I called this review the inside/out. The reason is, I got this machine, did a temperature check and realised while it looked good on the outside there was something wrong on the inside.
This machine is a beast at 30kg, 2800Watts (two 1400W elements) and 3.4L copper boiler with this huge rotary pump (same as used on their multi group commercial machines). In Australia, it runs fine on a standard power circuit and plug.
I took off the outside cover and it didnít go on for the next three weeks as I tried to find out what was wrong.
There were a few misrepresentations when I bought the machine.
- It was two years old
- It was a BZ-99 (aka the Pasquini Livia 90 in the USA)
- It was in good working order
It turned out it was a nine year old BZ-40P (BZ-40P is a lot more than the BZ-99), with a few major issues. I didnít mind too much as I had paid $800AUD (about $600USD) so I set to work fixing it.
I had also sold my Silvia which meant that I was very focused on getting the thing working!
The guys from Barazi in Brisbane, Jack and Renzo both were very helpful. I lived in Perth on the other side of the country but with telephone, email and the aid of a digital camera, we eventually diagnosed the problems.
I had the heat exchanger out about five times cleaning it. It was in fact one of the cleanest heat exchangers on the planet when I had finished. It still didnít help though.
It turned out it had the heat exchanger for the BZ-99 in it. The one for the BZ40P is 24.5cm long while the one in it was 16cm!
In addition, the small jets which regulate the water flow from the big chunky rotary pump were the wrong size. Some amateur had been playing with the machine and had totally got it wrong. The flow rate was about 220mls in 10 seconds and it should have been half this flow rate.
Once I got it up and running correctly, I installed a two cartridge filtration system under my sink. The five micron cartridge first removes sediment and, the second contains carbon and polyphosphate, to soften the water and remove undesirable flavours. I cut a hole in the bench and connected it to the filtration system and then connected the drain via a T piece to the dishwasher drain pipe. I was in business!
I found immediately that this machine required only a very small flush to get rid of any residual water in the lines from the heat exchanger and maybe give the group just a small warm up. The group is pretty well at temperature although overall it runs slightly cool. This is due to the passive heating setup which many small commercial machines such as the Cimbali have. E61 groups tend to run hot on most heat exchanger machines.
You may be wondering why the machine does not behave like other heat exchanger machines where flushing is required to cool them? Well, many machines just loop a pipe through the heat exchanger so the water has only one way in and one way out. This means as soon as the water flow slows or stops, the temperature can increase sharply in a very short time. The Bezzera heat exchanger is a horizontal pipe 24.5cm x 2cm in the boiler with 13cm PTFE tube down the inlet side of the heat exchanger. This allows hot and cold water to mix so even though the water may be at 120C inside the heat exchanger, it mixes with cool water before leaving the heat exchanger. The result of this is very even temperatures. My machine cycles between 90 Ė 94 degrees depending on the point in the boiler cycle. The temperature within a shot sits easily within about 1C. It is a very user friendly machine and it is impossible to burn shots. This makes it remarkably effective for ristrettos. While personally these arenít Ďmy cup of teaí, some people like them and they donít do very well on most heat exchanger machines, due to the sharp increase in temperature over a long, slow shot.
The learning curve for using this machine is pretty well non existent if you have used an espresso machine before. Even for a beginner this machine is a piece of cake to use.
So there you go, an old fashioned Italian machine built by old fashioned engineers that is probably vastly superior to most, if not all, the shiny E61 prosumer machines available.
One criticism is that the warmer tray is not that warm but that is about the only thing I can think of.
Overall this is a tremendous machine and would have to be one of the best kept secrets amongst snobbies (CoffeeSnobs members) and geeks although I suspect, not amongst commercial users of Bezzera machines.
Steaming is excellent and I even managed to get the standard four holed steam tip to produce reasonable foam (just stick in the middle of the jug and open it right up). It got a lot better though after I started using the two hole tip that I bought from Espresso Parts in the US. This enabled the production of any kind of foam wanted from micro foam to meringue (if you like meringue). The standard tip while producing good foam with practice, wonít produce micro foam for latte art. The holes are just too big to get the necessary velocity.
It looks like a brand new machine after nine years of use and that is a testimony to the quality of the materials used. The stainless is a very heavy, thick gauge material that seems to be impervious to corrosion or spotting.
My model is the BZ-40P model which is still available in Italy but not in Australia. The newer current model the BZ-40E has a flowmeter and electronic dosing but is otherwise identical. Personally for home use, I think would recommend the P model over the electronic dosing model which is more appropriate for a cafť or restaurant. It is also another potential item to go wrong. I like simple!
The other lovely thing with the Bezzera is that ALL the electrical and technical drawings are available which made my job so much easier. This machine is so easy to work on, a pleasure really. Everything is easily accessible and it takes, for example, about 20 minutes to take out the heat exchanger and to install again. The steam pressure stat adjustment is done by removing the warming tray and taking two screws off holding the top cover on. The pressure stat is then easily available and can be adjusted using a flat bladed screwdriver. If you want to adjust the brew head pressure then the front and side covers just unhook as a single assembly and the adjustment screw on the outlet pump is then accessible and can be adjusted while you have the porta filter pressure gauge in place. This can all be done while in place in your kitchen. The drip tray is very effective and can be removed for cleaning without disconnecting the hose from the drip tray. It has plenty of room underneath the machine also for cleaning which is nice and this space is also necessary for allowing the hose to drain properly from the drip tray. Draining the boiler requires taking off the top and sides off, as described above, and turning the tap at the bottom of the boiler. A plumbed in machine makes this operation very easy as it simply drains into the drip tray and then down the drain. Cool.
Overall, I canít say enough nice things about this machine. It is a simple, extremely well made and designed machine that has stood the test of time. In my humble opinion, this is a better designed machine in the heat exchanger department than even the mighty Cimbali.