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By Ian Stewart
When WholeLatteLove introduced the Expobar Brewtus in late 2005, it was one of the the first double boiler espresso machines to be rolled out for home use. Thanks to its remarkable brew temperature control and compact design, it was a hit with the home barista crowd. Abe Carmeli wrote the original buyer's guide several years ago. In the meantime, other espresso machines have joined the double boiler ranks. Does the new Brewtus keep pace with the competition? This guide takes a look at the upgrades introduced by the latest model, the Expobar Brewtus III.
The new Brewtus comes in three flavors: Brewtus III-V— a pour over version with a vibratory pump similar to the original version, Brewtus III-V Plus— a vibratory pump version that is "direct connect ready", and the Brewtus III-R— a plumbed-in rotary pump model. This review tested the Brewtus III-R. Other than the pump, observations here should be equally applicable to other versions of the machine.
To complement my more seasoned approach to making espresso, this guide benefits from input from my wife, Karen, who is is a devoted cappuccino fan with little patience for finicky espresso machines. Her input was especially helpful when validating the "newbie" viewpoint; I'll return to this point from time-to-time and in the conclusion.
The Brewtus III arrived in the double boxed configuration. The machine is enclosed in a foam clamshell and the inner box is supported by air-filled bags. The UPS and FedEx guys will have a difficult time beating up this well-protected package! The machine is bulky and weighs 62 pounds, so you should enlist a volunteer to help you pull it out of its cardboard cocoon (tip: lay the box on its side and slide the machine out).
The Brewtus III has an all-stainless steel casing with an impressive and shiny exposed E61 grouphead. As double boiler espressos machines go, it is relatively compact, requiring only 16.5" in height, 10.5" in width and 17.5" depth. The stainless steel exterior is made from heavy gauge material and feels quite solid when lifting it up onto the counter.
Small drip trays are a pet peeve of mine, but the Brewtus III sports a whopping 64 ounces of capacity. The tray can be either plumbed in or emptied manually. The Brewtus comes with solid feet with rubber pads and is nicely raised off of the counter; there's no slipping when locking in the portafilter.
The Brewtus III is equipped with a no-burn steam arm mounted on the left and a hot water tap on the right. The steam and water wands swivel nicely in all directions. While the main benefit of the no-burn design is a steaming wand that's friendly to the touch, a secondary benefit is less effort to clean the wand since its cooler surface is less likely to collect crusty milk residue.
As mentioned earlier, the Brewtus III is a double boiler—one boiler for steaming and one for brewing. Each boiler has a gauge to indicate the pressure, one for brew pressure and one for steam boiler pressure. The Brewtus III also comes with a portafilter, single and double baskets, a backflushing disc, plastic tamper and bean scoop. I still haven't figured out why vendors bother with an ill-fitted plastic tamper. The portafilter has a rounded bottom and the baskets are Faema-style with sloped walls.
The Brewtus III-R has a rotary pump that needs to be plumbed in. The machine comes with a long braided stainless hose and the owner's manual covers the steps necessary to hook it to your water supply. The Brewtus III-V has a water reservoir, so you won't need to worry about plumbing. The Brewtus III-V Plus model can be converted to direct connect.
Sub-degree brew temperature on the Brewtus III is managed by an electronic temperature control unit (online forum participants frequently referred to such controllers as a "PID"). The brew temperature is displayed by the three digit LED display on the front of the machine.