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  1. #1
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    Coffee Gurus, a little help?

    Well my girlfriend of a little over 2 years loves coffee to death, and currently she has a beautiful $15 (on sale) Mr. Coffee 8 cup machine. Her filters come from the dollar store, and Folgers is her brand of choice. Over the 2 years we have been together going to the coffee shop is about her favorite activity, and her dream is to own and operate her own little coffee shop somewhere. She even has a notepad where she keeps jotting down ideas over the years for her little place.

    To cut a long story short, this year for x-mas I would like to buy her a great coffee machine. Not just coffee, but it'd be great if it made cappuccino and expresso as well. The problem is that I am lost on what manufactur is good, what the different features mean, etc...

    I know we have at least a handful of people around these parts that take pride in their coffee. Any recomendatations would be helpful. I am looking to spend up to $500 or so for the machine.
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  2. #2
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    you should be able to get a great machine for that price, one of the WHT coffee adicts...err lovers... should be able to help you pick the best machine for your gf
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  3. #3
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    I hope so, I could go down to the local WalMart and pick up one of their "Expresso machines" but I wanted something that would really shine and make one heck of a cup. Any ideas as for what coffee to buy where, tips on making a good cup (one member mentioned in another thread about not washing the cup between mornings which I have done and it does add to the flavor), etc... would be most welcomed.
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  4. #4
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    Good coffee predates electricity. You don't need to spend $20 for all the equipment necessary to make the best cup of coffee possible. Simply purchase a kettle to boil water in, and a French Press. Start with quality arabica beans, I prefer to grind mine fresh right before use. I put four scoopfuls (heheh, accurate measurement huh) of medium-ground coffee into the press, add hot water, give it a stir with a wooden spoon, wait four minutes, press down on the plunger and pour into a cup. You can't beat that with any fancy machine, but of course making espresso is a different matter entirely.
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  5. #5
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    Give her a $500 Starbucks gift certificate instead. I don't even have a coffee maker, stop by Starbucks every morning.
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  6. #6
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    Thanks for the tip BigBison, but I would really like to get her a nice automatic machine (one she could use in the shop as well).

    Where do you get your beans from?

    WarpFactor, oddly enough I got her a $100 card for her birthday and it was done and over with in just a few months =p
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  7. #7
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    guess what, i never had coffee my entire life, i cant even stand the smell!

    sometimes i'm forced to have arabic coffee because of the gathering, but mostly i try to avoid it.

    tea? maybe
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  8. #8
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    First of all, buy your girlfriend some quality coffee beans; instant is just not the same, sorry! Second, my sister-in-law bought my father a coffee bean roaster during the last Holiday, which has proven to be an amazing purchase. (Really, nothing like fresh roasted beans!) You can easily do this and much more cheapily than what you may find online.) Last, but not least, lose the Mr Coffee label completely! I have a high end machine, but not one that does other things, as you requested. Do some Googling, and I'm sure you'll come up with a winner!
    Last edited by JSpired; 11-07-2005 at 01:16 AM.

  9. #9
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    Cheers on the tip for a home roaster, that never even crossed my mind (I saw a show on how coffee is made a while back). I am assuming one can purchase unroasted beans right?
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  10. #10
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    The first step to good coffee is using good beans. I don’t drink, or even particularly like, coffee, but I know that Folgers isn’t the best brand. Consider Starbucks’ various roasts, and make sure you get the whole beans; pre-ground coffee is never as fresh and isn’t the same.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by justadollarhostin
    Cheers on the tip for a home roaster, that never even crossed my mind (I saw a show on how coffee is made a while back). I am assuming one can purchase unroasted beans right?
    Yes and very cheaply. Get in touch with me for a cheap alternative to buying a roaster and good luck!

