As we mentioned before the key to good espresso is as much about the grinder as about the machine. If you had the worlds best machine paired with a blade grinder you just could not pull good espresso. If you want to pull good shots the ideal grinder is a bit illusive. I was shocked when I realized I would need to spend more than one hundred dollars on a grinder to get good espresso, but what I did not realize at that time was that in fact for truly great espresso the price tag would be a lot more than that still.
The cheapest good way to go is to buy a used hand grinder. Unfortunately the best path to do that seems to have gone away. Orphan espresso was a company that would buy old hand grinders and restore them. They would then certify if the grinder was good enough for espresso or only for brewed coffee. Alas they do not seem to be doing this any more. This leaves taking your chances on Ebay for around $50 as the best way to do this,
but you never know if it will work well or not.
The new hand grinders being produced today are not supposed to be as good as the old ones were, with the exception of the significantly more expensive Pharos hand grinder from Orphan espresso.
It runs around two hundred and fifty five dollars, but is probably the cheapest really good grinder on the market. The most important part, the burrs are shared with the most expensive grinders on earth such as the Robur, which costs over two thousand dollars. It, of course, is a hand grinder, which means you are the motor for the grinder, which is quaint and nice and quiet, but also sometimes a drawback.
Finally I will add that one can often pick up a use Mazzer Super Jolly for around $300, which is an amazing bargain (but these are very big grinders) that will last forever, or a Baratza Vario new for around $450 that also produces an excellent grind for espresso.