Cafelat Robot -- new pressure gauge - Worth waiting? Used Robots?

Recommendations for buyers and upgraders from the site's members.
EspressYourself

#1: Post by EspressYourself »

Hi guys, long time reader, first time poster. I've been making espresso on the semi disposable consumer machines like Gaggia Color, Cerazzo, or Delonghi EC155 for years. Money is tight, so I've bought them used for $15-40, take them apart, clean them, upgrade them, and trash them after about a year when something fails.

But coffee making has become a big passion of mine and I'm ready for really good espresso, and tired of always searching for my next machine. I think the Robot fits the bill, and my hope is that I will have it for decades.

I think the "barista" model (with pressure gauge) would be useful for my first level machine. I've heard they may be working on a redesign of the pressure gauge, which admittedly seems like it has room for improvement in ergonomics. For those in the know, do you think its worth waiting? Or is espresso delayed, espresso denied -- and I should just make the purchase. I keep hoping to find one used but no one seems to want to part with theirs. If anyone knows of any place that has them used let us know! Thanks for the advice.

Currently using a Baratza Virtuoso and planning to upgrade to a Baratza 270 when I'm able to.

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drgary
Team HB

#2: Post by drgary »

Hi Barry, and welcome to H-B!

I don't find the pressure gauge essential, having developed a feel for lever espresso long ago. I watch the stream to make sure I'm getting a steady and thin pour into the cup and have a good sense of dose, grind and water temperature for the coffees I enjoy. As fellow H-B team member Samuel Law noted in our initial review, you can see the readings on the pressure gauge while applying strong pressure if you turn the machine around and lean over it. Paul Pratt points out that 9 bars of pressure during the pull is more than is necessary. The gauge can be your training wheels for figuring out flow rate. I'm usually pulling at well less than 9 bars and can view that easily with the Robot facing forward. I'm paying more attention to the taste of the coffee that is often home-roasted, and which I can prepare reliably.

If the pressure gauge is very important to you, if you are heavily into measuring and noting small changes in every shot, it might be worth the wait if the pressure gauge is ever upgraded. Will that happen and when? I don't know.
Gary
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millmountain
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#3: Post by millmountain »

Welcome to the forums. Haven't followed any rumors of a redesign, but why not consider upgrading the grinder first? If you're between machines, use Aeropress, pour over or similar while saving for the Robot. Nothing wrong with the Baratza per se, but there are a good arguments for a solid hand grinder. You know the importance of grind quality, and something like the Kinu M47 is built to last and so fits your strategy---way more bang for the buck over years than a 270. I mention the M47 specifically because I finally got one today. On the first try with an Aeropress it genuinely surprised me, it was so good. It's a pleasure to grind with. That would give you time to learn the options for a Robot.

In any case I agree the Robot is a great move, just some food for thought.

mikelipino

#4: Post by mikelipino »

I'll agree with Gary and Mike. The current pressure gauge is more than sufficient in the long term. My workflow has me giving the gauge a quick glance at the beginning to see where my pressure is at (usually 6-8 bar for a "good" shot) and then paying attention to flow for the remainder. So a pressure gauge pointing up wouldn't help me much. You'd quickly get the feel for it.

And an espresso grinder will also quickly become necessary. A good hand grinder like the Kinu or 1ZPresso will definitely work (I have and use the latter), but an electric grinder will compress your workflow from over 5 min per shot to 3-4 min per shot, equal to a semi-auto machine (even less if you count the warm up time). Since you take apart machines, I'd take a look at the df64. If you do some pretty basic mods, you have a 64mm flat burr at a relatively low price that can really perform.

Jonk

#5: Post by Jonk »

If the budget if tight, you could also go for a Flair Classic. I'd worry a little bit more about longevity, but it's a lot cheaper and performs quite similarly if you're fine with a few more quirks. Perhaps even the Wacaco Picopresso is an alternative - seems to be reviewed favorably.

thirdcrackfourthwave

#6: Post by thirdcrackfourthwave »

The pressure gauge is data. Data is feedback. Feedback improves the educational process. You can more accurately profile a shot with a gauge. I've no regrets about getting the gauge. Having said that a few weeks ago it stopped registering anything and I'm not in any rush to fix it. I don't know the time frame on the redesign and while I don't find the current design ideal I don't find it to be a big issue. YMMV.

