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Thread: Any nice thermoblocks with single walled basket?

  1. #1
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    Any nice thermoblocks with single walled basket?

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    My EM5900 served me well for the last 7 years but the bayonet collar where the group handle attaches has broken (metal tabs fatigued and broke off) and it seems replacements don't exist anymore.
    I was pretty happy with it, But wouldn't say no to a slight upgrade. Any suggestions?

    I'd like something with single walled basket, since I've got my own grinder. And I used to use a single Krups basket with the EM5900 that was nice.
    Thermoblock is fine as long as it's done well.
    Half decent milk foaming would be good since I make something resembling a flat white with fine microfoam. I thought the EM5900 wasn't bad.

  2. #2
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Welcome Fraz...

    Do you own a decent quality Espresso Capable Grinder at all?
    Essential with any kind of Single Wall Filter Basket...

    Mal.

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    I've got the Sunbeam EM0480 which I bought about 5 years ago after stalking through here. Seems fine enough to me.

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    Probably considered to be an entry level espresso grinder but quite a few CSers have used them over the years.

    There are not many fans of Thermoblock style machines around these parts either but I guess the better ones would come from Breville, from their mid-range line of machines but better than them in the higher echelon, would have s/s boilers rather than t/blocks and come at a higher price of course.

    See lots of little used BES-920 (Dual Boiler) machines for sale on Gumtree, Trading Post, etc for ~$600 but you would need to be able to see them operating and get an idea of the care and attention bestowed upon them. Have heard of some very happy buyers from these places though...

    Mal.

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    Thanks Mal. I'm not really _aiming_ to have a thermoblock, but rather they are the price range I'm looking in, and I gather they get up to operating temperature faster. Getting myself and toddler ready in the morning before work needs no extra delays!
    2nd hand might be an idea. I think I saw the good guys selling EM6910 end of line too.
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    Welcome Fraz, the Decent Espresso machine https://coffeesnobs.com.au/brewing-e...-thoughts.html would be at the high end of thermoblocks and offer the fast warmup you are after.

    Non thermoblock you could start with a Sylvia or Lelit pl41temd or further upmarket if you want a non applience machine. You haven't mentioned budget, just a preference for thermoblock which covers a pretty wide budget in itself.

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    Hmm.. maybe the BES840 might be the closest cheapish machine available new. VS EM6910?
    I'll look out for the dual boiler ones, but i probably don't have the time to hunt around and test out 2nd hand ones.

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    Ah, I've always loved the look of the Rancilio Silvia, retro and utilitarian that shouts no non-sense to me. I'll have to read up on them, and the Lelit (I haven't heard of that one).
    I don't really have a set budget. <$600? But if I can get something good for $450 that would do me. Or if something great is $850 and it will last 20 years I'd go that too.

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    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Have you looked through the 4-Sale section here at CS?
    There are a couple of much loved Silvias up for grabs at the moment for a good price.
    Quite a learning curve involved though unless you could entice an experienced CS user to run you though the ropes. Would be worth it though...

    Mal.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by fraz View Post
    My EM5900 served me well for the last 7 years but the bayonet collar where the group handle attaches has broken (metal tabs fatigued and broke off) and it seems replacements don't exist anymore.
    I was pretty happy with it, But wouldn't say no to a slight upgrade. Any suggestions?

    I'd like something with single walled basket, since I've got my own grinder. And I used to use a single Krups basket with the EM5900 that was nice.
    Thermoblock is fine as long as it's done well.
    Half decent milk foaming would be good since I make something resembling a flat white with fine microfoam. I thought the EM5900 wasn't bad.
    G'day fraz(zled)


    Having used quite a few thermoblocks / thermocoils over the years, I have yet to encounter any Breville thermoblock which was big enough and had enough shot power to beat the older (pre 2010ish) 6910s (of which I happily own two, along with a 7000 and a 2 group La Pavoni). A good secondhand 6910 is usually around $200 and I have sourced a number of them for various friends over the years. Usually they just need an A to Z clean and off they go.

