Food & Drink

Down into the espresso machine rabbit hole

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[OP]
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Oct 31, 2010
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Down into the espresso machine rabbit hole

Hi guys,

My mother-in-law gave me a De'Longhi Nespresso Inissia machine she received for free. I know that this machine received great reviews, and while I did enjoy most of the pods I tried, I am not entirely satisfied. The shots I tried do not taste as good as the ones I get from my local coffee shop. The taste is just not as rich and full, and the shots are not hot enough.

Even if the shots were good, I wouldn't like to purchase pods, both because I want to keep buying my coffee beans from my local shop, and because of environmental concerns. From what I see, reusable pods just don't produce great results.

So I find myself looking for an espresso machine, but also for a grinder. I am leaning towards the Breville Barista Express, because I like the idea of having an all-in-one unit. However, it is currently quite expensive.

Do you have any other recommendations? If I were to have both a machine and a grinder, I would like to have small appliances -- the Breville Bambino [Plus] and...?

My main concerns would be:

1- Convenience/ease of use/easy maintenance
2- Can make shots rapidly, without too many steps
3- Quality
4- Price

Before I received the De'Longhi, I was using a stovetop maker.

Thanks!!
35 replies
Sr. Member
Mar 15, 2007
559 posts
132 upvotes
Toronto
A semi-automatic machine is a lot more work than a pod machine, and that amount of manual labor for coffee isn't for everyone. There is also a learning curve to making good coffee with this kind of machine. Starting small to see if it's something you can stick with is the right way to go.

To that end, I found the BBE a great machine to get your feet wet with espresso. It's relatively small and as you mentioned contains everything you need in one appliance. After a few of years of using it I bought a proper stand-alone grinder, and then a couple of years after that bought a "prosumer" espresso machine. In fact, the BBE is still going and I brought it to my office to improve the coffee situation there. The BBE would be my recommendation for a starter machine.

And you hit the nail on the head by calling it a rabbit hole. If you haven't already, once you start looking around you will find lots of different roasters and varieties of coffee to try. In our house we are almost always trying something new, which for me is all part of the fun.
Deal Addict
Feb 22, 2016
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Hooooo boy, here we go again.

Remember: GOOD, FAST, CHEAP. Pick 2 of the three. Then we can come up with the solution.

Also note that the biggest advantage of Nespresso is, you don't have to grind the beans then dose and tamp the portafilter. All that's been done for you already as the capsule is the "portafilter".
Unless you get a superautomatic, you will have to do this.

In another thread I recommended the Philips 2200. if you're familiar with Jura, Philips/Saeco do the same thing for less money. Still not CHEAP (less than half the price of Jura though), but you're getting GOOD and FAST.
https://www.amazon.ca/Philips-Automatic ... B07X2QLBB1

That machine avoids you having to buy a grinder as that's built in. Press a button and the thing makes your drink for you, including frothing and steaming milk.

Once you've figured out and implemented your solution, give your Nespresso to somebody who'd appreciate it, or install it in the break room at your work (that's what I'll do with my spare machine I got through that pricing error hack posted here). Whatever you do please do not donate it to Value Village or any charity associated with them. That's about as scummy a retailer you can get, they don't deserve free merchandise to "flip" at 100% profit under the guise of "charity".
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Oct 26, 2002
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I bought and returned 3 before settling on the Breville Bambino Plus. The biggest thing for me was size as I dont have a lot of counter space. I loved the Breville Duo Temp but it wasnt practical due to the size, but it made the best cup! I do love the Bambino because of its size and the automatic frothing wand, and now that I've tweeked it to my liking its giving me a really great cappuccino.

As I posted yesterday on another post, you have to keep up with cleaning. And I did upgrade to non pressurized baskets and the better porta filter. If I had the room I would for sure go with the Barista Express, keep checking because they do go on sale. Once you use a Breville its hard to go to something else.
That's my 2cents worth
Deal Fanatic
Oct 7, 2007
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The quality/taste of the coffee drink is most important to me. I found that the pod coffee makers are completely about convenience and are for people who really don't put quality up there. They deliver surprisingly better tasting results than I would expect from something so convenient BUT if you are used to drinks made with a real espresso machine, the pod machine will disappoint.

