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Coffee dilema

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I've always enjoyed nice coffee, and am thinking I'd like to do espresso at home, having done the plunger and moka pot options.

 

My espresso consumption is a mix of Machiattos, Short Blacks and Long Blacks. But I also want to be able to make Lattes and Caps for visitors.

 

I've browsed the coffeesnobs and coffeegeek websites, and read quite a lot about the gear etc, but my main concern now seems to be more mundane: completely auto or mostly manual.

 

A friend has a super-automatic, and the coffee is very nice - not the best ever, but better than most cafes. There's the appeal of a machine that does it all, self grinds, tamps, makes the coffee etc and later rinses then shuts itself down. Very convenient, and perfect for that morning coffee.

 

Strangely, none of them seem to offer an automatic machiatto. They do short black, long black, flat white, latte, cappuccino, all fine, but trying and automate adding a small amount of heated milk & foam to a short black seems beyond them - it's a manual extra step to make a short black then manually hold the button down for a bit of warmed milk. So while the machine offers all the hands off convenience, low maintenance, spending $2000-$3000 of a device that requires manual intervention to make my favourite coffee type seems disappointing.

 

The semi-auto (I'd like it to manage temperature and pressure) seems to offer lots more control, and means diving in for the hands on aspect - turning making coffee into a hobby as well as getting a good beverage :) and I'm sure I will make better coffee than the auto with some practice. The down side is the work and daily maintenance makes me wonder if it is less likely to be used daily.

I don't mind the 4-5 minutes to make a coffee most of the time. It's the talk of waiting 30minutes for the machine to warm up, weekly back flushes etc. I'd hate to spend all $2000-3000 on a machine and grinder and not use it daily - and the goal is to drink good coffee each day and never buy instant again.

 

I guess the question for people who have gone the manual approach is, after the months have passed and the novelty worn off, do you still use the machine daily.

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I bought one of these for the wife a few years back, it gets daily use.

 

Posted Image

 

Although if buying again, I'd spend a little more.

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I went with a semi-auto Gagia Classic and don't regret the decision at all (although now I wouldn't mind an upgrade to a Rancilio Silvia). I can't say I've tried many of the higher end auto machines, but the coffee from the ones I have tried were lacklustre. I really enjoy the process of making a good cup of coffee, so I don't mind the extra work that goes into using a semi-auto machine. I find it doesn't require too much maintenance, and there's certainly no 30 minutes warm up times. I only have to descale a few times per year, although I always use filtered water.

 

One thing I'd highly recommend if you do decide to go down this route is to do a barrister course. I mucked around with my machine for about a month when I first got it with ok, but not great results. The web is full of great info, but sometimes a practical demonstration of the correct techniques is required to really understand what's going on. Additionally it taught me a lot about coffee beans, which is just as essential as the equipment for a good cup of coffee.

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i'd like such a machine but i'm the only one in the house that drinks coffee. so i cant really justify the expense.

You dont do it for the cost savings I guess.

 

The thing that really attracts me to coffee is the process. I like doing some things myself. Have done my own roasting, made my own roasters, made my own cups, turned my own tamper, everything short of building my own espresso maker. Automatic coffee machines... I've seen them, had many coffees from them, and they are always average. The milk is always foamy. The two dots in the top where the coffee pours in after the milk on some autos is just unattractive. You cant control anything. Milk itself is not consistent, and it cant be foamed the same way every day of the year. I know that most people dont care about it coffee the same way that I do, and if thats the case, and you want easy, then by all means, get an automatic, because a manual wont bring you any happiness. If you want to polish your skills and produce truly fine coffee, manual is the only way to go.

 

Maybe a good halfway mark is starting out on a cheap Breville. Dont be fooled by the more expensive models, as the cheapest ones can be controlled more easily. The coffee you make on it will potentially be at least as good as the auto machines, and from time to time you can get it right and make a decent coffee. From there, if you like the process, you will naturally want to step up. If not, the machines are about $100, so its nothing lost.

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Got this one a few months ago, smaller than my old one but still getting the hang of it.

 

Found I cannot use the coffee I used before, but they are starting to come out better than my last one.

 

Beans have a lot to do with it.

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Got this one a few months ago, smaller than my old one but still getting the hang of it.

 

Found I cannot use the coffee I used before, but they are starting to come out better than my last one.

 

Beans have a lot to do with it.

 

What does the stubby nozzle on the right do?

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Stubby nozzle releases hot water for tea.

 

How about pods? There are some cons, but they are tidy. You can make your own pods too, so you're not limited in choice of bean.

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Stubby nozzle releases hot water for tea.

 

How about pods? There are some cons, but they are tidy. You can make your own pods too, so you're not limited in choice of bean.

make your own pods?

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Firstly, congrats on taking the step. The sooner we rid the world of instant coffee the better.

