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Old Feb 3, 2013, 06:06 PM   #51
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Originally Posted by Kissaragi View Post
You really should sign up to somewhere like coffee geek for detailed advice on equipment.

Also I'm not sure if you know quite what your getting yourself into or not. If your happy with making drinks like most cafes do (frothy, overly milky, average espresso) then you'll be able to mange that easily with a $500 budget and a few weeks practice. If your aiming for high quality drinks with silky smooth micro foam and rich tasty espresso then you have to be prepared for this to be a hobby, not just a way to make drinks. Good espresso and espresso based drinks are not easy to make at all. Not trying to put you off, just a warning that it takes time and effort.
For what it's worth, I couldn't agree more. Even if you don't go totally around the bend and roast your own coffee beans, as I do, it's still a process with a very long and steep learning curve. I might go as far as to say it's an ongoing process, and you never stop learning how to make your espresso, or other drinks, better. At least that's how it's working for me. I've been at it several years pretty seriously, and I'm still not that far up the curve.

Of course, that might have something to do with me not being too bright, but it does becomes a serious hobby if you let it.
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Old Feb 3, 2013, 06:13 PM   #52
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For what it's worth, I couldn't agree more. Even if you don't go totally around the bend and roast your own coffee beans, as I do, it's still a process with a very long and steep learning curve. I might go as far as to say it's an ongoing process, and you never stop learning how to make your espresso, or other drinks, better. At least that's how it's working for me. I've been at it several years pretty seriously, and I'm still not that far up the curve.

Of course, that might have something to do with me not being too bright, but it does becomes a serious hobby if you let it.

Yeah, I'm definitely interested in espresso, but my aim is to make the drinks I mentioned. If that's doable in a $500 budget and a few weeks practice, all the better. One day when I'm retired or whatever and can afford a nice machine, then I'll be on here with my words o' wisdom

Also, that grinder was recommended by coffee geek.
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Old Feb 3, 2013, 06:15 PM   #53
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I looked into buying a home espresso machine a couple of years ago.

While it certainly is possible to get acceptable to good results (ie. creme, flavor, etc.) with many consumer-grade espresso makers, the sad reality is that most sub-$500 equipment is going to have a somewhat limited lifetime. The process of espresso making involves high pressures, high temperatures, and water - which is inevitably full of pesky impurities and scale that deposit and clog up the machine's innards.

A commercial grade espresso machine will have serviceable and replaceable parts. Most consumer-grade machines won't.

I ultimately decided that buying a ~ $350 machine I was going to have to throw away in four or five years wasn't worth it. And that, while I definitely like my espresso, I wasn't prepared to sink a thousand or so dollars into a machine I was only going to use a few times a week. I enjoy my espressos after dinner at my local trattoria and coffee shop. At home I enjoy freshly roasted and ground arabica via my handy (and inexpensive) French Press.
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Old Feb 3, 2013, 06:27 PM   #54
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Yeah, I'm definitely interested in espresso, but my aim is to make the drinks I mentioned. If that's doable in a $500 budget and a few weeks practice, all the better. One day when I'm retired or whatever and can afford a nice machine, then I'll be on here with my words o' wisdom

Also, that grinder was recommended by coffee geek.
The $500 budget is not the problem. As mentioned in the post above, much of the price of the machine is in it's build and the materials used. That said, you can gety an inexpensive machine that will suffice for your purposes. It won't last as long as a more expensive machine, made with better materials, but if it is inexpensive enough it will be OK, but you might have to replace it sooner than later. If it's inexpensive enough (and meets some simple basic criteria), just consider it a disposable item!

As far as "a few weeks practice". You should be able to pull acceptable shots in a few weeks, if you are not expecting to have superior espresso. I don't mean to be demeaning, but a few weeks practice is not going to get you great shots. But if what you want is an acceptable drink, you can do OK.

It all depends, as Kissaragi said, on what you are expecting. If you are OK with a nice coffee drink...fine. If you are looking for really good espresso, the base of all the drinks you are talking about making...a few weeks won't get you there.

I hope Kissaragi is still around. I'm very eager to hear his/her comments. I think Kissaragi is very knowledgable, and I look forward to reading more of his/her posts.
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Old Feb 3, 2013, 06:31 PM   #55
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The $500 budget is not the problem. As mentioned in the post above, much of the price of the machine is in it's build and the materials used. That said, you can gety an inexpensive machine that will suffice for your purposes. It won't last as long as a more expensive machine, made with better materials, but if it is inexpensive enough it will be OK, but you might have to replace it sooner than later. If it's inexpensive enough (and meets some simple basic criteria), just consider it a disposable item!

