Upgrading to HX or possibly double boiler espresso machine

Recommendations for buyers and upgraders from the site's members.
kazdic87

#1: Post by kazdic87 »

Hello,
I have been using my Breville Barista Express for over 1 year. I'm looking to upgrade to an HX machine or possibly a DB. I have some machines in mind, but I would like a second opinion from anyone that has more experience.

My top pick currently is the ECM Mechanika Slim which I'm thinking to have upgraded with the ECM flow control. I was also thinking about Lelit Bianca (love all the extras on the machine and the wood), ECM Synchronica with flow control. From HX I was also thinking about Bezzera Magica or Rocket Giotto (love the design but I think performance wise the Slim would come out on top).

The reason why I'm thinking of a HX machine is because I make 3-4 cappuccinos daily. I don't think I could justify a DB for that many drinks. Also I think the flow control would be a nice addition to play around with the extraction of the coffee. The only bummer is that the Slim has no PID.

Any thoughts or useful advice from anyone? :mrgreen:

mike01

#2: Post by mike01 »

You can make equally good shots on a HX vs a double boiler machine, it is just requires less work and skill to get a good shot on a DB. With most HX machines, a cooling flush is pretty much mandatory and if you don't flush the right amount, your brew temp won't be ideal. With my last HX machine, I could hit a target brew temp measured with a Scace device within 1 degree F by varying my cooling flush using a grouphead thermometer and a chart I developed. Anyways, HX vs DB mainly comes down to how much you're willing to spend and how much work you have to do to get a great drink. If all your budget can afford is a HX, you can still make great drinks once you learn how to properly operate the machine. Also, IMO, there is not much benefit to a PID in a HX machine. Having super tight control of the boiler temp is not as important to the final brew temp in a HX machine as it is in a DB machine.

kazdic87

#3: Post by kazdic87 »

Thank you for your response. Any thoughts on flow control on an HX machine? Have you ever used it? Thanks again!

mike01

#4: Post by mike01 »

I have no experience with flow control, but the benefits will be the same regardless of it is a HX or DB. Flow control is the latest trend in espresso, with benefits mainly for lightly roasted single origin coffees. I usually pull medium roasted blends and my understanding is there are not as many benefits with these coffees.

Nunas
Supporter ♡

#5: Post by Nunas »

I had an HX and now have a DB, both with e61 groups. If you're truly interested in flow-control on an e61 machine like those you mention, then go with the DB, not the HX. On an HX, IMO, the most important accessory to add is a thermometer, such as the one from EricS. On a flow-control machine, the most important accessory is the group pressure gauge (comes with the flow control kit). So far, at least, you can't have both.

If you're okay with Breville machines and want an inexpensive (relative term :) ) DB, then the Breville Double Boiler would work. There is a simple mod for it to add flow control (see posts here on H-B). It won't likely last as long without servicing as the ECM and Lelit machines you mention, but it has a good reputation here on H-B. Luckily, the most common problem is an O-ring failure, which is apparently simple to fix. I don't know first hand...I've had many Breville machines but not the BDB.

In terms of suitability for making shots, either an HX or a DB would work fine. If you're a hands-on kind of person that changes coffees often, might want to change brew temperature on the fly, then you're probably an HX person. They are simpler and less expensive than most DB machines. If you just want to set up the parameters on a PID and forget about them, then you probably should get a DB machine. Both will steam milk just fine.

As for steam, if you're into milk drinks, I suggest you opt for a machine with a 2-bar steam boiler.

If flow control is a prime interest, then there are also excellent non-e61 machines out there. Most of them are fairly expensive. For example, if there's a bit of mad scientist in you, then you might want to have a look at the DE1. Its boosters think it might be the future of espresso. Future or not, it probably has the best ability to control the parameters for the price.

You should, if you have not already, read a bunch of threads and reviews here on H-B concerning flow control and various machines of which you're interested. There are also really good tutorials.

Since you're moving from the Breville Barista, with its crummy inbuilt grinder (I say this from experience as I've owned three of them), then you'll also need a decent espresso-capable grinder. For the quality of machines you're considering, I suggest nothing less than the Baratza Sette 270. I have the Wi model with an inbuilt scale to grind measured doses right into the PF. I love it, but it's kind of like the Breville products...you'll be doing maintenance on it (but Baratza parts & service is legendary). If you plan on going single-dose instead of a hopper grinder, then the current darling is the Niche Zero. It's too soon to say how well they will stand up to the daily grind <grin>, but here on H-B most of its owners are fans.

kazdic87

#6: Post by kazdic87 »

Thank you for your reply.

https://idrinkcoffee.com/collections/ec ... 3324960802

I found the flow control add on for ECM which includes a pressure gauge.

Also another reason I was thinking the ECM Mechanika Slim is that it has a 2.2L boiler which seems to be the biggest in the category. Rockets boilers are 1.8L and Bezzera is 2L. As for Breville I'm not really considering it. I feel like the build on these machines will last many more years.