  12. #12
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    What do you guys think about this set:

    http://www.burmancoffee.com/miva/mer...ct_Code=HRS7-2

    and then purchasing a seperate brewing machine?
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  13. #13
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    I drink the locally-roasted beans:

    http://drinkstorm.com/

    Julie, the owner, is a certified Master Roaster. I wouldn't presume to think I could do better myself.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigBison
    I drink the locally-roasted beans:

    http://drinkstorm.com/

    Julie, the owner, is a certified Master Roaster. I wouldn't presume to think I could do better myself.
    And yet, anythng you can roast yourself, on-the-spot is always fresher! Just a thought..

  15. #15
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    Anyway... besides good beans you need a good conical burr grinder, especially for making espresso. A fine and consistant grind is essential. Espresso is brewed for only about 30 seonds; those characteristics ensure a thorough brew.

    There's really another decision you have to make before you can get specific recommendations on an espresso machine: automatic, semi automatic, or manual? Making good espresso with a manual machine can be tricky until you get that hang of it, but then an automatic machine that doesn't get it right will never get any better.

    You might want to put some time in at coffeegeek.com to do some research and read some reviews.

    On another topic...

    Quote Originally Posted by SniperDevil
    The first step to good coffee is using good beans. I donít drink, or even particularly like, coffee, but I know that Folgers isnít the best brand. Consider Starbucksí various roasts, and make sure you get the whole beans; pre-ground coffee is never as fresh and isnít the same.
    Since you don't drink or even particularly like coffee, I'll be easy on you... but a post recommending Starbucks beans shouldn't follow one about home roasting!

    Because, simply enough, Starbucks overroasts.
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  16. #16
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    Kept sealed, roasted beans won't lose any freshness. It's once they're ground that they do. I've never heard of roasting one's own beans for 'fresher' coffee. Grinding, yes, roasting, not a big deal there. You'll lose more flavor by improperly roasting the beans (i.e. not knowing what you're doing) than you'll gain by having "freshly roasted" beans, whatever the reason is there. IMHO.

  17. #17
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    Wow, thanks for the coffeegeek.com link man (tons of great info there from first peek).

    Knowing rachel semi-automatic would most likely be best. If it's too much work to do everything then she'll loose interest quick, but if she doesn't get any options to play with she'll end up feeling "left out" of the process.

    I am definatley into doing the roasting of beans at home, that sounds like it's the way to go (from what I have gathered so far), and grinding the beans at home I figured was a must from the beginning as well. I'll spend some time over at coffeegeek.com too
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by justadollarhostin
    What do you guys think about this set:

    http://www.burmancoffee.com/miva/mer...ct_Code=HRS7-2

    and then purchasing a seperate brewing machine?
    Do you really think she'd be into doing her own roasting? I mean, I know people who have bought grinders and then in a couple of months decide it's too much hassle and go back to buying ground coffee... this is one more step in complexity and expense, for someone who so far is happy drinking Folgers. Not meant as a slam, but really I'd probably start out with the best espresso maker I could afford, a good grinder, and a decent stock of good beans... and save the roaster for the next gift. In the interim, have a conversation to explore whether she'd be interested in that. Does she want to have to pay attention to what variety of beans she's using, and what temperature and roasting time is best?

    Either way, one warning: poorly roasted beans are bad. Don't buy a cheap roaster... and don't use a hot air corn popper!
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  19. #19
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    Bleh, no need to argue over it boys, it's all fine

    To JayC: I am not sure if she would be into her own roasting or not, it would probably be easier to purchase her a roaster later on if she show's some interest in doing it. I am just trying to gather up some ideas as it is right now. I have been looking at this currently:

    http://www.jlhufford.com/detail.asp?product_id=ra1002

    as it has quite a few glowing reviews, and is considered semi-pro (which I assume means she could use it in her shop once she gets to that point in a few years).
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by JayC
    Do you really think she'd be into doing her own roasting? I mean, I know people who have bought grinders and then in a couple of months decide it's too much hassle and go back to buying ground coffee.
    It's really not that hard and was only a suggestion. I'm not returning to play with you! As I stated, it was a suggestion from someone who's done it. Seeing as how you've not, no need for a comment.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by JayC
    On another topic...

