1987: Espresso, SERVICES, PID Adapted grinder (Rocky) and adapted machine -- you're looking at just under $1300. (I actually spent just a little bit less for my Livia and Moka (grinder) in '89.)

The espresso machine represents a lot of value for the dollar -- some in mechanicals and construction, but most of it in the cup. Spend less, and your coffe won't be as good. It's not the most convenient machine in the world, nor the most stylish. It will make a good cup of coffee.

Let go of the pod. Get a GOOD grinder (at least). You can get good coffee all over the place. Even some Trader Joe blends will knock the socks off the best pods. I know it seems like a lot of money, but the set up will last you several years at least. Is 1,000 days of much better coffee worth an extra $400? I'd say yes, but that's me. Your budget may vary.

BDL
post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 
It may sound terrible BDL but I want the freedom to use beans and make a great espresso but also want the freedom to use a pod and still get a good coffee when I want.

The Sylvia is just too much work in my opinion and I don't like the idea of buying a tricked out one.

I took a look at the La Spaziale Vivaldi II and really like that machine. It has a pod adapter kit and looks promising.

You really know your stuff I appreciate your advice.
Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
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Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
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post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 
BDL what are your thoughts on the Pasquini Livietta Espresso Machine?
Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
Reply
Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
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