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Discussion Starter #1
I can't believe I am asking this question here either...however.

Anyone here have expertise with home espresso/cappuccino? I think it would be fun to start brewing at home. Plus this will save some time making detours to the cafe.

Any takers? What is a good starter espresso machine? Is it really that important to have a burr grinder?

I would like to get into this as painlessly as possible. However, if anyone feels that this whole idea isn't worth the effort, also let me know.

Thanks,

J
 

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I wear two thongs
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Ive used cappuchino powders its prolly not what your looking for but you boil water add the powder to it and presto a hot cup of cappuchino. It actually didnt taste too "fake" either and is alot cheaper too.
 

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Hmm, I don't think I have enough experience to say yeah or ney. If it is simple, cheap, and tastes good...all the better.
 

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Here's the trick for expresso. You're going to love it. Google "junior express" and look at the picture on Target.com (for example). These will make an excellent coffee, you can find them in many sizes from single serving to five or six. You can buy one at most department stores or try the markets in a hispanic community. As an added bonus, look for cuban coffee (I like Bustelo). I think you'll have fun making your coffee and you'll be out maybe a twenty. I promise just about every household in Miami swears by these things.

J
 

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If you get to the point where you're using your grinder alot, and you will want to grind your own beans, you have to have a Conical Burr grinder. It's a higher quality mechanism that won't heat up the beans and give the coffee a burnt taste. Also, is you're making Espresso you MUST have a grinder that will grind very fine but not make very fine dust that will give the coffee a bitter taste. The best cost/performance grinder I've found is the Infinity CApresso which you can find at Williams Sonoma for $140. You can find them on Ebay butyou won't find them discounted. Williams Sonoma has a very good return policy if anything should go wrong with the unit. I've been using mine for 4 months with no problems and I alos use a Mocha pot as someone mentioned. Do yourself a favor and get one thats coated on the inside. Some of the cheaper ones are raw aluminium which will discolor and give the coffee a silvery taste. The coating will prevent this and should look new for years to come. I did my research on this one. I'm kind of a coffee freak.
 

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Hello, my name is Eric, and I am a caff-iholic.
I have a betty crocker grinder, it works fine. You must grind your beans further than 'ground coffee' but as noted above, not too fine. I 'pulse' the grinder to help with the heat build-up and possibility of that burnt taste.
I also use a cheap Mr. Coffee espresso machine. The only real consideration I have when buying a machine is to get one that has a three position switch for the steam: 1. Building pressure 2. steam to the frothing wand 3. steam to the espresso.

$50 plus coffee and you're rollin'
 

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just have fun!
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I have a Gaggia Carezza. At $200, it's not cheap, but it's cheaper than many machines and with it I make a great espresso, better than what I am typically served at a coffee joint. If you get espresso at a shop very often, this machine will pay for itself rather quickly. It's well made and has internal parts that are just as nice as machines that cost many times more. Check out wholelattelove.com; that's where I got mine.

You'll also need a nice frothing thermometer. The tamper that comes with the machine kinda sucks, but I use it and it seems to get the job done. I grind my beans at the store and keep them in a sealed bag in the freezer. You'll have to experiment with the grind to get the right flow through the coffee; I found with this machine I set the grinder between espresso and turkish for that magic 20-25sec double shot.

Have fun!
 

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Get yourself an espresso pot. $25 at any store that sells coffee pots. They come in different sizes but generally will brew 4-8 shots of espresso at a time. Then get yourself a milk frother. $15-$20. Basically this is a tiny hand held mixer with a wisk at then end. The frother will not work if your milk must be steamed. But you can warm the milk for a few second in the microwave, it end up pretty close. I have been using this set up for the past 2 years. Results are similar to the coffee shops.
 

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I've been using a Braun espresso machine I got of Craigslist for $10.

Also, +1 on pulsing the bean grinder. I've never had an issue with "burnt" espresso, except maybe at charbucks.
 

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jason3559 said:
Anyone here have expertise with home espresso/cappuccino? I think it would be fun to start brewing at home. Plus this will save some time making detours to the cafe.

Any takers? What is a good starter espresso machine? Is it really that important to have a burr grinder?

I would like to get into this as painlessly as possible. However, if anyone feels that this whole idea isn't worth the effort, also let me know.
Does painless = cheap, or painless = easy?

