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I have decided to take the plunge and finally buy an espresso machine. Having used a moka pot, cafetiere, drip filter and various other contraptions, I've decided it is time to furnish the kitchen with some eye candy coffee-making equipment.

 

As always, budget is a barrier. If it weren't, I'd by a Rancilio Silvia as what I want is a well-built machine that won't need replacing in a year or two. The Silvia looks brilliant. However I am unable to spend more than £150 (well, maybe a little more), therefore I have narrowed it down to:

 

Dualit Espressivo

Magimix L'Expresso

DeLonghi Icona

 

I have noticed a few other deals, reconditioned Gaggias and so on, but the three above are the most widely available and viable options to me. I think the Dualit looks the most sturdy (I studied it in the shop today), but the Magimix has 19 bar pressure and an in-built filter which I thought was pretty neat. The DeLonghi I'm just not sure about at all but I found a decent deal on it so it's up for consideration.

 

I usually drink espresso or Americano so the frother is of secondary importance. I'm not convinced I need to spend a fortune on a grinder so I'll stick with Illy and Lavazza ground beans most of the time.

 

Can anyone help me out with my decision?

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I can only speak from my own experience, and it's vitally important not to underestimate the importance of a grinder. I sat for years with a Pavoni looking good but unused on my kitchen worktop because I could never get a decent espresso from it - using pre-ground. Then earlier this year I discovered what I'd been doing wrong, bought a grinder and haven't looked back since. And yes - I was totally sceptical about grinder importance until I tried it myself!

 

If budget's the issue, try looking for a hand grinder. Otherwise, if you're relying on pre-ground, it doesn't matter what espresso machine you buy.

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For anyone who's interested, here's what I thought of the three machines I was looking at, and the choice I made!

 

Magimix L'Expresso (£130)

Pros: 19 bar pressure, built-in water filter

Cons: very cheaply made, seems to be made almost entirely from plastic, not as stylish as a coffee machine should be

 

This machine stood out at first because of the 19 bar pressure and water filter. It seemed ideal, but on inspecting it in the shop I would have grudged paying over £50 for it. Plastic, plastic and more plastic. The demo machine was actually broken so I gave it a wide berth.

 

Features: 8/10

Build quality: 3/10

Design: 3/10

 

 

Dualit Espressivo (£159)

Pros: very cool design, rugged build, intuitive and user-friendly operation

Cons: over-budget for me

 

This machine looks fantastic! Build quality seems to be of a very high standard, especially in comparison with other machines under £200. Very classy, simple design and a neat operation method. No digital buttons here, it's a wheel and a couple of switches, so you feel a bit more in control of the coffee you're making. Has 15 bar pressure and a cup warmer like most other machines at this price range.

 

Features: 6/10

Build quality: 8/10

Design: 9/10

 

 

DeLonghi Icona (£150)

Pros: seems to be mostly well made, classy Italian design, leading brand

Cons: frothing wand looks fragile

 

This is a stylish machine, and it comes in four colours if you're in to colour-coordinating your kitchen. I'm not, so would have plumped for the Ferrari red model, no competition! The milk frother, operated by a twisty knob at the top of the machine, loses functionality points as it doesn't rotate, just flaps to the side a little. Build quality appears to be good for a machine at this price, but the three switches look a bit flimsy and prone to sticking to me.

 

Features: 6/10

Build quality: 7/10

Design: 8/10

 

 

So, having done a lot of internet research and traipsed around all the department stores in town (Glasgow), in my opinion the Dualit Espressivo is the best machine at this price range. I bought one today :) I looked at some of the more expensive models, Kitchenaid etc, and found that it just about matched them for build quality.

 

It was a close-run thing in the end though, as I thought the DeLonghi Icona was a very pretty machine that was worth the money, which is more than can be said for some machines.

 

The Magimix's features almost sold me, but as soon as I saw it I scored it off the list. It doesn't look like a machine that would last very long.

