Help me understand the nuances- HX vs boilers - Page 2

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

#11: Post by JRising »

Jeff wrote: The Silvia is a non-starter for me, due to lack of PI control, s as well as usability problems with the drip tray having me wonder what else they didn't think about.
I think he's talking Silvia Pro X (2 boiler with PID)
Absolutely decent machine, good build quality, and other than shallowness, I don't know the drip tray issue.

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

I'd say keep watching videos until your choice becomes clear. If you don't do a lot of milk, why get a DB? Temp control on the HX machines seems to be a non issue these days, PID or not. View the Whole Latte Love video on the Quick Mill Pathfinder which doesn't have a PID. A PID on an HX box makes for a pretty stable brew temperature (a rabbit hole topic let's avoid for the moment). Instead of a pressure stat oscillating around the temperature the PID tip toes up to the temperature. The cost is a slightly slower recovery time, maybe a minute. You brew 2 espressos a day so who cares about that. The Mara X is a nice box but I keep thinking it's solving problems that don't exist. The cost is lack of control and added complexity, i.e., problems. LO/MED/Hi temp control. Maybe that's perfect for you, maybe it isn't. The brew temp is actually measured at the water input back into the boiler so it's still an estimate of sorts. There is a really nice review video of the Mara X on this site under the Blog thread. At the money you're talking, you can't really go wrong. I'd start with picking an HX box with a PID and then do the pros and cons. You have to grease an E61 cam once a month so consider maintenance. Warm up time?, turn it on with a timer. Enjoy.

Vindibona1 (original poster)

#13: Post by Vindibona1 (original poster) »

Jeff wrote:Personal opinion, reasonably unvarnished, which may not suit you and your tastes, but you asked. I've been making espresso a long time, prefer light roasts, find Italian espresso unrewarding, and am very picky. I can afford to take risks on a machine and neither go coffee-less or hungry if a $1,000 machine isn't as good as I'd hope.

1) Argos Odyssey - I have one on order. Might be great, might be an "also ran". Time will tell.

2) Used Bianca, Synchronika, or Pro 700 w/flow kit

3) Lelit Elizabeth

The Silvia is a non-starter for me, due to lack of PI control, s as well as usability problems with the drip tray having me wonder what else they didn't think about.
I like the general direction of your suggestions, the Bianca, Synchronika, and 700 exceed the width my kitchen can accommodate. While the list price of the Bianca would be a stretch and I could move something on the counter, the sad news is that I get ripped off for 10.25% tax would be $266, almost $2900. How long does it take for a Bianca to warm up?

So let's back up here a sec... I don't understand the initials "PI" control that's lacking with the Silvia X. I've never been enamored with that one any way. I'm not sure that a dual boiler is essential. With the exception of the missing dual boiler, what do you think of the ECM PID w flow control? Also, while the Lelit Liz has a dual boiler, it's kind of plain jane and wider than I'd like (12").

Any further thoughts?

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#14: Post by Jeff »

PI -- "preinfusion" -- a long-standing term talking about the basket-fill and soak period before the pressure is raised in the basket for the main extraction of a typical espresso shot. Control over PI allows one to "play tricks" with more challenging coffees, typically lighter roasts, to make choices that would ordinarily choke the machine or favor channeling. These "tricks" generally aren't needed for classic espresso roasts and blends. The Silvia X's "soft infusion" feature doesn't cover this, at least based on the descriptions provided by Rancilio themselves, such as at It seems that it is working a bit like the PI chamber in the original E61. It certainly is working as a marketing bullet.

Rancilio makes some very solid machines. They just aren't machines that appeal to me.

Many people think the machine I primarily use is ugly (I agree), is delivered with a horrible UI (I agree), is over-marketed for its actual capabilities (I agree), has questionable long-term supportability and will forever be "in beta". There are no "perfect" machines out there, or even ones that are close to perfect for everyone.

Virtually all E61 boxes within a given class are close enough to the same that you need to pick on price, how convenient or inconvenient the controls are, if you believe the manufacturer is "adequate" quality, or "less-than-adequate" quality, and if you feel the machine's aesthetic matches well with yours.

