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One more time - HX vs DB
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > One more time -...  
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Phil_In_Ottawa
Senior Member


Joined: 1 Oct 2010
Posts: 82
Location: Ottawa, ON
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Vibiemme DD
Grinder: Baratza Vario
Drip: Newco OCS-12
Posted Mon Feb 27, 2012, 2:26pm
Subject: One more time - HX vs DB
 

Hi all,

I know the topic of HX vs Double Boiler has been discussed since the dawn of time and, let me tell you, I've read many threads on the subject. Yet, I'm still confused. So I'm here asking you to please bear with me and hopefully shed the final spotlight on this topic for me and make me see the clear way ahead.

Here's the situation: I currently have a Silvia V3/Vario combination. I've had it for about 1.5 years and I'm able to make excellent espresso (according to what all who have tasted it have reported). I'm still struggling with the milk frothing but that's probably due to the fact that we pretty much only drink americanos and espressos. But I feel that my infrequent feeble attempts at microfoam are good enough when I do make a milk-based drink, so it's not a big problem for me.

We are now moving and are gutting and redesigning the kitchen in the new condo we are moving to. So I've decided to replace the Silvia. Since we are building from scratch, I want to go with a plumbed-in machine (both the supply and drainage). And I also want to move up from the SBDU.

Like I said, I've been reading and reading about HX and, to me, it sounds like it's not much different than the temperature surfing I now do with the Silvia. In fact, the whole flushing "water dance" thing sounds even more error prone. With the Silvia, I run water from the steam wand until the boiler light comes on, turn on my timer and hit the brew switch after 34 seconds have elapsed and out comes very good espresso. It's actually pretty easy and reproducible time after time. But from what I understand, the HX flushing thing involves listening for the steam to turn to water and then "flushing 1 or 2 more ounces" which sounds pretty subjective to me. And, of course, how long it will take will depend on how long the machine has been idle and how hot the water has become making the whole process very variable from one pull to the next.

In my mind, the double boiler (with PID) sounds much more precise in that you can control the brew water temperature directly with no need for flushing or measuring or timing.

I'm looking to simplify my espresso routine. I don't want to surf or dance anymore. So, to me, the double boiler seems to be a no-brainer. I know it's more expensive comapred to the HX, but the extra $500 is insignificant considering the entire kitchen budget.

So, am I thinking this through properly? Is there something I have not understood about the HX that would make it something I should consider? Between, say, the Alex II HX and Alex II Duetto, can the HX give me the simplicity I'm after or is the Duetto the way I should go?

Thanks for your help.
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dsblv
Senior Member


Joined: 2 Dec 2006
Posts: 191
Location: Bellevue, WA
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Rocket Giotto Evoluzione
Grinder: MACAP MC4
Posted Mon Feb 27, 2012, 2:46pm
Subject: Re: One more time - HX vs DB
 

Flushing is not the same as temp surfing on a Silvia.   An HX machine with a E-61 group and thermosyphon tends to be stable at the ideal brew temperature.   The brew water will overheat if the machine is idle for a long period of time.  The flush returns the brew temperature to nominal.  Flushes aren't needed when pulling shots closely together.

As many others have pointed out, the HX flush is no big deal.  You can mount a thermometer in the group for greater precision, if desired.  

The HX machines are less complex and draw less power than a double boiler.  The better HX machines are reliable and produce consistent results.

If you just don't want any hassle, then a double boiler is worth considering.  It's not really necessary for most applications but some people just want things as easy as possible.
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JonR10
Senior Member
JonR10
Joined: 26 Apr 2004
Posts: 10,376
Location: Houston, Texas
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: E61 Legend, Livietta,...
Grinder: Robur, B-Vario-W
Vac Pot: Hario Tabletop, Yama...
Drip: Technivorm
Roaster: 1-lb US Roaster, Behmor 1600
Posted Mon Feb 27, 2012, 2:54pm
Subject: Re: One more time - HX vs DB
 

pre-emptive Mod note :
Let's try to keep this conversation civil.  
I personally won't hesitate to remove posts that are personal attacks, or could be perceived as such.  


