I was sent a demo unit by Caffe Tech, so the way mine was packed will probably be different from retail shipping units. I had concerns about the lack of packaging materials in my shipped machine, but Joe has assured me that new shipping machines are packed exceedingly well and tight, and I believe it; still, for us to do a proper out of the box evaluation it's always better to get a brand new machine, randomly picked from the stock on hand. If the photos in this review are less than showroom perfect, I missed cleaning a spot :)
The enclosed manual isn't much to write home about. I say RTFM all the time and I mean it, even with the poor manuals, but you'd do well to do some online research about E61 grouphead equipped machines to get more of a sense about what this machine is about and what it delivers. Still, the manual does give you the rudimentary information you need to get you started.
The machine usually ships with a portafilter, measuring scoop, the standard "cheap" plastic tamper, and two filter baskets. I didn't have the tamper in my demo unit box, but that's okay. I have them coming out of the ying yang anyway. You'll do better and buy a cool 58mm "pro tamper" anyway? Right!
One cannot help but notice a similarity between this machine and the more famous ECM Giotto. After all, they have the same overall silhouette, they both have E61 groups up front, and they're both flat up front with curved or rounded sides. This machine also bears a striking resemblance to the higher end Isomacs, and in fact they do share some similarities under the skin. The reservoirs on the Isomac Zaffiro, Tea and Millennium are the same as on the Junior Deluxe.
Also out of the box, you notice the gorgeous, functional E61 group right up front. What a piece of art work. On the Junior, it is nice and polished, and looks serious. Did you know this group weighs in at almost 9 pounds on its own? Amazing stuff, and I never fail to be amazed at machines that feature the venerable E61 group.
I got the machine set up on my counter, and gave it an overall examination. The first thing I noticed was the funky, "artsy" curves on the steam wand and hot water wands, and their rotational direction - they only rotate towards the front of the machine (you can pull them towards you, then keep turning them until they tilt up). I had some potential concerns about this: first, they didn't angle over the rather narrow drip tray, and second, the curve could limit the use of larger milk pitchers.
I did note that the mounting "bosses" for both wands was a lot more serious looking than the Giotto. I've read the rare tale about Giotto valves at the steam wand and hot water wand leaking: it doesn't look like the Junior could suffer from this. A peek inside also showed the lines and connections leading up to the steam and water wands seemed more beefy than how I remember the connections on the Giotto. I don't have one to compare directly, so I cannot confirm this at this time.
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| Wand pointing down. Doesn't discharge into the narrow drip tray. |
| Wand rotated up. Not much straight length for placing deep in a steaming pitcher. |
The machine is boxy up front, with curved side walls. There's also venting cut into the back wall, to release heat (I assume) gathering around the reservoir. Whether it works or not, I'm not sure yet - one problem I've been noticing with a lot of machines as of late is that the reservoir water gets too hot. I've seen this on the Isomac Millennium, and other heat exchanger machines.
I didn't witness this problem with the Isomac Zaffiro, but that machine is not a heat exchanger machine - the boiler is usually at around 100C or slightly less. On these HX machines I've been testing lately, the boiler runs about 123C normally, and the water reservoir, contained inside all that metal, suffers, as do your shot performance. I had a nagging feeling the Junior would be in the same boat, since there was no internal insulation between the boiler and reservoir, and the boiler is huge!
| Beatiful nickel coated brass boiler, connections gallore, note the pressurestat (brown) on the right side. |
| Detail of some of the boiler connections. This is 'pro' stuff. |
Speaking of the boiler - here's where it is different from the Isomacs or the Giotto: the Junior uses a nickel plated brass horizontal stack boiler that holds 2 litres of water when full and is driven by 1400 watts of power. By comparison, the Giotto's boiler is 1.8 litres on a 1300 watt power source, and the Millennium and Tea by Isomac currently feature 1.4 litre boilers (note, this amount seems to change on the machine - I've been told 1.2 litres, I've got literature from Isomac that says 1.8 litres, but the current shipping model is a 1.4 litre boiler on both machines).
The Junior's boiler has more wires and tubes and valves and attachments running into it than an intensive care patient on life support. I could see the pressurestat on the right side of the boiler, facing horizontally and there's a fair amount of room between the boiler and the steel wall separating the innards from the water reservoir.
My next step was filling up the reservoir, plugging the machine in, and getting ready to go.
First Use of the Junior Deluxe
This machine self-primes, which means it has water sensors inside that start the pump automatically when the water level in the boiler is too low. After plugging the machine in, and turning it on, the self filler went to work.