As far as "a few weeks practice". You should be able to pull acceptable shots in a few weeks, if you are not expecting to have superior espresso. I don't mean to be demeaning, but a few weeks practice is not going to get you great shots. But if what you want is an acceptable drink, you can do OK.

It all depends, as Kissaragi said, on what you are expecting. If you are OK with a nice coffee drink...fine. If you are looking for really good espresso, the base of all the drinks you are talking about making...a few weeks won't get you there.

I hope Kissaragi is still around. I'm very eager to hear his/her comments. I think Kissaragi is very knowledgable, and I look forward to reading more of his/her posts.
I see. Thanks again for the advice. All of you.

I was looking at it as a disposable item for now, I'm only a college student and that reflects on my funds. I know I won't be able to make like, top tier espresso, but I hope to learn about it, and make something that tastes decent to somebody who has no experience of espresso outside of what's available at most commercial places (Starbucks, local coffee shops too I suppose). I want to be able to grasp some of the basics of espresso making, experiment with making the drinks I hope to make (lattes, cappuccinos, etc...) and when I get to be a real person with a real job and stuff, move up to a much better machine.

Thoughts?
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Old Feb 3, 2013, 06:45 PM   #56
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I see. Thanks again for the advice. All of you.

I was looking at it as a disposable item for now, I'm only a college student and that reflects on my funds. I know I won't be able to make like, top tier espresso, but I hope to learn about it, and make something that tastes decent to somebody who has no experience of espresso outside of what's available at most commercial places (Starbucks, local coffee shops too I suppose). I want to be able to grasp some of the basics of espresso making, experiment with making the drinks I hope to make (lattes, cappuccinos, etc...) and when I get to be a real person with a real job and stuff, move up to a much better machine.

Thoughts?
Making something on par with Starbucks is not that hard. (Apologies to Starbucks fans)

Your goals being what they are, I think you can do OK with a $500 budget. Just a reminder, it is generally agreed (although coffee freaks seldom agree on anything) that the grinder is more important than the machine. One rule of thumb with a $500 budget is to spend about 1/2 on the grinder. If you don't get the grind right, no matter how good the beans and the machine, you won't get the best espresso your machine can make. And NEVER a blade grinder... burr grinder only.

When you explore machines, aside from the basic of producing a minimum of 9 BARS (or more), read the reviews carefully about how well the machine steams, and the positioning of the steam wand. Some OK machines do not have a well placed steaming wand and getting the pitcher with the milk into position can be a pain. Getting really good materials in the machine, and a superior build, won't be available in an inexpensive machine. But given your goals, I wouldn't worry about that too much.
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Old Feb 3, 2013, 07:55 PM   #57
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... and a few weeks practice...
I'm already a several weeks in and still trying to get it just right. I can make espresso well enough to drink for me, but I doubt it would meet the high taste standards of Shrink and other espresso ... umm, enthusiasts. With that said, if my experience is worth anything, I feel that more than a few weeks is needed to really get it down. Unless of course you're making it all day everyday.

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Some OK machines do not have a well placed steaming wand and getting the pitcher with the milk into position can be a pain.
Yeah, I'm not overly thrilled with the placement of the steamer wand on mine. The machine is a tad short and the wand is halfway down the height of it, so I have to use a small pitcher to get under it and by the time the temperature is right, the milk is overflowing the pitcher. But I'm not knocking it as it's a good first timer machine.
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Old Feb 3, 2013, 08:01 PM   #58
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I'm already a several weeks in and still trying to get it just right. I can make espresso well enough to drink for me, but I doubt it would meet the high taste standards of Shrink and other espresso ... umm, enthusiasts
Enthusiasts!!

A man of supreme diplomacy!

Freaks.

Wackos.

Nutcases.

Crazies.

The first step in solving a problem is acknowledging the problem!!!

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Old Feb 3, 2013, 08:06 PM   #59
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Enthusiasts!!

A man of supreme diplomacy!

Freaks.

Wackos.

Nutcases.

Crazies.

The first step in solving a problem is acknowledging the problem!!!

