Post By wattgn
Review of the Wega MiniNova Classic E61 (Retro EMA Plumbed)
I have had the machine for just over one year now and so it is time to do a review based on the fact it no longer has the new machine smell and the having a new toy thrill has disappeared (or maybe not, I still love it). I think six months though is a good interval of ownership and constant use of a grinder or espresso machine before taking the trouble to do a review as it gives you time to see any issues and for the rose-coloured goggle effect to wear off.
I had a Bezzera BZ40-P plumbed in previously and so a plumbed machine was a given. Plumbed in machines are so much more convenient and are a pleasure to use. You never have to stop to consider how much is the tank or in the tray (to drain) before using the machine. The filtration is a given with a plumbed machine. I have a good setup with a sediment filter and carbon filter for both drinking water and for the machine and an additional in-line water softening cartridge after the t-piece to the espresso machine.
The Bezzera was made in 1996 and I used it every day for most of the 11 years I had it. I do consider the 3.7L boiler, a little bit extravagant but nice along with the two 1450W elements. I also wanted to try the E61 head HX machine and it was also time for a new boiler on the Bezzera. I considered dual boiler machines but, for me, I see no point. I want the simplest possible machine with no electronics. This is just the way I like it and it is also the most reliable. I also loved the Bezzera and never had any regrets with it and so another HX machine was the way to go. I also love Rotary pumps and would never touch a vibe pump. Big, powerful, smooth pressure delivery and robust lasting for decades. I donít see putting a $50 pump in a $3000 machine a great move. The rotary pumps are a kg of solid brass and very reassuring along with a large electric motor to drive it.
The final factor was local support with Leaf Bean Machine down in Bibra Lake. They seem like a very good business and most enthusiastic and helpful. The Wega is also a well-respected name in espresso machines and so I had no concerns about that. Fleur from LBM was very helpful in every way so I was sold on the vendor even before the machine and LBM are now a sponsor on the forum.
I should point out that LBM have promised a discount to CS members and it is significant but please discuss this with them directly but I have had an email to this effect, so it is official.
The E61 head is old technology, was devised in 1961 and is proven over decades of use. It is fair to say companies such as Wega are Zen Masters of this technology and they have a bullet proof reputation for their equipment. I should point out too that they have a very popular volumetric dosing machine at about the same price. I have heard more than one sponsor on CS praise these machines too. This Classic though is a single group machine and is very simple.
If you want my general opinion on machines generally. I recommend Italian made, E61, Rotary pump, good vendor and you like the looks of it on the bench in your, as does your significant other, then buy it, they all produce great coffee. If you canít accommodate a rotary pump and plumbing then vibe pump and tank models are great too.
It was an easy decision to buy this machine, as explained, it was also $2414 with GST for a rotary machine E61 group machine (at that time). The machine has a stainless-steel boiler. It isnít insulated but if you consider that an E61 machine has 9 pounds of brass at 95C sitting there radiating heat constantly, I think an insulated boiler will make such a small difference to temperature stability or power bills that it is irrelevant. On Brass versus SS and having an Honours Degree in Chemistry (well bragging maybe but it does give me some right here to an opinion), the difference for most people is totally irrelevant. Both work and the coffee will taste the same. In some cases, such as groups heated directly from the boiler (boilers are usually made from copper) using a brass/copper bridge then a copper boiler is necessary, otherwise it does not matter. People have strong opinions though as copper boilers have always been used in espresso machines until recently. Longevity wise there are arguments both ways, copper or brass will thin in time and SS can have issues depending on water chemistry but the arguments are complex and the likely longevity for either is about two decades. Scale build-up is what usually kills boilers or extreme water chemistry. In any espresso machine, there will be a mixture of copper, brass and in this Wega stainless steel also. Rotary pumps are made of brass as it is easier to machine and harder than copper. In general copper/brass needs to be used where high thermal conductivity is required such as in the E61 head. It is also much easier to bend and machine than stainless steel.
The weight of the Classic is 25 to 28kg depending on configuration. The Classic come with a water tank or rotary pump but isnít convertible, so the water tank model is vibe pump and the plumbed in model is rotary pump. The boiler size is 2L and the element for the boiler is 1400W and the machine draws up to 1800W with the rotary pump. Dimensions are 335W x 455D x 425H which is pretty standard dimensions. The water reservoir is you get the vibe pump model is 1.5L.
The machine is physically very nicely designed with SS all around, the E61 group, a nice deep drip tray which is particularly important if it isnít plumbed in. The Classic has adjustable SS legs (some use black enamelled steel or even plastic) with plastic height adjustable leg extensions. All good. There is only one gauge for boiler pressure, but not one for group head pressure. IMHO the brew pressure one is not necessary. I had one on my Bezzera and really, I never looked much at it. Group pressure, especially with a rotary pump should be rock steady once adjusted. I didnít adjust mine more than once in 11 years of ownership with the Bezzera. A lovely Wega logo is located on the back and unfortunately hidden in my coffee corner. If you can put it on a bench where it is visible it would look very cool.
One minor complaint is that the boiler pressure gauge glass just rests in its position against a collar, it isnít fastened in and the glass feels a bit loose to the touch. Not a big deal but something I have to note for the review. The fit and finish is generally good and considering the price point, excellent.
The steam wand is not insulated but really this is more to prevent burn on than anything else and I donít think it is worth spending money on but that is just my opinion. I also like dials rather than the levers such as on the ECM. Call me old fashioned but dials work perfectly well.
It is worth noting that the spout to drip tray distance is 82mm rather than 122mm on some machines. I have adapted to this but it is worth noting if you think that this may be an issue for you.
I also get asked how long does it take to heat up from dead cold. 20 minutes will do it especially if you push some water through the head. 30 minutes maximum. I find the heat up time pretty good. You can also tell just by a quick touch of the E61 head if it is up to temperature.
The cup produced is as good as the Bezzera or any other E61 machine. IMHO the choice of machine is in the looks and details as they suit you and the pricing. The only change I made was to get a four- holed tip to slow the steam rather than the five-holed tip that came standard. I found it was just steaming a bit too fast for my liking. There is plenty of steam by the way from the 2L boiler and it will meet the needs of most home users. My Bezzera had a 3.7L boiler with 2 x 1450W elements but that is a lot to heat up in the morning for just a few coffees. I think a 2L boiler is the sweet spot for home enthusiasts.
Internally the machine is well laid out with copper lines and access is very easy with two Allen key screws in the top allowing removing of the top then another four Allen key screws to remove the case to give access to the internals. A drain valve is located at the bottom of the boiler for easy draining which is important for descaling operations. All fasteners are high quality and the wiring and layout is all very tidy.
My recommendation is get this machine, especially if you live in Perth through Leaf Bean Machine, it is a fine machine and outstanding value at the price. I would recommend the plumbed in model but most models sold are not I am told. Believe me though, life is so easy if you do plumb it in and there is an easily removable brass nut from the drip tray which exposes the drain if you want to plumb it in or even just choose to feed it water from the tank but want to say drain it into a container or down the sink.
I think LBM provided me excellent service. They swapped the steam tips, they even swapped a portafilter so it would fit a IMS basket. I also had a blocked anti-suction valve which they fixed even though it was a few weeks out of warranty. Overall no complaints and they also roast great beans and most times I visit them I grab a bag of beans even though I roast my own. They are a top roaster and fussy bastards when it comes to their coffee roastingÖ😊.
My only complaint about LBM is they are in Bibra Lake and I live in Woodvale so it is a bit of a trip for me. It is worth it though. I do want to do one of their Barista courses though. Even though I think I know everything, I suspect I will learn quite a bit from one of these courses.