Buyer's Guide to the Quick Mill Vetrano

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HB
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#1: Post by HB »

It's been over a year since the Buyer's Guide to the Andreja Premium was published (*). Chris Nachtrieb, owner of Chris' Coffee Service, proposed that I review its new sibling, the Quick Mill Vetrano. The two machines share a lot in common, so this review will be more of an update and comparison than start-from-scratch review. I've written about two commercial machines in the interim (Cimbali Junior and Elektra A3), both of which sell for more than double the Vetrano; I thought it would be interesting to (re)compare them to a machine that's available at closer-to-Earth prices.

Lately Chris explains a little of the history behind the naming of the machines he introduces to the market:
chriscoffee wrote:I was introduced to a gentleman in Milan on my last trip who worked for Faema for forty years and let me tell you, he is one interesting guy. At 70 years of age, I thought he was going to crush my knuckles when we shook hands. What he does now is locate original E61 machines, one and two group, and refurbishes them. He takes them down to a pile of parts, has the bodies rechromed and reassembles them like new complete with the original mercury pressure switch. They are a thing of beauty when he is done.
Below is a picture of the gentleman:

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Signore Vetrano

Signore Vetrano's namesake arrived Thursday. I'm still stinging from the departure of the Elektra A3, my current favorite among the genre, and looked forward to welcoming equipment with similarly quiet rotary vane pump and plumbed driptray. Refilling water reservoirs or emptying driptrays? I won't be bothered with either for the next few months.

Let me pause for a moment and thank Roger and his team at Chris' Coffee Service for the great packing job! It's one of the small details that I really appreciate, especially since they eschew static-loving foam peanuts so commonly used for packaging protection. I dislike foam peanuts mostly because of their amazing ability to cling to every person and surface within 20 feet, but also because they often shift or spill out. Instead Chris' Coffee double-boxes and places solid foam inserts at each corner to hold the inner box perfectly centered. This extra gap between the already well padded inner box and outer box protects the machine from the gorilla-like handling the machine is subjected to on its journey to your home. Extra points to Roger and company for using Instapak foam to fill excessive top space (Instapak is a plastic bag filled with an expanding foam, resulting in a custom fit when the foam hardens). Needless to say, the machine arrived in perfect condition.

The Vetrano contained with the inner box is surrounded by custom foam pieces that together envelope the machine. Pull out the top and side foam slides, and then a heave-ho onto the kitchen table for a quick picture:

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Signore Vetrano's namesake

HB trivia: Careful readers may notice that I rarely post pictures of test machines in situ on our kitchen countertop. I don't know what we were thinking at the time, the countertops are dated by their dusty rose color. Needless to say, we're long overdue for a kitchen makeover. It's bad enough that we have to look at them... maybe this spring we'll have a kitchen decor worthy of sharing publicly.

My "guest machine" workstation area is next to the sink and supplied with a 3/8" filter and water softener system. The technicians had thoughtfully threaded on some plumber's tape on the male fitting for the machine hookup, so just a few quick twists to make it watertight:


Note: Changed in final production model, see below

UPDATED MAY 2006:

Direct hookup on bottom of machine, rotates in any direction

At the other end of the braided stainless-steel tubing is a 3/8" female John Guest push-in type fitting. As a general rule, I remove the machine's covers to check for loose wires and fittings that might occur on the bumpy ride before powering up a machine for the first time. Even so, less than 20 minutes from the time I opened the box and we're ready to fire it up.

The instructions for the Vetrano are a modified copy of the Andreja Premium's. It covers the initial setup, hints and tips, etc. Although I loath reading the owner's manual, it seemed prudent to read the first page or two. You know, to hopefully avoid burning out a heating element because the boiler didn't fill up properly (it happened to me once for an evaluation machine :oops:). The instructions intoned that the boiler should auto-fill within 45 seconds. Given my prior gaffe, I stared nervously at the clock as it passed 30 seconds and the pump was still running. Then I noticed how quiet - how blissfully quiet - the pump was. Quick Mill did a nice job of securing the pump motor and surrounding components, plus they used high-temperature plastic inlet and outlet lines for the pump to reduce the vibration transmission. Forget about the claims of better clarity from a rotary pump for a moment, it's really hard to go back to vibratory pumps once you've grown accustom to their whispering counterparts.

