Why are HX espresso machines so popular? - Page 3

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Ken Fox

#21: Post by Ken Fox »

Marshall wrote:I think most users would consider unloading the warming tray, removing the tank (or filling a pitcher and carrying it over to the tank), filling the tank, replacing the warming tray and all the cups on it before each session to be a major nuisance. But, maybe I'm just lazy.
All of this is coming from some guy (Marshall) who drives through LA traffic 15 miles in each direction, everyday, in order to get to and from the office. If it were me, I'd rather carry the drip tray and water pitcher across the room every other day, than have a commute like THAT. Of course, I'm only driving a Subaru; that must be it!

I guess one picks which nuisances he is willing to tolerate, and that is that.

ken
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HeyMrBassman (original poster)

#22: Post by HeyMrBassman (original poster) »

Hi,

It's nice to read all your comments on the discussion I've started.
It keeps me busy and really puzzles me what type of machine to buy next.

For the time I'm still bravely learning how to temperature-surf my Saeco Aroma and I'll keep absorbing information until the time is right to upgrade.

Thanks!

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ogatasan

#23: Post by ogatasan » replying to HeyMrBassman »

Hey Mr Bassman
I exactly have been going through your dilemma just a few months ago, and without being disappointed i still cannot make up my mind, only came to the conclusion that i am quite happy with my Europiccola Lever.

After learning about the importance of temperature control, i find it conceptually strange and contradictory to its design (please anyone correct me if i got it wrong) that the E61 is getting saturated by superhot water in HX machines, way above brew temperature. So, instead of stabilizing the heads temperature like originally intended, Hx machines actively destabilize it.

Just for a purity of thought (and not for the simplicity in construction, in other words its compromises) i would prefer a dual boiler machine - like the brewtus. Check this HB -thread: It's driving me mad!

The E61 is a stunning beauty and did mankind great favours i just sometimes wonder if we have progressed since its invention - i'd be intrigued to hear from members who have used them in comparison to lets say La Spaziale Vivaldi - does it come down to personal taste or are there some hard facts favouring one over the other.


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Chris H
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HB
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#24: Post by HB »

ogatasan wrote:After learning about the importance of temperature control, i find it conceptually strange and contradictory to its design (please anyone correct me if i got it wrong) that the E61 is getting saturated by superhot water in HX machines, way above brew temperature. So, instead of stabilizing the heads temperature like originally intended, Hx machines actively destabilize it.
A properly tuned E61 HX machine can have very stable intra and intershot stability. But semi-commercial and prosumer HX machines aren't engineered with such temperature precision in mind, as discussed in What is the purpose of long HX flushes?
ogatasan wrote:i'd be intrigued to hear from members who have used them in comparison to lets say La Spaziale Vivaldi - does it come down to personal taste or are there some hard facts favouring one over the other.
I'm not aware of any study showing superior blind taste results of one brew temperature profile over another (flat versus "humped"). Having used both types for extended periods, I definitely appreciate the consistency and ease of dedicated brew boiler espresso machines. In my opinion, the attraction really comes down to simplicity. With apologies for quoting myself at length, below is an excerpt from La Spaziale Vivaldi II dual boiler or HX:
HB wrote:I think the difficulty of managing brew temperature is frequently overstated. Or more accurately, beyond the beginner stage, there are far more formidable concerns like mastering dose/distribution and diagnosing taste defects that begin in the second month of ownership.

My theory is that the ease with which we can measure brew temperature and brew pressure attracts the engineering types who are inclined to obsess over quantifiable minutia. Many online discussions gloss over important and yet harder to quantify aspects in favor of those that can be neatly expressed in numbers and charts ("Your Honor, I am guilty as charged." :oops:). The means and parameters by which we might quantify the quality of an extraction are only at their earliest stages in enthusiast online forums (e.g., Andy's brewing ratios and Jim's extraction analysis).

I commented that Eric's thermocouple adapter has reduced "the complexity of HX temperature management [to] a solution that a half-blind one-armed barista suffering from a mild case of AADD could not screw up." Even so, it's undeniably true that a double boiler simplifies and speeds brew temperature selection and I would not dissuade someone from choosing one. However, for my money, I put more weight on a consideration that cannot be solved with gadgets: The forgiveness factor. It's a measure I've struggled to express from the onset in the site's reviews, and yet it indirectly influences two rankings, the Buyer's Guides exceptional espresso and morning after scores. Unfortunately these are measures that come down to a personal assessment, and thus aren't scientific, but rather a shorthand way of ranking one's opinion of several candidates.

