Help me choose between these espresso machines

Recommendations for buyers and upgraders from the site's members.
Vindibona1

#1: Post by Vindibona1 »

I'm not sure which of the following machines would be best for me if I choose to upgrade from my fully tricked out Gaggia Classic. While I have a PID and every other upgrade replacement on the Gaggia (except flow control) I've not been totally happy. It could be that I'm just a bad barista, but I've tried to be consistent weighing beans and grinding the weighed beans through my Sette 270 grinder, which appears to provide consistent grinds and almost zero retention. I've done a lot of testing and tried temps from 195°F to 212°F and never went "I love this shot". It's been close once in awhile. I don't even know if my level of taste identification is so good. But I've been to cafe's where I had that satisfaction, and in the ones that I had the beans have been La Colombe Nizza, even in different shops. So we have a subscription with La Colombe, though next week I'm going to try Corsica. I can't get fresher beans even at their stores. I'm thinking that the small boiler on the Gaggia is part of the issue (?). So I was thinking that after 5 years it was time to try a "better" machine.

We don't do a lot of milk drinks and when we do it is almost always cappuccino, never lattes. I stopped steaming for the most part when my wife got a Nespresso with the foamer, which is too easy. But I'd still like to have the ability to steam, even if I have to wait a few seconds for the temp to come up to steam on those occasions. It is rare that I do back-to-backs. MONEY IS NOT THE ISSUE IN THE SELECTION, but the $1800-$2000 range seems comfortable. Footprint is a bit of an issue but the machines on my radar would be ok, while some are smaller than others. So here are the possibilities that are currently on my radar. Please help talk me into one or out of others. I haven't looked at this stuff in years.

1) ECM Classika PID Espresso Machine With Flow Control https://www.wholelattelove.com/collecti ... ow-control
Single boiler, but with PID and flow control, something I've not experienced. Smallish footprint. Brewer pressure gauge (I think). E61. Polished chrome with lever activated brewing. Boiler volume 33oz. $1700.

2) Profitec Pro 300 Dual Boiler Espresso Machine. https://www.wholelattelove.com/products ... so-machine 11oz brass brew boiler. NO E61. Steam boiler 25oz. PID. Brew circuit pressure gauge. Minimally smaller footprint than ECM (#1). Toggle activated brew switch. Pedestrian looks (ugly knobs). $1800

3) Rancilio Silvia Pro X https://www.wholelattelove.com/collecti ... ne-in-pink Black. Black being the only color that looks appealing. DUAL BOILER w/independent power switches to turn one or both boilers on. Brew boiler volume 10 oz. Brew pressure gauge. SPRING LOADED rocker switches (not sure if that is a turn off or nothing worth thinking about). NO E61. About 1" shorter depth than the others (a minor plus), width same as ECM. Con is shallow drip tray with awkward removal. $1870.

Feature wise it appears that the Silvia Pro X has everything. Aesthetically it's ok, but not a stunner. The ECM attracts me because of its looks, the lever activated brew (again looks) and the way the flow control can function. But with all the features it is not a dual boiler. I haven't seen the Profitec in person, but is so pedestrian looking and in the pictures not much better than a Gaggia Classic. Those black knobs just add to its plain-ness, but has the dual boiler. I had thought about the Profitec 500 but that's a heat exchanger and I think a boiler would be more precise in brew temps.

And so I'm torn and have little expertise in these things. So someone please talk me into one or out of the other one or two. Please. TIA

P.S.... Also, if you have a vendor that you like besides Whole Latte Love, please post recommendation. They just keep coming up in the Google search on top.

User avatar
Chrikelnel

#2: Post by Chrikelnel »

I don't mean to be rude but unless something is wrong with your Gaggia it sounds like barista error. All the machines you listed are great but shouldn't be a huge upgrade for shot quality alone. What water are you using? Try a coffee mineral recipe with distilled water, TWW espresso mix is easy if you don't want to buy the ingredients yourself.

User avatar
Jeff
Team HB

#3: Post by Jeff »

If you do pursue a new machine, I'd also consider the ECM Puristika, Lelit Elizabeth and MaraX and BDB, if it speaks to you.

