After blogging about my espresso off of my new Elektra Karrde asked the excellent question about if there are not diminishing returns in espresso machines in terms of price and I replied that yes I thought there were and that to me the place that price kicks in is around $1500 or $1000 if you are lucky enough to get a bargain. In fact what I had in mind was the price of a “prosumer” heat exchanger machine, which is when I think you have gotten into truly high end machines – ie your espresso machines are in a class that if they were a car or a watch, or nearly any other expensive good, I would never in my life own them (perhaps you have made it to a BMW or an Acura…).
Then with this fresh in my mind I went to pull a shot of Counter Culture Afficianado on my La Pavoni lever, which is certainly not in that price class.
I was floored. It was so good. I remembered why it was always one of my favorite blends. The truth is that it is a blend that is better on my lever than on any other machines I have owned. I do not claim to know why, I just know that I cannot wait to pull another shot of it on the Pavoni.
I better amend my previous answer then. In general I find that the average good coffee is better on a $1500 machine than one that is less than half that price, but prices cannot be used to predict taste. Sometimes a much cheaper, but still good machine can win.
The price difference does tend to have an impact in the cup – a $1500 machine tend to pull better shots and tends to have more repeatable shots than a $500-$700 machine, but as is often the case in life there are no universals – it depends on the coffee, the barista, the grinder, and your personal taste.
Equally importantly the point is that if you have not tried a super expensive machine or grinder, but have used good equipment you should know that the coffee will not be unlike anything you have ever tasted before and so much better, perhaps it will often be better and be worth the added cost, and the average shot should be better, but it should not be unrivaled by the best shots off of a midpriced machine and grinder. (I think with sufficiently bad equipment it is impossible to make great equipment, but that bar is lower than a La Pavoni paired with a Vario.)