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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > The Quick Mill...  
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Eiron
Senior Member
Eiron
Joined: 12 Nov 2007
Posts: 343
Location: Loveland, Colorado
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Quick Mill 0930
Grinder: Quick Mill 031,...
Drip: TechniVorm KBTS
Roaster: Behmor 1600, Presto Poplite
Posted Sat Mar 1, 2008, 9:04pm
Subject: The Quick Mill thermoblock review thread
 

This thread is to encourage discussion about Quick Mill’s consumer grade thermoblock machines.  Based on what I could dig up, Quick Mill used to operate under the Omre name & built machines for several other labels as well.  If you own one of these units, please add as much info as you can about your use & observations of your machine.  I’ll start by posting my review of my Quick Mill 0930 “Quick Espresso Plus” home machine. Here's the link to my pics on Flickr.  The brew shots are numbered to somewhat correspond to a brewing sequence.  The only other machines I've used are electric steam type (Belman CXE, Krups) & moka pots.  fifthgen was kind enough to locate this Home-Barista thread briefly discussing this model.  Unfortunately, the link for the write-up at Bella Barista hasn‘t been maintained.  Alt.coffee might provide more info if you’re willing to dig a little.

Most people will probably recognize the Quick Mill name from their high-end prosumer-grade E-61 and heat exchanger machines.  These models (Alexia, Anita, Andreja & Vetrano) live in the $1,000 to $2,000 price range, are all very pretty chrome and stainless construction, & have excellent reputations for making exceptional coffee.

Quick Mill’s thermoblock line is definitely down level from their commercial grade machines, but benefit from the same focus on design & engineering to create machines that fit into many constantly-on-the-go lifestyles.  In a very real sense, they’ve kept the “express” in espresso.  If you stick to the semi-automatics, standard retail prices range from $500 for a basic unit in plastic to $900 for a grinder combo in stainless.  Based on the finished product, I would guess that Quick Mill had “convenience” right next to “excellent coffee” on their list of design criteria.  This is what I’d consider a “serious starter” level line of machines.  For some folks that may mean less than a year before upgrading.  For me it means something that I’ll use for at least several years, & at this point I don’t see myself upgrading any time soon.

The design concept of a thermoblock is very similar to that of a prosumer unit’s heat exchanger design in that you only heat the water as it flows to the grounds.  (Another similar concept is a tankless home water heater.)  The challenge is in keeping the heated pathway at a stable temperature.  A heat exchange unit does this by heating a small tank of water & running your coffee brewing water inside a tube that goes through the tank.  Water has high thermal capacity, so it’s good for maintaining temperature stability.  However, since you have a pressurized boiler involved (the tank), this design is more expensive to manufacture & maintain reliability.  Enter the thermoblock.  Here you have a hot block of metal rather than a hot tank of water.  The advantages are in lower manufacturing costs & higher reliability.  The disadvantage is lower thermal capacity resulting in less stable brewing temperature.  Quick Mill did what they could to address this, but there’s only so much you can do before the costs exceed the benefits.  The bottom line is that, at this point in time, a thermoblock machine will not be as temp stable as either a heat exchanger or dual boiler machine.  For a little more info, scroll down through Mark Prince’s January 21, 2008 article until you see the “Thermoblock Questions” heading.

As in all manufacturing, the push to improve profits leads to cost-cutting design & execution.  This is especially apparent in other manufacturer’s thermoblock designs & the most popular style of thermoblock.  To save on costs, the thermoblock is cast in two halves. You can see that the water channels are cast directly into the block, then the block is clamshelled together to form the enclosed water path. That undermines the inherent reliability of the design & eventually leads to corrosion & leaks. The heating element is then attached to the outside of the block, so heating is not ideally "balanced."  You can also see how the casting has been relieved to save on material.  Unfortunately, this also reduces the amount of heat-absorbing metal surrounding the water’s path & results in poor temp stability

Quick Mill's thermoblock is cast as a single solid piece, not two convoluted halves. Since you can’t bore a maze-like water channel into the block, it instead has to be cast with the water channel already inside.  Quick Mill takes care of this by casting a coiled copper tube directly into the block, so there's no chance of corrosion or leaking.  They cast the heating element inside the block at the same time, making it integral to the mass of the block itself.  Finally, they use a lot of metal in the casting to provide more mass for better temp stability.  It's a more expensive manufacturing process than the clamshell & bolt-on element method, & yet another sign that Quick Mill was intent on making a reliable home machine with repeatable brewing function.