    FYI the reason CS'r's tend to rubbish thermoblocks is pretty simple - low end (i.e. $150ish new) Brevilles and SB's have thermoblocks which are far too small to be capable of doing a decent shot and the CS'r's forget that virtually all chem labs use correctly sized thermoblocks to maintain fractions of a degree of thermal stability using very little electricity - something even giant boilers cannot do at all. Add the "S" and a bit of coffee tradition and there you go... We neeed Mythbusters to do some real world testing. FWIW, some commercial machines cannot keep stable temperature either!

    Newer 6910s lack a little of the shot grunt of the pre 2010(ish) ones - they are new at around $600 at the usual "white goods suspects" street price. An extra $100 gets you the much quieter 7000, however it really depends what you want in a machine. The 7000 is my day to day machine purely on noise / domestic harmony grounds and every time I use a Linea or my 6910s I realise how much I dislike the 7000 (mainly the auto milk frother is awful if you prefer proper microfoam - and I do).

    Firstly if you make a lot of milk drinks, forget about small single boiler machines (like the Silvia I had for 9 years or so). You need a second machine for doing proper microfoam on the same calendar day (only a slight exaggeration) and "temp surfing" the beastie will drive you spare (after one shot your old machine is a lot more stable in temp). There is a good reason most Silvia owners install a PID... Be aware, earlier Silvias had no water level warning light and every repair shop I know was full of them with complete blown boilers - a $500 "repair" here in the west.

    If you are thinking of starting on a learning curve to be able to work on commercial machines later, the older 6910 is hard to beat - swapping to and from a 2 group Linea doesn't even involve much of a change in either your technique or grind setting.

    Machines like the "auto milk frothing" 7000 do the frothing their own way, and those skills will not transfer readily to a commercial machine either.

    The next (arguable) step in in quality for a dual boiler machine is the Breville dual boiler - a few friends have them and they do a reasonable job (about level with the earlier 6910s). New they are about twice the price of a new 6910 and are a but small step upwards.

    Good luck with your next machine.

    TampIt

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    Thanks Tampit. Very detailed. Sounds like current EM6910s are not the way. How about the BES840?

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    There are two newly released thermoblock appliance machines you could look at, Sunbeam barista max and Breville bambino plus. Both claim to be state of the art, no reviews here or elsewhere that I am aware of. I believe the Bes870 I have is the same as the Bes840 but without the built-in grinder. Works well with fresh roasted specialty beans, question mark however on durability.
    Good luck.
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    So I had a look around local whitegoods places this morning and the range was pretty disappointing.
    But they did have the Sunbeam EM7000 which actually ticks all my boxes. So a bought it . $600 at good guys, but wasn't up for continual trawling shops with a toddler.

    It's a good step up from the EM5900. The steam is significantly more powerful, no dribble of water out the steam wand before the steam gets going. It comes with single walled baskets, and no plastic inserts for mould growth in the group handle. It's a lot quieter than the EM5900 was. And it did a good extraction on my 2nd attempt (had to change the grind a bit finer). Good stuff! My only complaint is the casting on the collar that group handle slots into seems a bit rough, and not as refined as more expensive machines. But I'll sure it will smooth off and free up with use.

    The online reviews that give EM7000 a bad rap seem like people who don't have a grinder at home and are trying to use pre-ground supermarket coffee, and/or don't know how to work an espresso machine.

    I didn't see the BES840 in the shops I looked at, but out of the two the EM7000 seems better after skimming online discussion.
    I'll spend some time looking for a 2nd hand boiler machine to play with one day when I have time again.
    Thanks everyone!
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    PS.

    WarrenK:
    I did see the Bambino, nice and small. But I seem to remember I discounted it because it has plastic insert in the group handle (see below why I hate them). I didn't check whether it was unpressurised. And the Sunbeam Barista Max has a grinder in it, and I didn't want extra complications to break. Neither have any reviews anywhere sensible yet. Thanks for the suggestions though.

    Tampit:
    When you say the 7000 has auto milk frothing... I'm not sure what you mean. It looks like standard wand with on/off to me. The temperature gauge isn't that useful, and the jug was too hot to hold before it was registering warm enough. I think I don't stick it far enough into the milk for what I presume is the sensor (red rimmed lump on inner surface of wand). Does it turn off itself if you let it get hot?

