Priority: Pre-Infusion, Flow Control or Steam Power

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

#1: Post by croikee »

Hey all, first post here. Looking for our first home espresso machine. I was a barista for four years up in Seattle, so my entire coffee experience has been on a La Marzocco Linea. I'm trying to find the best balance with my budget which is set at $1900 for a machine. I am not a fan of:
BDB, Rocket Apartmento, just me personally.

I've been looking at three machines:
1) Elizabeth - consistently been told by the main shops (Clive, 1st Line) that this machine will produce the best espresso. Also told it has the weakest steam.

2) Bezzerra BZ13/Crema - Told consistently that this machine has the best steam, no preinfusion or flow- control, but a heated grouphead.

3) Any of the E61 HX machines with Flow Control - No experience with flow control but I know most of them have great steaming.

As for what I drink, 2-3 drinks a day, wife another 2-3. She drinks mainly americanos. I like Caps, or 8-12oz lattes. I love latte art, actually trained latte art to new employees at the old job, so I still want to be able to do that, especially with a young kiddo.

I'm leaning the Elizabeth for the pre-infusion, but I'm worried about the steam power. I'm told its the weakest of these options, but does that mean no quality microfoam for art? Or does it just mean you can't make 3 16oz milk drinks back to back without it refilling?

Questions:
1) How would you prioritize between Pre-Infusion, Flow Control and Steam Power?
2) For those experienced with the Elizabeth, how is the steam power?

Thanks!
John

jgood

#2: Post by jgood »

If you're not a light roast fan I think "flow control" is less of a benefit. One advantage of a standard E61 is that you can always add it later if you like. Most of the E61 double boilers are just a touch above your stated budget -- is it firm, or is there any wiggle room?

Baratza: skilled in the art of grinding
Sponsored by Baratza
croikee (original poster)

#3: Post by croikee (original poster) »

I'd say I'm actually ONLY a light-medium roast fan, not a fan of dark roasts at all. My budget is pretty firm, I want to make sure I get a good grinder and about $2500 is my max for both.

Auctor
Supporter ❤

#4: Post by Auctor »

At the risk of giving you useless advice, i think you need to up your budget.

For someone that wants to keep a low budget and likes light roasts, I might suggest a manual lever because you'll want to save (at minimum)~$800 for a grinder worthy of light roasts. But when you mentioned that your family does several milk drinks per day, it changes the calculus. If you search around here, there have been many 'less than favorable' opinions about HX machines. So that puts you into DB territory. A solid DB starts around $2k, and when you throw in flow control you're in the $2500+ camp.

I have a very similar history as you, worked in the industry and similar initial budget, except that I preferred medium and dark. Having walked through the options, my budget ballooned from $2k to $4k. Would I do it again? Yes, because the DBs with flow and better grinders give you more flexibility for different roasts. Can you find a combo around $3200? I think so. And if you're truly into coffee and plan to remain that way for the foreseeable future, a better fit upfront will pay dividends over the years.

PS - a couple of years ago my Synchronika was around $2800. I bought it last August for $3000 and installed flow control. Now I see Clive selling the same machine for $3250 (without flow). Prices are ballooning, and my sense is that it'll be a couple of years before supply chains catch up and demand drops back to pre-COVID levels, which will put downward pressure on prices.

MNate
Supporter ♡

#5: Post by MNate »

If your budget is firm I'd go with a Cafelat Robot (basic kettle, basic scale, Bellman Steamer or something recommended from the steaming threads) and as good a grinder as you can get. Too me that's not a hard choice at all!

Just going with what you talked about, steaming is the least concern, imho. I've hard the gamut of steaming-speed machines and you can do good latte art with any of them, the fastest isn't the easiest. Even the Bellman Steamer you can do fine.

Ok, don't take this wrong... I bet what you're calling light roasts is what most of us on H-B call Medium or maybe medium-light. What most of the world calls "dark" we call destroyed. I say this in part because you occasionally drink larger milk drinks than I think the light roast people on here would (I'm not in the really light roast group). I bet you drink similar to me and most people on here so when you read on here about light roast machine recommendations I fear it may take you places you don't really need to go. Maybe describe a favorite couple of coffees or flavors you enjoy in it and that might tell us where you can get the most out of it. That said, I bet you will go even lighter the more you rub shoulders with people in H-B.

