Reasons we use a Lever machine beyond superb shots - Page 4

A haven dedicated to manual espresso machine aficionados.
TheMadTamper

Postby TheMadTamper » Aug 09, 2019, 2:09 pm

This is a great thread with great timing for me, as I look into buying a lever. I my interest started for all the same reasons you guys have mentioned. It started with the maintenance. My Duetto and I have a long history. Early, I had a pump head seal fail, it was leaking through the sticker. Replace that, re-calibrate the pump pressure. The factory used *WAAAAY* too much PTFE tape....to get the adapter fittings out I had to put the part on the ground with a wrench on it and physically jump up and down on the wrench. Then a temp probe failed. Then PID segments failed on the screen (that didn't hamper usage and can happen to PID levers as well.) Then ANOTHER pump head failed (didn't leak through the seal, but constantly lost prime.) Then the check valve failed.....and to replace that, the machine had to be flipped over to get underneath, and once in, it wasn't lined up with the opening, and other pipes ran in the path of the wrench. I think that's the one I cut myself trying to get out. The shop told me to just clean it, but I couldn't even get it open...not even jumping on it worked. Then another water probe (those are at least easy to get to!) The water level sensor stopped working years ago for the reservoir. Now I have an issue with the steam boiler not calling for water - it's not the probe and is probably the fill solenoid. I'd love to check....but the other pipes are in the way for the wrench. I have to take the tank bracket out. Which involves flipping the machine over. Just to take the fitting off to CHECK if the solenoid is sticking. But then there's the other problem. Heavy corrosion on the steam boiler. Could be a fitting. Might be a pinhole in the boiler. Can't figure it out until I fix the solenoid, which I can't do until I flip it, which is because it's so densely designed that no part is accessible without taking out other parts.

I learned at some point (see my water thread) that chlorides may be related to some of these issues....but that doesn't change the fact that the machine made it as difficult as possible to actually repair.

DBs are too complicated for their own good unless it's tiny boilers, or a huge machine. Or a saturated group where the other boiler is really part of the group. Too many parts to break, too many parts to facilitate both boilers, and too little room to get adequate access to all those nested parts.

HX has its own issues but I'm starting to prefer HX to DB. I went to DB because I wanted to make life easier. Flushing, temp management takes effort and time, DB makes usage simple. But I didn't factor in that I wanted to simplify ownership not just usage. Maintenance is part of ownership. Shaving of 3 minutes of flushes each day sounds like the easy life, but when I add in 5 hours of slicing fingers, tearing cuticles, and pouring more obscenities than coffee out of my machine for maintenance, ownership is more difficult.

But...then there's the E61. I bought into E61 because a heavy brass mechanical device with a manual valve sounded more robust and less failure prone than an electromechanical valve to break. An E61 can live forever, right? But I didn't count on the dark side. Usage means chemical flushing. Chemical flushing means stripping the lubricant. Stripping the lubricant means taking apart the valve lever assembly every time I clean the machine, and repositioning the delicate gaskets, and seating the delicate cams into their spring seats as I grease the machine with a flashlight and a toothpick. Freaking toothpicks! The net result? I basically never do chemical cleanings. I backflush with water daily, I drop the screen an dispersion block and soak it periodically, but that's about it. I think, that's probably how the E61 was meant to be used originally. Next machine would be back to the electromechanical valve designed for this millennium.

Except....operating that little E61 lever never, ever, ever gets old.....

If only there was a machine with simple electrical and plumbing designs, with few parts to fail, few parts to fix, with easy accessibility to all of it, high reliability, with simple usage, and straight forward ease in cleaning and lubricating without damaging the machine or having to disassemble it every time you clean it, yet also had high reliability and a long heavy duty life. Wait, there is? Well, if only it made coffee as good, and was as fun to use as the little lever. You mean it makes better coffee and has an even bigger lever that's more fun to pull? ...and you mean it's a nearly century old design that came long before all those fancy machines that break themselves and are a pain to maintain? ...and on top of that, it's essentially volumetric for a double without a flowmeter or electronics board that can break at all.... :shock:

All this modern technology, evolution of espresso, electronics, pumps, flow control, sensors, materials.......yet all it seems to do is make ownership harder and harder. It feels like the modern designs were the implementation of technology for the sake of technology, and tools designed to make operating the rush crowd of a cafe faster and more consistent, at the cost of ripping the machine itself apart do to it. And then because that's what the cafes had everyone assumed it was better overall rather than worse overall. Sure the lever can't pull back to back shots as fast, or maintain shot to shot temp stability with no turnover between shots as well as a Linea, and it can't maintain exact shot parameters no matter who's using the machine and what their process is the way a Aurelia can. But it seems like those special usage needs, at some point became the standard, and the actual performance and TCO, even in cafes, took a back seat.

