How much do I need to spend to get great coffee at home?

by Paul Sadler

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.