Is the ECM Mechanika MAX good for my long term needs ? - Page 2

Recommendations for buyers and upgraders from the site's members.
boren
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#11: Post by boren »

I would go for the less expensive Lelit MaraX instead. It's smaller than the Mechanica Max and has similar technology for improved temperature stability. The only downside is that it uses a vibration pump instead of a rotary one, but unless you plan to plumb in the machine it's not an issue. The MaraX pump is very quiet for a vibration pump. A complete non-issue in my opinion.

Timed pre-infusion is not a very useful feature, because different beans/basket combinations require different timings. It's much simpler to use lower the lever to the middle position when the puck is saturated, or ignore it all together and rely on the preinfusion chamber that's built into E61 groupheads.

Alternatively, consider the Profitec Pro 600 - an E61 dual boiler machine for pretty much the same money as the Max.

DaveC
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#12: Post by DaveC »

baldheadracing wrote:FYI ChefRayB, this is a very strong endorsement for this machine.

DaveC, will you be publishing a review of the machine?
I had a preproduction version many months before release...fed back to ECM. I did see some reviews on the internet, so didn't bother. I did do one with my old phone but the video quality was really poor, so I didn't publish it. I was also concerned that my software and some of the hardware (after my feedback), isn't quite the same as production ones. I do have all the bits required to upgrade it...but I simply set it up to cope with those things (some features I didn't use) and have not yet bothered to upgrade it...this also made me reticent to review it.

I have a better phone now so I might do a short video overview as I am not sure people fully understand the machine and some of the benefits. The reviews I did see just went through all the features....and there are a LOT of features. Most of them are one time settings and not something you would be doing every day and that would be a RTFM as far as any review I do is concerned. e.g. it has a 7 day timer that is as awkward to set up as the old video recorders (2 buttons and a small screen is the reason), so realistically people are going to use a smart plug like I do.

The machine has many benefits not really pushed in the manual (the one I had was just a dry listing of features), or by reviewers....

There are best use setups for the machine for different scenarios.

3 or 7 coffees spread thorough the day for 1 or 2 people (BC2 Mode)
Heavier usage (BC3 mode)
Lone user having a few cups per day (BC1 Mode)
Party time...loads of people round (HX style Mode, with or without flush advisor)


This isn't really touched on by anyone and I know you won't have seen the above anywhere, in fact ECM didn't really want to factory setup the machine in BC2 mode as I advised and I "think it still comes in one of the HXy type modes.

Someone mentioned the MaraX, which I also had and worked on the prototype, but to compare them and say well the ECM has a rotary and the MaraX has a vibe pump is not really correct at all, there is a big difference in the way they work. One of the major ones is steaming, based on an idea I suggested to Michael for the Profitec Pro 400, which got incorporated in this machine. Steaming. used in one of the BC modes, which is how I would suggest it's always used unless you have a party...steaming is always available, only when you want to steam, otherwise brew temp is held stable a huge difference over the MaraX. The MaraX assumes you will steam after 1 espresso unless you set it to a mode I suggested to Lelit (an espresso only mode).

The brew temp is managed a little better and you can change the brew temp.

It's far closer to a dual boiler than MaraX, in fact so close, I left it on the counter even though I have about 15 dual boiler machines. It's just super convenient to use, very energy efficient and when I want steam, I got powerful steam without a wait. Basically when I pull and espresso shot, I press the steam button, by the time the shot is finished, the steam boiler is coming up to temp (kdoesn't really affect the brew temp as most/all of the water is already delivered to the group well before that time. Shot ends, by the time I've removed the scales, cup and PF from the group...I'm ready to steam. When done I can press the button again and return to temp control mode (steam off), or in another 2.5m the machine will automatically go back to that mode...it's brilliant. In fact steaming is so convenient, it beats any machine in that area. A dual boiler run without the steam boiler on is going to take 5-7 minutes to get to steam temp...depending on boiler size. Also when a dual boiler steam boiler is switched off, all that extra energy used is lost. The ECM single boiler only has to go up around 20C and then loose that much smaller amount of energy as it goes back down to brew temp (not a 100C+ swing in a 2 litre steam boiler). Plus there's less stress on components, less complication, lower internal case temps over all...too many things to mention really.

