I'm pretty novice to espresso, having had a much lower quality product for about 6 months. A week ago, I received my Sette 270 and Pro500 with PID and will share some initial comments and ask a question or two, if anyone can help.
First, the idea of the PID in this HX machine is to reduce cooling flushes and get more consistent brew temp. I think this happens. I do not notice any flashing of water when I turn on pump, even after 60 minutes of warm up. My first problem is in determining brew water temp, as is common in HX designs. I thought I'd be able to use a foam cup in my bottomless portafilter, fill with some coffee, put drain hole in bottom and stick fast thermometer in side and it would be accurate. But I can't seem to get a 'real' reading. Machine came with PID set to 248 which the manual says will give 200F brew water. I only measured 170F in my foam cup, but my pressure was only 4 bar and water was exiting the cup too fast. I think the whole thermo-syphon system relies on water temp being dependent on a normal extraction flow rate. Since this flow rate was too fast, it was likely pulling water too fast which didn't spend enough time in the steam boiler to heat up properly. I tried a few things to slow down water but my conclusion is that 248 PID setting is too low. When WLL did tests on this machine they upped the PID to 252 and scaced 200 at brew water, so that's what I did and it upped my tests to give 185 (water still exits too fast so this is still not accurate). Huge difference in brew temp, with small changes in PID. If I could borrow a scace that would be great, but am in fairly remote, rural area, and so that is unlikely. I tried measuring water as it enters cup from an actual extraction, but it cools down much too quickly to get a really accurate reading.
I made two espressos (PID 248 and then 252) and the one with the PID at 252 was unbelievably better. I know I can get Eric's thermo. but that is another $200 here.. so will wait a bit. If anyone has a cheaper, easy method to measure brew temp, let me know
I bought a bottomless portafilter and that is crucial for a new person starting out. I found that grinding & filling the basket up about 2/3 full and tapping sides, bottom to get level and then filling rest, tapping, and then tamping almost always gives a good extraction profile when looking underneath the portafilter. The Sette is really great for single-dosing. Very easy to measure beans, dump in, grind and I can count on .2g lost and be within .1g of what I want to enter the portafilter. (If I want 16g, I add 16.2g to grinder) I almost never get spurting or channeling now. I chose the Sette over more expensive models mainly because of its ability to single-dose. I'm only setting the grinder to a setting of 10 (1-9 is finer) on the coarse ring, so I have lots of 'headroom' as the burrs settle in or if the beans are quite different. (there also a second fine adjustment ring)
I use 16 gram in the double stock basket and have been extracting some Lavazza Crema I bought (not super fresh, but seems to work well for learning) to 32 g out. I am getting 32 seconds from turning on pump. About 5-6 seconds to first drip. That seems to be in ballpark of what is desired. I did notice that the pressure is about 9.7 bar. (machine set to 10 bar from company); just under the max. My question is: would someone attempt to get the extraction pressure down to 9 bar?
And would one set the grind a bit coarser? If I do I would worry my extraction rate would go up too much and I'd get slightly under extracted result. Any comments on extraction data above appreciated.
So I've been tasting espresso for about 6 months; on my old cheap machine, at cafes in a city a few hours away, and with the Pro500. But I really have little idea of how to describe espresso at this point. My latest results taste about the best I've made so far, so I think I'm close to getting a decent extraction. Yeah.. 'best' is all I can come up with now.. hopefully 'balanced', 'chocolate' and 'mayberry' will enter my vocabulary in the future..
The machine is extremely repeatable. I pulled 3 shots and they all tasted pretty close. The Lavazza beans were very rich and creamy. More so than I expected. (actually tasted better, I thought, than some espressos from the city)
I was a little worried about low steam pressure, with newer mods on the Pro 700 moving the steam boiler up to 2 bar, but no one should worry about that. Even at 248 my steam is over 1bar (now at 252, I have 1.3bar). This steams (even at 248) reasonably quickly for someone new. I do about 6-8 oz in about 10-20 seconds with the 2 hole tip. Any faster and I would not have the skill yet to get great foam. There is a good roll and the knobs on this machine work super. The spring-action is really nice. I had been steaming milk on a steam-block Delonghi but it was no where near powerful enough to incorporate the air into the entire milk. In the Delonghi, I had to add more air so the top was too foamy and to ensure I had some foam at the end, when pouring Latte art. With this machine, I stretch less, and the foam gets incorporated much more evenly in the entire milk. Latte art is easier.
The new 500PID has the ECO mode that is on the new PID upgrade for the PRO700 and Synchonika. This will turn your machine off after 30/60 minutes. I was secretly hoping they'd leave in the shot timer s/w even though the tray was hiding the PID, but they didn't. No shot timer.
I do go through a bit of water. But the cooling flushes are really minimal. In fact, I really just do 'screen cleans' to get rid of the last grounds that might have attached. 1 oz max. For my setup, plumbing in was going to be too big a task. I'm willing to use RO 5 gallon jug and add a package of 3rd wave water crystals. Once I get used to machine, I don't think I'll mind the water filling. I water back-flush daily and will do cleaning backflush every few weeks.
I have one of those electronic plugs that I use with Apple's HomeKit. About $40, I think. Nice 'cause I can tell Siri to turn on my machine while leaving work and it can be all warmed up by time I'm ready for a drink. 30 minute warm up seems to give consistent results.
I did a ton of reading/watching over the past 6 months, but this machine seems pretty user-friendly.
I only wish manufacturers would find a way to add a thermocouple in the actual brew chamber so the user could attach a meter to measure brew temp. Changing the PID temp had a big effect on my taste test.