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It has arrived - Breville Dual Boiler BES900XL!
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espresso_drinker
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Joined: 26 Oct 2011
Posts: 51
Location: Austin, Texas
Expertise: I like coffee

Posted Thu Oct 27, 2011, 8:29pm
Subject: Re: It has arrived - Breville Dual Boiler BES900XL!
 

When I asked about the OPV and how it was set from the factory,  he had me use the pressurized basket without
any coffee and start an extraction without preinfusion.  The pressure gauge read 9 bar and he said this was what
he expected.  I'm now thinking I should probably time how long the pressurized basket will let 2 oz of water through
at the current OPV setting....


I used the pressurized 'crema enhancing' basket and pulled a shot without preinfusion or coffee.  2oz of water in 17 seconds.
The pressure gauge stabilized at 9 bars.  Is this bad?
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espresso_drinker
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Joined: 26 Oct 2011
Posts: 51
Location: Austin, Texas
Expertise: I like coffee

Posted Thu Oct 27, 2011, 8:35pm
Subject: Re: It has arrived - Breville Dual Boiler BES900XL!
 

While I haven't seen one in person yet, if you can't grind fine enough on a Vario (which I personally know is quite capable of choking up a Marzocco Linea) the basket design is probably at fault.  Perhaps the holes are too large, or the sizes are all over the map in size?  A OPV that isn't user serviceable (regardless of how hard it is to access) means 10 foot pole for me.  Thumbs down.


I am able grind fine enough with the Vario to result in no espresso flow.

I read that the LM Strada baskets will fit in the portafilter.... think it will make a difference?
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Will_H
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Posted Thu Oct 27, 2011, 8:59pm
Subject: Re: It has arrived - Breville Dual Boiler BES900XL!
 

espresso_drinker Said:

I am able grind fine enough with the Vario to result in no espresso flow.

I read that the LM Strada baskets will fit in the portafilter.... think it will make a difference?

Posted October 27, 2011 link

Arrrrgh.  Trying to keep perspective that this is about 10 bills less than most double boilers on the market...but I just get a bad feeling with what Breville has put together.  A plastic / non-adjustable OPV is a key-key error on this machine IMHO.  As I have thought about it, any changes in grind and tamp (or basket) would just be trying to make up for poor engineering.  So I ask myself why start with a handicap?  

I keep thinking back to a Top Gear review of the Toyota Prius (YouTube)...seems you can just substitute this machine for the Prius.  Jeremy Clarkson's advise is to go look at other technology (Jetta TDI) that gives you the same performance (or better) and does it with more style.  So this begs me to say,  I think that getting a Quick Mill Anita HX will serve your needs in a far superior way over the Breville in its current condition.  Solid heavy gauge stainless steel, copper tubes, brass fittings, amazing steam power, and an easily adjustable pump output screw on the top of the machine...I think you would be so much happier.  

While the Breville is a double boiler, they are small...really small! The advantage of a double is to have little or no recovery time, but a .3 L brew boiler has got to have a lag to it.  

To add a Strada basket to this would be like putting 17 in rims on a Prius.  Performance would probably be the same as there seems to be a much deeper issue.
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TheMadTamper
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Posted Fri Oct 28, 2011, 7:26am
Subject: Re: It has arrived - Breville Dual Boiler BES900XL!
 

lowellw2 Said:

Sorry I've been out of the loop and have not responded lately.  Sometimes work interferes with important things.  I'm still in a testing mode with my Dual Boiler and finally have been able to get fairly consistent shots at 35s (10s preinfusion) and generally get 60ml.  Please note the the words "fairly" and "generally".  I cannot commit to something more precise.  The brew pressure shown getting the above numbers are almost always in the 12-13 range (an occasional 9-10 appears).  I noticed that the dosing seems to be a critical factor, but maybe not the only one.  If I "under dose" then the crazy slant on the basket does not allow proper tamping pressure.  If I over dose a little the puck definitely is right on the screen.  I still suspect the OPV may be a central issue (assuming the gauge is accurate).

Posted October 27, 2011 link

If the gauge goes over 9 bar, ever, even with a blank backflush basket, there are only two possible explanations: The OPV is not set right, or the guage reading is taken from some point before the OPV, meaning it's entirely useless and for aesthetic only.  I suspect it's the OPV though.  The whole point of the OPV is a pressure LIMITER.  Meaning it prevents pressure from ever going over the set pressure.  The excess pressure is vented out a different pipe (err...hose...)  The Silvia V1 was famous for "no" OPV...it had a fixed valve OPV that was only a safety feature that popped at 13 bar or so.  