 

I have owned 4 machines in my life, each one progressively better but none of them ridiculously expensive. I have owned full auto, semi auto, and full manual and I have also done a pro barista course (just for the fun of it). I can say 2 things without a doubt:

 

1) Buying a cheap one will end in tears - baby Jesus tears

2) You MUST keep control of your grind

 

I currently own the Sunbeam Cafe Series - CLICKY HERE - its talked about extensively on the major web sites so you probably already know about it. I couldnt be happier. It's the first machine I have used that can properly froth and the twin block means no waiting for steam. It is manual enough to control teh important stuff an auto enough for the rest. The pressure guage is also extremely useful for getting your grind right. You see, each brand of coffee is different and requires a different grind. Too much, your yeild is too low. Too little, coffee is too weak and bland. If you rely on a machine to do this for you then you're fine once you work out the grind for your first brand of coffee, but when you switch brands, you're screwed.

 

For me, the plasure is in the experience and routine of making a saturday morning coffee. It's the journey, not just the destination.

 

Welcome to the awesome club.

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We have one that's mostly manual; you grind the coffee yourself and press it yourself. I prefer it this way because it gives you greater control over the strength of your coffee.

 

Ultimately, it's up to you, how lazy you want to be and how much of a coffee perfectionist you are. If you're very particular about how strong your coffee is, how big the shots are, etc. then get a manual machine. If you don't really care and just want quick and decent coffee, then get an auto one.

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Firstly, congrats on taking the step. The sooner we rid the world of instant coffee the better.

 

I have owned 4 machines in my life, each one progressively better but none of them ridiculously expensive. I have owned full auto, semi auto, and full manual and I have also done a pro barista course (just for the fun of it). I can say 2 things without a doubt:

 

1) Buying a cheap one will end in tears - baby Jesus tears

2) You MUST keep control of your grind

 

I currently own the Sunbeam Cafe Series - CLICKY HERE - its talked about extensively on the major web sites so you probably already know about it. I couldnt be happier. It's the first machine I have used that can properly froth and the twin block means no waiting for steam. It is manual enough to control teh important stuff an auto enough for the rest. The pressure guage is also extremely useful for getting your grind right. You see, each brand of coffee is different and requires a different grind. Too much, your yeild is too low. Too little, coffee is too weak and bland. If you rely on a machine to do this for you then you're fine once you work out the grind for your first brand of coffee, but when you switch brands, you're screwed.

 

For me, the plasure is in the experience and routine of making a saturday morning coffee. It's the journey, not just the destination.

 

Welcome to the awesome club.

 

Well said Ploddy, agree with the about the journey.

 

I like changing coffee brands as i spend the morning getting it right, i have three places i get my coffee from because they know what i like.

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Ok, thanks everyone for the responses.

 

The path of buying a cheap machine from kmart and find out how it goes seems tempting, but if I struggle with it, get poor coffee and give up for that reason, then I haven't really tried it out right. While I think a talented Barrista can make good coffee with poor tools, I generally think good tools will help a beginner - I also loath buying with a planned upgrade - I prefer to hold off and save up, and in this case, budget is there.

 

It sounds like if the love of coffee is there, then the effort is applied, and people still stick to using them after a couple of months.

 

I think it might be time to go shopping in one weekend soon - This looks interesting and gets good reviews.

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Can't say I've ever bought one..... But I use the missus's machine on a regular basis. One of those cheapo sunbeam manual jobbies..... Frankly... I find the two most important things I do to get great coffee is making sure I have beans I like and mother fucking practice.

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That one looks good HB. Really good. Probably a match for some of the coffee shop ones I've used. I've never experimented with different grinds though - just tried to get the one the shop had right. Sounds fun. Even though I don't drink much coffee I'm kind of jealous. Messing with coffee is fun, and when you get it right people will fall in love with you for your coffee. Win dude!

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Ok, thanks everyone for the responses.

 

The path of buying a cheap machine from kmart and find out how it goes seems tempting, but if I struggle with it, get poor coffee and give up for that reason, then I haven't really tried it out right. While I think a talented Barrista can make good coffee with poor tools, I generally think good tools will help a beginner - I also loath buying with a planned upgrade - I prefer to hold off and save up, and in this case, budget is there.

 

It sounds like if the love of coffee is there, then the effort is applied, and people still stick to using them after a couple of months.

 

I think it might be time to go shopping in one weekend soon - This looks interesting and gets good reviews.

Where do you live? There are some great coffee places in melboure that sell machine's and some outlets. I have never bought a machine from a place that cannot show me how to use it and in most cases make me a coffee from it before i buy it.

 

That machine looks and sound ok, but still shop around.

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I'm in Adelaide. Which was one of the reasons for posting the link from that site - they are local.

 

I know I could save some $s buying online, but I want the backup of a store front to see the gear and somewhere that I can take it back should there be problems.

