Cliff & Pebble sources our products from all over the world, mainly Italy. We've cultivated relationships with top performing manufacturers like Rocket Espresso Milano, Lelit, Quick Mill, La Spaziale, and more to bring our customers Italian-made products that are built to last. You may notice we don't sell every brand - and that's by design. Cliff & Pebble has curated a list of Italian espresso machines from brands we know, love, and most importantly, trust. If you don't see a brand on our website, it's most likely because the service records are below our standards.
Espresso machine terms to know
Single boiler - an espresso machine with one sole boiler. Non heat exchanger (we'll go over this term below) single boiler machines will take the longest to make any milk-based drink as you first need to brew espresso, allow the machine to build up pressure again, then steam your milk.
Heat exchanger (HX) - A single boiler espresso machine capable of brewing espresso and steaming milk simultaneously as the share "exchanges" heat between the two functions.
Dual boiler - An espresso machine with two boilers working independently of one another. You'll find pressure stability to be higher on a dual boiler in addition to being able to make drinks one-after-the-other much more efficiently than any single boiler or single boiler heat exchanger as there will be no recoup time in between steaming and brewing.
PID temperature control - A screen on your espresso machine that allows you to regulate boiler temperatures with the touch of a button. There's a lot of debate about whether or not you need PID. Here's where we stand:
We view PID as a conveniency, not a necessity. As long as you give any prosumer machine ample time to heat up (25 to 30 minutes), PID is not necessary. It is, however, convenient to be able to control temperatures with the touch of a button. Especially if you're someone who wants to experiment with different beans, origins, grind sizes, etc.
Flow control - A neat system that allows you to manipulate the flow of water from your boiler to the group head. Usually done with a connected "paddle", flow control allows you to experiment with different water flow rates and customize your extraction to your exact preferences.
Why are espresso machines so expensive?
While there are certainly less expensive espresso machines on the market, Cliff & Pebble only offers prosumer machines. What's prosumer mean? Prosumer is essentially a professional (or commercial) quality product that is built for domestic use for non-professionals (non-baristas in our case). So, basically a prosumer espresso machine is a commercial-grade machine shrunken down in size to be used at home.
The quality of materials used in our products are far superior to that of cheaper machines. What this translates to is a machine that will last at least a decade if taken care of properly. Sure, you can save plenty of money by buying something on Amazon however what you'll experience is inconsistent results and a machine that will most likely break down or need to be replaced entirely after only a year or two of use. Additionally, the quality of coffee is not comparable.
More important than the espresso machine itself. I know, that isn't what most want to hear. After all, the espresso machine is the sexier purchase. However, you can spend $100k on an espresso machine and pair it with a $50 blade grinder and what you'll end up with is a $100k paper weight on your kitchen counter.
A prosumer espresso machine is only as good as the grinder you pair it with. We recommend allocating at least 40% of your budget to the grinder. Avoid blade grinders entirely and focus on burr size. The larger you go the more consistent your grind will be, the better the retention will be (how much of your coffee beans your grinder retains), and the fast your grinder will be.