I don't have much to add to the original in-depth Quickmill Carola reviews posted on this site, but I thought I'd contribute my experience with the 2020 revision of the Carola. For earlier reviews see: Quick Mill Carola - Review / Quick Mill Carola EVO - Review & Photos
Background: I'd been looking for a compact and reliable E61 machine for a family summer home. Something that I could easily transport at the end of the season, and that wouldn't take up much space. Since my wife and I rarely have milk drinks, steaming is an ability I'd gladly sacrifice for a smaller footprint, lighter weight, and better price. I contacted Chris Coffee to see if they had any deals on the Carola and was surprised that they offered an open-box unit for just $1,000. Perfect!
The primary change in the 2020 Quickmill Carola is, obviously, the addition of a PID and display on the front of the machine. This replaces the digital thermostat, which was adjusted with DIP switches behind a rear panel on earlier versions of the Carola. The new PID works as you'd expect, allowing adjustments to the brew boiler temp in 1°F increments. When the pump is activated, the PID becomes a helpful shot timer, which blinks the final result 5 times before reverting back to current boiler temp.
An earlier reviewer made reference to a buzzer, which "beeps once when the machine turns on and repeatedly when water is low." The new machine appears to lack this. I ran the water down to the bottom of the tank to see if I could initiate a warning, but it never made a sound. Also, the machine is silent when powering on. I have it connected to a smart switch, set to come on an hour before I make espresso, and it doesn't make a peep. Overall, I'm happy with that change, although it definitely means caution will be required to not allow the water tank to get too low. I expect to simply top the tank off at the end of each session.
My home machine is a Rocket R58, so naturally I've made some comparisons. I have to say, I'm extremely impressed with the build quality of the Quickmill. I also think it's quite an attractive machine, but I guess you could say it lacks some of the elegance of the Rocket, having a more utilitarian feel. There are a lot of little things, but one example, that might capture what I mean, is the drip tray. The Rocket has a mirror polished stainless steel drip tray. Whereas the Quickmill's tray is a basic steel box with visible weld lines. This is hidden when the drip tray grating is in place, only visible when emptying the tray. Obviously, a trivial detail, but a difference between utilitarian and elegant. In case that matters to anyone.
I was a little worried that the Carola would feel like a toy compared with the bigger, much heavier, dual-boiler I'm accustomed to. But, I was happy to discover that it stays pretty firmly planted despite its comparative light weight, allowing for 1-hand portafilter removal or replacement. No need to hold the machine in place while manipulating the portafilter. Also, the brew lever and micro-switch that starts the pump have a nice high quality feel. Nothing about using the Carola feels cheap. The vibe pump is obviously noisier than the rotary pump in the Rocket, but it's not bad, just someone "buzzy." Absolutely no big deal. It's certainly far quieter than a grinder, and, if memory serves, quieter than the vibe pump on a Breville I used to use. I did notice that the pressure ramp up with the vibe pump is very gradual, slower than I recall with the Breville. That may be by design, or my bad memory, or the increased head space of the IMS basket I use. Not sure.
Water tank and drip tray capacity are fine for my typical morning of shots for my wife and I. We typically make a total of 6 or 7 double shots over the course of a long morning, and the tank and drip tray volume is easily adequate for that.
I haven't taken the case off yet to get a look inside, but I suspect it's going to be essentially the same as the previous versions.
There isn't a great deal of information available online about the Carola, which is a shame because it's a very capable and well made E61, at a pretty amazing price point. Not much more than a Silvia with PID. If you can live without steam it is a wonderful option.
You can see the weld lines in the drip tray. not pretty, but well made
The area beneath the drip tray
The OPV adjustment is nice and handy under the cup tray next to the water tank
I apologize for my poor lighting hand-held videos of a couple example shots. This morning I was making a syrupy/chocolatey Ethiopian blend, playing around with 1:2 and 1:1.5 recipes. You can see the gradual ramp up in pressure I mentioned.
Need help with equipment usage or want to share your latest discovery?
I have the older version and I am glad to see that that other than the improved pid controls and the timer, it seems unchanged. Mine has been excellent -- and as you mention a great value.
No reason to change a good thing I'm a little surprised the Carola isn't more popular, in fact it took some digging before I stumbled upon it in the first place. But, for those who don't need steam, or don't have the space for a bigger machine, or are just looking for a inexpensive entry point into an E61, the Carola Is an attractive option.
I just noticed one other improvement in the "new" Carola -- the water tank has a stainless steel rod across the center to make it easier to lift. Great idea!
Good catch! I'd missed that from the earlier reviews. At some point, I'll take the case off and see if they've made any internal modifications, apart from the PID.jgood wrote: I just noticed one other improvement in the "new" Carola -- the water tank has a stainless steel rod across the center to make it easier to lift. Great idea!