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Accessibility requirements for espresso machines
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john_ertw
Senior Member


Joined: 3 Nov 2012
Posts: 21
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Quickmill Vetrano
Grinder: Baratza Vario
Posted Sat Nov 3, 2012, 4:48am
Subject: Accessibility requirements for espresso machines
 

I'm searching for the "perfect" espresso machine but have a constraint regarding the height.  Although the bottom of my cabinets are approximately 18" above the countertop, the valance trim piece sits only 15.25" above the counter.  Due to the layout of the kitchen, the machine needs to go under the upper cabinets.

In terms of the machine, I want a heat exchanger or dual boiler based on the E-61 group head, plumbed in (as it will be difficult to fill with the cabinets overhead), and rotary pump. The only machine I have found so far that meets those criteria and fits (less than 15.25" high) is the Rocket giotto evoluzione v2.  I have not found any dual boilers that fit (except the Vivaldi 2 which we are not crazy about).

One idea we had was to place the taller "body" of the machine behind the valance trim with the group head, steam, and water knobs sticking out.  This will render the cup warmer useless, but it does fit (as confirmed with a cardboard model).

The question this poses is how often will I require access to the top or rear or inside of the machine, given that it will be plumbed in?  I ask as I will need to remove the valance trim to slide the machine in, then replace the trim.  Doable if access is rarely required, but I will probably want to avoid it if I will need access many times a year.

I imagine I will need this access for descaling or if something breaks.  From what I gather (speaking to Chris's Coffee), descaling will only be every few years if I treat the water (I plan to).  If that is true and I will rarely need access it will allow me to consider many other options.
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JasonBrandtLewis
Senior Member
JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,391
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 Sat Nov 3, 2012, 8:48am
Subject: Re: Accessibility requirements for espresso machines
 

John, first of all welcome to CG.

Keep in mind there is no such thing as a "perfect espresso machine."  Seriously.  There isn't.  Further, I am a bit confused as you describe yourself as "Just starting," yet you are talking about spending beaucoups bucks on an espresso machine -- hardly the norm around here.  (Most people who are just starting are looking for something far less expensive.)

You have not mentioned anything about a grinder.  Do you already have one?  If not, what grinder(s) are you thinking about?  

I understand about your height requirement/restrictions, but let's start with the basics, shall we?
Standard Questions:
1)  What kind of drinks do you like/want to make?  (This will tell us what you need in terms of a machine's capabilities.)
2)  How many drinks, on average, do you see yourself needing to make at ay one time? (This will tell us what you need in terms of a machine's ability to work continuously.)
3)  How many drinks, on average, do you see yourself making in any given week?  (This will tell us what you need in terms of a machine's durability.)
4)  Can you plumb a machine directly into the water supply, or do you want/need a pourover machine with its own reservoir?
5)  Do you have a 20-amp circuit available, or only a (standard) 15-amp circuit?
6)  What is your budget for a new machine?  Does that also include a grinder?  If not, what is your budget for a grinder?
Now, I understand you have already said you want either an HX or DB machine.  OK, both are a significant step-up from an SBDU.  Why the insistence on an E-61?  (If you don't mind me asking, that is.)  Also, I presume you've already thought about -- and ruled out -- placing your kit elsewhere in the house.

Anyway, the more specific info from you, the better . . .

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


Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 129
Location: B.C Canada
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Spaz v2
Grinder: vario
Posted Sat Nov 3, 2012, 11:47am
Subject: Re: Accessibility requirements for espresso machines
 

I purchased a la spazialle vivaldi 2 for this reason. Its a low machine at 15" tall. Its all plumbed in so no need to move it around. There is the mini vivaldi as well which is the same dimensions but non plumbable.
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john_ertw
Senior Member


Joined: 3 Nov 2012
Posts: 21
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Quickmill Vetrano
Grinder: Baratza Vario
Posted Sat Nov 3, 2012, 3:52pm
Subject: Re: Accessibility requirements for espresso machines
 

Jason, some valid questions.  I know there is no "perfect espresso machine", but I used those terms partially jokingly.  What we want is a machine that will allow us to make good/excellent quality drinks (once we figure it out), with consistancy from cup to cup and day to day.  I have also learned that buying my end machine is a wise move (I learned that lesson elsewhere in life).