Phil_In_Ottawa Said:

In my mind, the double boiler (with PID) sounds much more precise in that you can control the brew water temperature directly with no need for flushing or measuring or timing.

I'm looking to simplify my espresso routine. I don't want to surf or dance anymore. So, to me, the double boiler seems to be a no-brainer.

Posted February 27, 2012 link

Forgive me for being blunt, but it sounds like you've already decided.  


Phil_In_Ottawa Said:

I know the topic of HX vs Double Boiler has been discussed since the dawn of time and, let me tell you, I've read many threads on the subject. Yet, I'm still confused. So I'm here asking you to please bear with me and hopefully shed the final spotlight on this topic for me and make me see the clear way ahead.

Posted February 27, 2012 link

There are already too many threads on this subject for me to count, so I'll promise that this thread will not shed any "final spotlight" any better than the previous threads.  Have you seen Dan's "HX Love" article on Home-Barista.com?

If you've reviewed the above, as well as "many threads" and you're still confused the difference between flushing a HX vs. temp surfing a SBDU then maybe you could try getting together with someone who has an HX machine and letting them show you what they do.

If you're really interested, of course.    

Not trying to be rude or mean, but your language suggests that you don't want to fiddle with temperature management.  A PID-controlled double boiler simplifies that process about as much as possible, and if you can afford it then why not?  

Also, I've had my fill of HX vs. DB wars here lately.  


EDIT:
"I take my espressos with milk, considering BES900XL (BDB).  Opinons?"

"Upgrading from Silvia Rocket Giotto Prem+ vs. Breville Dual Broiler"

"New Geek Here, looking for opinions"

"HX machines - scary as they sound? (specifically, VBM Domobar Jr)"

.

 
Jon Rosenthal
Houston, TX
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MTmama
Senior Member
MTmama
Joined: 15 Feb 2012
Posts: 49
Location: Bozeman, MT
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Alex Duetto
Grinder: Super Jolly
Posted Mon Feb 27, 2012, 2:56pm
Subject: Re: One more time - HX vs DB
 

For many of the reasons you stated in your post I decided to upgrade to a DB from my Silvia.  My Silvia is completely capable, but I'm tired of guessing what temp I'm brewing at or steaming first, then cooling, then brewing my shot.  I'm tired of filling the tank. I just wanted to take as many variables as possible out of the equation.  I *hope* the Duetto that is being delivered today (if the men in brown would ever get their keesters here) will cure my upgradeitis or at least keep it at bay for a few years while I master this new machine!  

I will say once I started my research and was wavering between an upgraded HX and DB machine I was concerned that if I went with the HX I would kick myself later for not going with the DB.  So, really much of my decision was a gut decision on what I thought would serve me best!
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germantownrob
Senior Member
germantownrob
Joined: 2 Dec 2007
Posts: 2,154
Location: Philadelphia
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Duetto 3, A Dead Oscar
Grinder: Vario-W, Preciso w/Esatto,...
Drip: Brazen
Roaster: Diedrich IR-1, HT B
Posted Mon Feb 27, 2012, 3:23pm
Subject: Re: One more time - HX vs DB
 

There will be no difference in the cup for the most part.

If I want a 205f shot on a HX then flush until super heated water stops, if I want a shot at 201f  then flush for 4 more seconds after super heated water.

On a DB if Pid is at 205f and I want a 201f shot then adjust pid and flush, let temp stabilize for a moment. If I want to go from 199f to 203f then readjust pid and wait until entire brew group stabilizes at higher temp, this take a bit of time.  Now the part that seems to be overlooked by many getting a DB is that the boiler is not actually the temp on the pid, it is hotter which means an offset is taken into consideration to give the temp you set. Is this set proper for the environment the machine sits? Unless you check this and adjust the offset then a DB pid reading is no more precise then a HX and it seems many people will set a temp and never really know they may be off the temp they want.

