Coffee Machine & Coffee Grinder FAQs
Can anyone make great coffee at home with an Italian coffee machine?
Yes, absolutely - It's surprisingly easy, and many home baristas are self-taught. You can find all that you need to get started on my Training Page ...and if you are a Melbourne espresso machine customer you get Free Training with me, 1 on 1.
I have run hundreds of these training sessions and have no problem taking anyone from "pod novice" to home barista. I have even trained up my 10 year old son, and he really enjoys making an espresso for his Dad and a latte for his Mum on the weekends!
To find out how you can make great coffee at home with an Italian espresso machine please visit my Understanding Espresso guide.
How much so I need to spend to get great coffee at home?
You may be surprised on my thoughts on this one. Don't be. I'm really not here to drain your wallet :)
With a $500 appliance machine and a decent grinder a skilled home barista can get a reasonable coffee. Not great, but reasonable. With a move up to $1k you can get a SB Italian coffee machine which can be steered to produce a very decent espresso. Decent, but not exceptional. The main reason for this is that most SB machines have mediocre thermal stability at best as well as small baskets, fitting only 14g of coffee, not the 22g I need to squeeze out a sublime thick, syrupy espresso shot. Milk is another story. All SB coffee machines have poor steaming power.
Now, let me change the question to: How much would I need to spend to get a setup I could happily live with?
The answer is just over $2.5k for a base HX coffee machine with a Baratza Sette 30 coffee grinder.
NOW HERE'S THE SURPRISE - Spending more that this won't get you better coffee. With the $2.5k setup above I can say, hand on heart, that spending more will have only minor effects on coffee quality. Give me the $2.5k setup and a $10k setup and I'm sure that in a blind test you could never pick which coffee came from which setup.
So, why spend more? The reason for spending more is about quality of the equipment and the experience of making coffee on great equipment. It's not about the quality of the coffee. Think about cars. The $2.5k setup can be likened to a Ford Falcon. You don't need anything more than a Falcon but for some people it's the BMW that they want to drive.
How long does it take to heat up a manual coffee machine?
I'm often asked about heat up time. Traditional HX and DB Italian coffee machines have an e61 group head. These are latte-ready in 10 minutes and espresso-ready in 20 minutes. Never give up an e61 group head to for the sake of saving a few minutes during heat up. The e61 is legendary for good reasons including thermal stability and gentle pressure ramp up during brewing.
I suggest picking up a $20 power point timer to switch the machine on just before wake up. That's all you need.
Should I choose a vibration pump or a rotary pump?
Vibration pumps deliver a lower flow rate and a more gentle pressure ramp up so they are recommended if you are looking for the very best coffee extraction. However, rotary machines are generally quieter. For the best of both worlds look at the Profitec Pro 500 which offers vibration pump performance without the "vibe rattle."
Why don't these machines have buttons?
For home espresso machines please avoid buttons. The primary reason for this is that for truly great espresso you need to extract by colour, not by time or by volume. This may sound tricky but don't be concerned at all - you can read about extracting by colour on my training page. A secondary reason is that buttons takes away that hands-on manual espresso machine feeling.
Should I choose a copper boiler or a stainless steel boiler?
Over recent years some Italian coffee machine manufacturers have moved to SS boilers to reduce manufacturing costs. Although copper is expensive, it is the best material for HX machine boilers. Copper is more durable and long-lasting that SS and also, copper has higher thermal conductivity. SS boilers are fine for DB coffee machines where conductivity isn't a critical factor.
Are manual lever machines better than traditional machines?
Manual lever coffee machines give you the ability to control pressure on-the-run. A lever machine won't make a better coffee than a quality e61 machine. However, with a lever machine you can get a great extraction more consistently.
Are Italian coffee machines difficult to maintain?
Do I need an expensive coffee grinder?
No. All grinders that I sell are capable of grinding for great espresso. My advice is to start with machine selection, choose your dream machine, then find a grinder to suit your total budget.
Should I choose a step-less coffee grinder?
No. Although steps on appliance grinders can be an issue, with quality grinders it's a different story. You may read about people having problems with steps, but the cause is always the operator's workflow.
What espresso accessories do I need?
Great accessories will ensure that you get the most out of every extraction. There are hundreds of accessories on the market. I have chosen a handful of the best and put together some great espresso accessory kits. To view them click here