Coffee Neophyte - Need Advice on Good Machine

Lucybear05December 11, 2013

Hello all. Well, the time has come. I am now officially a grown up. I have a large family home, a good job, three kids, and a great career. It is now time to move away from the good ol college days of having a cheap drip coffee maker and/or purchasing whatever slop was for sale at the street corner coffee place.

I am READY for a damn good machine. We enjoy coffee, lattes, etc in this house, but are by no means coffee geeks or knowledgeable about the subject of coffee. So I need advice. Budget is not too much of a concern, though I'd have a hard time convincing my hubby to spend more than 1 or 2 grand if need be.

To date, we pretty much just use a cheap drip coffeemaker to make a few cups each morning. Sometimes on my way to work I stop at the starbucks in my tower lobby and get a coffee as well (though the lineup is ridiculous, so that isn't often).

We do enjoy entertaining, and would like to be able to also offer espresso, lattes, americano's, etc. to guests.

So having said all that, what would you all suggest? To show you how ignorant I am, I don't even know if you can get a machine that does drip coffee and espresso's, etc. all in one machine.

Oh, and I want EASY. I am no coffee geek who would happily take an hour to make the perfect espresso, and then another hour cleaning the machine. Please. I have a three year old and newborn twins. My time is precious and my sanity is wearing thin.

Thank you all for your views!

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I know nothing re: machines that can make lattes, espresso, cappuccino's.....but can highly recommend Technivorm for making regular coffee (don't know if they have versions for making the other types of brews). It doesn't make a huge pot of coffee (10 cups; European size cups?), but brews super-fast, so turn-around time is practically immediate. Also, makes a good, hot cup of coffee, is made in the Netherlands (not in China), and has good customer support through Boyd's in Seattle (?)--I ordered a back-up glass carafe through them, and they replaced our filter basket/holder early on at no charge (small defect).

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 12:54PM
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...something not made in China - astounding! Thanks, I will google this,,,

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 2:43PM
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As cat_mom suggested, Technivorm seems to have a lot of fans as far as machines go. As an alternative to a drip machine though, you might want to consider a Nespresso machine for espresso and a French press for regular coffee.

We alternate between Nespresso on weekday mornings and a French press on weekends. The Nespresso feels like such a treat and just a bit exotic. Using the French press is great with our new insta-hot (which I measured at 190 degrees yesterday). I grind the beans fresh every morning. I feel the tiniest bit like a coffee geek these days!

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 2:50PM
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If you really want espresso or lattes or cappuccinos, you must opt for a machine that can make espresso coffee. The process is nothing like a drip coffeemaker. You need to have a special grinder that is capable of grinding beans as fine as necessary and uniformly so. The espresso maker will have a part that comes off and you fill it with just a certain number of grams of the ground coffee. Then you must learn how to tamp the grounds into the espresso part designed for it. Just the right pressure and just the right number of turns of the tamper. Attach the part back onto the heated espresso machine and place a suitable container under it. Turn on the high pressure pump to force the extremely hot water through those fine grounds. If you do it right you will turn off the machine after about 20 seconds and dump the espresso either into a small cup to drink or into a container of milk that you have frothed with live steam from the espresso maker. Been there, Done that.. I got it figured out after about a year (had to get a more expensive grinder). Mine still doesn't taste as good as a talented barista makes. I can't get the creama (tan form) in high enough proportion. Of course, you might get an automated system that helps for several thousand dollars. My bet is that you really aren't ready to get into that mess. My machine is very little used unless I am in a mood for experimenting, (not entertaining),

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 4:19PM
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A good grinder is as important as the coffee machine. We have used a Rancilio Silvia and Rocky No-Doser grinder very happily for years. As it is designed to make one or two espressos at a time it is more ideal for breakfast than parties. The Silvia is straight forward making clean-up easy.

For even more interesting results you might consider a roaster (Behmor 1600) as well. It is automatic and in roasters that helps.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 4:23PM
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LOVE our Jura Ena 5 - a couple years old with no problems - makes fantastic coffee that pleases even our European guests ...

