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Richard Kilgore

Least Expensive Machine for Decent Espresso?

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Anyway, we use Danessi Gold mostly , bought in a 1kilo bag in the beans. At one point the crema was not very good but, then where we buy the coffee-Di Palo in Little Italy, NY-received a new shipment of the coffee & the crema has been incredible.

Do yourself and Mr. B a big favor -- ignore the "freezing coffee is a watse of time" naysayers and start portioning up the news shipment of fresh beans the moment you open that 1 kilo bag. If you have a vac seal machien it's good but ziplocs are fine. Put a three day allottment in each bag and seal them tightly with all air expelled. Once this is done, throw them all together into one large ziploc. Freeze.

Every few days take out one small bag and allow it to thaw to room temp for a few hours before opening the bag. Never open a bag of frozen coffee and return it to the freezer or grind when frozen - both are no-no's.

I used the above freezing method for a year or two until I started home roasting and also got a good local microroaster who sold fresh every day in small amounts. It really, really works - I have done an actual A/B comparison that proved it. It was an accident - I had a vacuum sealed 1/2 bag of Torrefazione Italia Perugia that I left in the cupboard by accident and discovered six months later. I also had a bag from the same shipment that had been in the freezer the entire time. I thawed out the frozen one, opened both bags and made some shots. The beans that were stored at room temp were flat tasting with a near total absence of crema. The frozen and thawed beans had an abundant crema and a rich, fresh taste.

You'll get decent to very good results if your Braun grinder is used carefully but be assured that the results will be better and more consistent if you upgrade to a good quality burr grinder. $175 to $200 is about the minimum entry level but they sometimes show up on Ebay for less.

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I'm with rancho-gordo. The Moka is right in my price range for now. Moka and French Press with home roasted beans ought to keep me occupied for awhile. I am sure I read something here about converting a popcorn popper to roast beans. And I just happen to have an old air popper that is not busy doing any thing else right now. Do those things really work? Better than the entry level roasters that run $60-70?

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I'd rather have well made moka coffee than crappy espresso, As for hot air popcorn poppers... they'll do exactly what the entry level coffee roasters will do. Some of the coffee roaster may add a timer (useless because you neeed to stand there and monitor the roast anyway to get best results). The origianl West Bend Poppery is the desired model and the Poppery II is also good. Do a Google or do a search in the forums over at Coffeegeek. There are a few types that are NOT recommended because they don't provide the roatary air flow that is needed to prevent the beans from catching fire. Some entry level roaster provide a bit of chaff control - a screen or mesh colelctor that provides a place for the bean husks to accumulate. Popcorn popper roasting can be messy for this reason. Both entry evel hot air ropasters and popcorn poppers are limited to about 1/4 lb or less of beans per batch.

The biggest draw back of that style of hot air roaster, as I see it, it the short roast time. Start to finish, the roast takes 4 to 6 minutes. It does roast the coffee but such a fast roasting time gives a bright finish to the beans. I find coffee roasted this way to be a bit acidic and with too many bright flavor notes for my taste. It's okay on certain varietals but not so good for espresso blends, which comprise 90% of my consumption.

If you have the luxury of roasting outdoors.... chaff dispersal is not an issue and you should consider starting with the heat gun / dog bowl method that MGLloyd has mentioned elsewhere in this forum. The short version is that one buys a big stainless steel dog food bowl and an electric heat stripping gun (e.g. a Wagner ot its ilk). Throw a half pound or a bit less of beans in and then roast by pointing the heat gun at it. You'll need an oven mitt to hold the bowl and it helps to have a few colanders with which to toss the beans back and forth for final cooling and chaff dispersion. This method not only allows one to create a longer roast time (15 to 17 minutes - ideal for a mellower and smoother flavor profile) but gives a great measure of control as one can easily moniotr roast level by the color fo the beans (I have to listen carefully for a certain type of craccking sound with my Alpenroast).

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Thanks. I happened to do a search here and on coffee geek last night. Looks like the alternatives are $180 for the iRoast or a used popcorn popper for $15...or the dog bowl, heat gun, oven mitt, and colanders.

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Thanks. I happened to do a search here and on coffee geek last night. Looks like the alternatives are $180 for the iRoast or a used popcorn popper for $15...or the dog bowl, heat gun, oven mitt, and colanders.

Do you have a gas grill? I've been making gas grill roasting drums for a while, they are another cheap option.

edit: typo.


Edited by melkor (log)

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The HX feature of the machines previously mentioned will allow a half dozen lattes or cappas to be built in five or six minutes - you just can't do that with a cheaper machine.