At least one of those adjectives you listed had crossed my mind as I was composing my post, and then "enthusiasts" struck me and I felt it would be much more amusing to use that term!
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Old Feb 3, 2013, 08:08 PM   #60
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At least one of those adjectives you listed had crossed my mind as I was composing my post, and then "enthusiasts" struck me and I felt it would be much more amusing to use that term!
Amusing, and generous!
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Old Feb 3, 2013, 10:35 PM   #61
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I ordered a coffee at McDonalds in Italy and got a 5 ounce cup with 2" of espresso in it. My guess is that Starbucks is banned from the country.
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Old Feb 4, 2013, 05:51 AM   #62
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I ordered a coffee at McDonalds in Italy and got a 5 ounce cup with 2" of espresso in it. My guess is that Starbucks is banned from the country.
No, it is not banned per se, it is just that Italians know the difference between good and poor coffee (and espresso). Moreover, Italy is cultured, and civilised. This means that a sophisticated coffee culture has evolved whereby you can find of a plethora of excellent espresso bars and coffee shops in even the smallest towns.

In fact, in Italy, it is almost impossible to get a poorly made cup of coffee or espresso; even the motorway pit stops (small service shops) offer good coffee, and surprisingly good espresso.......
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Old Feb 4, 2013, 08:11 AM   #63
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No, it is not banned per se, it is just that Italians know the difference between good and poor coffee (and espresso). Moreover, Italy is cultured, and civilised. This means that a sophisticated coffee culture has evolved whereby you can find of a plethora of excellent espresso bars and coffee shops in even the smallest towns.

In fact, in Italy, it is almost impossible to get a poorly made cup of coffee or espresso; even the motorway pit stops (small service shops) offer good coffee, and surprisingly good espresso.......
That has to be bate! I'm not biting.

However, Starbucks is good coffee offering a wide variety of tastes and strengths although I acknowledge regional preferences exist. I'm not a Starbucks sales person, but I believe they could compete with any coffee offered in Europe. I'm not sure when I ordered a cup of Coffee Americana (Italy), why I got a cup of coffee? Would that be a particular blend or the fact that I got a cup of coffee vs espresso? It also seemed no one took their coffee to go. Along the highway everyone (most) seemed to drink their coffee in the gas stations.
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Old Feb 4, 2013, 08:22 AM   #64
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I disagree. Starbucks is good coffee offering a wide variety of tastes although I acknowledge regional preferences exist. I'm not a Starbucks sales person, but I believe they could compete with any coffee offered in Europe. I'm not sure when I ordered a cup of Coffee Americana (Italy), why I got a cup of coffee? Would that be a particular blend or the fact that I got a cup of coffee vs espresso?
I must respectfully disagree about Starbucks' coffee, at least when it comes to the straight espresso.

I have only had espresso at Starbucks a couple of time, and have not been impressed with the quality of the espresso. Most recently, about a week ago, I had 20 minutes ti kill, so I went to my local Starbucks for a double shot. I found the espresso to be lacking in intensity and flat. No depth or complexity, just a weak, flat drink.

As always, this is purely a matter of personal taste.
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Old Feb 4, 2013, 08:25 AM   #65
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I must respectfully disagree about Starbucks' coffee, at least when it comes to the straight espresso.

I have only had espresso at Starbucks a couple of time, and have not been impressed with the quality of the espresso. Most recently, about a week ago, I had 20 minutes ti kill, so I went to my local Starbucks for a double shot. I found the espresso to be lacking in intensity and flat. No depth or complexity, just a weak, flat drink.

As always, this is purely a matter of personal taste.
I must clarify that I don't drink espresso at Starbucks, just coffee and don't make a habit of it.
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Old Feb 4, 2013, 08:43 AM   #66
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That has to be bate! I'm not biting.

....... I'm not a Starbucks sales person, but I believe they could compete with any coffee offered in Europe. I'm not sure when I ordered a cup of Coffee Americana (Italy), why I got a cup of coffee? Would that be a particular blend or the fact that I got a cup of coffee vs espresso? It also seemed no one took their coffee to go. Along the highway everyone (most) seemed to drink their coffee in the gas stations.
Sorry to disagree with you but I'm with Shrink (post quoted below). Starbucks may look good, and have masterful marketing, but their coffee just doesn't cut it for me; the quality, flavour, depth are all lacking - actually, it is insipid, the very worst thing a good coffee should be. No, for coffee, Starbucks are over-rated, and under-powered.....actually, I heartily wish they were better, and served better coffee, as I have friends who (knowing I like coffee) keep suggesting meeting in such places, looking confused and lost when I suggest little Italianate coffee shops instead.......

