... south of England that is. (And a shameless request for purchase advice.)
Like so many others, having had the fortune to work from home permanently since March last year, my coffee experience has changed rapidly over that time. I used to enjoy a Nespresso with breakfast (with a little warm milk from the microwave!) before making the mad dash to the station. At the weekends I would always make a cafetière of coffee, usually using Levazza beans or ground coffee. I purchased a Dualit milk frother for my wife and son several years ago; they love it for hot chocolate, but I was always disappointed in the results for coffee.
Outside the home (usually before getting into the office) I would occasionally collect a latte or cortado from Costa. Costa has always my the least worst option for me. What I always craved was an independent coffee shop.
During lockdown I acquired a 20 year old Krups coffee machine. A simple thermoblock. Warmup times were quick, espresso was acceptable but incredibly variable, and milk steaming was a revelation for a few weeks as I could do it at home for the first time. However I soon realised the machine was introducing far too much air into the milk, so more of a froth. After 6 months or so the machine given up - the rubber ring above the basket has split (at least I think that's the reason water escapes around the basket!) and the steam wand has lost its puff.
A brief Google to fix these problems led me here and the rest is history. I've always contemplated an espresso machine, by which I mean anything sold on the high street but having read so much, watched so many YouTube videos, I am now in the market for a real machine.
As I've said, all of my drinks are milk based. I therefore know I need a HX or dual boiler. Normal use will be two drinks in the morning for the wife and I. Occasionally followed by another two a little later. Once in a while guests may request a drink, either in the morning or evening after dinner.
Original budget was around £1200 for the espresso machine alone, so was looking at the Mara X, Elizabeth or Silvia.
Space is limited. I'm restricted to 41cm below kitchen cupboards. Although most machines will fit, filling the reservoir will be awkward. I'm therefore contemplating a machine that can be plumbed. This has led me to the Lelit Bianca, ECM Technika or Rocket Mozzafiato. WIth regard water quality, I know I will have to invest in a water filer such as the BWT range as I live in a hard water area. Budget is flexible so these machines are affordable.
With regard grinder, I've taken on board the advice re a good quality grinder and believe the Eureka Specialita is the balance between quality and economy. I could stretch to a Niche but am not convinced the single grind workflow would suit me.
I'm willing to put the effort into dialing in, and achieving a good, consistent workflow. That said, I'm not a tinkerer, and once we've found a coffee we enjoy we are quite likely to continue using it and keep all other parameters the same. (Maybe that will change once I have the opportunity to play?!) I'm therefore unlikely to benefit from the flow control features of the Bianca.
With regard aesthetics, I'd be happy with an E61 style machine or Elizabeth style (what's that called?) Size is an issue; machines that are nearly 50cm deep are probably nearing unacceptable to my wife. Another reason I like the Bianca, with the reservoir on the side the machine is shallower than most E61s.
I've joined the forum to ask if there's any benefit going Technika or Mozzafiato over Bianca. I honestly don't think I'll use the flow control so I'm not seeing any different between these three. I assume the ECM or Rocket won't be easier to use for a novice simply because they lack flow control? That said, I'm open to all thoughts.
It is quite likely I will take a trip to Bella Barrista once they reopen to chat through options and see these machines before making a final choice. Not to mention take and all tuition they are willing to offer!
I really value the thoughts of consumers, and love to participate in forums for my day job, so really appreciate any thoughts or questions from the community here. Thanks.