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Discussions > Espresso > Q and A > Is PID needed in...  
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yiannis550
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Joined: 2 Apr 2014
Posts: 20
Location: Lemesos
Expertise: I live coffee

Posted Wed Apr 2, 2014, 12:07pm
Subject: Is PID needed in good machines like Bezzera Magica
 

Hi all,

I am looking to purchase a good espresso machine and I have a question about PID usage. I can never forget how espresso tasted in Milan which I visited few years ago and I never had the opportunity to taste such good espresso anywhere else! Espresso in milan tasted velvety and had chocolaty or biscuit taste while elsewhere is bitter or sour. I want to be able to reach that great level at home!

The last few days I have read hundreds of reviews and watched several videos from professionals testing and tasting espresso.

So far I have learned that I need stability and accuracy in temperature and pressure in the grouphead of around 9 bars.
A very good grinder (I haven't decided on that yet, but thinking of the Rancilio Rocky)

For the machine it self, I have ended after considering features, tests and budget to the Breville 920XL or the more traditional Bezzera Magica. This will cost me around 1100 Euros and is really pushing my budget to the limits.

However I have 2 concerns on the Magica:
1) It does not have a PID. Is that really needed for this kind of machine? What improvements would it give me for achieving the milanese espresso taste?
2) I have found several tests and taste tests on the breville and I know some people think it is not a real espresso machine because it is not traditional but tasewise it appears to be among the best! However I can't find any info/tests on the Magica. Any clue if it is as good as it appears to be?

Actually I really like the looks of the Magica better plus it is more readily available in Europe. Breville will cost me a lot of taxes because of importing outside of EU...

Any other suggestions on this price range?
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takeshi
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takeshi
Joined: 12 Oct 2002
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Espresso: Alex Duetto 3.0
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Posted Thu Apr 3, 2014, 10:57am
Subject: Re: Is PID needed in good machines like Bezzera Magica
 

yiannis550 Said:

while elsewhere is bitter or sour

Posted April 2, 2014 link

Rule of thumb: bitter = too hot and/or overextracted, sour = too cold and/or underextracted.

yiannis550 Said:

So far I have learned that I need stability and accuracy in temperature and pressure in the grouphead of around 9 bars.
A very good grinder (I haven't decided on that yet, but thinking of the Rancilio Rocky)

Posted April 2, 2014 link

I'd suggest more research if you've concluded that the Rocky is a very good grinder.  Every recent thread recommends not considering it when it is brought up.  It doesn't have the necessary adjustability for one thing.  Select your grinder first and then use the remainder of your budget for the machine.

yiannis550 Said:

It does not have a PID. Is that really needed for this kind of machine?

Posted April 2, 2014 link

Looks to me like it's a heat exchanger.  There are many threads available on why PID's generally don't do much for heat exchangers:
Click here for PID & HX threads on CoffeeGeek
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Whitcoatsyndrom
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Whitcoatsyndrom
Joined: 25 Apr 2013
Posts: 178
Location: Roanoke, VA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Expobar Office Pulser
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Drip: Newco-OCS 12
Roaster: HG/BM
Posted Thu Apr 3, 2014, 7:59pm
Subject: Re: Is PID needed in good machines like Bezzera Magica
 

So far I have learned that I need stability and accuracy in temperature and pressure in the grouphead of around 9 bars.
A very good grinder (I haven't decided on that yet, but thinking of the Rancilio Rocky)

Just to emphasize what Takeshi said, the Rocky should be out of the question.  At one point in time it was considered to be a very good espresso grinder.  Since then, far more advanced and consistent grinders have found the market.  Although the Rocky is built like a tank, it does not have the adjustment capability required for the type of espresso experience you want.  It sounds like you've been reading old threads about grinders so make sure you are reading recent stuff.  Check out the grinder forum on coffee-geek for lots of information and feel free to ask more grinder questions.  

For the machine it self, I have ended after considering features, tests and budget to the Breville 920XL or the more traditional Bezzera Magica. This will cost me around 1100 Euros and is really pushing my budget to the limits.

Please consider doing a bit more research, the machine forum and review forum on coffee geek are great places for this info.  I'll make the disclaimer that I've not used either of the two machines, so I'm just going off what I read about.  You are asking about 2 very very different machines made for 2 very different types of buyers.  The Breville is a hotly debated machine, especially on these forums.  If I had a billion dollars, I would not give Breville $1,200 for that machine.  The company makes juicers, toasters, panini grills...and oh yeah coffee makers.  If I'm shelling out that sort of cash, I want a machine made by people that make one thing...espresso machines.  Plenty of people love their Breville and I'm sure makes a fine cup of espresso when functioning.  However, there is a lot of talk about them breaking down and the fact that they are hard to get serviced because commercial espresso machine parts don't match up.  My latter point would not be the case in a machine such as the Bezzera, or any of the other pro-consumer machines (quick mill, expobar, nuova simonelli, etc).  Breville markets towards general consumers and not the espresso enthusiast community, just something to keep in mind.

