I upgraded to the Alex Duetto III from my trusty PIDíd Rancilio Silvia 6 months ago.
Reasons for Upgrading:
I used Ms Silvia to pull espresso shots nearly every day for four years straight and figured I would never need another machine. I had my routine down and would pull great shots day after day after day Ė better than anything I could at the local coffee shops in my area. But others in my family prefer milk drinks and with Silvia, it was always a challenge to perfectly steam the milk. Iíd get it right about 1 every 4 times. Plus, with Silviaís single boiler, I could only steam the milk AFTER pulling the shot, and I had to wait for the machine to heat up to the right temperature for steaming while the espresso shot sat there cooling off. After steaming, I had to flush water through the group head to rapidly cool the machine and stabilize the temperature for the next espresso shot. Ultimately, we almost never made milk drinks with Ms Silvia because it took too much time and was too inconsistent.
How I made my Decision:
So began my search for a replacement machine. If you are in the midst of researching an upgrade, you have my sympathies! Itís tough. I spent 6 weeks figuring out what type of machine I needed Ė double boiler, heat exchange, manual lever, etc Ė and then several weeks figuring out which manufacturer I wanted. With so many people wedded to their particular brand of machine, itís tough to discern the right choice from the reviews.
Here is what was important to me:
- Ability to steam and pull shots at the same time. Most double boiler and heat exchange machines in this price range provide this capability.
- Quality of the steamed milk. This was tough to figure out because the person operating the machine has a lot to do with the quality of the finished product!
- Consistent temperature control. I really waivered on this one. From everything Iíve read, heat exchange machines give more flexibility with respect to temperature control. With practice, you can not only be consistent from shot to shot, but you can manipulate the temperature curves over the course of the shot and tease out different flavors. That is really appealing. For me, there were two key issues: 1) I want to be able to pull consistent shots without too much fuss. Iíll have 2-3 shots in the morning after a workout and before going to work, and Iím usually in a hurry. I was looking for consistency without too much effort. 2) I needed to use a reservoir since my wife wouldnít let me drill holes into our counters to plumb in a machine. I use bottled water for my coffee so I wanted to minimize the amount of water wasted on cooling / warming flushes. For me, all this added up to a double boiler.
- Aesthetics. This was pretty low on my list at first but as I looked at all the different machines out there, it became pretty important. I didnít want a machine that looked too commercial. This is obviously a personal choice. I thought I had compromised some by buying the Duetto III but once I got it on my counter, it was far more beautiful than I had expected.
- Price. I had limited myself to $3000.
After lots of soul searching, I narrowed my choices to the Vetrano 2B and the Duetto III. I actually wanted the Vetrano 2B but it was back ordered at chriscoffee.com and the Duetto was available immediately. After weeks of research, I was done waiting, so I ordered the Duetto.
After 6-months of Use:
I love this machine. At first, I was frustrated. I kept getting donut extractions and could not figure out how to fix the problem. I tried different basket sizes (15 gm, 18 gm, and 20 gm VST), different distribution methods, different tamping approaches but no luck. Finally, I went back to creating a crater in the middle like I had done for years with the Silvia and began pulling decent shots. But that is obviously not a good solution!
Then I decided to give my grinder Ė a Baratza Vario Ė a deep cleaning. While I was at it, I replaced the burrs for the first time in 4 years. Visually, I couldnít see a difference between the new and old burrs. But like magic, that fixed the donut problem! Now I can distribute and tamp a level puck of grinds and get a beautiful extraction every time.
Espresso shots are excellent with this machine. As mentioned, I have three VST baskets and I can pull good consistent shots with all three. It might be that my technique has improved, but I can also use a wider range of coffees with this machine. With the Silvia, I could never get a good shot with highly fruity/acidic beans. I had always attributed that to my grinder but Iím pulling good shots with such beans on the Duetto III.
As for steaming, this machine is everything I wanted. It came with multiple steam wand tips but Iíve only used the 2-hole tip that was on machine when it shipped. Some people pull the insulation tube out of the no-burn wand. Iíve left mine in, and I appreciate how cool the wand is after and during steaming. Even with the insulation tube left in, this machine steams milk fast, especially when compared to the Silvia. And it doesnít run out of steam -- I get good pressure and velocity the entire time it takes to steam a pitcher for a single 12oz latte (havenít tired a bigger drink). We consistently get good micro foam and can pour decent latte art. The steamed milk is excellent Ė sweet with good texture. Some of my family like to drink the steamed milk with a little cinnamon and/or nutmeg Ė without coffee. Itís that good and that easy. The Duetto III comes with a switch that turns off the steam boiler, allowing you to save electricity if you are only pulling espresso shots. We use the steam boiler so much that we almost never turn it off.
I only have one knock on this machine. When set up to use the reservoir, the machine comes with a low water alarm and kill switch so that you donít run the boiler dry and burn out the heating element. Thatís great because the reservoir lid is located under the cup heater and we never lift the cup heater off to check the fill level. The problem is that the alarm comes on at the same time that the machine kills power and this sometimes happens mid-shot. Itís pretty frustrating. The low water alarm should sound when there is still enough water left in the reservoir to finish the shot.
I run this machine in 15amp mode. In that mode, it will heat the group head boiler first and then the steam boiler. It heats pretty fast so that is not a problem.
I love this machine. This is one of those rare items that I've purchased, use all the time, and am glad I spent the money every day.