    Since you don't drink or even particularly like coffee, I'll be easy on you... but a post recommending Starbucks beans shouldn't follow one about home roasting!

    Because, simply enough, Starbucks overroasts.
    As I said before, I’m no coffee connoisseur. The one thing I do know, however, is that the first step to good coffee is good beans. You can have the best coffee maker on the market—or even make it yourself with a French press—but the resulting coffee is only as good as the beans you used to make it.

    Regarding Starbucks’ “overroasting,” I didn’t know that (and none of my family has mentioned that), but thanks for telling me.

    Quote Originally Posted by BigBison
    *******. **** off with your rolling on the floor ****.
    That caught me off-guard. I think you’re going a bit overboard with that.

  22. #22
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    Sheesh, can't we even have a simple thread without some getting their knickers in a knot?
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by justadollarhostin
    To JayC: I am not sure if she would be into her own roasting or not, it would probably be easier to purchase her a roaster later on if she show's some interest in doing it. I am just trying to gather up some ideas as it is right now. I have been looking at this currently:
    Yeah, the Miss Silvia is pretty widely held to be among the best machines suitable for home use. You wouldn't go wrong with that.
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  24. #24
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    I am pretty impressed with it when watching the video, but after a bit of research I'm not sure if maybe I should be looking for an automatic machine. With the semi-automatic it seems like one has to spend a decent amount of time and effort in pre-heating the machine, then brewing the espresso. If I understand correctly, an automatic machine preheats and brews a specified amount all with a single button push?
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by justadollarhostin
    I am pretty impressed with it when watching the video, but after a bit of research I'm not sure if maybe I should be looking for an automatic machine. With the semi-automatic it seems like one has to spend a decent amount of time and effort in pre-heating the machine, then brewing the espresso. If I understand correctly, an automatic machine preheats and brews a specified amount all with a single button push?
    The video isn't working for me, but generally with a semi-automatic you have to heat the water, turn on the pump, and then turn it off. The advantage is that you have control over temperature and pressure. An automatic machine usually will let you set some controls to guide that, and then handles the turning on and turning off. I haven't used the Silvia, but the process is generally not a lot of effort... but, yeah, you have to stay near the machine for a couple of minutes to control it.

    Besides having somewhat less control, a problem with some automatics is that there's a more convoluted setup internally, resulting in lower pressure and temperature or inaccurate control over those factors. Since you're not looking at low end machines anyway, you should be able to avoid that.

    Then there are "super automatics," which have an integrated grinder. Just dump the beans in, set some dials and switches, and push a button.

    You might want to look at the Saeco Vienna, which is in that class and in your price range. A friend of mine used to have a Saeco Aroma, which honestly wasn't that impressive -- but the Vienna is a couple of steps in their line. Definitely check the reviews, though, because I'm a little skeptical of a superautomatic in that price range. If you have an extra couple of hundred dollars, though, then you'll have some choices!
    Last edited by JayC; 11-07-2005 at 03:18 AM.
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  26. #26
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    JayC You are always full of useful advice when it comes to coffee

    I took a look at the Saeco Vienna, and it seems to have great reviews when it works, however I have seen quite a few reviews of people with busted machines. When spending several hundred dollars on a machine, I would like to not have to worry about it breaking

    I think in my price range automatic and super-automatic machines are pretty much out of question if I want one of nice quality. The more I read up the more I find that people just love the Miss Silvia, and you are right that it really doesn't require much work. If she gets bored of it I'll bring it home and use it myself
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  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by JSpired
    Quote Originally Posted by Jayc
    [i]Do you really think she'd be into doing her own roasting? I mean, I know people who have bought grinders and then in a couple of months decide it's too much hassle and go back to buying ground coffee.
    It's really not that hard and was only a suggestion. I'm not returning to play with you! As I stated, it was a suggestion from someone who's done it. Seeing as how you've not, no need for a comment.
    Wait... I have no experience with home roasting? But the memories of dumping raw beans into that wierd looking thing on my kitchen counter as a regular Sunday ritual seem so real! Implanted memories, perhaps, of packing up my kitchen a year ago last September in preparation for a move, and handing that thing to my friend Katie while saying "you can have it, I'm going to be too busy for a while to deal with it anyway..."

