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May 26, 2016

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Quick Mill - Vetrano 2B | Double Boiler, is it worth the Price?

We have been asked many times, "What do you think of the Vetrano 2B from Quick Mill?" which we sell on www.homecoffeemachines.ie. So, this time for a blog I thought we would go through the various points about the Vetrano 2B and how it compares to machines that lack its features.

So, the 2B in Vetrano 2B stands for double boiler. Just like the saying, "Two is better than one", when it comes to espresso machines two boilers are more desirable than just one. Why? Well to explain this I will need to talk about the other boiler configurations and their advantages / disadvantages.



1. Thermoblock
Starting with the most basic, we have the thermoblock boiler type. An example of a machine that utilizes a thermoblock would be a Quick Mill 0820. A thermoblock boiler is in fact not even a boiler. It works by only heating water when the pump is switched on. When you flick on the brew switch, the cool water is pumped from the reservoir through the thermoblock and heated very quickly before it reaches the ground coffee in the portafilter. A thermoblock is essentially an electric heating element inside a block of metal with a spiral shaped pipe through which the water flows, the water is in contact with the thermoblock for a very short time.



The pros of this design are that it is very compact, cheap to manufacture due to the small size, and usually easy to use for the beginner. The cons of this design are that the thermoblock is very limiting in terms of temperature adjustment. When you use a thermoblock machine to make a cappuccino for instance, you first brew your espresso, then you switch the machine over to steam mode which heats the thermoblock up to a higher temperature in order to create sufficient steam to froth milk. The problem with this is that the thermoblock will retain this higher temperature due to its thermal mass, meaning that you must allow the machine to cool down sufficiently before more espresso can be brewed with any consistency.

2. Single Boiler
Moving up the scale we have single boiler machines, instantly the Rancilio Silvia springs to mind. A single boiler machine is commonly the first real espresso machine a person might buy. They do tend to cost a bit more but this is usually money well spent. With a single boiler machine you of course only have one boiler, but one is definitely better than none! On a machine like the Silvia, you have the advantage of having an actual boiler which is made of brass. All this means that the overall temperature stability is far better than on a thermoblock machine. The single boiler does have some things in common with a thermoblock, they only use one heating element to generate hot water for brewing and steaming. With the Rancilio Silvia, you can jump over to steam mode relatively quickly by purging water from the top of the boiler to allow that part to quickly fill with high pressure steam, but to go back to brewing espresso you must refill the boiler in order to cool it down to the appropriate temperature for espresso. Both thermoblock and single boilers work by switching between two thermostats, the lower of the two for brewing, and the higher for steaming.



Just a side note, it would be unfair to say that the Silvia doesn't suffer from temperature issues as you do need to know how to temperature surf while using it, many people have used what is called a PID to make life easier when using the Silvia but that is another blog for another day!

3. Heat Exchanger (HX)
Before I continue, I would like to point out that by no means do I believe that a double boiler machine will beat any HX machine when compared against each other, I have simply listed the HX type before I get onto the Double Boiler to outline the various differences between them!

So, how does a heat HX espresso machine work and what are the pros & cons?

A HX espresso machine works by utilizing two separate water circuits, one for brewing and one for steaming. The boiler and heat exchanger are in fact the same unit. Most of the boiler is taken up by the steam generator which is dedicated to producing high pressure steam whenever the user desires. This obviously means it must be kept at a very high temperature, far too high for the likes of brewing espresso! But, this is where the HX comes into play. Passing through the steam generating chamber is the heat exchanger itself, it is simply a small copper tube containing the brew water circuit and nothing else. It's only when the pump is activated that cool water is pumped from the reservoir through the heat exchanger where it is flash heated up to the required temperature for espresso right before it reaches the group head.



All in all, the HX type of espresso machine is quite impressive. It can produce huge amounts of steam, while also being able to brew espresso at the same time all with only one boiler, albeit a bit more complex and expensive than a true single boiler. But as with everything, there are drawbacks to this design. HX machines can have slight variances with temperatures when it comes to brewing. Usually the PID fitted to the specific machine keeps the HX at a set temperature, but when brew water sits in the HX circuit within the steam generator, it can exceed the desired temperature for espresso so that when you draw water for say a cappuccino without purging the water in the circuit, you can end up with higher than normal brew water temperature. Also worth noting is that larger semi commercial machines fitted with HX do in fact have two elements, one with a lower wattage and one that is higher. This may seem irrelevant, but when trying to decide between a double boiler and a HX machine, my thoughts would be: "I'm paying for two elements already, why not spend a little extra and get a second boiler for that element..."