EspressYourself (original poster)

#7: Post by EspressYourself (original poster) »

Thanks for the great responses! Appreciate the grinder recommendations. I used to use a Hario hand grinder, but it was hard to keep up when trying to pull back to back shots for multiple people. A grinder like the 1Zpresso J-Max (new espresso grinder from them with titanium burrs) should be quicker than the Hario Skerton (with ceramic burrs), but I don't want that to be a barrier to making espresso. The df64 looks great, but is out of my price range. I will definitely keep my eye on that. I guess I could get a good hand grinder for espresso now to use with the Robot and the Virtuoso would do okay for a crowd.

Any thoughts on a Lido E-T or other purpose built espresso hand grinders vs a 1ZPresso J-Max? They are both built with espresso grinds in mind. I'm leaning towards the Max.

Thanks again for the thoughtful responses! I'm going to get a Robot in the next few months for sure, and I think I'll opt for the gauge. It seems like a speedometer in a car. You can probably have a heck of a lot of fun without it, but sometimes its nice to know how fast youre going.

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Jeff
Team HB

#8: Post by Jeff »

I'd agree with the advice that the pressure gauge is both not essential and that the one there is today is sufficient.

I'd definitely upgrade the grinder. The Skerton isn't really suited for espresso. I waded through the 1Zpresso models about a year ago and got lost. There have been a couple threads on the Pro and Max, such as 1Zpresso J-Max review I can't say that the Max is hands-down better that the Pro, from what I've read. Another option I'd consider is a new or used Eureka grinder. I've read that they work well, especially if you prefer a hopper or are willing to make some mods. With grinder upgrades reasonably common, they show up here in Buy/Sell regularly. Others like the Baratza Sette 270.

mdmvrockford
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#9: Post by mdmvrockford »

* I would get pressure gauge. As "thirdcrackfourthwave" posted, it provides data. For less experience and newbies, I have found pressure gauge invaluable for consistency. But like naked-portafilter's pressure gauge on my former Olympia Express Cremina, once a bean is dialed in, I don't focus too much on it. I still look every time at pre-infusion pressure and peak initial pressure. But as "drgary" stated above, flow rate/stream size is main thing to follow. So overall pressure gauge should not be deal breaker. How's that for providing both sides of issue:)

* I added this cheap, easy modification to OEM Cafelat Robot's pressure gauge: /levers/caf ... ml#p800979. This ingenious modification from fellow home-barista.com member improves visual range user can see OEM gauge's needle.

* If really want more ergonomic positioned pressure gauge then please see naked-portafilter's aftermarket pressure gauge:
https://www.naked-portafilter.com/produ ... gauge-kit/

* FWIW, pairing Helor 106 (original one with Mazzer 0186c burrs) and Cafelat Robot barista model, I make espresso at least as good as best from Cremina. And unlike Cremina, I can make lungos (e.g. brew ratio ~ 30% and ~ 3 fluid ounce espresso). For the Cremina to get such volume and lungos would require Fellini maneuver which always resulted in a fractured puck for me. So with Cremina and now Robot with Helor 106, I can focus on bean varietals; which IMO is where focus should be at. For my philosophy of use, I have zero urge of upgraditis. My user review of Helor 106 and Robot are both under "user reviews" section of this forum.
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grind727

#10: Post by grind727 »

Agree with the others, a gauge is not necessary; but as a new user, the training wheels may help speed up the learning process. Based on what I've seen in various threads, I suspect that some are are paying too much attention to the gauge to the detriment to their shots. And 9 bars is more of a guideline than a rule. I don't have a gauge but I doubt that many of my Robot shots are as high as 9 bars, at least not for more than a second or two.

Like Gary, I go completely on feel and flow. Chances are, after a couple weeks, you'll be doing the same.