You asked me what I'd buy with a $2,000 budget. That's my list above. What matters to me is likely different than what matters to you. For example, a "lefty" might find a given machine a delight to use, but a righty would complain about burning their forearm on the group head.

With the exception of the Mara X, I wouldn't recommend a new HX machine to any relative newcomer to espresso. For those that insist, I consider an EricS group-head thermometer essential, if you're looking for temperature repeatability. There are enough threads talking about the problems and outright failures of machines that have "tuned" thermosiphons to make a walk-up first shot. Add a group-head thermometer to an E61, you can't add a flow kit. (Machining new holes in the group head is not what I'd consider as "customary mods" for most people.)

I can't get excited about a SB with an E61 group that you are going to steam with. You will end up throwing off the temperature for the second shot by increasing the heat flow while the boiler is at steaming temperature. Sure, the PID number will fall back quickly, but you've got a big chunk of brass out there that has absorbed the heat internally. An ECM Puritiska, Quick Mill Carola, or similar, espresso-only machine doesn't have this problem.

I don't think most people need much better than the high/medium/low temperature settings of the Mara X, especially if they're usually pulling classic espresso. If you think you do, then you really need to look at machines in the many-thousand range with close-coupled, saturated, or direct-feedback groups. I don't think you can get much better than around a 2°C brew-temperature window with a home-intended E61 [Edit: without operator intervention or a custom, add-on control system]. (I don't consider Kees' machines as "home-intended", which possibly do a little better.)


#15: Post by JohanR »

Vindibona1 wrote: As I go through all the specs I see one machine that has a boiler, go to the next model and then see in the specs it's an HX. Example is the Profitec Pro 300 (dual boiler) and the next step is the 600 with HX. Now throw in the ECM Classika PID Espresso Machine single boiler and wonder if that's all I need? And then looking at other brands they all seem to offer boilers and HX models. Do I avoid HX or lean into them? Also, do the E61 brew groups come into play with either one?
The Profitec 600 is actually a double boiler with PID for both boilers and an E61 group. It has a vibration pump and smaller boilers than Bianca/Pro 700/Synchronica so it is a about 20% cheaper. It also has a smaller footprint. So may be worth considering.


#16: Post by gobucks »

Maybe I'm in the minority, but I actually kinda like the aesthetics of the saturated grouphead machines like the Silvia and Elizabeth. Sure, they lack a bit of the flair of an e61, but I like the minimalist big tower of steel look, and have gotten several positive comments from visiting friends and family about the Elizabeth. I especially like the round, art-deco style PID of the Elizabeth (I think the Bianca has a similar one).

I think they're both tremendous values at sub-$2000, and seem like they might fit your size requirements better than a big e61 DB machine. I picked the Elizabeth, and have been quite happy with it. The feature set is really great, in particular I like the programmable pressure preinfusion, the smooth flow of the hot water tap (it mixes brew and steam water), high steam pressure, quiet pump, and the auto shot shutoff timer option. I have had some minor repair issues though - I had a steam leak in the water sensor probe that required resealing, and my power switch needed to be replaced. Both issues were resolved under warranty.

The Silvia Pro X has a bigger steam boiler than the Elizabeth, overall sturdier construction (it weighs nearly twice as much), and dual pumps, one each for steam and brew. My biggest gripe, as mentioned by a few others, is the passive preinfusion - it doesn't apply pressure, it just lets the water naturally seep into the puck. My Elizabeth also supports this mode, but you can alternatively apply steam boiler pressure to aid in the preinfusion, and that works much better. Passive is ok, it's better than nothing (looking at you, Profitec Pro 300), but it's not ideal. The drip tray also looks pretty annoying, as it requires you to lift it up and out over a front lip without spilling, not a great design. Overall it seems like a good machine, though, and will likely last a long time.
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#17: Post by jgood »

There is no particular reason why you should want a HX machine if you rarely steam milk. There are many variables in espresso making and there is no reason why temp management should be one of them. I have never used a single boiler for steam, so I can't comment on the switchover, but I am sure you can master that. The great advantage of a DB is that everything is ready for espresso and for steam, without any extra steps. I would also consider that your tastes may change. I have a Quickmill Carola, which is a single boiler espresso only machine -- I assumed I would stay a pure espresso drinker -- and got a Bellman stovetop steamer for the occasional cap. Very workable and an excellent E61 machine. Time passed and I wanted more convenient steam as I was making 6 caps a day, between my wife and myself. Fortunately QM makes a "companion" steamer that matches the Carola - so essentially I have a DB. BTW consider carefully where you purchase as you will have technical questions about your machine or a minor repair -- great phone support (and a great service dept w parts and knowledge) can be a godsend. And get a great grinder and read the posts on water.


