allanwexler Senior Member Joined: 8 Feb 2008 Posts: 3 Location: Toronto Expertise: Just starting
Espresso: Faema Junior Grinder: Rancilio Rocky
Posted Fri Feb 8, 2008, 5:44am Subject: first time buyer
I am in the final stages of purchasing my first home espresso machine and am in a quandry between Gaggia and Faema. Faema hypes their brass boilers. How importrant is that? I am looking at the Gaggia Paros and Twin while at Faema I am looking at the Junior, Combi and professional. Any tips for this child!
RaisedCVC Senior Member Joined: 8 Feb 2008 Posts: 3 Location: Colorado Expertise: Professional
Espresso: Astoria single group
Posted Fri Feb 8, 2008, 10:40pm Subject: Re: first time buyer
Dear first time buyer, Unfortunately I may not be of much help, but I would like to try anyway. First, I would not worry too much about the brass boiler. Most commercial machines dont use brass so why should you?? The La Marzocco machines (One of the best Italian machines ever!) uses stainless steel. The only concern in this area would be the water you put into the machine. It is important to filter your water before it enters the system. This will help prevent build up of foreign particles. Also be sure to flush your machine regularly with a specifically designed coffee cleaner such as Puro-Caf. DON'T use regular household cleaners as they may leave residue or taste behind. Second, I am not terribly familier with kitchen counter espresso machines but here are a few things to consider. WATER PRESSURE: most home machines put out 1.5-3 atmospheres (bars) of pressure. Commercial machines put out up to 15 bars. Although the range in which you want to opperate for the best quality of pressure is 9 bars, give or take 1/2 a bar. To determine what a machine puts out, it will usaully have a gauge on the front. If it doesn't, the owners manual or other source of stats may help. I realize this difference in pressure capability could mean a difference of hundreds to thousands of dollars. So if you go low pressure, don't expect the same results as the neighborhood coffee shop. TECHNOLOGY: These days, there are a lot of machines that are doing it all. Everything from grinding to tamping the shots themselves. These are all very cool technologically, but its hard to compete with the human touch. If I had a choice between a brand new fully automatic machine and a fully manual machine that requires hand tamping and water control, I would choose the later. The simpler the design, the less chance you have of breaking something and the old way is just better. Well, I could go on, but I feel this post has exceeded some sort of limit. Let me know how it turns out. Good luck! RaisedCVC
Posted Sat Feb 9, 2008, 12:33am Subject: Re: first time buyer
I'm not familiar with the two machines, i'd say look at the reviews in the consumer reviews section.
Just to respond to the above post, most home machines have more than enough pressure (most of the time too much), so that above statement is false. The espresso machines that are known as "steam toys", anything you'll find at the local market called an espresso machine under $100, are low pressure, but any real espresso machine will have a pump capable of all the pressure you need an more. I would recommend a regular Gaggia based on the other machines you're looking at (and likely price range), any of the normal models will do, gaggia classic, baby, coffee, espresso, carezza, etc.
Posted Sat Feb 9, 2008, 1:17am Subject: Re: first time buyer
I think Gaggia's have aluminum boilers so I guess we are comparing aluminum to brass.
I am not perfectly sure about the answer to this, but my wee knowledge of cookware might shed some light on things (everyone, please feel free to edit):
In terms of durability:
If aluminum comes into contact with acidic things, it will react and then corrode. This is why you wouldn't want to bake a big tomato lasagna in an aluminum pan, and especially not store it in one, due to all the acid in tomatoes. Another case: my old spouts on my vinegar bottles started turning green and leeching into my vinegars...turns out they were aluminum, and I immediately returned them and purchased stainless spouts. Not that they readily make brass pans or vinegar spouts, but I don't think brass will corrode as easily. For an espresso machine boiler, I think that the brass would hold up better over a longer period of time if there are acidic impurities in your water. So, RaisedCVC is right about being sensitive to what kind of water you put in your machine, particularly with an aluminum boiler.
In terms of heat performance:
I think both these materials are ultimately going to perform very well, but let's take a look at the way this heat thing works: There are two performance issues here: conductivity (a metal's ability to transfer heat to something else), and temperature stability of the metal (a metal's ability to hold that heat in itself). And I think these are inversely proportional. Aluminum conducts heat better than brass, and therefore does not hold that heat in itself as much as brass. Some of the best cookware incorporates aluminum layers because it conducts heat so well, and sometimes you want all the heat going to your food. As long as your heat source is constant, say a constant flame, you don't care about whether the pan is losing heat...you want the heat going to the food. With espresso boilers, of course you similarly want the heat being transfered to the water in the boiler, so at first it would seem as though aluminum boilers might be superior. But, again, that is only the case if the heat source is constant. However, with things like these Gaggia's and my Rancilio Silvia, the stock thermostat isn't constantly heating the water. You see that heating light sometimes go on and sometimes turn off for periods of time. So, as long as we are buying machines that struggle a bit with the heat source, temperature stability of the boiler itself does matter. Therefore, brass has the advantage here.
