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What's the best prosumer espresso machine?
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > What's the best...  
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tglodjo
Senior Member
tglodjo
Joined: 16 Oct 2012
Posts: 209
Location: Jackson, TN
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi II
Grinder: Baratza Vario, Virtuoso
Drip: Wave, V60, Chemex, Clever
Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Tue Oct 23, 2012, 3:08pm
Subject: What's the best prosumer espresso machine?
 

I've begun thinking about upgrading from my Rancilio Silvia to a prosumer heat exchanger or dual boiler. I would love to get everyone's thoughts on what the best machine to get it. The Silvano? The Rocket Cellini? Giotto? Breville Dual Boiler? These are just names I'm tossing out there, but I'm curious to hear every one's thoughts on their machine of preference. I'm thinking the $1,000 to $1,700 range. I make about four drinks a day (on average), but I do a lot of entertaining, which means a lot of milk-based drinks. I know there's other questions you'd like me to answer, but I seriously just want to here people's reasons for choosing the machines they prefer.

FYI, I have a Baratza Vario grinder.
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Coffeenoobie
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Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 3,052
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Tue Oct 23, 2012, 3:14pm
Subject: Re: What's the best prosumer espresso machine?
 

I like my set up, cheap, easy portable, not shiny.  There is no best, just like there is no best car.  There is best for your usage and money, but mostly you have to decide that.

 
Coffeenoobie

Buying advice: GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER. Don't cheap out on the grinder.

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JasonBrandtLewis
Senior Member
JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,475
Location: Berkeley, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -...
Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup
Drip: CCD, Chemex
Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Tue Oct 23, 2012, 5:05pm
Subject: Re: What's the best prosumer espresso machine?
 

Re: What's the best prosumer espresso machine?
There isn't one.

tglodjo Said:

I've begun thinking about upgrading from my Rancilio Silvia to a prosumer heat exchanger or dual boiler. I would love to get everyone's thoughts on what the best machine to get it. The Silvano? The Rocket Cellini? Giotto? Breville Dual Boiler?

Posted October 23, 2012 link

Well, personally, I wouldn't buy any of those.

tglodjo Said:

These are just names I'm tossing out there, but I'm curious to hear every one's thoughts on their machine of preference. I'm thinking the $1,000 to $1,700 range.

Posted October 23, 2012 link

Uh, think again . . . look under the cushions of the couch.  Go ahead.  I'll wait . . . .

tglodjo Said:

I make about four drinks a day (on average), but I do a lot of entertaining, which means a lot of milk-based drinks. I know there's other questions you'd like me to answer, but I seriously just want to here people's reasons for choosing the machines they prefer.

Posted October 23, 2012 link

Well, now you are getting to the heart of the matter.  What is "best" for me might not be the best for you; what's best of her might not be the best choice for him.  It all depends upon how the machine is to be used, how you make your drinks.  
OK, let's take it from the top . . .

Standard Questions:
1)  What kind of drinks do you like/want to make?  (This will tell us what you need in terms of a machine's capabilities.)
2)  How many drinks, on average, do you see yourself needing to make at ay one time? (This will tell us what you need in terms of a machine's ability to work continuously.)
3)  How many drinks, on average, do you see yourself making in any given week?  (This will tell us what you need in terms of a machine's durability.)
4)  Can you plumb a machine directly into the water supply, or do you want/need a pourover machine with its own reservoir?
5)  Do you have a 20-amp circuit available, or only a (standard) 15-amp circuit?
6)  What is your budget for a new machine?  Does that also include a grinder?  If not, what is your budget for a grinder?

tglodjo Said:

FYI, I have a Baratza Vario grinder.

Posted October 23, 2012 link

That should be fine, so we don't need to worry about #6, but answers to the other questions would be very beneficial if you truly want helpful answers, as opposed to simply getting a list of everyone's favorites . . . which may or may not fit your specific needs.

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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tglodjo
Senior Member
tglodjo
Joined: 16 Oct 2012
Posts: 209
Location: Jackson, TN
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi II
Grinder: Baratza Vario, Virtuoso
Drip: Wave, V60, Chemex, Clever
Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Tue Oct 23, 2012, 5:10pm
Subject: Re: What's the best prosumer espresso machine?
 