#18: Post by randyh »

Hearing that you're mostly a straight espresso drinker, I don't think HX machine is good for you. You want to be able to tweak and optimize the extraction, and HX is just not going to give you enough temperature control for that. Along those lines, I would also not get any machine that doesn't give you flow/pressure control. I speak from 4 1/2 years of experience with a Profitec Pro 500 and a few weeks of having flow control on it. I'm mostly a milk drink guy, so it has served me well. But the past few weeks using flow control honestly has been a game changer for me. Having complete control over pre-infusion for time and pressure and being able to back off on the pressure towards the end of the shot as the puck erodes to prevent acceleration of flow has made a significant improvement in the cup.
So that leaves espresso only flow controllable machines if you don't care about steam vs. double boiler flow control machines if you want to have the steam option sometimes.

espresso only:
-Strietman CT2 (this would satisfy the fancy you're looking for, this machine just looks amazing, also fast heat up, super stable temps, complete control over your extraction with manual lever). This is the one I would get if I were in your shoes.
-Flair 58, which is basically a poor man's Strietman if you wanna get in cheap just to feel it out.
-any E61 single boiler with added flow control. Even the SBDU ones would be ok, but just don't use the steam function unless it is the last drink you're going to be making for a while.
-Londinium is supposed to come out with a compact lever at some point if you believe it and can wait

double boiler:
-any E61 DB add flow control (Pro 700, ECM synchronika, Lelit Bianca, plus a million other copies. You might be extra interested in the Lucca S58 for smaller countertop footprint
-Breville dual boiler with slayer mod (I've moved on to this from the Pro 500). unbelievably feature packed for the price, as good or better temp stability vs anything else out there, but if you like fancy you probably won't like this for the fit/finish/quality. If you're willing to do some troubleshooting, DIY repairs/mods, and all else fails send it into Breville for repair/replacement, you can't beat this machine for performance/price ratio.
-Decent DE1PRO. likely out of your (and my) price range but basically limitless in what you can do espresso extraction wise.
-La Marzzoco GS3 MP, Slayer etc completely absurdly expensive commercial build machines

A word on the E61 grouphead.
The pros
- it is everywhere, so parts are easily found and quite straightforward to DIY service. Some think it looks great, I am one of those.
- flow control. game changer. so cool that you can just add it to the group easily yourself and it works SO WELL.
The cons
-it takes a long time to come up to temp (45 min if you really want it to reach steady state). smart plug helps for the routine, but not for spontaneous moments when you want to make coffee
-harder to keep clean because the mechanism gets squeaky when detergent is flushed through it. Then you have to remove the lever and grease the cam which is a pain so then you avoid detergent back flushing and don't do it as often as you should.
-not as temp stable as some saturated/integrated groups from what I've read here.


#19: Post by DaveC »

Another HX to consider is the very recently Launched Profitec Pro 400, this has a switch to manage the temperature, for espresso use, or turning it up for steaming, a system that's simply and works well. It gives you an alternative HX option to MaraX


#20: Post by xman111 »

Jeff wrote: With the exception of the Mara X, I wouldn't recommend a new HX machine to any relative newcomer to espresso. For those that insist, I consider an EricS group-head thermometer essential, if you're looking for temperature repeatability. There are enough threads talking about the problems and outright failures of machines that have "tuned" thermosiphons to make a walk-up first shot. Add a group-head thermometer to an E61, you can't add a flow kit. (Machining new holes in the group head is not what I'd consider as "customary mods" for most people.)
i was just thinking of upgrading our Silvia to a Profitec Pro 500 with pid. I guess this is a bad idea? trying to wrap my head around the HX machines.