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Talk me out of the Breville 860xl as an entry-level setup
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > Talk me out of...  
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CMIN
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Jun 2012
Posts: 1,213
Location: South FL
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Crossland CC1
Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Posted Fri Aug 23, 2013, 8:23am
Subject: Re: Talk me out of the Breville 860xl as an entry-level setup
 

apinstein Said:

FWIW if you leave the portafilter in while the machine is on, it all heats up *a lot*. The metal becomes untouchably hot.

Posted August 23, 2013 link

should do that with any machine, least 30 min with the PF locked in.
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Coffeenoobie
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Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 2,972
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Fri Aug 23, 2013, 9:57am
Subject: Re: Talk me out of the Breville 860xl as an entry-level setup
 

Give that a try this weekend (assuming you have more time on the weekend than during the week) and let us know if it gets rid of the sour taste for you.

 
Coffeenoobie

Buying advice: GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER. Don't cheap out on the grinder.

My coffee treasure map...
Click Here (maps.google.com)

Oscar trick out: http://s156.photobucket.com/user/GandBteam/story/14231
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apinstein
Senior Member


Joined: 26 Nov 2012
Posts: 8
Location: Atlanta, GA
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Breville 840XL
Grinder: Breville 800XL
Posted Sat Sep 7, 2013, 6:50am
Subject: Re: Talk me out of the Breville 860xl as an entry-level setup
 

This weekend I finally had time to let it warm up for 20+ min before pulling a shot and I didn't dump anything. They were good! They definitely taste different, but not undrinkable sour, just more complex. Part of it could be the beans, too. I will continue to experiment.

Either way is that bottom line I'm quite happy with the Breville 840XL!
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kimbo5
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Joined: 27 Aug 2013
Posts: 23
Location: ontario
Expertise: I live coffee

Posted Sat Sep 7, 2013, 11:49am
Subject: Re: Talk me out of the Breville 860xl as an entry-level setup
 

I have had the same Breville at home before I bought the HX and now I use it only in the office. I can get good shots from it, depending on the grind and on the coffee. If the coffee is freshly roasted and the grind is fine enough, coffee is usually good and not sour.

Now, i've had cups before from the same machine and they tasted like I was drinking lemon juice bcs my coffee beans were just stale.

I am not a professional, but I lived in Italy and worked as a barista in Milano, the ONLY thing I know it would change the taste of the coffee it would be the bean and the grind and of course, tamping. I have had good shots even from a cheap cheap plastic delonghi and saeco.

The breville is not that bad, their customer service is AWESOME! When my machine had troubles, they paid shipping back and forth and replaced it with a new one in just 2 weeks. So once you learn the technique of making a coffee you should not have any troubles. I have the illy capsule too for my office and I prefere the Breville over it.
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MJW
Senior Member


Joined: 25 Jul 2012
Posts: 179
Location: Silicon Valley
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Sat Sep 7, 2013, 4:29pm
Subject: Re: Talk me out of the Breville 860xl as an entry-level setup
 

Coffeenoobie Said:

Give that a try this weekend (assuming you have more time on the weekend than during the week) and let us know if it gets rid of the sour taste for you.

Posted August 23, 2013 link

Coffeenoobie, this machine (the 840) heats up completely in less than 2 minutes.  The reason for this is that it has a small mass to heat up, compared to your (very nice) Oscar and, a very powerful 1600 Watt heater.  I will explain so that others can understand.

The 840, when it turns on, primes the thermoblock with a small amount of water, but it does not store 1.8 liters of water like the Oscar, and so, it doesn't have to heat it all up.  It just has to heat up the block (plus that small amount of water inside).

In general, it is important to understand that the less mass you have to heat, the faster you can heat it.  Also the more instantaneous power (heater power) you apply to a mass, the faster you can heat it.  There are also material properties that influence how fast the mass can reach equilibrium.  So it is obvious that different machines will take different amounts of time to warm up and reach equilibrium.

Large commercial machines use relatively large boilers that contain water, and water has a high specific heat.  It also does not like to share its heat, so it takes time for it to reach equilibrium, that is, for all the water in the boiler to be at the same temperature.

The Silvia takes time to heat up, partly because it has a weak heating element and partly because it has a separated group.

The 840's block is made of aluminum, which spreads heat around quickly, contains only a small amount of water, and comes up to temperature in about 30 seconds.  Then it's a matter of heating the group and basket.  I think that, strictly speaking, the portafilter largely doesn't impact brewing temperature on this machine, because it doesn't touch the group via a heat-conducting path.  I still just run water through everything including the portafilter, and heat it all up anyway.

One more thing.  When it comes to heating water the geometry is also considered.  The boiler element presents a small heated surface area to the water per unit volume; but the block has its water in a tube, kind of an inverse relationship to that of the boiler, and therefore presents more surface area per unit volume.  All things being equal this speeds up heating of the water.

I only go into detail because I would not want Coffeenoobie, or anyone else, to be bullied into believing things that are based on superstition.
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MJW
Senior Member


Joined: 25 Jul 2012
Posts: 179
Location: Silicon Valley
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Sat Sep 7, 2013, 4:42pm
Subject: Re: Talk me out of the Breville 860xl as an entry-level setup
 

apinstein Said:

This weekend I finally had time to let it warm up for 20+ min before pulling a shot and I didn't dump anything. They were good! They definitely taste different, but not undrinkable sour, just more complex. Part of it could be the beans, too. I will continue to experiment.

