Indeed, Hugh, the Semi, while not rigged for a commercial environment because of its low-capacity vibratory pump and smaller steam boiler nevertheless shares some major parts with the A3/T1 (basically, most of the brew group). It also costs as much as a lot of commercial equipment.
But, that point does beg a clarification. saying that you need commercial equipment to make exceptional espresso is something of an exaggeration. It's not entirely true. What is true is that you need a great espresso machine. Most commercial machines aren't great. In fact, many of them suck big time—from consumer to commercial. When we talk about commercial machines on HB, I always assumed we were tending to talk about commercial machines you'd want to buy, ones that are pretty great—new or salvaged La Marzoccos (many of which are pretty terrible without modification), Synessos, Elektras, Nuova Simonelli Aurelias—that kind of thing.
Most of the discussion I've read offering counterpoint to the claim that you need pro equipment for exceptional espresso seems to center around that you can
get exceptional shots on a consumer-grade espresso machine. Well, OK. You can. Just not as predictably. It's a question of consistency and feedback. Some cheap machines just suck—you will rarely get anything great out of them, ever. Other machines are finicky but can produce consistently good stuff if you temperature surf, stay within a limited dose range, use a certain class of coffee, etc.
Fine. Not interested. That's your thing? Cool. More power to you. But, I don't think that's exceptional. It sounds like an annoying encumbrance to me. I want to be able to pull lots of different coffees well, and to be able to switch around and re-dial-in without tons of fuss and wasted coffee and time pulling sink shots. Machines that let me do that
are exceptional (whether they are commercial or not—most of them in my experience are commercial or nearly so), and to me, that
is the bar for exceptional espresso.
I get the feeling most of this back-and-forth is about definitions, so I hope that clears up where I am coming from a little bit. Also, to reiterate, while I see the field still heavily stilted towards commercial equipment today, I see it shifting towards parity over the next few years. I'm intrigued by efforts like this one
, and I hope they come to fruition and reduce the price barrier to entry for exceptional espresso. Others have already done amazing work in this consumer area, for example the Mypressi Twist
. I'm always looking forward to what's next, and my views are always open to change.