Time for a new espresso machine, budget around $1500

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

#1: Post by hale2 »

My 10 year old Gaggia Classic needs to be replaced so now I have an excuse to upgrade. I usually make 4 double shots a day. Milk based drinks are only made an average of once a week, so steaming isn't a priority. I currently have a Sette 270 grinder.

I'd like to keep my budget around $1500, but have some flexibility. I've spent some time reading about various machines and features. It seems getting one with a PID, and maybe a pressure gauge is a good idea, but I'm not certain. I'm also not sure if in my case a HX or double boiler is worth it, but am open to it.

Any advice would be appreciated.

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#2: Post by Jeff »

PIDs on a conventional HX make little difference in brew temperature stability. I wouldn't recommend a conventional HX as a new purchase in today's market. There are other options with much easier brew-temperature management.

A pressure gauge on a mid-range or higher machine is not so much of a feature as it is an occasional maintenance tool. With machines with pressurized baskets, it is important as there's little feedback on grind/dose without one as the basket primarily creates the pressure, not primarily the puck. For standard baskets, you can usually see immediately if your pressure is too low (generally not a fine enough grind by a lot) without a gauge. Once you're close, you're going to be tuning the shot by taste, not the pressure gauge. I found it to be useful for very occasionally adjusting the OPV, which pretty much stays set for years once you decide what you like. If a machine doesn't have one, there are portafilter-based ones for around US$35

Machines I find representative of the ones in your price range that I'd consider include:

* Quick Mill Silvano (close-coupled group, "boiler and a half" design at a more modest price)
* Breville Dual Boiler ("BDB")], close-coupled group, dual boiler, variable fill/soak, aka preinfusion)
* Lelit Elizabeth (close-coupled group, dual boiler, variable fill/soak)
* Lelit Mara X (E61, unique thermal management for an HX with PID controlling group temperature, can be fitted with an E61 flow kit with some limitations)

There are others that are similar to those as well. They should be able to get you going and thinking about what you might like or dislike about them, or asking questions about their features or functions.

hale2 (original poster)

#3: Post by hale2 (original poster) »

Thanks for the response. Does preinfusion only benefit lighter roasts? We use lighter roasts on occasion but usually use medium.
I know E61 takes longer to heat, which isn't a problem for me. Are there any advantages?
I had been reading about Lelit, Profitec, and ECM. I hadn't heard of Quick Mill. That machine looks like a great value compared to the others.

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#4: Post by Jeff »

How much variable "preinfusion" benefits you will depend on your coffee, grinder, and tastes. I don't think it is a big deal for comfort espresso in the medium or darker ranges. There, slow fill or extended soak can accentuate flavors many people don't want in their espresso, or at least not in excess (often bitter or burnt ones). Depending on your grinder, water, gear, and tastes, it can make pulling espresso from "filter-roast" coffee easier. Even among roasts called "filter", some may be medium or medium-dark, others may be light or lighter.

An E61 has aesthetic advantages for many people. It has a soft-start feature built in, that adds to that of a vibe-pump. Many people consider it a design that is reasonably forgiving of weaknesses in grind and puck preparation. It can accept a flow-control kit in many cases, though you probably shouldn't be running shots over a minute long or so with a vibe-pump machine. Warm-up time is around 30-45 minutes. I had mine on a timer and later a wireless switch.

Quick Mill is another Italian manufacturer that has been around "forever". I believe Chris' Coffee is still the primary US importer. Chris' doesn't seem to promote as heavily as some of the Lelit, ECM, or Profitec distributors and retailers do.

The Silvano has a close-coupled group, so its temperature is closer to the boiler temperature than one that uses pipes (like the E61s I know of). Rather than adding a second boiler for steam, it uses a thermoblock (flash heater). It isn't the fastest steamer out there, but I understand that it does a good job. That design decision helps keep the price a bit lower.

hale2 (original poster)

#5: Post by hale2 (original poster) »

Thanks for the advice. I've spent some time researching and I've narrowed it down to the Silvano and the Elizabeth. Both look great, I just need to decide if the Elizabeth is worth an additional $700 to me.

hale2 (original poster)

#6: Post by hale2 (original poster) »

Is the Lelit Victoria a good option? It seems like it has the same features at the Elizabeth but is limited in steaming like the Silvano.


#7: Post by gobucks »

The Victoria is a true single boiler with PID, whereas the Silvano has a second thermoblock "boiler" for steam. The thermoblock allows steaming without having to switch back and forth between brew and steam temps. It's pretty convenient, but power is a little weak compared to a double boiler. I think the Silvano is a smart compromise to keep costs down, but it is a compromise. Victoria workflow would be similar to your Gaggia, but with a modestly bigger boiler and PID. I'd probably personally go Silvano here - the no wait steam and slightly bigger boiler (.4 vs .3) are worthwhile upgrades.

between that and the Elizabeth, it's hard to say if it's worth an extra $600 to you, but I do think a full fledged double boiler with adjustable preinfusion is likely to keep upgradeitis at bay for a lot longer.
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hale2 (original poster)

#8: Post by hale2 (original poster) »

Good points. And I have recently learned about preinfusion so that might be a feature I should give more consideration to.

hale2 (original poster)

#9: Post by hale2 (original poster) »

I've done some more research and while it appears both the Victoria and the Elizabeth have preinfusion, it's unclear from comments if the Victoria preinfusion is sufficient. Any thoughts?

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#10: Post by Jeff »

From the manual, I don't see "preinfusion" listed for the Victoria. There is a vague "pre-brewing" on pages 9 and 10. Without line pressure or the steam boiler's pressure of the Elizabeth, it is hard for me to imagine that it is the kind of fill/soak management that light-roast espresso enthusiasts are talking about.