espresso machine buyers guide

Espresso Machine Buyer’s Guide

Published by Ben Piff
May 20, 2016 8:36 pm

Every day, the Clive team receives numerous phone and email requests for product information and help with equipment comparisons. Some of the most popular questions we wanted to address: How do e61 machines like the LUCCA M58 and Profitec Pro 700 compare? How do these timeless beauties compare to the more modern dual boilers from La Spaziale and La Marzocco? And what does the Slayer bring to the table?

Finding the right next machine depends on clarifying your unique expectations and goals, so we’ll be comparing some of our most popular models and trying to relate their differences to the following questions.

  • What caliber of espresso performance are you dreaming of?
  • How many drinks would you like to make in a day?
  • Do you prefer traditional Italian styling, or something more modern?
  • Would you like to plumb your machine in the future?
  • How much control would you like to have over your espresso experiments?

 

Profitec Pro 700 vs LUCCA M58 by Quick Mill
Profitec-M58

The E61 group head has been gaining popularity since its patent in 1961, so we’re continually receive more comparison questions about our latest and greatest E61 machines. Many people find this timeless aesthetic to be perfect, and find confidence in its history, ease of maintenance, and the way it maintains temperature and gently pre-infuses each shot.

Comparing these beauties is easier than the forums might have you believe. Sharing the same group head and PID controlled boilers means you won’t taste any difference in the cup, and both will be totally serviceable for many years to come. The Pro 700 has been praised for its cleanliness of engineering both inside and out, as well as its stainless steel boilers. For some customers, the build quality of these internals provides unique value over the M58, while some customers receive more value from the M58’s custom aesthetic touches (PID with shot timer, joysticks, curved sides, cup rail, custom bottomless and spouted portafilters).

Internals:
While there are more wires inside Quick Mill’s dual boiler design, it’s important to remember that both machines share the same number of wear parts, and maintaining them will be very similar. While many assume that the cleanliness of the Profitec will translate to a more durable product, it’s a new enough design that there isn’t much data to confirm this. The advantage of Quick Mill’s proven dual boiler design, is that we know parts are affordable and readily available across the country, there’s already a lot of good information online about maintaining it, and that Quick Mill products are well known by technicians around the country.

Steaming and pulling shots:
One of the biggest functional improvements to the dual boiler segment is selectable 15 and 20 amp modes. Many modern kitchens have 20 amp breakers, which can allow the M58 and Pro 700 to heat both their boilers simultaneously. The advantage of 20 amp mode means cutting the warm up time in half, as well as noticeably faster steam boiler recovery. This is a big plus when steaming more than a few ounces of milk, or making drinks back to back. If you like steaming more than five ounces of milk, you’ll definitely appreciate having a 20 amp mode (otherwise you risk running out of steam power).

The steaming experience is probably the most noticeable difference between these machines, as the Pro 700 uses traditional knobs for the steam and hot water, while the M58 uses joysticks. Both designs are non-compression, and will be extremely easy to service for the life of the machine. The Pro 700 has a slightly larger steam boiler, but the four hole steam tip is designed to make the steam power steady without being violent. The M58’s joysticks fully open and close the steam valve by pressing the lever to the outside. Combining this design with a temperature controlled boiler means that you can adjust the steam power up or down to suit the amount of milk you want to steam, by raising or lowering the temperature of the boiler. Lowering the boiler temperature and using the included two hole tip works great for 4oz of milk or less, while raising the boiler temperature and using the included four hole tip is ideal for bigger milk volumes.

Profitec Pro 700 ($2,695)
LUCCA M58 by Quick Mill (starting at $2,795)

 

LUCCA A53 vs La Marzocco Linea Mini

A53-Linea

While discussing the extremely well proven E61 dual boiler machines, one question inevitably comes up. How do the more modern LUCCA A53 and La Marzocco Linea Mini compare? While these machines look more restrained than the exposed E61 group, they can offer more commercial espresso and steam performance. Because La Spaziale’s saturated style of brew group is directly connected to the boiler, it can warm up in less than half the time of the E61 style, and can pull more shots with less need to reheat. This design has been NSF certified for commercial use for years, and while it’s rated to produce up to 20 coffees per hour, some of our customers make significantly more than this. Starting at $1950, the A53 Mini is our most popular machine for customers seeking cafe grade performance in a design that’s easy to learn, easy to maintain and built with commercial durability. The A53 plumbed offers twice the steam boiler size and a rotary pump, making it the most commercial bang for the buck we offer.

