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Stepping up - best "entry level" dual boiler or HX machine?
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > Stepping up -...  
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swnenders
Senior Member


Joined: 29 Aug 2007
Posts: 3
Location: Upstate NY
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Fri Jan 15, 2010, 6:33am
Subject: Stepping up - best "entry level" dual boiler or HX machine?
 

Hello all,

I've been making espresso at home for a few years now, mostly on "low end" equipment, though overall I've been happy with the results, to the point that I've talked lots of family and friends into following suit.

At any rate, a few months ago, I dropped my machine (a Gaggia Carezza) and the boiler split in half. Since then I've been drinking drip coffee, or popping over to the friends/family I mentioned above to bum a shot off them. :D So it's time to ponder an upgrade.

I'd like to take a step up in functionality. My Gaggia did good shots. Certainly nothing to brag about, but they were good. I often drink milky coffee, and that's an area where the Gaggia was poor.  Besides producing soap suds instead of nice microfoam and generally lacking "oomph" (it would often go all watery halfway through steaming) it was fantastically picky about letting it warm up or cool down EXACTLY x amount of time when switching from brewing to steaming, or back and forth. God forbid I wanted to make coffee for me AND my wife, and be done with the process in under half an hour!. If friends came over, fuggedaboutit - I'd be chained to that machine all day trying to coax it into keeping up with demand. This time-consuming behavior basically meant it was relegated to weekends or slow mornings. We just don't have the time on a busy weekday. I'd really like my next machine to be able to quickly and easily produce coffee, to the point that we can use it to get our daily fix.

So, areas I'd like to improve:
1) Warmup time, and time to switch between brewing and steaming
2) Overall power - I'd like to be able to do two (or four! gasp!) drinks without half-hour waits in between

That's lead me to the entry level "dual" machines - heat exchangers, dual boilers, etc. I'd like to keep the price reasonable - I think my wife would faint if it was over $800 - $900. That leaves precious few machines:

1) Gaggia Twin. Seems like the cheapest dual-boiler machine. Most reviewers are satisfied, but you get the frequent comment that the steam wand produces a smell like burning tires. Is this something that's been "fixed" by Gaggia? Those reviews all appear to be several years old.
2) Ascaso Steel Duo. Some people seem to not like the idea of the thermoblock for the steaming capability, but on the other hand, it's gotten really good consumer reviews.

Am I missing any machines?

Also, can people who have used either of the above two machines please comment with respect to my criteria? I don't mind a finicky machine, as long as it's a QUICK finicky machine.
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JonR10
Senior Member
JonR10
Joined: 26 Apr 2004
Posts: 10,376
Location: Houston, Texas
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: E61 Legend, Livietta,...
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Drip: Technivorm
Roaster: 1-lb US Roaster, Behmor 1600
Posted Fri Jan 15, 2010, 7:56am
Subject: Re: Stepping up - best "entry level" dual boiler or HX machine?
 

swnenders Said:

Am I missing any machines?

Posted January 15, 2010 link

Yes.  Personally I would not even consider the two machines on your list ion this price range because you can step up to a true "prosumer" HX machine that will outperform either of those wannabees.  

CLICK HERE to check out the pourover model Bezzera BZ02S for $849

Perhaps even better Click Here to check out the Bezzera BZ07 for $999.  I know it's $100 more than your original budget but it looks pretty sweet to me!  

If you watch the boards here you might also be able to pick up a used HX from another CoffeeGeek member who is upgrading.  I've had good experiences both buying and selling used stuff at coffeegeek.com

Any good HX machine will give you the performance you're looking for.  With some practice you should be able to make a pair of lovely cappucino drinks in less than ten minutes (total time including cleanup), and since the first few minutes will be prep work you could possibly even serve the two drinks just a couple of minutes apart.  

Warm up for a good HX takes 30-40 minutes for most home-sized machines.  I would either just leave it on all the time or put the machine on a timer so it's ready when you are.  This removes the wait to warm up.  

No matter what you get, you'll need a great grinder to get the most from the machine.  If you don't have one already then you should probably budget for that as well.

 
Jon Rosenthal
Houston, TX
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JasonBrandtLewis
Senior Member
JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,410
Location: Berkeley, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -...
Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup
Drip: CCD, Chemex
Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Fri Jan 15, 2010, 8:32am
Subject: Re: Stepping up - best "entry level" dual boiler or HX machine?
 

