So! …What’s the best espresso machine?

Very Exciting Things are afoot at the plan cafe!

In short, It’s no secret anymore that the cafe is considering acquiring a new 2/3 group espresso machine, and that I’m therefore now researching candidates!

Our (very) old existing 2 group semiauto machine is loved and loathed, nurtured and chastised, inspiring and disappointing. It’s faulty, unstable, unfiltered and unfixable. But even though it’s all over the place, I still can’t help defending it – it’s capable of  making very nice espresso, with care (and frequently does so!). But I don’t believe that it can make truly great espresso (a term I don’t use lightly), nor can it even be trusted to make consistently good espresso – and it’s on its last legs. Hence, the plan has decided to put the old dear out to pasture, and the quest is on to find a suitable and worthy replacement. The trick is to find something that can (potentially) guarantee the transition between inconsistently good …and consistently great!

Getting something just because it’s shiny and new with flashing lights, would make the endeavor as pointless as it would be costly, in many ways.

I think the key priorities are:

VERY temperature stable
Easily adjustable, accurate and displayed temperature settings (either for all, or individual groups)
Reliable, consistent, and well built.
Reasonable availability of good service, repair and parts in our area (Cardiff UK)

Temperature surfing our old HX machine for each coffee is interesting and often successful, but it’s tricky, time consuming and very inaccurate. Having accurate temperature settings might take some of the ‘romance’ out of guessing the heat of the water, but I think it’s much more important to get the best from each coffee as often as possible, and to avoid heat-related extraction disasters. Besides, I think even the most modern, stable machines will need some degree of surfing – but it will be more a case of fine tuning, rather than thrashing about wildly and hoping for the best.

So far, I’ve compiled the following wish-list (in particular no order) of what currently seem to be the very best, most revered and respected commercial espresso machines around that feature adjustable temperature, all of which might be capable of taking things to the next level, and which may or may not meet all the criteria on the above list:

Synesso Cyncra  
La Marzocco FB/80  
La Marzocco GB/5          
Dalla Corte Evolution
Kees Van Der Westen Mirage/Minstral
Nuova Simonelli Aurelia (WBC temp upgraded version)
La Spaziale S5
San Remo Verona TCS
La Marzocco Linea (upgraded with PID?)
La Cimbali M39 Dosatron Thermo Drive

La Spaziale S40
Faema Emblema

Astoria Plus 4 You

…And I’m trying to gather as much information, opinion, pricing, comparitive advice, and additions to the list as I can.

Many of the contenders above will definitely be over budget, but it’s important (and fun) to consider them anyway! Others are within it, and some might be within the threshold as semiautomatic models.

A superior semiautomatic machine could certainly be a worthwhile investment over and above an lesser automatic. Semiautomatics demand good practice, attentiveness and skill from the barista – important things to instill in staff if you’re aspiring to produce the best. But they also require a constant monitoring of skills and standards, and an understanding of the techiniques required to prepare espresso properly; so as a long term investment for a cafe, an automatic could perhaps best guarantee consistency. But hey, there are superautos and beantocups for that! It all depends…

Any thoughts, suggestions or preferences anyone?



Ouch!!!!!!!! There’s THIS on the way..!

8 Responses to “So! …What’s the best espresso machine?”

  1. thebeanvagrant Says:

    …Comments on this topic can be viewed here:

  2. missheatherx Says:

    oh my gosh i never knew we were getting a new machine!
    also i didnt think your website would be this big or this good. im a little bit jelous! i didn’t know you did other pictures of latte art too! you will have to show me when we have time.
    From Heather!

  3. thebeanvagrant Says:

    Haha! Good Lord – someone from the plan actually reading this – that must be a first, I think! (…Although, a little known fact is that Ari is actually a member of Rate My Rosetta.) We’ll make a barista of you yet young lady! Watch out though – you may become a coffeegeek..! Welcome

  4. missheatherx Says:

    Oh gosh! I don’t even know what a barista is. I will have to Google it now, and I’m going to do more coffee homework! See yah.

  5. thebeanvagrant Says:

    …thebeanvagrant: *sighs* and *looks slightly vexed* (!) Yep, as discussed today, a barista is a little different from a barrister. On the downside baristas aren’t quite as well paid as barristers. On the upside, you’ll have the skills to make amazingly delicious coffees (if you learn the techniques)!! You’ve only been with us for 10 months though, I guess 😉 so how were you to know? Sounds like you really have been doing your coffee research though, which is great, and your milk was looking really good today – a big improvement – nice one – well done! Cheerio!

  6. blackmountainscoffee Says:

    Hey beanvagrant. You got a good choice of machines there. On the whole the temperature stability is good all round. However, on the decision of Semi or Fully automatic I would always go for the Semi. Remember the advise of one James Hoffman. Having said that, you sometimes have to make sacrifices in order to help sustain a reasonable level of good espresso. As for the availability of parts, I now of internal problems within the LaCimbali and Faema factory which then causes problems further down the chain.
    If it was my money I would have the Synesso but it’s not so I should shut up, however, it’s a pretty safe bet with a LaSpaziale. Pretty good value for money, plenty of spare parts and most engineers can work on them. I may be wrong but is’nt Peter James getting a LaSpaziale S40? Maybe worthwhile making a phonecall to him. My final thought is that I know Illy like the Nuovo Simonelli. They got good results with their coffee at low temp through there and they had good heat retention in the group heads. Good luck with the decision.

  7. thebeanvagrant Says:


    All sounds like good advice – ta. Yep – semi or not is a tough choice when it’s not your own cafe; some people really rate the concept of semis from a quality point of view, others don’t… it all comes down to good training and staffing I guess. I’ve whittled it down to a top three though now, I think – any of which should be great!

  8. Coffee Maker Review Says:

    Coffee Maker Review…

    […]So! …What’s the best espresso machine? « The Bean Vagrant[…]…

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