On my demo unit, the power switch is red, and looks like it is supposed to light up. It didn't, but Joe at Caffe Tech told me it isn't set up that way (to light up), plus they are changing the switch to a stainless steel button.
There are also two green lights on the right side of the machine's front panel, but these are almost impossible to see lit up under florescent lights; they need more juice, or at least stronger lamps inside (note to Euro: consider using white LEDs in coloured glass; they are cheap, extremely bright, draw nil power, and last forever). When the machine is started up, both are lit up and when the boiler reached temperature, the right side one goes out.
As I was waiting for the machine to heat up I gave it a better examination from a user's standpoint. One thing I didn't like that I'm seeing in way too many upper end machines these days is a difficult-to-access water reservoir. The reservoir on the Junior is hidden underneath a top plate that you put your cups on. This is annoying, because you usually need to remove all the cups first before removing the plate to fill up the water levels. I don't want to single Euro 2000 out here - this is a design and "user interface" flaw that far too many high end heat exchanger machines are making these days.
| Cup tray area with the cover in place. This has to be moved to access the reservoir |
| This is the top of the machine with the cup tray removed. |
I will say this - even though filling the reservoir is more of a hassle than it should be, it's still easier to do than the recent slate of Isomacs I've tested. I discovered later on in my testing of the Junior Deluxe that I could slide (with some finesse work involved) the cup tray forward, cups still in place, about 3 inches, and gain access to the reservoir. But this is at best a stopgap solution - and it's not easy to do. The cup tray edges catch on snags and cutouts in the Junior's body as you slide it forward, requiring a bit of finessing it to make it happen.
Current Junior owners have a third and fourth option they exercise: they can turn the cup tray upside down and it then slides easily forward to fill the reservoir: you'll barely notice the difference in "looks" on the machine if you do this. The fourth option is that they leave the top cover off the machine - it doesn't look too bad visually, but if you choose this option the reservoir water is exposed to more airflow and can stale more rapidly if you only use the machine occasionally.
Let's talk about the good stuff for a moment. I thought a 2 litre boiler would take forever to heat up on a 110V circuit, but I was wrong - the Junior heated up faster than the Millennium (1.2l) or the Oscar (1.8l). That was promising. That told me that maybe cycling times would be quick too, making this machine a good performer for banging out consecutive shots.
When it was up to temperature, I gave the steam wand a blast, and noticed that I had a freakin' force of nature here. The two hole tip let out massive plumes of steam, always a good sign. I didn't even have to bleed the wand much. And the boiler has false pressure overrides, so unlike the NS Oscar, you don't have to open the steam wand after powering up to release a built up vacuum. In other words, this machine would work fine on a timer.
Given that this is an E61 equipped machine, I gave the Junior a full 30 minutes to warm up properly - after all, there's a lot of metal in this machine's 45lb (estimated) weight, and it needs to be heated up nicely.
I gave it my first go at the challenging grind called a "ristretto" grind. Where a normal double espresso is 2.5 to 3.0 ounces in 25 to 27 seconds, a ristretto grind has to be finer to slow down the shot, and deliver about 1.25 ounces for a double in about 27 seconds. This grind is challenging to machines because, well, it stresses the pump, it slows down the water flow, and it makes the machine work harder.
I say all of this, but I didn't have to worry about the Junior. Out of the box with no pressurestat fiddling, it delivered a great first shot. Maybe it's the fact that this machine has been used a bit before it got to me. Hrmmm. Maybe there is something to be said about getting a used machine to evaluate :)
Hot water delivery was almost flawless, except for the fact that you can't put the spout over the drip tray - be prepared to wipe up the occasional dribble or spill.
The E61 group did its magic, complete with the natural preinfusion that all genuine E61 equipped machines do. They take water up into a chamber first before full pressure is achieved. While pressure is building up, that brew water in the chamber also comes in contact with the coffee bed, giving it a gentle coating for about 5 to 10 seconds. Many E61 machine owners swear by this preinfusion method.
All I did was pull shots in the first day, and I was a happy camper - I sampled almost every shot (tiny sips, I don't need to be overcaffeinated) and was pleased with almost all of them.
First Few Days with the Junior Deluxe
I left the machine on overnight, and decided to test the reservoir's water temperature the next morning. 50C. OUCH. (this with the covering lid in place). Yep, this machine has the same problems other heat exchanger machines seem to have - the reservoir, completely enclosed within the machine (and no insulation between it and the boiler) gets way too hot. Why is this a concern?
- vibe pumps do not expect to get 50C water. The life of the pump can be shortened, or it can fail outright.