A reading taken after the OPV (or after the pump on a rotary pump where pressure is set on the pump head itself), should not go over the set pressure, ever.  Unless there's some other engineering issue causing pressure bottlenecks such as going from wide diameter tubing to narrow diameter tubing which would be even more of an engineering crime, and I very much doubt that to be the case.  The wider diameter the tubing the more surface the pressure spreads over, and the more it tames the stream depending on group design.  Especially with electrovalves with wide openings, that plays a role which is why some OPV-less machines are perfectly fine.  The Breville on the other hand has some of the most narrow gauge tubing I've seen....so that OPV really need to be in working order!  (It's amazing what you can do in a plumbing or decorative fountain situation by just changing the flow rate by changing tube diameters, or constricting (or widening it) at a critical spot.)

Still, all machines have quirks at rollout...but it's pretty dismal to have what seems to be the majority of units on at least two continents have one of its headline features completely broken or configured on initial rollout. Not a good "first foot forward" for a new machine.


espresso_drinker Said:

It is the 'crema enhancing' pressurized basket like my old Krups machine.  If you look at the inside of the basket, it looks normal.
If you look at the bottom of the basket, there is only one hole.

Posted October 27, 2011 link

I'm surprised they included something like that with a higher end machine.

It was just 4 screws.  Two torx and two phillips

That's VERY useful information and could potentially save the day (shame they used a cheap OPV without an adjustment screw...they could have saved a lot of money by just telling people to open it up :) )


It's not just you.  But, they probably had to use plastic to hit their price point.  

I think it's less about price point, more about margin ratio.  Bezzera and Nuova Simoneli both managed to build HX machines with all copper pipes, and an all copper boiler, while making them in relatively low quantities in a mostly manual labor factory at about the same price point.  Sure there's more "tech" in the Breville than a low tech HX, and that R&D cost fortunes, and it's a "DB", but both boilers combined are smaller than the single boiler in the Oscar, and they're made out of cheaper metal (stainless vs. copper) using more mass production methods,  If it doesn't cost considerably less to make the Breville per unit than the Oscar or BZ01, at least once the factory tooling and R&D is paid off, I'd be truly shocked.

I don't mean to ignore the extreme cost of R&D on a machine like this, they certainly did their homework on it, and that R&D does not come cheap at all.   But there's too many corners cut and questionable materials choices to say it was all about price point.  Once the R&D is paid off, the design is definitely designed to yield the widest margin in mass market.  The WORSE than spotty QA on these OPVs is a beacon for that.  I mean, seriously, did they even test ONE of them live from these batches?  Not even testing the NA batch after making the AU batch?  Not one? I'm sure they'll make it right, of course, but it's just a bad omen when testing seems to ignore entire continental rollouts.  I'd be curious if anyone has one with a correctly set OPV?  I believe Mark Prince's original pre-production preview made reference to pressure issues as well on the hand-tuned prototype.  

I read on the coffesnobs forums that it is a quick 5 minute adjustment.  However, they are in Australia.  It might be possible they have a different spec machine with
a different OPV.  The person I talked to at BrevilleUSA said if enough people felt the factory adjustment for the OPV was not right, they would gladly figure out a way
to make things right.  If the BrevilleUSA rep (Kevin) was living in Texas, I think he would have driven to my house to check the machine out.  He seemed genuinely
interested in making the buyers happy with their machine.  In all honesty, I didn't expect this machine to be a Mini Vivaldi or a Duetto so if I can tinker with the OPV
and not cause the machine to melt, I'll still keep it, I think.

I doubt the units are very different.  On the other hand, one can read a lot of things on cs.au about Breville... ;) Even if it is a quick 5 minute adjustment, looking at the plastic joining, I doubt it would take more than 5 minutes to entirely replace a faulty/incorrect fixed OPV with a factory-new correctly set fixed OPV.   I still doubt these are actually adjustable, I see no interface for adjustment.  The fix is likely a part swap. (I don't know for sure, that just seems like the likely fix given the picture of the part.) Sadly, the part could probably be easily swapped by the end-user, they just won't allow it due to liability.  And i don't doubt they're interested in doing anything to help users work on the machine themselves.  Right now I suspect they're in damage control mode.  Their shiny new product has a serious and simple flaw.  They were probably hoping it would go away since the target customer probably doesn't know the difference, and are trying to fix the people who DO know better to quash any negative press about it before it occurs, while not drawing attention to it so people that don't know and are happy with it as-is won't get upset.  I can understand their point of view, I suppose, but it would have been a non-issue if they'd just made it user adjustable from the beginning.