To put it more succinctly, I believe those who wring their hands over which espresso machine simplifies brew temperature management the best-- as embodied by the never ending dual boiler versus heat exchanger debate --are missing the larger point.
Dan Kehn

Matthew NB

#25: Post by Matthew NB »

Although you have a point, I think that if there were more Dual Boiler Machines in the (lower regions of the) HX price category, the HX machines would probably not sell very well anymore.

I strongly believe there's a much larger market for espresso machines which are easy and intuitive to use (including our wives/husbands, children etc.) as opposed to HX machines.
Isn't a a dual boiler machine with digital temperature readouts and control much easier to use and understand for the average Joe?

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HB
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#26: Post by HB »

I'm sure you're right, all other factors being equal, dual boiler espresso machines would dominate the market if they cost the same as HX espresso machines in the same class. That said, there are inherent benefits to an HX machine, e.g., less components to fail, lower energy consumption, ability to manipulate the brew temperature on the fly, always fresh brew water supply, etc.
Dan Kehn

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TimEggers

#27: Post by TimEggers » replying to HB »

I agree. Having gone HX several months ago I can see the advantages Dan points out. HX isn't an issue in use for me and I'm a relative newbie to home espresso (a year or so). HX seems to afford me good flexibility and reliable performance.

To be fair I have not used a dual boiler machine but I can say having used HX I don't feel an inherent need to change a thing or upgrade. That says a lot in my opinion.
Tim Eggers
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keepitsimple

#28: Post by keepitsimple »

I admit to a strong bias towards double boiler machines. It's a shame there aren't more to choose from. I have however, owned and used both types, and feel qualified to have made a choice. I suspect a lot of the people on here who adhere to the "HX only" view may not have done so.
HB wrote:I'm sure you're right, dual boiler espresso machines would dominate the market if they cost the same as HX espresso machines in the same class. That said, there are inherent benefits to an HX machine, e.g., less components to fail, lower energy consumption, ability to manipulate the brew temperature on the fly, always fresh brew water supply, etc.
I haven't used a Brewtus, but isn't that in the price range of the popular HX machines ?

If we're talking about domestic sized machines, I'm not so sure about the energy consumption point. On a like for like usage basis, my current machine uses less than the Isomac Tea I used to have. Probably because that lacked any sort of insulation, and I can drop this one down to standby if its not going to be used for quite some time. I think the La Spaziale S1 also allows you to switch the steam boiler off completely ?

There are fewer components to fail in an HX, although the run of the mill HX machine uses pressurestats which seem to be regarded as disposable items after being in use for a while, and highly likely to fail according to received wisdom. I was never 100% happy about leaving mine switched on unattended for that reason, especially after it started to make a sizzling noise as it switched the "at temp" light off........it didn't fail though.

Always fresh brew water yes, provided you either have a plumbed in machine, or are absolutely scrupulous about cleaning and refreshing the tank contents very frequently, and not just because it's empty :wink:

I think that unless you'd be perfectly happy to drink water out directly out of the tank it isn't acceptably fresh. If the Isomac Tea is typical, the water sat at a nice tepid bug growing temperature after a couple of hours. At least in a boiler kept at heat, it's unlikely to grow any nasties. I'm a bit extravagant in the amount of water I put through my machine, so it probably doesn't stay in there too long - being plumbed in and out makes it a no brainer. Use it a lot to heat up cups (as a by product of a warming flush which it needs), rinse out the portafilter, make tea, use as a supply of boiling water for cooking - oh yes, and make espresso too.

I wish I were able to do the HX/temperature manipulation on the fly like the experts on here :oops: Possibly I could if I weren't so damnably lazy. My visitors certainly couldn't I'm sure. However, after a 1 minute explanation, most if not all are able to make their own espresso in my kitchen without me having to do it for them.

Explanation/lecture goes as follows:-

1: Put your cup under the spout
2: Press the long drink button until the water stops.
3: Take the thing with the handle out and put it in the grinder rest - it will quite happily stay there without you holding it.
4: Hit the double cup button on the grinder, and while it's doing its stuff, empty the water out of the coffee cup .
5: When it stops grinding, squash the coffee down a bit with that round metal thing.
6: Put the handled thingie back in the machine and press the double cup button
7: When it stops, take the handled thingie out, and bash the contents into that black plastic other thingie on the worktop.
8: If you want frothed milk, CALL ME (I might show them that too, if I'm fairly confident I won't have the kitchen walls bathed in hot milk)

I wonder if many people who own them would willingly give up a DB machine for an HX machine (assuming they have actually used both types on a long term basis, and able to judge on that basis) ?

