Quick Mill Carola - Review - Page 3

Need help with equipment usage or want to share your latest discovery?
sbe

#21: Post by sbe »

I just got my Carola, partly based on this thread. I would like to add my impressions, if they can help anyone else. I don't mean to hijack the thread, and I hope it's OK that I post this here.

While I do love the machine, and would still buy it again, it seems the company have clumped together two goals: making an espresso only steaming free machine, and making a smaller machine. I liked the idea of an espresso only machine. I didn't need or want a smaller machine. Making it smaller created a few problems for me.

The Good:

- This is a nice machine. Coming from low and mid range machines like Nuova Simonelli Oscar and Gaggia Classic - this is much nicer. It looks better, feels better and works better. I was worried that a budget strip down machine from Quick Mill would be less nice than their regular models. Maybe the Alexia is better, but this one is still more than satisfactory for me in overall quality.

- It demands a much finer grind than the Oscar - meaning the pressure and extraction are better.

The Bad:

- Top cover / cup heater is very small and can accommodate only a few cups. Moreover, only the front part of the cover actually heats the cups - the rear half, where there are no holes, doesn't really heat. So the effective cup heating area is quite tiny.

- Top cover / cup heater - no door. Meaning, you must first remove all the cups and only then you can remove the entire top and add water or take the reservoir out. I disagree with the instruction in the manual about taking the reservoir out every time you add water - I think it is safer to pour water in from a bottle through a funnel. I believe I can make a rear hinged door in my workshop, but it would have been nicer is one was already installed. I guess this stings for me more, as I am used to the roomy and convenient cup heater and easy access rear water door on the Oscar.

- The reservoir is quite small at 2 liters. Alexia reservoir has 3 liters.

- Drip tray is quite small in volume. I knew that, but still, I was surprised at how small it was. A larger tray would have been useful.

- Drip tray doesn't extend far enough to the front. As a result, in some cases it can't collect all the liquids coming from the head, and the counter gets wet. Not cool.

- Beep. The machine makes a pretty loud beep whenever it's turned on. If I put it on a schedule to turn on at 06:00, while I wake up at 07:00-08:00, then that beep will wake me ahead of time. I've talked to technical support at Chris's Coffee, and they showed me how to disconnect the beeper. The problem is that by doing so, the low water reservoir level audible warning is also disabled. I plan to install a blue LED water level warning light to replace the beeper. However, I think that should have been done at the factory, and that beeping loudly on wakeup is not an overall good idea. (People who buy small machines might live in small houses and can hear their kitchens from their bedrooms?)
I like it that I can open the machine and modify it so easily. I don't think Nuova Simonelly or Gaggia would help me do that, nor are their machines amenable to it.

ChileBean

#22: Post by ChileBean »

@sbe
Hi - I wrote the original review, and I have to agree with everything you said. I have had this machine for quite some time now (need to go back and see just when I first posted this).

Of the things you said,

Good
It makes some darn fine espresso. I have had espresso out of custom $10,000+ machines, and for my taste, this machine does very well (extremely well considering the price).

It is well built (yep). I detailed this in the original write-up, but it is definitely not a flimsy consumer tin-foil machine. Super-solid metalwork with the rock-solid E61 group head.

Size - smaller than a lot of machines. Since I was convincing my spouse, who rules the kitchen, that this was something that could sit on the counter and not take up much more valuable counter space than my old machine took, this was an extremely important point.

Not so good (okay - bad)
Drip tray area small (yep). If you end up with a gusher or a pinhole then you are gonna need a dish towel to wipe the counter. It is just part of my normal routine at this point. I don't seem to be able to grind/dose without some free range grounds anyway, so I always have to wipe down the area when I am done, so this is not a huge thing, but it is true that the landing area for the espresso is smaller than a number of other machines. (But - that is because the machine is smaller (see Good above)).

Top cover/cup heater. Honestly I have not found it to be a chore to take off the cover to put water into the machine, but if I stored the cups on the top of the machine, I would totally feel your pain. As it is, I clear the group head into a cup before I load the PF anyway, and let that hot water heat the cup while I am grinding, so it is not a problem for me. But yes, you do have to take stuff off the top of the machine to put water into it.

Beeper - yep - that part is pretty stupid. It is a little loud. No - actually it is pretty annoyingly loud. Why it beeps when you first turn it on probably has to do with some Italian electrical engineer who designed the water level sensor. Anyway, I expect I could change out the beeper for something quieter, but it is just something I live with. A light is a good idea.


I would definitely buy the machine again, and overall, I love it.

nurxhunter

#23: Post by nurxhunter »

I have owned this machine for around 6 months. I could not be more delighted.

