Found a used Gaggia Classic on newyork.craigslist.org. Took the train up to Greenwich, paid the the cash to the pusher man in the back of his SUV and took home a “marginally used” single pump/single boiler w/3 way solenoid valve home espresso machine. The Rancilio Silvia currently goes new for about $600 or more, the Gaggia Classic is usually just under $500. I paid less than half of that so I feel good about it. Now the grinding, that’s another story. My vintage PeDe hand grinder goes pretty fine, but it’s still a bit coarse for the Gaggia. I had Ellen at Sweet Leaf grind me some Hairbender with their Mazzer profi grinder and it’s perhaps too fine; I’ll try less tamp. This morning it has tended towards a bit sour extraction though blonding doesn’t seem to be happening as quickly and I’m getting the full 30 seconds if not more, which makes me think it’s too fine. With the Larry’s espresso I was using and the PeDe I was getting 15 seconds max but it was much sweeter, though likely much less extracted, so it’s a fine line.
So yeah, at this point I have some cleaning to do: back flush the porta filter basket and 3-way valve, and do a full descale of the system. So far it doesn’t look like it was too heavily used though when I pulled the screen off the group head there was a pretty serious buildup of coffee soot/sludge so I’ll likely need to do a bit of cleaning around the group.