As on so many things, the world is divided :wink:

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HB
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#29: Post by HB »

keepitsimple wrote:I wonder if many people who own them would willingly give up a DB machine for an HX machine (assuming they have actually used both types on a long term basis, and able to judge on that basis) ?
Hard to say, it depends on which double boiler and which HX under consideration. Given the choice between an Elektra A3 and Expobar Brewtus, which would you choose?
Dan Kehn

ntwkgestapo

#30: Post by ntwkgestapo »

I too have been agonizing over what to upgrade to! After fighting a starbucks barista for years, I decided I was going to go for something better (altho, this site, among others, has helped me ENORMOUSLY in improving what I get from the barista!). Initially I was looking @ a Rancilio Silvia, but decided it was, while MUCH better than the S'Bux, still a single boiler, dual use machine and not the fairly long term upgrade that I was looking for. Not that it's a bad machine, no way I think that! After all, there are many members of this site who are quite happy using them (with and without PIDs!). I was just afraid that it wouldn't slow down the 'new, "better" machine' itch! THEN I began looking @ higher end machines, looking to, while not "future proof" my purchase, at least find a machine that would SLOW DOWN the desire for a new machine! :D. HX, Dual Boiler, E-61 single boiler, dual use machines, the options are MANY and varied!

First look was @ HX machines, but.... I had concerns about getting the temps right! Soooo, I began looking @ dual boiler systems, basically the Expobar Brewtus II and the La Spaziale Vivaldi (the Viv II wasn't around yet!). Brewtus seemed nice, but there were some quality issues (not major, but still there). Vivaldi was nice BUT the need for direct plumb-in and the size of the machine were somewhat off-putting (I have a very limited space in which to put the system with grinder(s)). For quite some time I was leaning toward the Viv, just trying to figure out WHERE I could put it (small house, small kitchen, limited space for anything!).

Then I began to RE-Read the articles on HX temperature surfing (GREAT articles Mr. HB! thanks Dan!) and saw erics' thermocouple adapter for the E-61, etc... HX systems began to seem not so scary. OK, so now, which one to choose? You've got Isomac Tea and Millenium, QuickMill Andreja, Anita, Vetrano, the Izzo Alex and more. ALL good machines, each having their pluses and minuses. You've got the La Valentina (Dan Kehn, Mr. HBs machine!), you've got ECM Giotto, etc. You've got La Cimbali Jr. commercial HX machines (as well as many more!). The list of possible machines is, practically, endless! What's an espresso nut to do?

Well, enter the Vibiemme Domobar Super! Not too wide @ 10.6 inches, a bit deep @ 21 inches, including the handle for the drip tray, but that's not a major issue! High quality components (not that other machines don't ALSO have high quality parts!) including the Parker PStat. LIMITED electronics, the gicar autofill controller (but electronics aren't necessarily bad, after all I'm working on a "home designed" espresso machine that'll have a complete 32 bit computer in it!) so it shouldn't be a complicated machine to maintain (or an expensive one if it breaks!). It's starting to look like I've got a winner! I'd headed in this direction BEFORE HB started their review of the VBM system, but their on-going review sure hasn't dissuaded me! REAL E-61 brew group, apparent VERY Stable temperature, etc...

I'd originally thought, while leaning toward the dual boiler systems, that it would make it easier for the spouse to make her own espresso drinks, but, while it wouldn't be hard for her to do so (get a Macap Dynamometric Tamper to remove the "tamp @ 30 lbs pressure, STRAIGHT DOWN" issue) I finally realized that she's probably NEVER going to make her own, just wait for ME to do it FOR her! After all, right now, her favorite espresso (?) drink is the instant cappa crap! She loves it when I make a cappa or a latte for her, but she's perfectly happy with that (I want to say swill here)!

I'm looking @ spending, probably, around $2.5K here. VBM, TWO espresso grinders (gotta keep a decaf one around for the wife), bottomless p/f, spare baskets, datalogging temp meter, etc... $2.5k is probably on the low side!

As I alluded to, I AM working on a design for a "home" system. Dual boilers, PID temp and pressure control (both for brew and steam AND intershot control as well as INTRAShot control), tight temp control DURING the shot (with the ability to vary the temp UP and DOWN during the shot a few degrees C), etc... This is going glacially slow ('tain't it crap that you've gotta work for a living, keep the house and cars up, keep the spouse happy, work with the grandkids, etc.... Oh well, c'est la vie!) but it IS moving forward! This system WILL eventually see the light of day...

no 30 (espresso is a never ending quest!)
Steve C.
I'm having an out of coffee experience!
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