Yeah, so welcome. I hope you find a great way to go. There really are a lot of capable machines these days. But grinder is essential and read about the Robot, it may save you a lot of headache and some money as well!

walr00s
Supporter ♡

#6: Post by walr00s »

Personally, I'd happily compromise steam power for espresso quality (but I don't drink heated milk drinks, so easy for me to say). I'd disagree with anyone telling you to go with a manual lever for light roast. I simply cannot get the same quality from my flair as I do from my Alexia with the berry-tasting naturals I prefer. You can still get delicious coffee, which seems to be true if you're using high quality coffee regardless of brew details.

With $1900, you have a lot of good options. I'd probably go with the Mara X. The designers made a practical decision by putting a PID on the group, unlike all other HXs on the market where the PID is good for basically nothing. James Hoffmann reported that the temperature on the machine is stable and falls in line with the temperature setting (he tested using a scace), which leaves room to put flow control on it and a manometer. On any other HX e61, you're going to want an ericS thermometer on there so you can verify your brew temp before you pull your shot.

luisguilherme
Supporter ♡

#7: Post by luisguilherme »

BDB has preinfusion, and is great at steaming. If you don't want to be a coffee scientist, it fits your budget. I know you're not a fan (like you, I'm not a fan of the Rocket either).

Cerini Coffee & Gifts: official US importer for Olympia Express
Sponsored by Cerini Coffee & Gifts
Auctor
Supporter ❤

#8: Post by Auctor »

I just wanted to add that I think there's some advice in this thread that perhaps doesn't solve your exact problem the way you've defined it, and personally, I wouldn't take that as, "people aren't hearing me", but instead view it as informed advice that might be testing and poking at some of your conclusions and assumptions.

There are a variety of combinations that could get to somewhat similar results in the cup, and each combo makes some sacrifices. I think what makes this community interesting is the divergence of thoughts and ideas. Triangulating what works best for you is part of the fun. :-)

croikee (original poster)

#9: Post by croikee (original poster) »

Lots of interesting advice here. Not calling it good, or bad. It is advice different than I expected, which makes it interesting. It is quite possible the "light" I like is more of a medium, I only have my frame of reference and background as context. So that is a helpful reminder about how subjective anything with our senses really is.

I'll look into the Robot. Does not necessarily solve our needs initially, part of the like of an actual machine is my wife was a barista as well, would be fun to make drinks together rather than a learning curve of something "new." But I will look into it.

As far as upping the budget, that would be great. But have a young kiddo and I've put my own mark on what is the most I'll spend, beyond that is money that is going in her college fund. I won't budge on that.

If it really comes down "my budget won't allow for a machine and grinder that will produce good drinks" well then now isn't the time for us to get a machine. That being said, I don't believe that. There is too much positive information on machines like the Elizabeth (AND Mara X appreciate you pointing that option out) etc. that they can't all be morons :D

I came here for the same reason I go to drum forums and the woodworking forum I go to: Serious individuals into a hobby I like, and also the most serious of all the "hobbyists" out there, so opinions are likely to be more extreme than say, reddit (I'm guessing here, but seems that way).

Thank you all, gave me some areas to look!

User avatar
GC7
Supporter ♡

#10: Post by GC7 »

John

I almost never give purchasing advice but I did not see what I believe would be a good solution to your needs and respect your budget.

Take advantage of the upgraditis here on HB. You live in populous Southern California. Look on the Buy/Sell forum and be patient. Someone in your area will be selling a vibe pump dual boiler machine with shot timer/PID, excellent steam and possibly even flow control. There are many models (mine is one) and within a couple of hours drive in So Cal could be demonstrated to you. It may even still have a warranty. Be patient. I've seen very good buys from people who are getting decent machines or LMLM's and dumping their well cared for E61 dual boilers.

Similarly, grinders are even easier to find on the buy/sell and they are easy to ship in the original packaging.

You can get a great set up within your budget.

Good luck.