1) I enjoy straight espresso, but family and friends like milk-based drinks like lattes.
2) At one time, I may make up to 6 drinks.
3) On a given week, I'll make 20-25 drinks.
4) No need to plumb.
5) Only a standard 15-amp circuit.
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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 Tue Oct 23, 2012, 5:21pm
Subject: Re: What's the best prosumer espresso machine?
 

Dang man you might as well pull the pin and toss the grenade in as post that. ;0)  See my signature and listen to what ever Jason is about to tell you.

 
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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JasonBrandtLewis
Senior Member
JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,475
Location: Berkeley, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -...
Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup
Drip: CCD, Chemex
Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Tue Oct 23, 2012, 7:41pm
Subject: Re: What's the best prosumer espresso machine?
 

OK, thanks for the info . . .

tglodjo Said:

1) I enjoy straight espresso, but family and friends like milk-based drinks like lattes.

Posted October 23, 2012 link

So, you do need either an HX or DB.  HX machines will be less expensive.

tglodjo Said:

2) At one time, I may make up to 6 drinks.

Posted October 23, 2012 link

So you will need a machine with relatively quick recovery.

tglodjo Said:

3) On a given week, I'll make 20-25 drinks.

Posted October 23, 2012 link

You're bordering on commercial, but well within the capabilities of a "serious" (whatever that means) prosumer machine.  The problem is, as I mentioned previously, that the lowest end of your budget is not (IMHO) realistic.

tglodjo Said:

4) No need to plumb.

Posted October 23, 2012 link

There is never a need to plumb.  The question is not "need," but rather "want."  Even if you cannot plumb the machine in now, do you want the option to so later?  That is, do you want a machine that has the option to be a pourover and/or plumbed, or do you only want a machine that has a built-in reservoir?

tglodjo Said:

5) Only a standard 15-amp circuit.

Posted October 23, 2012 link

OK, that's easy.

Now, as far as machines go, I would love to stay within your stated budget, but it's difficult.  I think you're looking at something like an Izzo Alex Duetto II, a DB, but that's $2250 on sale!  Too much for your budget.  So, too, are machines like the Rocket R58 DB -- even machines like the Quick Mill DB QM67 ($1899 pre-arrival), and the Expobar Brewtus IV-V ($1949 -- 1851 on sale) are over your budget.  I think you are solidly in the HX camp.

Remember, there is no difference in the cup -- which, after all, is where it counts -- between an HX and a DB.

If I were you, I would look at machines like the Quick Mill Anita ($1595), the Rocket Cellini Premium Plus ($1395), the ECM Barista ($1699), and similar machines . . .

I am afraid that the HX machines that are in the, say, $1100-1300 range won't have the power you will need to produce 5-6 drinks at one time.

Cheers,
Jason

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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qualin
Senior Member
qualin
Joined: 30 Jun 2012
Posts: 669
Location: Calgary, AB
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Izzo Alex Duetto 3
Grinder: Mazzer Mini Elect. Type A
Vac Pot: Looking to buy
Drip: Manual
Roaster: Considering?
Posted Tue Oct 23, 2012, 7:53pm
Subject: Re: What's the best prosumer espresso machine?
 

The "Best" machine? Well, a Heat Exchanging machine will do the trick for your needs and stay within your budget, while giving you plenty of features.
Your budget limits you mainly to prosumer HX machines and one double boiler machine, the Breville DB. This is a telling sign right there.

All that more money buys you when it comes to machines, is quality, features, convenience and ability. Read the reviews on this website and see what people think.

For example, a Bezzera BZ07P or a Nuova Simonelli Oscar would be within the lower part of your price range and would be capable of your needs.

Compare that to a Bezzera Magica or a QuickMill Anita, where suddenly now you have the option of going with an E61 group head, but most of the other features
are the same, pretty much.

In that price range, you are still limited to reservoir and a vibration pump, which again, is adequate for your needs. Consider looking at a machine which has a
vacuum breaker so you can use it with an appliance timer. Just be aware of the issues vacuum breakers can cause when they wear out.

