I've waited three months, time for a review.
Miss Silvia had been a reliable mistress for 3&1/2 years. But the past year I'd been exploring cappuccinos and macchiatos and as anyone knows steaming with a single boiler machine can be a PIA. I'd been researching for a couple months and was thoroughly convinced I wanted nothing to do with surfing ever again and so a dual boiler the only way to go, This left very limited options <$2k. Talking with Chris about the possible future of the dual boiler PID controlled Quick Mill he mentioned a Fiorenzato Bricoletta he'd let go for a very good price. I recalled reading Malachi's review on HB but it was an HX, HX machines require suffing, so didn't immediately go for it. I surfed Silvia for almost 3 years before getting off my butt and adding a PID, I wanted NO MORE SURFING!!! But the price Chris offered was fantastic so off I went spending the next many hours re-reading Malachi's Bricoletta review, the few Bricoletta reviews and forum dialogs I could find, How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Loved HX etc. Hmmm, HX surfing doesn'r really sound the same as Silvia surfing. Sleep came very slow that night, the Bricoletta kept talking to me. Next day closed the deal with Chris. Now the wait!
Because of the time Chris spent on the phone with me in advance setup was a breeze. He'd had his tech put the correct size John Guest fitting on the line so all I had to do for water line was clean cut the exisitng 1/4" copper line feeding Missy and slip it in. I didn't want to plumb the drain at this time (wif said NO to another hole in the counter) so Chris included the optional 1&1/2qt non-drained tray. (at no additional charge) Sent the drained tray too. Setup, boiler filled and flushed and began waiting for thorough warm-up in less than a half hour from the time UPS delivered.
I'd continued studying HX flush techniques waiting for delivery so with Thermofilter in hand proceeded to pull about 50 test shots practicing getting within <1F target shot temps. Also tested no flow shot pressure since no gauge, left it at it's current 10bar. Moment of truth, grind, fill, distribute, and tamp. Target shot temp 201F (a homeroast espresso blend of mine I was very familiar with). For quite possibly the first time Clarity in the shot became much more apparent at my house! A huge difference over Miss Silvia's best shots? No, but yes better more distinct flavors IMO. And it was my first shot on the Bricoletta. That was three months ago...
Ok, can she steam? Yes. Chris included a 4-hole tip with humongous holes and a 2-hole with very small holes. (Don't know for sure which is the actual stock tip) Well, the 4-hole pushed way more steam than I could handle. The 2-hole while easily controlled by me was even slower than Missy. So I ordered the Gold Pro 2-hole and also EPNW 2-hole. Much better but if just steaming the holes could be a bit larger, takes me about 30sec to steam 3oz for a cappuccino and the heater cycles off. Had been thinking to drill out the holes slightly on one like I'd read someone else did but haven't yet. For a very good reason. When pulling a shot and steaming simultaneously boiler pressure no longer climbs or drops, just sits there with the heater on maintainging pressure. About perfect size match.
Can she steam while pulling a shot without loss of shot temp? YES! For the first 2 months I varied pulling the shot then immediately streaming versus steaming then pulling the shot. Wasn't really happy with either scenario. Oh the caps' be marvelous, but could the process be stream lined when making a half dozen caps entertaining? So I tried starting steaming immediately after starting the shot. Dang, shot still seemed to taste excellent. But was I kidding myself? So just last week I ran a series of 36 test Thermofilter shots, 12 sets at 200F, 202F & 204F. Half of each set with and half without steaming during the shot. The Fluke I'm using doesn't have data logging so could only record max and min temp of shot. But I'll be darned, virtually identical across the board. Shot temp didn't matter whether steaming or not steaming. I should add that this test was run after I'd ceramic fiber insulated the boiler. I never tried simultaneous pull & steam prior to insulating and am not taking it off to find out how well it'll do that configuration!
I've pulled a couple hundred Thermofilter test shots and can reliably say my skills not the Bricoletta will be the only limiting factor whether pulling straight shots or caps for 6 or 60 people. With only 45sec from end of shot screen flush & PF wiggle to start of next pull can reliably hit any shot temp from 198F to 206F at will within <1F, with or without steaming any where any time in the sequence. My testing actually showed a shot temp drop if 35sec or less. Making double shot steaming 3oz cappiccinos can knock 'em out about one every 2 minutes or so. Yeah, I'm impressed. The Bricoletta really is a light commercial machine. (stickers even say so;-)
But the shots. I wouldn't have believed the difference compared to Silvia. Not huge, but real to my palate. Pulled one of the most remarkable City+ roasted 5 day rested SO Yirgacheffe ristrettos. (also pulled some terrible ones too, miss temp by even 0.5F and goes sour or toooooo bright) But nail it and who'd a thunk it possible.
Yes she's HX so each and every shot requires a countdown from end of flash to hit desired shot temp. Actually that's not entirely true. You can tune an HX boiler pressure so it'll be at a disired shot temp while pulling a series or shots. This would require a lower pressure and resulting lower steam performance. So I've played with it and settled in on a middle of the road 1.05-1.25bar boiler swing. Surfs up! But I've discovered for my consumption style this is a good thing compared to a dual boiler. I routinely will pull back to back shots of a different bean or blend each requring a different temp! No having to wait for the brew boiler to change temp like I would have had to with a dual boiler. I thought I never wanted to surf again but found it's exactly what I needed.
Oh yeah, almost forgot commentary on the negatives. It would be nice to have a shot pressure gauge but not a requirement for what's in the cup. But I will be adding one. I do wish the drip tray had a bit more depth out from the body so the PF wiggle didn't partially land on the counter. But it's not too much and I always have a bar towel on my shoulder while pulling shots so quick wipe all gone. At this price point that's really about all I can see as negatives. I'd take it over any similarly priced vibe pump any day and will never go back to a vibe, never.
Edit add: Should also note my machine was one of a half dozen Chris imported before deciding not to carry them. As such it was an earlier production model with the oft spoke of vacuum breaker problem. Twice in few dozen power ups got false boiler pressure requiring quick bleed of steam wand before boiler came up to true pressure. Replaced with heavier breaker sold by Chris ($10 item) and nary a false pressue in two months. I have it on a timer no problem. I didn't count it as a negative because I've talked to the current main distributor, Jim @ 1st-Line, who's told me the current machines have heavier vacuum breaker valves.