Coffee machine disaster. Advice please

Discussion in 'suburban75' started by pogofish, Apr 7, 2009.

  1. pogofish

    pogofish Testicle Hairstyle

    Right! Thanks to being a bit slap dash when cleaning the kitchen, my coffee maker took a tumble and although still working, the inner insulating wall is fucked (in bits) and the circut board is now exposed and only partially secured right beside the top of the reservoir, so there is no way on earth it is electrically safe. :(

    Its done me well since 2003, so I'm a bit out of date on the current machines - Any advice on what is good for a reasonable budget (up to a couple of hundred) these days.

    I'm looking for a decent espresso maker, not a branded pod plonker, filter, caffiterre or stovetop - My camping stovetop is already back in emergency service!

    Thanks in advance. :)
  2. mrs quoad

    mrs quoad Well-Known Member

    Could I recommend looking here:

    Erm, there's often OUTSTANDING second hand deals... And - tbh - a solid second-hand machine should last you superbly. Ten years? Twenty years? Particularly if it's a decent model that's well looked after. You wouldn't get that out of a £200 machine, nor would you get the quality of shot.

    There's someone on the espresso forum selling a one-year-old Pavoni plus an Iberital MC2 for £250, due to giving up.

    I would be buying it as a third machine (and have PMed him :oops:), but tbh can't justify the cost atm.

    The Iberital should be eBay-able / sell-on-able for a good £50-75, no trouble. But is a solid low-end espresso grinder with a great reputation, should you want to hold on to a grinder.

    Otherwise, I'd also heartily suggest posting on there, asking for advice... They're a pretty awesome crowd :)
  3. mrs quoad

    mrs quoad Well-Known Member


    The retail price of the La Pavoni is £375-500ish.

    Erm, it's a non-spring (manual) lever, which means it's got a bit of a steep learning curve.

    But people who're converted to 'em are often converted for life, because they are that much more intuitive. I've got - theoretically - the slightly posher brother of the Pavoni, an Elektra Micro Casa a Leva. It's a spring-loaded manual lever, which - at least - removes some of the dicking around. But... there's a part of me that would really LOVE to experiment with all that dicking around :)

    IMO there's the potential for a Pavoni to be AWESOME fun. And if it went balls up, tbh you could probably convince me to buy it off you at a later date, with only the bare minimum of persuasion.
  4. mrs quoad

    mrs quoad Well-Known Member

    Also, has consumer reviews for just about every espresso machine ever made.

    And some professional reviews.

    As does

    (though coffeegeek is a better / more fulsome review resource)
  5. pogofish

    pogofish Testicle Hairstyle

    Thanks - I'mm looking-through in horror! :eek: :D

    Just looking for something that will work reliably, produce decent coffee etc. Not getting into serious tech-issues - I have enouth of those in other areas.
  6. mrs quoad

    mrs quoad Well-Known Member

    Well, IME seems to have quite a few VERY interesting, very cheap listings. An Oscar Nuova Simonelli recently went for about £130 on there recently. It definitely looked like it needed a bit of work, but that's £500 off the retail price of a machine that's likely to last a good 10 years.

    Posting a thread on tmc would also be one way of getting some outstanding advice.

    Again - I'd really, really urge you towards a second hand, well-loved, far-better-than-£200 machine. Machines' consistency and ease of use spiral upwards with more cash. Though... a Pavoni might be a bit of an exception. No technical shizzle whatsoever, but - again - potentially a steep learning curve. It's a very different kind of espresso machine to the 'just hit a button' variety. Far more... manual... and engaged.

    Erm, if you were looking for a first-hand machine (despite all my sensible protestations to the contrary ;)) my thoughts'd turn towards various machines in various price brackets...

    £50ish Cafe Treviso. Bit wanky, but it'll produce a shot. No temperature consistency, but it's better than a lot of other £100 machines.

    £130ish-£200 a Gaggia of some hue. Gaggia Baby / Cubika / Classic. They're priced in that order, and - tbh - I don't know much about the first two. The Classic is ok. The 3.5oz boiler means it's a bit of a challenge getting temperature stability, and you'll need to work out a rigorous routine. The machine also comes with a factory setting of about 12 bar (for pods). The overpressure valve is adjustable, but there's no easy way of determining where 9 bar is. The pumps are also inconsistent - so they're not actually putting out a 9bar stream, they're putting out (e.g.) waves of 8-11 bar. Wurg. With attention and a rigorous routine, they can produce a solid shot. There're two (I think) being sold on TMC at the moment. I gave mine away for a theoretical £50 (i.e. I might get it at some point) because I wanted shot of it :oops:

    Next machine above that would usually be the Rancilio Silvia... A fairly serious investment (new), but it really does have an outstanding reputation. It needs a very, very rigorous routine, though. The group head temperature has a solid reputation for staying stable during a shot, but can fluctuate by 20 degrees during boiler cycles. That means that a consistent routine is the only way to pinpoint the right ballpark temperature. It's probably the most common geek-machine below prosumers. And there're loads of off-the-shelf PID upgrades. They're another £100-200, but allow digital control of the Silvia's boiler temperature. Along with a real-time temperature readout.

