Dalla Corte Studio (a year later)

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Peter_SVK

#1: Post by Peter_SVK »

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Story before (Jan 2018):

After 2 years of living with E61 dual boiler (Quick Mill QM67) I found out, that E61 is not that good for repeated extractions, so decided to look for some machine with saturated grouphead with small footprint. Obviously, DC Mini fit the bill ... but it was so outdated (ugly, sorry), lack of PID, etc., so I decided to write to DC, if they are planning to do some upgrades. Paolo DC replied „At the the moment we are on the last step to finish the project of new Mini and will be on the market in October of this year. I can not say to you all the update tech news about it clearly. But if you can wait I'm sure you well be impress". Well, in October 2018 I had an jubilee anniversary, so why not to wait for new machine?
Finally, it was no in October 2018, but late in January 2019, when DC introduced new „Mini" in Sigep and called it STUDIO, and it was available for sale in March for the first pre-orders, which I opted for. There was not too much information available, so a bit a blind shot...

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Studio.

Studio is a brad new machine, not just an upgraded Mini. It's larger (although still quite compact, dimensions 321 x 390,4 x 400 mm), it has rotary pump, proven saturated (or integrated?) grouphead with 0.5L brew boiler, 1.5L steam boiler and 4L water tank. It allows also direct connection to mains water supply, but the waste water connection is not supported, so you have to rely on driptray - no problem at all, because there is not a lot of waste water compared to E61 grouphead due to the lack of preinfusion chamber.

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Mechanical design.

Main frame is made of steel, zinc galvanised, visible outer panels and cup trays are off stainless steel, side panels are powder coated (standardly black or white). Just the shiny grouphead cover including bottom edge is from metalized plastic. Drip tray is plastic too, with stainless steel front panel and removable cup tray grid. Steam pressure gauge is on the front panel while brew pressure gauge is inside water tank compartment (so clearly only for service purpose). Lever are rugged to outlast some abuse.

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Internals.

Studio use copper steam boiler, brass fittings and copper tubes (except of pump in/out, which are PTFE). Pressurized water from the pump is connected to BSPP 5-port manifold, which makes the tube routings very clean. Worth to mention, Swiss Digmesa 1.0 mm orifice flow meter is used.

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Electronics.

Machine is controlled by a processor (not a surprise), main board (made by Gicar) is placed as far as possible from both boilers (very nice!), there is an USB port on the main board for future firmware updates, which are really easy to do (you need just USB flash disc with new firmware). USB port is quite easily accessible, however side panel and steel cover must be removed first (not a problem). Menu is displayed on small backlit display on front panel, rotary knob with push enter function is placed just underneath. Lever extraction mode selector uses Hall sensors (Gicar made electronics) and very robust although plastic pivot mounting hardware (very nice!). Safety low water sensor is non contact one (made by Gigar, not a surprise), it doesn't turn the machine off, but stops pump, heating and do LED warning.

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Menu features, controls.

Menu is entered by long press of the button. Both brew and steam boilers can be enabled/disabled independently, brew and steam boiler temperature can be set in 0.5°C increments (originally; 0.1°C after 1.05C fw upgrade). Auto volumetric extractions are programmable simply in Set up doses by „master" extractions, which are repeated later on. There are also barista lights on/off, timer function, energy saving ECO mode, automatic backflush (in latest 1.05C fw upgrade), language selection, info, password_1 protected Settings menu (real boiler temperatures, PI setting, tank/plumbed-in mode, ...) and password_2 protected service menu (boiler offsets, shot counters, boilers heating priority, ...). In „tank" mode low water level sensor is active, in „idric" mode (= italian english phrase for plumbed-in water connection) low water level sensor is disabled. Preinfusion setting is available only in plumbed-in mode and can be set from 0 to 4s (= delay of pump start). Due to (good) fw bug, once a pump delay (PI) is set in plumbed-in mode, it remains in operation also in tank mode switched afterwards (however useless for real PI).

Right lever is for OFF - manual extraction - auto volumetric extraction for double - auto volumetric extraction for single. Left lever is for steaming, delivery includes 2 steam tips and 4 baskets.

