I have to count myself awfully amused by this article about a supposedly home-use espresso machine that’s going to retail for $7,500:
The La Marzocco GS/3 finally hit the market late last year, and it’s everything they expected except for the price. After telling customers for more than two years that the machine would cost $4,500, U.S. distributor Franke catapulted the price to $7,500.
Franke Coffee Systems North America, based in Seattle, figures 70 to 80 percent of the 247 people on its waiting list will walk.
As I believe I’ve imparted on these pages before, we moved to Seattle before the Starbuck’s-fueled coffee craze was even a glimmer in Juan Valdez’ eye. At that time, there were two, maybe three, places that served a reliable, righteous cup of espresso, and we were intimately familiar with their locations and hours. Starbuck’s actually existed at that time, as a coffee bean retailer in the Pike Place Market, but they only sold beans and coffeenalia.
I’ve been interested in good coffee since I was in college, and one of my first domestic purchases was a good drip maker. There wasn’t much in the way of quality beans available in suburban Ohio at that time, however, but I happened on this dark drip grind from Medaglia D’Oro. I believe I inherited this predilection from my grandparents, who may or may not have remembered what food they ate at a particular restaurant, but recalled with crystal clarity whether the coffee was any good. And held grudges.
After we arrived in Seattle and were able to purchase decent beans, we owned a series of stove-top espresso makers, of which this:
is the only survivor. It’s still in a cupboard above the stove. This may, in fact, be the machine that got vapor-locked one day in the early 80s and launched itself, Challenger-like, over the stove and put a dent in the wall while spewing its inky payload all over the kitchen. I think the dent’s still there. Subliminally, at least, we had been looking for an excuse, and this incident gave us license to move on to a real steam-vapor Gaggia electric. A little later, I added a burr grinder to the suite.
That machine was a work-horse, and we used it until the late 90s when, I think, it actually rusted out like a Pinto that’s been driven too long on corn belt winter highways. There must be a lot of us in Seattle who have home espresso makers, because there’s a dandy little shop on Phinney called Home Espresso Repair that apparently gets sufficient business to have lasted for at least 15 years. When they could not find parts to repair the Gaggia, we bought our current machine from Starbuck’s for somewhere under $300. It reliably provides the 6 - 8 pulls we require of it each day.
It would take a skilled salesperson with a very nice figure to convince me that I could taste the difference between the coffee I make with my machine and the precious excrescences of a $7,500 surrogate. Especially when there’s not an appliance in the kitchen that I’ve paid more than $400 for - the stove and the fridge were both purchased in the 70s, the dishwasher around 1981 when we did our remodel.