 The Bezzera you mentioned seems like a pretty traditional single boiler HX machine.  The company has a good reputation and you will be able to get parts for it more easily.  It seems a little random that you decided upon those two choices so I really advise you to do your homework, read about the different types of machines (single boiler dual use, heat exchange, double boiler), and then look at the machines that fit your budget within one of those categories.  If you're set on the Bezzera vs the Breville...definitely go with the Bezzera.

However I have 2 concerns on the Magica:
1) It does not have a PID. Is that really needed for this kind of machine? What improvements would it give me for achieving the milanese espresso taste?
2) I have found several tests and taste tests on the breville and I know some people think it is not a real espresso machine because it is not traditional but tasewise it appears to be among the best! However I can't find any info/tests on the Magica. Any clue if it is as good as it appears to be?

1) In short, no.  HX machines like the Bezzera do not need a PID because of how the HX functions.  The Breville needs a PID because it is a double boiler machine.
2) Can't comment on if the Bezzera is as good as it appears to be (I would consider buying it, if that means anything).  I can say that taste is all in the mouth of person drinking it.  I don't want to piss off any skilled espresso makers on this forum using a Breville machine (I'm sure it's great because they know what they're doing), but a lot of people saying how great it is may fit into that non-espresso enthusiast category and thus not know the difference between acceptable and great.

Actually I really like the looks of the Magica better plus it is more readily available in Europe. Breville will cost me a lot of taxes because of importing outside of EU...

That makes it easy--don't pay more for a subpar machine.

Any other suggestions on this price range?

There are tons.  Don't forget...the grinder is more important!  Read the machine reviews and ask questions at will!  Good luck, shopping around and researching it is the fun part!
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yiannis550
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Joined: 2 Apr 2014
Posts: 20
Location: Lemesos
Expertise: I live coffee

Posted Thu Apr 3, 2014, 8:27pm
Subject: Re: Is PID needed in good machines like Bezzera Magica
 

Thanks guys for your advice. I will research more on the grinder of course. So far I havent done much on that side.
I have read a lot about HX machines and dual boilers and learned that PIDing an HX machine will be like having a single boiler because you have to change the pid settings for steaming. I raised my bar a bit so i also included in my choice the Expobar office leva dual boiler iv (brewtus iv in usa). So anyone have any thoughts in terms of taste on this machine or if you have in mind any double boiler at this price range let me know.
Thanks!
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calblacksmith
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calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,853
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
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Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
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Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Fri Apr 4, 2014, 6:18am
Subject: Re: Is PID needed in good machines like Bezzera Magica
 

In the cup, there is no difference between a HX and a DB. I am a HX person and feel NO need for a DB.  That said, my dream machine just happens to be a DB but I want it for other reasons than two boilers, I want it for the pressure profiling qualities but at about $8K, it will have to wait a while.

A PID on a HX IN THE CUP is worthless. A PID replaces the pressure stat thus removing some mechanical parts from the system and in that respect, it MAY increase durability but ?

You do NOT adjust the temp of the boiler for steaming on a HX machine, it is ALWAYS at steam temp and the brew water is heated by the means of a HEAT EXCHANGER that runs through the steam boiler. You can brew and steam milk at the same time, just like you can with a DB. A HX is NOT like a SBDU in any way. Some people want to add a PID to a HX machine to try to lower the temp in the boiler so that they can pull a shot and NOT do a flush, this is a waste of a good machine as the way it is built, you will only get ONE double shot then you need to wait for it to heat up again. It is kind of like having a racing motorcycle and putting training wheels on it, it makes no sense.

HX and DB are different in operation but the same in the cup. One is not better than the other but a DB costs more because it has more parts. A HX can slightly alter the temp of brewing by the way you operate it while a DB is less operator influenced for temp and you change the PID then wait for the machine to change temp.

ALL machines regardless of design require a cleaning flush to clear spent grounds from the brew head. A HX uses a little longer flush to clear the brew system of over heated water and most DB machines require a flush to HEAT the group head. Let me say it again ALL MACHINES REQUIRE A FLUSH OF SOME SORT.

I think you need to do more research  as you still seem to be confused as to how the machines operate and what the differences are between them.

 
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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yiannis550
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Joined: 2 Apr 2014
Posts: 20
Location: Lemesos
Expertise: I live coffee

Posted Fri Apr 4, 2014, 8:43am
Subject: Re: Is PID needed in good machines like Bezzera Magica
 

Thank you for all this info!