Forget the shot quality and the "interacting with the pull" and all of that. I'm looking at buying a lever for the superior total ownership. From looking at it to using it to cleaning it, to maintaining it. And in addition to all that.....it still makes better coffee....

I do wonder if we're sitting on a lever revolution. The trends of coffee ebb and flow. HB & CG, 10 years ago, was all GS/3, all the time, more or less, or so it seemed. More computers, more betterness! Now the mainstream industry is all about computerization and touch screens, while HB seems to be the all-encompassing lever club now. Every major mfr now makes lever multi-groups again. Perhaps in the next decade we're really going back to the future on a more mainstream level.

(Of course, I'm going to rebuild the Duetto, too..... :wink: )

IamOiman wrote:I think a new type of espresso extraction can be developed from that: scared shotless!


I can't believe that's not already a name of a Counter Culture blend!

truemagellen

Postby truemagellen » Aug 09, 2019, 2:50 pm

You certainly live up to your name TheMadtamper! Love a good rant :mrgreen: I feel the same way as I help my neighbor rebuild his machine for the 2 time in 6 years.

Bluenoser
Supporter ♡

Postby Bluenoser » Aug 09, 2019, 6:54 pm

TheMadTamper wrote:
But...then there's the E61. I bought into E61 because a heavy brass mechanical device with a manual valve sounded more robust and less failure prone than an electromechanical valve to break. An E61 can live forever, right? But I didn't count on the dark side. Usage means chemical flushing. Chemical flushing means stripping the lubricant. Stripping the lubricant means taking apart the valve lever assembly every time I clean the machine, and repositioning the delicate gaskets, and seating the delicate cams into their spring seats as I grease the machine with a flashlight and a toothpick. Freaking toothpicks! The net result? I basically never do chemical cleanings. I backflush with water daily, I drop the screen an dispersion block and soak it periodically, but that's about it. I think, that's probably how the E61 was meant to be used originally. Next machine would be back to the electromechanical valve designed for this millennium.

Except....operating that little E61 lever never, ever, ever gets old.....


Try this: after you do the chemical flushing, usually I do about 5 water backflushes.. After 2 water backflushes, I put 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil in the backflush disk and do the final 3 backflushes. Not quite as good as MolyKote, but I think waaayyy better than taking the lever apart every time. That likely will shorten life more. After a chemical backflush my lever was really stiff.. could almost see the parts grinding down.. after the olive oil, much better.. then the coffee eventually helps lube it after about 5 shots.. (don't overdo the olive oil)

I also agree about the E61 lever.. nice user aesthetic ..

And I also agree that simplicity is what you want.. I am also going to look for a lever for next machine.. Not sure I would consider the latest HXes over DB.. HXes with restrictors don't rebound very well and limits making shots if you have small party. Wish some weren't so expensive.. I think the Profitec one is over $4k in Canada.

TheMadTamper

Postby TheMadTamper » replying to Bluenoser » Aug 13, 2019, 12:06 pm

You know, I've heard of the olive oil trick before....and somehow that just seems so, so soooo wrong. In a coffee world where we hear about single dosing with a gram scale like it's a narcotics experiment, and using velcro and duct tape to get every last stale grind from a doser, using a half teaspon of Bertoli in my group head just seems really really wrong. I mean, true, it's all made in Italy....so I guess it's ok....but it still seems wrong to throw olives in the group. Not that Dow 111 sounds tasty, but since it's entirely water insoluble I don't worry about it as much as I would some first cold press extra virgin. :D Plus olive oil gets pretty gummy and rancid, which makes me wonder if it's just better to not clean the group and leave the coffee oils in there to begin with. It was meant to be run that way....I'm sure they weren't using Cafiza in '61. I agree though, not wanting to risk the cams all the time kept me in the "keep it dirty" camp, but even the olive oil sounds better than the cam disassembly. As a result I chemical backflush once every year or two....

Of course that whole conversation kind of reinforces that despite the endless praise of all things E61, they have a very dark side that neither levers nor electro-mechanical solenoids have: They're actually hard to maintain. You get a choice of keeping it clean and disassembling it all the time, keeping it reliable and leaving coffee oils in it, or throwing random other organic matter into it as a middle ground. I'm convinced if the E61 weren't fun to operate as a "mini-lever", they wouldn't be so popular. All the fancy touch screens out now, and everyone that actually makes coffee whants a lever or knob or slider to actuate.

