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The Search for Coffee Nirvana – Part Two

espressoThe internet can be a bad thing.  In trying to get the best coffee possible, I think that the next step is getting an espresso machine.  I’ve had espresso machines before – the smaller consumer steam machines – and was satisfied – but they shots were never even close to the those that I’ve been served at various coffee shops. Research on the various coffee forums and websites seems to suggest that what I need to look at are professional consumer, or smaller commercial-grade machines.  There are a lot of machines to choose from, and the price range is pretty broad.

Over and over again, recommendations stressed the importance of a grinder as well – making the research task even more daunting.

A very popular entry level espresso machine that is often recommended is the Rancilio Silvia.  Then I read about the brew group heads – specifically the E61 – with its reliability and temperature stability.  The more I read, the more I was sold on getting a machine with the E61 brew group.  I also decided it might be best to list out what sort of features I wanted to try and narrow down my choices.  Here’s my list:

  • E-61 brew group
  • ability to produce consistent shots – 2 or 3 in a row
  • aesthetically pleasing to look at (yes, very subjective!)
  • easy to use and adjust
  • good steam wand
  • hot water dispenser
  • ability to plumb in (but could be used without being plumbed in)

Some other features that helped narrow my selection were things like cool-touch steam wands, size of the warming tray (basically, the top of the machine where cups can be stored and warmed up), drip tray size, and local product/service availability.

Andreja Premium espresso machineThe espresso machine I ended up going with was the Andreja Premium.  I was able to get it from a local supplier (Caffetech).

The grinder I chose was the La Cimbali Jr., also purchased from Caffetech.  My criteria for a grinder was consistency of grind, stepless grind adjustment, size and appearance, and durability.  The La Cimbali Jr. has a large 64mm conical burr, and grinds fast – a double shot takes about 10 seconds.  The machine is pretty quiet, and looks great!  I don’t see myself ever needing to replace it.  One modification I did make to the grinder was removing the front tamper – as it just blocked visibility of seeing how much coffee was going into the portafilter – and I have a Reg Barber tamper that I use instead.  I did have one of those Espro tampers that clicked when you were applying 30lbs of pressure – it was great when first learning, but after a while, it became unnecessary, so I sold it.La Cimbali Jr. coffee grinder

In hindsight, I would probably have eliminated the ability to use without being plumbed in.  The convenience of having a machine that you don’t have to keep refilling a reservoir is  huge to me.  In fact, it was less than a month after getting my machine when I started getting things together to plumb it in.  The reservoir refilling got old real fast!  The other criteria I would have added would be for a relatively quiet machine. The Andreja Premium is kind of noisy.  The next model up from Quick Mill is the Vetrano – which has a quiet rotary pump instead of the noisy vibe pump used in the Andreja.