I don't see what the big deal is. My little DeLonghi machine can make half a dozen lattes in less than two hours. If I start before dinner, and I skip dinner, I can have them all ready by dessert and the last one will still be hot.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Richard, I don't know if you've seen it, but Craig Camp did a very nice writeup of Moka pots and the moka process here. A very good read. Scroll down a little ways to the July 23. 2003 post by Craig, a reprint of an article he wrote about moka pots and coffee.

Chad


Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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Dave -- nope, charcoal smoker, no gas grill. I am going to try out the popcorn popper method. I found another one tonight. (I checked my closet-where-all-lost-things-reside and found that my popcorn poper is a Poppery II, which tend to burn out according to the folks over on coffeegeek, so I think this one is going to remain a dedicated popcorn popper as much as I like the idea of using something for an unintended use). I will report back as soon as the smoke clears and the fire trucks leave.

Moka. Actually I have a small one of these, but can not find it even in the closet. Maybe the garage. I have had it for many years and tried using it a year or so ago again, but had trouble finding a replacement gasket and set it aside. Really aside apparently. When I used it previously I am sure I did not use good coffee, and it was okay, but I preferred the Melita filter system and used that regularly for many, many years until six to eight months ago when I began using a French Press daily, instead of just on weekends. I'll try a Moka again. Amazon has a stainless model 3 cup for about $35 and same model 6 cup for $40. My old one was the traditional aluminum style, also on Amazon.

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I had the FF for 6 years. Excellent service. In use more than twice a day for the duration. Six months ago Iwent out of town, a friend house sat, I came home and there had developed a pressure problem. There was too little of it. I'm awaiting repair. (BTW: Don't go to that espresso machine place on Houston and Bowery. Not to buy a machine or to have one fixed. I tried. Bad human relations.) In the meantime, I'd been given a fully manual Pavoni that was still in the box. I've been using that for some months now. It's more labor. Is fabricated rather poorly IMHO, the base is finished to look like stainless steel but is plastic. The amount of pressure required to pull a shot can be athletic. But. This machine makes a bloody good espresso. It took a couple of weeks to make it sing. . . I've more or less got the hang of it. The coffee is milder and fuller in taste. There is more crema than the FF.

In re coffee choices:

I use the Illy. I've been verbally assaulted for the choice on multiple occasions. I know there is better coffee out there. Somehow, despite that I'll go to the end of the earth for a great sandwiche cubano or lobster bisque, I can't be bothered to do what it takes to make the perfect coffee every morning, i.e. roast at home, buy the burr grinder and grind every day (it's morning. early, who can listen to that before an espresso or two?), bring home Blue mountain coffee from Jamaica. The Illy meets the minimum standard for me. Also, I'd say the barista can have quite an impact on the product.


You shouldn't eat grouse and woodcock, venison, a quail and dove pate, abalone and oysters, caviar, calf sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, and ducks all during the same week with several cases of wine. That's a health tip.

Jim Harrison from "Off to the Side"

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I'd be curious to hear how many people actually really like Illy.  I suspect many people think they're supposed to like Illy because he's supposed to be the big espresso guru, but I run into a surprizing number of people who don't like it.

Coming in on this discussion a little late.... I'm just happy to hear I'm not the only coffee fiend out there that hates Illy. And I really do hate it--if i see that a place serves Illy, I'll either go somewhere else or skip the espresso altogether.

As for the price factor....$395 worth of coffee in a year???? Maybe it's somehow a deal for a family of four coffee-drinkers..... Being perpetually single, I make myself a double shot every morning, and that's usually it for the rest of the day--in coffee-purchasing terms, this means that I spend just about $10 a month on coffee beans, or somewhere in the neighborhood of $120 a year. So unless a) you drink a LOT of espresso every day, b) you have a LOT of espresso drinkers in your house, or c) Illy pods really do stockpile well and you just love Illy coffee, that sort of an agreement sounds like a hardship.

I've got the Rancilio Silvia/Rocky combo thanks, in large to part, to slkinsey and I have to say I love it.

Since Richard Kilgore is already planning to buy a Rocky grinder, I'd say he should just get the Rancilio Silvia. At $450, he'll still be saving $120 in initial financial commitment, which is enough for a years supply of coffee that actually tastes good.


My restaurant blog: Mahlzeit!

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Well, I took Melkor up on his offer to do some comparisons and it was an afternoon of good coffee, company and a delightful luncheon that included the ever-charming Mrs Melkor.

