[Homeroast] Espresso machine shopping

Samuel Goldberger smg at finepipes.com
Tue Dec 30 15:44:08 CST 2014


One cannot disagree with Mr. Scace regarding the virtues of double boiler machines in terms of reproducibility. I have a La Spaziale Vivaldi II plumbed in, and it's been going strong for six years. That said, I also have the Izzo Alex Leva machine. It has enormous sex appeal as compared to the Vivaldi, and when properly dialed in, it produces espresso of almost celestial quality. The downside is that it's bit more expensive than the Bezzera, must be plumbed in (or FloJet'ed), and requires a 20 amp circuit (which fortunately I already had in my kitchen). 

Using the San Marco group, Its portafilter is 54 mm (as compared to the 53 mm of the La Spaziale), and I actually prefer the smaller diameter to the larger E61/58 mm size. I find that it is more forgiving in terms of dosage and less prone to channeling. Moreover, it is more balanced in its flavor profile. And if I really want a double, I can just brew another cup. 

Perfect reproducibility, however, isn't my goal, any more than it is for a restaurant chef, who knows that the same ingredients in the same proportions cooked in the same way can taste very different to different individuals or even the same individual at different times of the day. This is because taste is highly influenced by individual body chemistry, which itself fluctuates in the course of the day and as a function of the last food eaten. Hence I tend to emphasize pleasure over engineering or obsessive/compulsive grinding, dosing and grooming. 

Since you are already conversant with the Conti, you'll take to the Leva like a duck to water. 

As a final note, the importance of a good grinder cannot be overstated. For years, I got excellent results with a Major Super Jolly. But I decided to spring for an EK43, and have never looked back. It's in an entirely different league from any conventional grinder, no matter what the roast or style of grind. It is, however, a budget buster. 



> On Dec 30, 2014, at 8:04 AM, Scace, Gregory E. Mr. <gregory.scace at nist.gov> wrote:
> 
> 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.  
> 
> -Greg
> 
> 
> -----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:
> http://www.wholelattelove.com/products/bezzera-strega-lever-espresso-machine
> 
> 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....
> 
> Thanks!
> 
> ...Starfinder
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