    Hactually, La Pavonis are only slightly more than that. And are very different, but - again IMO - very worth considering. If the idea of having a really engaged, fundamental part in the coffee making process (really feeling the shot pour, and being an integral part of how it pours...) appeals, a Pavoni may be a good lookout. Again, there's that second hand one on tmc. Has the potential to be very rewarding, IMO.

    Beyond that... you're into prosumer machines. £600 up. An Isomac Zaffiro, Oscar Nuova Simonelli, or any one of a half-dozen other low-end top-end machines. BIG improvements in temperature stability and boiler size, and at that kinda price range you can start thinking about E61 group heads (awesome temperature stabilisers) and - possibly on a good day - dual boiler heat exchanger machines. The leap up in cost will pay huge dividends... both in terms of the machine's lastability, and consistency. But - clearly - given your stated budget, it'd be a case of finding one of these in very good second hand condition (and probably unspotted) listed and indicated on summat like eBay, but flagged by a coffeegeek on tmc.
  7. pogofish

    pogofish Testicle Hairstyle

    Trying to digest this after only one cup of stovetop coffee so far this morning is going to be a challenge! Bzzzzz! :eek:

    Thanks. :D
  8. mrs quoad

    mrs quoad Well-Known Member


    *rubs thighs longingly*

    e2a: I'd also add that there're a couple of Italian sites that seem to be selling 'em cheap... Well, at £290ish!

    I bought my Elektra MCAL from Caffe Italia, for £1-200ish cheaper than the closest UK price.

    Outstanding sales, outstanding packaging, outstanding price. Took a week or so longer, but well, well worth it...
  9. pogofish

    pogofish Testicle Hairstyle

    This is not turning into a good day - I go over for my only cup of proper coffee today at lunchtime and the fucking place is closed due to a fire alarm! :mad: :mad: :mad:

    Roll on 5 o'clock! :D
  10. gentlegreen

    gentlegreen sproutarian

    Nothing that can't be mended with silicone.;)
  11. pogofish

    pogofish Testicle Hairstyle

    I was wondering about that but the reservoir is a very tight fit & I do occasionally like to remove it for cleaning. Would silicone not gum it up somewhat?

    Going for coffee now! :D
  12. pogofish

    pogofish Testicle Hairstyle

    Right - I'm on my second cup of decent coffee, so I'll soon be able to go and peruse your info/links properly.
  13. geminisnake

    geminisnake a complex mass of conflicting ideas

    (((E))) (((anyone else who has encountered pogo today)))
  14. pogofish

    pogofish Testicle Hairstyle

    Funnilly enough, very few people came anywhere near me - and the one person who did piss me off royally was nowhere to be found! :mad: :D
  15. mrs quoad

    mrs quoad Well-Known Member

    What's the machine?

    Post pics / ask for advice on tmc.


    They're a bit mental there.

    If it can be fixed, they will tell you how to fix it.
  16. bmd

    bmd you left me standing here

    Love the passion you have for something that interests you mq. :cool:
  17. pogofish

    pogofish Testicle Hairstyle

    Its a Hitachi - One of the best home machines I've seen. Don't think they make that model any more. :(

    Just had a handy pal have a look and although she reckoned it could possibly be fibreglassed, it probably is beyond repair, or would need a donor machine for the chassis.

    Been out looking at machines today and identified two potentials.
  18. mrs quoad

    mrs quoad Well-Known Member

    TY, BMD! And this is just the bit that leaks out in public :oops: :D

    Pogo - I haven't heard of any Hitachi espresso machines. But tbh that's probably more significant in dating my interest in espresso, rather than a reflection on the Hitachi... They certainly don't seem to be sold any more...
  19. moose

    moose like some cat from Japan

    You do know it's just flavoured water, don't you? :p
    geminisnake likes this.
  20. longdog

    longdog What is it you can't face?


    Better than any coffee maker. :D

    Is any coffee maker really £200 worth of better than a caffettiere? :hmm:
  21. tarannau

    tarannau Mongolian eyed

    Cafetieres and kettles make very shit espressos though.

    I've got a cheapo (£50) Cafe Treviso espresso maker. It's actually surprisingly good for the cash - it's a bit unforgiving of coffees and somewhat inconsistent, but it can turn out decent crema-topped espressos. Not Quoad standard perhaps, but your average joe on the street would struggle to tell the difference between its product and that of more expensive machines.

    I'm no longer working in an office where the boss has a coffee machine fixation. Thousands of pounds were spent on flashy bean to cup machines, only for the affected ponce to drink blinking milk-heavy lattes.
  22. pogofish

    pogofish Testicle Hairstyle

    Tea is nice occasionally - particularly whilst making the first coffee in the morning. :p :)

    The answer is a most emphatic yes - Caffettieres/filters etc are no match for even a very average coffee maker.

    Although it is right that there is a lot of overpriced junk in the espresso machine market just now.
    Mainly selling on looks as opposed to quality/functionallity.
    As well as the essential factors for making excellent coffee (eg valve, pump, head), you need something that is easy to use, dismante & clean, that seems to be the challenge just now - most are fiddly as fuck! :(
  23. pogofish

    pogofish Testicle Hairstyle

    IME, those bean to cup machines are invariably shite, no matter how expensive.

