Desperate for some espresso machine advice, budget £1000

Recommendations for buyers and upgraders from the site's members.
Kinukcafe

#1: Post by Kinukcafe »

Hi all, I just started research into coffee. So please bear with my inaccurate terminology. I have been a consumer for some years and ready to upgrade myself to a prosumer. I would like to acquire some reasonable skills to make good coffee at home but not really want to dig so deep to get a phd on it. I have been using my Illy capsule coffee machine (got it for free) for years and it started to leak. I used my unbranded £15 electric grinder with a metal capsules. I then "upgraded" to moka pot and V60. Bought some freshly roasted single region bean. So now I can make some drinkable milky coffee.

I decided to upgrade to espresso machine as I think want to achieve the cafe standard. I think my rubbish grinder and pull over setup plus my skill cannot produce strong enough espresso for those strong thick milky drink. Another thing drives me for upgrade is the milk steaming ability. I like strong espresso based milk drink but I also want to acquire the ability to like espresso.

After weeks of research, i have ordered the 1zpresso JX-Pro grinder. Wanted to save some cost by doing some hand work. For machine, I first shortlisted:
  • Lelit MaraX
  • Sage Duo Boiler (heard so much good words but dislike the look)
  • Pro300
I would like to spend no more than £1000 (new or used). I don't mind learning to mod if it is not something too difficult to pick up.

And then I discovered lever machine. It drew my interest because it is more simple, smaller, and easy to maintain. And some are significant cheaper. Also, we drink two coffee max in the morning and sometimes another 1-2 more in the afternoon if we feel the mood. And to me, Here are what I shortlisted:
  • Bezzera Strega (used)
  • La Pavoni Europiccola (new)
  • Londinium R (used)
  • Ponto vecchio lusso/ export (new)
  • Flair (new)
I reached a stage where I feel dizzy about further reading and going back and forth between choices. One, I was so set on an used MaraX I found on ebay. The week after I discovered the Europiccola can achieve some cost saving. And then I keep researching lever. But then I found many levers are even more expensive. So, would like to hear your recommendation and advice. I understand that it is very subjective. But I really want to hear your thoughts and personal preference if I may. Thanks.

P.S. I live in hard water area and installed a salt water softener. Is there any concern? I can get bottle water if needed.

luvmy40

#2: Post by luvmy40 »

My, obviously biased opinion is to go with the Sage Dual Boiler. However, I am also a huge fan of Flair and have been using the Pro 2 for years as my travel kit.

The Flair 58 with a stove top steamer would be a great set up.

As far as your water is concerned, have you checked your chloride levels? Your softener should take care any scale issues, but chloride can cause corosion above certain levels. I have high chloride, so I use the rpavlis water recipe in my BDB. This would not be as much of a concern with the Flair.

BodieZoffa

#3: Post by BodieZoffa »

I'd say don't overthink it as what you mentioned will accomplish the same thing, creating espresso. Not that one machine will definitely be better, just different in terms of routine, cleaning, maintenance, etc.

bgnome

#4: Post by bgnome »

Kinukcafe wrote: And then I discovered lever machine. It drew my interest because it is more simple, smaller, and easy to maintain. And some are significant cheaper. Also, we drink two coffee max in the morning and sometimes another 1-2 more in the afternoon if we feel the mood. And to me, Here are what I shortlisted:
  • Bezzera Strega (used)
  • La Pavoni Europiccola (new)
  • Londinium R (used)
  • Ponto vecchio lusso/ export (new)
  • Flair (new)
If you can find the Bezzera or Londinium in that price range, I would be pleasantly surprised. LPEs should be available used for much less. Have you given much thought to whether you want a direct pull or a spring driven lever?

If you don't mind waiting a bit, (but let's face it, none of us are willing to wait usually), you may want to consider the Odyssey Argos. It will be a fantastic value for the price if it delivers on its promises. Should be shipping in a few months or so.

Kinukcafe (original poster)

#5: Post by Kinukcafe (original poster) »

luvmy40 wrote:My, obviously biased opinion is to go with the Sage Dual Boiler. However, I am also a huge fan of Flair and have been using the Pro 2 for years as my travel kit.

The Flair 58 with a stove top steamer would be a great set up.

As far as your water is concerned, have you checked your chloride levels? Your softener should take care any scale issues, but chloride can cause corosion above certain levels. I have high chloride, so I use the rpavlis water recipe in my BDB. This would not be as much of a concern with the Flair.
Appreciate your reply. As much as I have read, I heard only about good things about the BDB. The only thing is I prefer the classic look (of E61 and some classic lever machine) to the relatively general consumer look of the DBD.

The Flair 58 with hearing is on the list. Before looking into the tech details, I slightly prefer the look of PV Lusso and Strega though. But Flair 58 will definitively be considered. I think it comes down to which one is more value for money, in term of spec and materials. I tend to prefer a good condition 2nd too as I can potentially get more from the money spent.