The Linea Mini can handle even more volume and carries with it the prestige and heritage of the definitive La Marzocco Linea. These machines have been put through the ringer in testing, and have pulled shots all weekend at coffee shows without needing reheat time. Its 3.5 liter boiler has more steam power than any other home machine, (while the A53 is close behind). Adjusting to the massive commercial steam power of these machines will likely be the biggest learning curve with these machines. The Linea Mini and LUCCA A53 can also adjust brew temperature degree by degree, to explore different flavors in each bean, and then offer phenomenal repeatability.

53mm vs 58mm baskets? The LUCCA machines include both spouted and bottomless portafilters, and the included double and triple baskets will be able to accommodate the same brew ratio as the baskets included with a 58mm portafilter. We currently dose 20g into both machines and typically pull a 1:1 brew ratio with our Lovejoy blend. While the narrower basket looks different than some are familiar with, it has the advantage of being less prone to channeling than the wider baskets.

LUCCA A53 by La Spaziale (starting $1,950)
La Marzocco Linea Mini ($4,495)

 

La Marzocco GS3 vs Slayer One Group

GS3-Slayer

For those who are seeking the most advanced espresso performance, even exceeding that of coffee shops, the conversation goes immediately to the Slayer One Group or the La Marzocco GS3 (as well as the importance of top-of-the-line large conical and flat burr grinders). These designs share some similarities, but they have distinct strengths that serve very different espresso expectations. Building on the features above, these two machines have larger saturated boilers (stainless steel) which are fed by heat-exchanger-warmed water to provide the ultimate temperature stability, meaning they’re totally up to the task of making high volume espresso in coffee carts, restaurants or cafes (GS3 is 110v only, Slayer can be 110v or 220v).

The GS3 has been the gold standard of high tech specialty espresso since for years, offering detailed information and precise control of its dual PID controlled boilers, with manual paddle and auto (volumetric programming) configurations offering the manual control, preinfusion or repeatable efficiency to suit home enthusiasts as well as businesses. When combined with a top-of-the-line grinder (we’re suckers for large conical), the GS3 can bring the finest traditional or specialty espresso into very compact spaces. Its joystick steam knob provides instant and formidable power from the 3.5 liter steam boiler. Being a high tech full commercial machine, many owners choose to rely on a technician to keep their machine running perfectly.

The Slayer brings a new level customization and fine-tunable controllable that have never been seen before, making it the ultimate tool for those that want to explore changes in the amount of acidity, body and sweetness in their espresso. This unique flavor control over comes from Slayer’s flow profiling, which uses adjustable flow rate (adjustable valve on top of the machine) combined with manual pre-brew (the paddle’s mid position) and the control over the maximum pump pressure (adjusted electronically through the machine’s display). Equally impressive is an unprecedented combination of industrial strength build quality with simple, futuristic and very hard to describe aesthetics. Every detail of the machine can be changed, incorporating different metals, woods, paints and finishes. The dual levers offer fluid action and control over the flow of steam and hot water, and Slayer offers six steam tips to suit your experience level and preferences.

All commercial grade espresso machines inspire confidence, but slide the cup warming tray off and you’ll see that the exceptionally simple, straight forward and rugged layout of the Slayer’s internals have been designed to outlast all others and be simple enough for anyone to maintain. If you’d like to learn about maintaining your machine in the future, whether to save money or to better understand the magic of how the machine works, we’re here to help!

La Marzocco GS/3 ($6,200)
Slayer One Group ($9,000)

 


 

benContact Ben for more assistance in selecting your machine.
[email protected] | 800.520.2890

 

 


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2 Comments

  • Written by: Jon

    Am I correct in thinking that the Lucca A53 and the Vivalda 11 are the same machine only without the wood trim? If I’m wrong could you explain the difference?

    Thank you

  • Written by: Ben Piff

    Hi Jon,

    You can think of the LUCCA A53 as the latest version of the Vivaldi II, which has been customized due to increasing customer feedback over the years and includes a bottomless portafilter at no cost. Basically everyone loves Vivaldi’s espresso and steam, but after 5-10 years on the market the aesthetics have become more distracting to some. Specifically the shiny plastic drip tray with comic sans font, the blinking LED lights and the large rubber buttons. But we love La Spaziale and have been excited for the day when we could work with them directly, so this was the perfect opportunity to improve on one of our favorite machines by simplifying and updating the look. We’d love to support you with making great coffee with either machine, so give us a ring any time to compare.

    Best regards,
    Ben

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