We started our search for a super automatic.  I decided to try to figure which brand/model make the best coffee (due to my experience with them) and made the mistake of finding sites such as this and HB.  Came to the conclusion that a super will not make great coffee which is confirmed from my experience with them (in laws have a Jura F9, tired several Saecos, etc.).  I realized I never had a great espresso from one (always a bitter drink).  At first we thought we wanted a Breville dual boiler due to the features/cost and then started calling and visiting local stores.  Came to the conclusion that the machine makes great drinks, but future reliability is unknown.  I also read about the repeated stories of starting with a Gaggia or Silvia, but quickly outgrowing them, especially when making multiple milk drinks as well as the difficulties in temperature management.  We decided that we want to avoid spending good money on a machine that we will quickly outgrow and is finicky.  Thus the conclusion of either a heat exchanger or dual boiler.  

E-61 preference is partially due to the looks, partially due to the reported performance.  I guess we can consider other styles, but preference would be to E-61.

We considered placing the machine elsewhere, but it really seems unlikely.  There are several areas that would work in the kitchen but they all have the same height restriction.

Now on to your questions.  I understand this will help others make recommendations, but I really want to understand the implications of placing the machine in a way that it is usable for making drinks, but inaccessible without a little trouble for any maintenance work.  If I'm looking at needing access several times a year I will likely look for a machine that is shorter than 15.25" even if it isn't E-61.  However if the consensus is that access is normally not needed more than once every few years I can then live with the E-61.

1)  What kind of drinks do you like/want to make?  (This will tell us what you need in terms of a machine's capabilities.)
Normally lattes/Caps for my wife (with occasional straight espressos), Mix of straight espressos/milk drinks for myself.  Guests will vary.  Some are straight espressos, but many will want milk mixed in.
2)  How many drinks, on average, do you see yourself needing to make at ay one time? (This will tell us what you need in terms of a machine's ability to work continuously.)
Two drinks at a time during the week (in the morning before work and perhaps before or after dinner), 4-6 drinks at a time on weekends (when entertaining), occasionally a dozen or so drinks at a time (currently 3 or 4 times a year), and infrequently more than that (large party maybe once or twice a year).  All occasions will likely have a mix of milk drinks.
3)  How many drinks, on average, do you see yourself making in any given week?  (This will tell us what you need in terms of a machine's durability.)  Average week will be 20-30 drinks.
4)  Can you plumb a machine directly into the water supply, or do you want/need a pourover machine with its own reservoir?
Plumb in is preferred due to machine accessibility.  A machine with plumb-in and pourover sounds nice (allow me to relocate the machine to the basement for the large parties or help with descaling?), but I wouldn't necessarily spend more just for that feature.
5)  Do you have a 20-amp circuit available, or only a (standard) 15-amp circuit?
15 amp circuit with no plans to upgrade at this time.
6)  What is your budget for a new machine?  Does that also include a grinder?  If not, what is your budget for a grinder?
Want to stay under $2000 Canadian, but the last thing I want to do is regret the machine I get because of a relatively small amount.  I currently have a Baratza Vario.


Zedex: I have seen the Vivaldi 2 in person a few times now and although the performance is there, the looks don't do it for me.  Maybe I have to look at it differently.  When I measured it, I measured 15.25" high (without the plastic rail on an old style vivaldi 2) which would be difficult to slide into place as it is exactly the same height as the cabinets.  Can you take an actual measurement of yours?
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zedex
Senior Member


Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 129
Location: B.C Canada
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Spaz v2
Grinder: vario
Posted Sat Nov 3, 2012, 6:56pm
Subject: Re: Accessibility requirements for espresso machines
 

15 1/16" exactly.
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coffee_no_sugar
Senior Member


Joined: 15 Jan 2005
Posts: 352
Location: USA
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: pavoni pub, brasilia club
Grinder: mazzer sj, mdf, infinity
Drip: melitta clarity
Roaster: popcorn
Posted Sat Nov 3, 2012, 7:49pm
Subject: Re: Accessibility requirements for espresso machines
 

