Which double boiler espresso machine to purchase?

Recommendations for espresso equipment buyers and upgraders.
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Postby Dodger1 » May 08, 2009, 11:07 am

Now that I'm retired I have the time and inclination to start making my own espresso. After reading a load of posts I've come to the conclusion that the following machines would fit our needs. However, I'm looking for some additional feedback before pulling the trigger.

Mini Vivaldi II (or)
New Alex Duetto II (or)
Expobar Brewtus III-V

Mazzer Mini

The accessories: a good tamper, 20oz milk frothing pitcher, knockbox (the Bumper), bottomless portafilter and a digital 0.1 gram accuracy scale.

This is my first espresso endeavor but over the years I've learned that if you've got the change to spare, it's normally cheaper in the long run to start off with quality higher end products. I also know that I'm not going to be producing God shots from the get go but with the assistance of knowledgeable individuals (hint, wink, nod), and the willingness to spend time learning; you can accomplish almost anything you set your mind to.

FYI, I'm a straight espresso/americano hound but my wife, and most of our friends, are huge latte fans.


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Postby woodchuck » May 08, 2009, 11:34 am

All good choices. A couple of other things to consider. I still believe a grinder makes a huge difference to the consistency of your coffee. Although the Mini is a good grinder you might want to consider spending the extra money and getting a Super Jolly. Although taste wise, it won't make much of a difference, I still think plumbing in a machine and going to a rotary if you can do it will add to your espresso experience.



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Postby Vad » May 08, 2009, 11:35 am

Hello, Keith.
I, personally, would go with Brewtus. I am curious what others would suggest.
Good luck in your purchase whatever it may be, and enjoy the ride.

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Postby JonR10 » May 08, 2009, 11:45 am


Good choices....any will be terrific :D

I would pick the vendor as much as the machine, and at this level performance isn't an issue so also strongly consider the looks (which one do you most want to wake up to every morning?).

Dodger1 wrote:FYI, I'm a straight espresso/americano hound but my wife, and most of our friends, are huge latte fans.

If this means huge latte drinks (like over 10 ounces) then steam power may be a consideration. Although all three will steam well, I think Vivaldi may be the strongest steamer of the bunch and I believe the Brewtus is the weakest (although I thought the Brewtus steam setup was excellent for texturing milk to make latte art).

Also, get more than one pitcher and make sure to have at least one pitcher that's smaller, the 12 oz size is my favorite for a classic cappuccino. I keep a bunch of pitchers in the freezer always ready to go.

Lastly, while the Mazzer Mini is a great grinder (awesome even), it is outclassed by the Super-Jolly and the Super-J's can often be found unsed in excellent shape for less than a new Mini. All of these grinders are monsterously huge so if that could be an issue there are some smaller prettier grinders that do a great job too.

Hope this helps!
Jon Rosenthal
Houston, Texas

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Postby danetrainer » May 08, 2009, 12:25 pm

Owning the Brewtus, I would highly recommend it, but would suggest upgrading to the Rotary, having
used many different machines with vibe pumps (but I have not used the Brewtus IIIV so I can't directly compare the difference).

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Postby uscfroadie » May 08, 2009, 12:33 pm

All good choices, but if you will be making large latte drinks you may want to get the REGULAR Vivaldi II, not the mini. The Mini has a MUCH smaller steam boiler (1.2L versus 2.5 for regular Vivaldi), and it's steaming performance is weak according to Dave at hi-techespresso, who sells both machines.

Any reason why the Vibiemme Double Domo isn't being considered? The version II with its larger steam boiler may put it at the forefront of performance if you are looking only at reservoir models.

Good luck on your decision, and all will be great choices. And as Jon suggested, select a reputable vendor!