I’ve had this machine for about two months now, using it mostly for my weekday morning rush-out-the-door-commuter breve & sneaking in the occasional weekend straight double or quad.  It comes with everything you need to get started, including both single & double baskets & a combination scoop/tamper.  In typical Euro style, the 110v power cord is heavy enough to use in 220v service!  It has three rocker switches on the front panel: Power, Steam & Coffee.  The Power switch has a light in it that stays on as long as you have the switch turned on.  There’s also a heating element light to the right of the switches that turns on only during heating & goes off when shot brew temp has been reached.  This light also stays on while you’re steaming, indicating that the thermoblock is continuously super-heated during this process.

Things I like:
1) Consistent results.
2) Very compact on the counter & fits well under the cabinets.
3) Non-pressurized 58mm “commercial size” stainless steel portafilter.
4) Steam never runs out or changes pressure, regardless of how long you run it.
5) Large capacity drip tray.
6) Reservoir is easy to view for water level & easy to remove for refilling.
7) Top will actually warm the cups.
8) Dispenses hot water for tea.
9) Simple gasket replacement.

Things to deal with:
1) Utilitarian appearance.
2) Requires a capable espresso grinder.
3) Steaming takes longer than a dual boiler or HX model.
4) Frankenscoop/tamper not user-friendly for either process.
5) Portafilter finish
6) Macro-foam “frothing aid.”

When I first got the machine I used my Barista (Solis 166) grinder & some past-their-prime single origin beans.  The grinder is set up so that the burrs touch at 1 click coarser than the finest setting.  I used the finest setting right off the bat.  The results were lousy.  Even at this setting, the shots were fast, crema-less, & not at all enjoyable.  I mean, these shots were really nasty.  I switched to new single origin beans (what I use for drip) & bought a new grinder (a Quick Mill 031, which deserves its own write-up), & immediately improved my shots.  Timing & crema were better, but the flavor was still lacking.  Buying some Kili Caffe Gold espresso blend further improved the crema & provided a whole new palate of flavors, including rich chocolate tones.  My shots are now consistently rich & flavorful, with Guinness-style crema.  I originally wanted only one grinder on the counter & was hoping to get away with using my 2 yr old Barista.  Once I realized I’d have to buy another, I was then hoping to use the new one for both espresso & drip grinding.  As it turned out, I’ve decided to keep the Barista dedicated to drip & the new 031 unit dedicated to espresso.

Machine styling was a non-issue since my wife didn’t like the looks of any brand or model I showed her!  Overall size was the biggest issue.  It had to be as compact as possible in both width & depth.  Even with a half gallon reservoir, this unit is smaller than much of the decorative paraphernalia my wife has scattered about the kitchen.  Appearances are, of course, a matter of opinion.  Although vastly different, I love both the sweeping lines of the Bezzera BZ02 & the artisan handiwork of the Salvatore machines.  By comparison, the styling on this Quick Mill unit is unremarkable.  A creamy white plastic box with black plastic & stainless steel trim.  I like it.  I don’t love it the way I do the Bezzera & Salvatore models, but it has that no-nonsense Euro style that says, “I’m here to do my job as unobtrusively as possible in your daily routine.”  My wife hates the Big Stainless Box appliance look, & would prefer if it were all black.  In reality, about half of our kitchen is outfitted in a color similar to this machine, so it doesn’t really stand out from what we‘ve got already.

