Machine

  • Thermoblocks Vs. Thermocoils

    Several years ago we offered a description of thermoblock espresso machine heating elements. You can find that post here!

    Thermoblocks

    A thermoblock is a type of heating element commonly found in home espresso machines. Unlike commercial machines, which feature a boiler, many home machines simply pull water through a heating element for brewing and steaming. Thermoblocks are heating elements of this type that come in a variety of shapes and sizes. In these machines, water travels through a heated block of metal. The water heats up as it passes through the block, preparing it for steaming or brewing. By altering the temperature and flow rate through the block, temperatures for each application can be met. The result is a relatively inexpensive method for heating water for espresso brewing and steaming.

    The downside to thermoblocks is that they can lake consistency and longevity. While a high quality thermoblock espresso machine can be nearly commercial grade, cheaper versions exist as well. Ultimately, thermoblocks are a good option for home espresso heating, but newer thermocoils continue to see more use.

     

    Thermocoils

    Thermocoil heating elements function similarly to thermoblocks. These elements still pull water through the heating element. The difference is that instead of pulling the water through a multiple piece chamber, they use a tube. These tubes are usually made out of copper or another metal. Because the water circulates in the chamber more thoroughly, these heating elements are generally more consistent. While you still have to allow time for temp changes from steaming to brewing, overall they are usually faster too.

    On top of this, thermocoils tend to last longer. Because the water circulates in a closed tube, they tend to be less prone to leaks and failures. The best part is that as thermocoil technology evolves, the price is coming down. The result is even better home espresso than you could get several years ago!

     

  • Distilled Water: Should You Switch?

    This is an update to an article we posted in 2012, which can be found here!

    One of the most important elements of brewing coffee is the water you use to brew with. By using cold, filtered water you'll get better tasting coffee that's better for your machine. The reason filtered water is recommended is because harder water with high mineral content harms machines. This kind of water leads to limescale build up, requiring a "descaling" of your machine. By using filtered water you sidestep this issue and get better tasting coffee too. So why not simply use distilled water and remove minerals from the equation entirely? Well, for a couple of reasons!

    Machine Health

    The biggest reason you should avoid distilled water is the damage it can cause to equipment. Water naturally bonds to minerals, it's why groundwater is so rich in those minerals in the first place. Distilled water removes the minerals, but not the propensity for water to bond with them. This means that water with a low enough mineral content can sit in a machine and leech minerals from its surroundings. When sitting inside a fancy espresso machine, this means that it'll leach the minerals found in the brass, copper, steel, and nickel that make up the pipes, boiler, and reservoir of most machines. Further, some machines use a very tiny electrical charge to determine whether or not there is water in the reservoir. If the water contained is devoid of minerals, it may not pick up the charge and register, triggering the "reservoir empty" light.

    But what about flavor?

    Coffee Flavor

    As we know, coffee extraction is a chemical process. Water that is too hard doesn't have enough "room" for the coffee to bond with the water molecules. Think of a sponge, one saturated with clear water, and the other dry. If you were to submerge the sponge in a bowl of food-colored water, what would happen? While the already soaked sponge would pick up some color, the dry sponge would pick up more. This is similar to what is happening to coffee as it extracts. On the flip-side, too much empty space (too dry of a sponge) will over-extract the coffee, resulting in a bitter flavor.

    The Specialty Coffee Association has determined that a 150 parts per million degree of minerals is the best balance. This provides enough minerals to keep the coffee from over-saturating, but not a hardness that impedes the process. Given all this, your best route to the best coffee is still good ol' fashioned filtered water!

  • Choosing a Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine - Part 1

    Choosing a semi-automatic espresso machine can be hard. With prices ranging from $100 to many thousands of dollars it can be difficult to know what matters. Read on for some helpful tips and info on picking out a new espresso machine!

     

    Price

    You may be tempted by machines that offer espresso and milk steaming for around the hundred dollar mark. While it's understandable to want to save on a machine, price is actually a good indicator of quality in the espresso machine market. A very inexpensive machine can be a great way decide if you like the taste of espresso, but it isn't likely to last or produce quality beverages.

    We find the sweet spot for first time buyers to be in the $500-$1000 range. There are numerous machines in this price range that offer quality and consistency alongside reliability. Above $1,000 you're mostly paying for more advanced features that give you finer control over your brewing. You may also be looking at more generational machines with components that can last decades.