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Postby shadowfax » May 08, 2009, 1:04 pm

I agree with the others about the machine: if you're going dual-boiler, I'd get the one among those that looked the coolest. I liked the Brewtus III when I tried it; a classically forgiving machine, I got nice results on my first try. But I'd want a 20A machine if I were going with double-boiler: If you want steam power, you will want a huge boiler or a high-wattage element, or both if you can get them both, and it's best to get a machine that doesn't have any restrictions such as preventing the heating elements from operating simultaneously. I don't recall how the Brewtus prevents going over 15A, but I believe the Vivaldi makes its boilers operate in "mutually exclusive" mode when you set it to 15A--a nice feature as long as you can turn it to 20A later.

You sound like you're jumping into espresso hoping to make your first purchase your last. I think that's a great idea if you have the means, and I wonder if you've thought about the grinder? I think you may find, as you learn to prepare espresso, that the Mini doesn't deliver as consistent results as its big brother, the Super Jolly. I know a lot of home baristas start out with the Mini and end up upgrading down the road--that's always an option with the Mini, as it holds its value really well, but you might like a Super Jolly better, and I don't think they're much more expensive if you know where to get them or try asking for a good deal on one. I thought getting my Super Jolly was a really good upgrade from my Mini.
Nicholas Lundgaard

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Postby zin1953 » May 08, 2009, 1:40 pm

Dodger1 wrote:Mini Vivaldi II (or)
New Alex Duetto II (or)
Expobar Brewtus III-V

Mazzer Mini

The accessories: a good tamper, 20oz milk frothing pitcher, knockbox (the Bumper), bottomless portafilter and a digital 0.1 gram accuracy scale.

Keith, first of all, welcome to the "World of Espresso."

While it is true that any of the machines you have selected will work, I would take seriously JonR's advice (I would pick the vendor as much as the machine). And with that in mind, I cannot recommend strongly enough Chris' Coffee Service -- home to two of the three machines you've "pre-selected."

But before making specific suggestions, I have a question. Specifically, is having your machine plumbed directly into a water line a possibility? If it is, I would agree with Merle (uscfrodie) and suggest you look at the "regular" La Spaziale Vivaldi II rather than the "Mini." If plumbing is not an option, I would take a serious look at the Izzo Alex Duetto II -- among its other features, it can easily go back and forth from being a pourover machine to being plumbed in, thus preserving that option for a later possible change in circumstance.

Finally, although you do not mention a specific budget (and, of course, it is easy for us to spend your money!), I would seriously suggest a different grinder. Is there anything wrong with a Mazzer Mini? No. It's a fine grinder. But you can get a superior grinder for very little more, and -- if you are willing to buy used -- you can actually get one for less. Grinders are just as important as the machine itself -- in fact, I sincerely believe they are more important. So let me completely blow your budget, and suggest some alternatives to the Mazzer Mini (while still attempting to maintain some reasonability in the price department):
  • a Mazzer Super Jolly (SJ) -- you can often find these used for less than the Mini, and that includes the purchase of a brand-new set of burrs (even new, I think it's worth the difference); or,
  • a La Cimbali Max Hybrid (CMH) (the biggest single improvement I ever made to my espresso wa upgrading from a Mazzer Mini to a CMH).

P.S. Let me say that I have no connection to Chris' Coffee Service, other than as a satisfied, repeat customer. The same can be said for me -- that I am a satisfied, repeat customer -- for several other vendors including, but not limited to, 1st-Line Equipment, Espresso Parts, NW, and Stefano's Espresso Care. Some other vendors may carry the above equipment, while some may not. But finding a solid, reliable vendor is essential.
A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.

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Postby Lockman » May 08, 2009, 1:43 pm

I second (or fifth) the the grinder upgrade. I have the Max hybrid and it has a great grind. I am about to upgrade the grinder even further. :roll: Can't go wrong with the Mazzer's. I have a plumbed in machine and I love it! Makes a huge difference in clean up and convenience.
I personally would lean towards the full size Vivaldi. If you can hang with the "look" and get the plumb in kit, you will only have yourself to blame for "sinkers". Run on 20 amp.
Double boiler and rotary pump is a beautiful thing! Wish I had a DB :wink:
LMWDP #226.

"It takes many victims to make a culinary masterpiece"

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Postby Yeti » May 08, 2009, 3:16 pm

*if only the VBM Double boiler was 20A.

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