During extraction the display shows selected lever mode, brew target/desired temperature, shot timer, real water flow and some warnings, if occures. In idle the display reading is pretty the same, but shot timer and water flow are zero. After extraction the values remain on display until the next one, which is good.

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Machine came with (sorry, if I fogot something):

- DC single spout PF
- DC double spout PF
- 2x high quality DC branded IMS single baskets (h23mm, h25mm)
- 2x high quality DC branded IMS double baskets (h28mm, h30mm)
- blind basket
- 2x steam tips (3x1.5mm, 2x1.5mm holes)
- spare shower screen, hex nut key for shower screen bolt
- DC branded stainless steel base/aluminium handle tamper
- DC branded capsules for backflush (PullyCaf ?)
- Barista Kit (DC branded 2 espresso cups, 2 cappuccino cups, milk jug (looks like made by Motta), barista apron)

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All necessary accessories are included, so anxious barista can start to prepare coffee immediatelly after un-boxing ...


Good:
- Very short heating time. Machine is ready in 10 min. (i.e. desired brew boiler temperature is reached and front of PF plastic handle is already hot);
- Very powerfull steaming. Even original 2 holes/1.5mm tip is too powerful for milk for 2 medium sized cappuccinos, so I replaced it with 2 holes/1.0mm tip, which is OK.
- Temperature stability. Consecutive espresso shots are very consistent.
- Ergonomy. Working with the levers is easy and intuitive.
- Auto volumetric extractions. That simply works, accuracy is +/- 2g but usually even better.
- Nice engineering inside the machine, clean internal tubings routes and components placement.
- High quality materials and except of some details (see below), high quality of workmanship too.
- Overall modern design.
- Relatively small footprint for saturated grouphead machine.

Not so good:
- There is no glass or plastic screen in front of the display, just rectangular chamfered hole is stamped in ss front panel (display window).
- Right lever white status LEDs are not flushed with the front panel (aesthetical flaw).
- Steam wand silicone insulation gets hot very quickly.
- Drip tray grid is so gappy (and steam so powerful), that if are not careful enough, waste water from drip tray splashes around.
- Drip tray grid (or drip tray itself) gets unpleasant resonance from time to time.
- Some english terms in firmware and manual are awful, at least to my ears (however I'm not native speaker).
- Manual is for orientation only, not everything in manual works alike in the firmware.
- Bugs in the firmware. Some functions don't work, like wake up from ECO mode I think (reported by some users - I haven't tested, because that's not important for me) or works strangely, like timer (if there are already set timer ON and OFF limits and timer is enabled afterwards or anytime later, it doesn't work, user is forced to go through ON and OFF settings again, although these wre already set). Note: the bugs are not so important for me, because they are in marginal functions not related to coffee extraction and can be corrected by DC in further firmware updates.
- Temperature increment of 0.1°C in the latest 1.05C firmware (was 0.5°C before) is too fine and is not necessary a benefit, especially if you want to change the temperature over a wide range (e.g. down to room temperature for some service purposes, descaling or so). Dynamic increment would be perfect, e.g. 1°C per click for fast knob rotation, 0.1°C per click for slow rotation, or fix increment 0.2 (0.5) °C per click would be pretty enough.
- Ugly shower screen M6 hexagonal head bolt (however I understand, that it is easy to undo it for everybody).
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The issues:

- Portafilter leaking. From the beging I got the leaks from PF and needed to tighten the PF very hard (compared to previous E61 machine), and it still occasionally leaked. Replacement of the gasket (supplier by dealer) didn't help either. There were visible signs of excessive wear on the PF lugs, chrome layer has gone off, so I suspected rough machining of the grouphead bayonet grooves. Dealer's technician confirms, that every DC PF lugs are worn (I can't comment), but in both DC Studio forums I have watched (Romanian, German) I was the only onle with such problem. I think the picture confirms my suspicion, there are visible mill traces (i.e. quite rough surface) which caused big friction and excessive lugs wear (it's very hard to take a picture from inside of the groove, 2 mirrors had to be used). DC (= italian technician) was't helpful either, asking only to prove the claim with PF tighten to 90° video, which was not physically possible (tighten that much). I decided to help myself and carefully filed down and polished the worn lug areas with Dremel like (dentist) tool until the PF could be tighten much freely. After a time the grouphead bayonet lock get worn and settled, so now the PF can be tighten quite easily (but still not so easily as on E61) and there are no leaks (for the penalty of one excessively worn genuine DC bottomless PF, not cheap either).

