First espresso machine - high end single boiler or low end double? - Page 2

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

#11: Post by Marmot »

Something you have to consider carefully is that many machines offer PID but have small boilers and they will hold a certain temperature very well but during the shot variation can be quite high. I would check that in the forum for whichever machine you decide on.

I think the Niche is a very good choice for espresso and will deliver excellent shots once you are dialed in.

I still think the Mara X might be the best choice without spending too much. If it has to be a dual boiler I would get a more serious one like the Izzo Alex Duetto. The Mara X can be switched to steam priority after pulling a shot but would then need some time to get back to brewing temperature if left alone (no flushing). I do not own a Mara X but Dave Corbey onnyoutube has done a lot of testing with it and he mentions that steaming in brew priority is strong enough (for him). Shen brewing the Mara X kicks on the heating element which lets the pressure rise in the steaming boiler. So when you have pulled a shot you should have no problem steaming right afterwards.

You mentioned that you want a machine your wife will also be able to use. The main problem here is puck preparation because you have to grind the right amount and then do an even and level tamping. I think an E61 will be no more of a problem for her than the Elizabeth with preinfusion. An E61 also has a short preinfusion built in because a small chamber first has to fill with water before the full pressure of the pump can work on the puck. You could also lift the lever to the 45 degree position first so pressure inside the HX will preinfuse before you lift the lever completely and the pump kicks in.
The FCD can be put to stock flow rate and the machine will operate as if it didn't have one.

Heat up time on an E61 is very long but can be shortened if you do one or more flushed to speed up grouphead temperature. A normal E61 without flushes needs about 40 minutes. The Mara X with its heat up cycle needs about 24 minutes to reach stable brew temperature. The light will be ready after about 17 minutes but at that point brew temperature will not be very stable yet but I think enough for most cases.

gobucks (original poster)

#12: Post by gobucks (original poster) »

Thanks, this is all very helpful.

@PIXIllate, I certainly agree that it's better to buy once, cry once, and if I were 100% sure that, for example, the Pro 600 is the machine I'd want long term, I'd probably either pull the trigger now or hold off till I can afford to do so (or until there is a good deal). The issue is that I'm not sure if that's what would ultimately work best for me. I'm starting from square one, I've literally never actually pulled a shot before, and I'm just guessing which variables I may want to control based on the type of coffee I tend to like. I like light and medium roasts, and want a machine that gives me a respectable amount of control over the extraction process, but if I'm being honest, I kind of like the idea of being able to just figure out the settings I want once, program them into the machine, and push a button, rather than having to throw the grouphead lever, start an external shot clock, and then manually adjust a valve several times over the course of extraction. The Elizabeth (and I think the Silvia Pro X) allow u to program in a preinfusion time (Elizabeth has pressurized and unpressurized modes), along with the brewing temp and shot time, and just press a button, which is really appealing. I watched a video of somebody making a cappuccino, and it was as easy as just pushing a button, then steaming the milk in the 40ish seconds it took the shot to preinfuse and brew, and the milk was steamed by the time the shot was done.

@Marmot, I am a little concerned about the boiler size on the Elizabeth (also i saw a review that said that it is brass, which apparently attracts more minerals, but our water here isn't very hard). I read a review that said it pulls steam from the boiler to mix in with cold water to avoid cooling down the boiler too much, I have no idea how well it works, but apparently they are taking some measures to avoid it. Also, when I said i was worried about my wife using it, that is a fair point that the preinfusion should help with the learning curve, but it's more of an issue that I want to buy something she will be WILLING to use. She rolled her eyes at the idea of buying a machine that makes you grind your own beans so... it's possible it's a lost cause and I'm the only one who's gonna use it, so I'm mostly going to base my decision on how much of a faff I'm willing to deal with, but if it's a close decision, then point goes to the one that's easier for me to delegate to my wife or a visitor.


#13: Post by Marmot »

I didn't know about the preheating of brew water on the Elizabeth. It's good to know they work on these kind of problems.

