Itching to try something new... lever or E61

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

#1: Post by GregoryJ »

I currently have a Breville Dual Boiler (BDB) and Niche Zero at home, and a Cafelat Robot which I sometimes use at work and sometimes at home. I'm pretty happy with the espresso from the BDB. I usually use med-dark roasted coffees which I roast at home. I rarely use the pre-infusion features of the BDB because I find that the fine grind it results in usually gives a more bitter result. I drink straight espressos myself, but make lattes for the family.

I'm super pleased with the espresso from the Robot, but having a steam capability is a must.

I don't really feel a need to "upgrade", but I am getting a little bored with the BDB and would like to try something new. Thank you for any guidance! Also, if you know of any places around San Jose where I could try out spring levers or E61 machines, that would be great (once our current situation starts to clear up).

1. I am considering a spring lever like the Elektra Microcasa a Leva. It is a little intimidating though, having to make sure I don't let the boiler run dry. And I might get frustrated with the workflow, having to let the portafilter depressurize before making the next shot. Also I'm used to ~36g shots and this might make considerably smaller shots. The baskets are smaller on these machines, so I would have to get some new accessories as well :/

2. I'm also interested in the glowing reviews of the Lelit MaraX. I don't think it would be any huge advantage over the BDB, but it does look nice and I've never tried an E61 machine before. I also like that it can plug in to a wall timer so I can have it hot and ready when I get home from work. Also, it doesn't go into hibernate mode after 1 hour of inactivity :x But, the temp stability is likely not as good as the BDB.

There are also a couple options that don't involve trying a new machine... which of course don't sound as fun.

3. I could mod the BDB with the flow control needle valve, and try to do a spring lever shot that way. My understanding is that it starts around 8 bar and decreases from there.

4. I could just get a little electric frother to go with the robot (or just keep using the BDB for steam). My family and friends are not too particular about the microfoam quality in steamed milk. I usually only use the robot for single shots, so I'll have to practice making multiples, but I don't expect it to be quite as easy as with a plug-in machine.

chipman

#2: Post by chipman »

You may want to drive over the hill to Santa Cruz and stop in to Great Infusions, that is if they are still allowed to be open.
https://greatinfusions.com

pcrussell50

#3: Post by pcrussell50 »

GregoryJ wrote: 1. I am considering a spring lever like the Elektra Microcasa a Leva. It is a little intimidating though, having to make sure I don't let the boiler run dry. And I might get frustrated with the workflow, having to let the portafilter depressurize before making the next shot. Also I'm used to ~36g shots and this might make considerably smaller shots. The baskets are smaller on these machines, so I would have to get some new accessories as well :/
If you are already using the Robot, I think you can get used to the MCAL. I have a BDB (that I'm very happy with as you know), but I also have a couple of La Pavoni direct levers. And I like them a lot. I usually use them in the vacation/summer home. But the espresso geek in me is interested in a spring lever and since I'm used to rudimentary machines, the MCAL fits the bill. I'll be jealous if you get one. :wink:
GregoryJ wrote: 3. I could mod the BDB with the flow control needle valve, and try to do a spring lever shot that way. My understanding is that it starts around 8 bar and decreases from there.
You can certainly do all that an more after doing the internal tube re-route through the needle valve. Pretty much anything you want in the way of flow controlled extraction. You can start high and taper low, or start low, peak, then taper off, or even go high low high low (not that you would, but you could), literally anything you want.

BUT on the psychological side. if you really are bored with the BDB, maybe it won't be your best choice. OR... do the mod since it's totally reversible, and see if it rekindles the old fire.

HTH

-Peter
LMWDP #553

GregoryJ

#4: Post by GregoryJ »

Thanks Chipman, I didn't see any spring levers on their website, but I'll definitely try to get over there once the shelter in place is over.

GregoryJ

#5: Post by GregoryJ »

pcrussell50 wrote:OR... do the mod since it's totally reversible, and see if it rekindles the old fire
Yes, that seems like the rational thing to do!