One thing to keep in mind about OPVs is that you don't NEED them to make espresso normale.  If your grind is fine, you'll settle in at about 9 bar naturally (my Salvatore HX has no OPV for example.)  Where OPV becomes important is risottos, up-dosing, or those hard to handle beans that want to flow really slow with high resistance but give way later....too high a pressure will blow a channel through it.  Even my Duetto came factory set at 10.25-10.5 bar out of the box.  The difference of course, is that it took me 10 minutes or less to wrench off the shell and turn a screw to set it where I wanted.  But if you're after normales you may be perfectly happy with the Breville as-is.  It's just a double-negative for them because that's one of the 8 or so headline features on the marketing materials and it seems to be widely defective.


espresso_drinker Said:

I used the pressurized 'crema enhancing' basket and pulled a shot without preinfusion or coffee.  2oz of water in 17 seconds.
The pressure gauge stabilized at 9 bars.  Is this bad?

Posted October 27, 2011 link

It reveals nothing other than that the pressurized basket's valve is calibrated to be around 9 bar, or roughly the normal pressure for an espresso normale :)   It's kind of interesting, actually, if they have a 9 bar pressurized, then they HAD to set the main OPV at least slightly higher....I wonder if that's related to the cause of the widespread miscalibrated OPV issue?



espresso_drinker Said:

I am able grind fine enough with the Vario to result in no espresso flow.

I read that the LM Strada baskets will fit in the portafilter.... think it will make a difference?

Posted October 27, 2011 link

Strada/VST baskets actually require a finer grind than normal baskets because they have more surface area of holes.   The Vario (unless poorly calibrated itself) is certainly not an issue.  Assuming you're getting the right pressure etc, VSTs/Stradas would have the same strengths/weaknesses on a Breville as with any other machine.  It would have no effect in circumventing the OPV issue, though grinding finer/dosing lower to produce a normale would "ignore" the OPV issue with any basket.  



Will_H Said:

Arrrrgh.  Trying to keep perspective that this is about 10 bills less than most double boilers on the market...but I just get a bad feeling with what Breville has put together.  A plastic / non-adjustable OPV is a key-key error on this machine IMHO.  As I have thought about it, any changes in grind and tamp (or basket) would just be trying to make up for poor engineering.  So I ask myself why start with a handicap?  

Posted October 27, 2011 link

To be fair to Breville, Silvia V1 had a non-adjustable OPV (though it was not plastic...) and was wildly popular, and Salvatore machines have no OPV and are well respected.  To be fair to Rancilio and Salvatore, though, the non-adjustable OPV on Silvia V1 proved to be a nightmare adding to the machine's infamous finicky temperature and they eventually added an adjustable OPV for the V2, and the lack of OPV is slightly offset on the Salvatore by virtue of pretty huge diameter plumbing and fittings, while the Brevile has mostly very narrow gauge tubes which would likely exacerbate the issue.  (Though I could be wrong about that since the group valve has a pinhole of an inlet, but the plumbing in the machine can make for individual characteristics from manufacturer to manufacturer.)

While the Breville is a double boiler, they are small...really small! The advantage of a double is to have little or no recovery time, but a .3 L brew boiler has got to have a lag to it.  

Impossible to know without testing.  If the HX design through the steam boiler is very well engineered, and if the element is sufficiently large to "flash heat" the brew water, it may well not have much lag.  What it would have is comparatively anemic steaming, however.  That's one of those instances where good design could behave different from what you'd expect.  That said, few things have the thermal mass and distribution that water convection has, so I would think there could be violent temp swings in the boiler, especially depending on how aggressive the P, I, and D are set.  It really comes down to how well the HX preheat is and if the water is just about brew temp as it enters the brew boiler, or if the HX tends to overheat or underheat the water.  1.3l total water/steam volume in the system is almost half the average mid-range HX.