If the temp rebound time on an HX is a bad fit, though, I wonder if a lever really helps? In many ways pumps and DBs and HX's all try and fail to replicated what a lever does. But the one thing it does do better is improve speed and repeatability. I have never had a need for a muliti-group machine, but I have an inkling with a lever I'll wish I had two groups..... Maybe it rebounds fine since it makes you wait for the whole shot to pour before you can move on :P

I can understand the cost of levers being high, but sometimes the prices are confusing. I can't tell if the Profitec is really worth its premium over the QM Achille for example given the Achille has the all SS frame, larger boiler, more mass, *and* a rotary pump that should add money, yet is cheaper. But that's par for the course for the ECM/Profitec line, for whatever reason.

Bluenoser
Supporter ♡

Postby Bluenoser » Aug 13, 2019, 2:03 pm

Grin.. I use the chemical bit more than once a year... but get your point.. However after I see the gunk that comes out with the chemical....... I haven't noticed any 'funky' smell, taste with olive oil.. and I think I'd be changing gaskets more if I took apart the lever every 2 months. Have lost my enthusiasm for E61 in pump machines. Most of the 'big metal' manufacturers have no sensors near the screen and so you really don't know what your brew water temp is.. or how stable it is, without a SCACE.. And the rebound on my new HX-PID design is brutal. 2 lattes and 2 espressos have taken me 30 minutes on some days.

Although levers are HX design, I hear it is implemented in a completely different method. One guy did temp stability measurements on his Londinium R and they were amazing.. over an entire day, at different intervals. I'm an engineer, but really don't want to have to do a research project to pull a 'normal' espresso.

Basically one can spend $2500 on an HX PID and then really never know if it is really working correctly without purchasing an external $800 Temp-SCACE. A $200 (Can) group thermometer helps, but there is still variance from it to the screen.

Javier

Postby Javier » Aug 13, 2019, 6:25 pm

TheMadTamper wrote: I do wonder if we're sitting on a lever revolution.



There has been a "lever revolution" in the coffee forums for waaaay over a decade.
LMWDP #115

Phaedrus

Postby Phaedrus » replying to Javier » Aug 13, 2019, 7:44 pm

I wonder if this year's HOST will have any surprises as far as home levers are concerned. Anyone have any insider info? :D

truemagellen

Postby truemagellen » replying to Phaedrus » Aug 13, 2019, 11:48 pm


User avatar
drgary
Team HB

Postby drgary » Aug 14, 2019, 2:00 am

There's a thread on that here.

Have you seen this? Manument Francesca
Gary
LMWDP#308

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

TheMadTamper

Postby TheMadTamper » Aug 14, 2019, 1:30 pm

Bluenoser wrote:Grin.. I use the chemical bit more than once a year... but get your point.. However after I see the gunk that comes out with the chemical....... I haven't noticed any 'funky' smell, taste with olive oil.. and I think I'd be changing gaskets more if I took apart the lever every 2 months. Have lost my enthusiasm for E61 in pump machines. Most of the 'big metal' manufacturers have no sensors near the screen and so you really don't know what your brew water temp is.. or how stable it is, without a SCACE.. And the rebound on my new HX-PID design is brutal. 2 lattes and 2 espressos have taken me 30 minutes on some days.

Although levers are HX design, I hear it is implemented in a completely different method. One guy did temp stability measurements on his Londinium R and they were amazing.. over an entire day, at different intervals. I'm an engineer, but really don't want to have to do a research project to pull a 'normal' espresso.

Basically one can spend $2500 on an HX PID and then really never know if it is really working correctly without purchasing an external $800 Temp-SCACE. A $200 (Can) group thermometer helps, but there is still variance from it to the screen.


Yeah, I agree with losing E61 enthusiasm. Their introduction did WONDERS for the home espresso world. A nice commercial group was a big step up from the Silvias and Gaggias of the era. But the E61 was designed to have a fast moving siphon from a very large steam boiler. Neither the HX nor DB prosumer machines really use them optimally for their design. I suppose, technically, neither do the prosumer spring levers, but at least there there's a 17lb mass to play with, so it's easier to brute force around that. Though, to be fair, that comes at a steep cost, and probably isn't a fair comparison.

Javier wrote:There has been a "lever revolution" in the coffee forums for waaaay over a decade.

I'm not sure I'd consider the small portion of enthusiasts on coffee forums a "revolution" :lol: I meant a bit more mass market...or at least "Third Wave" mass market.