4. Double Boiler
And now we can look at the Vetrano 2B and give our honest opinion. Yes, if you can afford it then you will be right at home with the Vetrano but don't start throwing your money at your preferred retailer just yet! Below we will go through the various advantages, and disadvantages that come with such a machine.

As with the name, the Vetrano 2B Has two boilers, one dedicated for brewing espresso and the other dedicated for steam. The main advantage of this brute force approach is its simplicity. Both boilers heat the water to their respective temperatures and sit there, as there is never a need for draining/refilling like on a single boiler machine causing temperature variations withing parts of the machine, you are always ready to use the machine.

The fit and finish that Quick Mill machines are known for is also second to none on the Vetrano. Panels are shaped by hand to soften corners, and chrome plate all across the various brass components is excellent. The result is a beautiful polished mirror finish all over that is lacking on many cheaper machines which usually have more emphasis on the value and functionality aspect of the market.

When you make a purchase of a machine like the Vetrano, like anyone else you want to feel that you have spent your many well and with the Vetrano, just moving the machine will give you an idea of where your money went! The machine weighs just under half the average for a person, 28.5kg! All that copper and brass adds up along with the other components of equal quality and robustness. The rotary pump is also worth mentioning, a much more refined method of pumping water compared to the vibratory option used in various other designs. It contains rotating parts on bearings rather than violently vibrating parts which can have a significantly shorter service life. The sound is also very pleasing to the ear and is even more so when heard next to a vibration pump! Do note also that the machine can use either a water reservoir that will need to be filled by hand or can be plumbed in or true convenience and ease of use. Oh, and the drip tray can also be plumbed in which is my personal favorite feature for this machine.

Of course there are some issues with owning such a machine, but only if you make them issues. The fact that there are two boilers means you have two elements to power, this can put a lot of people off as the thought of having such a power hungry machine plugged in for long periods of time would give them nightmares, but I also know that if you can afford to purchase such a product the chances are that you won't mind too much about this, but if it is an issue, each boiler can be turned off independently so you can sleep soundly. Another drawback is the warm up time being quite a bit, due to the size and capacity of the machine over all, but this is only a small point really.

Overall the biggest let down with this machine is that you won't need to buy another one, no more fun looking online in forums and reviews researching for your next machine. And I know I have left out lever machines but I think they are a whole other blog in themselves as well.

Send us an email if you'd like to ask anything at all about the Vetrano or any other products we stock at info@homecoffeemachines.ie.

 

March 25, 2016

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How easy can “proper” espresso really be? Enter the Carezza from Gaggia.

So, you like many others, enjoy a cup of instant coffee in the morning, and of course by this we mean: Under no circumstances do most people attempt to leave the house without one!

 

 

You don't hate it, nor love it, the jar, and more commonly these days, the tin with words like “Barista” or “Premium Roast” printed on it are at their best, nothing to write home about... I know for most of my adult life, I have wanted a real coffee machine, one that makes real coffee, from actual coffee, not coffee flavoured powder or granules with a bit of caffeine thrown in for good measure, the real deal. I think many, not all people, have also thought about how great it would be to be able to enjoy a real cappuccino or espresso at home for breakfast, lunch, dinner and every moment in between.

 

And don't worry, I'll get to the Carezza in a minute...

 

But then, like me, you find yourself standing in a cafe watching a barista prepare your cappuccino, with steam cascading from the machine which has a control panel stolen from a science fiction novel and sounds like a heavy steam locomotive heading down the mainline, you quietly think to yourself, “It's probably not for me, I'd never get the hang of all that”.

 

Bring on the Carezza. The Carezza in my mind, is designed for the person who is not sure how to approach a “Real” espresso machine, let alone enter the building It's in! The Carezza has been made in a way so that a person with no idea what they're doing can still make a reasonable brew and then some, with little to no practice, just a little read through the manual before hand. So, you ask, How is this possible?

 

First off, It's not magic (unfortunately), just like it says on a box of nicotine patches, will power is required, like anything else in life. But a significantly smaller amount than what it takes to use say, a La Pavoni lever machine and believe me, as a beginner, you don't want to know.

 

The Carezza uses a pressurized basket system which takes a lot of the hassle and practice out of pulling a shot of espresso. The flow of water through the ground coffee is regulated by the pressurized filter basket, what this means for you is the only steps required to make an espresso are to remove the portafilter from the Carezza, pour some ground coffee into the basket, level off the grounds with your finger and lock the portafilter into the machine, then press a button. The machine will do the rest. The Carezza also has a steam wand with a “Panarello” attachment, this type of steam wand is suited for people who have not taken the time to learn about the ins and outs of frothing milk perfectly while keeping the results to a high standard.