Is a true shiny stainless steel cabinet important to you? Is an E61 grouphead important to you? (This is a debate in itself.) What about volumetric dosing?
Do you want a machine with a larger single heat exchanging boiler or a smaller one?

Now, take a look at those machines online and see if there's one that particularly stands out at you. Can you imagine that machine in your kitchen?

Good luck!

 
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
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JasonBrandtLewis
Senior Member
JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,475
Location: Berkeley, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -...
Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup
Drip: CCD, Chemex
Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Tue Oct 23, 2012, 8:05pm
Subject: Re: What's the best prosumer espresso machine?
 

Presented, Bud, in the FWIW Dept.,

qualin Said:

For example, a Bezzera BZ07P or a Nuova Simonelli Oscar would be within the lower part of your price range and would be capable of your needs.

Posted October 23, 2012 link

Doubtful, IMHO. The Oscar, IIRC, still lacks a vacuum breaker.  The Bezzera BZ07 pDE ($1399) might work, but I can't recall if it has a vacuum breaker or not.  (See below.)

qualin Said:

Compare that to a Bezzera Magica or a QuickMill Anita, where suddenly now you have the option of going with an E61 group head, but most of the other features are the same, pretty much.

Posted October 23, 2012 link


I don't think the Magica is not sold in the US.  The Anita is a machine I recommended.

qualin Said:

In that price range, you are still limited to reservoir and a vibration pump, which again, is adequate for your needs. Consider looking at a machine which has a vacuum breaker so you can use it with an appliance timer. Just be aware of the issues vacuum breakers can cause when they wear out.

Posted October 23, 2012 link

FWIW, I don't consider a vacuum breaker an optional piece of equipment.  Unless you feel like waiting 45-90 minutes after you turn the machine on for it to reach a state of thermal stability, I think putting your machine on a timer is a necessity.  Further, while it is true that a vacuum breaker can wear out, I have never had to replace one, and it isn't all that difficult to do if I ever did.

Cheers,
Jason

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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qualin
Senior Member
qualin
Joined: 30 Jun 2012
Posts: 669
Location: Calgary, AB
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Izzo Alex Duetto 3
Grinder: Mazzer Mini Elect. Type A
Vac Pot: Looking to buy
Drip: Manual
Roaster: Considering?
Posted Tue Oct 23, 2012, 8:26pm
Subject: Re: What's the best prosumer espresso machine?
 

JasonBrandtLewis Said:

The Oscar, IIRC, still lacks a vacuum breaker.  

Posted October 23, 2012 link

Wow, I didn't know that. I guess now that I think about it, while a smaller heat exchanging machine would be adequate for MOST of the daily needs specified, those times when there is company over,
the machine will be struggling to keep up with you and will need time to recover. The larger a Heat Exchanging boiler is, the faster the machine can recover because it has more thermal inertia.
However, this comes at a disadvantage in some circumstances because that also means it has more thermal mass, which means it takes longer to heat up.

JasonBrandtLewis Said:

I don't think the Magica is not sold in the US.

Posted October 23, 2012 link

It is in Canada, but a vendor here has suggested that the Quickmill Anita is a much better deal for the money anyway.

JasonBrandtLewis Said:

Unless you feel like waiting 45-90 minutes after you turn the machine on for it to reach a state of thermal stability,

Posted October 23, 2012 link

The problem is, when a boiler is hot and it cools down, it creates a vacuum. Unfortunately, vacuum also acts as an excellent insulator. When you put the machine on a timer and the machine
turns itself off overnight, then turns on in the morning, you'll get vapor lock. The major symptom is that you'll go to open the steam valve, there won't be any pressure and the boiler won't be hot.
I haven't personally experienced it myself, but it is a major problem with espresso machines that don't have one.

JasonBrandtLewis Said:

I think putting your machine on a timer is a necessity.

Posted October 23, 2012 link

I would agree. Most heat exchanging and double boiler machines need at least 30-45 minutes of warm up time before they can produce a stable brewing temperature for a shot. You can try to
pull shots early once the heater light goes out, but you'll most likely end up making sour shots.

