Ponte Vecchio Lusso or Bezzera Strega - Page 2

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

The release of the Strega a few years ago made all other home lever machines obsolete. There are three reasons why one might still consider a Lusso:

1) You simply can't afford the cost of a Strega. In that case the Lusso is the most temperature-stable pressurized-boiler home lever machine.

2) You don't have the space for a Strega.

3) Maybe the learning curve is shorter with a Lusso, but that is just a guess. The 45-mm basket is very easy to dial in, but I've never tried a Strega.

The Strega is obviously far superior in workmanship and presumably much more versatile.

All that said I love Ponte Vecchio espresso, and given my budget and space constraints it nicely fits the bill.

PC
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Ivor (original poster)
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#12: Post by Ivor (original poster) »

Thanks to all who shared their thoughts and/or experience so far.

Counter-space is not an issue for me. I have to choose between the Lusso and the Strega only for financial reasons - I can afford only one of them, but not both; otherwise the price difference between the two is small, to the point I can disregard it.

Build quality, obviously, is a big plus for Strega. But so is the utilitarian simplicity of the Lusso design, proven and dating back to the 1970s.

For me, however, the ultimate arbiter is the coffee quality in the cup, and I am trying to source the coffee character produced by each machine. There must be such distinct character since there is such a huge variable in the brewing pressure between the Lusso and the Strega. The other two big variables, from what I recall from chemistry, brewing temperature and water flow relative to substrate (coffee), are relatively constant and can be ignored - there is no doubt in my mind that all espresso machine designers follow a certain formula where the brewing temperature, the coffee quantity and distribution, and the water flow adhere to some relatively constant relationship. That's why spring levers similar in design, even though vastly different in terms in level (commercial vs domestic) price and quality, produce similar quality (but not quantity) in the cup.

I still hope more Strega owners who were lucky to compare it to the more traditional spring levers would chime in.

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peacecup
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#13: Post by peacecup »

By the numbers, the PV group excels at 16-18g shots in the 1:1 - 1:1.5 brew range. I just pulled a great shot 18g in 17g out. 18g,or possibly a little more is the very max the PV basket will hold. So you're limited to 20-30g straight shots (1 oz). For cappas you might go as high as 1.5 oz.

All shots above about 15 ml require more than one lever pull on the PV. The 17 ml shot I just pulled, for example, had two short pre-infusion pulls before one full pull. This routine is certainly more complicated than what one would expect from a Strega.

A Strega will presumably give 60 ml in one single pull, but I suppose most pull the cup at 30 ml max with a 15g dose? But I guess one can get a larger basket and pull bigger shots.

The Lusso is indeed a design classic in terms of the simple by highly effective thermosyphon. But again, it's more or less outdated if one can afford a Strega because that must offer equal or far better temperature control.
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samuellaw178
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#14: Post by samuellaw178 »

Surely the PV Lusso can achieve some great shots, but it may be limited in term of shot styles (due to smaller baskets, miniscule volume per pull). I haven't had a chance to pull on the PV, but my past levers experiences (including Caravel that is arguably most forgiving lever) had told me that multiple pull tends to be less consistent and induce blonding sooner than without - thus forcing me to pull a smaller shot than I would like (my default preference is normale - 50% brew ratio - 15g in 30 g out for example).

The Strega on the other hand, is more versatile and can represent shots closer to what the better cafes out there are serving. Built quality, shot flexibility, usage convenience, style (personal), all favors Strega, it's almost like choosing between a car and motorcycle. :lol: Have you seen a PV in person? It's tiny! Almost like a toy in comparison to Strega (just the impression, not refering the performance)! That's not a bad thing at all because it's good for those who have space constraint (not in your case) and yet want to make great lever shots .

The only consideration you should know about the Strega - the spring is very strong, one of the stronger lever I've pulled. If you expect ladies to be using that, it may be a problem.

Ivor (original poster)
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#15: Post by Ivor (original poster) »

peacecup wrote:By the numbers, the PV group excels at 16-18g shots in the 1:1 - 1:1.5 brew range. I just pulled a great shot 18g in 17g out. 18g,or possibly a little more is the very max the PV basket will hold. So you're limited to 20-30g straight shots (1 oz). For cappas you might go as high as 1.5 oz.

All shots above about 15 ml require more than one lever pull on the PV. The 17 ml shot I just pulled, for example, had two short pre-infusion pulls before one full pull. This routine is certainly more complicated than what one would expect from a Strega.

A Strega will presumably give 60 ml in one single pull, but I suppose most pull the cup at 30 ml max with a 15g dose? But I guess one can get a larger basket and pull bigger shots.
I drink only ristretto which, pulled in Italian style, translate to less than 15ml a shot; "espresso" and "ristretto" from what I read in the anglophone forums is something far far bigger


peacecup wrote:The Lusso is indeed a design classic in terms of the simple by highly effective thermosyphon. But again, it's more or less outdated if one can afford a Strega because that must offer equal or far better temperature control.
All is relative. From what I read the Lusso design offers better user temperature control because the group temperature is directly affected by the changes in the pressure-stat and the boiler pressure/temperature. The Strega group, on the countary, is not affected by the pressure-stat and the boiler temperature because it is controlled by own heather and thermostat; one can alter that by flushes which I regard as imprecise. Otherwise, yes, the Strega should be very stable within its specified temperature range.