    While a well researched first time user could certainly get their money's worth out of a high end machine, that $500-$100 range is a good thing to shoot for. Especially because you will need a grinder capable of espresso grinding to go with your machine!

    Pump

    Espresso is brewed by pumping water through a puck of finely ground coffee at 9 BAR. This is achieved with powerful pumps that are generally either vibratory or rotary. Lower end machines often don't have pumps capable of pushing water through at 9 BAR of pressure, so they use pressurized portafilter baskets to make up the difference. These portafilter baskets create additional pressure, but they don't always offer the purest flavor from the grounds.

    If you're just starting our with espresso you may want to practice with pressurized filters, as they are more forgiving of a grind or tamp that's not quite right. However, most espresso drinkers like to quickly move to unpressurized espresso brewing. For that reason, we recommend ensuring your espresso machine will be able to brew with an unpressurized filter.

    On the higher end, pump type comes down to reliability and how long it'll last. An expensive Izzo or Rocket Espresso machine will have a high quality pump that should work for decades. On top of this, they are usually designed so that its easy to work on and replace the pump, whereas less expensive machines might not offer this.

    Latte dripping from a coffee machine

    Boiler Type

    Perhaps the most important part of a semi-auto espresso machine is the boiler and heating element. All other things being equal, this is the thing you'll notice the biggest difference in in terms of usability. The obvious thing to consider here is boiler material. A sturdy stainless steel boiler in the Izzo espresso machines offered on SCG will last decades without a hint of leaking. However, this isn't necessarily a must have element of your first espresso machine. One thing you should consider carefully is how the heating element works, and how this effects heat up time.

    A traditional single boiler design can take many minutes to warm up, which often means you'll want to turn the machine on well before brewing, or leave it on (always check your manual before leaving your machine on for long periods. Many aren't designed for this). On the flipside, the thermocoil heating element in a Breville Bambino or Barista Pro can heat up in seconds. This is also important for milk steaming, as you'll need a lot of heat to steam a whole pitcher of milk. Stronger, faster heating elements help you to complete this process quicker.

    Again, on the higher end, you can purchase machines with multiple boilers. These kinds of machines allow you to steam milk and brew at the same time, as each process pulls from a different boiler. While this is extremely convenient and worth it for power users, it's absolutely not a thing you should get hung up on with your first purchase.

    What's Next?

    Next week we'll dig into more of the nuances with picking out a semi-auto espresso machine, such as PID controllers, control mechanisms, interfaces, and more.

  • Espresso Machine Maintenance

    One key element of owning an espresso machine is maintaining it. This means regular cleaning and maintenance. We get a lot of questions about how often one should backflush and descale, so we wanted to talk a little bit about that here! We'll start with more frequent maintenance like cleaning the grouphead and backflushing, then get into descaling.

    A lot of your cleaning schedule will revolve around usage. If you brew multiple drinks per day, you'll want to clean more frequently. For the purposes of this article we're assuming you make 1-3 drinks per day. Another thing to note is that we're keeping this general. Most machines, from Brevilles and DeLonghis all the way up to Rockets and Izzos will require the maintenance outlined here. You should, of course, take the guidelines of the manufacturer into account when planning maintenance! We're also catering this piece for those with semi-automatic machines. Superautomatics have more guided cleaning cycles, but we'll talk more about maintaining them in future posts as well!

    Daily and Weekly Cleaning

    One easy to do thing that will keep your machine making great espresso day to day is to ensure that your portafilter and the screen in the brew group is free of coffee grounds. This means giving your portafilter a quick wipedown after every shot, ensuring it is dry and clean. You should also run a quick rinse of water through the screen after each shot before you reattach the portafilter. Simply start a brew cycle and stop it to push some water through. This clears and grounds that may have clung to the screen during brewing. It's also VERY important to purge the steam wand whenever you steam milk! This is as easy as turning the steam on outside of milk after you finish steaming. This will clear any milk that gets sucked back into the wand during steaming. You'll want to be sure to completely wipe off any stuck on milk as well. As always, when handling the steam wand, be careful not to touch a hot wand or the steam it produces.

