Bezzera Strega for the less experienced

Recommendations for espresso equipment buyers and upgraders.
flip
Posts: 3
Joined: September 11th, 2017

Postby flip » Sep 11, 2017, 11:09 am

Hi, I'm not sure if what I'm about to ask has been discussed here before or not - I've searched the forums for a bit and I've been reading everything I could find about the Strega for the past few days.

I like to drink mostly straight espressos at home (and only rarely lattes), and I prefer lightly roasted coffee (mostly single origins).

I'm about to upgrade from my current machine (a cheap Lelit) which works great, but I just can't get the clarity of flavours that I can taste from an E61 machine using the same beans and grinder.

I was initially looking at a Bezzera Magica or Rocket Appartamento, which are friendlier for the budget. After much reading I decided it would be better (because of the PID and DB) to go with an Expobar Brewtus (which is not much more expensive where I live, around $150 extra). But now I'm more tempted by the Strega. Jim Schulman's review and comments about lightly roasted SO's had a big influence on this.

So my question is not if the Strega is better than the others I have mentioned, but if it is suited for someone with not so much experience, like I am. Also if my grinder, Kinu M47, which I love, will not be limiting my shots. At least for a few years, until my taste buds will "evolve" as well as my budget :)

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another_jim
Team HB
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Joined: May 5th, 2005

Postby another_jim » Sep 11, 2017, 6:00 pm

You don't sound all that inexperienced.

I reviewed the Strega, and think it is a good machine for people inexperienced with levers (or espresso in general). The quick warm up and built in group heater makes it easy for temperature management. Since the pump that fill the group also ramps up the pressure, you have a very wide latitude in dose and grind -- it simply means the espresso will drip sooner or later during the time the pump fills up the group.

As you get used to the machine, you'll be able to play with all these features a shape the shots. Moreover, commercial levers are naturally well suited for lighter roasts.

I've found the machine fairly reliable and easy to maintain, except for removing and remounting the tricky case.

All in all, I'm not tempted to upgrade to pump based profiling machine like the Slayer; and I think, for hobbyist use, most other machines would be a step down.

Demq
Posts: 13
Joined: April 6th, 2017

Postby Demq » Sep 12, 2017, 1:31 am

Hi,

Strega was my first espresso machine, and I am still happy with it after almost 5 years. Before that, I used Presso to make coffee at home, so you can imagine it was a significant jump for me. It took a bit of time for me to get used to the machine and pull shots I was happy with, though I would judge them agains those made at the best cafes by top baristas on Synessos and LaMarzoccos. The initial challenge for me was that the springs appeared to put too high pressure during the extraction. For my personal taste, I found a triple basket with smaller holes worked best, with some pre-infusion time. With Strega you have the manual control over the pre-infusion time, and can pressure-profile by holding back the lever. How well and consistent you can do it depends on how easily you can learn and the time you have to practice. I was way over-caffeinated for some time in the beginning :)

The biggest shortfall of Strega is the group head thermostat, which allows the group temperature to fluctuate in a very wide range (I think within 15 degrees in C). This can lead to significant inconsistencies from shot to shot by affecting the brew temperature. I have recently PID-ed the group head, and that elevated the machine to another level. I did it myself following the instructions from this forum, and it didn't cost that much. Now I have a very good consistency and control over the brew temperature as well. This really helps when dealing with different roast levels, I can just adjust the temp up and down with a click of a button.

flip
Posts: 3
Joined: September 11th, 2017

Postby flip » Sep 12, 2017, 10:14 am

Hi, thank you both for your words. The Strega is very tempting, if I decide to get it I promise I will post an update on how I get used to it :)

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thesharpener
Posts: 95
Joined: August 24th, 2016

Postby thesharpener » Sep 12, 2017, 1:03 pm

Demq wrote:The biggest shortfall of Strega is the group head thermostat, which allows the group temperature to fluctuate in a very wide range (I think within 15 degrees in C). This can lead to significant inconsistencies from shot to shot by affecting the brew temperature.


This contradict's another_jim's statement...

another_jim wrote:The quick warm up and built in group heater makes it easy for temperature management.



I'm considering a Strega for my next machine, so I always closely follow these discussions. I'm curious what data exists to help prospective owners decide if they want to modify their machine or not?
Pete - LMWDP #572

DaveC113
Posts: 55
Joined: April 25th, 2017

Postby DaveC113 » Sep 12, 2017, 2:27 pm

It depends where you measure the group temp, it doesn't actually vary that much but a PID is still a good idea.

My issue with the Strega is more about lack of quality. My controller doesn't work and dealing with the issue (I got it for 1200 euro + ~200 for shipping and fees from Espresso Coffee Shop) has been impossible. Months later my machine still turns off randomly and I don't have a replacement controller. I had to file a complaint with my credit card to get my money back after Espresso Coffee Shop ignored my emails. Bezzera wouldn't send me a control unit and is so far ignoring my local shop who is trying to order one for me.

Also, the frame is riveted together without trangulation so the flex in the frame is ridiculous and has gotten way worse over time. It was fine when I first got it but it gets more and more flexible over time.

I like the espresso it makes but it's a piece of junk IMO.

erik82
Posts: 595
Joined: February 16th, 2012

Postby erik82 » Sep 12, 2017, 4:01 pm

I've owned a Strega for about 5 years and never had any problem with it. The flex is almost the same as any other lever and isn't something to worry about. It's a pretty well build machine and internally not much different than a E61 Bezzera machine.