 

It's worth pointing out that I never demo'd any of the machines. On comparing the specs of all the machines I could afford, I found that the only variable was the capacity of the water tank. I didn't think this would affect the coffee it could produce. I assumed that all these machines would be capable of making a similar standard of coffee, so in the end my decision was based on functionality, design and build quality.

 

I've noticed a lot of people coming to this board asking the same question as me - "What's the best machine you can buy for under £200?". I am not an expert on making coffee, so my opinions on that score aren't really worth much. But I know a well-built appliance when I see it, and I can spot a cheap one easily. Hopefully this post will be helpful to others faced with the same dilemma as I was.

Edited by Bob Skeleton
edited typo - thanks BanishInstant

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Hi Bob

 

Not sure if you considered the Cuisinart EM200U which delivers decent quaility for the pricetag (see here for more details)

There is also a 'free grinder' offer with this machine (01Oct-31Dec)

 

The DeLonghi Icona does feel plasticy and the portafilter is constructed of a thin material that does not retain the heat as well as other models in this price bracket

 

Don't be fooled by the 'ready to go in 40 seconds' claim the Dualit makes. Give the machine 6-10 minutes at least to heat up and then flush the grouphead

Was it this model you purchased?

 

Re: Grinders

Illy and Lavazza ground coffee (espresso grind) is remarkably evenly ground (I am guessing flat rollers were used, commercial quanities) and if you are using these beans then shouldn't have any problems with the grind.

 

However, investing in a good grinder will be a real eye opener and take your coffee to a whole new level.

As a minimum, we recommend the Iberital MC2, which meets the needs of most home coffee enthusiasts, with an ability to grind from Filter to Turkish (with Espresso catered for very well) See previous posts for more details.

 

Enjoy your new coffee maker. It is adequate and you should be able to progress with this choice.

 

Disclaimer:

We have no commercial affikiation with the manufacturers or retailers mentioned above

All views expressed are based on limited 'hands on' use of the machines

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I would heavily recommend looking on ebay for a second hand Gaggia classic. They are fairly heavy duty bits of kit and lots seem to have been bought by people who like coffee, but don't like the faffing. I bought one off ebay that apparently was broken (got it for £40) and when i got it it just needed a clean (dirty seal made it leak). I think a lot of people on here will agree with me, the easiest way to get better coffee at home is to grind your own. You can spend hundreds on a coffee machine but if you dont grind your own, your not getting much better than instant. Just a good hand grinder can give great results.

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Hi Bob,

 

For a bit of clarity, could you confirm the machine you purchased?

 

in my opinion the Dualit Espressivo is the best machine at this price range. I bought one today

 

The Expressivo's features almost sold me, but as soon as I saw it I scored it off the list.

 

Did you buy a tamper too? If you cannot afford a grinder yet, then at least you can vary the compression of the coffee.

 

Try different coffee supplies and try to buy those with a roasted date or at least the longest use by date. The fresher the coffee the better. For those of us blessed with beans and grinders you notice the difference the older the beans or the ground coffee is.

 

Welcome on the journey.:)


Still learning on... Gaggia TS, Cunill Tauro, PTM Tamper, Motta Tamping Stand and Knock Box, Gaggia Milk Jug and fresh beans!

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D'oh! That's a typo, BanishInstant. I'll correct the oiginal post.

 

I will buy a better tamper than the plastic one included. The first two cups I made were watery and I understand now that the coffee was not compressed enough. My third cup was much better so lesson learned.

 

I do have a grinder, but it's not a burr grinder, it's a blade. I may be able to get results from it but having read some fairly insitent replies on this thread I've decided a burr grinder is on my list :) After a knock out box and tamper. Perhaps I'll leave a print-out of this thread lying around the flat and hope my girlfriend takes the hint...

 

Flyingpig, the Gaggia website links to the company who now sell their reconditioned machines. Last time I checked there was a Cubika on there for £99. I considered it, but I wanted to see the machine I was buying and I hadn't read many glowing reviews on any entry level Gaggia machines. I'm sticking by the Dualit :)

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