    Tolerable in somewhere where nobody knows how to make coffee but inexcusable anywh else.
  24. nick h.

    nick h. Eat

    Is there any agreement amongst the cognoscenti on what is the best bean-to-cup espresso maker? Forget the price, I won't be able to afford it, just curious. Have always wanted to have the best possible coffee at home but fast, without any effort. I demo'd a Jura once at the importer in Swiss Cottage, with beans I had just bought from the Monmouth St coffee place, to see if it was as good as the coffee I had just drunk at said Monmouth St. premises, and it was. I think it was a refurb'd one, priced c. £500 - too much for me.
  25. tarannau

    tarannau Mongolian eyed

    I don't know, the Jura machine we had at work was bloody good indeed. There again it was well over a grand, so you'd expect it to be.

    It also broke down after a few months. Between that and the ever failing Nespresso Gaggia machines it was rare to have them working at the same time.
  26. pogofish

    pogofish Testicle Hairstyle

    This is the only pic I can find online.


    Except that my model didn't have that stupid and muck-harbouring plastic frother. Just the proper and simple steel tube. :)
  27. mrs quoad

    mrs quoad Well-Known Member

    a) I started with a Cafe Treviso! It's my <£50 recommendation above, with good reason!

    b) And what's wrong with a latte...? A place (a mood?) for everything, and everything in its place ;)

    Apples and pears, ennit. Can't compare filter / cafetiere as like-for-likes with espresso. They produce fundamentally different kinds of drink. The concentrations of the solutions are vastly different (there are standards for the quantity of dissolved solids that *should* be present for a drink to be an espresso). One is infused, over 3-4mins. One is blasted through at 8-9 bar, over 25-30ish seconds.


    IMO it's more about the relationship someone wants with their coffee. The blessing and the curse of bean-to-cup machines is that on day one, you'll probably pull as good a shot as you'll be pulling on the same machine in five years' time. It's a very distanced, replicable, predictable process that isn't open to a huge amount of development and understanding.

    Whereas something like a fully manual lever machine... is a wonder of hands-on learning, exploration, growth and development. When you're trying to get the grind right, the dose right, the distribution right, the tamp right, the pressure right, the group head temperature right, and the timing of the shot right... there's a HUGE amount more to tinker with.

    And... there's a huge amount of room for exploration, and understanding what is (or isn't) going on with a given bean. You can often get numerous nuances of flavour out of a given bean, by grinding loose and tamping tight, or grinding tight and tamping loose... Or by using a single basket (with a distinct shape) as opposed to a triple basket... Or by pouring 3 or 4 degrees low to bring out fruity bright acidity, or a degree or two high to hit a more bitter profile. Or by dropping / raising the OPV half a bar, and seeing what that does to the cup.

    All of those are things that are picked up with time... God only knows, I've only been messing around with espresso for a couple of years, and I've only had my two decent machines for 9ish months. There's no way I've got all they've got to give out of them, and that's where most of the joy lies. They are awesome hands-on learning experiences - and that just can't happen with a bean-to-cup machine.

    I guess it's a choice between always settling for a decent / ok middle ground, or taking a leap, and risking both absolute catastrophe (and LOADS of awful shots) with an eventual monumental payoff.

    I think the cognoscenti tend to stay clear of bean-to-cup machines :D Though, coffeegeek, or would no doubt have some interesting threads. Particularly H-B, home of the world's most unimaginable coffee snobs :D
  28. pogofish

    pogofish Testicle Hairstyle

    Consistant yes but not getting the best out of any coffee that goes into them IME.

    Dunno about longevity - I don't know anywhere that has kept a bean to cup for much more than two years at a time. Ongoing maintenance seems a serious issue and once they start failing, the general consensus seems to be to replace them before they become very unreliable. Which in a commercial situation is a serious issue of course.
  29. mrs quoad

    mrs quoad Well-Known Member

    No, they won't get the 'best' out of any coffee that goes into them. Because they can't have the room for exploration and fine-tuning that an IRL human has. They'll always be a passable middle line. They're only capable of pulling one kind of profiled shot. But they're capable of repeating it many, many times. That could be a blessing for someone who just wants a coffee they can enjoy from day one. It'd be unimaginable for someone who's a total geek, who doesn't mind fucking up repeatedly, who is happy investing a considerable amount of time and effort in learning about coffee, and who wants to wring the absolute best out of any bean / blend they get.

    I've also heard similar things about longevity... But with something with so many intricate, interlinking electricals, that's kinda inevitable. tbf, my pump espresso machine has had one major failure (thermostat - well known glitch on Zaffiros) and two irritating minor failures (scale clogging the manometer following a descale - seems to be a design flaw). And one of my grinders has *cough* ground two screws. If you stick those bits together plus some kind of automatic tamping / puck-chucking-out device, it's kinda inevitable that quite a lot of things are going to bork.
  30. Santino

    Santino lovelier than lovely

    How many threads about coffee do we need?

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