*Edit: I'm neither praising nor condemning the Breville, I haven't tried one, and I don't "have a pony in the race", I'm just offering advice and help to some of the questions here in a thread the bulk of members would have little to no interest in, and offering commentary on areas where I'd like to throw heavy objects at whatever management made certain decisions inside Breville ;)
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lowellw2
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Joined: 4 Apr 2010
Posts: 41
Location: Austin TX
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Breville BES900XL
Grinder: Baratza Vario
Posted Fri Oct 28, 2011, 6:21pm
Subject: Re: It has arrived - Breville Dual Boiler BES900XL!
 

Thanks for the comments "Mad Tamper". Sometimes when one is "wanting something to work out" that person can be much less than objective. I agree that it seems they should have cut back a bit on R&D and increased the quality of the materials of the units. If Salvatore can put together a quality low end HX and I had forgot about Bezzera, then a mass production unit around this price point should have quality components at a minimum as shouldn't most of the margin be in labor cost savings.  Maybe the R&D was too much. You would think with money not costing much for the R&D or maybe Breville has a lot of cash the R&D cost could have been spread way out, again leaving more for components. In any event it is what it is and it's apparent to me from my short time with the machine to conclude there is a large variance in the brew pressure which exacerbates my other operational shortcomings. I clearly have a better appreciation of the stability of my Mini Vivaldi and the fact that it's just plain easy to use.  There's a lot of great design and engineering inside but there's a big problem that needs a quick fix.  I need to see if the 5minute fix is an alternative available to me.  I too would like to throw some things at Breville management.  I wonder if the guy overseeing the product had enough authority or whether some other corporate area indirectly may have ruined things so far.  I think they are going to fix this.
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jscd88
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Posted Fri Oct 28, 2011, 6:37pm
Subject: Re: It has arrived - Breville Dual Boiler BES900XL!
 

Well, I've now spent the better part of the evening experimenting with my Breville DB. Here's (roughly) what I did.
  1. Calibrated the Vario
  2. Set the dose to 15 grams.
    Then ran a series of tests.
  3. Set the Vario to "1-S". Nearly choked the Breville - 50 second shot at 13 bar pressure.
  4. Set the Vario to "2-S". Down to 42 seconds at 13 bar.
  5. Set the Vario to "5-S". Down to 27 seconds at 9 bar!! Great, made a cappa for the wife.
  6. Repeat Step 5. Oh-oh, this time 17 seconds and 3 bar.
  7. Set the Vario to "3-S". 17 seconds and 3 bar.
  8. Set the Vario back to "1-S".  27 seconds and 11 bar.
  9. Give up for the night.

In hindsight, the grind from the Vario looked consistent to me, but the light wasn't great and I wasn't exactly inspecting it. Also, I used an Espro calibrated tamper, so the tamp pressure should have been nearly identical. The only other possible variable I can think of was how "tightly" I was setting the portafilter -- i tried to be consistent, although I initially may have been locking it in more than toward the end -- not sure this would matter.

The sad thing is that I really want to like the Breville. As Mark Prince noted in his First Look Preview, the machine has a number of nice design touches. In addition, it seems to steam well and with the active heating of the group head it is has a short warm up and a fast recovery time. But, either I'm doing something wrong, or the Vario isn't creating a consistent grind, or the Breville is "broken".
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samuellaw178
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samuellaw178
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Posted Fri Oct 28, 2011, 7:27pm
Subject: Re: It has arrived - Breville Dual Boiler BES900XL!
 

jscd88 Said:

The sad thing is that I really want to like the Breville. As Mark Prince noted in his First Look Preview, the machine has a number of nice design touches. In addition, it seems to steam well and with the active heating of the group head it is has a short warm up and a fast recovery time. But, either I'm doing something wrong, or the Vario isn't creating a consistent grind, or the Breville is "broken".

Posted October 28, 2011 link

Hmm, did you weigh your coffee after it's ground or before it's ground?If you relies on the timer on Vario, it might fluctuate depending on the beans amount in the hopper. I would suggest try single dosing (weigh and put only enough coffee for one shot, grind till it's all gone) in the Vario. This will be more consistent.
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Will_H
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Posted Fri Oct 28, 2011, 8:54pm
Subject: Re: It has arrived - Breville Dual Boiler BES900XL!
 

jscd88 Said:

The only other possible variable I can think of was how "tightly" I was setting the portafilter -- i tried to be consistent, although I initially may have been locking it in more than toward the end -- not sure this would matter.