    Either I'm hallucinating, or you're not paying much attention to who has written the posts you're replying to.
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  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by JayC
    Wait... I have no experience with home roasting? But the memories of dumping raw beans into that wierd looking thing on my kitchen counter as a regular Sunday ritual seem so real! Implanted memories, perhaps, of packing up my kitchen a year ago last September in preparation for a move, and handing that thing to my friend Katie while saying "you can have it, I'm going to be too busy for a while to deal with it anyway..."

    Either I'm hallucinating, or you're not paying much attention to who has written the posts you're replying to.
    Sorry, I quoted the wrong person!

  29. #29
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    Actually I think it happened when the mouse did a bit of cleaning
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  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by justadollarhostin
    JayC You are always full of useful advice when it comes to coffee

    I took a look at the Saeco Vienna, and it seems to have great reviews when it works, however I have seen quite a few reviews of people with busted machines. When spending several hundred dollars on a machine, I would like to not have to worry about it breaking
    Yeah, I think that'd be the concern in that price range... how long it'd last. Saeco makes some good stuff, but corners have to be being cut somewhere at that level. Either they'll affect temperature, pressure, or sealing. Leaks can be a big problem with low end espresso machines, because the cheaper materials used don't hold up to the pressure (unless they design them not to produce so much pressure, but then you don't get good espresso). If you're reading about it breaking after a year or two, that's probably the problem. And certainly if you're spending that much you want her to able to use it for years.

    The Silvia, as I'm sure you've read, is heavy and solid. It should last a long time, and it certainly has a reputation for producing good brews.
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  31. #31
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    But is it really necessary to try home-roasting myself, before deciding against it? I've decided not to do many more things than I've ever tried firsthand. Like bungee-jumping. My opinion, is that it's dangerous and not something I'd enjoy. So I've not rushed right out to try it to prove myself wrong, no, but I feel qualified to make that decision regarding my life anyway, yes, despite all the people I know who have done it and lived to tell. In speaking with the master roaster I buy my coffee from, I've learned that there's an awful lot more to roasting coffee beans than I had ever suspected.

    Like homebrewing beer. Now that, I've tried, and I managed to prove what I knew before I started. My beer wouldn't come close to the quality a brewmeister can achieve. But I could have told you that without trying it, and been just as right in my reasoning.

    So instead of saying I'm wrong just because I've never tried it, explain to me why I can expect as good a result, if not better, than the coffee I purchase from the master roaster down the street. Is there really a cost savings involved, if I'm unhappy with the results flavor-wise, or isn't that why I'm buying arabica instead of robusta in the first place?

  32. #32
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    Well home roasting or not aside, I'm pretty well set on the Miss Silvia. Every review I have found about it has been glowing, and it seems to be very well made. If I understand everything right, the Miss Silvia makes esperesso which you use with steamed milk to make cappuccino. As far as regular coffee goes, should one just stick to a basic coffee maker and just quality beans?
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  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by justadollarhostin
    Well home roasting or not aside, I'm pretty well set on the Miss Silvia. Every review I have found about it has been glowing, and it seems to be very well made. If I understand everything right, the Miss Silvia makes esperesso which you use with steamed milk to make cappuccino. As far as regular coffee goes, should one just stick to a basic coffee maker and just quality beans?
    There are a couple of ways you could go for regular coffee. One option is to stick with the existing coffeemaker if what it does is satisfactory... or replace it with a new one that would better complement the Silvia.

