A PID is a direct replacement for a conventional thermostat or a pressure stat in HX machines. PID stands for "Proportional Integral Derivative".
The problem with thermostats is that when they click off, usually the boiler is too hot. When they click on, the boiler is too cold. Since a thermostat can't click on and off frequently to maintain a precise temperature, there's a dead band where you have a temperature range. In other words, for example, on a non-PID equipped Silvia, you can brew at 197 F or 208 F or anywhere in-between without knowing where the boiler is really at.
PID's originally came from industrial controls where absolute rock solid temperature stability in the process is an absolute must. PID's have a huge advantage that they don't have a dead band, but rather "Guess" the temperature mathematically by looking at error over time and compensate by pulsing power to the heater to compensate for the temperature loss.
In other words, PID's give you absolutely, positively rock solid temperature stability providing for better consistency in your drinks.
The Crossland CC1 is an excellent PID controlled machine for making espresso drinks with the occasional milk drink thrown in. However, it uses a Thermoblock to steam, so you may find steaming power to be a bit weak. Since you most make straight shots, it most likely won't be a problem.
Another machine I would suggest is the Bezzera Unica, which is a PID controlled SBDU and looks to me like a great alternative to the CC1. The huge upside to the Unica is that I believe it is one of the very few E61 group machines which are a SBDU and probably one of the cheapest. Please read the reviews about this machine on this site, I can't personally recommend the Unica because I've never used one.
A lot of people feel so confident in the looks and the quality of the Silvia that they retrofit the Silvia with a PID to make it a much better machine. The way I see it, the money for a PID is better spent elsewhere on a machine with a PID already built in. If Rancilio sold the Silvia with a PID, they'd have a winner.
One of the biggest issues with HX machines I believe is that you regulate the brew water temperature by the boiler pressure if the machine has a pressure stat, which a lot of HX machines have. It's kind of imprecise, but it works well. Usually, people usually get a grouphead thermometer which they add onto their E61 group so they can determine what their brew temperature is. A PID for a HX machine is almost useless for regulating brew temperature, but it is an excellent and much more reliable alternative to a pressure stat.
I realize that I may get flamed for this, but I'm going to emphasize In My Humble Opinion starting out with a PID-Controlled SBDU is a great starter machine, but if you ever decide you want to upgrade, I'd go straight to a double boiler and skip HX machines entirely.
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
Never have understood why you seem to be so anti-HX, Bud. I get espresso that's just as good from my Ellimatic as you can get from a DB, and I can easily adjust the pull temperature to do several different beans in one session without having to wait for a whole brew boiler to restabilize its temp.
As has been noted here several times, neither HX or DB is inherently superior, they just meet different needs. If you're a "find one coffee and stick with it" type, a DB can be a good choice, but it's more of a pain to use if you like variety and beans that want different temps. On the other hand, it takes a little more time to fully master an HX, but once you do, you've got a very flexible system at your fingertips.
Sorry, I don't mean to sound like I am.. I guess I just like seeing temperature readouts. I've had espresso from a HX machine that wasn't flushed, tasted like charcoal water. That biased me a little bit. Had I asked for another shot instead of throwing that one away, it probably would have tasted better.
I I can easily adjust the pull temperature to do several different beans in one session without having to wait for a whole brew boiler to restabilize its temp.
YES! YES! YES!!! That's exactly one huge strength that HX's have over a DB. In my own case, I tend to work through the same blend for a few weeks and then I switch, so a DB is good for me because I just "walk up and pull" ... but I can understand that if you have a few different blends available to you and you want to switch quickly, it's nice to be able to have the flexibility of adjusting your brew temperature on the fly by adjusting the length of flush you want to do. I was tempted to buy an HX machine to start out with, but I was kind of afraid that I'd want to upgrade to a DB later, so I just started out with a DB. Who knows... maybe my next machine may be a commercial grade HX? :-)
neither HX or DB is inherently superior, they just meet different needs.
Well, before I start, I should mention that my own personal experiences with the Silvia were excellent. It is a great machine in its own right, but it is technologically outdated and in need of vast improvements. It is a great machine if that's all you can find. I guess in some ways you are paying more for the name than for the feature set of the machine. However, in saying that, the machine I used to own was very durable, well built and worked like a charm.