So yeah...none of this is mentioned in reviews and we get to well meaning comments..."ah it's the same as MaraX except for the pump", when it's worlds apart, but does cost more

It will come off the bench soon though when I finally get my ACS Evo. However until then it has been a firm favourite machine....compact, nice build quality etc... So for the original poster my advice still stands...for your use case it's well worth considering!

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Jeff
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#13: Post by Jeff »

I'm less impressed with the way that the Max manages temperature than that of the Mara X. My understanding is that Lelit has a pending patent on how they manage group temperature. There have been other "three-position" machines, seemingly positioned to compete with the Mara X, which have not impressed me as they still have a single sensor. The Max seems to be a bit better than just changing the boiler temperature, but it is sensing the input on the way to the group head where the Mara X is sensing the output, from what I understand.

I would definitely consider opinions of people other than those that work closely with the manufacturers, even if their only "benefit" is that they get machines sent to them. Lance is not perfect, but represents another opinion.

DaveC
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#14: Post by DaveC »

Jeff wrote: There have been other "three-position" machines, seemingly positioned to compete with the Mara X, which have not impressed me as they still have a single sensor. The Max seems to be a bit better than just changing the boiler temperature, but it is sensing the input on the way to the group head where the Mara X is sensing the output, from what I understand.

I would definitely consider opinions of people other than those that work closely with the manufacturers, even if their only "benefit" is that they get machines sent to them. Lance is not perfect, but represents another opinion.

video
just so people reading are clear, as I am sure you understand. The Max isn't a "3 position machine" like MaraX which has a switch behind the drip tray., people might get confused with the profitec 400, which is a "3 position machine" The ECM has a brew temperature setting in degrees C (or F) and offset, so just like a dual boiler machine, you can set a brew temperature with an offset modifier...the HX unit effectively becoming a "brew boiler" heated by the outer water jacket in the single boiler. This means temperature control in essence very similar to a dual boiler machine....which MaraX doesn't do.

The ECM has sensors in the HX leading to the group and the Main part of the boiler...and monitors both of these to keep a stable brew temp. The only time this changes, is when you want steam...

Whether you sense the input or the output doesn't really matter, all dual boilers in essence sense an "input", or what the "input" is going to be. Sensing the output isn't really superior in any way...one just senses an input and delivers a prediction to get a different input to get the right brew temp...the other senses an output and gives a prediction to achieve a different input to get the right brew temp

having worked on both machines...each has it's merits...the Lelit being very small and cheaper, but the mechanisms are different. Max has more features, excellent build quality and better brew temp control, but you do pay a premium price for this. Both are good machines and you would probably be delighted with either...but it's important to understand what you are buying.

P.S. Having machines sent to work on isn't really a "benefit" as they mostly can't be sold (I've actually never sold one) and end up taking up space. I agree take opinions from others, but value the ones from people who have worked on both machines and have no axe to grind either way. Whichever machine you buy or don't buy, I don't stand to gain anything at all

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baldheadracing
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#15: Post by baldheadracing »

One also has to keep in mind local market values. The OP is in Toronto, and I don't think that the Mechanika MAX is currently priced competitively. In CAD$, current MAP, local (GTA) dealers:
- Bianca $4000
- Alex Duetto - $3650
- Pro 600 - $3530 (with or without flow control)
- Mechanika Max $3400 (with or without flow control)
- La Spaz S1 Mini - $3300
- Quick Mill QM67 - $3100
- Strega $3000
- Mara X $2400
- Breville Dual Boiler $1900

So 42% more than a Mara X and 80% more than a BDB. Myself, I'd take the money difference and get a better grinder or two.
-"Good quality brings happiness as you use it" - Nobuho Miya, Kamasada