Tests were very unscientific. We used my 2-3 year old Moka, aluminum, used daily, sometimes twice. I am lazy and never empty the grounds until the next time I'm going to use it, most often the next morning. Melkor has a super deluxe espresso maker of high quality that I'm sure you experts know.

For coffe we used Melkors home-roasted full caffeine, ground on the spot. Mine was from a busy store, French roast, ground almost 2 weeks ago in the store, stored counter top in a ceramic canister.

All cups had one sugar and one dollop of milk.

Melkor, please correct me if I'm wrong, but this is what we did:

1. Melkor coffee in Moka and Espresso machine. Obviously the espresso machine was better but I think melkor and the mrs were surprised by how nice the moka was.

2. my store coffee in moka and espresso machine. Our conclusion is that the espresso machine is very forgiving and brought the flavor up quite a few notches. The moka brew was much thinner than with melkor's home roast. But drinking the moka, followed by the espresso machine was like going from mono to stereo.

3. melkor home roast in moka and rancho store bought in espresso. Both were really good!!! :smile:

The conclusion for me was I'm going to beg the Melkors to roast my coffee for me. I don't think they'll mind! I think the Melkors are going to turn in their french press and get a Moka for camping.

At this point, I don't see an expensive espresso machine in my future but I am considering a grinder of merit. It sort of made me love my trusty little moka a lot more. As for roasting, I think there's an old song called Ain't Too Proud to Beg.


Edited by rancho_gordo (log)

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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The home roasted coffee in the Moka was better than the store bought beans in the espresso machine, so assuming that your not steaming milk roasting your own beans will make a bigger improvement in your daily drink than buying an espresso machine.

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Thanks for the scientific study, guys. I assume this was a double blind study. :wink: Your dedicated efforts reinforce my path of grinder, popcorn roaster, then serious roaster...then maybe espresso machina.

I believe Sam said he prefers the stainless steel Moka pots, and I hope he reappears to clarify why. The Bailetti site made a point of the aluminum being a good material because it is porous enough to retain coffee residue which enhances flavor the more it is used. Any opinions all around?

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Making coffee is in many ways just like any other form of cookery. My coffee-making improved dramatically (which isn't to say it's all that great; just a lot better than before) once I got into that mindset.

The fundamental realization about coffee that most people haven't had is, I think, that coffee beans are an ingredient -- the only ingredient -- in a dish called coffee. In cookery of, say, steak -- another basic single-ingredient dish -- you fundamentally need a great piece of meat, and it has to have been well handled, aged, butchered, etc., if you're going to make a great steak. If you give Jean-Georges Vongerichten a shitty steak and have him cook it in his ten-gazillion dollar kitchen at Rare, and you give any reasonably competent amateur cook a Lobel's New York strip and a crummy New York City apartment kitchen, guess who's going to produce a better steak? The amateur, because if everything else is in its place it's just not all that hard to make a good steak, whereas if you start with a bad steak it doesn't matter if you're Escoffier himself you just can't turn it into a good steak.

It's the same with coffee. If you don't start with good beans, and they're not properly roasted and gotten from the roaster to the grinder to the coffee-maker in a timely manner, there are going to be significant limitations on the quality of your coffee even if you're the ten-time barrista champion of Italy and you have a $15,000 espresso machine at your disposal. Whereas, if you have great beans, well roasted and fresh and uniformly ground, you can make some pretty damn good coffee in a press pot with little skill.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Points well taken about the mantra of ... good fresh beans... good fresh beans... good fresh beans...

It can't be overemphasized enough but even when I already knew of the importance and was buyinr "reasonably fresh" beans, it still came as an epiphany to me when I roasted my own and first tasted the results.

With that point established, it's also worth mentioning that developing skills is a worthy pursuit. Mark Prince, aka Head Coffeegeek (founder of coffeegeek.com), wrote awhile back of a session he had at his house with Sammy Piccolo, a former North American Barista Champion (if I recall correctly) and legendary barman of Caffe D'Artigiano in Vancouver). There was a shot pulling and milk steaming session on mid level consumer machines (I believe it was in fact a Silvia or somethign in that price range). Sammy was able to get his technique quickly tuned enough on that machine that he produced noticeably better results than the serious amateurs who were using the same gear. My point, I suppose... is that despite the limitations of a given machine, there is nearly always room for improved results with patience and willingness to experiment.

On the really cool news front: my favorite local microroaster recently lost their primary roaster (he left to start a business of his own). They've been less than pleased with the guy who replaced him and after a bit of gentle nudging, have agreed to let me become their new roaster (way cool!). It's a part time gig but may also included a trip to Seattle to ESI to get a crash course in repair and maintenance for La Marzocco espresso machines, It's all part time supplemental weekend stuff but in light of my current employer's cash flow crisis (and pay cuts) and my passsion for all things coffee.... this might be the ideal thing to propel me into a new career.