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Note: the text was included for the dealer to document the isssue to DC technician(s)
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Note: the text was included for the dealer to document the isssue to DC technician(s)
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- Brew boiler pressure gauge hand shaking. During extraction the pressure gauge hand shaked ca. +/- 0.5 bar. There were a couple of the same or similar issues documented in the first batch in other countries (Romania), so this issue was resolved under warranty by pump replacement (a new type). As far as know, DC supplies now this new and more powerfull and more quiet pump as a default. They also changed pump motor shock absorbers for the softer ones to reduce vibrations to the case.

Overall resume.

When I decided to buy the machine on the pre-orders (for slightly discounted price), I was aware of possible new born child illnesses, but found they as quite marginal and mostly resolved on-the-fly. After ca. a year of use I'm satisfied with the the machine, design, features, quality of engineering (and coffee which it makes, of course). The most important fact for me was small footprint and proven grouphead technology (temperature stability) which makes a good starting point for ... who has read some my older threads, knows what ... :wink:

guydebord
Supporter ♡

#2: Post by guydebord »

That's a great review, many thanks! I have always been attracted by Dalla Corte machines and this one seems to be a great addition to their offers. If this had flow/pressure profiling options it would perhaps be my perfect machine.
In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni

Bluenoser
Supporter ♡

#3: Post by Bluenoser »

Great review.. I've liked the Dalla Corte videos that I've seen of the studio.. My only concern in Canada would be the level of immediate and long term support The PF issue would be quite annoying, but understandable. I would have hoped Dalla Corte would have credited all your work in documenting their production issue and damaging your PF and have a prompt replacement. You are really providing them with a great early production tester. (Maybe even providing you with other bonuses for your work)

I especially like the brew water stability that I think the saturated group would offer. And I think the flow control is something most machines need these days when one spends over $8k (cdn) on a machine!

Being an electronic design engineer, some of the new machines scare me with their level of computer-controlled electronics. That stuff can go out-of-date so fast and software maintenance is a very specific skill that takes much time and experience to properly support.

YarivK

#4: Post by YarivK »

Thanks for the nice review!

Peter_SVK

#5: Post by Peter_SVK »

Bluenoser wrote:... I would have hoped Dalla Corte would have credited all your work in documenting their production issue and damaging your PF and have a prompt replacement. You are really providing them with a great early production tester. (Maybe even providing you with other bonuses for your work)...
No, all communication has been done through the dealer and I don't know first-hand DC replies, maybe a mistake, but that should be dealer's job. I haven't received any benefits nor new bottomless PF. I let it be once the grouphead bayonet settled. The only part replaced within the warranty was the pump.

Peter_SVK

#6: Post by Peter_SVK »

guydebord wrote:That's a great review, many thanks! I have always been attracted by Dalla Corte machines and this one seems to be a great addition to their offers. If this had flow/pressure profiling options it would perhaps be my perfect machine.
If Studio would have flow profiling, it would be called Mina :) . Dalla Corte will not canibalize their own products, so Studio will never have pressure or flow profiling ... unless you do it yourself :)

User avatar
BaristaBoy E61

#7: Post by BaristaBoy E61 »

Thanks for the in-depth review & Hi-Rez pics.
Enjoy your beautiful setup!
"You didn't buy an Espresso Machine - You bought a Chemistry Set!"

Peter_SVK

#8: Post by Peter_SVK »

Thanks ...

... small upgrades continued on Dalla Corte Studio (small upgrades)

alpine0000

#9: Post by alpine0000 »

Can you provide info on that hopper on your E65S grinder?

ferk

#10: Post by ferk »

Hi Peter,

Thanks for the great review. I'vee been searching for information on the Studio and your post is the most complete one I could find.

I just bought a Studio myself, waiting for it to be delivered. Hope I don't have the PF leak issue as I am really terrible with manual work. Do you have any information if this is still happening in new machines?

How long did it take for you to tune in the machine and get used to it? I am upgrading from an ECM Classika that I am really used to and was wondering how different it will be to move from it to the DC.