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Thinking of upgrading my cuadra 2 any suggestions?
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > Thinking of...  
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washburned
Senior Member


Joined: 23 Nov 2012
Posts: 53
Location: napa
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: La Nuova Era Cuadra II
Grinder: Baratza vario
Posted Mon May 5, 2014, 7:48am
Subject: Thinking of upgrading my cuadra 2 any suggestions?
 

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.) Mostly Lattes
2)  How many drinks, on average, do you see yourself needing to make at any one time? (This will tell us what you need in terms of a machine's ability to work continuously.) 6-7 on occasion
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.) 35
4)  Can you plumb a machine directly into the water supply, or do you want/need a pour over machine with its own reservoir? Would like to be able to do either
5)  Do you have a 20-amp circuit available, or only a (standard) 15-amp circuit? 15amp
6)  What is your budget for a new machine?  Does that also include a grinder?  If not, what is your budget for a grinder? I have a Vario was thinking of spending around $2600
7)  Are you willing to buy used or do you need new equipment? Do you or family member have the skills to repair used equipment? Possibly
8)  Do you have the essential accessories (decent tamper, knockbox, the works), otherwise budget about $100 for these. Yes


I occasionally browse the local craigslist adds looking for deals and saw a rocket r58 that looked nice. I was able to find a new one for about the same price so I passed on the used one. But as a result my wheels are spinning and am a thinking of an upgrade. In the price range of the R58 what should I be looking at?  I have owned the cuadra 2 for over a year now and have been enjoying it. We get good coffee most of the time. The things I would be looking for in an upgrade would be a quieter machine, the ability to plumb in and better steaming. Will I even notice a difference over what I already have?

Thanks for any help.
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 3,163
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4, Pharos,...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Mon May 5, 2014, 8:18am
Subject: Re: Thiking of upgrading my cuadra 2 any suggestions?
 

so I'm told (I'll have first hand experience in 1-2 weeks), plumbing in will improve your shots significantly.  I'll paraphrase what one CG friend of mine told me recently in private email (he has the exact same gear I have)...the biggest improvement to this setup (beside the grinder update I did a couple months ago), is plumbing in.

Rotary pumps, in general, are quieter than vibratory pumps.  The Duetto is very quiet.  I don't really think you can get much quieter except by getting a lever machine (but I may be wrong).

I think the Duetto steams like mad. I have mine running in 15-amp mode.  Part of my coffee bar remodel (whcih actually just started this am - and I'm so friggin' excited), is to run a dedicated 20-amp line, as well as the plumb-in, and installing a sink.

As far as steam goes, general steam quality probably doesn't get any better than what you have, but you should notice a better supply of steam by going to a larger boiler, but (and I'm no expert on machine mechanics), I don't think there's really anything else to it. Having said that, I found that switching my no burn arm to "burn-me" improved my steam quality drastically.  A different (from the one above) CG friend told me he got the same results by cutting his no burn wand insert shorter. What you want to look for is what factors lead to a more consistent and longer supply of steam at optimal pressure, and recovery time. If I understand correctly, that breaks down to boiler size as the main determinant, and then there is a smaller part played in the wand design and an intermediate part played in the wand tip (size and number of holes) and then probably factor 3 is the barista's skills (I suspect some will argue I have things out of order).

Anyhow, have you done any research on whether you want to stay with a HX machine, or move to a DB or a Lever? I think that ought to be your first step.

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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boar_d_laze
Senior Member


Joined: 21 Nov 2006
Posts: 1,317
Location: Monrovia, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: La Cimbali M21 DT/1 Junior...
Grinder: Ceado E92; "Bunnzilla"
Vac Pot: Royal Coffee Maker
Drip: Chemex + Kone; Espro Press
Roaster: USRC Sample Roaster
Posted Mon May 5, 2014, 8:42am
Subject: Re: Thiking of upgrading my cuadra 2 any suggestions?
 

From an "in the cup" standpoint, once you're at the Cuadra level, "better" machines don't make better coffee.  The best you can hope for is better coffee more easily and consistently.

The two most cost effective improvements are better cleaning/maintenance; and better water.  To that end, if you're not already doing so, consider dumping your reservoir every day and refilling it with fresh water; and washing it with soap and hot water at least twice a week.

Because "plumbing in" means fresh, high quality water (you'll need a filtration setup) always, it's a lot of "ease of use" for not that large an investment.  And because it encourages you to use a lot of water for flushing, cleaning your basket, and all that sort of stuff it helps with consistency as well.

IMO, direct line and direct drain plumbing is a monster improvement in ease of use; and ultimately -- although indirectly -- pays large dividends in the cup.  

Most of the higher end DBs are "convertible" from reservoir to direct plumb and have rotary pumps.  A few of the higher end HXs are convertible as well.    

