Coffee drinks of a quality you can't find away from home.
Positive Product Points
2 years of daily use and absolutely no problems with unit. Very tight, stable, consistent brew water temperature. Piping hot cappuccinos. Plenty of steam. Large drip tray. Easy to clean.
Negative Product Points
I love the polished (chromed) metal finish on cup warmer, but it seems to scratch easily. Therefore, I don't use for warming cups.
I got 'the bug' to step up to the Epoca (heat exchanger machine) after 2.5 years of daily high quality cappuccinos by Silvia (single boiler). The main reason was to have the ability to pull a shot and steam simultaneously.
In short…Epoca ST-1 is what Rancilio advertises it to be: A commercial grade, pour-over, heat exchanger style machine which can be used at home.
Warmup: 1600W heating element heats the unit up in 15 minutes. Afterwhich I pull one shot of hot water thru the empty portafilter into my cappuccino cup to preheat cup. After this, I make my daily cup, turn the unit off and run off to work.
Water temperature stability/consistency: Very stable. To illustrate: Once the boiler pressure reaches its ~15 psig factory setpoint the boilers heating element cycles off. When the boiler pressure drops to ~12 psig, the boiler heating element turns back on until pressure rises back to 15 psig. These two boiler pressures translate to steam/water temperature inside the boiler (where the heat exchanger is located) of ~250 F (15 psig) and ~245 F (12 psig). Therefore, the water which gets pumped thru the heat exchanger to the portafilter will be heated by ~245-250 F source.
Steam power: Plenty of frothing power. This latest version of Epoca has the “Clever” steam switch. Turn the “Clever” counter-clockwise 1/4 of a turn and the steam valve locks at 100% open. If you prefer to vary the steam flow while frothing just turn the “Clever” clockwise and you can control steam flow from 0% up to 100%.
Controls / Safeties: The unit has two switches - Main Power & Boiler Power. Both are on the front panel, under the group. -Main Power switch turns on power to the units pump, controls, and safety features. Unit controls include boiler autofill via water level sensor in boiler and pump diverting valve which delivers water to the boiler instead of to the grouphead, boiler heating element operation (once Boiler Power switch is on) via pressure switch in boiler and water level sensor in water reserve tank. -Boiler Power switch enables power to the boiler heating element.
-Unit safety features include power cutoff to boiler heating element & pump when there's a low water level condition in the water reserve tank. Power is automatically restored once water reserve tank is refilled.
There are also two indicator lights on the front panel - one indicates low water level condition in the water reserve tank (thus boiler heating element & pump are locked off) & one indicates when pump is operating.
Three Month Followup
Machine operating well.
One Year Followup
I've had my Epoca for 2 years and continue use every morning. Epoca continues to run as good as new. I've not had any problems with the machine. It's construction and performance have been solid. I'm throughly impressed with my Epocas reliable operation and quality drinks! If you're looking for a commerical machine of this type I give it high recommendation.
Footnote for the first time buyer: I'm assuming that the typical person who would be contemplating buying this machine has experience with espresso machines (i.e either replacing a similar type machine or 'stepping up' from a single boiler machine). If you're shopping for your first espresso machine there are a lot of single boiler machines out there. I 'stepped up' from a Rancilio Sylvia (single boiler) to the Epoca and relocated my Sylvia to my office where I continue to use regularly. After using both Sylvia and Epoca for the last two years I feel that, with a little more attention to details when pulling a shot (i.e. temperature surfing), Sylvia can pull a shot of espresso very close in quality to the Epoca (commercial machine). Therefore, if you're only planning on making one or two coffee drinks per usage, the Sylvia might be an economical option which can provide good quality of drinks while using less counter space.