    You will also want to perform regular backflushing of the grouphead. Backflushing is done by using the blind basket (the one with no holes!) in your portafilter along with a little bit of water and/or backflush detergent. You'll then run a backflushing cycle, which differs from machine to machine (your manual should explain how to do this). It's worth it to backflush with water every day or two, but detergent backflushing is only needed every 1-3 weeks depending on use. A busy cafe might backflush with detergent daily, but this isn't necessary for home use.

    It's also worth using a grouphead brush to scrub the grouphead every week or so. This can free and clingy grounds and keep the screen clean. These tools make this easy, but a used toothbrush or other small, handheld brush can work to clean the screen too.

    Descaling and Steam Wand Cleaning

    The two maintenance items you'll perform less frequently are thorough cleaning of the steam wand and descaling. The former involves using a milk system cleaner with your machine's steam wand to clean out any milk gunk stuck inside the wand. This process can vary from system to system, so refer to your manual and the cleaning product's guidelines to clean it properly! This process should be performed every month or two on your espresso machine. Soaking the steam tips in a cleaning solution like the one above in this timeframe can also keep your steaming system fresh! Just be sure to fully wipe down and purge the wand to ensure no cleaning solution ends up in your latte!

    Descaling is, of course, one of the most important things to stay on top of to maintain your machine. You can descale with a 50/50 mix of water and white vinegar, or with a dedicated descaling cleaner. To descale, you'll want to run the water/cleaner mix through the machine until you've pulled through about a cup of water. This allows the mix to fill the boiler and pipes of the machine. Next, you'll shut of the machine for 20 minutes to an hour. This will give the solution time to remove the limescale buildup inside the machine. Next, run about a quarter of the reservoir through the brew head and the steam wand, then shut the machine off for another 20 minutes. Finally, run the rest of the reservoir through the machine, and then run two or more reservoirs of clean water through the brew head and the steam wand. In the end you'll have a freshly descaled machine!

    It should be noted that some machines should NOT be descaled by anyone other than a professional technician. This is true, most notably, of Rockets. A quick search for your machine + descaling should help you determine if its safe to descale your machine at home. This is a process that should be performed every 3-6 months. The main factors affecting time between descales are how frequently you use the machine and the hardness of the water you run through it.

    We hope this look at normal maintenance is helpful for you! By adhering to a simple schedule like this you can keep your machine running in great shape for many years.

     

  • New Product: Jura D6

    Jura's line of superautomatics gets a new machine this week in the D6 espresso machine! This machine is the brand's most affordable superautomatic yet, without sacrificing a wide range of options. Read on for a look at this brand new brewer.

     

    Fully Featured Espresso

    From the A1 to the Z6, Jura's line of superautomatics offers something for everyone. The D6 offers Jura's extensive knowledge of superautos at a lower price than their other machines. The result is a satisfying experience that's great for cappuccinos and espresso! Instead of a screen or button interface, the D6 uses a simple set of nobs to control your drink production. We found this interface to be intuitive and simple to use, even if it doesn't feel as "premium" as some more expensive models.

    The milk system is delivered via a carafe and pipe system similar to the Saeco Xelsis and Miele 6300 series of superautomatics. This system produces excellent cappuccinos, though it steams just a little bit foamy for a latté. What really sets this machine, and Jura's whole line, apart is the P.E.P. brewing system. P.E.P. stands for pulse extraction process. This brewing process pulses water through the coffee grounds to maintain the perfect temp and brew pressure. This results in balanced coffee, fantastic aroma, and beautiful crema in every cup.

    To top it all off, the D6 uses Jura's CLEARYL Smart Filtration. This system helps you to maintain perfect filtration to cut down on limescale buildup. These filters are monitored by the machine, giving you a notification when it's time to change them. Other helpful features include an auto-off timer for power saving and on the fly brew strength adjustment that you can use mid-brew.

    Overall, the D6 is a compelling option at its price point, and opens Jura brewing up to a whole new price range! Check this machine out here today.

  • Superauto Milk

    If you've shopped around for an espresso machine before you're probably encountered the great super vs. semi-auto debate. You probably also know that superautos grind whole coffee beans and brew consistent shots. One thing that can be a bit of a mystery though is milk systems. With options like cappuccinotores, panarellos, and carafes there's a lot to learn when it comes to superauto milk!