For my tastes in light-roast espresso, the lack of variable PI on the 300 is a concern. Same for spending that much on a DB with "Silvia" stuck in the front. Probably not a significant concern if you stick with classic espresso and roasts.

In my opinion, the only brew-pressure gauges useful for profiling measure very close to the basket. Most are good for setting an OPV or detecting a failing pump, but not for profiling.

Edit:

What do you dislike about your shots?

It may be that you just don't like the coffee.

There is an amusing video clip out there with "people pay $26 a pound for this?????" referring to one style, with "how can you drink this?" from others toward that respected individual's preferences in espresso.

drH

#4: Post by drH »

Jeff's suggestions are right on, but since I've owned both the Classika and the Pro300 I thought I'd add some thoughts there.

The Classika was MUCH more forgiving. I can't explain exactly why but my guess is that the larger boiler and heavy E61 group delivers excellent temperature stability and perhaps the water delivery is a bit slower on the E61.
Switching back and forth between brew and steam on the Classika was workable but annoying.
The ready steam and hot water tap on the Pro300 was super convenient, but if you use the tap for Americanos or tea the frequent pump engagement feels distracting. If puck prep isn't great, the Pro300 will punish you- though it is a capable machine.

So if you don't care about steam, the Puristika is more versatile than the Classika. If it's only occasionally, maybe the Classika is enough.

BaristaMcBob

#5: Post by BaristaMcBob »

I started with a Gaggia, then moved on to a Silvia. Now I am using a Bezzera heat exchanger model. I went through a long and frustrating journey. Here are my lessons learned:
1. The grinder is the most important piece of equipment. Your budget should be 60% grinder 40% espresso machine.
2. Your existing machine is pretty good. If you can't make excellent shots, then your bad habits will transfer to your operation of your new machine and you will continue to be frustrated.
3. High end machines are about convenience and output (drinks per hour), not necessarily about better shots.
4. There's a lot of misinformation out there. For example, that brew pressure should ideally be 9 bar. Good luck getting a 30 second shot at 9 bar. It's not possible with a vibratory pump.
5. PIDs, flow controls, etc are just smoke and mirrors. The only game-changing feature would be a rotary pump.

cebseb

#6: Post by cebseb »

I'm with the "your espresso machine isn't the issue" camp. I would either work on your puck prep (RDT, WDT, tamping, etc) or upgrade your grinder. The sette is a capable grinder, you may have just had the misfortune of getting a very misaligned unit. If you decide to move forward with a new grinder, you wouldn't necessarily need to go beyond something like the Option-o Lagom mini.

Vindibona1 (original poster)

#7: Post by Vindibona1 (original poster) »

drH wrote:Jeff's suggestions are right on, but since I've owned both the Classika and the Pro300 I thought I'd add some thoughts there.

The Classika was MUCH more forgiving. I can't explain exactly why but my guess is that the larger boiler and heavy E61 group delivers excellent temperature stability and perhaps the water delivery is a bit slower on the E61.
Switching back and forth between brew and steam on the Classika was workable but annoying.
The ready steam and hot water tap on the Pro300 was super convenient, but if you use the tap for Americanos or tea the frequent pump engagement feels distracting. If puck prep isn't great, the Pro300 will punish you- though it is a capable machine.

So if you don't care about steam, the Puristika is more versatile than the Classika. If it's only occasionally, maybe the Classika is enough.
Sorry in advance for the length. Meds I'm on are making me like chatty Cathy.

First, right now I'm working with the Gaggia to see how much is the barista, which it very well could be. My Sette 270 was problematic for a few weeks as the gear box needed replacing and didn't mesh with the old adjustment ring, and just mashed the threads. They sent me a new adjustment ring yesterday and things are working better with it. I've made 5 shots since yesterday, keeping data, making small incremental changes, keeping constants where possible. I have been using La Colombe Nizza (medium) coffee because my subscription gets me new coffee every week which while it has a "best by" stamp of 6 months away, I get it shipped from Philly and it can't be more than a week out of the roaster, but I believe, because it's shipped on Tuesday every week it might be as tight as 4-5 days out of the roaster and the "best by" date moves out every week. Next week I'm going to try their Corsica dark blend. My kids sent me some light blend from some outfit I never heard of. Way too fruity and lights and most of it went in the garbage.

