October 2014 Newsletter
One of the most common questions that I get asked these days is
"What is this particular secondhand espresso machine worth?" The
person asking is usually looking to either sell their existing
machine or to buy one from someone else. Making things even more
difficult is the huge range of devices and appliances that come
under the description "Espresso Machine".
Fortunately I've developed a sort of mental checklist that helps me
whittle down the possibilities pretty quickly. I could wish for an
espresso machine version of Glass's Guide, but no one has made one
yet. What I always keep in mind is that it doesn't matter how much a
machine originally cost, it's only worth what someone else is
prepared to pay for it.
The first question is "Is it a pod or capsule machine?" If it is,
then somewhere between zero and $50.00 is the range. For example, my
local Woolworths normally sells CaffeItaly pod machines for $110.00
new, but every couple of months discounts the price to $49.00.
Secondhand price should always be less than $49.00.
Second question is "Is it a superautomatic machine? If so, where was
it made?" Made in Italy or Switzerland machines can be worth up to
$300.00 or so, made in China half that or less. A strong dose of
"Buyer Beware" is indicated here, there's a good chance that the
person buying a secondhand superauto is paying to inherit someone
else's problem. Avoid "just serviced" machines, that's usually code
for "will work for a week then break ... again."
Then come machines with pumps and portafilters. Chinese mass
produced thermoblock machines in perfect condition, no more than one
third of full price when new. Ditto any machine with a pressurized
portafilter. My advice is to always look up the "new" price before
contemplating the secondhand one. Decent single boiler machines with
proper brass portafilters and SS filter baskets may bring up to 60%
of new price, depending on age and condition.
The same rule more or less applies to single group HX or double
boiler machines designed for domestic or light commercial use. You
have to remember that there is no warranty on a secondhand machine,
no matter how perfect its condition. As a rule of thumb, I knock
another 5% off the price for each year of service, so a 5 year old
machine that cost $2400.00 new would now be worth $1200.00 in
perfect nick. Damage, scale, leaks or electrical problems would cut
that by half or more.
Finally, "proper" commercial machines, 2, 3 or 4 group, are valued
strictly according to initial cost, age and condition. Any machine
older than 5 years is basically worth only scrap value, because its
total cost has been depreciated for tax purposes. They are rarely
purchased for home use, because even a 2 group machine will require
a 20A electrical line. 3 groups and up are usually 3-phase
electrical connections, and water filtration and proper plumbing
connections are essential. I tell people to avoid machines from
Azkoyen, Brasilia and VFA Express because all 3 companies are
defunct, making service and spares a difficult business.
Costa Rican farmers have been experimenting with the Miel (Honey)
process, leaving only a little fruit on the beans (white honey),
medium amounts (yellow honey) and lots (red honey.) Our normal Miel
has been the yellow, but after another cupping night we're trying
the Red Honey version. This is a small lot single estate coffee
in very limited production.
Costa Rica Tarrazu Roja Miel
Rich, intense, pure coffee flavour and aroma with medium acidity and a long
Until next month