    Setting Expectations

    One thing that is key to your decision making at the top is expectations. The first thing that can be a tough latte to swallow is temperatures. Superauto machines always struggle to produce milk at a hot enough temperature for some coffee drinkers. This has to do with the relatively narrow band of temperature that's acceptable for milk steaming, as well as the tech at play in automatic systems. This is one reason to potentially consider a panarello system, but more on that in a bit.

    The other issue is microfoam quality. There is no automatic frothing system that exists that can fully recreate a professional's work. Because it takes minute adjustments to maintain a good froth and incorporate foam, superautos have a tough time nailing it. The good news is that these machines are getting closer! Examples like the Saeco Xelsis can even produce milk for latte art with a bit of practice.

     

    Types Of Steam Systems - Panarello Wands

    So with the understanding that temp and texture are tough to recreate, what are the options out there? Let's start with panarellos.

    Panarellos (like the ones on the Saeco X-Small, pictured above), look quite a but like manual steam wands. The biggest difference is in material and shape. Panarellos often combine metal materials like stainless steel with plastic, making them more cost effective than fully manual steam wands. They also are designed to froth milk with less careful pitcher adjustments. Where a steam wand is simply a tube with a tip at the end to release steam, panarellos guide and restrict steam flow more carefully, and add a bit of air to the steam. This means they are less powerful and capable than a manual wand, but easier to use. Some panarellos even have built in temperature sensing to ensure that milk is frothed to the perfect temp. In action, this means that you'll physically hold a container of milk up to the wand while it does its thing. Generally you won't need to make any adjustments though, and the wand will take care of the rest. The benefits here are in more direct temperature control, while you give up some texture quality and ease of use.

     

    Types Of Steam Systems - Cappuccinotores and Siphons

    So what about cappuccinotores?

    These nifty attachments fit onto panarello wands and other systems to make the frothing process fully automatic. This brings a standard panarello wand in line with other milk siphon systems that don't utilize carafes. With these systems, milk is sucked up into the machine, then heated and textured, then poured into the cup. Systems like this are incredibly easy to use, you just drop a pipe end into your milk and the machine does the rest. The biggest issue with these systems are temperature control and cleanup. Because these machines literally suck in the milk from the container, keeping them clean is key. Removing and rinsing the pipe regularly is important, as well as using a cleaning solution to get inside of the machine. Most superautos with pipe systems will have an automated cleaning procedure that you can run with some cleaner as well. A great example of a machine with a siphon system like this is the Miele CM6.

     

    Types Of Steam Systems - Carafes

    The last type of milk system we'll cover today is the carafe. Technically, carafe based systems are a subset of siphons. Generally carafes simply act as a container to easily store the milk you'll use in a siphon system. This is the case with the optional carafe that comes standard with the Miele CM6350 or as an add on to the 6150, as well as the Xelsis from Saeco. It's worth mentioning carafes though because of how much simpler they make the process. The Xelsis' hygiesteam system works with a carafe to alleviate the cleaning issues we mentioned above, and even just cutting out the step of pouring milk into a container to be siphoned from is a time saver. On some machines, like the Incanto Carafe, you actually just plug the carafe into the espresso machine instead of using a siphon. These systems are considered high end, so the biggest downside you'll face is price. Additionally, as with any siphon system, temperature can be lower than desired for some!

    With new systems like Phillips' Latte GO on the horizon, superauto steaming continues to change and evolve!

     

  • The Convenience of a Superauto

    We talk a lot about semi-automatic and superautomatic espresso machines. If you've read our blog before you probably know that a superauto combines grinder and brewer in one. This is different from a semi-auto, which requires a standalone grinder. You may also know already that a superautos can brew coffee (and usually steam milk) with just a push of a button! But how do they stack up against semi-autos?

     

    Ease of Use

    The first and most obvious answer is ease of use. Professional baristas train for a long time to be able to make exquisite drinks on semi-automatic machines. A superauto makes this process far easier. It's true that in reality there's more to them than pushing a button and getting coffee out of one of these machines, but it's pretty close. The machine will also help you learn what different coffee drinks are if you're intimidated by the café menu!

