The recent rise in popularity is especially true for home baristas, beginning with the introduction of the Expobar Brewtus over a decade ago. Prior to the Expobar Brewtus double boiler design, E61 espresso machines were invariably heat exchanger types, requiring careful attention to flushing water through the group for brew temperature control. Following the success of the Expobar Brewtus, other espresso machine manufacturers like Quickmill, Vibiemme, and Rocket followed suit by adding a double boiler E61 model to their line of HX models.
An astounding number of E61 espresso machines have been reviewed on this site. Twelve? Thirteen? I've lost count. It's fair to summarize these evaluations by asserting they all perform well and they are primarily distinguished by characteristics beyond the quality of the espresso like ergonomics, aesthetics, and attention to workmanship.
The Vesuvius, however, stands apart from its peers in today's market.
That impression begins with smart styling. Of course, the centerpiece of the Vesuvius is the iconic, lustrously polished E61 grouphead, but it's complemented by a surrounding clean, simple design. Slanting side panels add visual interest to the Vesuvius' form. The delightful use of wood accents contrasts pleasingly with the minimalistic appearance of the controls and indicators. At first glance, I wondered why the understated brew and steam boiler lights were unlabeled. Even the power switch was hidden away behind the left side panel. Taking the full aesthetics of the Vesuvius into consideration, the intent is clear: To convey a sense of modern focus and plainly expressed purpose.
The Vesuvius' innovations do not end with its aesthetic appeal. The noteworthy innovation is its integrated programmable brew pressure profiling. While the E61 design already enjoys a well-earned reputation for being forgiving of minor errors in barista technique, the Vesuvius programmability improves on it. Those who wish to experiment with brew pressure profiling may unlock more nuanced taste profiles in their espresso than achievable with the standard predetermined profile inherent to the E61's original design. On the other hand, as our shootout with the Profitec Pro 700 demonstrated, enabling the barista the means to manipulate another variable can change the outcome and not always in the way one may have expected. Those who enjoy experimenting will certainly appreciate the modern capabilities the Vesuvius brings to bear; others may be uninterested in managing yet another variable at considerably higher expense. One of the shootout participants weighed in on this point:
Jesse Gordon wrote:In the shootout between the Vesuvius and the Pro 700, I found that the Pro 700 was more to my preference. While the Vesuvius has some great features, I feel like the Pro 700 simply makes coffee of equal quality with more user friendly ergonomics and less bells and whistles. The pressure profiling ability of the Vesuvius is nice, but even as someone with a lot of coffee experience, I feel like it would take a considerable amount of time and coffee to really learn how to best utilize this feature. I love the aesthetics of the Vesuvius, but as I mentioned in my first impressions of the Vesuvius a few months ago, I think the the ergonomics could be better especially considering the price point.
Between the two, I feel like the Pro 700 is a better choice for the home barista in terms of the whole package. The ergonomics are much, much better and I preferred shots pulled on this machine in the blind tasting versus the Vesuvius as they were more balanced. With the Pro 700 coming in at $1500-$2000 less than the Vesuvius, it would be hard for me to not choose it if I were deciding between the two.
Jesse has years of experience as a barista at one of our area's best cafes equipped with state-of-the-art commercial espresso equipment, so he's no espresso Luddite (now he works at Counter Culture Coffee). I've had a lot more time to use the two espresso machines from our shootout than Jesse and certainly understand his concerns, especially regarding the cramped workarea of the Vesuvius due to the shallow (front-to-back) dimensions of its driptray. But for those willing to pay a premium for genuine performance innovations of a classic design in a refreshingly attractive package, I believe the Vesuvius is today's king of the E61.