1)  Read Jon's post carefully, then re-read it.

2)  Avoid either one of the machines you mention.

3)  Unless I missed it, you didn't mention a grinder.  What sort of grinder do you have?  A grinder is crucial.

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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swnenders
Senior Member


Joined: 29 Aug 2007
Posts: 3
Location: Upstate NY
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Fri Jan 15, 2010, 8:59am
Subject: Re: Stepping up - best "entry level" dual boiler or HX machine?
 

Thanks for the comments.

I like to learn while I do this hobby. Jon, or Zin, can either of you explain the differences between the machines I posted and the ones you're suggesting? Have either of you used any/all of the machines in question? Again, I'm not doubting your sage advice, just trying to understand the reasoning behind it.

I understand the importance of good fresh beans and the proper grind, and I have a burr grinder I'm happy with, FWIW. This may strike some as sacrilege, but I was happy with the shot quality from my low end machine, I just want one that's not as finicky and can whip out complete drinks faster. Not a big deal if the initial warmup is long, I'll just put it on a timer.
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JonR10
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JonR10
Joined: 26 Apr 2004
Posts: 10,376
Location: Houston, Texas
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: E61 Legend, Livietta,...
Grinder: Robur, B-Vario-W
Vac Pot: Hario Tabletop, Yama...
Drip: Technivorm
Roaster: 1-lb US Roaster, Behmor 1600
Posted Fri Jan 15, 2010, 9:58am
Subject: Re: Stepping up - best "entry level" dual boiler or HX machine?
 

Hi Nathan,
The primary difference is that your choices use thermoblocks for steaming (and I believe the Duo also uses a thermoblock for brewing).  The "prosumer" heat exchangers have a large boiler used for steaming, and the heat exchanger tube running through the steam boiler heats the water for brewing.  The BZ07 machine also has an actively-heated brewing head to further ensure thermal stability while brewing a shot.

What it means is that the prosumer machines will be stronger steamers, and you can literally steam and brew at the same time.  I'm not sure if you can actually do that with the Ascaso or the Baby Twin.  

With a prosumer HX you will be able to brew shot after shot and will probably never be able to work faster than the machine can recover (at least I could never outrun my last HX machine).  I cannot say this about the Gaggia machine, and I have no knowledge of the Ascaso machine's recovery and temperature cycle.

Another smaller difference is that the HX machines have an overpressure valve in the brew path which allows you to limit the available pressure for brewing.  This can result in a smoother shot because an unregulated vibe pump can put out up to 15 bars of pressure (it only takes 9 bars +/- 1 bar to make a good espresso).  

The Ascaso uses a smaller group, but the Gaggia baby has a 58mm brew group that allows use of "standard" 58mm baskets and tampers.  The Gaggia machine is certainly capable of making a great espresso shot, and the Ascaso may be as well (but I have no experience with that particular machine so I cannot say either way).  

The Gaggia Baby has a 3-way solenoid valve to relieve the brew pressure at the end of the shot to eliminate "portafilter sneeze" and allow you to brew consecutive shots quickly (all prosumer HX machines have this feature).  I do not know if Ascaso machines have this or not.  

That's why I would go for the "prosumer" machines over the "domestic" machines.  The prosumer type uses many components from similar commercial machines in a small kitchen-friendly design, and the BZ02 supposedly has the same internals as a Pasquini Livia 90.  The added steampower would be another convincing factor for me, as well as the quick recovery of heat exchangers for brewing and steaming multiple drinks.  

I hope this helps,
Jon

 
Jon Rosenthal
Houston, TX
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swnenders
Senior Member


Joined: 29 Aug 2007
Posts: 3
Location: Upstate NY
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Fri Jan 15, 2010, 10:36am
Subject: Re: Stepping up - best "entry level" dual boiler or HX machine?
 

Well thanks Jon, that makes perfect sense. I've read most of that material before, but putting it in context, it makes a lot more sense.
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JasonBrandtLewis
Senior Member
JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,410
Location: Berkeley, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -...
Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup
Drip: CCD, Chemex
Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Fri Jan 15, 2010, 11:45am
Subject: Re: Stepping up - best "entry level" dual boiler or HX machine?
 