    The other challenge with semi-auto machines is milk steaming. Where you may need to spend hours learning the perfect way to steam a pitcher of milk, a superauto's milk system does it by itself. Now, it's important to note, you'll never get milk like what a professional can steam on a superauto. Correctly creating microfoam and incorporating it into milk is so delicate that a machine will always struggle. However, milk systems in superautos do a great job, and steam milk better than many amateurs out there anyway!

    These machines also save time. The full process of grinding, weighing, brewing, and steaming milk on a semi-auto can take anywhere from 5-15 minutes depending on your skill level. A superauto can produce a latte or cappuccino in just a minute or two. What's more, there's usually less clean up with a superauto.

    Another component in the ease of use argument is maintenance. Semi-auto machines require you to know exactly how and when to perform backflushes, cleaning, and descaling. While these aren't impossible to learn, they do make maintaining a one of these machines more complex than a superauto. By contrast, a superauto will give you helpful indicators, warnings, and prompts. Typically cleaning and maintenance is a step by step process that the machine can walk you through as well.

    The Tradeoff

    None of this is to say there's no tradeoff with these machines. The biggest is control. On a semi-auto you can tease out the complexities of a single origin to really craft something unique. Superautos work better with blends, as they tend to pull shots with a little less finesse. This isn't to say their coffee is bad though. On the contrary, the control you get out of a semi-auto doesn't mean better drinks. Instead, semi-auto espresso machines are often enjoyed by coffee hobbyists who enjoy a more complex process.

    As noted above, the same is true for milk. Superautos create good milk texture, but not on the level of a pro barista. That said, it takes a lot of practice and skill to make quality steamed milk, and some higher end machines get very close to what a barista could do.

    Finally, superautos tend to create cooler drinks than semi-auto machines. This is a real stumbling point for some coffee drinkers, so be sure to take a look at reviews for the specific machine you're considering.

    One thing you don't necessarily have to compromise though, is price!

     

    Pricing

    Superautos, like semi-autos, run the gamut in terms of price. From the Saeco XSmall clocking in around $500 all the way up to higher dollar machines like the Miele CM6350. Truly, there's a superauto for every budget.

     

  • Top Three Double Boiler Espresso Machines

    The Round Up

    We brought out the big machines for today’s top three double boiler espresso machines, the La Marzocco Linea Mini, Rocket Espresso R58 Dual Boiler and Breville Dual Boiler. Double boiler espresso machines are equipped with two boilers: a brew boiler and a steam boiler. While the steam boilers reach and hold pressure ideal for frothing milk, the other maintains consistent brewing temperature.

    Chances are in your search for a high-quality espresso machine, you’ve read the debate between double boilers and heat exchange espresso machines. Coffee enthusiasts have long expressed their opinions about the pros and cons of each boiler type and we suspect it’ll continue on. One of the benefits dual boilers reap is temperature stability and the capability to brew more drinks back-to-back than a heat exchanger. Not to mention that, like a heat exchanger, you can brew and steam simultaneously. A double boiler machine is for someone who wants to brew multiple drinks back-to-back and requires a faster turnaround time.

    La Marzocco Linea Mini

    In your morning quest for coffee, chances are you’ve encountered the La Marzocco Linea series powering your local café. Home baristas can now rejoice! The La Marzocco Linea Mini is your pint-sized commercial machine for home brewing. Well, not quite pint-sized, the Linea Mini is the largest machine on our list. It certainly puts a dent in the budget and counter, but for the right espresso lover, this espresso machine will impresses with an integrated brew group to maintain temperature stability and energy efficiency, and commercial-grade portafilter and steam wand.

    Home brewers aren’t the only people who’d benefit from the Linea Mini. Built to commercial standards, the Linea Mini is NSF-rated, so homey cafés and small diners can bring espresso to their menu. And, hey, this large machine’s roomy cup warmer will ensure patrons can enjoy toasty cups with their coffee.

    Rocket Espresso R58 Dual boiler

    The Rocket Espresso R58 Dual Boiler was an easy pick to make our list. The craftsmanship of Rocket’s espresso machine continues to entice coffee enthusiasts. Equipped with a programmable PID and, of course, double boilers, espresso temperature is under control—your control that is. Best of all, the PID is removable to store when it’s not in use to preserve the clean, classic style Rocket is famous for.

    The Rocket lineup is renowned for its commercial-quality build and the R58 is no exception. It’s build with the legendary E61 brew head that helps maintain temperature stability during brewing. And the R58 features a commercial-grade rotary pump that’s quiet—so the house can sleep in without sacrificing your morning espresso.