It's a bit of a gamble to choose a machine now wwithout knowing if your wife will enjoy using it or how much you are willing to experiment with it.
Another solution I can think of is the Breville/Sage Bambino Plus. It has a set brew temperature which you can somewhat influence by flushing but it should be on a good level for medium to light roasts. The big plus point of the Bambino Plus is its heat up time of only 3 seconds and maybe a second or two more for steam. You can just walk up to it and pull a shot.
It also has automatic milk steaming where you just put the pitcher with milk under the steam arm and it steams the milk to the level you chose (3 temperatures and 3 froth levels). It really does a great job of steaming milk on its own and you can still steam yourself if you want to.
I think it might be better for you to settle for this machine now and maybe upgrade in a few years when you got to know the machine (and yourself) better and feel the need for more control.

gobucks (original poster)

#14: Post by gobucks (original poster) »

I had thought about buying a Breville to start, but I'm really not a fan of the appliance look, and while it's cheaper, $500 is still quite a bit for something that I will almost certainly find limiting down the road.

BTW is there a significant temperature difference between the e61 and a saturated group head? I have a 6 month old daughter who will be running around before I know it, and it just occurred to me that having a big protruding metal head sticking out of the machine could be a big problem if it gets really hot when not in use.


#15: Post by Marmot »

Yes the brewhead of any machine will be close to brewing temperature. Of course with an E61 the surface area is much larger. Another thing to consider might be how easy it is for a child to open the hot water or steam valve. I guess the Elizabeth is the better choice in that regard.

gobucks (original poster)

#16: Post by gobucks (original poster) »

That's a great point - I def think the big knobs on an e61 machine would be more interesting to a curious child than the dinky little plastic knob on the side of the Elizabeth. I think the Elizabeth is the direction I want to go. I think it'll last me quite awhile before I outgrow it (if ever). Thanks for all the help, everyone.


#17: Post by Lookitsrohit »

Hi! I am in a very similar journey like you and have the same exact needs - and budget. Great choice on the grinder.

I have probably spent 50 hours researching and certainly facing an analysis paralysis situation. With that said, I am curious to know if you have considered the profitec 300 ? It's got a PID, double boiler , shot timer and of course non appliance look which you're after.


#18: Post by Marmot »

Another machine you could consider if you can get it in the US is the Ascaso Duo PID. It's a thermocoil machine but temperature stability and steam power are a lot better than what you may be used to on smaller and cheaper machines. Because of the thermocoil heat up time is a lot better and therefore you might not have to keep it running. I think the price is about the same but to me the design is a lot more elegant.

vecchi della seattle
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#19: Post by vecchi della seattle »

Single boilers don't do milk. I had a Rancilio Silvia for 20 years. It has a small brass boiler. I can't say it was a problem. Hi, Med, Low on the Mara? Come on. What kind of temp control is that. I'd look at the Quick Mill Pathfinder. Hold off on flow control for your next machine. That goofy valve control that everybody has duct taped on the top of the E61 group is just goofy. In 3 years everybody will have the Domobar Super Digital solution of a geared pump. New York?, Can you get down to 1st Line Equipment in New Jersey? They got great walk in only specials.

gobucks (original poster)

#20: Post by gobucks (original poster) »

I checked out 1st line, I called them and tried to ask some questions about the machines, but he just kept telling me to drive over and he'd show me. He said machines very often get damaged in transit to NY, which kinda makes sense, so I get him wanting me to buy in person, but I found the refusal to answer questions about the machines unless I went in person to be offputting. I'd be willing to make the trek to actually pick up the unit, but I would prefer not to have to deal with the hassle of borrowing a car, spending almost 3 hours roundtrip driving, paying tolls, etc, just to have my questions answered.

And yeah, after reading more about the flow control on these e61 units, it really seems like the existing valve is very much a version 1.0 kinda thing, in one of the Mara threads on this site people were complaining that the response is not very linear and it's hard to control. That seems like something that would be more frustrating than helpful.

Also, WRT the Profitec 300, I did consider that one, but ultimately decided against it because of the lack of preinfusion. Since I tend to like medium to lighter roasts, I suspect I would find that limiting, and it isn't THAT much cheaper than the Pro 600.