And no, they could not compete 'with any coffee offered in Europe'; if anything, the opposite - they serve some of the very worst coffee in Europe, unfortunately, especially when compared with the real coffee drinking cultures of Europe.

Re the gas stations in Italy, when I first saw (and experienced that - i.e. the quality of the coffee and espresso on sale and the fact that many drank their coffee in such places), it blew me away completely.

You can tell a lot about a society by looking at how they deal with mundane, everyday matters, what they consider acceptable, and what those who patronise them expect by way of available goods and service. In Italy, basic gas stations offer excellent coffee and expresso (which is why many Italians can be seen drinking coffee there) and this is a standard which is accepted and expected in that country.

Moreover, in Italy, the gas stations had the sort of espresso, dried pasta, passata, olive oil - and so on - for sale that you will normally find in a decent deli elsewhere in western Europe. I was stunned. To Italians, this was the most basic standard that they would accept.

Personally, I love the idea of a society where the ordinary, everyday things - cups, coffee, coffee pots, to use topical (to this thread) examples, - are so beautifully designed as to be both very attractive (and often tactile, too) and extraordinarily functional. And I love that design nirvana of a fusion of form and function for ordinary things (for any fool with an inflated budget and innate good taste can design stuff that only the wealthy can afford) that you find in countries such as Italy, Denmark, and even (a different aesthetic), Japan, where what is used in everyday life is elevated to an art form, and respected as such. That is cultured, civilised living in my book.

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I must respectfully disagree about Starbucks' coffee, at least when it comes to the straight espresso.

I have only had espresso at Starbucks a couple of time, and have not been impressed with the quality of the espresso. Most recently, about a week ago, I had 20 minutes ti kill, so I went to my local Starbucks for a double shot. I found the espresso to be lacking in intensity and flat. No depth or complexity, just a weak, flat drink.

As always, this is purely a matter of personal taste.
And, again, my friend, I'm in complete agreement with you here.
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Old Feb 4, 2013, 09:00 AM   #67
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Sorry to disagree with you but I'm with Shrink (post quoted below). Starbucks may look good, and have masterful marketing, but their coffee just doesn't cut it for me; the quality, flavour, depth are all lacking - actually, it is insipid, the very worst thing a good coffee should be...
I'm starting to wonder if Starbucks serves the same stuff in Europe that they do in the States?

If we are talking coffee, you start with a bean and brew it. It's not that hard. Is the implication that European coffee houses have special sources of beans not available in the States, or have a superior means of brewing coffee (not espresso- I drink coffee)? Anyway, I'm not wanting to fight, just wondering.
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Old Feb 4, 2013, 09:01 AM   #68
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I love that design nirvana of a fusion of form and function for ordinary things (for any fool with an inflated budget and innate good taste can design stuff that only the wealthy can afford) that you find in countries such as Italy, Denmark, and even (a different aesthetic), Japan, where what is used in everyday life is elevated to an art form, and respected as such. That is cultured, civilised living in my book.
At the risk of turning this into a mutual admiration society (and going a bit OT), I couldn't agree more.

It is the design and esthetic (visual and tactile) of the mundane, everyday objects that one uses daily that adds to the pleasure of life.

My budget is limited (my expenditures on espresso stuff notwithstanding...I do without elsewhere), but having the little things I use every day being unusual and,IMO, beautiful is important to me.

The picture below is the weekly pill organizer I use. Nothing could be more mundane than that, but the plastic ones I bought in the drug store just didn't do it.

Again, my apologies to all for going so far OT...I promise I will not do it again.
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Old Feb 4, 2013, 09:12 AM   #69
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At the risk of turning this into a mutual admiration society (and going a bit OT), I couldn't agree more.

It is the design and esthetic (visual and tactile) of the mundane, everyday objects that one uses daily that adds to the pleasure of life.

My budget is limited (my expenditures on espresso stuff notwithstanding...I do without elsewhere), but having the little things I use every day being unusual and,IMO, beautiful is important to me.

The picture below is the weekly pill organizer I use. Nothing could be more mundane than that, but the plastic ones I bought in the drug store just didn't do it.

