Not sure whether this ramble belongs here or in the introduce yourself a bit thread…
If you discount a small Bodum cafetière (which I still have, though possibly not the same glass), my first espresso machine, which I still have, was a Gaggia Baby Millennium. 21 years old this year - I’ll never part with it. Knowing nothing much at all at the time, I bought a Gaggia grinder to go with it, and even with Illy beans, it barely any better than the Illy ground, which was a bit disappointing.
On the off-topic area of a non-coffee related forum, there was a bit of a buzz around a Kitchenaid grinder as being much better. Stop laughing at the back - this was 2001 (ish) and I still didn’t know much about coffee grinders, but this one was a burr grinder and rotated slowly (apparently a good thing), didn’t buzz like a banshee like the Gaggia grinder, and didn’t make the coffee grounds hot. I got used to the frustration of needing it on about 7.75 out of 8 (it was a choice of 7.5 or 8), but I enjoyed the dark Italian-style espresso I got from the combination for many years.
A few years ago, on recommendation from a young and trendy goateed work colleague, I tried a sampler pack of lighter roasted coffees, and assumed he and/or the roaster had taken complete leave of their senses thinking it was suitable for espresso. Sour didn’t even come close. With the Kitchenaid on its finest possible setting, and using the steam button on the Gaggia to get the temperature up a bit before pressing the brew button, I eventually managed to tame the initial battery acid espresso to something more akin to citrus appliance descaler.
Somehow, with a combination of milk and sweetener we used it up and went back to ‘Espresso roast’ beans. Nice black oily ones which tasted like I was used to. With crema.
A little later, as a result of the glass grounds collector breaking on the Kitchenaid, taking very accurate aim at juicy veins in a couple of my fingers in the process, I decided after all these years that it might be time to see what else was available before it had a chance to finish the job. A bit of research pointed towards the Niche - no glass was a major plus - and I ended up buying one off the back of a certain DavecUK’s review. The Indiegogo bit was a bit concerning, but there were no stories of grinders not turning up, and now you can buy direct, I believe.
The difference that made was beyond astonishing. Even with the little Gaggia and Kitchenaid I reckoned I made better espresso than the average chain coffee shop. But with the Niche - wow! I’ve stopped buying bags of greasy coalite pellets, and started trying beans from local roasters for the last year or so, and getting some very enjoyable espresso. I had no idea the flavour of coffee could vary so much while still tasting like coffee!