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Best Entry Level Espresso Set Up


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#1 weinoo

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 03:47 PM

In this Percolator vs Plunger vs Siphon vs Espresso Machine topic, poster jeffsf claims in this post that:

Read posts and recommendations about the Rancilio Silvia and Rocky with a grain of salt. In their day, they were great options (to some extent, the only options), but prices have gone up a lot over the last ten years and there are better contenders for entry-level machines on the market.


Now, I don't know that I'd take them with a grain of salt, because I really like my Rocky/Silvia combo. I've owned them for a little over 2 years and I consistently pull excellent espresso with them, so they've probably paid for themselves by now.

But...I'm always open to new ideas. So, what are the better contenders for entry-level machines? And what price level, for the two pieces of equipment mentioned, is considered entry-level?
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#2 avaserfi

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 03:59 PM

I got a Silvia used, dirt cheap. While its not perfect, with the right timing and work a great shot is possible. Although I like mine, I don't think I would happily pay MSRP on the machine.

That said, a recent contender for best entry level machine is the Crossland CC1. New its costs as much as the Silvia, but with a far greater feature set. The machine is very new, but has a lot of potential for the price point.

Here is a vendor video showing off the machine with the designer. It shows off the machine and some of its features.


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#3 nickrey

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 05:15 PM

That looks really nice. It is a very new machine though. The features are attractive, but is it made to last? The Rancilio Silvia is very industrial and built like a tank which makes it so much more robust that most other comparable machines on the market. I've attached a pid to mine and absolutely love its reliability.

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#4 Brainfoodie

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 05:21 PM

The user interface in that Crossland is terrible! Even the vendor can't seem to work it out smoothly...
I would like to move on from my Pavoni, but think I'll wait for the CC2...

#5 nickrey

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 05:22 PM

Looks like it may be a rebadged Gee Espresso. Link here.

Some comments have been made about the build quality of the Gee that make my earlier statement on longevity pertinent to making a decision between the two.

Edited by nickrey, 03 October 2011 - 05:26 PM.

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#6 rotuts

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 05:41 PM

Id look at HomeBarrista:

http://www.home-barista.com/

after home roasting for a while, I neighbor had a gagia and showed me home espresso was actually possible

after study I went with the Silvia, back then it was $500. and a compatible grinder.

then after 4 years moved to the Alexia PID and a compatible grinder.

Silvia or its modern equivalent would be the starting point for 'true' espresso. espresso is not just 'strong coffee'

very long and reliable reveiws can be had at HB.

espresso has less in common with drip than people think: its an emulsion, drip is not.

you need a certain T and a certain psi and certain volume etc etc.

http://www.home-bari...c-1-t17538.html

http://www.home-bari...10.html#p223254

http://www.home-bari...ash-review.html

etc

Edited by rotuts, 03 October 2011 - 05:49 PM.


#7 weinoo

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 07:12 PM

That looks really nice. It is a very new machine though. The features are attractive, but is it made to last? The Rancilio Silvia is very industrial and built like a tank which makes it so much more robust that most other comparable machines on the market. I've attached a pid to mine and absolutely love its reliability.

Exactly my feelings, nickrey. From the years of reliability that Silvia brings, I get a certain good feeling about the machine. I wonder what happens when the CC1 starts needing service.
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#8 Zachary

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 07:27 PM

My take on Silvia is that she is a harsh mistress, but one that will teach you the proper way to pull a shot. Buying an espresso machine with a lot of advanced features is like buying a DSLR out of the gate, taking some pictures, and then calling yourself a professional photographer. Learn fundamentals, learn fundamentals, learn fundamentals. Then do what you want.

