Home espresso set up options - need guidance

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

#1: Post by kmthacker »

Hello everyone, this is my first post here. I have been lurking around reading and soaking up what I can in terms of all the wisdom and the love for coffee that brings us all together. Coming to the question now

Based on my budget and current status, I have arrived at two potential coffee making set ups for me and i'd really appreciate some guidance and wisdom from folks here:

Set up 1: Bezzera (Bz13 or even a dual boiler) or something similar + a good entry level grinder (Niche or Eureka Specialita). (approx. 1900 GBP, 2500 USD)

Set up 2: Cafelat robot or Flair 58 + WPM milk steamer (https://www.wpm.hk/en/products_detail.php?id=343) + Niche or Specialita). (half the budget of above)

Context: 1) 4 milk based drinks a day. A few more over the weekend if friends come over. 2) relatively new to this wonderful world of coffee - not so refined palate but I do like my coffee to be good and can recognize when it is good or bad 3) like to keep things low maintenance and simple. 4) Currently using wacaco nanopresso + krups + aeroccino as a temporary fix for my work from home situation.

Questions:

1) Shot quality: How would you compare the texture or quality of coffee from robot to something like BZ13 or professional espresso? Mostly is it creamy/syrupy enough? I don't like watery shots.

2) multiple drinks: How significant is the workflow difference between two set ups especially when making 2 milk based drinks daily and 4-5 coffees back to back over weekends?

3) maintenance : I am not much of a DIY type guy when it comes to fixing things and prefer to keep things simple and low maintenance. So, I don't want to worry much about water quality, scaling etc. but if it is a compromise on espresso quality then i am happy to go the long mile and get the machine.

4) Between flair 58 and Robot, any strong reasons to pick one over the other?

Finally, I am open to any other guidance or alternative set ups on machines/grinder or anything as long as it is under 2500 USD.

Thank you so much in advance.

Decent Espresso: espresso equipment for serious baristas
Sponsored by Decent Espresso
thirdcrackfourthwave

#2: Post by thirdcrackfourthwave »

1. The shot quality of a Robot can be excellent. I don't find it watery.
2. I don't do a lot of milk drinks--we do have a steamer and I don't usually pull more than a couple of shots at a time. If I were doing five drinks on a double boiler, often, then the water delivery from a boiler v. from a kettle would make the semi-auto easier. Would that be offset by the cost and the maintenance issues--well that is for you to decide.
3. The maintenance on a Robot is relatively non-existent. I've literally done nothing after over 1700 shots.
4. Sorry I've never had my hands on a Flair so I've got nothing. You might see a lot of confirmation bias from owners. I'd try to find independent reviews on the net.

kmthacker (original poster)

#3: Post by kmthacker (original poster) »

Thank you for your response! Very helpful.

emradguy
Supporter ❤

#4: Post by emradguy »

From everything I've read about Robot and the pre-58 Flair units, they produce similar quality shots with similar effort. I started with the Flair back when it first hit Kickstarter, and have since upgraded to the Pro. The shot quality is/can be on par with pretty much any shot you can make/find on any pump driven or lever machine.

If you're going to be making several milk drinks in a break and serve session with guests, you should know it takes a fair amount of time. I've used my Flair for days on end in multiple trips where we had 6 or more cappuccino/latte drinkers, and wouldn't recommend it for that. It takes me an hour or more to serve everyone. Of course, part of that time is spent hand grinding, but my Kinu m47 has really helped with that. Having a machine that can help you steam milk is also going to save time. The sessions I describe included me heating milk in a single Subminimal pitcher on a gas range, and frothing it with their nanofoamer for each person. So, if you can circumvent some of my totally manual process, you can do it faster. That said, the drinks I am referring to were top notch. So, if your main concern is only quality, it can certainly be done.

So, above describes my air travel setup. For road trips, I use an Andreja Premium (a HX machine similar to the Bezzera you're looking at) and a Niche Zero. That too is a good setup, allowing me to prep cafe quality drinks when I'm away from home. It's certainly a lot easier than the manual gear, and I can serve more people faster with it, but it feels a little less like a craft.

User avatar
BaristaBoy E61

#5: Post by BaristaBoy E61 »

kmthacker wrote:Context: 1) 4 milk based drinks a day. A few more over the weekend if friends come over. 2) relatively new to this wonderful world of coffee - not so refined palate but I do like my coffee to be good and can recognize when it is good or bad 3) like to keep things low maintenance and simple.
Welcome to HB Krishna.

Based on the context you described, multiple milk based drinks, you might be better off with a DB E61 machine. Perhaps you should consider both the tedium factor down the line as well as the fun factor.

As long as you feed your machine with non-scaling water from the beginning, you should stay out of the problem zone.
"You didn't buy an Espresso Machine - You bought a Chemistry Set!"

User avatar
another_jim
Team HB

#6: Post by another_jim »

kmthacker wrote: 2) multiple drinks: How significant is the workflow difference between two set ups especially when making 2 milk based drinks daily and 4-5 coffees back to back over weekends?
You'll spend about five minutes making a shot and cleaning up for the next one on the regular Flair or Robot. Back to back shots are simply not an option unless you are serving extremely patient people or people who enjoy manual machines. The Flair 58 might save a minute on the thermal management.

