My home gear journey started in 2013 when I decided that I want to spend the rest of my life with my girlfriend (now wife) and proposing to her. Once she said yes, the wedding planning began and I realized that saving for the wedding of her dreams will require some sacrifices on my part. At the time, I was working a banking job in New York and as I looked for ways to save money, I realized that in one year I have spent close to $2000 on Starbucks! This sounds crazy but a simple math will show how I got to this number, so follow along.
One year has 365 days or 52 weeks.
One week has 5 working days for a total of 260 days
Deducting the paid time off (20 days) and annual official holidays (10 days) leave us with 230 days of working/commuting days.
Every day, on average, I had one latte in the morning and one regular coffee in the afternoon. The latte costs around $4.50 and the regular coffee around $2 for a total of $6 per day.
Multiplying 230 working days by $6.5 brings us to $1495 (not including weekends, just working days)
On weekends, I usually had one latte per day so adding that to the math brings us to $468 (2 day weekend x 52 weeks = 104 days and multiplying that by $4.5)
Adding $1495 on weekdays + $468 on weekends = $1963!
Looking at ways to cut my spending (Junior Analysts salaries are low and the cost of working in the city is high), I decided to stop buying coffee by bringing my own from home. This decision started a snow ball effect!
I already had a Cuisinart coffee machine that I thought was okay, at that time, in making regular coffee so I focused my energy on finding an espresso machine I can afford. From talking to my fiancée , I already knew that we will be registering at Bed Bath and Beyond for our wedding registry so I started looking in the store at what espresso machines they had in stock and I came across a Dualit 3 in 1 espresso machine.
The machine seemed reasonably priced at around $200 and without any experience or much research, I decided to pick it up and take it home. Since I didn’t have a grinder at the time, I was using preground coffees from Lavazza and Illy and I thought my lattes tasted excellent (little did I know!). Once I had the espresso machine, I needed a table to put it on because our cabinets are very low and my wife (we were living together at the time) wanted the small counter space we have for cooking and making smoothies, etc. I started looking at Craigslist for used table that I can use as an espresso station and it was my lucky day! I found someone selling a butcher block table, that they have customized to include a knock box for their Rancilio Silvia. His reason for selling was that he can no longer drink coffee for health reasons. This gentleman gave me one of the best deals I have ever made. He sold me the butcher block table ($300) with the built-in knock box ($70), an Espro calibrated tamper ($80), a Concept Art tamping stand ($70), a tamping mat ($30), espresso and cappuccino cups made by Nuova Point ($100), Cafiza espresso and coffee machine cleaning solution ($20), Grindz grinder cleaning tablets ($30) and bunch of brand new, unopened, Monin syrups ($100)! All of this for $200 (approximately $750 in retail value)! Ecstatic, I took the stuff home and officially had the first iteration of my espresso and coffee stations setup.
As I dove deep into the coffee and espresso world, I realized that pre-ground coffees are not the best and a burr coffee grinder is the way to go to grind the coffee beans on demand. This led me to purchase my first grinder, a Compak K3 Touch.
Further research revealed that my espresso machine was using pressurized baskets, a no-no for espresso enthusiasts. Pressurized baskets are used on low-end machines with low end pumps to help build enough pressure to extract the shot. A pressurized basket usually have an internal screen that filters the coffee into a small reservoir and has a single hole in the bottom where the shot is released from. Pressurized baskets are for beginners as they can be used with pre-ground coffees and don’t require attention to ground distribution, tamping pressure, coffee ground size, etc. Looking to improve my espresso quality shots further, I decided it’s time to jump into a Rancilio Silvia to replace the Dualit.
In the meantime, I worked on upping my auto and manual drip coffee game so I upgraded my Cuisinart and replaced it with a Behmor Brazen Plus, one of the few SCAA (SCA now) certified auto drip coffee machines. The certification means that the machine is capable of brewing coffee using water heated within the recommended SCA range of 195 to 205 degrees. I also added a Chemex, a gooseneck kettle from Bonavita and a scale (also from Bonavita).
Although I loved the Compak K3, I hated the clumping. Also, further research revealed that I’m still missing out on taste and my espresso can become even better if I upgrade my grinder. This is when I decided to go with a Mazzer Super Jolly Electronic Doserless. Not wanting to spend $1200 on a brand new one, I decided to start looking for a used one but being the picky person I’m I couldn’t settle with one that’s not like new with no cosmetic damage whatsoever. I finally found one for sale in Brooklyn, NY that was less than 1-year-old with less than 500 shots on the counter. The seller promised the grinder is in excellent condition and was asking for $900. I brought it down to $750 and drove to pick it up. The grinder looked brand new, no scratches or dings anywhere and worked flawlessly.
My quest for better espresso did not stop there, I added a PID to the Silvia to improve shot consistency but still, since I drink mostly lattes and cappuccinos, a single boiler machine like the Silvia where I need to switch back and forth between brewing and steaming was started to become a pain in the neck. This led me to look for a heat exchanger machine so I can brew and steam at the same time. Since most of my drinks are mostly milk based, I started looking for the best steamer in town using a 110V (I’m renting and have no access to 220V/240V for the foreseeable future). With that in mind, I landed on the Nuova Simonelli Musica! The Musica, at $2500 brand new is a no go for me but used, they looked like they depreciate quite rapidly. Lurking on eBay, I finally found one for less than $1000! (eBay had a deal going on and offered 10% of the purchase back in eBay bucks, which made the deal even sweeter). This is the tank model with LED lighting, exactly what I was looking for. The machine was described as in pristine condition, which upon receipt of the machine and inspection, turned out to be inaccurate but I’ll leave this for another post. I also added a dedicated drip coffee grinder (a Breville Smart Grinder Pro) since it’s a pain to switch the Super Jolly back and forth between espresso and drip coffee grind.
While in the process, of upgrading grinders and espresso machines, I kept adding accessories and other brewing vessels such as a V60, milk pitchers, coffee storage canisters, etc.
In future posts, I will be reviewing and writing about each of my equipments but if you can’t wait, I already have videos on my channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/hazzi15/videos). Enjoy!