Can I get away with a single boiler espresso machine?

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

#1: Post by kpoz »

Hi everyone,

I am looking to purchase my first espresso machine. We currently have a Jura. I know, I know, but convenience is king for my wife. However, I'm tired of the faux-presso and I've convinced her to add an espresso machine to the mix.

As for our current consumption and routine, I make four shots per day: two shots of espresso for me and two for my wife's cappuccino. I prepare the milk for her cappuccino with a Bellman stovetop steamer. I never consume milk drinks, and she almost exclusively drinks cappuccinos. While there's no question that a dual boiler machine would mean I could prepare her cappuccino right away, given that I make only one milk drink, it seems that I could save $1,000 to 1,500 by purchasing a single boiler machine and then put the extra money toward a grinder. Based on our consumption, do those of you with more experience with these machines think I can get by with a single boiler machine and, more importantly, not regret the decision?

Thanks in advance.

Jonk

#2: Post by Jonk »

You don't really need a 'boiler' at all. Cafelat Robot and Flair are great, inexpensive alternatives. The Bellman is perhaps a little slow to heat up, but it makes great foam so it's a viable alternative. You've got the right idea to spend on a nice grinder (though a good quality hand grinder is fine for just a few shots a day in my opinion, and doesn't have to be expensive).

jgood

#3: Post by jgood »

Another option, as you already have a Bellman and are familiar with it, is the Quick Mill Carola. It's a single boiler e61, but espresso only. I believe Chris Coffee is the only vendor that stocks the Carola. I've had mine for 4 years and it's been great.
BTW with the Bellman, if you just fill it up 1/2 way to the seam in the middle of the steamer you're ready to steam in 10 minutes. Credit where credit's due -- I picked up this trick on HB! The steam seems even drier with this method.
IMHO hand grinding gets old fast. The Niche Zero grinder is excellent. At present they are shipping in 7 days, which is unusual for them. It's a single dose grinder, which is a good workflow for home use.
Many great choices out there.....

kpoz (original poster)

#4: Post by kpoz (original poster) »

Jonk wrote:You don't really need a 'boiler' at all. Cafelat Robot and Flair are great, inexpensive alternatives. The Bellman is perhaps a little slow to heat up, but it makes great foam so it's a viable alternative. You've got the right idea to spend on a nice grinder (though a good quality hand grinder is fine for just a few shots a day in my opinion, and doesn't have to be expensive).
Thanks for this! I'll consider the Robot, which I've toyed with buying before.

I am looking into the HG-1 Prime and HG-2, but also the Key and MC4 (now MC5). I really like conicals based on my years of drinking espresso around town.

kpoz (original poster)

#5: Post by kpoz (original poster) »

jgood wrote:Another option, as you already have a Bellman and are familiar with it, is the Quick Mill Carola. It's a single boiler e61, but espresso only. I believe Chris Coffee is the only vendor that stocks the Carola. I've had mine for 4 years and it's been great.
BTW with the Bellman, if you just fill it up 1/2 way to the seam in the middle of the steamer you're ready to steam in 10 minutes. Credit where credit's due -- I picked up this trick on HB! The steam seems even drier with this method.
IMHO hand grinding gets old fast. The Niche Zero grinder is excellent. At present they are shipping in 7 days, which is unusual for them. It's a single dose grinder, which is a good workflow for home use.
Many great choices out there.....

I do like the Carola and I'd absolutely get one if it was just me, but I'd like to sunset the Bellman. The Bellman works well enough, but it's very particular, as I'm sure you know, and it would be nice to be able to do both espresso and steaming milk on a single machine. But I'll keep it in play for now. Thanks for the suggestion.

baldheadracing
Team HB

#6: Post by baldheadracing »

kpoz wrote: ... As for our current consumption and routine, I make four shots per day: two shots of espresso for me and two for my wife's cappuccino. I prepare the milk for her cappuccino with a Bellman stovetop steamer. I never consume milk drinks, and she almost exclusively drinks cappuccinos. ... Based on our consumption, do those of you with more experience with these machines think I can get by with a single boiler machine and, more importantly, not regret the decision?
I think that you can, given the one milk drink a day. The SBDU (single boiler dual use) machines fall down when a second cup is desired. A few things to keep in mind:
- SBDU machines can have small boilers. I don't think that it is coincidence that a Silvia's 330ml boiler nicely steams about 225ml of milk, which matches up with two Italian standard cappuccinos (100ml of milk for each cappuccino).
- the price difference between E-61 SBDU PID machines like the Bezzera Unica PID or ECM Classika PID, etc. and low-end E-61 HX's is not as great as one might expect. (The PID on an SBDU is much more useful than a PID on an E-61's HX's service boiler.)
- there are also some lever machines around the same price, but the two most interesting machines, the Argos and the Vectis, are not yet available in the market. If you can wait, they might be worth waiting for.
- good move to spend proportionately more on the grinder.

The big limitation with SBDU are the additional steps needed for that second, and subsequent, cups.

Good luck!
-"Good quality brings happiness as you use it" - Nobuho Miya, Kamasada

kris772
Supporter ♡

#7: Post by kris772 »

baldheadracing wrote:I think that you can, given the one milk drink a day. The SBDU (single boiler dual use) machines fall down when a second cup is desired. A few things to keep in mind:
- SBDU machines can have small boilers. I don't think that it is coincidence that a Silvia's 330ml boiler nicely steams about 225ml of milk, which matches up with two Italian standard cappuccinos (100ml of milk for each cappuccino).
...
The big limitation with SBDU are the additional steps needed for that second, and subsequent, cups.
Good luck!
YMMV.
Depends.
I am easily able to pull back to back lattes. You need to learn your particular machine's abilities as to how much to flush. for example : I flush 3 seconds, wait 40 seconds, pull a 23sec single shot, if immediate, no flush or if pause is >60 secs then 3 sec flush, 35-40 sec pause and pull next shot. If you are running your boiler at, say, 1.2bar, the timings would be adjusted up and sideways. Experience! Each shot is an experment, to a certain degree.

(My boiler exterior is PIDed at 223 so my average pressure is at the low end of your average user (~.8-.9bar) )
(Note, I use blue diamond almond milk - if I can do it with that, you can certainly do it with cows milk!)
(I generally only preheat the Livia for 10 minutes - that's about 4 minutes after it comes to pressure.

OTOH, having a double boiler makes life child's play, little or no pauses or flushes. Very little thinking involved.
I do occasionally search for a used DB, but, realistically, I can satisfy my addiction easily with the Livia.
Life is too short for bad espresso! - Thunk-ed, NOT stirred!

baldheadracing
Team HB

#8: Post by baldheadracing »

Isn't the Livia 90 an HX?

Hmm. Now I'm not sure if the OP is talking about a single-boiler dual-use machine or an HX machine - an HX does have a single boiler. I was thinking SBDU in my comments above; influenced by the Carola discussion. I have an HX, well, I have three of them :oops:, but, like your Livia, they aren't E-61's. You are right, multiple milk drinks are not an issue with HX's.
-"Good quality brings happiness as you use it" - Nobuho Miya, Kamasada

kris772
Supporter ♡

#9: Post by kris772 »

Sorry, my bad!

You would have to pull all your shots and then steam the milk.
Life is too short for bad espresso! - Thunk-ed, NOT stirred!

palica

#10: Post by palica »

You can also consider a Thermal Block machine, which will heat very fast from ambiant to coffee infusion temp, and then to vapour temp, and can be decreased to coffee temp again in a few seconds.
A TB with PID can be very stable, saves a lot of energy, and can do unlimited steam.