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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.