Kinukcafe (original poster)

#6: Post by Kinukcafe (original poster) »

BodieZoffa wrote:I'd say don't overthink it as what you mentioned will accomplish the same thing, creating espresso. Not that one machine will definitely be better, just different in terms of routine, cleaning, maintenance, etc.
Very well said. May be I should do is trim down to 2-3 I really like and look into the availability in market and take the price (used and new) into consideration.

Kinukcafe (original poster)

#7: Post by Kinukcafe (original poster) »

bgnome wrote:If you can find the Bezzera or Londinium in that price range, I would be pleasantly surprised. LPEs should be available used for much less. Have you given much thought to whether you want a direct pull or a spring driven lever?

If you don't mind waiting a bit, (but let's face it, none of us are willing to wait usually), you may want to consider the Odyssey Argos. It will be a fantastic value for the price if it delivers on its promises. Should be shipping in a few months or so.
Thanks for the input. Appreciate that. There are some Bezzera used on the bay from £,1000 - £1,300. Your comments make me think it is a good deal.

I quite like the LPE. And maybe it is my best bet with such attractive price and more or less equal capability with others on the list, although from my uneducated eye, it looks like a beer pouring machine in bar. I lean more toward a box construction.

I don't mind waiting. I believe in postponing enjoyment for a greater pleasure. The Argos appeared in my search result but I mistakenly took it as a house brand of the U.K. chain store with same name and therefore ignored it. Mind educating what you like about it? What make it value for money at $850?

bgnome

#8: Post by bgnome » replying to Kinukcafe »

I believe the Strega is a higher end machine, but may be costly / challenging in terms of maintenance and repair?

LPEs are tried and true. They have their quirks and a fairly steep learning curve, but are very rewarding to master and last a very long time.

I have preordered an Odyssey Argos and have drunk a lot of the Kool-Aid, so you will have to be critical of my advice, and maybe some others here. It is basically all you could want in a consumer lever machine: 58mm group, stainless steel construction, automatic temperature control, and the versatility to switch between spring and direct lever modes. You could simply use it to make great espresso, or you could kit it out and use the app for pressure / flow profiling.

Ultimately, what you go with is your choice. You have been looking at great machines and you will probably find joy in whatever you choose. I only mention the Argos as I feel that it offers an insane amount of value at the price point and seems to be well within your budget, but many are wisely choosing a "wait and see" approach as it is not uncommon to get burned on big promises.

baldheadracing
Supporter ♡

#9: Post by baldheadracing »

Kinukcafe wrote:
  • Lelit MaraX
  • Sage Duo Boiler (heard so much good words but dislike the look)
  • Pro300
Dual Boiler of those three, MaraX is good, Pro300 a little below.
Kinukcafe wrote:
  • Bezzera Strega (used)
  • La Pavoni Europiccola (new)
  • Londinium R (used)
  • Ponto vecchio lusso/ export (new)
  • Flair (new)
Strega and Londinium way, way, way, WAY above the other three. As you're in England, the Londinium gets a slight edge.

For your use case and experience I would rank the Dual Boiler first, then the Mara X, then the Strega, then Londinium - unless you don't mind letting the machine warm up for 45 minutes/leaving the machine on all day, in which the order would be reversed.

Good luck!
- bigger flat burr makes always better grinding result than smaller one - H. Lee

Kinukcafe (original poster)

#10: Post by Kinukcafe (original poster) »

bgnome wrote:I believe the Strega is a higher end machine, but may be costly / challenging in terms of maintenance and repair?

LPEs are tried and true. They have their quirks and a fairly steep learning curve, but are very rewarding to master and last a very long time.

I have preordered an Odyssey Argos and have drunk a lot of the Kool-Aid, so you will have to be critical of my advice, and maybe some others here. It is basically all you could want in a consumer lever machine: 58mm group, stainless steel construction, automatic temperature control, and the versatility to switch between spring and direct lever modes. You could simply use it to make great espresso, or you could kit it out and use the app for pressure / flow profiling.

Ultimately, what you go with is your choice. You have been looking at great machines and you will probably find joy in whatever you choose. I only mention the Argos as I feel that it offers an insane amount of value at the price point and seems to be well within your budget, but many are wisely choosing a "wait and see" approach as it is not uncommon to get burned on big promises.
Thanks for the more thoughtful sharing. Really really useful. I just looked into some user experience on LPE and someone said it is painful to control the temp or something like that? Sorry that as a newbie I found it difficult to understand on paper what does that mean and it is something I should worry about. I think now I should really get some words of wisdom here and get my first experience on a machine a learn from there. Am I right to assume that there is no machine I listed you would personally avoid, including the LPE with the temp issue(?)

As for the Argos, when do you expect will be ready to deliver? My quick search shows that it is a very capable machine with apparently quality built. I also like the simplicity and elegant look of it. Will give it some thought. Appreciate you brought this up.

Sorry one last question, how do you like the Catelat Robot compared to Flair?