Stand Alone Milk Frother or Milk Steamer on Espresso Machine

Recommendations for buyers and upgraders from the site's members.
macaber8

#1: Post by macaber8 »

Greetings.

I was not a coffee drinker, and I liked to have a coffee latte from Starbucks once in a while. I recently came across a coffee shop in local farmers market, tried their coffee and was amazed that coffee could be this amazing.

There was one day I felt that I have to bring this amazing coffee bean to work so my colleagues could share this joy. At work we had this Breville espresso machine that grinds and brews coffee within 1 machine. My colleague made an ice latte for me with my bean and this machine. This was one of the best drinks I had in my life. I couldn't get over it. I kept thinking that brewing coffee with my aeropress is such a waste. I had to stop and get a real espresso machine.

After reading all about espresso machines, I think QUICK MILL CAROLA EVO ESPRESSO MACHINE + stand alone milk frother (Breville BMF600XL Milk Cafe Milk Frother) could to be a good option. I need some advice before I pull the trigger. Any input is appreciated!!!

Here are my thoughts:
  • Duo boiler machines are very expensive. CAROLA doesn't steam milk, so no need for duo boiler. E61 group head allows me to add flow control for under $300 USD. CAROLA + Flow Control is half price of Lelit Bianca V3, or profitec pro 700 flow control, or ecm synchronika flow control. Adding a stand alone milk frother is about $150 USD. Still way cheaper.
  • I want get 2 drinks done quickly in the morning. Sometimes I want to impress my guests and keep them hydrated. Being able to brew and steam milk in the same time seems nice. After watching this video from DE1, I am deeply in agreement:
    I wonder if this is actually true? If a heat exchanger machine could produce espresso at the correct temperature and pressure by not brewing and steaming in the same time, I felt like I don't want to spend the extra money to get a duo boiler machine, knowing that duo boiler machine won't perform well anyway when brewing and steaming at the same time.
  • This CAROLA appears to be quiet and heat up quickly. Our Breville espresso machine in the office was very loud. A quite machine would be fantastic at home.
I do realize a steamer on a espresso machine is very different from a Breville milk frother. I want to save some money but don't want to cut myself short. I wonder what is the differences? Can a stand alone milk frother do the job?

Is there other milk frother that you would recommend?

Again, any input is appreciated.

Bluenoser

#2: Post by Bluenoser »

I haven't used any of the milk frothers.. but from what I've read, the steam on a steam boiler produces micro-foam that is a level above what you can get from a frothers that agitates milk with a small magnetic 'pill' that goes inside. I think the milk frothers will tend to over-aerate.

The silky micro-foam from a stream wand allows one to produce latte-art, but also this milk has a great mouth-feel.. I used to think that was a 'unicorn' thing.. but there is a significant difference.

I've tried the Bellman, and the nano-foamer.. but neither is as good as my 2L steam boiler steam wand.

If you are going single boiler, why not get one that is PID controlled *and* can switch into a steam mode when you need it? No need for 2 machines. If its an E61 single boiler, most have a steam 'mode' and you can add flow control.

The Decent machine in your video is *not* a heat exchanger machine. It produces steam using the thermal block and while it claims to produce very much better steam than a boiler.. I think that is greatly exaggerated. I remember one person testing the powerful steam of the Decent and getting 60g of water in 200g of milk.. they can vary their steam pressure.. That is a lot of water.. read "very wet". I get 20g of water in 200g of milk and I don't think the Decent does much better. (It certainly can produce much less than 60g of water by controlling the steam pressure.. but I'd be surprised if it gets much lower than about 18g water for 200g milk) That is how I'd measure 'wet' vs 'dry' steam.

There are heat exchanger designs and I have one; (which are great steamers). I would never recommend one starting out. Never. There are too many reasons to elaborate but you can research here.

It is a shame that no one has produced a cheap and great stand-alone steamer, at low cost.. The Bellman is the closest attempt other than the milk-frothers.. And the frothers are of varying quality.. some may be close to a steam wand now.. not sure.. But I think they are still a level away.

So my recommendation is that if you want a single boiler, get one that can also steam (assuming you will enjoy the the time to learn how to steam). I think the time to produce steam after a shot (on single boiler) is not that long and I agree that well made dual-boiler machines are expensive initially but many will say the cost over the 10 years you should have them is what you should consider.. (the Breville DB is cheaper but longevity might be questioned). However, after 4 years making espresso, I have found that a manual like the Flair 58, or Robot actually rivals a mid-level machine and has almost zero maintenance. With a machine you'll have to use "low-scale' water, do chemical cleans, purge your steam boiler occasionally, and still likely descale at some point.