    Breville Dual Boiler

    Designed with the consumer in mind, the Breville Dual Boiler is user-friendly and affordable—like really affordable. What we love about the Dual Boiler is its intuitive interface that creates an enjoyable experience for anyone ready to master espresso. Two programmable espresso buttons make it easy for you to focus on frothing the perfect latte milk while the Dual Boiler pulls your pre-programmed shot. And if you’re an experienced barista, switch to the manual brewing to operate on the fly.

    Keeping true to their brand, Breville has designed this machine with extra goodies to fit anyone’s lifestyle. The Dual Boiler comes with two pressurized baskets for beginner baristas to practice their grind and two non-pressurized for experienced brewers. There is also a magnetic tamper conveniently attached to the machine and auto-on feature, so you can wake up to a pre-heated machine.

    Conclusion

    We’ve pulled out some of our top three double boiler espresso machine, the La Marzocco Linea Mini, Rocket Espresso R58 and Breville Dual Boiler. Equipped with dual boilers, these espresso machines create impressive steam pressure in one boiler while the other maintains the perfect  brew temperature. What do you think of our choices? Share your favorite double boiler espresso machine in the comments below.

  • Crew Review: Rocket Espresso Evoluzione

    How Does It Compare?

    Italian manufactured, Rocket’s contemporary espresso machines are designed with sharp precision and traditional inspiration. Underneath the surface, though, is where we start to see the individual personality of a Rocket. Let us introduce you to one, the Rocket Espresso Evoluzione.

    Encased in polished stainless steel, the Evoluzione brews with a rotary pump. Compared to vibratory pumps, found in many machines like the Rocket Espresso Appartamento, the rotary pump provides instant pressure and quiet brewing experience. And we fully anticipate home baristas pulling shot after shot. Best of all, the Evoluzione is the cheapest convertible water line machine in our lineup. Flip between reservoir or plumbed-in—most machines are one way or the other! The plumbable options offer homeowners the flexibility to remodel their kitchen and elevate their coffee game. Your home could be running like your favorite cafe!

    The Rocket Espresso Evoluzione Giotto features geometric side panels. The Rocket Espresso Evoluzione Giotto features geometric side panels.

    Shot

    Built with the commercial-grade 58mm portafilter and renowned E61 brew head, the Rocket Espresso Evoluzione runs strong and sturdy as a professional cafe’s equipment. But no, the Evoluzione is a home espresso machine. If you’re ready to invest in an espresso machine, the Evoluzione has Rocket’s solid reputation and spectacular features behind it.

    Under the hood, the Evoluzione features rotary pump that provides instant pressure to extraction. Under the hood, the Evoluzione features rotary pump that provides instant pressure to extraction.

    For example, the rotary pump instantly adds pressure as opposed to vibratory pumps, which slowly build pressure to nine bars. Coffee enthusiasts will appreciate the 'true' pre-infusion the rotary pump offers. It uses two or three bars of pressure from the plumbing before hitting full extraction at nine bars. On the other hand, the vibratory pump passively pre-infuses espresso by ramping up from zero to nine bars.

    A rotary pump is also considered more resilient. As the name implies, it rotates the water through the pump, which is gentle on the machine (for a quick comparison, vibratory pumps use a piston to push water). And most home espresso machines use identical rotary pumps as commercial models—like the Evoluzione. Let’s not forget to mention that rotary pumps are sweeter on the ears thanks to the quite

    Steam

    Equipped with a 1.8-liter copper boiler, the Rocket Espresso Evoluzione is built for frothing. Release the valve and a powerful mist of steam billows from the two-hole tip. That sort of power means milk is heated in seconds! Don’t forget, the Evoluzione has a heat exchanger, so you can brew and steam at the same time—you’ll be pulling a shot and pouring the milk in under a minute!

    With a 1.8-liter copper boiler, the Evoluzione steams milk in a matter of seconds. With a 1.8-liter copper boiler, the Evoluzione steams milk in a matter of seconds.