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 5:09PM
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Thanks everyone. Nerdyshopper - I guess that is the purpose of my post: what is a good such machine? By good I mean good quality, ease of use, perhaps comes with a grinder? That's what I'm trying to get a handle on.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 9:23PM
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Whole Latte love (see link below) is a great resource in my opinion. I bought a semi-automatic Gaggia espresso machine (which I've had for over ten years) from them and their service and support have been great. Sounds to me that you are probably in the market for a super-automatic. Their website has a lot of useful information (articles, reviews, video demonstrations and tutorials, etc.) and my experience with their customer service has been very good. I am not affiliated with them; just a customer who has had good experience.

Here is a link that might be useful: Whole Latte Love

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 9:42PM
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Before you go to great lengths buying an espresso machine, work on improving your drip coffee. Concentrate on buying good beans (NOT Starbucks), a good grinder. Maybe a new (cheap) drip coffee machine (heating elements wear out over time), using good water if your home water has off flavors.

Learn to make an excellent cup of drip coffee before you invest hundreds in an espresso machine.

Then you can graduate to the PITA machines. ;-)

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 9:48PM
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Lucybear05: "I am READY for a damn good machine."

For those who are voting, my response may be voted least helpful by the panel, but here goes:

1. Espresso is espresso is sumptin' special. Everything about real espresso (not the machines that call themselves espresso machines) is esoteric and touches your hour-and-a-half to make one cup of coffee nerve. Yes, for espresso afficianados, the grinder is more important than the espresso machines -- and they are right. A great "God shot" [a term of art in the trade] is a thing of beauty and a true experience. But I get the impression that you are not ready to join a cult. And real espresso is a cult thing.

2. The Italians, who invented espresso and still more-or-less own the brand, tend to drink s more-or-less espresso-like beverage several times daily. It is made in what often is called a "moka pot,'" of which Bialetti is the exemplar, but Viv Vegano brand pots may be the better choice. But a moka pot, a stovetop appliance, is not at all automatic, and a moka pot makes only a few cups at a time.

3. For completely non-espresso coffee, if the comparison is taste, the best coffee, hands-down, is vacuum pot, or vacpot, coffee. No drip coffee (even Technivorm) comes close. Again, however, vacpots are pretty much manual in operation. The best vacuum pots in the world are the British Cona vacpots, and the coffee that they make can make angels sing. They are not cheap (see link below), and the hand-blown glass can break (expensive!) if you mishandle the components. A Japanese company, Hario, makes an almost-as-good vacpot, but currently you can get them in the United States only through a Vancouver, British Columbia, importer, Rayfish Enterprises, dba Check out the website when you have the chance; vacpots there are called "syphons. "

3a. For entertaining, a vacpot is a show-stopper. Your guests will be entranced; it will be the talk of the evening. Trust me: we have "wowed" dinner guests with our vacpot dozens of times, and the bonus is, after they say WOW! they are treated to the best coffee they ever have tasted in their lives. After the first two or three times making vacpot coffee (manually) so that you know what youu are doing, it really is no more work than making fully automatic drip coffee: viz.: we have been brewing a full vacpot of coffee every morning at breakfast time in our home for the last 13 or 14 years, and the routine is no more onerous or time-consuming than it was when we used an electric drip coffee maker.

4. For an electric drip coffee maker, two things are important: (a) the temperature of the water at the time it says "hello" to the ground coffee beans, and (b) how much of the water sees -- and how long it lingers on -- the unspent coffee before the water drips through to the collecting pot. Secondary (but still important): (c) you want the coffee to be collected in an insulated carafe rather than in an uninsulated carafe atop a hotplate that burns the just-brewed coffee. The Technivorms, endorsed by other responders, are the best drip coffee makers in criteria (a) and (c).

The reason why vacpots are better than drip coffee makers is that they are even better than Technivorms in the (a) criterion: typically, the water hits the ground coffee at 205°; and vacpots are much better than any drip coffee maker in the (b) criterion: basically all of the water gets up to the ground coffee at the same time. and then it sits there -- all of the water on all of the coffee -- until it is sucked (yes, sucked) down into the carafe two or three minutes later.

So. You will get a Technivorm. But now you know that you could have got a vacuum pot and have tasted better coffee -- with the bonus of a WOW! factor for your guests. [smile]

Here is a link that might be useful: Some vacuum pot options

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 10:30PM
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Coffee and espresso drinks are two completely different worlds.

Both start with good beans. Ideally roasted locally within the past week. My preference is Columbia French Roast.