My recommendation is to see if you can find yourself a vintage authentic espresso machine. These are often for sale on kijiji or craigslist. Also, find yourself a vintage high quality burr coffee grinder. Going second-hand will allow you to save money while getting high quality machines that will deliver the quality while being robust and reliable for a really, long time.

I have done both and have never looked back. My coffees are so good that it is the one thing I miss when I go on vacation because it is so hard to find a place that makes equivalently good coffee.

For what it's worth, I picked up a vintage Starbucks barista espresso machine a while back for under $50 and it made really good espresso drinks. It wasn't as good as the setup I have now (because the machine is obviously not the same quality), but it was really, really good. It could be the solution you are looking for based on your requirements. Perhaps you can locate one at a thrift shop or a used website.
Deal Addict
Jan 9, 2011
1849 posts
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Toronto
I’m also considering jumping down this rabbit hole with a BBE.. to be frank I don’t really know where to start as I’ve usually had instant coffee save for what I bought outside.

Are there any good resources out there that I can use as a guide for beginners? Thinking how to make a good cup, some good types of coffee to try, what accessories I should get for the BBE etc.
Deal Addict
Feb 22, 2016
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choclover wrote: For what it's worth, I picked up a vintage Starbucks barista espresso machine a while back for under $50 and it made really good espresso drinks. It wasn't as good as the setup I have now (because the machine is obviously not the same quality), but it was really, really good. It could be the solution you are looking for based on your requirements. Perhaps you can locate one at a thrift shop or a used website.
You mean the Verismo system.... I had one too, got it at 90% off (so $10!) when Home Outfitters near me went out of business. Verismo is just the European "K-fee" system rebranded by Starbucks in North America. A few weeks after I bought it, Almost Perfect also near me had some boxes (Yirgacheffe espresso blend if I recall) to liquidate, they were dumping them at $2 each (10 pods per box). So I bought all they had left, I think 20 boxes. So I had 200 espresso shots to use. After I used all that up, the machine was never used again. My new DeLonghi Nespresso Inissia machine occupies its former space.

It's too bad that system never took off, Keurig and Tassimo were just way too dominant (back then Nespresso was still a "premium" product as you could only buy capsules from them; there were no third party ones yet). Verismo made decent espresso as, like Nespresso, it put out 19 bar of pressure (vs Keurig which puts out... zero). The problem is, you'll now have a hard time finding pods for it. Some Starbucks stores still sells them, but they're way too expensive. You won't find them at any other store here. Amazon you might get lucky, but it would be a third party seller. About the only place you can get them for a good price is on eBay, but only if you have a US shipping address and are making a bulk order. You might find European K-fee pods make their way over here. Apparently Caffitaly pods fit them, they're about the same size and shape, but they're "reversed" on the inside so YMMV if you try it -- that's what the CBTL chain in the USA sold as their answer to Verismo.

With all this in mind Verismo is dead in this country. And I'd say Tassimo is almost dead too -- through various mergers and acquisitions it now has the same parent company as Keurig and it's clear which one is being pushed and which one is being left to die. We're down to 2 competing systems for home use - Nespresso vs Keurig . One slightly pricier but good, the other cheap and horrible.
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Oct 26, 2002
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2K6TSX wrote: I’m also considering jumping down this rabbit hole with a BBE.. to be frank I don’t really know where to start as I’ve usually had instant coffee save for what I bought outside.

Are there any good resources out there that I can use as a guide for beginners? Thinking how to make a good cup, some good types of coffee to try, what accessories I should get for the BBE etc.
It should already come with everything you need. It will be a learning curve to get the right grind and tamp for your cup, but once you do its easy going. I've tried a few different beans and there are 3 I like best, and I do like my coffee strong.

1- Starbucks Vernona, currently my favourite
2- Kicking Horse 454 HP
3 - A local coffee place, espresso blend.

I find most of the espresso beans are not strong enough for my liking. And now I stick to what I am using because not all beans use the same grind setting.
That's my 2cents worth
Sr. Member
Jul 7, 2005
989 posts
151 upvotes
A grinder is the most important factor for the taste and quality of your shot. It is a hard notion to fully accept and understand, at least for me, until I switched from a Breville Smart Pro Grinder, which I used for 5 years, to a Niche Zero (quite a jump). But to experience that difference, is quite a thing.