The non-pressurized 58mm portafilter is made from stainless steel rather than chrome plated brass. From a materials standpoint, I prefer it for daily home use.  It heats up quickly, won't flake chrome after repeated removal/installations, & has a positive 3-ear locking mechanism rather than the more common 2-ear.  It also uses the lever style of basket retainer rather than an internal portafilter spring. I initially thought of this as "cheaper," but quickly realized how much more convenient it was when either swapping baskets (for my morning triples/quads) or pulling a hot portafilter apart for cleaning during my morning rush to the car. The lever is spring-loaded to stay in the retracted position for all tamping & basket swapping operations.  The portafilter’s construction is excellent, but the finish needed a little attention.  I had to file down a few small, sharp metal points created during the forming of the ears & spout.  The handle had some excess flash (plastic squeeze out) that was unattractive, so I trimmed it off.  Finally, the underside of the basket lips were still a bit raised from the stamping process & a few days ago I put a small cut in the side of my finger while cleaning one.  Another quick run with the file took the edge off.

The grouphead gasket is an o-ring that seals against the inside of the basket wall, rather than a flat gasket that seals against the top edge of it.  I’ve read that it might wear out sooner than the flat style gasket, but didn‘t find any anticipated life ranges.  Replacement is easily done by removing the single bolt holding the grouphead dispersion screen.  You don’t even need a wrench or screwdriver!  Like every 35mm camera battery compartment, Quick Mill has slotted the bolt head to fit a coin from your pocket.  In fact, using a coin might be preferable since it pretty much guarantees you won’t over-tighten the bolt when you put it back together & strip out the brass threads.  Nickels, quarters & the “golden” dollar coins all fit the slot.  You get a spare o-ring gasket with the machine & it’s a common size (2-226) & material (Viton, but I’m ordering EPDM spares) for future replacements.

The Frankenscoop is nice in the sense that Quick Mill provides both a 7gr coffee measure & something with which to tamp it down.  In practice, the tamping plate gets in the way of using the scoop, while the scoop prevents you from applying useful force to the tamp.  It also doesn’t help that the plate is way too small for the portafilter, leaving lots of uncompressed coffee & requiring many tamps around the basket perimeter.  This is one place where even one of those cheap plastic twin plate tampers would be an improvement.  The machine’s large stainless top will hold at least 9 cups (I only have 8) & definitely gets hot enough to be an effective cup warmer.  Of course, during the week I’m in such a rush that the machine’s not on long enough to get the top that hot.   If, like me, you’re not hanging around that long, a quick cup steaming will do the trick.  Or, you could quickly pre-heat both your cup & the portafilter by pulling a shot of hot water before loading your coffee.

The half gallon reservoir is great!  With my weekday triple, milk steaming & daily flushing/scrubbing routine, I can get a full week’s worth of commuting drinks from a single fill.  The machine has two soft silicone tubes that stick down into the tank.  One pulls the water out while the other returns pressurized water after brewing your shot.  I like this, since evacuating excess water into the drip tray would mean having to fill the tank more frequently.  At 12 oz usable capacity (14 oz max), the drip tray is large enough to easily hold shot excess & grouphead purge/cleaning water, & still leave you enough room to walk it over to the sink for dumping.

Up until a few years ago I only drank unadulterated moka pot espresso.  Then I discovered breves.  At home, I started warming my half-&-half in the microwave & adding my espresso to it.  Steaming on the Quick Mill takes about the same time as microwaving, but adds volume & gets it hotter with less chance of me scalding it.  Although not as strong as a heat exchanger or dual boiler machine, steam production is nearly instant!  Four ounces of half-&-half takes about 1 minute to reach the 150F-170F range.  The first thing I did after unpacking the machine was pry off the large plastic macro-foam “frothing aid” attachment.  What I found underneath was a very long steam “tip.”  As it turns out, this is another design element that makes things easier for the home user.  It’s long enough for me to sink to the bottom of my milk without covering the top of this thing.  That makes cleaning up a breeze ‘cuz I don’t have to get dried milk out of the junction between the wand & tip, like I would with a common 3/8” long steaming tip.

As with many machines, there’s a small amount of water to evacuate before the steam flows.  Letting the wand steam-purge for a few seconds is all it takes.  The wand is plenty high enough to fit either my 12 oz bell shaped pitcher or a Starbuck’s 16 oz wide bottom under it.  I’d guess a 20 oz pitcher would also have no problem clearing the space between the wand & the counter.  The wand contains a micro-switch that directs the path of both water & steam.  Swing it out from its resting place & the front panel’s steam switch will allow you to froth milk, while the coffee switch sends out hot water for tea, instant soup, cocoa, etc.  Fold it in against the front of the unit to brew a shot.  There’s no cutoff for steam when it’s folded in, so you can get creative & try steam-pre-infusing your shot if you desire.

