I’m very similar! Got into coffee around 2000, enjoyed the third-wave boom living in London and have very fond memories of some of the now huge East London shops opening in the late 00s. When Shoreditch Grind was just a little circular building on (a very very different) Old St roundabout.
Almost every shop had a Linea and a couple of Super Jolly’s usually painted in their colours
We had a Mazzer Mini Doser and big old Gaggia commercial machine at the design agency i was working at and I learned to make espresso from a colleague. We didn’t weigh anything, just fill the basket, and hit the double button on the machine!
To me this is what I still love about making/drinking espresso. A mix of nostalgia, efficiency and great coffee. I have no interest in portioning out single doses, freezing beans or 0.1g of retention. I buy a coffee I like the sound of, dump a bit in the hopper each day and work my way through a bag.
For that reason single dosing grinders haven’t appealed to me but in the coffee community I’d say I’m now in the minority. The Niche changed the landscape significantly and for people who want to swap beans often and grind as fresh as possible, there’s still nothing better anywhere near the price point.
Also to me I just like how older coffee stuff looks. Mazzer, MK, Faema etc. I’m not really a fan of the space-age styling of a lot of the progressive equipment.
If you don’t mind the looks and want to try single dosing, the Niche is the way to go.
Edit: just found an old pic of Shoreditch Grind - 2 Lineas and a Mazzer, this was basically every shops setup, and at least 50% of why I have the LM and Mazzer 😅