 

 

Of coarse I have to address the title as I'm sure some reading this are shouting at the screen “It's Not Real Espresso!”, Frankly, the truth depends on who you ask. I can agree that pressurized baskets are not the pinnacle of pure espresso as they do have draw backs, and other things such as the “pressure Gauge” on the Carezza which really means nothing as it has no reference to measure anything, it just go's up and down when the machine is on!? But for a person who has been drinking instant all their life, I'm sure that even the purest espresso enthusiasts will agree that a shot of espresso from the Carezza is infinitely superior and more refined than one that began inside of a jar or tin!

 

 

Of coarse if you feel you have what it takes (Which you do!) to handle a real, Real Espresso machine, then there's the Gaggia Classic, The Classic uses cast brass portafilters like what you find in a cafe and no pressurized baskets in sight. Or if you have the budget, the Rancilio Silvia is a very nice machine too. There is also the Quick Mill – Model 0820 which in my opinion, is rather under appreciated as a starter machine! Worth noting is the small size of the 0820, which makes it very easy to hide from your family once you have given up!

 

Jokes aside, the 0820 is a rather nice machine for the money as is the Classic and Silvia, my advise is look at your budget and what might look nice in your kitchen.

 

Anyway, at the end of the day, if I only manage to convert one person from the jar over to the Dark side(Genuine espresso that is), then this blog has been worth while. For the next one, I think we'll look at the differences between the various machines on offer from Gaggia, breaking them down to see what's behind the Marketing and buzz words. Let us know if you have any questions, requests or suggestions for us, and we hope to see you over at homecoffeemachines.ie sometime soon.

February 09, 2016

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The Quick Mill - Carola | sometimes less can mean more...

So, you've been looking to move up in the world of espresso. Perhaps you have made do with an inferior "budget" espresso machine that has served you well (or not so well) over the years and have finally decided to make the leap. Then the late evenings start, repeatedly typing in various phrases into Google in the hopes of finding trustworthy advice on "what's the best espresso machine for X amount of money?". Maybe you've found forums with genuine enthusiasts making comparisons between this and that machine. You may realise that your initial budget may not cover everything you have set out to acquire. The word compromise may come to mind, but this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Quick Mill - Carola

May we now introduce you to the Quick Mill - Carola, but wait, now you might be asking yourself "Quick Mill? Who are they?". For those that don't know, Quick Mill is an Italian firm based in Senago, close to Milan in the industrial north of Italy. The firm was founded in 1945, has been manufacturing domestic and commercial espresso machines in house, much of which was made by hand and still is! All components are made from the highest quality materials such as brass, copper, and stainless steel and have been sourced from within Italy, all this is proudly advertised in their company motto "Made to last for years" which in my opinion has been well earned.

Now that you have some background on Quick Mill, we go back to thoughts of compromise. So you've been researching on the web, and you're starting to realise that your budget may not be adequate enough for your check list of specifications, things like a PID, professional E61 group, Single or twin copper/brass boilers, etc etc... So to address the elephant in the room, no, the Carola does not steam milk plain and simple. For those espresso purists with no interest in steaming milk, please skip to the last paragraph for my conclusion of this machine, and for those with an interest in steaming milk, please read on. The one weakness of the Carola is also its greatest strength. Yes there is no capacity to steam milk but this is more than made up for when you take into consideration its specifications: E61 Professional Group, 0.75 litre brass boiler, PID temperature control, clixon protected pump, 1.8 litre water tank, and internal pressure gauge - no steam but it does everything else perfectly. Even the design of the Carola reflects its function driven ethos, the flat straight lines, indicator lights, pressure gauge, and switch give the machine a commercial, almost industrial feel, leaving no doubt that this machine was made for one thing only, not to look good, but to make great espresso.

And now for those who have no interest in steam or hot water, only espresso. This is the machine, you have found it. Every feature you could want in an espresso machine, but for a price far lower than you would normally pay. It is essentially a professional espresso machine in a highly compact package that proves, less can be more, and this machine is no exception!

December 12, 2015

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Which is the best value home grinder?

The Rancilio Rocky doserless.

The quality of this grinder is outstanding, it weights over 6kg, Rancilio have built it like a tank. The Rocky is stepped and has over 50 settings, getting the perfect grind for your espresso is easy!

The Rocky doesn't have a timer but that's ok and is expected for a machine with this price.

Where is the cheapest place to get this grinder?

