Hi all, after being lost down the rabbit hole on similar topics here, and many google searches, I've decided to ask for your advice.
I have a Gaggia Coffee Deluxe with a Silvia steam wand, I was happy with it for a while, but as I've learnt more, developed a better palate and got a decent grinder (I went from a Gaggia MDF to a Super Jolly E) I've become very aware it just doesn't cut it anymore. I considered modding it, but I'd still have the drippy group head (no solenoid valve), so I want to get something else.
I drink one, maximum two coffees a day, flat whites usually. I don't often make make coffees for multiple guests. I like single origin beans roasted on the lighter side, South American or African coffees normally. With the milk side of things, the Gaggia is hit or miss depending on when I open the steam wand in the boiler cycle, and the amount of milk I'm steaming, it's quite slow too. In regards to espresso, I've tried to eliminate as many variables as possible, and have come to the conclusion I can't get the shots I want on the Gaggia, and even if I lucked out and managed it once, I would be unlikely to be able to repeat it. I use good beans, a good grinder, good water, I weigh my dry doses and weigh/time yield on guideline recipes from the roasters, I can distribute and tamp well enough. That pretty much leaves water temperature and pressure as my issues which is what I expected.
So in regards to what I'm looking for in a machine. I want to be able to make top quality shots, that are repeatable, and a decent amount of steam power would be good. I want stable temperature, and in an ideal world controllable temperature, 9 bars of pressure at the puck, and the ability to tweak it to 6 if I want to (an OPV I'm guessing?). My budget isn't that high, I'd ideally spend £200-£300, but I could potentially go a bit higher for the right thing. From what I've seen I'm not coming close to getting what I want new for that, so I'm looking for used. I'd rather get something that was made to do what I want out of the box, rather than hacked to do what I want, but I'm open to it if it's going to be reliable and every bit as good as something that was made that way. I'm pretty capable of modding if needed, but I'd rather not spend loads of time on this. Really, I just want to be able to make repeatably good coffee without loads of fuss, ideally no temp surfing etc.
So, do I go down the modded classic route, and if I do, is it going to be capable and repeatable and will there still be pain points? Or are there any used HX or DB machines in my price range that would do the trick?
Thanks for reading and I appreciate any input you can give!