ChefRayB (original poster)
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#16: Post by ChefRayB (original poster) »

baldheadracing wrote:FYI ChefRayB, this is a very strong endorsement for this machine.
DaveC, will you be publishing a review of the machine?
That was the plan, then reading online that DB with temp stability can make a difference. I guess I am just exploring.
baldheadracing wrote:One also has to keep in mind local market values. The OP is in Toronto, and I don't think that the Mechanika MAX is currently priced competitively. In CAD$, current MAP, local (GTA) dealers .....
So 42% more than a Mara X and 80% more than a BDB. Myself, I'd take the money difference and get a better grinder or two.
Indeed, the Lelit Mara X is 1k CAD cheaper but doesn't have a rotary pump, only 3-way temp switch, Temp sensor probes in different locations, no offset, no PID display, no timer display, limited to 4.5ml/s if you install a flow control, no standard e61 lever switch for pre-infusion/saturation and after 2+ hours low temp (92C) seems to be hard to bring down even after flushing a few times. (Based on Specs + Lance video) My newbie spider sense tells me to put 1k extra for the long term... I know it's 1k CAD, it's almost 2k CAD gross revenue with Canada's higher revenue taxation....
gonzomup wrote:For what its worth, I have a Mechanika Max coming. For me this is an upgrade from the Breville Barista Pro. Your use case, ChefRayB is similar to mine, although I make more drinks each day than you it sounds like. I did a fair amount of research, too, and at this price point, I feel that going with any familiar brand (ECM, Bezzera, Rocket, etc.) is going to give you a great machine. You're choosing between features and styling...as much as E61 grouphead machines can look different from each other. :P
Good luck making your decision!
hi Gonzompup, Thanks. Really it boils down (no punt intended) to HX or DB. I might actually start getting the 64mm grinders before and then upgrade the machine at the end !
vizia wrote:Yes, temperature did make quite an impact on the coffee .....
Hi Vizia, I think for you its DB for life with a fast on demand heat time. Gotta reflect on that and budget!

ChefRayB (original poster)
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#17: Post by ChefRayB (original poster) »

DaveC wrote: having worked on both machines...each has it's merits...the Lelit being very small and cheaper, but the mechanisms are different. Max has more features, excellent build quality and better brew temp control, but you do pay a premium price for this. Both are good machines and you would probably be delighted with either...but it's important to understand what you are buying.
Hi DaveC,

Thanks for confirming the Mechanika Max key special features with their HX system. I came to similar conclusions by looking at WLL and Lance youtube and then reading (a few times) the manufacturer user manual. I must say that if one would not take the time to understand how HX or a DB system works, then reading the reviews or manufacturer user manual makes it a bit harder to understand or appreciate some features.

From an engineering efficiency & reliability point of view, HX + BTC mode + Steam button makes sense. What I haven't yet found out is what happens after 1.5-2 or after 4 hours e61 group head gets too hot, then flush light would turn on forever until you manually flush it ?. I read online that people just do a few flushes to get the right temperature before pulling a shot. I'm asking because I personally make 1 or 2 espresso(s) between 8:00am-1:00pm, that's 5 hours range. I wonder how many flush required after 2+ hours of warm-up. For CAD $3.5k HX system, the question is the temp fluctuation acceptable or relevant?

Based on your feedback and my situation, HX system shouldn't have a big impact because I only steam on weekends occasionally. Additionally, I also like the shortcut button to turn on/off pre-infusion because I can leave it ON by default so I hope one day that my spouse can simply pull one by lifting the level up, have auto pre-infusion for ligh-medium roast and pulling down the level at n seconds. When I make an espresso, I can easily disable pre-infusion using a shortcut button (Rare feature) and use lever switch and flow control manually.

After just recently reading on burr types and understanding the impact they have on the espresso/drip, I think it might be better to first buy two 64mm grinders and experiment with my current setup for an espresso (breville barista pro) and drip (Mockamaster). Afterwards buy the espresso machine. I have to read forums/videos on Breville Barista Pro vs ECM Mechanica ! Is the 3.5k worth it?

Regards

ChefRayB

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baldheadracing
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#18: Post by baldheadracing »

ChefRayB wrote:Indeed, the Lelit Mara X is 1k CAD cheaper but doesn't have a rotary pump, only 3-way temp switch, Temp sensor probes in different locations, no offset, no PID display, no timer display, limited to 4.5ml/s if you install a flow control, no standard e61 lever switch for pre-infusion/saturation and after 2+ hours low temp (92C) seems to be hard to bring down even after flushing a few times. (Based on Specs + Lance video) My newbie spider sense tells me to put 1k extra for the long term... I know it's 1k CAD, it's almost 2k CAD gross revenue with Canada's higher revenue taxation....
I guess it depends on how one's feels about the E-61 group. I know people love the aethetics of that group, which is as good a reason as any to have such a machine. Certainly among my friends "of a certain age," the E-61 is espresso thanks to FAEMA's 1960's-70's-80's market dominance in Canada.