Ok, that gives you the picture about what's going on, but here's the gist: aluminum doesn't just throw away it's heat as much as, say, copper. It will still hold its heat pretty well and will do a good job for brewing espresso. That's why you get so many satisifed Gaggia owners. However, I would say no matter what material you end up with for a boiler, ultimately what you want to do is address the heat source itself. This is why we install PIDs on our machines! My Silvia has a thermocouple monitoring the temperature of the boiler. The PID essentially replaces the stock thermostat, making sure the heating is more active, and my boiler is stable within a degree of whatever temperature I want it to be. If you don't want to put all the pieces together yourself, there are very good PID kits out there to purchase....Jim Gallt is amazing and makes the installation as easy as possible: http://www.pidkits.com/kits.html I don't know if he could help you put one on a Gaggia, since he's a Silvia dude, but he may be able too.
You don't have to PID now. A Gaggia will be pretty good by itself. But keep in mind that the PID might be more important of a cost consideration than the material of the boiler. Silvia has a brass boiler, and I don't think it was really that great until I put a PID on it.
mthedude Senior Member Joined: 28 Jan 2008 Posts: 314 Location: IA Expertise: I live coffee
Espresso: Nuova Simonelli Oscar Grinder: La Spaziale Junior Vac Pot: n/a Drip: Cuisinart Grind & Brew Roaster: n/a
Posted Sat Feb 9, 2008, 7:36am Subject: Re: first time buyer
I don't have any experience w/these machines and I am new to the espresso world myself, but I do have some experience w/different metals and water. Brass is used in marine applications because it doesn't rust or corrode when exposed to salt water....that said, it won't corrode when exposed to fresh water either. Ideally, a home setup shouldn't be complete without a good Reverse Osmosi/De-Inozing water filter (check ebay for systems around $125). I used to have a saltwater reef tank and the last thing you would want to expose to prolonged marine water is aluminum....again, fresh water isn't supposed to corrode aluminum, but tap water these days isn't just water, there's a lot of other elements in there that will build up over time and the heating process calcifies these elements (just like in water heaters). So basically, I'd suggest looking into the brass boiler machine...and as an added measure, I'd definately look into a reverse osmosis system. Very small investment to ensure 99.9% pure water is put into your machine...should equal longer machine life and great tasting espresso.
Posted Sat Feb 9, 2008, 8:34am Subject: Re: first time buyer
Apparently you are talking about the IMAT machines sold by Faema Canada. These machine use boilers/groups that are used by many machines and you can find reviews under names such as LeLit, Fenice, IMAT, and Quaha. Some people like the Imat/Quaha machines more than the Gaggias. Gaggias are probably more common and parts are a lot easier to find. The Imats have a brass boiler but the group and portafilters are light weight in comparison to the Gaggias.
IMHO Gaggias can produce a better shot but others disagree. I would agree with many others that the Imats produce good shots more consistently.
Posted Sat Feb 9, 2008, 2:39pm Subject: Re: first time buyer
Do you have a good grinder or are you budgeting for that? Since you're new here you may not have heard the local mantra which is "It's the GRINDER, DUDE!" Grinder is way more of a factor than what machine you get. It's a crucial part of any espresso setup. Your setup is not complete until you have a good espresso grinder.
You may already know all that but I just thought I'd repeat it since you're new.
cdvax11 Senior Member Joined: 9 Feb 2007 Posts: 10 Location: Sunny Florida Expertise: I love coffee
Posted Sat Feb 9, 2008, 4:35pm Subject: Re: first time buyer
My question exactly. What grinder, Dude? That even matters with the choice of machine. Of the top three things about great espresso, the machine is number four. Coffee, Beans, and freshness of beans all rank ahead of the machine. I know it's much more intuitive to think you can improve your shots by upping the machine, but it's all about the grinder. Even the best commercial machine gives mediocre results if the grind isn't up to speed. You may already know all of this, and this ISN'T the grinder forum....but you didn't brag about your Macap MC4, so I just wanted to reinforce brad's on-point comment. Just in case... ~:o) Ciao!
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