Posted Sun Dec 23, 2012, 12:30am Subject: Upgrading to HX or dual boiler machine
I've been a member here since 2005, when I stumbled across this font of knowledge in my search to save myself $4 a day on coffee. Thanks to these forums, my search became a journey that has given me something of a reputation amongst friends and family. (My house is where they get to be treated to "special coffee").
I started with my trusty Rocky, and a Starbucks Barista that went to a friend 4 years later, when I decided I wanted something with a 3-way solenoid valve, and ended up with a Le'lit PL041. That machine has served me well, but is far from perfect. It pulls consistent, good shots, but a not-long-enough steam wand is a minor irritant, and I have found maintenance to be difficult. Taking the grouphead apart for very necessary cleaning is a real PITA, and the excuse for a dispersion screen leaves a lot to be desired. It is nigh-impossible to truly clean, and appears to be made from a soft-ish stainless mesh, instead of something solid and truly lasting. I also have to keep an eagle eye on my water tank, which will develop mold over time. It is also a very difficult shape for cleaning - basically my only option is to slosh around sudsy water inside of it, and hope that kills anything, due the the small hole at the top of this long rectangular plastic reservoir.
To be fair, I hear the newer version of my machine addresses some of these issues. However, if I am going to trade my Le'lit in for something new, I would prefer it to truly be an upgrade, and not just a newer, more expensive version of what I already have.
The bulk of my espresso making is the latte I make myself each morning, but a couple of times a week I end up making two as we have friends over fairly regularly, and sometimes even the husband (not a coffee drinker) will ask for a hot chocolate. So, the steam wand gets a good workout. I really like the look of the stainless machines, just as an aesthetic thing. And after my trouble trying to take care of the Le'lit, I would really like something that is easy to clean and maintain. I prefer something I don't necessarily have to take completely apart to really clean. The Le'Lit started leaking drips of coffee down the outside of the grouphead when I would steam milk, which gave me my first clue that I needed to take the step to do that. What I found when I did take it apart was caked, dried coffee grounds inside where the o-ring sits, and all over the outside edge of the dispersion screen (which I have still never managed to take off. Despite the husband's 64-piece socket set, nothing works to remove the very thin brass hex bolt that holds it in place. I have shorn the corners of the dang thing in trying.)
I would like something that is easy to actually take the dispersion screen off once in a while, if possible. I worked as a barista several years ago, and I remember doing that each night with our commercial machine, and soaking them in Urn-x. Maybe that is something only the commercial machines do? It certainly would make me feel better about what my hot water is dispersing through if I could do that.
My budget is going to be around $1500. Any suggestions or advice?
NobbyR Senior Member Joined: 10 Jul 2011 Posts: 1,922 Location: Germany Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: Poccino Opus One, Ariete Grinder: Eureka Mignon Istantaneo,... Vac Pot: N/A Drip: Melitta Linea Unica de Luxe Roaster: N/A
Posted Sun Dec 23, 2012, 2:54am Subject: Re: Upgrading to a dual boiler machine
As far as espresso quality is concerned, you'll benefit much more from a grinder upgrade than from a machine upgrade, because even though the Rancilio Rocky is capable of grinding fine enough for espresso it is by far nor the best grinder for espresso, simply due to the fact that its steps are too wide.
Having said that, the reason for your wish to get a new machine seems to be that your Le'lit is leaking and that it's difficult to maintain. But a DB machine doesn't necassaritly brew better espresso than a HX machine, for example, it just works differently, and it's more complicated to maintain than a HX machine. If you want to avoid any possible trouble with a water tank, you'll have to go for direct plumbing. Do you have the possibility to do that?
*** "This drink of the Satan is so delicious that it would be a shame to leave it to the infidels." (Pope Clement VIII on coffee)
Posted Sun Dec 23, 2012, 3:16am Subject: Re: Upgrading to a dual boiler machine
I should have been more specific in my title: I'm not ONLY willing to consider dual boiler. HX would be a significant upgrade, as well, and I'm completely open to that. I'm open to considering many possibilities at this point, but it definitely needs to be a machine that does steaming well, since that is currently the most cumbersome part of my set up, particularly when we have guests.
And sure, Rocky could use an upgrade, but I already know what I'd be doing if/when I upgrade him: a Baratza Vario. So I don't need a thread for that. :)
Yes, there is the possibility of direct plumbing in. :) Although, I do wonder how I would manage to use filtered water, then, but I'm betting that would be a different thread altogether...
qualin Senior Member Joined: 30 Jun 2012 Posts: 626 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 Sun Dec 23, 2012, 4:50am Subject: Re: Upgrading to HX or dual boiler machine
There are a few reservoir-only vibration-pump machines which will meet or are very close to your budget, depending on the vendors in your area. For example, the Quickmill Anita, The Bezzera Magica, Rocket Cellini Premium Plus or even the Nuova Simonelli Oscar. (Please read the reviews on this site before considering any of these. I'm using these as examples, I don't have any experience with any of these machines.)
I believe any HX or DB machine will be considerably more powerful for steaming than any SBDU machine.
I would recommend focusing on upgrading your grinder first before considering spending the additional money required on a plumb-in capable machine.
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
Posted Sun Dec 23, 2012, 10:04am Subject: Re: Upgrading to HX or dual boiler machine
Thanks, qualin. some of those names are indeed familiar, as I've been looking and reading reviews. In fact, I have always loved the look of the Quickmill machines, and the Anita is on my shortlist for sure. Although, I also looked up the Rocket Cellini Premium Plus as I didn't recognize that one, and it also looks like a great machine, with very similar features and price.
Anyone familiar with either or both of these want to chime in?
Oh, and I know on these forums, it is good advice to look at the grinder first, but I am already decided on a Baratza Vario for my grinder upgrade; I do not need advice there, which is why I am asking here about espresso machines. :)
JasonBrandtLewis Senior Member Joined: 9 Dec 2005 Posts: 6,203 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 Sun Dec 23, 2012, 12:51pm Subject: Re: Upgrading to HX or dual boiler machine
Getting a better grinder will provide a significant improvement to your espresso, but it will do nothing for the irritations you have with the steam wand. Getting an HX or DB will improve your steaming, but without a better grinder, the quality of your coffee will remain by and large similar to what it is now.
Your budget is not big enough to get BOTH a better grinder AND an HX/DB.
Coffeenoobie Senior Member Joined: 11 Dec 2011 Posts: 2,825 Location: PNW Expertise: I like coffee
Espresso: N S Oscar Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Sun Dec 23, 2012, 1:18pm Subject: Re: Upgrading to HX or dual boiler machine
It is if she will consider buying used. My set up that I believe is very good was 475$ for the used Oscar and 550$ for the new Vario W. So my set up in right at 1k. Also could get a used super jolly for $350 - 400 range. Even new she could get a on sale HX for 1k and 500 for the vario. Tax and shipping would be a bit over but you have to pay what no matter what you get.
Buying advice: GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER. Don't cheap out on the grinder.
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