Where to start with espresso machines? - Page 2

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

#11: Post by boren »

macaber8 wrote: Provided one must practice and get reasonable familiar with the lever machine. While spring-based lever machine offers easy repeatable and pre-infusion pressure and massive initial flow rate, would you say this is an easier way to produce good espresso comparing to a similar priced pump-based machine? At La Pavonis price, I am not sure if there is anything pump based that could compete. Would you mind name a few? At Elektra prices, we are most likely dealing with HX machines with vibe pumps. I agree it would be easier, but not sure in terms of potential coffee quality, if HX machine can get close.
Both the La Pavonis and Elektra have serious temperature stability issues that you can simply avoid with pump-based machines that are similarly priced. A few machines with a PID that compete well at the La Pavoni price range are Lelit's PL41TEM, PL81T and PL91T. All would handily beat any La Pavoni lever for temperature stability and consistency. For the price of the Elektra you can get a dual-boiler machine with PID and programmable pre-infusion, such as the Breville/Sage Dual Boiler, the Lelit PL91T and Rancilio Silvia Pro X.

The massive initial flow rate is not really an advantage. I had a lot more channeling issues with my Elektra than I did with a previous pump-based Gaggia Tebe. This was very evident with a bottomless portafilter and by the looks of the puck after extraction. I also think that without pre-infusion my current Lelit Bianca (rotary pump with fast flow) is more prone to channeling than my previous Quick Mill Alexia Evo (vibration pump with more gradual flow build up).

And I would leave HX machines out of the equation. There are now dual-boiler machines at the same price tiers, so I don't really see the point of HX machines anymore.
In the mean time, if user wants to play with the process, once can always push against the lever for adjustment, right? Considering that, would you say the level of adjustment is almost the same as a complete manual machine? Especially, comparing to an automatic machine?
Not really, at least not with the Elektra. You can reduce pressure, but there's no grouphead pressure gauge to show the effect and there's no way to increase pressure. If you want a manual lever that comes ready for pressure profiling out of the box, get a Flair 58. I love mine, but I wouldn't recommend it as a first espresso machine except for people who care more about the experience and journey than about getting good repeatable results easily.
On the other hand, temperature stability wise, I do see complaints on La Pavonis and Elektra in regards to pulling consecutive shots.
I don't see how you could miss it. The Levers forum is full of threads started by users trying to solve the temperature issues of the La Pavonis and Elektra (here's one from me). Suggestions include hacks like a teflon separator between the boiler and grouphead and all kinds of awkward techniques - from turning off the machine for X amount of minutes before the next shot to placing a wet towel on the grouphead.
How many number of consecutive shots would you say these machines is good for?
None. It's a crapshoot, at least by the standards of similarly priced pump-based machines with a PID.
At what level of usage would you think is better to go for a fancier machine such as L24R, Creamia, or cheaper ones like Bezzera Strega Lever, Profitec Pro 800, or Quick Mill Achille? (these are all relatively more temperature stable but not adjustable machines).
I don't know, as I went from a boiler-based Elektra to a boiler-less Flair 58, which I enjoy despite its shortcomings. I don't plan to spend a lot on more sophisticated lever machines. Whenever I upgrade, it will probably be my Lelit Bianca into a non-E61 programmable pressure-profiling machines, similar in capabilities to the Decent but in a different, less-noisy less-costly package. There's currently no such machine on the market, so it will be a while until I upgrade.

macaber8

#12: Post by macaber8 »

Thanks for the input.