1. Its greatest virtue, I feel, is its simplicity. One boiler, constant temperature all the time. 750 ml boiler capacity seems just right be me, for double shots 2X per day. The espresso quality is highly consistent. Quality overall seems very solid.

2. Another pro is the compact size. Yes, it might be nice if the drip tray were a bit more extended, or if the E61 group was set back further. Water does over-splash the drip grate, as others have pointed out. So, I simply use a cup to catch the water. I really like the compact size. I feel the capacity of the waste drawer is fine. Since very little flushing is needed (only to clean unit after use), I also feel the water reservoir is more than sufficient. The reservoir and the waste volumes seems nicely balanced.

3. It heats up pretty fast. I use a laser thermometer on the Group--and also an amp-draw meter on my WiOn timer--to help me determine when temperature is stable. This take no more than 30 min, and make excellent espresso after 20 min.

I could not be more delighted with this 'straight-ahead' E61 espresso machine.

User avatar
HB
Admin

#24: Post by HB »

Dan Kehn

ChileBean

#25: Post by ChileBean »

narwal, the author of the QM Carola EVO review above sent me a PM asking if I could update my review with any observations now that I have had the original QM Carola for a while. I am happy to oblige. Here are a few observations:
- Love the machine. I have used it almost daily since I got it. I make one to two espressos per day, and I don't like milk in my cup, so it is just about perfect for me.

- Small size has pluses and minuses
But for me, the pluses definitely outweigh the minuses. We did not really plan it this way, but it has turned out that the kitchen is my wife's territory. The shop is my territory. Spending North of $900 on a coffee maker involved a spousal negotiation. The small size of the Carola made this negotiation easier. Yes the drip tray is too small - so I keep a hand towel next to the machine and wipe up any overspray. Let's face it - espresso machines are like babies; it is always a good idea to keep a towel nearby. Other than that one point, from a size perspective there is nothing else negative about it. It fits very well under my cabinets, and it is a fantastic looking piece of shiny metal in the kitchen.

- The low water sensor went out of adjustment over time.
It got to the point that it would not recognize that the reservoir was completely full. See post below.

- Whatever you do, DON'T put the water reservoir in a heated dishwasher (yep - done that). It warps it permanently and a new one is $$.

- There is only one aspect of the machine that I would redesign. There is a gap between the drip tray and the front face of the machine where the E61 group head is mounted. When you end the shot, the E61 blows excess pressure through a nozzle and into the drip tray. Sometimes that water can get into the gap between the drip tray and the front plate, and you cannot get to this to clean it without disassembling the machine. After several years of ownership, I took the machine apart to adjust the water level sensor (see above), and while I had it apart, I took the opportunity to clean it inside. There was actually very little crud accumulation near this front plate, so it really does not appear to be a big deal. But if I could talk to the QM designers...

Anyway, that's all I got. Great machine for no-milk daily usage at low volumes.
Brad

- Oh yea the beeping... When the machine is low on water a beep sounds about once per second. Its pretty loud. Also, if it runs low on water, it will stop the pump, even in the middle of a shot. Meh - so you have to sink a shot. Given that there are very limited electronics in the machine, I don't know that I would have designed it differently. But when you are in a hurry and that happens, it does piss you off a bit.

ChileBean

#26: Post by ChileBean »

ChileBean wrote:@Max

To quote kakster Orphan Espresso LIDO E First Impressions,

I will not buy a Lido E, I will not buy a Lido E, I will not buy a Lido E...
Oh yeah - I bought a Lido E.

Perfect complement to this machine. And it does not take up a lot of countertop space (see post above).
Brad

ChileBean

#27: Post by ChileBean »

I created a schematic of the QM Carola which I am posting here. I hope it is helpful.

Image

Thanks,
Brad

ChileBean

#28: Post by ChileBean »

Low Water Alarm Beeps Continuously...

There is only one water level sensor in the Carola. It is the black plastic thing you can see at the machine-facing side of the area where the water container sits.

You can disable the water sensor, but I would not do that. If you run the boiler dry, now you are praying that the over temperature sensor on the boiler trips before you burn out the heating element. The best solution is to adjust the sensitivity of the water sensor. I can walk you through that process. It is not difficult or technical, but it will take a few basic tools, and it will take a little patience. TBH, it is a small PITA, but really not that bad. Given that several people on the forum have experienced this issue, I am guessing that what we are seeing is that as the electrical components age, the sensitivity of the sensor decreases to the point where, no matter how much water you have in the container, the sensor still thinks its empty. Thanks to the folks at Chris' Coffee in the repair department who walked me through this. Let me explain the big picture of what you will be doing, and then we will get down to details.