Wider machines are easier to use than narrower.  

Six or seven lattes per session is a lot of steaming.  A slow steaming and/or slow recovering machine would drive me nuts.  I don't know enough about the Cuadra's steaming to compare it to anything else.  As a rule, HXs are better steamers than DBs.    

My feeling about HX vs DB temping is that neither system is much better than the other. Every machine has to be temped as a part of dialing in a new coffee; and once dialed-in, every machine must return to the dial-in temp for successive shots.  HXs are faster and easier to dial-in, but DBs are slightly more convenient afterwards. Unless you change coffees every day; never change coffees; or dial in using the readout to guess at a good temp instead of trusting your palate to help you find the right one, it's a push.  

GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER
The biggest bang for the buck equipment upgrade most people can make is in their grinder.  While the Vario is a very easy grinder to use, it's quality in the cup is less than excellent.  The rule of thumb is "best grinder you can afford that fits in your space."  A big flat in the Mazzer Major class would be a big step up; while a big conical would make an even larger improvement.  

Rich
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 3,163
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4, Pharos,...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Mon May 5, 2014, 8:50am
Subject: Re: Thiking of upgrading my cuadra 2 any suggestions?
 

excerpt from:

boar_d_laze Said:

Because "plumbing in" means fresh, high quality water (you'll need a filtration setup) always, it's a lot of "ease of use" for not that large an investment.  And because it encourages you to use a lot of water for flushing, cleaning your basket, and all that sort of stuff it helps with consistency as well.

IMO, direct line and direct drain plumbing is a monster improvement in ease of use; and ultimately -- although indirectly -- pays large dividends in the cup.  

Posted May 5, 2014 link

Plumbing in, at least with an E-61 machine, also allows one to take advantage of pre-infusion.

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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washburned
Senior Member


Joined: 23 Nov 2012
Posts: 53
Location: napa
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: La Nuova Era Cuadra II
Grinder: Baratza vario
Posted Mon May 5, 2014, 2:35pm
Subject: Re: Thiking of upgrading my cuadra 2 any suggestions?
 

thanks for the helpful feedback. The main improvement I am looking for is function/ ease of use. I liked the look of the rocket r58 but was not sure if I should be looking at something else in that price range.
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boar_d_laze
Senior Member


Joined: 21 Nov 2006
Posts: 1,317
Location: Monrovia, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: La Cimbali M21 DT/1 Junior...
Grinder: Ceado E92; "Bunnzilla"
Vac Pot: Royal Coffee Maker
Drip: Chemex + Kone; Espro Press
Roaster: USRC Sample Roaster
Posted Mon May 5, 2014, 4:45pm
Subject: Re: Thiking of upgrading my cuadra 2 any suggestions?
 

washburned Said:

thanks for the helpful feedback. The main improvement I am looking for is function/ ease of use. I liked the look of the rocket r58 but was not sure if I should be looking at something else in that price range.

Posted May 5, 2014 link

The top prosumer E-61DBs are much of a muchness.  The differences are things like looks (including the R-58's famous detachable control pad), fit and finish levels, touch, and rotary vs joystick controls.  In other words, really small things.  

And yes, you should look at EVERYTHING in the range.  Why not?  That range is high end prosumer, convertible HXs and high-end convertible DBs -- nearly all of which are E-61s.  You seem more interested in DBs than HXs.  Besides the Rocket, the Izzo Alex Duetto, Profitec 700, Quick Mill Vetrano 2B and VBM DD are definitely worth a look.  I'd throw in the La Spaziale DBs as well, but they're not convertible.
 
If you're open to a high-end prosumer, convertible HX, it's the same group of manufacturers with the nominal expception of the ECM Profi.  "Nominal" because it's made by the same German company which owns and builds Profitecs in the same Italian factory.    

As long as your use is restricted to pulling shots and steaming, "function" won't change. (You probably mean something else which I'm not picking up on, right?)  

"Ease of use" will increase with machine size; there's no net ease of use difference between temping an HX and DB, assuming you actually dial in by taste rather than by guess; rotary pump machines are quieter; faster steaming is better than slower.

All of this is very interesting, but the bottom line remains the same.  A new machine may make your coffee life more attractive, easier and more pleasant.  But if you want a better cup of coffee, you'll get a better grinder.  

I know it's hard to think of something as good as the Vario as an albatross necklace -- but that's how things stand now.  Ideally, you'll eventually upgrade both machine and grinder.  If you can stretch your budget a little, this is a near ultimate combination of HX and big flat burr grinder at a ridiculously good price.

If you can only do one now -- if it were me -- I'd start with the grinder.  But this is all about you.  Trust your instincts and have a good time.  