I watched a video of Hoffman reviewed a few espresso machines under Euro 1500, and found most of the machine either running at improper temperature or wrong pressure, including the Breville DB. Only the Rancilio Silvia Pro X ($1900) performed as spec but the user experience seems to just, not fun, and it looks like a coffee machine in the office. I would personally stay away for this kind of machine. I am not sure what is saved by the manufacturers on these dual boiler machines, but something is missing.
I don't see how you could miss it. The Levers forum is full of threads started by users trying to solve the temperature issues of the La Pavonis and Elektra (here's one from me).
Please, I cannot miss these complains even if I want to.
The massive initial flow rate is not really an advantage. I had a lot more channeling issues with my Elektra than I did with a previous pump-based Gaggia Tebe. This was very evident with a bottomless portafilter and by the looks of the puck after extraction. I also think that without pre-infusion my current Lelit Bianca (rotary pump with fast flow) is more prone to channeling than my previous Quick Mill Alexia Evo (vibration pump with more gradual flow build up).
Thank you. I am so glad you are sharing this. My observation is fast initial flow rate must be acommendated by proper pre-infusion, meaning proper time, pressure, and temperature. If we simply brew faster, it is no different than a bad brewing process. Just curious, I watch people doing fellini Moves and double strokes etc.. I wonder if this makes any difference? Please keep us posted if you find out a good resolution! This sounds like a good justification to get a fancier lever machine for me.

TokyoA (original poster)

#13: Post by TokyoA (original poster) »

imipolexg wrote:The price i pay for beans means it's foolish to cheap out on the gear. $30/week is $1500/year...

I stumbled through several mediocre machines and grinders until I got an e61 pid brewtus almost 20 years ago. Then more grinder progression and now I have a kafatek.

That grinder made a giant difference to our coffee. Hard to overstate. Like everyone says, grinder matters. Not as much as beans though.

I've played with much more expensive machines but taste no improvement so will keep my brewtus running as long as I can. I installed a flow control device last year, it's nice to see brew pressure and sometimes salvage a shot when grind is wrong on a new bag of beans but is just nice to have.

I don't think it makes sense to get less than a pidded dual boiler and I am really happy with the kafatek. Buying today, probably I'd get a profitec 600 or 700 because they're nice inside to work on. I'm afraid of the breville because it's modern inside and I couldn't repair it with common parts.

Anyway, my opinion: buy what you need to make the coffee you like. If you don't have the beans then no point.

For espresso machines, there's a capability that is needed to make great coffee, and past that it's overkill and aesthetics.

For grinders there might be more significant evolution, there is no good enough but I'd be very surprised if I ever spend to upgrade from the kafatek.
Good advice - grinders are another rabbit hole I'm trying to avoid, for now, as I have a decent one already. In regards to pricing there does seem to be a point of diminishing returns around the mid-range dual boiler mark, and E61 machines seem like a reliable choice...

iyayy

#14: Post by iyayy »

chiming in.
im a filter person.
started with flair pro2, bambino plus, now bdb.
grinders were hario, timemore c2, 1zpresso k for a long while, and now df64 with ssp mp.

so my opinion since i started with flair, it was very hard to learn. grind adjustment affects the resistance, so its hard to be consistent in your pull until you have a good experience on it. so i have good days and bad days coffee.. on the plus side the bad ones isnt so bad, but learning wasnt so simple.
changing beans is difficult. since im also on filter and lighter roasts, this was a nightmare to pull. the preheat routine and burned fingers, i wasnt so fond of it.

i got bambino plus few month later, and it taught me a lot.
while its still not very consistent as boilers, all pump works similar way, u know it will choke, flow well or gush at its presets. u can just focus more on ur prep.

this is something that u can vary a lot with lever, because u can adjust it on the fly, u generally add soo much variable to ur shot.
that said, as stock, flair pro2 will pull slightly better coffee. but im consistently happier with bambino's consistency daily instead of hit and miss, i stopped using flair, and its much much faster, less water wasted and energy wasted for preheating, keeping things hot and burn risks. the 58 and cafelat robot looks to be much better in that regard.

my take here is, lever works well for someone who understands his grinder and how to pull a shot. for beginners it can be very overwhelming unless u have a method of keeping most of ur settings, puck prep, temp, beans (yep, beans, change it and u'll need to adjust) and pull behavior, u'd naturally tend to adjust ur strength vs puck resistance. since i started back then as beginner, im not even sure if im dosing or pulling it right..