The $500 standard retail price for the Quick Espresso Plus might seem a bit high, but is in line with the technology.  (A quick search of similar technology from Bosch, Gaggia & Saeco shows super-automatic machine prices similar to Quick Mill’s super-automatics.)  Throw in the need for a capable grinder, & today’s $720 standard retail price on the ultra-compact combi Quick Mill “Computer Coffee Plus” may be the best deal of the entire lineup.  If you can find one at even a modest discount, it would be a worthwhile purchase consideration.  As I write this (March 1, 2008), Vaneli’s Coffee (where I bought my machine) has two models in this line at exceptionally low prices.  I mean, these are ridiculously low prices for either a solo machine in plastic or a combi machine in stainless!

If the challenge of a finicky $600 single boiler machine appeals to you, then these are definitely not the machines for you.  If, instead, you need “express coffee” with consistent results & minimal frustration, then this may be your solution.  For me, I gained entry into the wide world of espresso for the silly-low price of $337 & ended up with an excellent starter machine & even better grinder.  At this stage in the game, I couldn’t be happier!

 
"Just what I need - another 'geek' label..."
- my friend Mark, on being told of Coffee Geek's existence

Good, affordable espresso: www.coffeegeek.com/forums/espresso/machines/355707
Coffee's hot enough for OCD: www.coffeegeek.com/forums/coffee/machines/330079
Personal & global health: http://www.broomfieldenterprise.com/ci_12802509
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seattlesetters
Senior Member
seattlesetters
Joined: 16 Dec 2005
Posts: 166
Location: Seattle
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Quickmill Alexia PID
Grinder: La Cimbali Max Hybrid
Vac Pot: Barista Aroma
Posted Sat Mar 1, 2008, 10:52pm
Subject: Re: The Quick Mill thermoblock review thread
 

Solenoid valve? Brass boiler? Especially interested in the combi. Lots of details missing here. Please advise. Thanks.
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RoastMonkey
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RoastMonkey
Joined: 30 Oct 2006
Posts: 142
Location: Washington, DC
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Slayer, coming soon
Grinder: Rocky
Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup
Drip: Hario, Nylon filter
Roaster: Pimped U.S. Roaster 3K
Posted Sun Mar 2, 2008, 8:07am
Subject: Re: The Quick Mill thermoblock review thread
 

Fortunately, I saved a copy of the Bella Barista write up. It's too big to attach here, so I have uploaded it to my web site here.

 
Fresh Off the Roast, Micro-Roasters
www.freshofftheroast.com
www.qualiacoffee.com
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Frost
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Frost
Joined: 26 Jul 2007
Posts: 2,070
Location: Sierra
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Isomac Venus
Grinder: Lelit PL53
Roaster: Poppery I w/variac, MET, BT
Posted Sun Mar 2, 2008, 4:49pm
Subject: Re: The Quick Mill thermoblock review thread
 

Thanks for putting a light on this machine Greg. The review indicates the brew temps run cool. Have you checked yours with a styrofoam cup or such? Is it possible to work around this by cycling the steam switch?
(as already asked: does this machine have a 3-way?) ....also, they weren't too excited about the steaming ability.

I do (.....still)  like the idea of using a thermobloc for a small home machine. So long as the block can hold 3-4 oz at brew temp what more would you need? Unlike a small boiler that mixes the incoming cold water and drops the brew temp, the thermoblock (if designed right) should hold steady through the entire double shot.
(I would want the steam boiler separate though : the idea is the thermobloc stays at stable brew temp)
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alanfrew
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alanfrew
Joined: 19 Dec 2001
Posts: 640
Location: Melbourne
Expertise: Professional

Posted Mon Mar 3, 2008, 12:09am
Subject: Re: The Quick Mill thermoblock review thread
 

Frost Said:

Thanks for putting a light on this machine Greg. The review indicates the brew temps run cool. Have you checked yours with a styrofoam cup or such? Is it possible to work around this by cycling the steam switch?
(as already asked: does this machine have a 3-way?) ....also, they weren't too excited about the steaming ability.