I use a digital appliance timer that allows for multiple on/off settings AND you can vary them by the day of the week.  For example, Monday-Friday, I have the machine go one one hour before I wake up and turn off about 30 minutes after I'm supposed to leave for work (grace period in case I'm running late); on the weekends, it's on all day.  You may want to check out this one, available at Home Depot and Loew's . . .

/ / / / /

And your grinder is ????

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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DCRoberts
Senior Member


Joined: 15 Jan 2010
Posts: 14
Location: Oakland, Ca
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Duetto II
Grinder: B Vario, Hario skerton
Vac Pot: no, press w/ Hario presspot
Drip: Hario V60
Roaster: not there yet...
Posted Fri Jan 15, 2010, 5:54pm
Subject: Re: Stepping up - best "entry level" dual boiler or HX machine?
 

If I may add a newbie related question to this thread?
I have been watching the threads fairly closely over the last month after a conversation with a silvia/rocky owner started me on the process of choosing a machine.  
I fairly quickly ejected the silvia from my thought processes after I read a post that someone placed stating the machine gave him really good espresso maybe once a month...(and I also figure I will be doing at least 1/2 macchiato's or cappuci's, so I want something with steam power and the lack of a considerable wait to recharge steam)

In reading this thread I wonder how the Fiorenzato Bricoletta would "stack up" against the Bezzera Machines listed--I have read a good review of this machine on this very same website--but the review was done a few years ago, and as I have no real world experience with the machines, I would love to see any response from someone who might know the machines firsthand.


Good to finally join the group!

David
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JonR10
Senior Member
JonR10
Joined: 26 Apr 2004
Posts: 10,376
Location: Houston, Texas
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: E61 Legend, Livietta,...
Grinder: Robur, B-Vario-W
Vac Pot: Hario Tabletop, Yama...
Drip: Technivorm
Roaster: 1-lb US Roaster, Behmor 1600
Posted Fri Jan 15, 2010, 6:18pm
Subject: Re: Stepping up - best "entry level" dual boiler or HX machine?
 

DCRoberts Said:

In reading this thread I wonder how the Fiorenzato Bricoletta would "stack up" against the Bezzera Machines listed--I have read a good review of this machine on this very same website--but the review was done a few years ago, and as I have no real world experience with the machines, I would love to see any response from someone who might know the machines firsthand.

Posted January 15, 2010 link

I have never even seen one, but I know a few owners who have been very satisfied with that machine.  I would have linked it in this thread as well except that the price seems to have increaced to over $1k and the OP was looking for a $900 machine (and I already suggested a $1k machine)

 
Jon Rosenthal
Houston, TX
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JasonBrandtLewis
Senior Member
JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,410
Location: Berkeley, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -...
Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup
Drip: CCD, Chemex
Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Fri Jan 15, 2010, 6:35pm
Subject: Re: Stepping up - best "entry level" dual boiler or HX machine?
 

David, welcome to CG, and the ever-increasing SF Bay area contingent . . .

The Fiorenzato Briccoletta -- or rather, which one; there are three, and I am presuming you are referring to pourover model -- is a more powerful machine, but it requires a 20A circuit.  I don't know if you have a 20A circuit available, or you would need to re-wire.

Important Statistics:
Briccoletta HX semi-auto pourover -- 1900 watts, 20A circuit; 2.2L reservoir, 1.5L boiler; 16.5" H x 12" W x 16.5" D ; 1 year parts, 30 days labor warranty; $1,259.

Bezzera BZ07 HX semi-auto pourover -- 1400 watts, 15A circuit; 3.0L reservoir, 1.5L boiler; 14.75" H x 9.5" W x 16.75" D; 1 year parts, 30 days labor warranty; $999.

Bezzera BZ02 HX semi-auto pourover -- 1200 watts, 15A circuit; 3.78L reservoir, 1.5L boiler; 14.5"H x 14.5"W x 18"D; 1 year parts, 30 days labor warranty; $849.

Keep in mind, however, that statistics do not make espresso.  Then again, neither do machines.  You do.  All three are very capable, though.  Personally, considering the need for a 20A circuit and the fact the Bric is no longer on sale, I'd personally get the BZ07 -- but it's not my money, it's yours.

What about the grinder?

Cheers,
Jason

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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