Rich
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washburned
Senior Member


Joined: 23 Nov 2012
Posts: 53
Location: napa
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: La Nuova Era Cuadra II
Grinder: Baratza vario
Posted Mon May 5, 2014, 9:07pm
Subject: Re: Thiking of upgrading my cuadra 2 any suggestions?
 

One thing that i like about the vario is the low grind retention.  I use regular beans and my wife decaf so we add single dose and then grind. Could that be an issue with other grinders?  I don't know that I am stick on DB I just want a machine that offers a more enjoyable user experience.  Which is not to say I don't enjoy mine now.  How would the rocket r58 and a mazzer mini v2 lightly used for 3k compare to the ecm combo?
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emradguy
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emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 3,163
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4, Pharos,...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Tue May 6, 2014, 9:30am
Subject: Re: Thiking of upgrading my cuadra 2 any suggestions?
 

From what I've read, the only advantage the Mini has over the Vario is build quality, for increased longevity.  As far as I know, the Vario is better in all other ways...particularly, where it counts most - in the cup.  Most reviewers place the Vario on par with the Mazzer Super Jolly in terms of quality in the cup.

IMHO, it's better to have two grinders if you're going to switch back and forth between two different beans/blends regularly (especially as regularly as you will). I make decaf for my wife too, and I find if I try to use the same setting for both beans, one comes out fantastic, while the other is more fit to be thrown down the sink...as Wayne (calblacksmith) says...YMMV!

Personally, I don't see anything wrong with sticking with the Vario for the forseeable future. It's a really good grinder from all I've read. Rich (BDL) has very high standards and a very refined palate, and while I'm not disagreeing with him at all or trying to dis him in any way, shape or form, I think one has to take that into account when reading his advice. His advice that you will get a greater improvement in the cup from upgrading your grinder, regardless of whether you upgrade your machine, is spot on, but like you said, you're looking more to improve convenience/ease of use/satisfaction of the process...and I don't think changing grinders is going to provide that.

I know I said this once before (and won't say it again after this time), and of course, you don't have to take my advice...but I strongly urge you to read about the differences between HX, DB and lever machines until you get a sense of which is right for you.  IMHO, it'll help you make a decision that you'll be happy with for many years to come.

FWIW, I single dose my Mazzer Major and my MACAP M4s. They both have dosers, rather than non-dosered exit chutes.  There are methods to reduce retention, such as brushing out the exit chute and then running the grinder for a second or less just to clear the burr chamber of all loose grounds (this is referred to as bumping, and you'll probably read about it elsewhere).  My Major takes a single bump to clear everything, while I often have to bump the M4 two or three times, and conversely, my Major required a reversible mod to the sweepers in the dosing chamber, while my M4s did not - but in the end, neither grinder has significant retention when all is said and done.

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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CMIN
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Jun 2012
Posts: 1,389
Location: South FL
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Crossland CC1
Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Posted Tue May 6, 2014, 11:47am
Subject: Re: Thiking of upgrading my cuadra 2 any suggestions?
 

emradguy is right, I'm pry one of the few that's had the Vario next to a Mini and SJ at the same time, using same single origin beans and blends. Going to the Mini from a Vario would be a downgrade, yeh it's built better with that heavy metal solidness, but the Vario squashes it everywhere else from retention/grind quality/fluffy/taste in cup etc, plenty of people put the SJ and Vario in the same league and that was my experience, there was no difference in taste or grind quality etc between the Vario and SJ and people have said the same for the K6 as well which would make sense as it's in the SJ class. My friend promptly sold his Mini.

if you want a better cup as Rich said, you'll have to go way up in grinder, and the Cuadra will be more then enough. If you just want that different look or use of a dual boiler, the Vario will be fine no doubt, but the machine isn't going to make better "coffee", they all perform pretty similar when you get into the h/x and DB range, difference comes down to the grinder.

That Profitec 700 has my eye
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calblacksmith
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calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,854
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major
Vac Pot: 40s era Silex
Drip: Msl. Com. brewers
Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Tue May 6, 2014, 12:43pm
Subject: Re: Thiking of upgrading my cuadra 2 any suggestions?
 

Not much to add the others have done a pretty good job.

The biggest (as has been said by Rich) step is the grinder. Vario works and as a start, it is a good grinder for the money but and it is a big but, it is not a GREAT grinder. Stepping up the grinder will give a bunch in the cup that is not there now.

Ease of use, I really like volumetric, I can pull just as fast and just as consistent with my volumetric HX's as most anyone can with a semi DB, or for the most part, a volumetric DB.

Pump, yes, the rotary TENDS to be quieter than vibe but a lot depends on the machines design too.

If that pile-O-money is just burning a hole in the pocket, start with a grinder for most bang / buck return in the cup. For noise, ease of use, then look to a different machine. YMMV!

 
In real life, my name is
Wayne P.
Anything I post is personal opinion and is only worth as much as anyone else's personal opinion. YMMV!

Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
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