I do (.....still)  like the idea of using a thermobloc for a small home machine. So long as the block can hold 3-4 oz at brew temp what more would you need? Unlike a small boiler that mixes the incoming cold water and drops the brew temp, the thermoblock (if designed right) should hold steady through the entire double shot.
(I would want the steam boiler separate though : the idea is the thermobloc stays at stable brew temp)

Posted March 2, 2008 link

IIRC (based on a discussion in Milan 3 years ago) the Quickmill thermobloc has a capacity of something less than 40ml (ounce-and-a-bit?) To get up to 120ml you're looking at something 3 times the size. The compromises involved with thermoblocs are due to the length of the water path, the temperature you can heat the actual bloc to and the flow rate necessary for correct espresso. The higher the flow volume for a given path length and bloc temperature, the cooler the output. I have yet to see a "compact" thermobloc that will do the job, but I have seen units somewhat larger than a Silvia boiler used in commercial espresso machines.

Alan
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Eiron
Senior Member
Eiron
Joined: 12 Nov 2007
Posts: 343
Location: Loveland, Colorado
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Quick Mill 0930
Grinder: Quick Mill 031,...
Drip: TechniVorm KBTS
Roaster: Behmor 1600, Presto Poplite
Posted Mon Mar 3, 2008, 9:53am
Subject: Re: The Quick Mill thermoblock review thread
 

Frost Said:

Thanks for putting a light on this machine Greg. The review indicates the brew temps run cool. Have you checked yours with a styrofoam cup or such? Is it possible to work around this by cycling the steam switch?
(as already asked: does this machine have a 3-way?) ....also, they weren't too excited about the steaming ability.

I do (.....still)  like the idea of using a thermobloc for a small home machine. So long as the block can hold 3-4 oz at brew temp what more would you need? Unlike a small boiler that mixes the incoming cold water and drops the brew temp, the thermoblock (if designed right) should hold steady through the entire double shot.
(I would want the steam boiler separate though : the idea is the thermobloc stays at stable brew temp)

Posted March 2, 2008 link

Gary, I haven't done any temp tests yet.  The weekends are just a few days too short for me! :-)  My shots seem OK to me, but then I don't pre-heat the thermal carafe on my Technivorm 'cuz after 45 minutes the coffee's still so hot that I can only sip it.  I don't like trying to drink fresh coffee that's too hot to swallow, whether it's press, drip, or espresso.  After I make my morning commute drink, I have to let it sit in its thermal mug for 10 or 15 minutes so that I can actually taste it rather than just get a scalding gulp down my throat.

The BB reviewer says there's no 3-way, but I guess I'm still a little fuzzy on this.  There's a return tube into the reservoir that dumps excess pressurized water after steaming or brewing a shot, & I thought that's what a 3-way did.  BB is definitely a site dedicated to high-end machines costing $1,500 & more.  Obviously, any TB machine is not going to satisfy their "needs."  Steaming has to taken in the same context.  If I'm buying a dual boiler or HX machine, then I'm going to expect (or maybe even demand?) fast steaming.  But the typical home user looking to spend up to $500 isn't going to be as much concerned with steaming specificallyas with the overall machine operation in general.

There are dual TB & combo boiler/TB units out there, but at this point in time (excepting Alan's observations regarding much larger commercial TBs) nothing's going to take the place of a "true" HX or dual boiler machine.  If I had the disposable income, I'd probably buy a $2,500 Salvatore machine & a $1,000 grinder of some kind.  That's more than ten times what I spent.  The kids are going to have to long gone with no chance of returning before I'm able to spend that much!  With my current family financial obligations, my sub-$350 setup will serve me exceptionally well for many years to come.

I'll post some brewing/steaming tips I've discovered a little bit later.

