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Faema Machines - All - Paul Sack's Review
Posted: March 22, 2006, 5:00pm
review rating: 7.8
feedback: (1) comments | read | write
Faema Machines - All
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Arrow The Faema Machines - All has 6 Reviews
Arrow The Faema Machines - All has been rated 8.87 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since November 30, 2001.
Arrow Faema Machines - All reviews have been viewed 52,298 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Paul Sack 7.78
Chris Cotellini 5.00
Becky Grimsrud 4.00
Mark 3.00
Tim 1.83

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 8.2
Product Reviewed: Compact 84/1 Auto
Manufacturer: Faema Quality: 10
Average Price: Varies Usability: 10
Price Paid: $350.00 Cost vs. Value 7
Where Bought: eBay Aesthetics 4
Owned for: 1 month Overall 10
Writer's Expertise: I live coffee Would Buy Again: Yes
Similar Items Owned: Silvia
Bottom Line: This is an excellent commercial 1-group HX machine that will last lifetimes in home use.
Positive Product Points

Enormous boiler (just over 3l, I think)
Stable temperature
Inexpensive parts
Easy to open up and work on
Built like a tank

Negative Product Points

Plastic panels somewhat ugly.
No brew-pressure monometer

Detailed Commentary

I bought this machine on E-Bay. It was in awful non-working condition when it arrived. Handfuls of scale in the boiler, burnt-out element, scale all the way up to the pump, you name it. It was missing a steam wand, a top cup tray, and 2 plastic knobs, but it did come with the ubiquitious plastic tamper. Go figure.

A weekend of work, several bags of acid mix, and $100 in parts and she's good as new (operationally, at least--still working on the missing cup tray).

The steam wand is a pleasure to use compared to Silvia. The knob doesn't have to be tightened at all. In fact, the steam valve closes without any pressure at all. It has some sort of spring so that you just barely have to turn it and it closes ... it's hard to describe. Apparently it is the same mechanism as on LM machines. I don't know firsthand.

At 0.9 bar (relatively low p-stat setting) and a new 1200 W element (stock is 1300 W) the steam power is fine for steaming 6-8 oz cappucinos, but not much more than that I think. You could set the p-stat higher and get more steam power, for intermittent use, but ultimately you're limited by the 1200 W element. It's a 1-group machine, and I think it keeps up just fine with me. You can also fit a La Cimbali 1800 W heating element if you like and get 50% more steam power. Still, this is not the steam power of a 3 kW x 12l machine. Of course you can steam while pulling a shot.

The path from the vibe-pump to the group is fairly long and as a result the pressure oscillation is much less than on Silvia (my portafilter monometer oscillates much less). I think that alone may have improved my espresso the most--I already had PID control on Silvia. I've noticed the crema has no visible bubbles in it any more and is far more persistent.

Also it takes about 6 seconds for the vibe pump to build-up the pressure, so you get a great preinfusion effect. (The thermosyphon group is also designed for preinfusion.)  I have far fewer sink shots now. With a rotary pump you would have to add gicleurs and so on. A vibe pump is loud, but still quieter than my RR45 grinder, so I don't think I'll retrofit a rotary pump anytime soon. I think the plastic panels dampen the sound quite a bit as well.

Speaking of which, the plastic exterior panels have metal (aluminum?) behind them. They also lift off quite easily, no tools required.

The volumetric dosing is convenient for flushing and parties. It is set by turning small potentiometers in the brainbox.

All the parts inside are full-grade commercial parts. Very heavy copper pipes throughout, even the thin one going to the boiler monometer. The pressurestat (Sirai?) has a 0.1 bar deadband, which isn't bad because this machine had never been serviced before I bought it. I wil PID it when I get around to it.

It plumbs in, which is great if you can plumb it in. I'm running mine off a tank of filtered water from the grocery store, and draining into a garbage can. It beats filling a reservoir and emptying a drip tray every day, but is still a pain.

Eventually I plan to swap out the boiler monometer for a dual boiler/pump monometer--there is an extra port in the group valve to do this already. I also imagine I'll add a rotary pump when I move into a house where I can properly plumb this machine. I'll also PID the boiler. This machine is very easy to tinker with, as there is plentry of room inside to maneuver.

How is the espresso in the cup? Faaantastic!

Buying Experience

EBay from a seller who didn't know anything about coffee. Freight shipping ($170) is also rather expensive, and I still had to drive an hour each way to pick it up. Aristo Service has been very helpful in finding parts for it, but some parts are no longer available (cup tray, water softener).

Parts are quite cheap compared to some other machines I was considering.

The new price for the successor Faema 1-groups are quite high. If I were buying a new HX machine for home use I'd save my money and get a prosumer machine. I imagine the difference in build quality may be important in a commercial environment, but probably not at home.

It was great fun, though, to buy a trashed used machine and get it working again.

Three Month Followup

It's been a great machine. I've PIDded the boiler and converted to a plumbed rotary pump with a 4-second delay. I don't think the espresso is any better with the rotary pump, but it is a lot quieter! Also put 2 thermocouple probes in the group and found that 244 F in the boiler works very well.

Steaming is okay. I think I am using a LM steam wand & tip, which could be why I start running out of steam after 20 seconds. Two other owners using original steam wands say they can leave their steam valves open all day and not run out of steam. I'm also using a smaller than stock element (1200 W vs 1300 W).

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review rating: 7.8
Posted: March 22, 2006, 5:00pm
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