My friends and I do a lot of get togethers. For tasting different coffees or just having a shot, it's always the regular machines. The Robot and Flair make clearer tasting, more brewed like shots; and if there's a coffee that will benefit, we'll start going to work -- but in the end, it will be five or six people each taking a tiny sip from the same shot. It's a lot like minimalist interior decorating -- simplicity and purity are "good to think;" but a great deal more work in real life.
Jim Schulman

mdmvrockford
Supporter ♡

#7: Post by mdmvrockford »

To original poster, please read all prior replies.

* Please realize you are in an age where choices are plentiful. Certainly there are many more choices for quality grinders & espresso brewers vs. 2005 when I started this journey

* It's a journey. The first grinder you buy and first espresso brewer you buy will very unlikely be your last (at your current budget). If you were getting a Kafetek Monolith grinder or EG1 grinder, it could be your last grinder. If you were getting Kees VdW Speedster or similar espresso brewer&steamer, it could be your last machine.

* I agree with "emradguy" and "another_jim" statements above. Fully manual (Robot and Flair58) making multiple consecutive espresso is time intensive and requires patient guests.

I got my Cafelat Robot (barista model) May 2021 to replace outgoing (gifted) Olympia Express Cremina (with pressure gauge). Being a masochist & seeing a challenge, I used Robot and Helor 106 (manual grinder with same burrset as Monolith Conical v3 and aligned and 4:1 gear reduction) and my Quickmill Alexia as steamer. For July 4 family get-together, I made 8 consecutive cappuccinos. Each cappuccino had double espresso: 20 grams beans,~ 22 grams drink, 1.25 fluid oz (used dark roasted bean). That got old...real quick.

It took ~60 seconds to grind 20 grams beans with Helor106 with its 4:1 gear reduction to ease handle turning effort, (b) with Robot ~ 60 seconds total (including ~8 seconds preinfusion and peak pressure 10 bars) to brew the Seattle-style ristretto that IMO punches through milk very well, (c) with Alexia ~10 seconds to steam 3 fluid ounces milk. I did not preheat Robot's parts (PF handle, basket/brew chamber, piston) as dark roast bean not benefit from preheating. I also had 2nd Robot portafilter basket/brew chamber to "speed up" process. After 8th cappuccino I was a little tired. Also, unlike using double boiler or heat exchanger, my attention was zero with guests (in-laws).

Of note, since 2015 when I got the Cremina, it has been used as espresso brewer when I play barista making 12 to 20 consecutive double espressos (again Alexia is steamer) at larger family get-togethers. For these parties, espresso grinder is Mazzer Super Jolly with aligned SSP Red Speed burrs and OEM doser. The Cremina has Teflon gasket between boiler and grouphead. Still it needs active cooling after ~ four consecutive shots.

* Random notes specific to Robot
(1) With Cafelat Robot, I can get thick, viscous espressos. This requires: high peak pressure e.g. at least 10 bars, final brew ratio >85% and volume ~ 1.25 to 1.5 fluid ounces. Such ristretto espresso brew ratios (with at least medium-dark roasted beans) are among my favorites. I am glad the Robot can output these as well as the Cremina can. But unlike the Cremina, the Robot can output lungo brew ratios for light-roast beans too as it has larger volume brew chamber vs the Cremina.

(2) In my humble opinion, the Robot hands are essential for comfort and should be standard. I store the OEM Robot tamper not in claw hand but under the piston.
https://www.cafelatstore.com/products/robot-hands

Of note, I have never used Flair58 in person. I have seen videos of it such as this one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xo-O1JZjTtY
LMWDP #568

CafelatStore: home of Cafelat products online
Sponsored by CafelatStore
zan

#8: Post by zan »

mdmvrockford wrote:
Helor106 with its 4:1 gear reduction
I would be grateful if you could gave information about the 4:1 gear reducer.

Thanks. Regards

mdmvrockford
Supporter ♡

#9: Post by mdmvrockford » replying to zan »

Turning the handle four times gives one rotation of the inner conical burr. So this greatly reduces effort to turn the inner conical burr (outer conical burr remains stationary). But this is at expense of speed to grind beans. The original hand grinders like the older Orphan Espresso Pharos had similar sized conical burr (68mm) with no gear reduction. Light-roasted beans were a chore for non-Arnold Schwartzenegger's to turn crank w/o bracing the grinder.

Here is my review of the Helor 106. Helor 106 [MANUAL GRINDER REVIEW] And here is post with gear reduction mechanism for original Helor 106 (one with larger top cap that houses this gear reduction) The Helor Flux Grinder Review
LMWDP #568

zan

#10: Post by zan »

HI,
mdmvrockford
many thanks for your information and review.
On the helor 102 with 2:1 reduction and 83/59 burrs it is very hard to grind light roast.
I thought it was an external accessory reducer attached to the mill what you mean.
Sorry my mistake and off-topic. Regards.