Dedicated Steamer?

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#1: Post by Endo »

Instead of a double boiler machine, I was thinking it would be great to have a dedicated single boiler espresso machine (like an Alexia) plugged into one socket in the kitchen and a larger boiler steam machine (no espresso) in the another socket.

This would provide the best of both worlds since I would get great espresso (with a low heatup time) and less energy usage for the 80% of the time that I drink espresso. And, when I get guests, I could run both machines and even assign someone to the "steam station" so we could really crank out the lattes.

Does anyone make a cheap, dedicated, large boiler steamer?
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da gino

#2: Post by da gino »

I have thought the same thing. One solution I've heard of is the quickmill autofrother at Chris' coffee (which is supposed to be a good autofrother, but I want more control). The second idea is just to buy a second, cheaper espresso machine dedicated to steaming. My wife, however, would hate the clutter from two machines, so that idea is out for me, too, so I'm left wishing for something sleek and simple like a Pavoni Pro, but minus the lever. It still should be cheaper to get something like this and a PID Alexia than to get a double boiler.

I'll be curious to see if there are any other solutions suggested to your question!

Endo (original poster)

#3: Post by Endo (original poster) »

I have a simple Rancilio Silvia and it meets all my needs for espresso and only cost $600. I would think they could make a simple dedicated steamer (no group, just bigger boiler and wand) for about $400. Together, this setup would have a lot of advantages over the expensive double boilers machines:

1. Less cost.
2. Less energy.
3. Less complexity (and parts broken).
4. More available power (2 outlets).
5. Add on capability for current owners.
6. Room for two operators.
7. Less heatup time for the espresso machine.

The list is endless.

I was thinking of buying an old broken Silvia for $100, ripping out verything except the steam valve and wand, and inserting a larger boiler and pressure stat.

I'd be willing to give it a try but I have no espresso machine repair experience (beyond hooking up a PID).

I wonder if Salvatore would do a custom steamer machine like this using one of his handbuilt boilers?
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da gino

#4: Post by da gino »

Mole wrote:
Apart from cost, I can't really see why this would be a better solution than a dual boiler machine in which the steam boiler can be turned off most of the time.
For me cost is the real reason why it would be attractive, but the cost is nontrivial, for example, in the US, the PID Alexia together with the quickmill autofrother is still $580 less than the Duetto. The Duetto has some really nice features such as the option to plumb in or to not plumb in, a rotarty pump,... that you would lose out on, but if the Alexia plus a steamer were the same price the savings would make it tempting especially since the espresso from the Alexia is supposed to be so great (as I'm sure is the espresso from the Duetto) and that and to a lesser extent the price is the bottom line on any machine for me.


#5: Post by Mole »

Sorry, da gino, I deleted my original post as I thought I had gone off topic a little :oops:. Next time I will just edit it!

I agree that cost is non-trivial and important.

Endo: Why I posted originally was to mention that heatup time should not be used as a benefit for single boiler espresso machines (when considering like-for-like). For example, a single (or double) boiler E61 would take at least as long to reach brewing temp as an HX E61 machine, if not a little longer. I also don't agree with the comment about less complexity, nor less energy, compared to a double boiler (in which the steam boiler can be turned off). However, all the other points are worth considering :).

Edit: There is, however, a benefit to having a "second, but cheaper" complete machine dedicated to steaming: you have a backup brew group!

All the best,


Endo (original poster)

#6: Post by Endo (original poster) »

Yes. I agree that if you can turn off the steam boiler than there is little to be gained in terms of energy savings by having a separate steam machine. I also agree about equal heat up time, since most is spent heating up the group head and portafilter anyway.

Still, I think there are some things to be gained splitting the two machines:

Looking at the insides of these double boiler machines makes me think they've tried to "shoehorn" a lot of equipment into an existing space which was intended for a single boiler. Splitting it up will surely reduce complexity and make repair and replacement less costly.

Also, by using two outlets, I can get 15A to each machine and not have to worry about blowing a fuse when I run both from the same outlet.

I'm also hesitant about installing a 70lb monster on my counter. A couple of smaller 25 lb machines at either end of the counter would fit better in my kitchen and allow simulataneous two person operation.

But the main reason is price. I think they are asking a lot for these double boiler machines and there should be a lower cost option. I know I can make excellent espresso with good beans and a $600 machine. I'm also sure someone could make a simple steam boiler setup for $400. That's about 1/2 or even 1/3 the price they are asking for the cheapest duel boiler.

I guess we'll only know if it's a popular option if somebody builds one. Maybe the Chris Coffee guys can convince a maker to design one?
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#7: Post by uscfroadie »

I have a PID'd Alexia and bought a Gaggia Factory lever (always wanted a lever) that I can use if I have to make multiple drinks in a short period. So, I have two boilers, albeit from two separate machines.

As for a cost savings...For the cost of a PID'd Alexia and milk frother you could buy an Expobar Brewtus. If I were faced with the choice, that's the route I'd choose...and I plug one of the holes in the steam wand since they are simply too big for the steam boiler size and wattage of the heating element.

da gino

#8: Post by da gino replying to uscfroadie »

It is true that the cost would be about the same, but it seems like there are questions about the reliability of the Brewtus, (I base this comment only on having been interested in the machine and then reading posts on the forums that seemed to suggest it might not have the same build quality as the competition. I have had no personal experience with it good or bad, so take this with a grain of salt and feel free to correct me!).

Neither of the machines in your set up, for example, seem to have questions surrounding them. I also haven't seen these questions about the other double boilers, but they all run quite a bit more so again there is a trade off. If I'm going to spend over $1000 on a machine, I hope to buy a highly reliable machine that is built to last.

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#9: Post by uscfroadie »


The *build quality* comments on the Brewtus are towards the fit and finish, not the reliability - I think. The stainless is polished but not quite to the same luster as my QM, and the dip tray/tray cover is noticeably cheaper in build, but it's a great area to save a little cost.

Take your time, and with Christmas coming up soon many sponsors of this site will be offering deals to entice us to buy/upgrade.

da gino

#10: Post by da gino replying to uscfroadie »

I agree that if it is just fit and finish, that is a very good place to cut corners and I would be very interested in the machine. On the other hand, I just did a quick web search on "brewtus quality issues" and got quite a number of hits and did the same for "quickmill quality issues" and didn't see anything that made me worry. Again this isn't scientific (perhaps there are many more Brewtus machines out there, if so, it could be more reliable and still have more total problems - perhaps the number of posts online don't reflect the number of problems, perhaps the problems were with Brewtus I and were fixed by II etc), but it does make me worry and not knowing anyone who owns one, this is the best predictor I can think of.

Again, I'd love to be convinced that the machine was just as reliable because if it was, I think I'd buy it.

Thanks also for the tip on Christmas as I'm in no rush at all to buy and am more than happy to wait for the right deal.