A good grinder is critical. I'd recommend a Mazzer Mini or Solis Maestro, though there are many others at varying price points (and I haven't researched consumer ones in several years).

For coffee: As mentioned above, vacpots make great coffee and are entertaining to watch. They can be tricky though. French Press and Chemex are the other two options for extremely good coffee. Press coffee has more oils and is 'healthier' with a more robust taste. Chemex coffee is less robust but can be made stronger. I've used a press every morning for years and prefer it's taste to Chemex or Vac. Press also works very well when entertaining (we have about a dozen of them that we use for parties). I'd get a Bodum press and a Chemex and play with them for a bit before deciding. Maybe even get a vac pot for fun.

To get a drip that comes close to these you need a commercial unit like a Fetco. It's probably not worth it.

Espresso: Consumer espresso is really tough. I have a 'modified' Rancilio Silvia that I'm relatively happy with. It's as low end as I would recommend and would be a good place to start. Any others in the sub $1k to $1.5k range may not be worth it, though do some research. Too many machines don't get the water temp right at the head nor the pressure right nor do they produce proper steam for the milk which all results in frustration.

Whole Latte Love is a good start as are coffee geek sites.

Keep in mind that decent espresso requires not just good beans, a very good grinder, and a good machine, but a fair bit of practice. It's all fun and worth it though.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 11:11PM
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You have gotten some excellent advice here, but I keep coming back to "I've got a 3 yr old and newborn twins." Hello! How can you overlook that little nugget of info?
I think you might well be served with a Nespresso plus their milk frother, assuming you want to make milk based drinks. Its not the be-all-end-all, but its decent and fast! And yes, I do know coffee and espresso. I have multiple coffee and espresso machines and grinders. On the weekends I indulge my coffee/espresso habit. But for the weekdays, its Nespresso. Within a minute or two (not kidding), I have my latte ready to go and I am out the door.
When I was deep in the throes of espresso/coffe madness I scoffed at Keurig and Nespresso. Then I went back to work full time and ….. the rest, as they say, is history.
Just my .02.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 12:27AM
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I also endorse Wholelattelove. Another resource is the "" site. Forums with discussions of coffee brewing and roasting and esoteric coffee topics. The forums are dominated by old timers, but they welcome and tolerate newbees. My own day to day coffee maker is an Aerobee Aeropress (sp.?). It uses triple the amount of coffee per cup because the hot water is stirred by hand for only 10 seconds and then pressed through a filter. The whole thing is a giant syringe. They have them at for about 30 bucks.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 8:17AM
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"When I was deep in the throes of espresso/coffe madness I scoffed at Keurig and Nespresso." There's considerable difference in these two, you made a good choice. Nespresso uses higher pressure similar to an espresso machine, Keurig is low pressure. Nespresso is also fresher coffee than k-cups. Nespresso will actually produce a nice cup of coffee with crema on top.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 8:24AM
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Agree with getting a good grinder. I bought a Mazzer Mini years ago, expensive (not as much then), but built like a tank and it's stepless so you can really dial the grind in.
I've had a Fiorenzata Bricoletta (about $1500), which is a classic E63 design, uses standard parts. Worked great for years, but has been problematic lately. Local repair guy takes forever. Sent it back to Chris Coffee and it worked for a few weeks before the pressure stat went out.
After using them on a trip to Europe this summer, have been using Moka pots since. Simple, quick, cheap. Makes coffee about 1/2 way in strength between strong drip and espresso. We have two now. The large ones make enough for 2-3 large cups. Still need a good grinder.
The deal with a good grinder is the consistency of the grind. Especially with espresso, if the grind is uneven, it doesn't work well.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 10:57AM
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Just my 2 cents... If you are wanting to drop the $$$ some of the super automatics are great unless you are a complete coffee geek traditionalist. We had a built in Miele that was plumbed in. It was so nice to put my travel mug under the spout and within seconds have a latte or capp or whatever. Is it the BEST coffee in the world? Subjective.. For us and the people we roll with pretty awesome. We currently have a Kuerig (we moved) which is also great and much less$$$ but also doesn't do what an auto will by far, but good. We are currently looking at the countertop Miele Super auto
Easy to use, great coffee, latte, capp etc. and easy to maintain. We are really looking forward to it because we miss our old one... a lot!

    Bookmark   December 13, 2013 at 11:21AM
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