    Really, the quality differences between coffee made by different drip coffeemakers aren't as extreme as the product from different espresso machines, because there aren't as many variables involved and the "margin for error" is greater. You just need water that's hot enough, and you need it to take about six minutes to brew. Ideally, if you don't always make a full pot, you should have a control where you tell it how many cups you're making. That's the purpose of that feature: when you're only making a couple of cups, it slows the process down. The better units also have a brew head that works kind of like a shower head, to even out the water dispersal.

    Another option would be along the lines of what BigBison suggested: get a french press (or "plunger pot"), and you can use hot water produced by the espresso machine. A press makes a pretty different cup of coffee from that from a drip: it's a lot denser, looks somewhat cloudy, and contains more oils that have been extracted from the beans. Some people think there's nothing better, but some don't like it as much.

    You could also abandon "regular coffee" altogether. When you want a full cup instead of that little shot of espresso, try an americano: half espresso and half boiling water (again, using water from the Silvia). Or a latte... or any other espresso-based drink you might like.

    Of course, it could be that we're focusing too much on espresso. Instead of the Silvia, you could go with one of the combination machines that include both a drip coffeemaker and an espresso machine. I've been advocating the other way just because the quality difference with espresso depends so much on the machine (and, I have to say, on learning how to use it), but if espresso isn't really important to you and Rachel you could consider compromising on that issue and getting a decent combiniation machine that would likely make great coffee and mediocre espresso. Not the way I'd go (obviously, as could be gathered from prior messages!), but it's an option -- but if you appreciate good coffee, and come to appreciate it more in the future, you'll really want to be able have good espresso as well.
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  34. #34
    justadollarhostin,

    As a "chronic coffeeholic" myself, maybe I can give you some kind of help about that.

    First, you have mentioned that the coffee machine will be used in a coffee shop. If so, I have to say that you can't expect to buy a professional coffee (or espresso) machine for a $500. (Under professional I meant for a professional use, for example in coffee bar, etc. Note that for that "pro" machine, you'll have to buy apropriate grinder, too.) I am not sure even for a used professional espresso machine though, but I suppose that you are not going to buy an used one for a girlfriend's birthday.

    Next, either you are willing or not to spend over $500, I would suggest you to consider some of the famous Italian manufacturers of espresso machines. Just to let you know, the best (or the best known) machine manufacturers in Italy are at the same time owned by the best (or the best known) coffee producers. For example, "La San Marco" (espresso coffee machines manufacturer) has been owned by "Segafredo Zanetti" (coffee producer).

    As for coffee beans, well, I must say that I didn't read every post very well, but if you are in doubt about the coffee beans, then go for "Illy", you can't miss.

    I was also investigated a bit for you and found a couple of machines that might be interesting for you, so if you want to hear that, please let me know.
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  35. #35
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    Fulk Thanks for brining up this topic. I had no idea of the cost of machines when I first made this post. I knew that I could go down to the local WalMart and pick up a machine for $80, so I figured $500 was coffe bar quality (oh I was most certainly mistaken). I have since given up the idea of one that she can use in a coffee bar because anything over $500 is going to be pushing it for my budget so I would like to keep it around there for the espresso machine. My parents are going to be getting her a proper grinder (something I have not looked into yet) as they think of her almost like a daughter in law at this point. I told them roughly $100-200 for a proper grinder and they are find with that.

    At this point my number one pick is the Miss Silvia. I have read quite a few good reviews about it, it seems to be a very sturdy machine that will not break after 6 months of use (not a lot of plastic to it), and it's a favorite (at least in my findings) from the "at home espresso" lovers.

    If you have any suggestions at all I would love to hear them (be them about machines, beans, procedures, or anything else for that matter).

    Thanks for the tip on the beans, I also received a PM from a member saying that these beans are great as well:

    http://www.konalea.com/coffee_store/kona_coffee.htm

    The only good thing about the entire situation is given her current setup, anything will be better I just want to get her a present that will really wow her this year.
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  36. #36
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    Doesn't vito have one in his garage that he wants to get rid of?
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  37. #37
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
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    Hey if the price was right
    Mike from Zoodia.com
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