You know that espresso machines do generate heat and steam.  Do you think that this heat and steam will be good for your cabinets?  Try do give your espresso machine some ventilation.  For what it is worth, I have an E61 and it is the least used espresso machine in my kitchen (1/3).  The best espresso machine is a personal choice.  It is based on taste, skill level, usage and even requirements for support.  Good luck in finding the perfect machine.
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john_ertw
Senior Member


Joined: 3 Nov 2012
Posts: 21
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Quickmill Vetrano
Grinder: Baratza Vario
Posted Sat Nov 3, 2012, 8:40pm
Subject: Re: Accessibility requirements for espresso machines
 

I am still trying to understand how frequently one can expect to require full access to the machine when using treated (softened) water.
A call to Chris Coffee a few weeks ago suggested that descaling may only be required every 3 years or so in home use when using softened water, but I have been told by others that descaling is required every 6 months, even with softened water.  In terms of reliability I have been told these machines are bullet proof by some, but have read accounts of machines having components failing when new and have seen machines being repaired at the dealers I have viisted.

Regarding heat, during a visit to a local dealer (Expobar) last week, the sales guy recommended installing insulation on the underside of the cabinet to prevent heat damage.  Apparently he has done this before without ill effects to the cabinets.  In terms of machine ventilation, there will be lots of space on each side, front, and back and a couple of inches above depending on model.  Can anyone with experience with a machine installed under cabinets comment on damage due to heat?
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zedex
Senior Member


Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 129
Location: B.C Canada
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Spaz v2
Grinder: vario
Posted Sat Nov 3, 2012, 9:17pm
Subject: Re: Accessibility requirements for espresso machines
 

Well, if your talking leaving your machine on 24/7 then heat might be an issue. You still have 2 3/4 " above the machine. Will not be an issue.
 I have had various machine under my cabinet for 14 years or so. No issues whatsoever.
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NobbyR
Senior Member
NobbyR
Joined: 10 Jul 2011
Posts: 2,044
Location: Germany
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Poccino Opus One, Ariete
Grinder: Eureka Mignon Istantaneo
Vac Pot: N/A
Drip: Melitta Linea Unica de Luxe
Roaster: N/A
Posted Sat Nov 3, 2012, 11:34pm
Subject: Re: Accessibility requirements for espresso machines
 

I think a HX or even DB machine will meet your requirements. However, IMHO a DB is no step-up from a HX, it simply works differently and has different advantages and disadvantages. I like to keep in mind that even nowadays most commercial machines are actually HX.

Since with the Vario you already have a very decent grinder, your $2,000 budget easily lifts you in the prosumer class. The good news is that you can't really go wrong in that price range. All prosumer machines are capable of brewing excellent espresso. The bad news is that you'll be spoilt for choice. All machines have pros and cons, and all of them have fans and critics. I suggest you take a good look around consumer reviews on this site, the home pages of different online retailers like SeattleCoffeeGear, for example, as well as manufacturers' websites in order to compile a shortlist of all espresso machines that you like and that will fit under your cabinets. With that list you should visit local dealers and take a live, possibly hands-on look on all of the machines on that list. Then you can simply buy the machine that you like best as far as design and feel are concerned.

You won't go wrong!

 
***
"This drink of the Satan is so delicious that it would be a shame to leave it to the infidels." (Pope Clement VIII on coffee, when he was urged to ban the beverage)
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john_ertw
Senior Member


Joined: 3 Nov 2012
Posts: 21
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Quickmill Vetrano
Grinder: Baratza Vario
Posted Sun Nov 4, 2012, 5:18am
Subject: Re: Accessibility requirements for espresso machines
 

So far the only machines that I have found that are plumbed in, HX or DB, rotary pump and under 15.25" tall are all above my budget (Rocket Giotto Evoluzion V2, Cellini Evoluzion V2, ECM Technika IV Profi, and La Spaziale Vivaldi II).

There are machines that meet all my requirements except height, and I can fit them under the cabinet by removing the valance trim, putting the machine in place, and reinstalling the trim.  Problem is access to the back/top/inside of the machine will require removal of trim which is doable, but a little inconvenient.  This is why I am trying to gauge how frequently access is required (understanding that it is possible to get a lemon that will require more than average service).

So my question to those who have had a prosumer type E-61 machine for several years is how often have you needed to access the inside of the machine for maintenance/service?
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