JasonBrandtLewis Said:

I have never had to replace one, and it isn't all that difficult to do if I ever did.

Posted October 23, 2012 link

Good point. I guess the problem is that in a lot of espresso machines, the vacuum breaker doesn't have a tube connected to it. So, if it leaks, it will leak water inside of the machine and possibly onto your counter.
I haven't heard any stories yet of peoples machines which have been permanently damaged by a leaky vacuum breaker valve, at least not yet. Just something you should be aware of.

 
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
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qualin
Senior Member
qualin
Joined: 30 Jun 2012
Posts: 669
Location: Calgary, AB
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Izzo Alex Duetto 3
Grinder: Mazzer Mini Elect. Type A
Vac Pot: Looking to buy
Drip: Manual
Roaster: Considering?
Posted Tue Oct 23, 2012, 9:03pm
Subject: Re: What's the best prosumer espresso machine?
 

JasonBrandtLewis Said:

So you will need a machine with relatively quick recovery.

Posted October 23, 2012 link

This all depends on how long the user wants to wait on the machine when it is making back to back drinks. If it is a casual environment, it may not be an issue. If it is a party or social environment, it won't cut it.
In all honesty, the price difference is so little that it's just worth it to spend the extra money, instead of getting fed up with the machine and upgrading it soon afterwards anyway. Think of it as buying a Hyundai
Accent vs a Hyundai Sonata Turbo. The latter costs more money, but has one heck of a lot more acceleration. Both will get you from point A to point B! :-)

JasonBrandtLewis Said:

There is never a need to plumb.

Posted October 23, 2012 link

I've found out that there is a considerable price premium which is required to buy a machine which is capable of being plumbed-in. The exception seems to be Expobar machines, which sell machines which
can be switched back and forth between reservoir and plumbed-in. However, in some ways I have caveats about that. I'll explain below...

Some machines can be modified for plumb-in operation, like the Anita, but they can't be easily switched back to reservoir operation again without a professional modification. (At least, this is my understanding.)

Here's something to think about in case you do decide to plumb in a vibration pump machine. Vibration pumps work best when there is a large pressure differential. Which means that they don't like it when you
put water line pressure on them. They are designed to draw from a reservoir. A way to get around this is to put a pressure regulator on the line leading to the machine. However, the downside to doing this, is
that by the time you spend all of the extra money on that regulator and the installation cost to do so, alongside the professional modifications to the machine so it can be plumbed in, you might as well have just
saved your pennies and gone with a machine that has a rotary pump to begin with.

Rotary pumps work on a pressure differential, so you can feed them any line pressure (Within reason) and they'll "Amplify" it to whatever is needed. While a vibe pump itself is maybe $40, a Rotary pump
can cost upwards of $200. So, it can dramatically increase the cost of the machine. The massive upside to a rotary pump though is that it is considerably more heavier duty and much quieter. When it comes to the
difference in the cup, it doesn't matter. Even the experts can't tell the difference between a cup of coffee made from a vibe pump vs a rotary pump machine.

All that plumbing in a machine offers you is that you don't have to fill a reservoir or worry about the machine running out of water. The drink volume the OP specified is still suitable for daily use, but could be an
issue if they are entertaining a few guests. The other upside to plumbing in a machine is that you can install an in-line water softening system to protect the machine from scale and a filtration system. In my current
setup, my water softener is a little resin thingy which attaches to the reservoir hose and my filtration system is a Brita water pitcher.

JasonBrandtLewis Said:

Even if you cannot plumb the machine in now, do you want the option to so later?

Posted October 23, 2012 link

.... and that is the kicker.. Because buying a cheaper machine to start with then upgrading to a plumb-in capable machine is considerably more expensive than just buying one which is capable from the start.

IMHO, The Izzo Alex lines of machines have everything you could ever possibly want in an espresso machine. They're worth the extra investment if your top end range is already $1700. It is exactly why I'm
saving my pennies towards buying one myself. My friends all think I'm nuts for doing so though.

 
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
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