[Homeroast] Espresso machine shopping

Scace, Gregory E. Mr. gregory.scace at nist.gov
Tue Dec 30 10:04:21 CST 2014

The thing that annoys me about spring lever machines is that the shot volume is fixed, and AFAIK still mostly old-school in that it's usually tailored to making traditional singles, with doubles only possible with recocking the lever.  I don't care what people say, the pressure profile and inconsistency of recocking a lever is just plain stupid.  I'm not a romantic when it comes to pulling espresso.  In my opinion, the machine should be completely transparent.  You should be able to grind coffee, reproducibly  shove it into the portafilter, tamp it, load it, and get the same brew ratio, and same taste every time without fail.  When this scenario is achieved, we can talk purely about the coffee, and not about silly things like deficient equipment and workarounds.  

I'm pretty much in the double boiler with rotary or gear pump camp.  The reproducibility of the double boiler scheme, when well executed, is good enough to be sufficiently transparent.  I've not seen an e-61 variant that is similarly capable.  Nuova Simonelli's original Aurelia is the only hx machine that I've ever know that can approach a good DB machine in terms of consistency.  I own a La Spaz S1.  It's a pretty decent machine for the money.  The newer ones do a better job of preinfusion than the older ones.  They are pretty reproducible, and are good steamers as well.  I'm not a big fan of the 53mm group.  I find coffee to be a bit muted and lack clarity compared to 58mm group machines.  I also think the assembly of dispersion disc and filter screens collects coffee grinds and is difficult to keep clean, compared to Marzocco or Simonelli layouts.  That said, it's half the cost of a GS3, and is sufficiently capable to keep up with a large party.  Mine lives at work, and is occasionally called upon to perform at functions during which I am making coffee more or less constantly for a couple of hours.  


-----Original Message-----
From: Homeroast [mailto:homeroast-bounces at lists.sweetmariascoffee.com] On Behalf Of Starfinder Stanley
Sent: Monday, December 29, 2014 1:51 PM
To: A list to discuss home coffee roasting. There are rules for this list, available at http://www.sweetmarias.com/maillistinfo.html
Subject: [Homeroast] Espresso machine shopping

Well, after a dozen years of labor, my little Salvatore Famosa espresso machine seems to be teetering on its last legs... and it's had a centipede's life, with me replacing solenoids a few times and a boiler element that burned out after the leaky steam solenoid ran the boiler dry (oops!).  Now the backflush valve is failing along with yet another solenoid...  So I'm looking at replacing it, and considering my options, which have expanded considerably in the last 10 years....

Thinking about a spring-lever piston driven machine vs the vibrational (or
rotary) pump versions; I learned to pull espresso on my dad's old Conti lever machine, and always loved that beastie (though not so much when it was time to refill the boiler ---that was a real PITA!).

Salvatore (an Italian immigrant who hand-builds his machines in southern
california) is making a spring-lever version now, which looks interesting.
Also, a friend pointed out that Bezzera, whose founder apparently invented the espresso machine in 1901, is making a small spring-lever machine for home use as well:

I also see that SM's has 2 more robust options on the site, though one is out of stock; one down side is that neither can be plumbed in, which I would like the option to do eventually.

Does anybody have suggestions or warnings about machines in this price range (1500-2500) and spring-lever piston vs vibrational pumps etc?
Arguments for or against double boiler machines like the La Spaziale Vivaldi or Izzo Duetto III?

While I'm asking, how about filtration systems for well water for plumbed in machines?  We have pretty good quality well water than runs through a calcite filter and KCl softener to take out iron/Mg/Mn/Ca, comes out pretty low in dissolved solids.  Reservoir machines allow you to use more pristine water (distilled, RO, etc), but I have always disliked having my coffee made with water that's been sitting in a heated plastic container....


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