If you look at a Bellman, it is by no means easy to use. The milk-frothers are dead easy. With any steam system you have to learn about optimum steam pressure and it takes a significant bit of learning to produce latte-art quality micro-foam.

If you are looking for a quick and easy way to create micro-foam and might sacrifice some quality (maybe a little 'sweetness' and texture) then a foamer might be the way to go.. each user has their own target for what they want to create.

macaber8 (original poster)

#3: Post by macaber8 (original poster) »

Hi Bluenoser,

Thank you so much for the response.

I found a few standalone milk steamers:
https://alternativebrewing.com.au/produ ... 6F6NGaq1Go

https://www.google.com/shopping/product ... zYQ8wII4xI

https://www.google.com/shopping/product ... zYQ8wII4xI

I wonder your thoughts?

In the mean time, it seems most single boiler machine comes with vibe Pump not Rotary Pump. I have been reading all about this last night. Is there any recommendations on a Rotary Pump single boiler machine?

And what do you think of this kind of machines for beginners?
https://www.olympia-express.ch/en/products/cremina

TallDan

#4: Post by TallDan »

Take a look at the lelit Mara x. It a heat exchanger machine that is very well reviewed.

Make sure your budget includes a good grinder. Do you have one in mind?

macaber8 (original poster)

#5: Post by macaber8 (original poster) »

Hi TallDan,

Thanks for the advise. I already bought a Niche Zero for grinder and an Acaia pearl scale, but not yet a temperature controlled kettle knowing that I could go towards a professional machine.

Just looked up Lelit Mara x. This seems a great machine. I will do some more research on it. Thanks again!

Bluenoser

#6: Post by Bluenoser »

The HX designs are quite different than single or dual boilers. Most HX designs try to predict the brew water temperature but have no feedback system to measure if they are close. So, to use a network and postal term.. it is a "best effort" system. And so they can be all over the map in recovery time and in flushing techniques. However, the MaraX is the only HX design that *does* use a closed feedback system to get your brew water close to what you expect; and so easier to use for starting out. I have not used the MaraX and so have no first hand knowledge of it, but owners seem to be happy. It will steam for you.

I don't think I'd look at a separate steamer. Now those you listed look like the traditional steamers and they all appear ok, but are another $800 or so. I think I'd get steam in the system I'm buying. I don't know if they are available in Canada, but I might look into them for the day my HX packs it in.

I don't think I'd worry about Vibe vs Rotary pump unless you are plumbing in your system and that is another whole ballgame. If you plumb in, you need an RO system.. filters.. remineralization.. That is another rabbit hole. A vibe pump will last easily 5 years and is relatively cheap and easy to replace. Since most mid-range machines use a vibe pump, I wouldn't use that as a factor to rule out a machine.

No matter what.. your first machine will be a learning experience.. so don't agonize too much.. there will be things you don't like as you learn more about espresso and your preferences.

It's one reason I like the manual machines.. they can make good espresso and are only $500 .. together with a $150 bellman you can get good milk drinks without a large outlay of cash.. and when you've learned more about your preferences.. you can invest more heavily.

If I were doing it again and were going to a fully electric machine.. I'd do something like the Profitec Pro 600. Good steam, dual boiler. But not sure what your budget is. The MaraX is a good intermediate step.. as well.. just not as good performance as the Pro600. A good single boiler is also not a bad entry point and if you get one that can steam (Profitec Go?). You'll get lots of varying opinions if people reply.. just read about machines here and see what seems to fit with your personal preferences. The only machines I'd not recommend would be the traditional HX designs if I were starting out. Not unless you are okay experimenting with them and building external thermometers to characterize your machine.

I will say that if you go fully electric, get a 3 yr warranty, if possible (but don't pay much extra for it) and use a vendor that is known for good service. Vendors here will extend the mftr warranty by 1 or 2 years. That being said, you should try to do all servicing yourself. No matter how well built, things will go wrong and the machines are too heavy to ship. If you are near a dealer that is another matter. For me it is shipping and that cost is prohibitive if I have to pay. I have a Profitec Pro 500, known for their good build quality, but its SSR blew in 1.5 years because of bad design. However, the vendor had an additional year warranty and paid for all shipping and its repair.