The driptray setup is unique. As shipped, the drainhole located on the backside of the driptray has a hard plastic plug. I removed it and fitted the piece show below:


Note: Changed in final production model, see below

UPDATED MAY 2006:

Final production version connects easily from the bottom, removes without tools

The elbow shown on the left is near the bottom of the driptray. Its originally flat end facing downward is ground to a semi-circle to allow air to enter the drainline more easily when necessary. The exiting piece with the O-ring mates with the fitting on the right that leads to the flexible drainline. This arrangement allows you to easily remove the driptray for cleaning. Because the drainhole is on the side instead of the bottom, grounds are left behind in the driptray instead of potentially collecting in the drainline. The drawback of this drainhole location is the residual water left behind (a little less than 1/4" of standing water). The neatnik in me recoils slightly despite the practical nature of Quickmill's design. I'll return to this point in a few weeks to see how it plays out in daily use, e.g., does the extra water splash out while purging the steam wand.

This morning was the first day I had a chance to test drive the machine. As good fortune would have it, Intelligentsia sent out my Wednesday order by next day air instead of the usual ground delivery. The pound of Black Cat and Kid O's Organic are still degassing and their flavors should peak Sunday, yah! Tomorrow I'll writeup my first impressions of the espresso and cappuccinos from the weekend with the Vetrano.

(*) There's no "Bench" thread that covers the research behind the Andreja Premium because the forums were created months later.
Dan Kehn

ECM Manufacture: @ecmespresso #weliveespresso
Sponsored by ECM Manufacture
msurdyk

#2: Post by msurdyk »

I am doing some plumbing in anticipation of my Vetrano's arrival tomorrow afternoon 8) . I didn't realize that flexible supply and drain come with the unit. How long are they?
Mike in Tampa

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HB (original poster)
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#3: Post by HB (original poster) » replying to msurdyk »

The espresso gods are smiling on Team HB. Chris is wrapping up the La Marzocco GS3, Steve started on his retrospective of the Olympia Cremina, Abe and Sean have some interesting work they will be sharing soon. And I'm loving life on a fun tour with the Vetrano exploring the flavor profile of some uber fresh coffee from Intelligentsia, including Kid O's Organic Espresso Blend.

For those who may be new to HB, Intelligentsia Coffee Roasters is a long-time sponsor and one of the official suppliers of HB's coffees (other "guest" roasters often share their creations to round out evaluations, especially in support of Chris Tacy's Pro's Perspective series). While my past evaluations usually started with a few weeks using Intelligentsia's Black Cat blend, lately I've been exploring brighter blends, partially due the influence of Peter Guiliano and Mike Walsh, who've been busily working on developing a remix of Counter Culture Coffee's Aficionado blend (code named "CG4"). In seeking feedback from local home baristas, they spurred my own interest in exploring a wider range of coffees.

In a break from my usual Bench commentary style, today's report is more off-the-cuff than heavily researched. I anticipate a number of Vetrano owners receiving their machines this week and hopefully some of these refinements of my earlier Andreja Premium writeup will prove useful, especially with regards to the Espresso Performance steps.

But first a few final "out of the box" comments.

One of the reasons that Chris Nachtrieb offers equipment for evaluation and offers discounts to early buyers is to collect feedback. Already he's identified some items he's asked Quickmill to integrate into the next batch coming in February. Without getting into too much detail, I judge all the issues he's shared with me as minor (e.g., the length of a screw holding on the outer shell could be a little longer to make re-insertion easier). These nits do collectively contribute to the serviceability of the whole package, which is Chris' Coffee Service's hallmark ("Quality & Service Second to None" if you've missed the banner ad).

So with that preamble, let's consider one hit and one miss. First the legs supporting the Vetrano:

Image
Nice looking and adjustable height legs

Most espresso machines in this price range have big rubber tabs to keep the machine from skidding around, or blocky fixed-height legs. I like how these solid metal legs look and how they adjust. Turning the bottom section (below the seam shown in the photo) changes the height without compromising appearance. I used this adjustment to compensate for our off-kilter countertop and also to aid the draining of the plumbed driptray. The latter point - the level driptray - works to the advantage of those who don't wish to install a waste drain line, but means more water rests in the bottom otherwise. Other permanent drain machines that I've used skew the driptray towards its drainhole, i.e., they are intentionally not level.