-Greg

 
"Just what I need - another 'geek' label..."
- my friend Mark, on being told of Coffee Geek's existence

Good, affordable espresso: www.coffeegeek.com/forums/espresso/machines/355707
Coffee's hot enough for OCD: www.coffeegeek.com/forums/coffee/machines/330079
Personal & global health: http://www.broomfieldenterprise.com/ci_12802509
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roastaroma
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roastaroma
Joined: 21 Nov 2007
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Location: San Francisco, CA
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Espresso: PV Lusso, Bacchi
Grinder: Rocky Doserless
Roaster: Blue Bottle Coffee
Posted Mon Mar 3, 2008, 11:42am
Subject: Re: The Quick Mill thermoblock review thread
 

Ciao Greg,

I was a bit surprised that Bella Barista's test found lower than ideal temps for the Quick Mill; I'd thought that the UK's higher voltage house current would improve the performance significantly over the US version. One thing that occurred to me as well: perhaps the reviewer did not take enough time to really get to know the machine, for surely there's a way to finagle higher temps out of the thermoblock, if that is desired.

As we've seen with the Sunbeam EM6900, a well-designed TB macchina can definitely do the job -- i.e., they're not all "steam toys" -- and it's good that Quick Mill cared enough to make a TB that was not all-aluminum.

Happy Brewing,
Wayne

 
"Non č la macchina, č la mano."
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Frost
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Frost
Joined: 26 Jul 2007
Posts: 2,070
Location: Sierra
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Isomac Venus
Grinder: Lelit PL53
Roaster: Poppery I w/variac, MET, BT
Posted Mon Mar 3, 2008, 3:28pm
Subject: Re: The Quick Mill thermoblock review thread
 

Thank you Alan, for the Info. 40oz is just enough for a single... I guess 3-4 oz strung into a coil gets long real fast.  Maybe it would be easier to design a (small)boiler machine with a 'pre-heat' loop such that the temps don't drop so much from incoming cold water during the shot. (the problem I'm looking to avoid in using the thermobloc.) You have enough water for a double at the right temp... until you dump cold water in it.
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Eiron
Senior Member
Eiron
Joined: 12 Nov 2007
Posts: 343
Location: Loveland, Colorado
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Quick Mill 0930
Grinder: Quick Mill 031,...
Drip: TechniVorm KBTS
Roaster: Behmor 1600, Presto Poplite
Posted Wed Mar 5, 2008, 1:30pm
Subject: Re: The Quick Mill thermoblock review thread
 

Hi Wayne,

I agree with you, I think getting to know whatever machine you're using is very important to the results you'll see.  I'm also baffled by how many "quirky procedures" to operations are accepted (& even recommended!) on many high $ machines, but seem to be just another nuisance on lower cost units.

Similar to what you've discovered with your Sirena, there are ways to coax higher-than-average temps out of the QM's TB.  The most obvious way is to run some steam, since the heating element heats continuously during steaming.  I've tried steam-pre-infusing one shot & didn't get great results, but I haven't yet tried it again to play around with timing & duration.

I'm not sure the cast metal used in QM's TB is aluminum.  Behind the dispersion screen is a "dispersion plate" (for lack of a better term) that looks like it's made of the same metal as the TB behind it.  I thought it was aluminum, so I sent it out for clear anodizing (to prevent direct water contact) with some other parts I was having done.  All the parts came back looking great except that one.  It had some sort of powdery, dark deposits all over.  Some polishing compound cleaned back to its original condition, but it definitely didn't respond to the anodizing in the same way as any aluminum I've ever done.

Doing a little more research, I found a comment by 1st Line Eqpt regarding an "expansion relief valve" that "allows excess pump pressure to be redirected to the water reservoir."  They qualify this separately from a 3-way solenoid valve.  So these QM machines seem to be set up with one of these relief valves & not a 3-way solenoid valve.

-Greg

 
"Just what I need - another 'geek' label..."
- my friend Mark, on being told of Coffee Geek's existence

Good, affordable espresso: www.coffeegeek.com/forums/espresso/machines/355707
Coffee's hot enough for OCD: www.coffeegeek.com/forums/coffee/machines/330079
Personal & global health: http://www.broomfieldenterprise.com/ci_12802509
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Eiron
Senior Member
Eiron
Joined: 12 Nov 2007
Posts: 343
Location: Loveland, Colorado
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Quick Mill 0930
Grinder: Quick Mill 031,...
Drip: TechniVorm KBTS
Roaster: Behmor 1600, Presto Poplite
Posted Sun Mar 9, 2008, 3:21pm
Subject: Re: The Quick Mill thermoblock review thread
 

In response to questions from Frost & others about shot brew temps, I borrowed a friend's digital meter & thermocouple to run some tests on my machine.  I've added pictures of the setup to my Quick Mill 0930 Flickr page.  I also ran a calibration on the digital setup.  A glass of refrigerated water filled with 70% ice cubes measured 32°F, while my Bodum electric kettle measured a full boil at 199°F (the maximum on the meter).