In my eyes it's a very easy machine to make great espresso with. Very forgiving and lots of options to play with. I would advice it to a beginner and I think you're already far from a beginner. For that price it's the best machine you can buy, but that's my opinion. If you decide to buy one then get the EP HQ14 filterbaskets immediately because they work so much better than the stock ones.

The M47 will work very well and gives great grind quality. For light roasts I do prefer flat burrs.

DaveC113
Posts: 55
Joined: April 25th, 2017

Postby DaveC113 » Sep 12, 2017, 5:01 pm

The chassis flex is WAY worse vs Londinium or Profitec. IMO, it's completely unacceptable that it's riveted together and has no triangulation, it's just cheaply built. I'm a ME who has specialized in manufacturing and I can't grasp how Bezzera thinks this design is ok. The wiring is also questionable, routing is just plain bad, with wires touching and running right alongside the boiler, questionable grounding, it looks like a garage project done by someone who has never wired anything in their life. The resistance based low-water sensor is just plain inferior, and never worked right on my machine from the start, then I get screwed by both Bezzera AND their distributor. If I lived in Italy I'd throw the thing through Bezzera's windows. :evil:

And just so I can be more disagreeable, the EP 14g baskets aren't better than stock and don't work well for light roasts. The EP 21g does work very well for light roasts at ~24g as does the stock basket when overdosed to ~21g.

Demq
Posts: 13
Joined: April 6th, 2017

Postby Demq » Sep 12, 2017, 10:13 pm

thesharpener wrote:This contradict's another_jim's statement...



I'm considering a Strega for my next machine, so I always closely follow these discussions. I'm curious what data exists to help prospective owners decide if they want to modify their machine or not?


I suppose another_jim can clarify what exactly he meant in his statement about temperature management, but I suppose he was referring to the group head not being thermally connected to the boiler for heating (like wiht a thermosiphon) and relying a pair of electrical heating elements that go inside of it. They are denoted by number 14 on page 23 in the manual http://img.web.mdsnet.it/bezzera/allegati_articoli/58db7625bb2f3_strega%209942051.03%20gb%20ed07.14%20rev00.pdf The operating temperature is controlled by a "THERMIC SAFETY DEVICE 250V 95°C AUTOMATIC", item 12. This thermostat is also embedded in the group, close to the heating elements, and stops the heating of the group when it reaches 95C. The heating resumes when the temperature drops to around 80C-85C if I remember correctly.

When you turn on the machine, you have no way of knowing when the group head reaches to 95C, nor would you know where in the "temperature window" you are at any given time, unless you attach some kind of thermometer to it.
Now that I have replaced the thermostat with a very precise temperature sensor and a PID controller, I can see when the group actually reaches the set temperature, and it keeps it there within 0.1C . When I turn my machine on at ambient 20C, the boiler gets fully up to the pressure while the group head is still around 65C. I have to wait a bit longer for it to reach 90C, which I usually use with the light roasts.

Another benefit for me was the ease of adjusting the brew temperature via PID controller. I used to open up the top lid of the machine and regulate boiler's pressurestat to control the brew temperature (you change the temperature of the boiler to impact the temperature of the water going through the heat exchanger). But this gives you a more rough control, and is certainly tedious. I dropped the screws into the machine on more than one occasion, and had to completely take the cover off to get them.

In the end, I lived happily with my machine for 4 years before PID-ing it, it makes very decent coffee once you get the hang of it. PID-ing definitely makes it better, but everyone decides for themselves if it is worth it. I just loved the process itself, making something with my own hands that worked well.

Demq
Posts: 13
Joined: April 6th, 2017

Postby Demq » Sep 12, 2017, 10:30 pm

DaveC113 wrote:It depends where you measure the group temp, it doesn't actually vary that much but a PID is still a good idea.

My issue with the Strega is more about lack of quality. My controller doesn't work and dealing with the issue (I got it for 1200 euro + ~200 for shipping and fees from Espresso Coffee Shop) has been impossible. Months later my machine still turns off randomly and I don't have a replacement controller. I had to file a complaint with my credit card to get my money back after Espresso Coffee Shop ignored my emails. Bezzera wouldn't send me a control unit and is so far ignoring my local shop who is trying to order one for me.

Also, the frame is riveted together without trangulation so the flex in the frame is ridiculous and has gotten way worse over time. It was fine when I first got it but it gets more and more flexible over time.

I like the espresso it makes but it's a piece of junk IMO.


Well, the lever group body is a solid piece of brass, and in equilibrium it shouldn't matter much where you measure the temperature.

Regarding the controller, I am not sure why are you having such a big problem ordering one if you are willing to pay for it. I just googled it, and it seemed available from the usual parts suppliers. You probably knew the risks with the grey imports (that Bezzera will not service it in your country) versus authorized dealers, at least I did when I got mine form Espresso Coffee Shop. I know it must have been frustrating to get a new machine and it to have an issue, but this could have happened with any other machine.

Also, I am not really sure about the whole flexing issue, if it is structurally sound after several years of use. Perhaps the noise is the issue here, but then you have the linear pump that drowns everything :)

 
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