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That's fantastic news Owen--please please keep us in the loop. I've enjoyed reading you on this thread and on many other threads here. Years ago, before we formed the eG coffee forum there were a few of us around here touting the merits of the Sylvia/Rocky combo--and even before eG was founded it was elsewhere on the internet that many of us first found out about espresso machines and the possibility of actually making good espresso at home. And to think our first threads here tried to explain the difference between "coffee" and "espresso."

How far we've come in a very short time amazes me. I'm glad more users are driving the discussions forward about fresh beans and home roasting, exploring differences between stovetop mokas and real espresso machines, etc. We're each on a quest--our own very personal quest being conducted at our own rate. This thread has morphed, expanded into some other areas--but if I could go back to answer to the original question--"what is the least expensive machine for decent espresso"--I think it remains the Silvia/Rocky combo.

(I don't have enough experience with cheaper initial setups to say whether there are less expensive espresso machines which do give you the control, consistency and overall build quality of the Silvia--just that the Silvia does.)

So on this one issue, Owen, I am still not convinced an entry level convert should jump right to the $1,000+ range. That's too big a hit from the cheapo faux-espresso machine/cheapo grinder/moka-press pot level of awareness. It just might be learning to run before learning to walk--and I worry that this price hurdle might keep too many people from even considering the option.

I agree with all your points about the "flaws" of the Silvia but perhaps not your conclusion--I see the limitations, the "tweaking," as advantages long term--it forces you to understand the process behind the final product and it clarifies the process behind creating the foam, the suspension, the crema. You NEED a grinder as good as the Silvia or you might as well not buy the Silvia. What I like about the Silvia is it forces you to get a handle on ALL of the variables within your control--and how they affect each other--so as you go forward on your quest you better understand how all those variables affect what you do. You choose to go from 14g to 16-17g on your own because you taste the difference that makes. You learn that the second ingredient in coffee is water--and that no matter how good the "ingredients"--making espresso requires the "application of technique" that cannot be achieved without a machine. As Shaw has said, there's no Slow Food/artisinal way to make "espresso" without an expensive machine. Sans expensive hardware what you're making with impeccable beans is very very good coffee but not espresso. There's no espresso equivalent of Alice Water's "good shopping"--you need the hardware and you need to know how to use it, clean it and determine when it needs to be fixed or adjusted. Some people are up for that challenge, that responsibility, some aren't--and it is up to each person to decide that for themselves. And you learn that if you want to keep your machine on all day or pull shots for a house full of people you need a better machine.

I also do not recommend the FF/long-term Illy commitment package--even if you like Illy. I think the Silvia is a better machine anyway--more proven over time, more extensively analyzed and dissected on the web with a more substantial user base. This deal locks you in to too much of the same coffee--it hinders experimentation with other brands, blends, grinds and home-roasting. The one sure thing--after making a Silvia/Rocky level commitment--is that your journey is just beginning--you don't know what you think you know--and the last thing a newbie/convert would benefit from are inherent hinderances that are within your power to avoid at a given price point.

Resale values of Silvia/Rocky combos seem to be holding up as well as resale values of iBooks and Powerbooks. That speaks well of this option.


Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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I believe Sam said he prefers the stainless steel Moka pots, and I hope he reappears to clarify why. The Bailetti site made a point of the aluminum being a good material because it is porous enough to retain coffee residue which enhances flavor the more it is used. Any opinions all around?

Are you referring to this thread? I think it was the OP who expressed a preference for stainless. I just mentioned that there is no reason to fear aluminum from a health standpoint. The moka pots I have used, I think, have all been aluminum. My last one, the Brikka, I think was aluminum, but it's been a while and I gave it away when I got the Rancilio.


--

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In re to the Illy deal, do we have any idea as to how much coffee or how many pods you get for the 400 bucks? I'm wondering, because I just ordered 20 lbs of Liquid Amber from Sweet Maria's for around 80 bucks. That's approximately 450 La Marzocco triple baskets full, or 900 shots of ristretto... a little less than 2.5 shots per day for an entire year (530 double baskets for 1,060 regular shots). Let's call it 9 months worth of coffee at 100 ristretto shots or 118 regular shots a month, so it would be around 100 bucks for a year's worth of green coffee at these rates. Toss in a Hearthware iRoast at 190 bucks, and for around 300 dollars you have a year's supply of coffee that will blow the 400 dollars worth of Illy pods out of the water.


