I have been very happy with my Expobar Office Pulser. I purchased the Office Pulser instead of the Office Control because I preferred the all manual controls of the Pulser over the auto dosing and push button controls of the Control model. The two models are otherwise identical. Coffee quality, steaming, hot water output, design, look, finish, and function have all been superior to my prior two machines, the Rancilio Silvia and Gaggia Classic.
Although machines of this type are not mass market products, a name change might make it easier for American owners to explain to others, or even to themselves, that they have purchased and own a great espresso machine, not a high pressure carpet cleaning system. The manufacturer also needs to seriously upgrade their product photos, illustrations, and instruction manuals. It took a bit of guessing and hoping for the best to translate the available photos and descriptions into a buying decision. But now that I own the machine I am delighted with the actual product.
The Expobar Office Pulser is manufactured in Spain by CREM (Crem Aparatos CafeXpres), a manufacturer of commercial espresso machines for the Spanish and export market. The Office is the smallest model made by Expobar and is intended, as the name might imply, to be used in offices, work places, small cafes and so forth. Expobar also manufactures a full range of two and three group commercial models for cafes, bars and restaurants.
Although Italian espresso machine manufacturers (Rancilio, Gaggia, Saeco, Wega, Pasquini, Isomac, Pavoni, Simonelli, etc.) are best known to consumers in the US, and seem to have focused the most energy on the US “pro-sumer” high end home user and enthusiast market, there are many other countries producing espresso machines in Europe, including of course Spain and France. Although all espresso machines share similar layouts in form and function the Spanish machines have a distinct style from the Italian models.
While even four group commercial machines from Italy might be called stylish, and many are even glamorous, the Italian single group machines aimed at the pro-ssumer and enthusiast market are often aggressively stylish, sexy and spectacular in form, materials and finish. The Isomac Tea or Millennium are the Ferrari ideal re-imagined as espresso machines.
The Spanish espresso machines in general, and the Office and other units from CREM, are more austere in form and detail and made of solid but practical materials and components intended for years of commercial use. The styling details might be described as retro, and have a “modern” look in the sense that the 1967 VW Beetle is also “modern”.
Another way of putting it is that the Spanish make espresso making tools, the Italians make espresso making temples and shrines. A Expobar Office will only make you a great cup of espresso. A Isomac Tea will make the same great cup and then burst into an operatic aria while modeling the latest Victoria Secret catalog. I prefer the more functional, pragmatically intended product, and prefer imagining my machine tucked into a workaday café in Barcelona rather than imagining supermodels in my kitchen asking for another cappuccino.
The Expobar Office uses a thermal siphon brew group, similar to the E61 type, for circulation of boiler water to the brew group to maintain consistent hot temperature at all times. The head also has pre-infusion of brew water into the portafilter.
Another important point about the Expobar comes from a little appreciated aspect of the way many consumer market machines are designed. Many consumer home machines copy the “form factor”, or overall shape and proportion of commercial machines, but in a scaled down, kitchen friendly size. This results in some great looking units. But it also results in a brewing “stage” - the drip tray, backsplash, height above the tray to brew group and so forth - that produces a “cup in a cave” effect, rather than the wide open spaces and great line of sight onto the cup and brewing cycle that you see with the same form in a larger, full size commercial machine. It also limits how big a cup you can place below the portafilter.
The Expobar gives the operator a good look at the cup and allows easy operation of the controls. A full size American coffee cup or mug can be placed under the portafilter.
The all copper boiler is approximately 1.7 liters and warms up in about fifteen minutes. Like al heat exchanger type machines you can brew and steam at the same time. Steaming is more than adequate for home uses. Custom steaming tips made for the Isomac Tea will also thread onto the Expobar steam wand. As with any commercial style machine the Expobar has a three way solenoid vale that allows regular back flushing to keep the brew group clean.
The height of the machine makes it easy to fit even a twenty-four once pitcher under the wand without undue tipping to place the wand. The long, straight steam wand has more than enough clearance to work the pitcher while steaming. There is a hot water outlet that provides rapid boiling hot water for Americanos and tea.
The Expobar portafilter handle is solid with a comfortable handle similar to the those found on Isomacs. The body of the Pulser is made of polished, chromed stainless steel with a black powder coat painted control section. The top of the machine is ventilated to cool the boiler below, and heats up quickly as a cup warmer.
The drip tray holds approximately one quart, although the need to lift up the front edge of the tray to remove it from the machine means the practical capacity of the tray is probably closer to one pint. The drip tray grate is a grid of chromed wire, not a perforated plate of stainless, which might have been more attractive. The drip tray and grate are easy to remove and easy to pour out and replace.
The water reservoir holds about three liters, and is filled from the top through a pop open door or by removing the tank cover, which resembles the top of a Rubbermaid drink container. There is a window on the front panel of the machine that serves as a water level “gauge” to view the level in the tank, but it is rather dim and hard to see. The only drawback to the tank is shared with many other “pour over” machines: the feed hoses enter the tank through a hole in the upper edge of the tank, which means that if you fill the tank too far it will leak all over through the hose entry. Why this is done this way is a mystery, but many machines use this design method.
The fit and finish is very good, more than good enough for years and years of light commercial or home enthusiast use.
The controls are plain and simple. The power on light is an illuminated rocker switch on the back splash of the machine, an odd location at first. There is a large boiler activity light just below the power switch. The brew switch is a large commercial style rocker on the leading edge of the machine between the steam and hot water control knobs.
There is a small LED to the right of the brew group switch that the manual vaguely describes as an “alarm” light. It is a warning light that the boiler is low on water, or that the reservoir has run dry, or that the tips of the feed hoses have lost contact with the water in the tank. In other words, it's an alert that the supply of water is not getting to the boiler
As has been noted countess times about all kinds of Italian and Spanish equipment, none of these companies seem able to hire a wandering American student to translate the very simple texts of the instruction manuals into proper and useful English. This task is delegated, as best as can be figured out from the instructions, to a third cousin of the office manager, who watches a lot of American TV programs.
Even by the low standards set by Chinese electronics manufacturers, for really odd and sometimes laughable use of English, these Italian and Spanish espresso machine manuals are always excruciating reading. The Expobar instructions break no new ground in uselessness, but they are right in there with the “best”, which is to say the worst, English translations.
A great looking, well built machine at a great price that makes fine commercial quality espresso. A great value and solid performer.