Two years ago I started out with a Rancillo kit; a Silvia Espresso Machine and Rocky Doserless Grinder. Both are very reliable pieces of equipment for making espresso at home.
The Silvia can extract a great shot of espresso and steam milk ready for latte art. Its biggest drawback its fluctuating temperature regulation, which is essential for proper extraction. As a result, shots can be inconsistent. But this can be remedied by installing a Proportional Integral Derivative (PID) temperature controller, which runs about $175.
At 18 pounds the Rocky is a durable and reliable burr grinder. I recommend the doserless, the type that dispenses the grounds straight out of the grinding chamber instead of storing it in a storage bin (doser), since any coffee you grind should be used right then.
I switched to a Baratza Vario grinder in February since I was looking for something a bit more versatile (although half the weight of the Rocky so it does not feel as solid). Unlike other grinders, it’s really easy to switch the grind adjustment on the Vario; you move a lever instead of a large adjustment knob, so switching from an espresso to a filtered grind is easy. This grinder also has ceramic burrs and a dosing timer so you can consistently dose the proper amount of coffee.
Over the summer I wanted to upgrade my espresso machine. I thought that a dual boiler would be nice. The single boiler machine required me to steam my milk, and then cool the boiler to the correct extracting temperature for espresso. I steam first because steamed milk stays fresher longer than espresso. With a dual boiler, one boiler is dedicated to making espresso and the other the steam. I also wanted a machine a PID. I was hunting around for something like a Quickmill. Around that same time I went to New York and my friend Ramin told me about a La Marzocco GS3 that a restaurant owner was looking to sell. I called the seller 24 hours before his move to Asia. His original buyer had fallen through so I got a screaming deal on the machine and a Mazzer Mini grinder. The machine arrived damaged but with some love, another friend from Intelligentsia fixed it up and my uncle helped me detail it with some wood panels, group cap, and portafilter handle. With the Marzocco refurbished and running like a dream, I’m at last firing on all cylinders!
MyPressi Twist – Using just an air cartridge that delivers nine bars of pressure, you can extract espresso with this portable device. You aren’t committed to extracting espresso with hot water either; I saw Tomotake Kikuchi extract coffee with fruit juice at the Japanese Barista Championships. Major drawback is that you can’t fly on a plane with the necessary air cartridges. I’m hoping they will integrate a hand pump into the device. Till then, I will bring this with me to the bike races I drive to.