Again, my apologies to all for going so far OT...I promise I will not do it again.
I think this stuff is on topic. It's a general espresso thread, and if it leads into quality and social differences between countries, so be it. I like reading what you guys write.
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Old Feb 4, 2013, 09:15 AM   #70
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At the risk of turning this into a mutual admiration society (and going a bit OT), I couldn't agree more.

It is the design and esthetic (visual and tactile) of the mundane, everyday objects that one uses daily that adds to the pleasure of life.

My budget is limited (my expenditures on espresso stuff notwithstanding...I do without elsewhere), but having the little things I use every day being unusual and,IMO, beautiful is important to me.

The picture below is the weekly pill organizer I use. Nothing could be more mundane than that, but the plastic ones I bought in the drug store just didn't do it.

Again, my apologies to all for going so far OT...I promise I will not do it again.
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I think this stuff is on topic. It's a general espresso thread, and if it leads into quality and social differences between countries, so be it. I like reading what you guys write.
Let's be careful to not let the social aspects of the cultural differences get out of hand and venture into PRSI territory. I like this thread and don't want to see it moved to PRSI where I don't read or participate. [/mod hat]
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Old Feb 4, 2013, 09:15 AM   #71
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I think this stuff is on topic. It's a general espresso thread, and if it leads into quality and social differences between countries, so be it. I like reading what you guys write.
And it gives us an opportunity to debate what "more civilized" means, if you want to take the bait...
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Old Feb 4, 2013, 09:17 AM   #72
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Let's be careful to not let the social aspects of the cultural differences get out of hand and venture into PRSI territory. I like this thread and don't want to see it moved to PRSI where I don't read or participate. [/mod hat]
Yeah, I mean just the differences in coffee and espresso and what have you.

Differnce in coffee quality between country x and y, how coffee is viewed/valued between country x and y.

Hopefully that's not PRSI stuff. Is it?
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Old Feb 4, 2013, 09:19 AM   #73
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Let's be careful to not let the social aspects of the cultural differences get out of hand and venture into PRSI territory. I like this thread and don't want to see it moved to PRSI where I don't read or participate. [/mod hat]
Sorry, Mate. I really shouldn't have done it.

I love this thread and certainly don't want to see it de-railed or end up in PRSI.

If you feel it would be beneficial to the thread, feel free to Edit my post, or send a Post Report for another Mod to Edit.
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Old Feb 4, 2013, 09:19 AM   #74
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No, it is not banned per se, it is just that Italians know the difference between good and poor coffee (and espresso). Moreover, Italy is cultured, and civilised. This means that a sophisticated coffee culture has evolved whereby you can find of a plethora of excellent espresso bars and coffee shops in even the smallest towns.

In fact, in Italy, it is almost impossible to get a poorly made cup of coffee or espresso; even the motorway pit stops (small service shops) offer good coffee, and surprisingly good espresso.......
Ive never been to Italy but id heard the coffee there was usually quite disappointing as the italians like single shots of espresso and just down them for the caffeine. Thats all just hear say tho, not personal experience.
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Old Feb 4, 2013, 09:23 AM   #75
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Originally Posted by vrDrew View Post
I looked into buying a home espresso machine a couple of years ago.

While it certainly is possible to get acceptable to good results (ie. creme, flavor, etc.) with many consumer-grade espresso makers, the sad reality is that most sub-$500 equipment is going to have a somewhat limited lifetime. The process of espresso making involves high pressures, high temperatures, and water - which is inevitably full of pesky impurities and scale that deposit and clog up the machine's innards.

A commercial grade espresso machine will have serviceable and replaceable parts. Most consumer-grade machines won't.

I ultimately decided that buying a ~ $350 machine I was going to have to throw away in four or five years wasn't worth it. And that, while I definitely like my espresso, I wasn't prepared to sink a thousand or so dollars into a machine I was only going to use a few times a week. I enjoy my espressos after dinner at my local trattoria and coffee shop. At home I enjoy freshly roasted and ground arabica via my handy (and inexpensive) French Press.
I totally agree with you. If you are serious and you are looking for something that will be used a lot, last for years and have replacement parts available you need a commercial grade machine.

I have a QuickMill Andreja machine and a Vario Mahkonlge Grinder. There don't come cheap but I have at least 15 cups of coffee a week and never regretted the spend on this configuration.
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