Usually Veronica and I usually just head to one of the 38 cafés in our neighborhood to get some coffee, but after a while the mediocre baristas just can’t stack up to the Rituals and the Blue Bottles, which are just out of reach for the daily routine. So we’re about this close to picking up a home machine, except I’m still hesitant to drop the coin being that pulling a proper shot can be a somewhat daunting (yet enticing) task. So here’s where I defer to the home espresso brewers in the house. The candidates of machines we’re looking at (no particular order):

  • Solis SL-90: Supposedly not a bad Swiss-made auto machine, and it’s got pressurized and non-pressurized filter baskets so newbs like us don’t suffer at the onset (but can theoretically ease into pulling a proper shot with a non-pressurized basket). Still, I hear it’s a generally mediocre machine — plus it doesn’t feature a 3-way solenoid valve.
  • Breville 800ESXL: Cheap n’ pretty Aussie machine with high quality parts and a pressurized basket. Has to be modded to take non-pressurized baskets though, and even then generally seems to be thought of as a wolf in sheep’s clothing for budding coffee nerds. It’s a tempting buy, but it also doesn’t have a 3-way solenoid valve and I keep hearing “avoid!”
  • Gaggia Classic: A very well respected machine, but supposedly prone to breaking down and no option for pressurized baskets. Bah.
  • Rancilio Silvia: The most beloved consumer espresso machine and so, so pretty — but also difficult to master. I don’t necessarily trust us to get our tamps and grind just right, so my inclination is to go a little more user-friendly and sacrifice some of the sheer Rancilio awesomeness.

Your recommendations for a machine (hell, and grinder!) are much obliged. As you can tell, we’re looking at mid-range single-boiler consumer models.