What people don't seem to realize is that, besides aesthetics, these days the E-61 is used in so many prosumer machines due to cost and availability. The E-61 is both the least-expensive and the most-available commercial-style group that companies can use.

To put it another way, the 1961 Chevrolet Impala SS 409 is wonderful car with a legendary engine, but for actual use as a car, a 2023 Toyota Avalon is better in almost every objective measure. Of course, if one wants that legendary engine, then one gets the 1961 Impala. If one wants that legendary group, then one gets an E-61 HX machine. Both are legends for good reason, but would you want to drive either every day?

"You can't make a race horse of a pig."
"No," said Samuel, "but you can make a very fast pig."
― John Steinbeck, East of Eden
-"Good quality brings happiness as you use it" - Nobuho Miya, Kamasada

DaveC
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#19: Post by DaveC »

baldheadracing wrote:
What people don't seem to realize is that, besides aesthetics, these days the E-61 is used in so many prosumer machines due to cost and availability. The E-61 is both the least-expensive and the most-available commercial-style group that companies can use.
It's used in a lot of prosumer machines because of it's flexibility, accessories availability, performance and the fact that consumers like it. It's actually not cheap (definitely not the least expensive).

As for comparing the performance with an old car, that's not completely fair. The E61 group has a lot going for it in the modern world, just because the concept was old doesn't make it inferior. Modern tech has enabled it to really shine as a group. e.g. cartridge heated PID controlled E61s as release by ECM and ACS...two different approaches, with pros and cons for each approach. This really bring the E61 bang up to date.

I wouldn't have spent hours late into the night unpaid) pressing heating cartridges into their (oxy acetylene expanded heat sinks to go into an E61 group if it wasn't worthwhile and I didn't believe in the concept. There were a lot of failures and learning before we managed to make 3 !!! I would have gone and had some food and rest.

I love modern tech married effectively with the best of the old tech.

P.S. My defence of the E61 group :D

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Jeff
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#20: Post by Jeff »

Those seem to me to read more like marketing pieces than anything else. Claiming that an HX tube is akin to a double boiler seems like quite a stretch.

The thermodynamics of the E61 group were breakthrough at the time. With a constant flow of drinks and a properly adjusted thermosiphon, you could get the amount of heat spilled by the group to balance that arriving through the thermosiphon and achieve a rough brew temperature that was in the wide range of acceptable temperatures of the espresso blends and customer expectations of the era. The huge mass smoothed the variations, including those of the pressurestat. The thermodynamics of the thermosiphon and mass of and losses from the group make a PID on a traditional HX little more than a marketing bullet as far as brew temperature stability goes. I'll say that a GIcar and probe may be more reliable than a traditional pressurestat.

E61 was a hit -- then La Marzocco brought in the dual boiler with saturated groups. Saturated or close-coupled groups generally have significant advantages in thermodynamics over the E61.

Fast forward 60 years -- coffee sourcing and roasting has changed significantly for many people. While you can still buy commodity coffee expertly blended and roasted for espresso, contemporary coffees (even before getting into light-roast espresso) require better control than the bar blends of the 1960s and the expectations of its consumers.

Things get even more silly when you use an E61 group with a dual boiler. Now you have a lower temperature differential to drive the thermosiphon so have slower flow and poorer coupling with the boiler. Having an adjustable PID offset isn't really a feature, it's a necessity since the group head idles several degrees lower than the boiler.

"Modern approaches" like cartridge heaters in an E61 are a hack. It helps deal with the reality that an E61 group typically takes 30-45 minutes to come to temperature equilibrium, no matter what the marketing material and PID display says. It makes a bit more sense on a lever group as it is harder to get away from the mass of a huge casting. There are those that are moving away from big chunks of brass hanging out in the breeze even for levers. From what I understand you have a cosy relationship with ACS as well.

The E61 has visual appeal and most repair shops know how to deal with them. People think that is how an espresso machine is supposed to look. Domestic units use them because they can sell machines at their target price point.