Heat exchanger espresso machine with volumetric dosing and quick warm up

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

#1: Post by HeatXchanger »

Hi everyone,

First time poster here.

I love coffee and started my journey with pour overs but have being doing espresso for the past year. I have a Breville infuser machine that works quite well but I struggle when I have guests.

My grinder: Eureka Mignon Specialita grinder

My coffee preference:
- Cortados/Flat white
- Straight Espresso
- Cappuccinos

What I'm looking for:
- Heat exchanger: I like the concept behind it and I feel it will give me the best bang for the buck
- Fast warm up time
- Volumetric dosing control
- Decent sized boiler: Should be able to make 4-5 milk drinks.
- Budget: under 2500 preferably but can push it to 3K (for the machine alone, I'll pair it with the Eureka Specialita)

What machines should I be looking at? I like the way ECM looks but would like to get some other recommendations from the experts here.

Any input/advice is much appreciated!

Thanks,
Arjun
PS: I'm planning to pull the trigger during the Black Friday sales.

Jeff
Team HB

#2: Post by Jeff »

Welcome to H-B!

what about an HX do you like?

The reason I ask is that, in general, any E61-style machine is going to take around 40 minutes to come up to operating temperature. Even if the boiler has a fancy PID (which, BTW, generally doesn't manage brew temperature on an HX), that's a big chunk of brass hanging out in the breeze with mainly only a trickle of water heating it up. There may be better options to keep your eyes open for during the coming weeks.

Also, it would help if you thought about how important volumetric dosing is for you. While $2500-3000 gets you into the upper end of home-enthusiast machines, volumetric dosing isn't a common feature in those machines and would limit your choices.

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mycatsnameisbernie

#3: Post by mycatsnameisbernie »

You might want to look at the Bezzera BZ 13 DE. It is an HX machine that advertises a 12 to 15 minute warm-up and has volumetric controls. WLL claims it heats up in 8 minutes. It has an electrically heated group which results in the fast warm up time.

I would also question your preference for an HX machine. Your budget will certainly get you a very nice DB. If you want to keep your budget on the low side, consider Lelit Elizabeth or Breville Dual Boiler, both of which have volumetric controls.

HeatXchanger (original poster)

#4: Post by HeatXchanger (original poster) »

Thanks for the reply.

Jeff, I had done some reading on various kinds of espresso machines and I liked the concept of the heat exchanger. I like the fact that the water used to brew the coffee is "freshly heated" vs sitting in the boiler. Honestly, I'm not sure if that makes a difference but it seemed to me like the heat exchangers with similar features as the double boilers were less expensive.

Cat, I appreciate the input and will look into the machines you suggested. The Bezzera seems to check a lot of the boxes.

I wanted the volumetric dosing for ease of use. I didn't want to worry about stopping the extraction at the right time... Maybe I'm over thinking it and I don't need the volumetric dosing?

Thanks again,
Arjun

User avatar
Randy G.

#5: Post by Randy G. »

HeatXchanger wrote: Honestly, I'm not sure if that makes a difference but it seemed to me like the heat exchangers with similar features as the double boilers were less expensive.
Double boilers (particularly with electronic control) generally have better temperature control for brewing espresso because the brew boiler is basically a large reservoir for brewing only, totally filled with water. That leaves the user to turn up the steam boiler for better steaming performance without affecting brew temp.
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Jeff
Team HB

#6: Post by Jeff »

You might want to take a read through and watch a bit of How to choose an espresso machine and grinder at the "right" price if you haven't already.

An E61 HX was, for probably 40 years, about the only way a home enthusiast could get a machine that would pull shots and steam reasonably for a few drinks at a moderate price. At first it was the 1960s commercial units, then home units became available. Double boiler (DB) machines were, even 10 or 15 years ago, too expensive for many, including me. The E61 HX was a really clever solution to a lot of engineering and manufacturing challenges when a five-transistor radio was a marvel of modern electronics.

I'd skip volumetric dosing as a "must have". Part of the craft of espresso is knowing when to stop a shot. In a cafe, where you're pulling the same beans hundreds of times a day and adjusting the grinder several times a day, it makes sense. You "know" it will be 27 seconds or 53 ml or whatever since the last 150 shots in the hour tasted good at that setting. There are some mid-range models that have volumetric dosing as a feature, but many turn it off and just "cut by eye" or by weight to hit their recipe.

With a $3000 budget you can get some excellent machines, ones that long-time enthusiasts own and envy both. I'm always surprised when a new owner of a $3000-class machine turns out to be someone that has never made an espresso before. That's a big investment in a new hobby! In some ways, they're really lucky in that they're not "fighting" a machine or wondering if a change in the cup is due to something they changed or the machine bobbling a bit.

If you're looking for something that has excellent quality in the cup and has the potential to take you far in the hobby, into coffees that aren't labeled "espresso" on the bag, you should at least consider the Breville Dual Boiler (BDB) at $1,500 street. It has quite a following among enthusiasts and is very different machine than the Infuser you have today.

If you didn't like the look of the BDB, for fast warm up and temperature stability, I'd look at "micro-boiler" DB machines, especially those with some kind of variable preinfusion, like the Lelit Elizabeth. These won't have the classic look of an E61 either, but don't have Breville's distinctive lines, more of a modern, utilitarian look.

HeatXchanger (original poster)

#7: Post by HeatXchanger (original poster) »

I'll do some reading over the next couple weeks, thanks for the input.

Any thoughts on the Bezzera BZ13 DE? I hadn't heard about the company until it was mentioned in this thread. Looks like it's been around for a while and I find the electronically heated grouphead intriguing. I feel the ECM looks better but the Bezzera seems to hit the mark in all other aspects.

Thanks,
Arjun

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Jeff
Team HB

#8: Post by Jeff »

An E61, HX or DB, is heated by the water flowing through it, generally pretty slowly. That flow of hot water balances off the heat that the exposed group head pours off into the air. That big chunk of brass smooths things out, but also takes around 40 min to stabilize.

Several commercial machines and now some class-leading home units like the BDB and the Decent DE1 use an actively heated group head. This allows active control of the brew temperature (very near the brew chamber) and has the added benefit of quick warm up. My DE1 this morning, in a 60 F kitchen, was ready in 4 min. I'm not very familiar with the BZ13, but its heated group head may offer similar benefits on both fronts.

Coffcarl

#9: Post by Coffcarl »

Here is a thought:

https://royalfalconent.com/product/valentina-1g/

I have the earlier version of this, and it heats up in about half an hour and is extremely temp consistent. It has all commercial parts, and is NSF certified.

The secret is, if you call them, I think they will sell you one at the wholesale price.

I did not purchase from them, but dealt with them when restoring my used Grimac Mini.

HeatXchanger (original poster)

#10: Post by HeatXchanger (original poster) »

Thanks for the suggestion.

The more I think about how I use the machine the more I'm leaning towards something with a separately heated group head. I have guests quite often and I can't see me waiting for 40 mins for the group head to stabilize.

I like the way the machines with E61 group heads look with all that chrome/steel but I will have to go with utility.

So far the contenders are:

Bezzera bz13 DE
Decent
Valentina 1G (Bezzera looks nicer though and is cheaper)

Please let me know if there are any others I should look at.

Thanks,
Arjun