Part of the problem is that while I can taste differences, I have a hard time distinguishing between bitter and sour. But I know when I like a shot, so I know I can identify a good one. That's sort of how I came to the Nizza beans. In my travels, there were a few coffee shops that I remarked how much I liked their shots and each time it was Nizza. That's how I came to these beans. The subscription is great as I get fresh beans, no tax, no shipping. The coffee in their local stores is MUCH older than what I get and the stores aren't really very close.. and 10.25% tax here.

In the last shots I've been measuring 17.5 g (for 36g output) in a ISM 20 gram basket. Temp set for 202°F. 5 second flush before the pull that drops to around 195°. I tried pushing the setting to 206° but it wasn't as good. TIme comes in at about 25 seconds. The last shot I pulled went 30 seconds and I account for that is a bit over aggressive tamping. Before final tamping I use a leveler to distribute the grind in the basket. I've had that for just a few days and I think that is helping. I resisted buying one for a few years. I guess what I'm getting at is that I'm trying to be consistent, but so far it hasn't happened. I'm thinking a larger boiler will at least give me a more narrow and consistent temp brew.

Machines: I'm glad you mentioned the Classika. I was thinking the Classika PID/w flow control. Something about the Pro 300 hasn't grabbed me. I thought the Classika with flow control might add controlled pre-infusion. In some ways the Silvia ProX has all the features, but for that kind of money it just seems so boring. I'd get the black one, if I acquiesced to that model. But the Classika is would be something that just wreaks of class. I dunno. Should looks really matter. While the Purista would have enough features the side reservoir won't work in the space and is an non starter.

At this point I will still work with the Gaggia to see if I can somehow come to consistent shots I will really like. The funny thing is that my last machine was a Saeco Sirena that I got refurb from SCG and a cheap Cuisinart grinder (in non pressurized basket) and regardless of the beans, Starbucks another brand that I ordered based on recommendation, the shots were better and more consistent than I've gotten with the Gaggia and Sette. So at least I know what I like when I like it while my diagnostic ability seems lacking, which is why I'm not so quick to pull the trigger on a new machine. Just contemplating if a better, more expensive machine will help?

As a side note, I think the wood handles on some models really have that extra touch, I think the prices they charge for a couple knobs and wood handle are outrageous.

Thanks for taking the time to reply.

Vindibona1 (original poster)

#8: Post by Vindibona1 (original poster) »

cebseb wrote:I'm with the "your espresso machine isn't the issue" camp. I would either work on your puck prep (RDT, WDT, tamping, etc) or upgrade your grinder. The sette is a capable grinder, you may have just had the misfortune of getting a very misaligned unit. If you decide to move forward with a new grinder, you wouldn't necessarily need to go beyond something like the Option-o Lagom mini.
Interesting you should mention the Sette as possibly being "misaligned". I wouldn't say it's "misaligned" as the grinds have always been very consistent to my eyes. However my Sette was one of the first to hit the shelves in 2017, having to wait a good amount of time until one came to WLL to ship to me. In the past year or so there are 3 separate occurances of parts break-downs where I've had to replace parts. First the circuit board, with with their redesigned circuit board. Next the motor assembly dies, and the new one was a redesigned one, but didn't mesh with the old adjustment ring, which I just received replacement yesterday. I can say that each new part was better designed and presumably more heavy duty than the original. What's great about the Sette is that the design simplicity allowed the Baratza rep to diagnose the problem and each repair was super simple for me to execute myself with simple tools. After getting the new adjustment ring yesterday I pulled 5 test shots n the past two days and I think I got pretty close straight away. Repairs/machine updates aside, the consistency of the grinds have always seemed excellent. I measured grind retention today and it was only 0.22 grams, absolutely negligible.

I think the problem is mostly lack of my barista skills, but I would like to think I'm getting close. Just a couple weeks ago I got one of those levelers and I think it's helped. I had been using one of the "funnels" and think perhaps it was creating a channel that wasn't getting evenly filled. The funnel, while I'm no longer using it as designed, it makes a great portafiter stand/holder when I want to set the PF down to do other things. So at this point I've narrowed down the variables to temp, tamp and possibly does, for the time being settling on 17.5g for 36g output. Working with 202°F which drops to 195° after 5 second flush.

Any other thoughts?