I think the Niche is a very good grinder from what I have read!.. good choice.

macaber8 (original poster)

#7: Post by macaber8 (original poster) »

Hello Bluenoser,

Thanks for the advice. I just went to the store for Rocket R58 today, and quite disappointed:
Brewing clearance is very low.
One of the meter at bottom left is already broken on the demo machine.
I have to pay for flow control in addition to the machine.
The steam wand is hot and untouchable.

What I like about R58:
Looks good.
Looks very solid build.
Schedule controller on the side.
Cup warmer is very powerful.

Regardless, R58 is a hard pass. The candidates are:
Lelit Bianca V3, or profitec pro 700 flow control, or ecm synchronika flow control
I wonder what is your thoughts?

Bluenoser

#8: Post by Bluenoser »

I think you can't go wrong with any of those.. I had some issues with my Profitec early and Profitec/ECM offered no assistance, so I'm not a big fan of their interest in the end user.. you are generally at the mercy of the distributor who may deal with 50 different brands.... but owners of those 2 dual-boilers are generally very happy with those machines. The Lelit will heat up faster because it superheats water thru the E61.. I think likely it will heat up in about 20 min where the other 2 will take about 30-40.. Profitec/ECM's manuals will tell you they are ready to brew in 10 min.. but no E61 can heat up that fast.. Profitec's manuals aren't always the most accurate.

I've heard better customer support stuff about Lelit and I think their machine performs very well.

All machines are all you'll need for a long time.. You will want to lug good RO water with a low TDS and then remineralize with just something like Potassium cloride.. so you don't develop any scale.. The goal is to never descale the machine. TDS meters are cheap on amazon.. Find a good store with good RO water and read about water recipes here.. Don't go overboard..Some people take a deep, deep dive into water.. I tried using Third Wave Water, but it still created scale in my machine so they have too much of something in their packets. Seems like a pain, but it will become routine and your machine will last a long time.

Also look at the Profitec Pro600, this is a good smaller dual-boiler machine and likely about the thingy I'd consider besides the Lelit V3.. (both with flow). But this is just one opinion.. I hope others chime in.

Now you might like the rotary pump of the Prof/ECM machines. (I think they have rotary) . not sure if the Lelit has rotary.. but the Pro600 is vibe.. The rotary is certainly quieter and will last longer.. but like I said before.. a Vibe is easy to change.

I never answered your Cremina question.. I am now a fan of levers.. the cremina is considered the cadillac, I think, of levers so it isn't cheap.. I'm hoping to eventually get a lever with steam because I mostly drink milk-based .. and I like the taste of lever profiles. Hence my interset in Ross Ainsworth and his Argo.. but I almost think he bit off more than he envisioned.. as it is already over a year longer in production than he anticipated.. If I were to purchase a lever, I'd go with the Londinium R24.. not only does Reiss provide personal service, but owners are generally avid supporters of his products..

I don't look for brands as much anymore.. but the people behind them.. So my considerations would be a Decent, Londinium, Kafatek, Niche, Cafelat Robot, etc. The Pro600/Lelit should be good.. I just don't have much experience in their support network... and if you can find support local, that is a bonus.

grin.. looks like your budget might have increased..

macaber8 (original poster)

#9: Post by macaber8 (original poster) »

Hi Bluenoser,

Thanks for the advice. Now I have to do some more research about the lever machines.

macaber8 (original poster)

#10: Post by macaber8 (original poster) »

Hi Bluenoser,

Thanks to your advise. I am now absolutely hooked with lever machine. Now I think about my first espresso experience, I probably had a god shot with the Breville. How lucky!

The most significant difference with lever machine, like Cremina or Londinium is the massive initial pre-infusion flow rate and the infusion pressure. The flavor experience described is exactly what I am looking for. I'm not sure any semi-automatic machine could get anywhere close to what the Londinium can do.

Similar in price, is there any fine difference between Cremina or Londinium?

Financtially, I can afford a Londinium R24, and I wish Londinium R24 comes with a pressure transducer/SMART ESPRESSO PROFILER. I really don't want to mess with the machine after spending the money.

Argos perhaps better for my need. I make 2 coffees every morning, 1 americano for the wife, and 1 latte for myself. Occasionally 1 more latte after lunch during weekends. This is not tons of coffee in my opinion. On the other hand, I am hesitating to gamble. The worst case scenario would be 2 years after the Argos, I realized that I cut myself short and had to get a Londinium.

What would you think the likely hood of Argos would work as promised?

La Pavoni is very appealing as well. I dont mind waiting for milk steamer to get ready but I really prefer something with a PID control.