What espresso machine would you suggest for our use?

Recommendations for buyers and upgraders from the site's members.
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RistrettoCapp
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Joined: 5 years ago

#1: Post by RistrettoCapp »

I'd like to get a new (or used) espresso machine and wonder, after reading the bit below, what others would suggest and why - especially form first hand experience.

About Me:
I've owned/operated a coffeehouse (and deli) as well as a full roastery (Dietrich IR12) in Portland, OR (not that means anything special LOL). I've had the pleasure of learning the ropes from a Cup of Excellence / WBC / Barista Challenge judge and consultant.. though I know I still have a lot to learn. I'm very familiar with pulling shots and related parameters, latte art, etc.

My Daily Habit:
I mainly drink Capps.. a couple a day, and at least one, or two, for my wife. We also use the steamer to make Hot Chocolate, Green Tea Latte's etc for the kids and others.

My 'Perfect Machine':
1) Temp stable - I know this gets all of our PID juices flowing, but what I'm referring to is the ability to 1) pull back to back shots with minimal temp variation and 2) be able to walk up to the machine any time during the day and pull the same quality shots. I've owned several thermo-syphon / HX based machines and loath temp surfing (it was fun in the beginning.. not any more LOL).

2) Strong steaming capability - steaming 3 or 4 drinks back to back (well, kinda, after shots for each one)

3) Plumbed in - must be direct plumbed..no water reservoirs

4) 120v USA standard power

5) Massive bang for the buck, I know it would be easiest for anyone to throw $10k on the table and find something that checks all the boxes, and more, for that much money.. I'm hoping to stay closer to a 1/3 of that, or less. <$3k budget, again I'm open to used and even doing a refurb if I can keep the total around there.

6) Reliable - solid track record, easily serviced and accessible parts

** Lastly, although reading this would incline me to suggest a saturated / heated group if I were answering someone else's question.. I'm also very open to a Spring Lever machine.. actually, I'd prefer one.. as long as it checks all those boxes.

So, based on your experience and knowledge, what would you recommend and why?

boren
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#2: Post by boren »

Lelit Bianca ticks all of the boxes, except it's an E61 grouphead (specificaly, Lelit's version of) and not a saturated or heated group. However, it is definitely temperature stable enough to fulfill your requirements.

I don't know about other spring-levers, but I had an Elektra Micro Casa Leva and it certainly fails requirements 1, 2, 3 and 5. Stay away.

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BaristaBoy E61
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#3: Post by BaristaBoy E61 »

If you're at all considering an E61 machine, I'd recommend reading this thread:

Choosing an Espresso Machine Rationally
"You didn't buy an Espresso Machine - You bought a Chemistry Set!"

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RistrettoCapp (original poster)
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#4: Post by RistrettoCapp (original poster) »

BaristaBoy E61 wrote:If you're at all considering an E61 machine, I'd recommend reading this thread:

Choosing an Espresso Machine Rationally
Really appreciate the link to the post about choosing a machine. Although I think there is a ton of valuable logic there, there are several areas that are simply not accurate.

One being that an e61 group is the right choice because it's been around so long .. so it must be good. If that were the case we'd all be driving Volkswagen beetles - 21.5 million have been built since it was introduced in 1938.

The e61 is a solid design, reliable and easily serviced ... But it was design as a heatsink for a thermosyphon heat exchange machine... Not that it doesn't work on a DB, it certainly will .. but it will not maintain the same temperature tolerances of a saturated or heated grouphead. This is not conjecture but easily verified through several tests using accurate tools (eg scace etc).

Interestingly enough, another machine recommended here was the lelit bianca, a dual boiler machine with a bespoke e61 based grouphead.... Looks like a performer. But here's a snippet of some details on the machine that highlight why using an e61 on anything other than a HX machine is a poor choice::
Since the structural make-up in this regard doesn't guarantee stable brewing temperatures, a wide-diameter thermosyphon pipe is added by the manufacturers to minimize fluctuations in temperature
Source: https://www.stayroasted.com/lelit-bianca-review


So, for me, if I wanted an HX machine then the logical thing would be to get an e61, because that is exactly what it was made for and optimized for and they are plentiful. Even though other more modern grouphead designs might outperform it, it would be a solid choice for an HX machine, no doubt.