So yes, you can leave a Silvia on and connect it up to a timer. However, these machines really were not designed for that. Any SBDU machine will not have a way to automatically fill the boiler, you have to do it manually before you finish using the machine so the boiler is already full when the timer kicks on. Leaving the machine on for extended periods of time is not advised. (ie. More than an hour without use.)
If the boiler is near empty and the timer kicks in, there is a very real possibility that the machine can overheat and cause the safety thermostat to pop. This also has the tendency to shorten the lifespan of the components of the machine. To avoid this problem, I would advise that you consider looking at a machine which automatically fills the boiler instead so that this isn't an issue. I can't remember if that thermostat is self-resetting or not.
Don't let the long warmup time discourage you. I'll probably get flamed for this, but I felt that I could warm my Silvia up in about 15 minutes before it was ready. The Silvia has a boiler that holds as much water as a pop can, so it heats up fairly quick and stabilizes fast. What I found worked for me was to wake up and immediately walk over and switch it on. By the time I answered my call of nature, got dressed, combed my hair and got ready to go to work, the machine was ready and I could start brewing shots. If you can spend 20-30 minutes allowing it to warm up, that's better, but realistically, I found it was fine after 15 mins...
Do you have any other options in your area? Lelit machines are a bit cheaper, but offer better value for the money. Read the reviews on them on this site.
You really haven't mentioned what your requirements for a machine are or what your budget is.
Not to take this thread off track, but I want to publicly thank Qualin for assistance in deciding on an espresso machine. We exhanged several emails and I just wanted to make a public note that not only is he an espresso connoisseur, he is more than willing to help a member. CoffeeGeek.com is lucky to have him.
Haha, his typing is lengthy for sure, can you imagine a conversation? LOL. J/K, great guy. My gear is listed under my profile, but I haven't received it yet as the Walnut panels are being made as I type this. I decided to go with the La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi II from Clive Coffee (with pre-infusion and timer as those are important to me). I had it down to the Duetto 3, QM, maybe the R58 but read a lot of negative on it and the Vivaldi.
After 'consulting' with my wife, we liked everything about the Vivaldi, the design (with wood panels is stunning), like the lever steam, short height for under cabinet, and overall reviews I read. The one thing I do not like, is that I cannot plumb it in later. It's not a biggie, but we are moving/building in a few years and it would have been nice. It has a nice size water tank though so not a biggie.
I also bought the Baratza Vario. I had it down to the Vario and the Mazzer Mini Type-A and decided to go with the Vario after reading reviews from people that own both and preferred the Vario (as well as countless other reviews). For the money, it seems to be an excellent grinder and it will do what I want.
As soon as I get the equipment in, I will post pics. It looks like I should have it in the next few weeks.
Thank you so so so much Qualin! I had seen the Crossland CC1 that another member had posted, but I wasn't too keen due to the fact it looked like something you'd get from Harvey Norman (equivalent in US is probably Walmart, from what I saw over there...or maybe Kmart, anyway) but the Bezzera Unico is beautiful...and stainless steel! But what the really fantastic thing is is that I've found somewhere that actually ships it to Australia (http://www.espressocoffeeshop.com/store/bz_unica.html). It's can be really hard to get all of the machines over here. You know the Cuadra? I was bent on that, until I found that nowhere shipped to Australia, and over here it costs $2200. Don't have that kind of money. So, again, thankyou.
It has: *a PID, which sounds very useful *cheaper than any HX I'd get here *not outdated *from reviews I can see, looks to be a good quality SBDU machine *and it looks pretty too, which is the least important, of course, but you don't want an ugly coffee machine in your kitchen.
Thanks heaps for your replies everyone, and after I get it and have tried it for a while, I'll be sure to post a detailed review.
Edit: I'm also going to get a Baratza Vario instead of the Preciso, as it's only $150 more, and that way when i upgrade my SBDU I hope to get to a HX or DB in maybe 4 years or so, I won't have to change the grinder.
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