    Style

    Cut from the same cloth, the Rocket Espresso Evoluzione has the style and function that make coffee connoisseurs swoon and hole-up in the kitchen brewing espresso. But the Evoluzione gifts baristas with an extra feature. Built into the machine is a simple switch that flips between plumbed-in or reservoir. Imagine brewing latte after latte and never refilling the water in your espresso machine. Picture it. Got it? That’s the dream with the Evoluzione.

    The Giotto style features geometric panels that make the machine pop. The Giotto style features geometric panels that make the machine pop.

    If variety is the spice of life, then you’re going to love the Evoluzione’s two style choices. The Rocket Espresso Cellini Evoluzione features the classic Rocket style with clean edges and a boxy shape. The Rocket Espresso Giotto Evoluzione is outfitted with geometric side panels that stand out from the crowd of rectangle machines—but we’re not biased.

    Conclusion

    The Rocket Espresso Evoluzione features a powerful heat exchanger and rotary pump that produces quality espresso each time. This is one of the cheapest heat exchangers we offer that also comes with customizable options such as the style and flexible water reservoir. What do you think of the Rocket Espresso Evoluzione? Share it with us!

  • Top Three Heat Exchanger Espresso Machines

    The Round Up

    Heat exchangers are a popular choice for home baristas looking for professional equipment on a budget. Because there’s only one boiler, the brew water heats through a tube (usually copper) specifically designed to reach the optimal temperature—brewing high-quality shots at the fraction of the cost of a dual boiler machine. Our top three picks are the Rocket Espresso Appartamento, Nuova Simonelli Oscar II and Rocket Espresso Evoluzione. Each machine is well-designed with high-quality components and professional grade materials. It comes down to the nuances that’ll make all the difference for making coffee you love at home.

    Best For Beginners: Rocket Espresso Appartamento

    We start off with the newest Rocket, the Appartamento. This machine is designed for entry-level and professional baristas who want to bring home a quality espresso machine. And it’s apartment sized to fit on virtually every countertop—or hey, just install a coffee bar. It features an E61 brew head, a 1.8-liter copper boiler—the same boiler in the Evoluzione—and commercial-grade 58mm portafilters.

    Another seductive draw of the Appartamento is it’s fashionable polka-dot side panels—available in white or copper! It still maintains the beautiful clean profile that Rocket is known for, but with a fun, modern twist. That said, the Appartamento is entirely manually operated by the barista, while our next pick has some handy programmability.

    Best Programmability: Nuova Simonelli Oscar II

    Equipped with two programmable espresso buttons, brewing and steaming at the same time just got oh-so-easy! Set your ideal single and double shot time for your favorite brew. Like the original Oscar, the Oscar II is outfitted with high-performing components like a heated 58mm group head that keeps shots consistently hot. You can get the Oscar II with a reservoir or plumbed-in, but it’s not interchangeable, so you’ll have to choose one way or the other.

    Of course, we can’t forget to mention that famous steam power we all know and love! The Oscar II’s updated design opened up more room for an articulated steam wand that has far better rotation than the original Oscar. The four-hole steam tip reaches every angle of your pitcher for perfectly frothed milk—just keep an eye on it since the Oscar II is a fast steamer! We also appreciate the steam switch that allows us to feather the milk for more control.

    Best Options: Rocket Espresso Evoluzione

    Built with the legendary E61 brew head, 1.8-liter copper boiler and commercial-grade 58mm portafilter, the Rocket Espresso Evoluzione is a powerful machine. If you’re thinking this sounds like the Appartamento, you’re right on track—these machines have identical components! However, the Evoluzione features differences that make it shine. For starters, the Evoluzione has a rotary pump versus the Appartmento’s vibratory plumb. Not only does the pump make the Evoluzione’s quieter when brewing—your household will thank you for that—but the boiler is also insulated to increase thermal stability up to 30 percent.

    Did we mention you have choices with the Evoluzione? Setup your Evoluzione to use the internal reservoir or—our favorite option—plumb it in directly to your water! Are you remodeling your kitchen or moving? No problem—the Evoluzione can switch back to fit your needs. You also have two styles to choose from; the Cellini, which has a clean-cut and boxy shape, and the Giotto, which sports sleek winged panels.

    Conclusion

    Our top three heat exchanger—the Appartamento, Oscar II and Evoluzione—each offer unique benefits for home baristas looking for an affordable and reliable espresso machine. What’s your favorite heat exchanger espresso machine? Tell us in the comments below.

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