I ended up buying a Breville Infuser.
Somewhat infuriatingly, it’s $50 cheaper than it was when I bought it? I guess I will be immediately getting in touch with them to see if they want to refund me the difference…
It’s awesome, though. I’ve been having a lot of fun dialing everything in. Pulled the first shot I was really happy with just a few minutes ago – 32 seconds with the pressure right where it should be. Steamer works okay. Not as good as a commercial one, of course, but far better than the ones I’ve used on less expensive machines.
I was also moved to buy one of these, which feels like a ludicrous extravagance.
It’s a box with nested screens to sift out only the grounds of the proper size. It seems like it makes sense in theory. I’m not sure whether it’s just a coincidence that my first good shot was pulled the first time I used this… I did stick with my Encore grinder, which is on the low end for espresso use. According to the Kruve, it was definitely not grinding much that was fine enough. I ended up grinding some extra and basically throwing away my “boulders”. Not the most cost-effective way forward, so I will have to think about what to do.
Overall, though, I’m super happy with the espresso machine. Recommended so far.