My advice would be to not get sticker shock from the price of a good grinder and don't shy way from your grinder being more expensive than the BBE, if you get that.
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linsook wrote: My advice would be to not get sticker shock from the price of a good grinder and don't shy way from your grinder being more expensive than the BBE, if you get that.
This machine comes with a built in grinder. It would be senseless to get it if you planned to buy a separate one.
That's my 2cents worth
Sr. Member
Jul 7, 2005
989 posts
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Keelie wrote: This machine comes with a built in grinder. It would be senseless to get it if you planned to buy a separate one.
Ya you're right. Silly me. I kept thinking Bambino when typing BBE.
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Oct 7, 2007
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EastGTARedFlagger wrote: You mean the Verismo system.... I had one too, got it at 90% off (so $10!) when Home Outfitters near me went out of business. Verismo is just the European "K-fee" system rebranded by Starbucks in North America. A few weeks after I bought it, Almost Perfect also near me had some boxes (Yirgacheffe espresso blend if I recall) to liquidate, they were dumping them at $2 each (10 pods per box). So I bought all they had left, I think 20 boxes. So I had 200 espresso shots to use. After I used all that up, the machine was never used again. My new DeLonghi Nespresso Inissia machine occupies its former space.

It's too bad that system never took off, Keurig and Tassimo were just way too dominant (back then Nespresso was still a "premium" product as you could only buy capsules from them; there were no third party ones yet). Verismo made decent espresso as, like Nespresso, it put out 19 bar of pressure (vs Keurig which puts out... zero). The problem is, you'll now have a hard time finding pods for it. Some Starbucks stores still sells them, but they're way too expensive. You won't find them at any other store here. Amazon you might get lucky, but it would be a third party seller. About the only place you can get them for a good price is on eBay, but only if you have a US shipping address and are making a bulk order. You might find European K-fee pods make their way over here. Apparently Caffitaly pods fit them, they're about the same size and shape, but they're "reversed" on the inside so YMMV if you try it -- that's what the CBTL chain in the USA sold as their answer to Verismo.

With all this in mind Verismo is dead in this country. And I'd say Tassimo is almost dead too -- through various mergers and acquisitions it now has the same parent company as Keurig and it's clear which one is being pushed and which one is being left to die. We're down to 2 competing systems for home use - Nespresso vs Keurig . One slightly pricier but good, the other cheap and horrible.
Actually, I have the Verismo collecting dust in the closet and was wondering if it was "dead" in terms of whether they still sell pods for it in the store. I might just have to throw it in the trash.

The Starbucks machine I was talking about is older than that and is a REAL espresso machine just scaled down for home use. Here is a photo:
https://www.amazon.com/Starbucks-SIN006 ... B000VSKQ4G
Deal Fanatic
Oct 7, 2007
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linsook wrote: A grinder is the most important factor for the taste and quality of your shot. It is a hard notion to fully accept and understand, at least for me, until I switched from a Breville Smart Pro Grinder, which I used for 5 years, to a Niche Zero (quite a jump). But to experience that difference, is quite a thing.

My advice would be to not get sticker shock from the price of a good grinder and don't shy way from your grinder being more expensive than the BBE, if you get that.
Absolutely true! When we switched from a regular grinder to a (used) Rancilio grinder, the coffee extraction was just night and day with the higher quality grinder. Unbelievable difference.
Deal Addict
Feb 22, 2016
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choclover wrote: Actually, I have the Verismo collecting dust in the closet and was wondering if it was "dead" in terms of whether they still sell pods for it in the store. I might just have to throw it in the trash.

The Starbucks machine I was talking about is older than that and is a REAL espresso machine just scaled down for home use. Here is a photo:
https://www.amazon.com/Starbucks-SIN006 ... B000VSKQ4G
Damn, didn't know Sbux ever sold their own line of espresso machines! Thanks for the heads up.

Yeah, unless you can order those pods in bulk from eBay that I mentioned, there's no need to keep a Verismo anymore. I only spent $10 for mine and it gave me almost 3 years of use so it won't hurt to dump it.
[OP]
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Oct 31, 2010
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I'm still researching machines and grinders. There is a lot to process!

Unfortunately, I live in Quebec City, which is not as densely populated as Montreal or Toronto. There isn't much choice on the second-hand market.