As I mentioned in my review, the beauty of this machine is its ability to produce drinks quickly & with as little hassle as possible.  Regardless of where you live (Europe, US or somewhere else), chances are pretty good that your time is at a premium.  That's just the way life is for many of us these days.  For me, a triple shot breve is the final act of my morning's ritual.  It needs to be prepared fast, just before I walk out the door, 'cuz it's my companion during my hour-long commute to work & needs to be hot for as long as possible.  I don't want to have to wait for 20 minutes before I can even make my "express" coffee.  (By contrast, the weekends have more "prep time" & will see drip coffee for breakfast, & straight double or quad shots in the afternoon & evening.)  After I trimmed the cup, installed the thermocouple & secured the thing to the machine, I ran my temp measurements keeping my "morning rush" process in mind.

My first measurement was of Quick Mill's recommended minimum warmup time of three minutes.  This allows the unit's thermoblock to cycle twice before brewing.  The 2nd cycle happens right around 2:55 & ends about 3:15, so I pulled my first shot as soon as the warmup light went out.  The BB review was correct, inital shot temps were low at only 165°F.  Since I'd never be ready this quickly (it takes me longer to get out my cleanup supplies, pour my half-&-half, & grind & tamp my shots), I let it recover until the light went out again & then gave it another two minutes for a total of about six minutes of warmup.  On the next shot the temp was again 165°F.  Not good.

Of course, this isn't how I make my commuter drink in the morning.  I steam first, then pull my shots.  I decided to let the machine cool down for about 90 minutes & start over.  When I turned the machine on again, I ran thru all my prep steps & steamed several ounces of milk for a little over a minute.  I then cleaned off the steaming wand & pulled my double, just like I do every morning.  Wow!  My shot was now at 195°F!  I knocked-&-swapped my filter baskets (& dumped the water from the styrofoam cup into the drip tray), which gives the thermoblock enough time every morning to reheat for the next single shot.  When I pulled my single, the temp had dropped a bit, but only to 190°F.

As I mentioned in my review, one of the unique features of this machine is the microswitch in the steam wand.  It either directs water & steam thru the wand when folded out, or thru the grouphead when folded in.  With this ability to steam-pre-infuse thru the grouphead, I wondered if it was possible to quickly raise the grouphead temp to an acceptable brewing level.  As a quick test, after pulling my second shot (the one that read 190°F), I ran the steam switch for 5 to 10 seconds.  Eureka!  A third shot now measured back up in the 195°F range.

Of course, I had to find out if I could do this with a straight shot from a cold machine, as someone who doesn't steam milk might want to do.  I let the machine cool down again, this time for about four hours.  When it came time to test, I turned on the machine & waited the minimum recommended three minutes (actually 3:15).  I already had an empty portafilter installed, just as you would for preheating everything on any other machine.  As soon as the warmup light went out I hit the steam switch for about 30 seconds, pulled off the portafilter & snapped the ThermoCup in place (which would be the same amount of time as removing the portafilter, dropping in your pretamped basket & reinstalling the portafilter), & hit the brew switch.  My first double shot was now up to 190°F!  As a bonus, your portafilter is also now around 200°F from the preheating.

As roastaroma mentioned, getting to know whatever equipment you have it vital to satisfactory results.  With this new data, I now know that my machine is not suited for "superior" espresso without as much warmup as any regular boiler machine available.  However, with a slight modification to the steps of operation, I can now get excellent espresso in a fraction of the time required from any regular boiler machine.

[Edit: I had the empty portafilter preheating time incorrectly listed as 10-12 seconds.]

 
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