--

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Damn... some of are just so gifted with math... :blink: I am not among them.

I think the points have been well made - if you love Illy pods it's an okay deal but for anyone who just wants the best espresso at a realistic price - buying a Silvia at $450 over a FF for $299 is a no brainer - the Silvia is the way to go. I really don't see the Silvia issues I pointed out as flaws - they're simply limitations that are characteristic of all machines in that price class. Yes... I know $1,000 is a lot of money to spend on an initial setup but I oculd have saved myself a bunch of money if I'd waited and not given in to impulse. I used a little DeLonghi machien much like the one FG has for about a year before I upgraded to a Gaggia Baby and Solis Maestro. My upgrade setup ran me about $475 and within six months I had quickly discovered the limitations and wanted to upgrade again. Keep in mind that I am not an equipment fanatic, a tweaker or a guy who always wants the newest, biggest shiniest machine - I just wanted the best possible espresso drinks with the least possible amount of screwing around.

The wealth of information that is available in places like this and especially in the Coffeegeek forums was not available when I made that buying decision (okay - I admit - it was available on alt.coffee but I lack the patience to sift through newsgroups to find what I need).

Assuming one already has a Rocky quality level grinder.... the difference between Silvia and the cheapest E61 style machine is about $230. That is a minisucle amount relative to what many of us were (or still are) spending to buy cappas, lattes and espressos out in cafes (and settlign for medicore quality more often than not.

I think it really boils down to how often you drink espresso based drinks, whether they are mostly milk based and whether you entertain and expect to build drinks for small groups on occasion (or regularly).

Sooo.... anyone here know how to run a Sivetz roaster? :huh:

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Sam, I was not really interested in the pods. With the illy deal you can choose whole beans or pods, every month or every other month. The cheapest pod option, though is four 4.4 ounce packages (18 serving each) for $46 every other month = $276/year for 6.6 lbs ($41.8/lb.). The cheapest whole bean option is six 8.8 ounce cans for $66 every other month = $396/year for 19.8 lb ($20/lb). Quite a deal. :shock:

I'll still wait. Moka and French Press for me for now with good beans, grinder, and a roaster of some sort.

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Costco's pushing something called Syncrony by Gaggia for $599.99. Is this a good deal or ???


I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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I’ve had a Gaggia Syncrony for about 8 months now. What a strange coincidence, I'm listing mine on eBay this week! I’m happy with the machine, but I would like to try a whole range of different espresso and coffee machines. I want to try a Moka pot, maybe a double boiler or HX semi-automatic, or maybe a vac pot next.

The Syncrony compact is easy to use and makes fine espresso. Its main weakness is its inability to steam large amounts of milk quickly for lattes and cappuccinos. The only other complaint I’ve ever received is that the coffee isn’t hot enough but it’s usually coming from people who think espresso is supposed to be boiling hot.

.


South Florida

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It's a good deal for a mid-level superauto espresso machine. The lowest on-line espresso machine dealers prices I've seen or the Synchrony are in the $845 range with free shipping (and usually no sales tax).

Gaggia makes good machines but there are inherent limitations in super-auto machines that are hard to overcome until you get up into the $2,000 range.

Super-autos trade off shot quality for convenience. We use a cheaper model of Saeco in my office (was about $500 new and we bought a refurb for $325). It makes fabulous "regular" coffee or Cafe Crema if one dials in the machine to deliver about 5 - 10 ounces in the cup. It also makes a decent Americano - dial it all the way down to deliver an "espresso" shot and then add hot water.

Our little machine does a crappy job of frothing so I never use it for milk drinks. The Synchrony probably froths as well as the semi-auto Gaggia that I used to own - with practice you can produce good foam and very passable milk based drinks. With adequate practice you could quite likely produce espresso comparable to that of the Synchrony by using a $100 De Longhi thermoblock pump style machine (like the one Fat Guy uses). Then again.... you'd need a separate grinder and there are the clean up issues. At work we just empty the used pucks of grounds from the waste bin once a day and I clean the innards of the machine out in the sink once a week. Our little machine has been cranking out 5 - 30 cups a day for nearly a year and never missed a beat.

Most superauto's are great little gadgets for the money but even the Synchrony will not produce real, syrupy espresso with real crema and that perfect blend of mouthfeel and intensity. For the same price you can buy a Silvia espresso machine and a used or refurb Rocky grinder or its equivalent. You'll have the potential to make far better espresso but it's more work and more mess. You choose....

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To follow up, it looks like Costco also has the Saeco Espresso Machine

Magic De Luxe with 15 bar pump for $674.99.


I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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