i got bdb later and df64 with ssp mp.
so grinders, a good one is beneficial. ssp is good but it likely wont really pull normal profile shot (usually faster or accelerating), some adjustment usually needed compared to classic burrs. however the benefit is noticeable. but as long as u have something that grinds well and consistent (hand grind /single doser), or u weight ur grind outputs (not input) its fine.

i'll just say quality from boilers, 58mm basket, and its silkier steam was easy trade for the extra waiting time of boilers.
im still learning, but im happy enough to enjoy my brews daily, and my filters skills gotten even better now since bdb and ssp.

if i have to start over i'll likely be looking at df83 and a londinium. i'd prefer if i can just tune my grind and dose, and just monitor brew time and yield, leaving the profile to the machine.
at the very least i'll look at bianca (rotary + flow control).
for pump driven i want pid and pressure gauge, preferably at grouphead to know im grinding to hit right pressure.

i'll also avoid hand grinders as first setup, its ok if u know what ur doing, but if u r learning, u'll be spending time grinding to dial ur shots, and it gets old n tiring very quickly, or even frustrating if u still not getting closer to better cup after 3rd attempt. grinder with good workflow is a huge bonus.

good luck.

User avatar
Randy G.

#15: Post by Randy G. »

If I knew everything I know now back in 2020 when I started, would I have changed what I bought when I started? No. I could not have afforded it, and nothing even remotely close existed. Am I making better espresso at home today? Yes. By far! I would bet that virtually anyone who started that long ago and stayed with it can say much the same thing.

A wide range of dependable adjustments and a solid consistency in performance will move you forward faster than simple equipment that offers neither. The grinder I have today costs more than double what my entire setup cost me when I started. The burrs in it cost about $125 more than my first espresso machine, yet has granted me performance that makes it worth every cent.

I can go on and on, and have done so in my 22 year old blog, but the questions that I would ask based on all of this would start with, how important is the best possible coffee you can make to you? The answer might be the most difficult thing in all this. And there are too many factors at your end for us to make any specific choices for you. Not knowing your relationship status we cannot even recommend what color the grinder should be!
www.EspressoMyEspresso.com
* 22nd Anniversary 2000-2022 *

boren

#16: Post by boren »

macaber8 wrote:I watched a video of Hoffman reviewed a few espresso machines under Euro 1500, and found most of the machine either running at improper temperature or wrong pressure, including the Breville DB. Only the Rancilio Silvia Pro X ($1900) performed as spec but the user experience seems to just, not fun, and it looks like a coffee machine in the office. I would personally stay away for this kind of machine. I am not sure what is saved by the manufacturers on these dual boiler machines, but something is missing.
One theory is that the higher pressure is needed for use with ESE pods, but I doubt many people buy a 1500 euro machine with the intention to use it with pods. In any case, don't consider the default OPV value as a deciding factor. In most machines of this tier it's easy to adjust the OPV, while there are other parameters and attributes that can't be adjusted that should therefore weigh more into your decision.
I watch people doing fellini Moves and double strokes etc.. I wonder if this makes any difference?
I used to think that the Fellini was impossible to perform on my Elektra MCaL without disturbing the puck enough to ruin the shot, but with the advent of puck screens this is no longer the case. It's definitely easy enough to do with a puck screen, but I'm not convinced that the temporary drop in pressure is great for extraction. And it also adds to the already many issues such machines have with repeatability. Personally, I'd just stick with the amounts the machine was designed for and do one pull. You can switch between different baskets (single, double, etc) or remove the cup before the shot ends if you want to adjust extraction ratio.
Please keep us posted if you find out a good resolution! This sounds like a good justification to get a fancier lever machine for me.
If anything, what I wrote so far should give you the justification to start with a pump-based machine, but if you're hell-bent on starting with a lever, my suggestion is - get a Flair 58. It's not expensive compared to most other levers, it's loads of fun, and it's actually more easy to get consistent shots with it than with the Elektra and La Pavonis. The Flair comes with a built in pressure gauge that the stock La Pavoni lacks and that is pretty pointless to fit to the Elektra given it's a spring-based model. In addition, if you follow the same workflow with the Flair (with regards to kettle and heating element setting) you can more easily produces consecutive shots with the same temperature. It's really a great machine, and I say this after being a big skeptic initially.