- When you power on this machine and pull a shot after 30 minutes, the heat exchanger inside (HX) takes water that is around 25C, and flash heats it up to about 94 or 95C for delivery to the grouphead. At least that's the plan. But if the water coming in is 50C, you can imagine how much higher the brewing temperatures will be.
Sure enough, the shots I pulled the next morning were a tad hot, and they delivered a bitter shot. I dumped the water in the reservoir, replaced it with new room temperature water (from a Brita Jug), and wallah, the shots were back to "great" status again.
I spoke to Joe at Caffe Tech about this, and he says he will take the matter up with Euro2000, and possibly get future shipping machines insulated. I hope it's the entire boiler that gets insulated, and I should know a definitive answer by the time of the Detailed Review.
But this is not a major worry: you can fix this yourself and do it super cheap. Either don't leave the machine on all the time, or insulate a portion of the machine yourself! I've been doing this to all my heat exchanger machines I test, and the results are very much worth the $3 worth of materials and the five minutes of work it takes.
I bought some very thin walled fiberglass and aluminum (one side) insulation - the kind you wrap around engine blocks and the like (the smallest amount I've found at Home Depot can do about four machines at a cost of maybe $2 to $3 per machine). I cut a square piece, and placed it with duct tape on the steel wall separating the boiler from the reservoir. This improved things greatly - the water levels the next morning were measured at 38.7C. Still not ideal, but much better than 50C. If you buy this machine and the boiler isn't insulated or there's no insulation between the boiler and reservoir, this is a $3 fix for much more consistent espresso.
There's also another benefit from this DYI insulating - I noticed the times between boiler cycles (where the boiler turns on to raise the falling water temperatures) were longer. More heat was staying with the boiler. Huzzah! I imagine a wrapped boiler would be even better, so I'll try that solution and talk about it in the detailed review.
| Huge drip tray, but note the two holes in the back wall of it - be careful of overfilling this too much, or plug those holes! |
As the days went on, I started using the machine for steaming and creating latte art. I'll make a statement here right now:
This is the best machine I've tested so far in the home for producing microfoam. Bar none so far.
The Expobar Pulser I'm also evaluating comes close, but this one is the best. The two hole tip works like magic, the steam is plentiful and dry, and it is a fast machine for steaming - I didn't time it yet, but doing 7 ounces takes under 25 seconds. Zooooooom.
Some of the best latte art I've poured in the home has come from this machine. I'm very impressed with the steaming ability.
I'm also impressed with the shot ability of the E61 group, and the repeatability of such, as long as the reservoir is at reasonable temperatures. In my fourth day of testing, we had a small dinner party, and I was able to bang out 1 double ristretto (for me), one double shot Americano (for me again), two lattes, one cappuccino, and one mocha all in under eight minutes, including milk frothing and steaming time. It helps if you have a lot of experience operating these machines, but I think anyone can match that kind of production with a little bit of practice.
At the end of my initial testing phase, I came away solidly impressed with the steam ability, the E61's brewing ability, and even with the looks of the machine - it's boxy/curvy, but the looks kind of grew on me. I only wished the boiler was insulated, and the water reservoir was easier to access (and that I could see a visible indicator of the water level), but things were very good in these early days of testing the machine.
The Junior Deluxe from Euro2000 has a lot of potential and could very well be the ultimate home espresso machine for many people. I should also note that Caffe Tech stocks literally hundreds of parts for these machines, and they intend to provide the best after-sales service they can with it. Joe is sensitive to some "service" issues that have been discussed before about another Alberta based espresso machine company, and is making it his personal mission to dispel any possible concerns these service issues expand to other companies in his province. He's proud of the Euro2000 lineup, and wants to back them up with first rate service.
In my early testing, I found the machine to be a potential winner. I've spent a lot of this First Look harping on the negatives of the wand designs and the water reservoir, but the machine has a lot of positives going for it. The best positive is the one that should matter most: the machine delivers superb shots and is very reliable.
And we always have to say this: this is a FIRST LOOK only, and as such, anything and everything we write about, including the colour of my eyes, is subject to change. Hell, I may not even be the author of the final review (hence the we :)). This is intended to give you initial evaluations of the product only, and only with extensive testing, use and fun and games will we know the full scoop on the Euro 2000 Junior Deluxe.
Once again, we'd like to thank Joe Parrottino and Caffe Tech for getting this machine into our hands. If you would like to get a Junior Deluxe, visit Caffe Tech for more details and contact info. Caffe Tech sells the machine for $1,020 USD prices (call for Canadian pricing), and when it comes to shipping, here's a quote from Joe: "I have a pretty decent rate in Canada w/ SameDay R-O Way - and for Canadians I'd be more than happy to look after some of the transport prices and save them a fin or so."
Whadda guy :)