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its kinda funny isn't it, when the OP started talking about macchiato's i thought he didn't know what he was going on about, i've always considered a good traditional mach to be an esspresso muddied with cold milk.

 

Looking it up though shows just how many variants of macciato there are.

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its kinda funny isn't it, when the OP started talking about macchiato's i thought he didn't know what he was going on about, i've always considered a good traditional mach to be an esspresso muddied with cold milk.

 

Looking it up though shows just how many variants of macciato there are.

That's the hardest thing about liking machs, short, long, latte variants,

 

So many places make them differently, and on occasion i've had to tell the barrista what I want, because of the variations - with the biggest problem them wanting to make a mini-cappuccino out it.

 

My preference is a short black shot with about a teaspoon of warmed milk then a small layer of good foam on top.

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I'm not sure if I should ask this in here or start another thread. :P

 

I've also been looking at a coffee machine - mainly for the pure convenience and the nicer taste. But I'm not a coffee connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination.

 

So I was looking at one of those machines that use "coffee pods" or whatever the little things are you stick in to the machine. Basically you put in a little sachet or pot thing, push the button and out comes coffee. :P

 

Is that what you mean by "automatic"? Has anyone used these machines? Are they easy to come by? Are the pods easy to get? Are they worthwhile for someone who wants a no-mess no-fuss option and isn't particularly fussy about their coffee but likes it better than instant?

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The pod machines are good for their convenience. One of the people at work brought one along when things got busy ad we wanted a treat.

Not espresso machine/good cafe class IMO but very good.

 

I'd rate coffee in order of improvement as:

Caterer's blend instant -> Drinkable instant -> Coffee Bags -> Dripper coffee -> Plunger Coffee -> Moka pot (stove top) -> Pods -> Fully Automatic espresso machine -> Manual/semi-auto espresso machine

 

Although some cafes make bad coffee that despite having expensive machines it tastes worse than pods and moka pots.

 

But most of the pod machines I have seen don't automate the milk, so some of the convenience is lost. If it was for only drinking short blacks, I'd seriously consider one a for only couple of hundred of $s, Then you find a couple of specialist coffee shops that sell a range of pods (the basic ones at the supermarket are nice enough, but limited options, and who knows how fresh they are).

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I'd rate it more this way:

 

Plunger-> Caterer's-> Bags -> Drinkable instant -> machine.... As you see I've not tried everything... But each to their own tastes.

 

My main problem with coffee in Adelaide is there is a metric fuck tonne of italian stuff laying about or bad arabica.

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My main problem with coffee in Adelaide is there is a metric fuck tonne of italian stuff laying about or bad arabica.

I hope you don't use the tap water.

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We have one that's mostly manual; you grind the coffee yourself and press it yourself. I prefer it this way because it gives you greater control over the strength of your coffee.

 

Ultimately, it's up to you, how lazy you want to be and how much of a coffee perfectionist you are. If you're very particular about how strong your coffee is, how big the shots are, etc. then get a manual machine. If you don't really care and just want quick and decent coffee, then get an auto one.

That doesn't sound like a manual.

 

Posted Image

 

A manual coffee machine requires you to pour water into the machine at the correct temperature, and use a hand pump until you are satisfied with the pressure. I've heard some coffee snobs swear by manual machines, but they're relatively rare due to their difficulty of use.

 

I think that a semi-automatic would probably be the most advantageous for the OP. It's probably the best price/performance/<bothering to learn to make decent coffee> compromise at the moment. A semi-automatic means you have to tamp the coffee yourself and decide how much to operate the pump and froth milk.

 

A fully automatic machine will use preset water volumes so you won't have to decide how much to use the pump. I think they look like a bad price/performance choice because it doesn't represent much effort to turn the knob for the pump rather than pressing the button, for the $100 worth in increased purchase cost.

 

To address the above posts about pod machines, I rather dislike the sort of cartridge system they use - it's extra cost to use because you have to stick with a certain brand of pods, and it's all the effort of putting coffee into a brewhead that's being paid for. Not to mention, you don't know how old the pods are to begin with. Which is why I prefer fresh coffee beans. for the $200 a pod machine is worth, a semi-automatic by far worth it for an extra $25.

 

I generally like whatever allows for the most customisation, because I like to muck about. Hence, I have a semi-automatic machine. Manual machines look intriguing, but I do appreciate some amount of convenience.

 

A super-automatic does the whole thing, milk, coffee, and all. I'd advise against them because they don't allow you to customise as much about your cup, and for that sort of high price I'd prefer a higher end semi-automatic.

 

The best combination would probably be a slightly lower-priced semi-automatic and a cheaper burr grinder. A grinder will make a huge difference to the quality of your coffee (if you care about that). Otherwise scrap the grinder and get a better semi-auto, and use pre-ground coffee. Your choice.

Edited by colganaitor

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