Either way is that bottom line I'm quite happy with the Breville 840XL!

Posted September 7, 2013 link

Sounds good!  I haven't tried start dumping with the 840 but the shots are very good.  I just switched to a volatile Brazil and tasted "nutty peanut", and fruity umami.

Besides the ease of use and temperature stability, the thing I like most is the fast transition to steam.  If this had an additional thermoblock I wouldn't notice because the steaming process would still be slow, and the 840 transitions faster than I can.

One thing I have found, on the advice of others, is that dose can change the taste.  Meaning, if you lower the dose and grind finer, for example, you get the same flow rate but increase the extraction.  So far I use about 18-19 gram doses which I think are close to the max on this basket.
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calblacksmith
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calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,468
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major
Vac Pot: 40s era Silex
Drip: Msl. Com. brewers
Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Sun Sep 8, 2013, 12:01pm
Subject: Re: Talk me out of the Breville 860xl as an entry-level setup
 

"I only go into detail because I would not want Coffeenoobie, or anyone else, to be bullied into believing things that are based on superstition."

Your consideration is very nice but unneeded. Helen is a savy member of the board. She knows that thermoblock machines have been around for decades, the operating principles are well understood. They work well for steaming operations but in the brew parh, they are only found on lower end starter class consumer grade gear. Thank you for the great effort to educate the board!

 
In real life, my name is
Wayne P.
Anything I post is personal opinion and is only worth as much as anyone else's personal opinion. YMMV!

Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
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MJW
Senior Member


Joined: 25 Jul 2012
Posts: 179
Location: Silicon Valley
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Sun Sep 8, 2013, 4:55pm
Subject: Home Machines versus Commercial
 

If you bought an EC270 for $100, a used Super Jolly for $400, and bought green beans for $6 per pound, and a proper double basket for $5, you could then make espresso that would be indistinguishable from that produced by a GS/3.  On certain well known blends that are finicky and require certain temperatures, one could not match the ease of use of a GS/3 while getting every ounce of quality out of the blend.  Some blends in fact, being so optimized, may be unusable on the EC270.

But for most coffees, most people simply could not tell the difference in taste.  Most people find coffees they like, a dose they like, a drink they like and go from there.  This what people do with coffee anyway.

But there are some annoying issues with the EC270.  The temperature is always changing, so you have to wait carefully for your chance to pull; there's a wide temperature swing during the shot; transitioning to steam, or from steam, takes too long; steaming quality is a disaster; and if you remove the portafilter too soon after a pull you get espressoface.

The 840 removes all those annoyances.  Shot to shot temperature is always the same with no waiting or guessing.  Intrashot temperature is flat, transition to steam is fast, steam quality is high.

So what does the GS/3 give you, over the 840?  The most important advantage it has, is 3X faster steaming, plus steaming while brewing.  The second advantage is its ability to make 21 gram ristrettos, which are sweeter and concentrated.  The third advantage is the ability to tweak temperature in a controlled, predictable way, for particular blends or coffees that work better there.

It delivers all that in a 72 pound package, for around $5000.

For home use, 99% of users are looking for low-throughput, low-latency use by a person of no to moderate experience, in a small package, at the lowest price possible.

For commercial use, users are looking for high-throughput, low-latency use by a trained professional.  Packaging and price for a business that sells espresso drinks is less of a concern.  [The business] looks at ROI and makes a decision.

This is why the 840 is sold out in many online stores, and why it gets top reviews from knowledgable users.  It sells for nearly the same price as the Silvia but is superior to that machine in every way except steaming speed.
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,468
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major
Vac Pot: 40s era Silex
Drip: Msl. Com. brewers
Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Sun Sep 8, 2013, 11:24pm
Subject: Re: Talk me out of the Breville 860xl as an entry-level setup
 

Thermoblock are the lowest rung of machines with a pump, they can not and never will compare with a GS3 with the exception of that they both plug into the wall, clearly you know this and are just taking the point to the absurd. There is a reason better gear costs more, that is quality and consistency, two things missing from starter machines and grinders. We have seen it over and over again, once someone upgrades out of starter equipment, the shot quality skyrockets while they thought they had it as good as it gets with the old, starter equipment, the new gear produces much better coffee and, as a result, so does the enjoyment of the coffee, all coffee is not brewed the same. Quality and consistency matter better gear has it, starter gear does not.

Regardless of personal emotions, Brevelle is a home appliance company, not an espresso specialty company. The thermoblock is at the bottom of their line of home machines.

We are about quality espresso here. Yes everyone needs to start someplace and it is unfortunate that some start with Breville as there are better ways to enter this hobby. I also would not advise someone to start with a DeLongie, Krups or even a Francis Francis.

There are a lot of people who are serious about learning espresso and I am off to help them.

Enjoy your choices, may they work well for you until you grow old.

 
In real life, my name is
Wayne P.
Anything I post is personal opinion and is only worth as much as anyone else's personal opinion. YMMV!

Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
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MJW
Senior Member


Joined: 25 Jul 2012
Posts: 179
Location: Silicon Valley
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Mon Sep 9, 2013, 2:09pm
Subject: Re: Talk me out of the Breville 860xl as an entry-level setup
 

Each espresso machine I talked about has different characteristics but they all produce espresso at the same quality level.  Meaning any one machine might taste better than another, for some blend.

Coffee requires experimentation and an iterative process of improvement.  You cannot buy your way to good espresso.
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