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#9 rotuts

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 06:59 AM

to really make true espresso you need at least the Slivia, or its equivalent.

http://www.home-bari...ash-review.html

as Ive said I still have one and used it for 4 years then decided to move up to:

http://www.home-bari...exia-t4119.html

the Alexia cost me quite a lot and it took me months to make the decidiosn, but now Im very glad I did.

but I would not have done so well with the Alexia had I not spent years with the Silvia.
'
then there is this:

http://www.chriscoff...spresso/silvano

Id wait until Homebarrista review the

http://www.chriscoff...so/crosslandcc1

before you buy. or you could call chris Coffee and talk to them. on my way to getting the Alexia i spoke with them a lot and they answered all my questions quite frankly but I knew the quesstions to ask having used the Silvia and understood what I wanted to do with an espresso machine, I also studied all the review at HB on the Alexia and its equivalents.

join HB and ask about the DCC1. let us know how it goes. the interface on the DCC1 is quite flashy. Will it last? is it accurate and does it translate that info into the coffee itself?

you may have one of those map gizzmos in your car toi get you where you are goind, but an old fashioned map works well do and wont break!

good luck!

Edited by rotuts, 04 October 2011 - 07:36 AM.


#10 earlgrey_44

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 09:05 AM

In this Percolator vs Plunger vs Siphon vs Espresso Machine topic, poster jeffsf claims in this post that:

Read posts and recommendations about the Rancilio Silvia and Rocky with a grain of salt. In their day, they were great options (to some extent, the only options), but prices have gone up a lot over the last ten years and there are better contenders for entry-level machines on the market.


So, what are the better contenders for entry-level machines? And what price level, for the two pieces of equipment mentioned, is considered entry-level?



I've heard the comment about the Rancilio combo before, and IMHO, I think that's largely a reaction to two things: some common observed behavior of newbe espresso geeks, and price point change in the tier of espresso equipment just above Silvia's head.

Many people who bought the Silvia upgrade to a fancier setup after a year or two since they are frustrated by the relatively slow pace of milk-drink making possible with such a machine, and lust after kit that is easier to use and easier to make consistent shots with. At the same time, the price of entry level heat exchanger (HX) machines, which are more forgiving of operator skill regarding consistent shot quality and can make milk drinks for dinner guests much faster, has dropped as the Rancilio machines have increased in price.

For example, one of the better importers will sell you a Bezzera BZ02, a well built and great performing HX, and a Quamar 63mm grinder (a real commercial grade grinder) for something like $1400 delivered. So, if you pay something on the order of a third more, you can get stuff that is as good or better built and quite a bit more capable. Hence the argument, why not skip screwing around in the lobby and go right up to the second floor? You couldn't say this a few years ago - the ticket price of the ride to HX land was a lot higher.

At the same time, the Rocky remains capable of world class shots as long you don't try to pack too much coffee into one shot, and the Silvia is a fine little personal machine albeit not well adapted to lattes for a crowd. The Crossland hasn't much of a track record - time will tell there.

#11 rotuts

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 12:09 PM

then again you could move right into the penthouse:


http://www.home-bari...ective-gs3.html


:laugh:

#12 cdh

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 12:22 PM

Have we really gotten to the point where we think that Gaggia and Pavoni and are not good enough to recommend as starter machines? I'd certainly not call a recommendation to spend $1000 on a Silvia (+mods) and Rocky an "entry level" recommendation.
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#13 weinoo

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 12:45 PM

Have we really gotten to the point where we think that Gaggia and Pavoni and are not good enough to recommend as starter machines?


I think we might have.
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#14 rotuts

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 01:08 PM

you might be right

it more like:

where does 'strong coffee' become 'espresso'

if one answers that first, then the rest flows from there.

you wont ever get an espresso at Starbucks nor at Peet's.

#15 andiesenji

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 02:12 PM

For those of you just starting on the espresso "road" you might find this link interesting.

Don't click on the page if you are facing a deadline or time is short. It is difficult to get away from it if you have only a few minutes...
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#16 Snadra

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Posted 28 November 2011 - 10:26 AM

I have an opportunity to purchase a second hand La Pavoni Domus Bar for what strikes me as a very good price and will be checking it out this week. Does anyone have any opinions or advice on this machine? I don't currently have an espresso setup and with my upcoming move towards the centre of NSW I am pretty keen to maintain access to decent coffee (well, someone has to think of the poor children I'll be teaching if I don't remain apppropriately supplied). I am already purchasing a grinder that will be for French press/pour over which was my first concern, so this is more of,an optional extra.

