The cheapest way into espresso – the machine continued

September 16, 2011

One comment asked if I was opposed to used machines in my last post and I realized that my reply to that was too long to fin in as a comment, so it turned into a second blog post.


When looking at equipment I am always interested in what the best product under a certain price is and how much moving up in price improves the quality of the equipment.  


In answer to am I opposed to used equipment the answer is absolutely not.  I think it is a great way to go and the way I’ve gotten most of my equipment.  


I did not recommend picking up a used Gaggia simply because I am not a fan of the machines in that price class new or used.  


Most of us who have eventually picked up semi-commercial equipment did not start there, we started with a sub $200 machine, upgraded to a sub $700 machine and then eventually past that to machines that are 1k or for some people far more.  


I do not know of anyone who has taken that path who has not thought the upgrade to the semi-commercial equipment was not light years better than the cheaper equipment.  On the other hand most people do seem to believe that moving up from a machine that costs 1.5k to a machine that costs 10k does not make a dramatic improvement.  More often that upgrade is for features and convenience then it is about the cup.  I do have friends who "upgraded" to 5k+ machines and later chose to downgrade again because they prefered cheaper amachines so more is not always better by any stretch.


Said another way if you gave a WBC competitor a 1k HX machine and a $300 used super Jolly he or she could produce world class espresso with no trouble, but if you downgrade his or her grinder to one that runs less than $300 new most people I’ve talked to believe that he or she probably will not be able to do so.  The same is true if you downgrade the machine to a Gaggia class machine.  



This is why it is so shocking that the  $150 Twist gets such rave reviews even when pitted against a 7k+ machine.


So for me personally I’d either go with a Twist or a used lever/sylvia class machine for $300-400 or try to get a used semi-commercial machine.  If you watch for bargains you can find one for $500-800 used and that upgrade is dramatic to me.  The new CC1 and the Silvano do seem like great bargains, too, but they are so new it is hard to know for certain.


Obviously I have to add that I have not used all the Gaggia machines or all of their price competitors either so part of this is about what I’ve tasted, but also about what I’ve read and so I could well be underestimating some of them.

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