Home Coffee Machines Ltd

http://www.homecoffeemachines.ie/collections/Rancilio

 

November 29, 2015

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What is new about the Rancilio Silvia E

Rancilio have been busy making more improvements to the very popular Miss Silvia V4. The changes have made a new model called the Silvia E. The first improvement was to insulate the boiler, this helps reduce power consumption and makes the new SIlvia E more of a green machine. Rancilio has also conformed with the European EuP directive. The coffee machine now shuts off automatically after 30 minutes of inactivity. Meaning the Silvia consumes less than 0.5 Wh (watt-hour) in standby mode. Rancilio's recent upgrades furthur enforces how dedicated they are to their customers.

http://www.homecoffeemachines.ie/products/rancilio-silvia-v4

October 27, 2015

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Mazzer Mini Grinder are here....

Home Coffee Machines Ltd are pleased to announce that we now stock the one and only Mazzer Mini Grinders. Mazzer grinders are known for their quality and have been manufacturing since 1948. Mazzer distribute in 90 different countries around the world. They are the king of grinders. If you buy a Mazzer you will be satisfied for life, there is no better!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 12, 2015

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What maintenance should I be carrying out on my Rancilio Silvia?

It is very easy to keep your beautiful Silvia in tip top shape, If you don't follow these simple steps you will soon suffer the consequences, you will no longer be getting that lovely crema on your espresso, your steam pressure from your wand will become weak, your whole machine could clog up with lime-scale. We recommend the following 4 steps.

1. De-scale your Silvia regularly.

The frequency that determines how often you should do this is down to the level of lime-scale in your water. If your water has a high level we would recommend de-scaling every month, if you have a small amount of lime-scale you will probably get away with doing it every 2 months. How do I de-scale my machine? buy some Coffee Washer from this link 

Follow the instructions on the packet, its are very straight forward.

2. Back-flush your Silvia regularly.

You should back-flush your Silvia every 1 - 2 weeks depending on how often you use your machine. Back-flushing cleans the three way solenoid valve and in behind the group head screen.

For back-flushing you will need a blank filter which comes supplied with your Silvia and some Puly Caff cleaning tables from Home Coffee Machines Ltd, here is the link

 

3. Keep the brew/group head gasket clean

Grinds build up on your group gasket every time you make an extraction with your Silvia, these grinds get embedded into the gasket and over time can damage it. they also reduce the effectiveness of the gasket. you will notice this if you get leaking from around the portafilter when extracting. Its easy to clean your group gasket, just use one of these cleaning brushes especially formulated with stiff bristles.

4. Replace your brew/group screen and gasket when required

We recommend that you replace your group gasket and screen once a year, the gasket becomes perished with the heat and grinds and the screen becomes clogged and damaged from use. We have a little video on the group gasket and screen page to show you how to replace these components.

June 25, 2015

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What is the best tamper size for your Rancilio coffee machine?

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58mm is the best size, you can buy it here from Home Coffee Machines Ltd in Ireland. They deliver free to Ireland and will deliver to Europe but there is a small charge.

http://www.homecoffeemachines.ie/products/rancilio-tamper

It has a beautiful wooden handle and is weighted perfectly.  A quality piece of equipement, but you would expect nothing else from Rancilio!

Some users have reported a 58mm tamper being too big, this issue will occur if you are not putting enough coffee grinds in your double portafiler and the tamper protrudes too far into the portafilter when tamping and makes contact with the sides of the portafilter.

March 24, 2015

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The Old Gaggia Classic II

We have had plenty of customers specifically looking for the RI8161/40 model as the new Gaggia Classic has no solenoid valve. The new Gaggia Classic model number is RI9403/11, All the reviews on Amazon only give it one or two stars. All that looks the same is the outside of the machine, everything inside has been changed to non desirable cheap parts.

Take a look for yourself

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gaggia-Classic-RI9403-11-machine/dp/B00P2I15ZY/ref=cm_cr_pr_sims_t

 

It looks like the true classic has gone. This is what happens when a big company takes over manufacturing of a classic product. Philips used to make quality products!

Home Coffee Machines Ltd have a few left but I suspect they won't last long! price is pretty good too.

Good Bye Gaggia Classic, a lot of coffee lovers have loved you. We will all miss you.

http://www.homecoffeemachines.ie/products/gaggia-classic-espresso-ri8161-40

December 29, 2014

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Quick Mill distributor

We are pleased to announce that Home Coffee Machines Ltd is now Ireland's Quick Mill distributor. Quick Mill have been manufacturing quality machines since 1945.  Some of their machines that we supply are the Silvano,  La Certa, Andreja Premium, the Vetrano and many more, we also have a range of their grinders. Have a look in our store at the great range at really competitive prices.

Click here to see the Quick Mill range in our store