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Quickmill Andreja Premium
Materials and Workmanship


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Contents

Introduction
Espresso Performance
Steaming Performance
Materials and Workmanship
Conclusion
Epilogue
  

In some people’s eyes, prosumer espresso machines are no more than shiny boxes with minor styling changes to separate them, but I believe the outside tells only a small part of the story. It’s an investment of over $1000 and one that’s expected to deliver hassle-free service, so learning a little about their construction is time well spent.

Choosing an espresso machine built from quality components and designed with low-maintenance and easy repairs in mind will save you money and aggravation over the long haul. Keep in mind that all of these beauties are hand-built in factories having a fraction of the capacity common to mass manufactured consumer products like televisions. Since prosumer espresso machine manufacturers don’t benefit from the naturally low-defect rate inherent to large-scale automation, the human attention to detail is paramount to the quality of the finished product.

I don’t claim to be an expert in evaluating the specific reliability of each particular component of an espresso machine, but I can recognize comparative improvements. Removing the covers and comparing the components of each machine to one another and the attention to assembly detail helps judge the likelihood of enjoying trouble-free use. Examples of the manufacturer design decisions I look for include:

In addition to poking around inside, I follow breakdown and repair stories reported online to learn what problems areas a given machine or manufacturer have already been identified by consumers (and hopefully corrected by the manufacturer at its source, although this doesn’t happen as often as we would prefer). With the above caveats, I offer some observations about the quality of materials and workmanship of our contestants.

It may seem like a trivial concern, but keep in mind that small adjustments and repairs are a normal part of owing semi-commercial machines. Fortunately it is easy to do and online vendors, forums like those found at Home-Barista.com, CoffeeGeek, and newsgroups like alt.coffee can provide assistance. The Andreja Premium and Isomac Rituale tie for ease of initial disassembly, requiring the removal of just ten readily-accessible screws to unfasten all the casing. Removal of all the Giotto Premium’s panels involved six screws, six 7mm bolts, and two hard-to-reach 7mm nuts.

Once open, the thoughtfulness of the assembly of the Andreja and Giotto Premium stands out. Wire harnesses are carefully routed and tied off every few inches and the vibratory pump is isolated on the floor of the machine away from electrical junctions. The Andreja Premium scores extra points for insulating the boiler with a thick neoprene sleeve; it saves energy and reduces the interior temperature, which can increase the longevity of electronic components. Judging from the modifications that Chris asked Quick Mill to apply to the Premium model, it’s evident that his eye was on reducing service costs. These upgrades include:

As I mentioned earlier, the Andreja and Giotto Premium have the same steam arm and water tap. These valves have a reliable O-ring type closure found on commercial machines, compared to the ceramic compression-type valve closures on the Rituale (independent of the valve type, remember to close them gently to reduce wear and tear).

The Isomac Rituale’s drip tray wins this comparison and its overall casing is equally impressive. It’s hard to beat the good looks and durability of heavy-gauge stainless steel! The only drawback to its thick panels is the limited forms it can be made in, explaining why the Rituale and others in the product line have squared off exteriors. The Giotto Premium sports gull wing side panels that give it an old-world café feel and the quality of the polished finish work is excellent. Under the covers, its supporting frame is black painted steel. While I would have preferred to see stainless steel similar to the other two machines, it’s a feature that speaks more to my engineering side than practical necessity.

There are a number of other minor differences in component choices, but I won’t bore you by enumerating them. Instead I’ll gather them together as part of an overall score in the next section.

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