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Classic old-world style E61
This guide will focus on one of the most popular espresso machine designs among home enthusiasts—the venerable “E61.” If this name means nothing to you now, you’ll understand why it is something special by the end of this article.
As in the previous installment, I’ll consider three machines as part of an overall evaluation, much like you do yourself when shopping online. I chose two well-known competitive offerings as comparison machines: the ECM Giotto Premium and the Isomac Rituale, which is internally identical to the Isomac Millennium and Isomac Tea. This article will tease out some of the subtle differences that separate them to help you choose whichever best fits your needs, budget, and tastes.
Even if you’re shopping for an E61-type espresso machine that doesn’t include these three particular models, I believe you’ll find this guide can help you decide what criteria is worth considering in similar products.
The U.S. consumer has a variety of features, designs, and price ranges to consider when shopping for a new espresso machine and Italian manufacturers are keen to attract attention in this lucrative overseas market. Quick Mill is a name that may be new to the U.S., but their reputation for quality workmanship and value is already established in Europe. Chris’ Coffee Service has entered into a partnership as the U.S. distributor of Quick Mill’s products. This buyer’s guide will evaluate their first offering, a semi-commercial heat exchanger espresso machine for the U.S. market called the Andreja Premium, older sister of the Quickmill Anita.
As mentioned earlier, one of the favorite espresso machine designs among home enthusiasts is unquestionably the E61. Named after the year the patent was approved (a year of an eclipse), its gorgeously sculpted and highly polished group is recognized as a hallmark of fine espresso machines. Comparing these three machines side-by-side for months confirms my “morning after” score comments in the Buyer’s Guide to the La Spaziale S1: The design of the E61 group earns its reputation as the heart of an espresso machine that is forgiving of minor errors in barista technique. However, knowing how to maximize this forgiveness necessitates a certain understanding of how heat exchanger espresso machines work; the article How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love HXs explains the easily mastered techniques of HX brew temperature management. Even if you’re familiar with heat exchangers, I think you’ll agree it is worthwhile prerequisite reading. On the other hand, if you’re anxious to learn more about the Andreja Premium, feel free to bookmark it for later and then continue straight ahead with First Impressions.
The Andreja Premium arrived double-boxed with the inner box held firmly in place by foam corner supports and Instapak side inserts to assure no shifting of the contents. The interior box is literally a cocoon of foam packaging composed of several puzzle-like pieces that together envelope the machine. UPS will be challenged to damage this puppy during shipment! It’s easy to remove the foam inserts to reveal good grab points. If you’re capable of lifting its 46 pounds of metal, you’ll have the Andreja Premium on your countertop in minutes. The manufacturer thoughtfully taped down the drip tray to prevent it sliding out during this maneuver.
At first glance, the Andreja Premium looks a lot like the well-known Isomac Millennium. Some of the noteworthy external differences between the Millennium and the Andreja Premium include:
There are a number of internal differences that I’ll return to shortly.
The Andreja Premium fits easily under standard-height kitchen cabinets with enough room to allow for cappuccino cups on top. If you have ready access to a water line, it’s worth considering the optional kit that converts the Andreja Premium from a pourover tank model to direct-plumbing. The kit includes everything you’ll need and the machine already has access holes for the requisite tubing. While it may seem to some like a needless luxury, you’ll be surprised how often the tank needs refilling, since a cooldown flush and a short spritz to rinse the grouphead of loose grinds requires around 6-8 ounces of water. It’s not uncommon to drain half the tank in one morning and go through several refills if you’re serving company.
Direct plumbing (optional)
In addition to the convenience, direct plumbing also eliminates the need for weekly tank cleaning and avoids concerns about the boiler warming the reservoir. The only drawback is that the pump water that is normally vented back to the tank by the expansion valve will instead drain into the drip tray, requiring you to empty it more often. Each so, after a few weeks of enjoying this convenience, you’ll wonder why you didn’t convert it sooner.
If I haven’t convinced you to go with direct plumb-in, you can at least look forward to a dead-accurate shutoff magnetic switch that detects a small float on the bottom of the tank. Unlike weight-activated switches which must be adjusted to avoid prematurely shutting off the pump, the Andreja Premium will drain the tank to precisely the same level each time.
The Andreja Premium includes re-written instructions of the original manufacturer owner’s manual. The advice it offers is succinct and practical for the first-time buyer. It covers all the setup and first-time use questions you’re likely to have, as shown by its table of contents:
Before Each Use
Tips For Making Great Espresso
How to Froth Milk for Cappuccinos and Lattes
We’re Here to Help
I especially appreciate the “First-time Setup” instructions that emphatically covered the steps to verify the machine is ready for use. While it pains me to admit it, I once burned out the heating element of a demonstration machine because of a wire that had come loose during shipment. I would have avoided the delay and cost of replacing the part if I had had the practical advice documented in the Andreja Premium’s instructions.
[ed] In the spirit of full disclosure, please note that I organized and copyedited the Andreja Premium instruction guide. The original content was based on Chris’ “customer question checklist” he had collected over the years. Despite my potential bias, I nonetheless consider it one of the better starter espresso machine instructions that I’ve read.
Once the water tank was filled and I had followed the first-time setup instructions, I let the machine warm up for a good half hour. The boiler’s pressurestat setting was 1.2 bar at the top of the heating element cycle. I double-checked the maximum brew pressure was a reasonable 10 bar by activating the pump with a portafilter having a blind basket (no holes) locked into the grouphead. While I had my tools out, I also regulated the Isomac Rituale to the same pressurestat and brew pressure settings.
The Andreja Premium has three indicators to tell you what’s going on. The leftmost red lamp is the power indicator; it’s on whenever the machine is plugged in and the power switch is in the on position. The other two lamps are indicators of the boiler’s status: Green means it’s up to temperature and red means it’s heating.
The Rituale has the same light arrangement as the Andreja Premium, although there is a slight difference in behavior: When the Rituale detects a low-water situation, the machine powers down and all lights go off. The Andreja Premium leaves on just the power indicator, alerting you to the fact its water tank needs refilling. The Giotto Premium has a single light that illuminates when the power switch is in the on position. Its lack of a low-water indicator caught me off guard once; I puzzled for several minutes why the machine was cold and yet the power light was on. I’ve since adopted the practice of always refilling the tank before powering up, which is a good habit for any pourover machine.