Posted October 28, 2011 link

Hmmm, how tightly you set the PF shouldn't matter.  If you have your grounds packed so high that you are touching the screen, you are over-dosing.  If you are over-dosing with 15 grams in a double basket...whoa.  

samuellaw178 Said:

Hmm, did you weigh your coffee after it's ground or before it's ground?If you relies on the timer on Vario, it might fluctuate depending on the beans amount in the hopper. I would suggest try single dosing (weigh and put only enough coffee for one shot, grind till it's all gone) in the Vario. This will be more consistent.

Posted October 28, 2011 link

Agreed, for the sake of the experiment, pre-weighing would be helpful.  However, even if it is off by a gram, all the machines I have ever used have never had such a huge time and pressure fluctuation from such a small difference...all pointing back to the pump/pressure issue.  

Also wonder if the small looking tubing in the photos have anything to do with the issues?  Flow is usually determined by the smallest diamater of a system, but with lots off small tubing would seem logical that it could potentially impact flow rate.  Any fluid dynamics physicists out there?
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samuellaw178
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samuellaw178
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Posted Fri Oct 28, 2011, 9:10pm
Subject: Re: It has arrived - Breville Dual Boiler BES900XL!
 

Actually, I am suspecting it's the grind setting issue, the Vario, not the machine. If you're using Vario with the timed dosing, I am guessing you won't get 100% coffee of your grind setting if you're in the middle of adjusting, unless you do a purge to get rid of previous coffee batch. For example, at 2S, you get a super fine coffee grind,and you got 15g out. But 0.5g of super fine coffee stayed in the grind chamber. Then you switch to 5S, 15g out. 0.5 of those are actually the super fine coffee grind, only 14.5g of those are the 5S grind. That's why you see the inconsistent flow pattern there. Also, if you have different coffee weight in the hopper that might exacerbate the problem. Single dose is probably the way to go.

It's true that the plastic tubes don't say "quality" to most of us that are used to copper tubings etc. But I feel that it should at least be capable of doing some acceptable job. Plastic or not, I have no problem as long as it's not toxic and is working as it should. :P

Oh ya, the internal of the Breville looks very similar to my Gaggia and, I believe, most other Gaggia models that could run reportedly 10-20 years without a problem. So I am hoping we don't judge its performance based on the material used. At least not until they have managed to sort out the kinks.


jscd88 Said:

Set the Vario to "2-S". Down to 42 seconds at 13 bar.
Set the Vario to "5-S". Down to 27 seconds at 9 bar!! Great, made a cappa for the wife.
Repeat Step 5. Oh-oh, this time 17 seconds and 3 bar.
Set the Vario to "3-S". 17 seconds and 3 bar.
Set the Vario back to "1-S".  27 seconds and 11 bar.
Give up for the night.

Posted October 28, 2011 link

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IMAWriter
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Posted Fri Oct 28, 2011, 10:27pm
Subject: Re: It has arrived - Breville Dual Boiler BES900XL!
 

Very even handed treatment here, for the most part.
Agree with Samuel that ANY grinder needs a short "flush" when adjust grind fineness, especially when going coarser to finer. The Vario holds VERY little back, but 10 minutes in the chute and it's stale grind, which can also affect the shot.

Will, not to be critical, but I have to assume by your comment regarding how "tightly' you locked in the PF, that you may be somewhat new to the home barista thing?

If that's the case, we may have to also take into account your technique preparing your coffee ...dose, distribution, etc. Even, consistent Distribution of the coffee in the basket is probably the most important step in preparing the shot.
If I'm wrong in my assessment of your barista skills I humbly apologize!!

Will sir, I can assure you, when i first got my Anita years ago, my shot timings ...and squirts were ALL OVER THE PLACE! ;>D

Back on Topic, realistically, at a $1200 price point, I just have to assume the plastic stuff, the stainless boilers (which are becoming more commonplace) and other cost saving features are necessary to make the price point.
I totally agree with all who feel an unadjustable OPV is not such a good thing, but in 4 years of owning the Anita, never had to adjust it once. Of course, I have to assume Chris Coffee had it set within proper specs before delivery.

As an interest spectator, I commend all the fine CG'ers weighing in here, helping the new owners of the DB, and fervently hope those with this machine find them to be worthy additions to their coffee experience.

Thanks for a fine near hour of entertainment!

 
Rob J (LMWDP #187)
My Music Production web site:
www.robertjason.com
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