I have a commercial machine at home now, though worked my way through a Rancilio Silvia and Isomac (brain-fade on model) along the way. I second the recommendation to check out www.coffeegeek.com. Wholelattelove is also a could e-tailer as well as Chris' Coffee.

For good coffee/espresso I think the grinder (a burr grinder) is the most important piece of hardware. You want both fresh ground beans as well as need control over the size of the grind for your particular espresso machine. We have two ginders at home, a Rancilio Rocky that we use for coarse grinds for press pot (or decaf espresso for visitors) and a Mazzer Mini that we use for espresso. The Mazzer is swank, but doesn't grind any better than the Rancilio. I bought my mom a burr grinder from Starbucks (I forget who they rebrand from, but it is a popular grinder under a different name as well) last Christmas for ~$100 and it works very well.

As far as brewing the coffee, do you really want espresso (or espresso-based drinks), or would strong coffee do instead? Espresso has some characteristics (the crema for one) that you just can't get from coffee brewed any other way, however if you add a lot of milk to the drink you might never notice them.

If you don't need espresso, then I'd recommend a Bodum press pot. The coffee steeps in hot water in the pot, then you press the grinds to the bottom and pour off the coffee. You have full control of how much coffee you add (more is better :) ), the grind, and how long it steeps (not too long otherwise nasty flavors will be extracted), and can make a super-strong drink. My wife likes coffee more than espresso, and she uses a little 2 cup Bodum press every morning, while I think I can make a pretty kick-ass iced-latte/coffee (triple strength coffee, disolve sugar while still hot, chill, then pour over ice and add half-and-half or whole milk) with the 12 cup model.

If you want real espresso (or those with steamed/foamed milk), check out Coffeegeek for the best reviews. Real espresso can be a pain in the arse to get right though, finding the proper grind for the machine, the proper tamp in the portafilter, etc. I started with the Rancilio Silvia and used it for two years before upgrading (I still have it, it is just boxed up). The resale value of the Silvia's is very high, so I wouldn't hesitate buying new if you are convinced you ultimately want espresso, though want a little insurance on spending so much.

All the machines in the Silvia's price range cannot foam milk simultaneous with brewing the espresso, so that can be an irritation. Around $750 and higher you get into heat-exchanger machines that can do both, but I'd hold off looking at those machines until upgradeitis kicks in.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
anotherbrian said:
Does painless = cheap, or painless = easy?
.
In my case (all my former girlfriends were right....ahh, no, it can't be that obvious...ok it is)...cheap.

Thanks for all the responses. This is a great starting point. When I started researching (thanks for all the website suggestions, they are/were in my favorites folders) I felt like I was staring down the barrel of another expensive hobbie. This was exactly the opposite reason why I was wanting to start brewing at home. I am not afraid to get into the Gaggia Rocky, Saeco Classico range of machines, however I am afraid to make a mis-informed purchase. Would that be a mistake to start out in this way? Should a person start out with the most basic of equipment to gain appreciation of the entry level machines?

Yes, I started riding with a full rigid Trek 950.

Anotherbrian, you seem to have went through the various permutations of home brewing, thanks for your lengthy response. I am not sure. I might wait until winter hits and start experiments then (along with my second home brew beer batch and my 1st batch of biodiesel).
 

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jason3559 said:
I am not afraid to get into the Gaggia Rocky, Saeco Classico range of machines, however I am afraid to make a mis-informed purchase. Would that be a mistake to start out in this way? Should a person start out with the most basic of equipment to gain appreciation of the entry level machines?
If you can afford it, I'd suggest getting a Rancilio Silvia (machine) and Rocky (grinder). Unfortunately in espresso machines basic does not equal inexpensive. The best machines are usually the most basic. Inexpensive espresso machines lack power and consistency (pumps that aren't powerful enough, boilers that are too small, heating elements that are underpowered, etc.) and will slow you down from reaching a espresso Nirvana.

Good espresso at home is hard. There can be a steep learning curve to get it drinkable, and lots of work to get it awesomely good. The machines take a long time to warm up and need to be kept clean, and the whole process can be messy. If you like futzing around with things, it can be a joy though. They're great for entertaining as well.

If you want simple and good, I'd just get a grinder and press pot and then start searching out for beans and the taste you like.
 

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anotherbrian said:
If you want simple and good, I'd just get a grinder and press pot and then start searching out for beans and the taste you like.
Saved to quick.

If you like the results with the press pot, and want to move up to espresso, then start looking for a machine and expect to use the grinder with it.
 
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