This same logic falls flat when we start looking at DB machines with high temperature accuracy. You really don't want a large heatsink for a grouphead - in that you don't want a grouphead that sheds the heat gained, as designed to do in an HX setup. You want high thermal mass that will retain the heat acquired to maintain the brew water temp during the shot - and between them.

Given these facts, I'm leaning towards a DB machines. However, just as I mentioned that the e61 was designed and optimized for an HX setup, and performs admirably, I'm also open to other machines as long as they maintain stable temps. For me it's not about the design so much as the results and user experience.

I'd be interested to see which machine he ended up buying and his actual experience with it after a years use.

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RistrettoCapp (original poster)
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#5: Post by RistrettoCapp (original poster) »

boren wrote:Lelit Bianca ticks all of the boxes, except it's an E61 grouphead (specificaly, Lelit's version of) and not a saturated or heated group. However, it is definitely temperature stable enough to fulfill your requirements.

I don't know about other spring-levers, but I had an Elektra Micro Casa Leva and it certainly fails requirements 1, 2, 3 and 5. Stay away.
Thanks for that, on both accounts. I'll look into the Bianca, at a cursory glance it looks to be quite the machine for the money!

boren
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#6: Post by boren »

If plumbing in wasn't a requirement you could probably go with a less expensive DB like the Lelit Elizabeth or Rancilio Silvia Pro X, and if you didn't care about maximizing bang for the buck there are other machines similar to the Bianca that cost a little more and/or don't come with flow control. But as it is I think the Bianca comes closest to what you're looking for. It's not without some shortcomings of course. I listed them (including ones I didn't see mentioned in reviews) here:

Lelit Bianca V3: My wordy impressions after 2 months of use

maxbmello
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#7: Post by maxbmello »

Do you have a budget in mind? That would help in further narrowing recommendations.

The 3 machines that immediately came to my mind based on your criteria are the La Marzocco Mini and the newly released micra. The La Spaz Vivaldi could also be a good, more budget friendly option as well, just utilizes a 53mm group as opposed to the LM 58mm.

All 3 are stable, saturated group DBs that can be plumbed in, provide great steam, stable temps, from proven reliable brands.

Good luck in your choice!

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RistrettoCapp (original poster)
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#8: Post by RistrettoCapp (original poster) »

boren wrote:If plumbing in wasn't a requirement you could probably go with a less expensive DB like the Lelit Elizabeth or Rancilio Silvia Pro X, and if you didn't care about maximizing bang for the buck there are other machines similar to the Bianca that cost a little more and/or don't come with flow control. But as it is I think the Bianca comes closest to what you're looking for. It's not without some shortcomings of course. I listed them (including ones I didn't see mentioned in reviews) here:

Lelit Bianca V3: My wordy impressions after 2 months of use
Thanks for the suggestion and link to your review.. I'll read it over!

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RistrettoCapp (original poster)
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#9: Post by RistrettoCapp (original poster) »

maxbmello wrote:Do you have a budget in mind? That would help in further narrowing recommendations.

The 3 machines that immediately came to my mind based on your criteria are the La Marzocco Mini and the newly released micra. The La Spaz Vivaldi could also be a good, more budget friendly option as well, just utilizes a 53mm group as opposed to the LM 58mm.

All 3 are stable, saturated group DBs that can be plumbed in, provide great steam, stable temps, from proven reliable brands.

Good luck in your choice!
Yes, the budget is 3k or less preferably. I'd love a Mini or Micra, and have run Lineas for years and love them.. just not in the budget right now. I've looked hard at the Vivaldi and it looks to be a strong performer, even if it doesn't look that great (IMO). I don't mind a 53mm PF, I've used them on other machines and, honestly, they tend to be more forgiving with their deeper puck of coffee (in my experience) and produce excellent shots (all over things being equal)

Thanks again!

cuongdinh
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#10: Post by cuongdinh »

Sounds from your info, it'd be Mini and Micra. You probably think about them as well.

The dilemma is that they are over your current budget. Solution would be buying used + time to wait for one. The Buy/Sell has many Minis lately, some went for $3.5k search.php?keywords=Linea+mini&fid%5B0%5D=62