#17 tikidoc

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Posted 28 November 2011 - 04:21 PM

Have we really gotten to the point where we think that Gaggia and Pavoni and are not good enough to recommend as starter machines? I'd certainly not call a recommendation to spend $1000 on a Silvia (+mods) and Rocky an "entry level" recommendation.


You find this surprising on a forum where there is a 48 page thread about cooking with a cookbook (yes, I know it's more than a cookbook) that costs $500? :)

#18 Mjx

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 12:48 AM

Have we really gotten to the point where we think that Gaggia and Pavoni and are not good enough to recommend as starter machines? I'd certainly not call a recommendation to spend $1000 on a Silvia (+mods) and Rocky an "entry level" recommendation.


No experience with Pavoni, so I can't speak for that, but the Gaggia items I've used were on the shoddy side, and gave a poorer return for what they cost than the Silvia, or, say, Mahlkönig. After all, 'entry level' implies inexperience, not indifference to results/low standards, so starting off with equipment that actually responds to your learning curve has distinct advantages.
I know the cash outlay on can be heavy but (and I'm speaking as someone with a really small income, by any standard), but not having much cash is not a great reason to spend the little you have on something unsatisfactory. But it all depends on your standards and expectations, when you come down to it.

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#19 tikidoc

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 05:02 AM

A really good resource for all things coffee is sweetmarias.com. They specialize in importation and sale of small lots of excellent green (unroasted) coffee, most of which is bought directly from the small farms, but also sell just about anything you need to roast, grind, prepare or serve coffee. I bought my Silvia and Rocky from them, as well as lots of green coffee over the years. They have a HUGE online library of information about just about everything related to coffee, and they seem really committed to selling the right equipment to each individual customer. I called them several times before settling on the Silvia and Rocky combination. This is also a great place to go if you are thinking of getting into roasting your own coffee.

I used to roast all my own but have gone through several home roasters over the years (they ALL burn out within a couple years). Since my drum roaster died, I have not wanted to commit so much money again, and I am going to give the air popper method a try. At least if it dies, it will only cost $20 to replace. I'm also looking at another popular equipment modification, using an old bread machine to stir the beans and a heat gun from the hardware store to cook them... it is supposed to do as good a job as a drum roaster, once you get over the learning curve, and the investment is under $100.

I do love my Rancilio equipment. It is very well built and will last a lifetime but the initial cost outlay is significant. It takes up a bunch of room on the countertop though, and I have not found a place for mine since our recent move, so I'm drinking French press at the moment.

#20 weinoo

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 05:19 AM

I've heard the comment about the Rancilio combo before, and IMHO, I think that's largely a reaction to two things: some common observed behavior of newbe espresso geeks, and price point change in the tier of espresso equipment just above Silvia's head.

Many people who bought the Silvia upgrade to a fancier setup after a year or two since they are frustrated by the relatively slow pace of milk-drink making possible with such a machine, and lust after kit that is easier to use and easier to make consistent shots with. At the same time, the price of entry level heat exchanger (HX) machines, which are more forgiving of operator skill regarding consistent shot quality and can make milk drinks for dinner guests much faster, has dropped as the Rancilio machines have increased in price.

For example, one of the better importers will sell you a Bezzera BZ02, a well built and great performing HX, and a Quamar 63mm grinder (a real commercial grade grinder) for something like $1400 delivered. So, if you pay something on the order of a third more, you can get stuff that is as good or better built and quite a bit more capable. Hence the argument, why not skip screwing around in the lobby and go right up to the second floor? You couldn't say this a few years ago - the ticket price of the ride to HX land was a lot higher.