I may be a very small minority that thinks HX machines are easier to work with since it is up to me to get the temp I want and I am not counting on a digital read out that may or may not be accurate. I also like less parts which in turn mean more space to work on a HX machine.

Just something to ponder. Good luck with your decision.
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scanfield
Senior Member


Joined: 21 Nov 2011
Posts: 181
Location: Texas
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: La Nuovo Era Cuadra
Grinder: Baratza Vario
Posted Mon Feb 27, 2012, 3:44pm
Subject: Re: One more time - HX vs DB
 

dsblv Said:

Flushing is not the same as temp surfing on a Silvia.   An HX machine with a E-61 group and thermosyphon tends to be stable at the ideal brew temperature.

Posted February 27, 2012 link

There is no singular ideal brew temperature. If you want 199 degrees, you flush longer than if you want 205 degrees. This is the part that is similar (in an abstract way) to temperature surfing.
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samuellaw178
Senior Member
samuellaw178
Joined: 22 Jan 2011
Posts: 382
Location: KL,Malaysia
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Arrarex Caravel
Grinder: Rosco Mini
Drip: French Press, Aeropress,...
Roaster: DIY Copper drum roaster
Posted Mon Feb 27, 2012, 4:11pm
Subject: Re: One more time - HX vs DB
 

In your case, definitely go for DB. It's much easier to get consistent brew temperature without a lot of learning, sounds like just what you needed. It's basically plug and play(almost). Although the boiler and grouphead temperature has an offset, the offset difference should stay pretty constant,maybe +- 1-2 degrees.

For hx, if you get a E61 group, you can fit in an Eric's thermometer(about $100 from CC) to help with the flushing routine. Very helpful, but the learning curve is definitely still there. The flushing is slightly longer too than with a DB. Plus you get the dilemma whether to flush and go, or flush and wait, or should you flush in between 1 min, 2 min, and 3 min shot etc etc.. Definitely more variables than using a DB, but not impossible. The flushing routine is easier as compared with temp surfing on a SBDU. The result is not so bad but it definitely will take a while to nail it down.

So if you're a person willing to fuss with many variables to gain the best cup result, HX is a very attractive alternative. If i read correctly, you can play with the temperature profile a little bit based on your flushing routine. With DB, you don't get much variable to play with, except for different temperatures at a almost flat(or declining) temperature profile. Based on your need for simplicity, I believe DB is the one for you(and probably mine too, only if I can afford).
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jwoodyu
Senior Member
jwoodyu
Joined: 31 Dec 2010
Posts: 857
Location: Michigan
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Allex Duetto II
Grinder: Mazzer Major
Posted Mon Feb 27, 2012, 4:21pm
Subject: Re: One more time - HX vs DB
 

JonR10 Said:

EDIT:
"I take my espressos with milk, considering BES900XL (BDB).  Opinons?"

"Upgrading from Silvia Rocket Giotto Prem+ vs. Breville Dual Broiler"

"New Geek Here, looking for opinions"

"HX machines - scary as they sound? (specifically, VBM Domobar Jr)"

.

Posted February 27, 2012 link

It's just plain sad that people tie their or someone else's worth to an opinion about type of appliance.

Phil_In_Ottawa Said:

And, of course, how long it will take will depend on how long the machine has been idle and how hot the water has become making the whole process very variable from one pull to the next.

Posted February 27, 2012 link

This was big deal for me when i choose a DB. I work from home a great deal and when i want a shot during the day, I want it, I want it right and I want it right now. I often don't have time for anything beyond grind, tamp pull before my next call. Like most of us at night or weekends I play around with all kinds of variables trying for a better shot.
I would say you have good enough grip to make decision. I missed a 2 group Legend on ebay for $2500 bucks or you can bet this would be a two espresso machine house. My Duetto DB for kitchen duty and the Legend  HX for the bar and entertaining.

dsblv Said:

If you just don't want any hassle, then a double boiler is worth considering.