Montrealer

#6: Post by Montrealer »

I am somewhat in the same boat, looking for more adventure only slight difference is i am already doing pressure profiling with a completely stock BDB..

My current "Go to" routine looks something like this:
I set preinfusion to 25 secs at 55% pressure and grinding to get the entire basket sweatting just before full pressure. Depending on the speed of the shot i crack open the hot water valve to drop pressure and slow things down about 2/3rds of the desired output to complete the shot in about 1 min total.

Playing around with the stock machine's profiling capabilites could keep you busy/interested for quite some time, until you find YOUR favorite profile...

This being said, am still attracted to levers for the coolness/fun factor + trying something new, but i am definitly not expecting to make better espresso out of it and nor do I think it will make things any easier in regards to consistency etc.

Temperature control is one of my concerns as the temp stabilty of the BDB has proven to be eye opening and I am not really interested in dealing with anything related to temp surfing and the inconsitencies it generates. Also, I am not really interested in making any additional major investments and that is why i am eyeing caravels, pepinas or other open boiler manual levers.

Spring levers seem neat but my understanding is that some seem to lack the 100% pressure control i have grown to love.

mathof

#7: Post by mathof »

If you usually use med-dark roasted coffees, I don't think that you would find much difference in taste from profiling machines, including levers. If you are looking for new espresso experiences, you might begin by trying lighter coffees. The lighter you go, the more you will want a new machine, to tame sour notes and to bring out other nuances.

GregoryJ

#8: Post by GregoryJ »

I am researching the Londinium R a bit. I like that it gives larger shot volumes and has the standard 58mm basket size. With the current exchange rates it's ~$2.6k which is quite a bit more than I was looking to spend.
Montrealer wrote: Playing around with the stock machine's profiling capabilites could keep you busy/interested for quite some time, until you find YOUR favorite profile...
Thanks for encouraging me to play with the pressure capabilities again. I don't think I'll get around to the needle valve mod until next weekend, but I have been trying lower pressure shots. For example, I set preinfusion time to 90s (entire shot for me), and pressure to 80%. This resulted in the pressure maxing out around 6.5 bar and giving a very robot-esque shot flavor.

Image

Montrealer

#9: Post by Montrealer »

Just to be clear, you may not need to do the needle valve mod to get started.

Put your blind basket on, let the machine ramp up to full pressure and slowly open the hot water vavle, you will see the pressure start dropping. Keep going until the machine cuts "the shot". That will give you an idea of how low of a pressure profile you can get from the stock machine without doing the needle valve mod.

If i recall correctly, mine cuts out at about 5 bar with blind basket and can go below 3 bars during extractions with a coffe puck.

If you are lucky, you will have plenty of room to experiment before choosing to do the needle valve mod.

pcrussell50

#10: Post by pcrussell50 »

Montrealer wrote:Just to be clear, you may not need to do the needle valve mod to get started.
This is true. Even though the needle valve mod is easy and reversible, consider this: Even a Slayer is only two speeds, "low" and "high" as it were. Slayer calls "low" pre-brew in their own parlance.

In a classic Slayer shot, you start in low, hold it there as long as you plan to, then switch it over to high. You can do this with a totally stock BDB using the manual button and the pre infusion power set as low as you can get it: PP55 (or is it 50? I forget). Press and hold the manual button and it stays in pre infusion until you release it, then it kicks into high. There is sometimes benefit to slowing the flow during the final third of the shot. You can do that by cracking open the water valve, which will bleed pressure away from the puck for this.*

The difference with the needle valve mod is that it's not only two speeds. With it, you can set any flow you like, or anywhere in between, without having to choose between low and high.

*Interesting trivia: This is what the GS/3MP does... The pump runs at full power all the time, but when you call for low pressure, the unused water gets diverted to the drip tray. BTW, with the needle valve mod to the BDB, no water is wasted. It all goes through the needle valve.

-Peter
LMWDP #553