At the same time, the Rocky remains capable of world class shots as long you don't try to pack too much coffee into one shot, and the Silvia is a fine little personal machine albeit not well adapted to lattes for a crowd. The Crossland hasn't much of a track record - time will tell there.

A very good number of points.

When I was first investigating my "entry-level" setup, going a step above Silvia/Rocky meant spending about double - an outlay I wasn't willing to invest at the time since I first wanted to learn as much as possible about pulling a proper shot at home.

If I was buying today, I might go a different route, but I'd still take a long, hard look at Silvia. Since I don't pull a lot of milk drinks, and hardly ever pull shots for a crowd, Silvia still fits the bill perfectly for me. And almost 3 years in, still works like a champ.
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#21 earlgrey_44

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 09:43 AM

When I was first investigating my "entry-level" setup, going a step above Silvia/Rocky meant spending about double - an outlay I wasn't willing to invest at the time since I first wanted to learn as much as possible about pulling a proper shot at home.


Exactly right. This is the issue everybody with a "home barista" aspiration has to wrestle with.
If you mainly want better AND cheaper milk drinks than the ones you get at *bucks, it's not hard to do. Your Gaggia or your Breville, some supermarket beans, a decent though low-end burr mill and you can easily learn to enjoy yourself more and add up all the payback from your investment over the cost of all those damn lattes you used to buy every morning. Cool. I did that happily for many years.

If you go to one of the specialty bars proliferating around the country where espresso is carefully made (beware of pretenders), or the home of a skilled, well equipped aficionado, and experience a truly proper shot, you will suddenly find that you can't get there from there. Then what?

There is another, possibly a bit discouraging but I think wise argument that bears consideration here, that goes along with the "start on the second floor" point of view above. A lot of effort and money is wasted trying to learn to make high quality espresso on less-than-prosumer equipment. For people with more taste than money, this can be important. Instead of spending 400, 800, or even $1000 on espresso machine/grinder kit, this argument goes, spend your money exploring the most delicious coffees you can find, brew them up in a french press or manual drip rig, and froth your milk in a milk frother. Enjoy your wonderful coffee having embraced the fact that home espresso is an equipment intensive hobby, and you are saving your pennies for the day when you can afford the right stuff to explore this particular culinary space properly.

The crux here is the heuristic experience. Much of what you learn from lower end equipment is how to conform to the limitations of the equipment to maximize its effectiveness and laboring to avoid making something icky - not learning the nature of different coffees and the different results you can obtain. It may not look it from the bottom of the slope, but it's much easier to concentrate on making the drink and not attending to the hardware with higher end stuff. I jumped from very cheap equipment to full-fledged semi-pro stuff not exactly in one leap but pretty close to it, and I'm glad I did, so I think this is worth considering if you have the espresso bug, want to learn the skills involved, but are frugally minded like me.

I think this argument detracts not at all from the experience of those who ventured into Silvia and Rocky land and have learned to do good things there. One of the good things about Silvia and her friend is that their resale value is really great! (Just a hint contained therein :laugh:)

Edited by earlgrey_44, 30 November 2011 - 09:46 AM.


#22 Borgstrom

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 12:56 AM

Check out Home-Barista to catch up on all the latest coffee/espresso buzz. This article is a good place to start for different options at various price points.

Rocky/Silvia combination is pretty well regarded and has a long track record and many fans. If you've mastered that and want to move up, I think you are leaving the "entry level" category. What direction are you looking to move? Better shot quality/consistency? More steam power for milk drinks? Better ease-of-use (i.e. PID, double-boiler, plumbed-in)?

I recently moved from an E-61 machine (single boiler, non-pid, heat-exchanger, non-plumbed, vibe-pump) to a plumbed-in, dual-boiler, rotary pump machine with volumetric dosing. What I can say so far is (a) I will never get a non-plumbed machine again -- I love not having to worry about filling the tank, (b) I will never get a vibe-pump machine again -- the rotary pump is so quiet. The dual-boiler and volumetric dosing also add to the ease-of-use factor.