First off, I have to say that there are different models of the Bricoletta available - pourover or plumbed in options, vibe or rotary pump. and lever or programmable controls. My Bricoletta (and the following review) is for a plumbed in and drained rotary pump model with electronic programmable controls.
I can’t comment on the packaging or accessories that come from the factory as I bought the Bricoletta privately. But, because of the plumbed/drained version of the Bricoletta I purchased, I had to run a water line and drain line for the machine (as well as install a softener, water filter, and pressure regulator due to our hard water). While this was easy in my location, it could be a problem in some locations. Additionally, a 20A circuit was required, and while many modern kitchens have 20A circuits, many older homes don’t, so this again may be a problem. I think this may be a main reason the Bricoletta does not have more popularity among home espresso lovers. I also found a problem with the drain pan, in that it would overflow with larger volumes of liquid – i.e. water spout allowed to run fully open. I modified the drip pan (on the recommendations of others) by creating a larger opening to the drain hose using a waterproof electrical connector. Because I had a very long drain hose as well, I was also creating a bit of an air-lock I believe, so in my drain line, I created a vent to get rid of any vacuum….I have not had one problem since. If you were draining to an under-counter container or connected to sink drain, I do not believe you would have any drain problems as I did.
After working around the logistics of power and plumbing and starting her up for the first time, I was quickly impressed. With an 1800 watt element, the Bricoletta gets up to pressure and recovers from heavy use fast, though like most E61s, it does require the standard warm up time of at least 30 minutes. I soon realized how much heat the Bricoletta gives off – the cup tray gets HOT! Soon after purchasing I insulated the boiler as well. Insulating the boiler made a significant difference in the ambient heat output of the machine, and the boiler cycles far less often. The cup warmer is still very effective, though not as hot as when un-insulated. This would not likely be an issue in a small business, but was a concern at home in energy conservation sensitive times.
Steam power is excellent in my opinion, but as I have only used a couple different machines in my life, my opinion may not mean much. The steaming seemed too powerful and hard to control with the steam tip I received with the unit (one large middle hole with two smaller side holes), so I blocked the larger middle hole with a stainless steel screw and use only the two smaller holes in the tip. Steaming is a lot gentler now and is easy to control and does not heat up overly fast. I can still quickly and easily froth 12-16 oz of milk, and with the smaller holes, I can steam forever and the boiler doesn’t seem to lose any pressure at all – a very big plus to the 20A circuit and 1800watt element. I have opened the steam valve full for over 1 minute, without the pressure dropping below 1 bar.
It took me a little while to figure out the programming of the electronic control pad, but now that I know the procedure, it is simple to program and use. I love the programmable buttons, and though it may not give the precise control of a lever unit, using the “*” button gives full manual control, as well as allowing you to terminate the programmed pours early if needed.
I am still learning how to get the best espresso from the Bricoletta, but am very impressed so far (again, not that this means much given my relative lack of experience - about 1 year). Shots from the Bricoletta extract evenly and are thick with crema. Taste is excellent once I figured out the optimal cooling flush routine (I have programmed a button to do this for me now). Comparing the Bricoletta to my previous machine (Silvia), the Bricoletta seems “gentler” during extraction. I get far less channeling and fewer fast, under-timed shots. The coffee and grinder (Rocky) has remained constant across the two machines, so perhaps the rotary pump is responsible, but never having used another HX machine with a vibe pump, it is not possible for me to say if this is specific to this machine, or all HX's.
The Bricoletta is also getting a lot of use making tea (excellent hot water from the tap) for my wife, and my son is now a frothing whiz with a pitcher full of hot chocolate. Wow…hot chocolate is so much better frothed! I can’t wait for winter to set in for cold nights by the fire with a espresso/hot chocolate in hand.
Problems…so far, other than the drip tray drainage issue, the only problems I have had with the Bricoletta are the occasional splashes from the grouphead while cleaning and a vacuum breaker valve problem. Because the front to back dimension of the drip tray is very short, if you do a lot of water pouring to clean the portafilter, or do a portafilter wiggle procedure, you can easily splash over the front edge of the tray onto the counter. A minor issue, but you need to keep a rag handy. More seriously, I have already had the vacuum breaker valve fail to work on a couple occasions as I use a timer to start the Bricoletta in the morning, and twice it has been stalled cold. Opening the steam valve gets the pressure rising and machine heating, but by then it is too late to make my espresso. A higher quality replacement is on order. Of course if you leave the machine on 24/7 like it was probably designed for, this is not a concern.
Overall, I am VERY happy with my Bricoletta purchase, and would do it again in an instant. While plumbing/draining creates extra work with the installation, I will never willingly go back to a non-plumbed in machine again. The convenience is simply too great, considering I do not even have a sink or water tap nearby.