I am still researching and I am not planning to buy anything tomorrow anyway. Probably I will do so in a few months, if I manage to save the required money.
I have a few questions for you, or anyone that can answer:

1) From what I read so far, a double boiler is easier to operate with constant temperature especially for a beginner like me, while with an HX machine you have to be careful with your flushes to achieve required brewing temperature. Isn't this right? That is why I am aiming for a double boiler actually.

2) If you have a machine with a E61 group head, or an electrically heated group head, then you do not need to flush in order to warm the group head isn't that right?

In any case if I stick to a double boiler my only options within my budget is EXPOBAR and Breville BES920. I am leaning towards the EXPOBAR because from what I understand from other posts the espresso taste more full and italian like, while the Breville has more clarity but less body. Also EXPOBAR is available locally in my country so I will have good service and support as well.

If I go with HX then I have a lot more options at this price range but I am thinking about the consistency of pulling good shots.. Even reading posts from more experienced baristas, they say that HX machines are less consistent with the results than a double boiler with E61
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calblacksmith
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calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,853
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
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Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
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Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Fri Apr 4, 2014, 9:06am
Subject: Re: Is PID needed in good machines like Bezzera Magica
 

There is a learning curve to EVERY machine. The HX flush is really easy and once you do it a time or two, you pretty much can do it in your sleep, it sounds much worse than it really is.

An electric heated actively controlled group head is likely OK but most everything else requires heating in a DB.

I posted a video showing the flush, perhaps it may help you get over the fear of it.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3_nwQxk7q0

 
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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Whitcoatsyndrom
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Whitcoatsyndrom
Joined: 25 Apr 2013
Posts: 178
Location: Roanoke, VA
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Espresso: Expobar Office Pulser
Grinder: Baratza Vario
Drip: Newco-OCS 12
Roaster: HG/BM
Posted Fri Apr 4, 2014, 9:43am
Subject: Re: Is PID needed in good machines like Bezzera Magica
 

If you have a machine with a E61 group head, or an electrically heated group head, then you do not need to flush in order to warm the group head isn't that right?

You'll see E61 group heads on HX as well as double boiler machines.  For the traditional E61 HX machine, a thermosyphon allows water from the boiler to circulate through the grouphead and then back into the boiler (this heats the group).  The boiler is pressurized to above atmospheric pressure, meaning that the boiling point of that water is no longer 100*C, it is higher.  Because of that, the water that circulates through the group will also be a little above standard pressure boiling temp...and so will the chunk of metal making up the group head.  This is great for thermal stability, as there is quite a bit of mass in an E61 head.  The flush required in an HX machine is not to heat the head up, it is to cool the head down.  When the machine comes up to temperature and runs idle for a while, the group head metal (which is now above normal boiling temp) will cause water pumped out of the machine when you start a brew cycle to "flash heat."  Remember that the high pressure in the boiler allowed for the higher boiling temp.  So when you turn to the pump on and water exits the grouphead screen, you now have water exposed to atmospheric pressure (100*C boiling point) that is still in contact with a grouphead that is heated to above 100*C due to the thermosyphon.  When you do an HX cooling flush, you can see and hear the flash boil very easily as the water comes out of the group head immediately before going into your drip tray.  8 to 10 seconds of running the pump (depends on how long the machine has been idle), and the flash boil stops because the group cools a few degrees to proper brewing temp...thats all it takes!  This is done by design, as the larger thermal mass of the group head allows you to pull shot after shot.  You only need to do a cooling flush on the first shot in a series if the machine has been idle for a while.  Like Calblacksmith said, you'll need to do a flush of some sort with any machine at least to clear residue from the group.  When you do this on the HX machine, it'l be pretty obvious if there is a flash boil--meaning you just let some extra water flow through it before pulling your shot.  

I'm not going to comment on the electrically heated group because I don't use one.  However, I'm a big fan of simple, functional systems of tubes full of fluid...less stuff to go wrong.  I believe some double boilers also use a thermosyphon system instead of an electrically heated group.  

Hope that helps and didn't serve to add confusion.
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frcn
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Posted Fri Apr 4, 2014, 9:54am
Subject: Re: Is PID needed in good machines like Bezzera Magica
 

Any given machine is quite capable of producing good to excellent espresso when in the hands of a good to excellent and EXPERIENCED barista.

I like the E-61 manual groups for simplicity and ease of maintenance. There is something to be said for a group's basic design that is still around and widely used and manufactured that is over 50 years old. Must be a reason. There is- it works. But that is not to say that other designs do not work. And they look nice as well.