The black plastic thing I referred to above is the water sensor itself. It is one part of the system. The other part is a black box, the level sensor "brain" that is inside the machine. You don't care about that part. Here is a picture.

Image

What we need to do is get access to that black sensor, open it up, and turn a small (yeah - its actually quite small) adjustment so that the sensor correctly determines the level of water in the machine. Once we have turned the adjustment a little (FWIW, I believe it is correct to say you turn it about 1/8 turn counter-clockwise), you have to put it all back together and see what has changed. IMPORTANT: pay attention to which direction you turn the adjustment and how much. If it was me, I would actually write it down so you don't get confused.

After you assemble the machine, fill the water container all the way up, put it in the machine and turn it on. There are two possibilities. Possibility #1 - you turned the adjustment the wrong way and it still beeps, even with a full container. Possibility #2 - you turned it the right way and now it does not beep with a full container of water. If it still beeps (Possibility #1), then you have to repeat the process, but turn the adjustment the other direction (and I was wrong about which way to turn it - sorry about that).

If it stopped beeping with a full container (Possibility #2), we are still not done. It does not beep anymore, which is great!. But will it start beeping when the container is still half-full? 1/4 full? We don't know, so we have to check. Pour out some water, put the container back in, and turn on the machine. Does it beep? No? Pour out some more water. Still no beep? Great! Pour out some more. If you are lucky, when the container is almost empty the beeping will start. But chances are you won't be that lucky.

Lets say you get to where the container is half full and when you put it back in the machine and turn it on, it starts beeping. Clearly you turned the adjustment in the right direction. Hooray!. But not far enough. Does that make sense? So you need to take the machine apart again and turn the adjustment a little more IN THE SAME DIRECTION. Put it back together and find out at what point it starts beeping. Repeat the process until the adjustment is properly set.

Let's say you go through the process, you get Possibility #2 - it stopped beeping with a full container, you go through the process above, and you get to where the container is completely empty, but it still does not beep. You turned the adjustment too far and now there is no protection in the case of an empty water container. Bad news. Turn the adjustment slightly in the opposite direction and try again until you have it set correctly.

This may sound complicated, but it really is not. Just post here if I have confused you in any way and I will see if I can explain the process better.

Now - how do you get to the adjustment? Again, starting with the big picture, you remove the back cover of the machine (be sure the plug is removed from the back of the machine please). See the photos with red circles around the screws you need to remove.

Image
Image

Next, you unscrew two screws shown in the first photo at the top of my post, so you can lay the machine open. Then you remove the two nuts that hold the sensor on to the side of the water container compartment. You don't have to disconnect any wires from the sensor once you have it loose from the back of the machine. See the photo below.

Image

You will see one small phillips screw on the back of the sensor case. Remove this screw and the cover will come off. See the photo.

Image
Photo provided by the amazing guys at Chris' Coffee repair department. Thank you!

Now you can see the electronics of the sensor. Look at the circuit board. You are looking for an adjustable potentiometer. It adjusts with a very small flat blade screwdriver. It is shown in the photo below, inside the red box.

Image
Photo provided by the amazing guys at Chris' Coffee repair department. Thank you!

Begin by putting a small mark (if you have one of those fine-point sharpies, they work great. A pen might work too. Don't use a pencil. The pencil led conducts electricity!) on the case of the potentiometer so you know where you started. Or whip out your smartphone and take a picture. That way you know where you started if you end up turning the adjustment the wrong way.

Next, turn the adjustment about 1/8 turn counter-clockwise. Put the cover back on and screw the screw back in. Be gentile. It is a small screw that is going into plastic, and you can strip it. Place the sensor on to the back cover and put the two nuts on the studs that hold the sensor to the case. Tighten the screws but DO NOT OVERTIGHTEN THEM!! It is possible to snap the studs off the back of the case. Do that, and you have a real problem. All you need to do is to tighten them enough so that the sensor is held snugly in place. Put the machine back together, and go through the process I described earlier.

So, as you can see, this is a pain. So start it when you have enough time. I would guess the process will take you 3/4 of an hour. Maybe 20 minutes if you get lucky.

A few closing thoughts. If you don't have the right tools, go to the hardware store and get a screw driver set that is made for fixing reading glasses. You will also need a pair of pliers or an automobile ignition wrench set to loosen the nuts that hold the sensor to the case. Also, the first time I made this adjustment, nothing I did made the sensor work right. I figured it out - if you have that problem, post here and I will let you know what I did. But I am guessing that this procedure will get it to stop. Lastly, you can do this. If you run into problems, just post and someone will help.

Brad

pip

#29: Post by pip »

Great review. I have a different model but love my Quickmill.

ChileBean

#30: Post by ChileBean » replying to pip »

Thank you pip. What model do you have?