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peacecup
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#16: Post by peacecup »

Sounds like you might be a good candidate for the Lusso - if you do decide to go for one be sure to ask the seller to test it before shipping. Then you could avoid any potential quality control issues. The folks at La Macchina del caffe have been helpful for me when I needed parts. Might be worth contacting them:

http://www.lamacchinadelcaffe.com/pontevecchio.html

PC
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Ivor (original poster)
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#17: Post by Ivor (original poster) »

samuellaw178 wrote:Surely the PV Lusso can achieve some great shots, but it may be limited in term of shot styles (due to smaller baskets, miniscule volume per pull). I haven't had a chance to pull on the PV, but my past levers experiences (including Caravel that is arguably most forgiving lever) had told me that multiple pull tends to be less consistent and induce blonding sooner than without - thus forcing me to pull a smaller shot than I would like (my default preference is normale - 50% brew ratio - 15g in 30 g out for example).

The Strega on the other hand, is more versatile and can represent shots closer to what the better cafes out there are serving. Built quality, shot flexibility, usage convenience, style (personal), all favors Strega, it's almost like choosing between a car and motorcycle. :lol: Have you seen a PV in person? It's tiny! Almost like a toy in comparison to Strega (just the impression, not refering the performance)! That's not a bad thing at all because it's good for those who have space constraint (not in your case) and yet want to make great lever shots .

The only consideration you should know about the Strega - the spring is very strong, one of the stronger lever I've pulled. If you expect ladies to be using that, it may be a problem.
Sadly I have no chance to see or try either machine which is very unfortunate because the only thing that make me anxious about PV is their often talked build "quality". Seeing it in person, never mind having a go, could be either reassuring or just confirm my fears, and I would have been much more certain in my choice.

As I said above I drink only ristretto which, as I understand it, should be in the 10 - 15ml range; hence a machine with much bigger piston displacement would be a bit of a waste for my usage.

Only I (a strong male) will be operating the machine therefore the Strega strong springs are not an issue. Furthermore I believe the Strega lever difficulty to operate comes from (or is exacerbated by) the owners placing it too low. The typical kitchen top is about 85 - 90 cm which might be fine for food preparation by the average female tall 165 - 170cm; for a lever machine, however, that's too low. Ideally it should be on a platform high 115 - 135 cm.

P.S. Elsewhere on these fora there is a genuine image of an old lady operating a commercial lever machine. Note the lever fulcrum is at her eye-level! Had she had a more domestically sized machine in front of her, say a Strega or Londinium, it should have been raised to her chest level (about 140cm) for the lever to come again that high.

samuellaw178
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#18: Post by samuellaw178 »

Ivor wrote:Sadly I have no chance to see or try either machine which is very unfortunate because the only thing that make me anxious about PV is their often talked build "quality". Seeing it in person, never mind having a go, could be either reassuring or just confirm my fears, and I would have been much more certain in my choice.

As I said above I drink only ristretto which, as I understand it, should be in the 10 - 15ml range; hence a machine with much bigger piston displacement would be a bit of a waste for my usage.
In your case, it sounds like you're pretty much set on the PV! When you're pulling such short shot - 10-15ml, the shot quality between Strega and PV may not even be that different at all.

The build quality, which may be an eyesore or annoyance to some (especially coming from another machine), does not directly impact the usage or long term durability. The worst thing could happen on PV is that the brain may fry. But it could be wired to operate without the brain when it does.

To have an idea, search on Youtube for videos on each machine's operation. That should give you an idea - in terms of size, build quality and operation.

Ivor (original poster)
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#19: Post by Ivor (original poster) »

samuellaw178 wrote:In your case, it sounds like you're pretty much set on the PV! When you're pulling such short shot - 10-15ml, the shot quality between Strega and PV may not even be that different at all.

The build quality, which may be an eyesore or annoyance to some (especially coming from another machine), does not directly impact the usage or long term durability. The worst thing could happen on PV is that the brain may fry. But it could be wired to operate without the brain when it does.
Well, perhaps my replies here gave a false impression, the fact is I haven't yet made up my mind in favour of PVL. It is just one of the two contenders for a temperature stable spring lever bellow my 1500 euros limit. Elektra and Zacconi seem to have a much better build quality, but their groups are attached directly to the boiler; I prefer the more stable PVS TS design, or the Strega's more extravagant heated group.

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drgary
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#20: Post by drgary »

Elektra is quite stable once you add a heat break gasket.* If you read my review you'll see that. But Elektra doesn't have better build quality than a Strega, nor does Zacconi.




* If installing a do it yourself heat break gasket instead of a factory spec part, for safety, be sure to install bolts that are longer by at least the extra thickness of the gasket. You'll want to have the bolt turn in by six full threads of engagement into the boiler, keeping in mind that any modifications to factory specification are taken at your risk as per the terms of use that you agree to when accessing this site.
Gary
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What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!