macaber8

#17: Post by macaber8 »

In any case, don't consider the default OPV value as a deciding factor. In most machines of this tier it's easy to adjust the OPV, while there are other parameters and attributes that can't be adjusted that should therefore weigh more into your decision.
Very much agreed. Could you please elaborate more on other parameters and attributes that cant be adjusted?

On this topic, I don't know who could stand, after spending $1500 or more on a brand new machine, the first thing you do after getting it is to open the cover and mess with the OPV. It could offer less, but every it offers should be correct.
If anything, what I wrote so far should give you the justification to start with a pump-based machine,
All I am reading is one need a better quality temperature stable lever machine like CT2 to produce good shots. If one need repeatability, spring type with stable temperature like LR24 is way to go. Still, thanks for the advise on Flair 58. The entry point don't have to be a $3K machine. However, I am struggling, if knowing future upgrade is inevitable, why buy cheap machine in the first place? You are going to lose money on the sale and produce a bunch of bad shots and once in a while you would have to drink them. I just hate that.

boren

#18: Post by boren »

macaber8 wrote:Very much agreed. Could you please elaborate more on other parameters and attributes that cant be adjusted?
A few things that can't be adjusted:
- The visual look of a machine. If you don't like its design, trying to make it prettier is bound to fail (lipstick on a pig etc...)
- Specialized features. For example, if you want flow control, getting a non-E61 machine that doesn't already have this feature will mean you'd have to give it up (with the odd exception of the Breville Dual Boiler)
- Sound. If you don't like, for example, the dot-matrix-printer-like noise of a Decent espresso machine, there's nothing you can do about it.
- Warm up time. If you want a machine that warms up quickly and is energy efficient, you shouldn't choose one with an E61 grouphead since there's no way to turn such a machine into one that fits those preferences.
On this topic, I don't know who could stand, after spending $1500 or more on a brand new machine, the first thing you do after getting it is to open the cover and mess with the OPV. It could offer less, but every it offers should be correct.
No biggie. Just spend 5 minutes and adjust it yourself. In some cases you don't even have to pop up the hood and there's an external screw, so it takes less than 10 seconds. I wouldn't factor the default OPV value into my buying decision, and I definitely wouldn't choose an inferior machine just because its OPV is set to 9 bar. I would factor into my decision an OPV that can't be adjusted or that requires too much work to adjust.
All I am reading is one need a better quality temperature stable lever machine like CT2 to produce good shots. If one need repeatability, spring type with stable temperature like LR24 is way to go. Still, thanks for the advise on Flair 58. The entry point don't have to be a $3K machine. However, I am struggling, if knowing future upgrade is inevitable, why buy cheap machine in the first place? You are going to lose money on the sale and produce a bunch of bad shots and once in a while you would have to drink them. I just hate that.
To give you more relevant advise, it would be best if you answered a few questions:
- What machine & grinder do you currently own or have previously owned?
- Is steaming milk a requirement? And if so, is it important to be able to do steam during espresso extraction?
- Do you have any counter space constraints?
- What's the total budget for the machine and grinder?
- Is warm up time a consideration?
- What about temperature stability (between shots and within a shot)?
- Do you want to be able to control shot pressure or flow? And if so, do you accept some inconsistency or want complete repeatability?

Probably best to start a separate thread with these answers though. We've already hijacked this one...

BKH

#19: Post by BKH »

Randy G. wrote:If I knew everything I know now back in 2020 ...
Don't short change your experience Randy G :lol: