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I remember discussing the merits of different espresso machines a while back at my local coffee shop with a seasoned barista. His advice was that anything priced below $1000 would produce sub-par espresso.

Is this a good rule of thumb? In other words...

What is the minimum amount of money one should spend when investing in a at-home espresso machine?

For the purposes of this question, I'm interested in semi-automatic espresso machines. It would be used to make straight espresso and espresso beverages.

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    Cheap ones don't last very long in my experience. I spent $1000 before I got one that lasted more than a couple years. – paparazzo May 1 '16 at 22:28
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    How about replacing investing with buying, you are not going to calculate a ROI and compare it with other options, so it's not an investment. – sorin Oct 12 '16 at 8:05
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It's important to note that you should be thinking of your entire espresso budget (i.e. Machine, Grinder, and Accessories) when trying to find the "right" price. If you were to buy a $1000 machine, you'd want to spend minimally $300 on an espresso grinder. If you're looking at spending a $1000 total and go with something that requires a little more technique, maybe the popular Rancilio Silvia / Rocky combination is right for you. Also, some say that the grinder is actually the most important component to consider when trying to make amazing coffee on a budget. It might be worth shorting yourself a bit on the machine to afford yourself a better grinder in the long run. I'd recommend the Baratza Vario as a starting point. It's pricier, but it does a fantastic job for both drip and espresso. Also, Baratza has amazing support/service and a history of quality. That can be worth quite a bit in the long run.

  • I appreciate the added advice on considering other aspects of espresso production with regards to total cost (i.e., grinder, customer support). – N. York May 10 '16 at 17:41
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After years of experience, the answer is simply depends on your budget and how much you want to invest in coffee.

This is coffee; if you are experienced, you can brew magic out of one dollar cezve or a two dollar moka. If you use low quality beans you may spoil ten grand espresso machines.

First, believe in your technique and invest in your experience, then invest in the gadgets.

Regarding the actual amount you have mentioned in your question, my humble advice is, one grand is quite a lot of money for a home style espresso machine. There are lots of choices that can produce acceptable quality espresso for even a few hundred dollars. I am sure you can find a very suitable semi-automatic desktop espresso machine for one grand. Even if you cannot, there are many other alternatives you can brew tasteful coffee such as aeropress, V60, French press, etc. those are way cheaper than one thousand dollars. There are always alternative ways to explore a new cup of coffee. After all these years, I am still exploring.

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My first espresso machine was a Nuova Simonelli Oscar which I bought for $400 on Craigslist. I have switched to a fully manual Olympia Cremina since then, which costs three times more, and is in a sense, a far more difficult machine to use. The Oscar was exceptionally temp stable, had massive steaming power, made repeatable shots, and was a whole lot of machine for the money. While mine was an exceptional deal, used Oscars usually go for about $800 on the secondary market. They are built like tanks, easy to use and maintain, and are very repairable with a lot of parts available in case something fails.

However, if you don't mind monitoring a whole lot more variables, a La Pavoni Europiccola runs well below $1k and can make as amazing of espresso shots as your technique allows. Far more fun.

  • Welcome to Coffee SE, please feel free to take the tour. – MTSan May 23 '16 at 10:57
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Breville has some pretty affordable equipment that can make good espresso. The Breville Dual-Boiler, in particular, has received positive feedback from David Schomer himself.

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