I have had the same brand HX and DB machine, and the DB matches my style better. But I also have an awesome grinder that makes it very easy to adjust taste by varying the grind, and I weigh each dose and adjust tamp accordingly. And just like the cooling flush, that takes experience and understanding. The baristas in Italy who made the coffee you loved probably pull more shots in a week than you will in a year. I have been at this for over 13 years now at home, and I am still improving and learning. IN MY OPINION, anyone who says that they have reached the pinnacle of excellence in home espresso either has set low standards, is delusional, or has never really tasted great espresso. And if you think a Rocky will take you there, it's going to be a long, frustrating road.

If there are budgetary concerns, I understand. Been there. Still there. Will be remaining there for some time. My advice: first, buy the last grinder you will ever need. It won't be the Rocky. Use it to brew however, even if it is an Espro Press or a pour-over cone. Save for the machine later. Espresso is all about grinder, and Rocky is not the best choice. Rancilio has not changed the way that grinder operates in well over a decade. They put their efforts into making it look different.

A $150 titanium framing hammer is worthless if you can't squarely hit the nail on the head.

That might read as moody, but it's too early for a beer.

 
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boar_d_laze
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Posted Fri Apr 4, 2014, 10:17am
Subject: Re: Is PID needed in good machines like Bezzera Magica
 

yiannis550 Said:

1) From what I read so far, a double boiler is easier to operate with constant temperature especially for a beginner like me, while with an HX machine you have to be careful with your flushes to achieve required brewing temperature. Isn't this right? That is why I am aiming for a double boiler actually.

Posted April 4, 2014 link

A lot of people believe this to be true.  However, it's largely false.  

The first part of temping a machine (i.e. controlling temperature) is "dialing-in" the correct temperature for a give coffee.  The second part is returning to that temperature (or within a "close-enough" 3C range) consistently for every shot after the right temperature has been established.

Dialing in is not a matter of just pushing buttons or guessing.  It's palate driven.  That is, you taste shots at different temperatures and choose -- based on the balance of bitters and sours -- which temperature works best.  HXs, especially HXs at the prosumer level we're talking about, tend to be more agile in changing temperatures than most PID controlled DBs (not all DBs use PIDs), and are usually a little more convenient for this part of the process.

If you have enough control to dial in with an HX, you can return to the same temperature by using a simple cooling flush routine (which we can go into if you want), with more than sufficient accuracy to get the "dialed-in" balance.  A DB requires a brief warming flush, and -- because their brew boilers tend to be small -- often require some additional recover time when drawing some extra recovery time.  But, returning to the same temperature over and over is really where they shine.  Dialing-in to the HX, Successive shots to the DB -- Tie.  

If you have a machine with a E61 group head, or an electrically heated group head, then you do not need to flush in order to warm the group head isn't that right?

Wrong.

In any case if I stick to a double boiler my only options within my budget is EXPOBAR and Breville BES920. I am leaning towards the EXPOBAR because from what I understand from other posts the espresso taste more full and italian like, while the Breville has more clarity but less body.

Horse$#it.  

Also EXPOBAR is available locally in my country so I will have good service and support as well.

That's such an important consideration, even if only for peace of mind, that it should put the matter to rest.  Unless you want to torture yourself there's no point in doing a compare and contrast.

If I go with HX then I have a lot more options at this price range but I am thinking about the consistency of pulling good shots.. Even reading posts from more experienced baristas, they say that HX machines are less consistent with the results than a double boiler with E61

That's something you mostly hear in the US, and there's a great deal of dispute about it.  Before drinking the DB Koolaid consider that nearly every commercial machine in Italy is either HX or lever.  

On the other hand, you're not buying for a shop, you're buying for yourself.  Even if a DB is not a provably better performer than an HX, but you like the idea of one better than the other, why not buy what you want?  Randy, who knows at least as much about this as I do, prefers a DB.  Wayne and I, who know at least as much about this as Randy, prefer HXs.  There's no right or wrong, no best or worse -- just right for you.  

GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER
The job of a good machine is not to make espresso taste good, but to stay out of the way of good beans ground by a good grinder.  Consequently, as long as the machine is good enough not to impose obstacles or a noticeable signature, grinder choice goes far more to the heart of espresso far more than machine choice.  

If you've got a budget, once you put a number on grinder price, the machine possibilities narrow on their own.  

In terms of what's available in the US (which won't be the same as what's available to you), a Baratza Vario -- which, by the way, I'm expressly NOT recommending -- is the bare minimum.  You can go all the way to "price is no object" huge, commercial grinders and still reap nearly all of the benefits that investment can deliver.      

Randy's advice to "first, buy the last grinder you'll ever need" before choosing the espresso machine, sounds extreme, but contains so much truth its something you should at least consider it.  

So... after all of this, what are your thoughts?  

Rich
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