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A GUIDE TO BUYING HOME ESPRESSO MACHINES DURING UK LOCKDOWN

With the current situation asking the UK public to isolate and remain indoors looking like it’s not going to end any time soon, we are receiving more and more enquiries about home espresso machines.

For those with a bit of coffee knowledge under their belt, this might not be such a big deal, but for the rest of us, it can prove to be a bit of a minefield. Price, quality, brand, single boiler, dual boiler, touch screen, manual, automatic?? Worry not, we are here to help.

With that in mind, this blog is geared to answer all the common questions we are being asked, and hopefully help you make the right choice of machine based on your needs and level of knowledge.

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First and foremost, I want to explain what brands we actually sell and why.

Firstly, we sell La Marzocco as our premium brand. They are commercial grade equipment for domestic use, and they look it too. They are beautiful Italian made machines with amazing build quality and features. It’s at the top end of the scale in terms of price, and it takes a little more input from you to get the best out of them as they are manually operated. They are all stand-alone machines, so you need to buy a separate grinder too.  Think Hi-Fi separates.

Models: Linea Mini & GS3 

   

Secondly, we sell Rocket which is our first prosumer brand. i.e. It’s pro equipment for the home user, but not commercial grade. They are classic Italian statement machines with amazing features, but again, require a little skill and input to get the best results out of. Price-wise they sit in the middle territory.  Again, they are all stand-alone machines, so you need to buy a separate grinder alongside it.

Models 1: Appartamento & Evoluzione (HX aka Heat Exchangers)

Models 2: R58 & R60V (Dual Boilers with extra gadgets and controls) 

 

 

Lastly, we sell Rancilio machines. An old school Italian brand, usually known for producing robust commercial espresso machines. However they do produce (arguably) the best single boiler machine on the planet - The Silva (aka Miss Silvia). What was originally produced as a gift for key distributor owners as a 'micro' home machine, has become known worldwide as the go to single boiler home user machine. It's simple, but highly effective. A single boiler machine built around a very solid chassis & stainless steel body, with a commercial grade 58mm portafilter (handle) and a premium grade cool to touch steam wand, capable of producing amazing quality micro-foam for flat whites and lattes.

Models 1: The Silvia E (Silver or Black)

Models 2: The Silvia Pro (coming in late 2020)

      

Next, I will try and answer some of the most common questions that you are likely to be thinking. If there is anything that is not covered here, just give us a call and ask.

No 1: Why are they much more expensive than machines from Argos and John Lewis?

A: Espresso machines typically fall under 2 categories.  Firstly, High Street machines that are designed first and foremost to be the lowest price possible.  This means cheap components, mass production, poor temperature stability (crucial for good coffee) and a short life span.  Examples are Dualit, Morphy Richards, Di Longhi, Gaggia, Krups, Kitchen Aid and Tassimo.  They are all mass-produced cheap machines that not only deliver poor coffee but also struggle to last.  Think cheap toasters.

Secondly, a group of equipment that is often referred to as prosumer, which is basically good quality equipment that was built with an emphasis on quality over price. It’s more expensive, but it’s a considerable jump up in quality and durability.  Examples are La Marzocco and Rocket etc.

No 2: Why is temperature so important for coffee?

A: Coffee is fickle stuff.  It likes to be extracted at the right temperature and pressure, otherwise, it can taste awful.  If you use a cheap machine like the ones above, they usually only have a single boiler with no accurate temperature control, so they extract your coffee at the wrong point resulting in terrible tasting espresso. 

All the brands we stock have a much more precise way of controlling both temperature and pressure, which gives you the control you need to extract the coffee correctly, getting that lovely, balanced sweet-tasting espresso that you are after.

No 3: Can they all steam milk whilst making coffee?

A: In short, yes.  But the catch is, some are better at it than others.  Again, it falls under the price point, in that the more you pay the more commercial and powerful they are.  Pretty much all the machines that we offer are capable of steaming milk while you pull shots.  The only ones that do not are the Sage Bambino, Barista Express, Barista Pro and Barista Touch.  All those models simply lack the power to do both at the same time, and require you to brew coffee first, then steam milk afterwards. For many, this is somewhat a first world problem, but if you ask a barista he will likely kick up a stink about it on social media and beyond.

No 3: Which one's for you? *The million-dollar question…

A: Deciding which machine is right for you comes down to a few key things, so let’s break it down plain and simple.

1. Price is usually the biggest decider for most of us. If the price tag is the biggest issue for you, then Sage machines will win every time. They offer the biggest value for money in terms of quality Vs price. La Marzocco start at around £3700, which for many is a step too far unless you are a full-on coffee aficionado.  Rocket’s come in 2nd with a price range of between £1169 and £3200.  We find that many people who have owned high street quality machines before such as Gaggia Classic’s, Dualit or SAGE machines tend to buy Rocket's next in their strive for better coffee.
2. Ease of use is also a massive worry for many people, as they don’t want to buy a new machine and then not be able to use it and end up with rubbish coffee! Again, if you are looking for the machines that are the easiest to use, then Sage win again (but that doesn't mean the best coffee!). This is because they are automatics, meaning they pre-dose the coffee and control the shot times based on how they are programmed. If you don’t even want to get into programming it, they even come with pre-defined recipes which are pretty good.  That said, if you are a coffee wiz or wannabe coffee learner, the challenge of a La Marzocco or Rocket might be just for you.
3. Aesthetics is another big thing for many people. Sure, you want something that works, but if you’re spending so much money it’s got to look good right? The problem with pretty looking things is that the prettier they look, typically the more expensive they become (unfair huh?). So, the most expensive are the best-looking machines, starting with La Marzocco, followed by Rocket and then Rancilio. It’s not just the superficial stuff we're talking about here, because they are all shiny. It’s also about the quality of the finish.
4. Support is also a massive thing for many people. Ultimately, you want to know, if it goes wrong, am I on my own or do I actually get help? Well, all our machines are supported by us  and come with a standard back to base warranty. This includes La Marzocco, Rocket & Rancilio). This means if anything goes wrong with it mechanically in the first year (unless you broke it!), you can ship it back to us and we will take care of it for you. All the brands we sell are built like tanks, so very little ever goes wrong with them, which is reassuring in itself.

No 4: Last but not least, the almost forgotten question of “what else do I need?”

A: There are numerous things that you need to make good coffee that don’t come in the box with your new toy. Most machines do come with a few key bits of kit, but here it is in a nutshell.

  • Tamper *Included with all Marzocco & Rocket machines.
  • Tamp Mat *Not included in any machines (Used to save your worktop from getting damaged)
  • Milk Jugs *Not included.
  • Filter *Not included
  • Cleaning stuff *All Marzocco or Rocket machines come with free cleaning agent and cloths.
  • Bottomless (Naked) portafilters *No included.

I hope this blog has given those who were struggling to understand the differences between machines some useful knowledge before making a decision.

As always, if you want any further help, just give us a call on 0131 656 9565 or email us on info@machina-coffee.co.uk and we will be happy to help you further.

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