Now the miss; below is the Vetrano's combination boiler and brew pressure gauge:


Changed in final production model, see below

UPDATE MAY 2006:

Final production version - red and green zones

I like the colored range indicating the extremes of brew and boiler pressure. However fussy baristas will look to detente marks at 0.1 bar intervals, not a large swath that they must mentally divide to report a setting of 1.1 bar versus 1.2 bar. Not sure if this will change in the future, but I would file it under "nice to have changes."

Enough about first impressions, let's get to the coffee. Yesterday I tempted Steve over with the offer of some coffee for his own evaluation. Of course he said yes to samples of a couple espressos, made from Kid O's. I had roughly dialed in the machine using old coffee (huh? Ten days is consider "old" nowadays... I've become increasingly picky about post-roast times, especially for blends that promise nice florals) and then switched to the good stuff prior to Steve's visit. Although he thought the texture of the first espresso was excellent, he noted a sour finish and ask for a retry. Lately I've been toying with borderline low temperatures to favor the "gentler" flavors than are muted by higher temperatures. One of the advantages of a heat exchanger machine is that you can tweak the temperatures in very small increments by flushing a extra couple seconds (of course not with the level of precision of the best dual boiler machines; it's a Zen thing). I've noted that Steve favors ristrettos, so I also increased the dosage by tapping earlier. The extra grams of coffee slow the extraction rate, push up the crema's creamy texture, and amplify the stronger flavors. Generally speaking, a double tap when the portafilter is half full versus three-quarter full will yield another 1.0-1.5 grams of coffee (again it's a Zen thing, don't ask me to tare the basket). These two adjustments yielded an espresso more to his liking: Bolder initial flavors, richer crema, and an even finish.

With Steve's thumbs up, he collected his coffee beans and dashed off to run holiday errands. I turned my attention to refining the flush routine detailed in How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love HXs and outlined in the Andreja Premium review. The nagging feeling that HX Love is overdue for an update to take into account the "pro's method" outlined in Chris' cribsheet is back.

Sorry, it is getting late and I have my own errands to run. To be continued...

_________________
It's already installed so I can't quote you precise measurements, but both the inlet hose and drainline are about three feet long. I'll document a few hints on hooking up the drainline since the quarters are very tight where it must join with the drain fitting. This is one other miss that will surely be addressed in the next batch of Vetranos.
Dan Kehn

Nicholas

#4: Post by Nicholas »

Nice! I hope the evaluation goes well, as mine shows up on Tuesday! Please re-affirm my purchase for me :D

I can't imagine I will be disappointed after 5-6 years with a stock Silvia though. No more listening to that pump first thing in the morning!

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

UPDATED MAY 2006: The driptray hookup was changed in the final production model.


Drains from bottom of driptray

Note: The text below applies only to the first production run.

_________________

Tonight and tomorrow I would like to offer a few "getting started" suggestions to those getting Vetranos this week, beginning with the drain hookup. My hope is to save a few scraped knuckles and cussing caused by the tight interior quarters. If you aren't hooking up the drain for this machine, skip to the next post.

Our story begins behind the little bugger on the right:


Regular driptray converts to plumbed in - fitting with O-ring mates with machine's waste water hookup