The lowest price I found for the Barista Express would be $699 - $20 = $679 at Linen Chest, after pricematching. An all-in-one, but expensive option.

Another option would be the Bambino Plus @ $412.49 (I like the idea of it heating fast and having an automatic milk frother, but these aren't essential features), but I would need a grinder. Would the basic Breville Dose Control @ $127.49 (BCG400SIL) be a good choice? It got bad reviews of few years back because the impeller was made of plastic, but it now seems to have an upgraded metal impeller. Is the "Pro" version @ $179.99 (BCG600SIL) worth it? Any reason to upgrade to the Smart Grinder Pro ($224.99)? If I were to upgrade, it would cost me almost as much as the Barista Express, and I would have two appliances on my kitchen counter. I don't plan on using the grinder for anything else than espressos.

EDIT: Looks like the difference between models BCG400SIL and BCG600SIL is that model BCG600SIL has a timer. I guess it's a worthy upgrade.

What do you think?
Deal Addict
Oct 3, 2017
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I have used 3 or 4 Breville espresso machines quite a bit including the BBE.

I have yet to pull a coffee from any of them that I would like to drink on a daily basis.

The portafilter is a toy compared to a commercial grade one which many better home machines have.

The built in grinder cannot grind fine enough

The tamper and the tiny basket on the brevilles make it impossible to tamp deep or firm enough for a "proper" tamp

The temperature of the espressed coffee is never hot enough.

There is a used Simonelli Oscar for sale in Montreal for $850

Or keep your eye out for a Rancilio Silvia used for $450 to $600

Plus you will need a quality grinder. Rancilio Rocky' goes used for around $450 and they are tanks. Not perfect but good enough for sure.

Then a good tamper back flush and cleaning stuff a blind filter for back flushing quality coffee

Spending on on Breville will mean you will keep spending either on repairs or upgrades

Once you have the right equipment and know how to use it you really don't have to spend hardly anything afterwards.

Still wanna go down that hole?
Sr. Member
Mar 21, 2011
684 posts
847 upvotes
Hmm breville barista express fan here. That's a tried and true machine and will meet your espresso needs if you make a single drink that requires steam milk. Don't think anything in that price range beats that combo.
I sold my first one when I moved and ended up getting it again. You can upgrade the tamper. I maintain it and haven't had issues with it that required a major repair in the last 7 years I have had them. Parts are easy to source as well like a gasket, filters etc. I had it serviced once and and have changed the screw on the shower head to make life easier.
If you do a lot of back to back drinks that require steam milk then dual boiler is the way to go.
Also the resale value is great on the breville barista express.
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eahmed wrote: Hmm breville barista express fan here. That's a tried and true machine and will meet your espresso needs if you make a single drink that requires steam milk. Don't think anything in that price range beats that combo.
I sold my first one when I moved and ended up getting it again. You can upgrade the tamper. I maintain it and haven't had issues with it that required a major repair in the last 7 years I have had them. Parts are easy to source as well like a gasket, filters etc. I had it serviced once and and have changed the screw on the shower head to make life easier.
If you do a lot of back to back drinks that require steam milk then dual boiler is the way to go.
Also the resale value is great on the breville barista express.
I've had 2 and they both made a great cappuccino, no complaints. Maybe I'm not a big enough coffee snob?
That's my 2cents worth
Sr. Member
Mar 21, 2011
684 posts
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Keelie wrote: I've had 2 and they both made a great cappuccino, no complaints. Maybe I'm not a big enough coffee snob?
Well I am an espresso drinker and do enjoy a good cappuccino. Yeah for sure this can't compare with a proper commercial or dual boiler espresso machine/grinder combo (provided they know how to pull a shot and maintain it well!). This machine is worth every penny IMO. As they say a pic is worth a thousand words. I am not latte artist so here is one attempted by moi a few years ago
Images
  • DSC00017 (8).JPG
Deal Fanatic
Oct 7, 2007
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eahmed wrote: Well I am an espresso drinker and do enjoy a good cappuccino. Yeah for sure this can't compare with a proper commercial or dual boiler espresso machine/grinder combo (provided they know how to pull a shot and maintain it well!). This machine is worth every penny IMO. As they say a pic is worth a thousand words. I am not latte artist so here is one attempted by moi a few years ago
That looks like a $5 drink right there!

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