Cheap dual boiler setup idea
I've just bought a cheap secondhand machine and grinder to use at work and now that I have got it dialled in and producing some great results I've been mentally comparing it with the dual boiler I have at home.
The home machine is a La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi II that I bought new about 2 years ago as an upgrade from an Ascaso Dream. The Vivaldi is a great machine and very happy with it. I'm very glad I went with a DB rather than HX mainly because I went vegan a few months after buying it so I switched from flat whites to ristrettos. Being a DB I can switch off the steam boiler for most of the time and if I need to steam milk when entertaining then the option is there. This machine steams like a train and it refills the boiler automatically, so it's very easy to make lots of drinks very quickly.
For work I picked up a used Gaggia Classic from a fellow CS-er. The machine is in great condition and the previous owner's a pretty handy guy so he adjusted the OPV back to 9 bar. I wasn't expecting anything fabulous from it given the $140 price tag but I've been pulling some very impressive and consistent shots from it - both from the Kyocera hand grinder and also the cheap used Ascaso I-1 grinder I picked up the other day for $100.
So this got me thinking - one of the main reasons people cite for upgrading to a HX or DB is the ability to pull shots and steam milk at the same time. If I had 2 Gaggias, one set to brew and the other to steam, I've effectively got a dual boiler setup with a footprint that is only slightly larger than a DB machine, for over $2,000 less than a DB machine.
There is a big difference in the components and the build quality, plus the Vivaldi has some great features that make it much easier to make lots of drinks quickly - it's volumetric, adjustable temperature and auto-refills the boiler when the water level gets too low plus it automatically stops when the water level gets too low in the tank.
The difference in the cup is not that big though - the Gaggia has been producing some great shots and I'd be very hard pressed to tell the difference between the two.
So if you're thinking of upgrading to a better machine so you can brew and steam at the same time, it may work out cheaper for you to get a second SB machine for steaming. If you want all the convenience features and better build quality, well that will still cost you!
Just a thought!
I've been thinking about this kind of thing the last few days as well. My parents have an old machine whose wand still works, as far as I know. I'm considering buying a Gaggia and keeping it at brew temp for back to back shots while using this other machine to steam milk. I would imagine that steaming milk does not really require the same kind of precision/quality as the espresso so a cheap machine might suffice.
Any progress along these lines?
Problem being that you'll probably fry the element in your "steaming" machine (unless of course you only switch it to steam while you're pulling the shots on the other one and make sure you re-prime it and switch steam off when you're done)
Originally Posted by jools
You will also have quite limited steaming capacity on the SB machine; unless you get something like a VBM Piccolo or an Isomac Zaffiro which has a significantly larger-than-average boiler for an SB (ISTR the Classic is around 250ml, the Silvia is about 350ml, the Piccolo and the Zaffiro are 850ml).
The main problem with this sort of setup is the lack of auto-fill on most SB machines (though there is at least one that does have it, the name temporarily escapes me) and the danger of burning out an element as a consequence.
Two machines also take up more space, and double the tank filling, drip tray emptying and cleaning.
The shot quality from the Gaggia is excellent, so I have no hesitation in recommending one. Steaming ability is a bit limited as the boiler isn't large, but there's enough there to do a medium size jug of milk in a reasonable amount of time - medium size being enough for 2 lattes. As pointed out in the other replies, there is no auto-priming of the boiler, so after frothing up a jug you would need to run the pump long enough to refill the boiler with fresh water.
Originally Posted by symphonic
There's obviously some compromises to be made with regard to the work involved in running two machines that are entirely manual, but there is also a big cost difference.