Recommend an espresso machine for my office
December 10, 2019 5:12 PM   Subscribe

I've been asked to select an espresso machine for my office. Help!

I have a varsity-level coffee setup at my desk (burr grinder, scale, gooseneck kettle, thermometer, manual espresso maker, etc) so the office manager wants me to pick out an espresso machine for the staff kitchen. I work in an exceptionally multicultural working environment so espresso is preferred over drip. Nespresso and similar are out because my org is deeply committed to sustainable consumption. Budget around $600-1,000.

I think superautomatic (ie one-touch) would be best and extra points for low-maintenance and high-quality. Saeco comes to mind but all recommendations/advice welcome. Thanks!
posted by lecorbeau to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Seattle Coffee Gear YouTube channel has tons of equipment reviews, including this one in their top 3 series, of their 3 best espresso machines of 2018.
posted by jamjam at 5:27 PM on December 10, 2019

Budget around $600-1,000.

IMO there’s a tipping point in budget when it becomes worth it to buy an espresso machine, especially superauto, and below that, you’re better off giving people gift cards to the coffee shop around the corner (which hopefully exists). Your budget, again just IMO, feels below this tipping point, especially for a superauto (not as good as semi-auto for the $$) with any sort of decent grinder and pump.

Unsure if Italian espresso lovers are what you’re referring to with multicultural office, but Italians IME tend not to do home espresso (where home roughly = inexpensive, under say 1500 at least including grinder); it’s cafes for espresso and moka at home. They might not dig a sub-1k superauto.

If you want fancy single-ish serving machine, how about a pour over automatic thing like the Chemex Ottomatic and a really nice grinder or Melitta EPOS? Or wait and order a Mugsy?
posted by supercres at 5:46 PM on December 10, 2019

I will say this is heavily based on experience drinking from Jura superautos at a couple price points. Philips has some (this one is a SCG staff pick, the only one below 1k) that I haven’t tried.

If you go superauto: Make sure you have someone who really knows their stuff for espresso dial in grind, dose, shot time, and temp. Repeat whenever you get a new type of beans.
posted by supercres at 5:51 PM on December 10, 2019

Bear in mind that a better than ok espresso machine might require new wiring or new plumbing. Double check that when considering your options.
posted by mhoye at 6:04 PM on December 10, 2019

One thing to consider when you’re looking is how much cleaning is involved. My office went with a Nespresso because the other options made a big mess nobody wanted to deal with. You can recycle Nespresso pods, FYI.
posted by something something at 6:05 PM on December 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Also, be aware that if you get a complicated machine nobody is going to know how to use it and you’re going to become the person everyone comes to when they don’t understand what to do.
posted by something something at 6:07 PM on December 10, 2019 [5 favorites]

Can I throw out a budget, not fancy machine? I have this at home, and while I'm admittedly not a coffee snob, I think it makes decent espresso. I don't really use the milk steamer too much, but you can also do lattes and cappuccinos. Operation is fairly simple.
posted by pyro979 at 6:23 PM on December 10, 2019

I bought my espresso machine at Seattle Coffee Gear. It is a Saeco Incanto, and I love it. And OMG, the price is INSANE. And free shipping! It makes me want to buy another one, just to have an extra! (but, of course, I won't. Probably). :)

It does need to be refilled regularly and emptied out every so often, but it's not really that much more maintenance than a regular drip coffee maker - and the coffee is delicious.
posted by dancing_angel at 6:42 PM on December 10, 2019

How many people would be using this every day? A lot of machines intended for home use are not going to deal with making 50 coffees a day, at least for long. My experience has been that anything requiring more maintenance than drip will need a dedicated service contract if uptime is even remotely important.
posted by Jobst at 11:47 PM on December 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Wirecutter did a review of "Best Espresso Machines for Beginners - 2019". From this list, I have been using a Breville Barista Touch semi-automatic machine for about a year. I like it a lot, and the touchscreen UI makes it easier to use than it would be otherwise - you can leave it to use its default settings or use more advanced options.

I would personally be reluctant to advocate such a machine to be installed in my workplace however: it still does require a certain amount of learning that goes beyond that required from a Nespresso machine. It also makes more mess (as does anything which works with loose coffee). Finally: it throws error conditions fairly often because of cleaning issues - blocked jets on the milk steamer - that sort of thing. These can be easily fixed - but the overall effect is that you are expecting users to undertake "mini barista" training to be able to keep everything running.

For that reason, I agree with those who say you either need something completely automated and suitable for high volume use with a service contract - or something simpler than you are talking about - such as Nespresso or a drip machine.
posted by rongorongo at 12:38 AM on December 11, 2019

A few follow up questions:

How long do you want it to take someone walking up to get a coffee from this machine? Is 60+ seconds ok? (semi auto)

Is there someone who can be on call for answers on how to use it, and solve problems with it? (semi auto for the how-to, either semi or super for issues)

Is there someone who can spend 10-15 minutes every day setting it up in the morning and cleaning/maintaining it at the end of the day? (semi or superauto, more super auto)

Is mess, sometimes quite a lot of mess, acceptable? (more semi-auto)

If the answer to any of these is “no” I don’t think there’s a non-pod espresso solution that will work for you.
posted by supercres at 5:09 AM on December 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I was the only one who ever bothered to dismantle and clean the £1500 bean-to-cup machine in my old office. It took ten minutes a day, give or take. The amount of mould inside it after I was on leave for 2 weeks was enough that I never touched it again to clean it or make coffee with it. In addition to the cleaning, there was the de-scaling process, which seemed to trigger at least every two or three weeks and required some special solution and 45 minutes of fiddly knob-turning and water-container-emptying. When the machine decided it was descaling time, no coffee could be made until that process was complete.

I bought an Aeropress after the mould incident which made much better coffee, even with pre-ground beans. According to the real coffee nerds I know, even the most expensive fully-automatic machines can only ever make 'eh' coffee.
posted by shamesock at 5:36 AM on December 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

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