This fitting is passthru secured to the floor of the machine with a couple screws. The 3/8" ID flex tubing slips over the end of the straight fitting (not barbed), but unfortunately it is faced on the left with the boiler and the right with the corner extension supporting the frame. Trust me, nothing short of removing the boiler will give you enough room to fit your hands into the confines of that space. Below are the steps I followed to install the drainline:
  1. Tighten down the hose clamp to about four turns shy of snug a few inches from the end of the flexible drain tubing. It should slide over the flex pipe but not scoot too easily.
  2. Unplug the machine (don't just turn it off, unplug it!). Remove the four slotted screws on the sides and two in the back holding on the shell, paying attention not to let it drop off in the back as you remove the last screw (get a helper if you can). Gently stretch outward and remove the U-shaped back shell.
  3. Remove the two Phillips screws holding on the top cover (the back screws passing through the shell attach to this piece; it is only secured with two screws once the U-shaped cover is off).
  4. Get a flashlight and gaze into the eye of your nemesis, the backside of the drain fitting shown above on the right. Find a pair of needle nose pliers and a very long straight screwdriver (8" longer or more will do nicely).
  5. Take off any rings / watch. Check that you have bandages at arm's reach. Push the first half inch or so of the flex tubing onto the fitting (cussing is optional). You may be tempted to first thread the tubing where it ultimately will pass through the oblong hole on the bottom of the machine. Resist that temptation, you will need the tubing unencumbered to act as leverage to push the end on the @$!!?# fitting.
  6. Once you've got the tubing on 1/4" or more, slide down the hose clamp along its impossibly narrow confines by pushing it along using the long screwdriver (reaching inward from the side of the machine). Tighten down the clamp; it is easier to maneuvering the screwdriver into position from the left of the coupling (looking from the back) since any approach from the right is too tight (sorry, no pictures; you'll hopefully understand what I mean).
  7. Once the one end is firmly secured with the hose clamp, thread the other 2-1/2 feet of tubing through the oblong hole in the bottom of the machine and connect it to your waste water hookup (the connection kits made for dishwashers work well).
As expected, this difficultly didn't go unnoticed at Chris' Coffee Service. Expect a correction in the next batch.
Dan Kehn

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HB (original poster)
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#6: Post by HB (original poster) »

My morning routine used to be one wakeup espresso followed by one leisurely cappuccino. For awhile now it's two wakeup espressos and one cappuccino... and maybe another round after lunch if I'm working at home. Who are you calling jumpy!?! I haven't spent much time practicing my latter art skills. This morning's looked nice, though it could be described as a rosetta, heart, Olympic flame, or even an onion:

Image
Not bad, though I forgot to settle the "crema bubbles" before pouring

It certainly tasted good.
Dan Kehn

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Balthazar_B

#7: Post by Balthazar_B »

HB wrote:As expected, this difficultly didn't go unnoticed at Chris' Coffee Service. Expect a correction in the next batch.
Do you know if the correction is something that can be retrofitted, or will it be more or less a structural change?

Looking forward to the rest of the review!
- John

LMWDP # 577

Cerini Coffee & Gifts: official US importer for Olympia Express
Sponsored by Cerini Coffee & Gifts
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HB (original poster)
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#8: Post by HB (original poster) »

Balthazar_B wrote:Do you know if the correction is something that can be retrofitted, or will it be more or less a structural change?
I assume it will only involve a different fitting. If I learn more details, I will post them to this thread.
Dan Kehn

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Compass Coffee
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#9: Post by Compass Coffee »

Look's like there'll very soon be 30 happy Vetrano campers! Anyone else wanting a Vetrano before Valentine's Day is SOL, Chris' website says sold out.

It'd be interesting to compare the Vetrano & Bricoletta head to head. Somehow I doubt there'd be much if any real functional difference. I suspect that even though lower 1400w heater it's 0.1L larger and insulated boiler would likely compensate recovery time and possibly even better shot stability. Definite drain design plus goes to the Vetrano IMO. But style wise, I like the garbage can!
Mike McGinness, Head Bean (Owner/Roast Master)
http://www.CompassCoffeeRoasting.com

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Balthazar_B

#10: Post by Balthazar_B »

Compass Coffee wrote:Look's like there'll very soon be 30 happy Vetrano campers!
I'm one of them...just set it up in its temporary Flojetted location and am waiting for it to warm up. It looks better in person than in the various photos that have been posted, and man is it heavy! I thought my old Astoria was pretty solid, but this is well beyond that machine.

I think the only stylistic change I might have made would be to round the front corners a la the Andreja Premium. But frankly, since I'm a form-follows-function kind of guy, the looks are less important than the quality of the brew it bestows...which I should begin testing soon! :D

Dan: any last minute suggestions based on your testing thus far?
- John

LMWDP # 577