Posted February 27, 2012 link


Exactly but it does not mean you can unscrew your head.  

dsblv Said:

It's not really necessary for most applications but some people just want things as easy as possible.

Posted February 27, 2012 link

this is not quite accurate else the DB would be all super automatics. Precision with less work and error is more like the motivation.

germantownrob Said:

Now the part that seems to be overlooked by many getting a DB is that the boiler is not actually the temp on the pid, it is hotter which means an offset is taken into consideration to give the temp you set.

Posted February 27, 2012 link

I will wager the OP understands this principle as well as MTmama and as did I when i purchased.

germantownrob Said:

Is this set proper for the environment the machine sits?

Posted February 27, 2012 link

The ambient temp in the environment of say CC office is not going to substantially different than the ambient temp in my house.

germantownrob Said:

Unless you check this and adjust the offset

Posted February 27, 2012 link

Like anything it needs to be check occasionally but the the difference in the temp and relative humidity in my house from say December with the furnace on and July with my air on is not going to be substantial enough to have a measurable impact in the off set given the mass of whole assembly. This of course assumes the off set was correct at some point. if i find a shot to be sour because the brew temp is to cool then it will be consistently sour shot after shot. If i raise the temp on my PID until its no longer sour then it will not be sour shot after shot. I could not care in the least that Jeff at Redbird recommends 199 for the blend and my PID says 205.

germantownrob Said:

then a DB pid reading is no more precise then a HX and it seems many people will set a temp and never really know they may be off the temp they want.

Posted February 27, 2012 link



The real questions at this point are: 1.) Is the User with an HX more accurate than the PID with a dedicated boiler?  Clearly that depends on the user with there being little doubt in my mind that an experienced hand like you, Jon, Wayne are very capable of meeting or surpassing the PID. That said this answer is clearly variable.  2.) Is there an ROI for the time and effort using an HX? Only the purchaser can decided. This answer is variable as well take Jon who went from a GS3 DB to an HX Legend or Wayne who is an HX fan but says his dream machine is a Synesso which is a DB.

 
Yes i have a reason for leaving SCG off my list, yes it is my opinion, yes it is subjective as opinions are by definition, no don't start a flame war because you disagree.
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germantownrob
Senior Member
germantownrob
Joined: 2 Dec 2007
Posts: 2,154
Location: Philadelphia
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Duetto 3, A Dead Oscar
Grinder: Vario-W, Preciso w/Esatto,...
Drip: Brazen
Roaster: Diedrich IR-1, HT B
Posted Mon Feb 27, 2012, 4:53pm
Subject: Re: One more time - HX vs DB
 

Yes many live year round with climate control however is a machine sitting on an exterior wall or an interior wall. What about air flow from the vents? What are the climate control settings from dead of winter and dead of summer? Will this have a big impact on what comes from a machine? What about those that actually open windows? All these things have an impact and it is entirely up to the user to know their machine and be able to adjust.

In the end it will always come down to the individual spending the money to make the choice. What is bothersome is so many actually think DBs are a better machine when that simple is not the case. To be honest I would like to have both kinds of machines to find the best temp curve for a particular bean and I would be darn certain my DB's offset was properly set or at the very least knew that the offset was off by X amount so I could properly compensate.
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gbastiani1952
Senior Member
gbastiani1952
Joined: 18 Dec 2008
Posts: 279
Location: North Carolina
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: QM Andreja Premium
Grinder: Cimbali Junior
Drip: Crusinart
Posted Mon Feb 27, 2012, 8:35pm
Subject: Re: One more time - HX vs DB
 

Well I got a QM Andreja Premium HX, I don't have a thermometer in the group head yet so when I do the cooling flush I wait until I have just water coming out which equals about 4 oz of water. Then I'll put the pf in and pull my double. The only thing I don't like about the HX is wasting water to do the cooling flush since I'm not hooked up to a direct water supply. So the first thing I'm going to get is an in tank filter / water softener, then the group head thermometer.

 
Gery Bastiani
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