    My 2nd coffee! (first went down the sink while I tweaked grind, excuse the mess. Tad excited after a few weeks sans machine)
    IMG_20181112_124803.jpg

    And here's why I detest plastic inserts in group handles:
    20151117-084618.jpg
    This is gunk that was under it when I removed the screw (EM5900 in 2015, after 4 years use):
    20151117-084330.jpg
    And after cleaning. If you try and use a pressurized basket a jet of coffee blasts through the screw hole between the two spouts and peppers 20cm radius with coffee.
    I figure the plastic thing is there to take the blast of the pressurized basket, and keep coffee from touching cold metal (assuming you don't know to warm the group handle).
    20151118-080257.jpg

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    Quote Originally Posted by fraz View Post
    PS.

    Tampit:
    When you say the 7000 has auto milk frothing... I'm not sure what you mean. It looks like standard wand with on/off to me. The temperature gauge isn't that useful, and the jug was too hot to hold before it was registering warm enough. I think I don't stick it far enough into the milk for what I presume is the sensor (red rimmed lump on inner surface of wand). Does it turn off itself if you let it get hot?
    G'day fraz

    "auto milk frothing" - probably a poor choice of wording at my end. Depends how you define auto. Having used numerous wands on numerous machines over the years, the 7000 uses just enough smarts to second guess the whole process without getting it 100% correct.

    The 7000 has what is supposed to be a "user friendly cool touch" steam wand with a temp sensor. It also has a pretty useless "speed control knob" which doesn't really offer much manual control. As you have already discovered, the temp sensor may be consistent, however it varies massively as you change your technique. That means the milk temp on the front panel's dial is pretty notional, so unless you keep your technique constant you will need a separate milk thermometer. The 7000 also lets a little bit of steam out after you turn it off - theoretically to keep the wand cleaner. That wand is good enough for a newbie to get OK microfoam, however I have to fight it all the way to get the extra sweetness a true manual wand setup gives - and I have had my 7000 since 2014 and used quite a few other 7000s over the years. In terms of frothing, almost any manual(ish) machine with a "single hole" wand offers far more precise control. That is probably my least favourite 7000 quirk.

    Now you have your new toy, there are a couple of 7000 "gotchas" I ran into.
    1) If you increase the standby time the extra insulation of the 7000 (compared to the 6910) will act as a heat trap and blow the milk thermostat every 12 months or so - instant cold water in lieu of steam. About a $6 repair, however it involves some pretty major surgery to access it. I replaced mine twice before I worked it out. Given the machine goes from stone cold to ready in 90 seconds (eat your heart out dual boiler fans), the extra standby time is not needed anyway - one quick preflush (p/f & basket in to warm them as well) at about 75 seconds (when the lights go on) and you are good to go.
    2) The plastic steam control knob is prone to break if forced. Mine is still original, however a few people I know have broken theirs trying to shut the steam off. A local repairer here reckons that is the most common fault by far.
    3) Most of the reason for 2) above - the tap has two minute "o-rings" which get affected by the heat and crack. That means the steam will continue for far too long. The end of the tap also has a habit of building up sludge / corrosion(?) that means it also does not shut off properly. The 5 minute fix is to pop the tap off (small spanner) every year or so, replace the o-rings if necessary and clean gunge off the end of the tap (scotch brite or similar). Reassemble and it will go another year or so. You can also set the tap so it will shut off instantly (which I prefer) - however then you will need to do a quick purge of steam yourself to keep the wand internals clean.

    Enjoy your new toy - yep, it is quite a step up from your earlier machine, and should last quite a while if you keep all the internals clean. FWIW, I use white vinegar to descale things however even that will not remove the "end of the steam tap gunge".

    TampIt

  16. #16
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    Yes, all the home machines I've used basically have on/off steam control. My EM5900 had a fault for the last few years of life where when you turned off the the steam (with a knob on the side), it continued to blow steam out for 5-10 seconds till it lost pressure. I presume there was a washer needing replaced to act like a tap, but I never bothered to replace it. At least it made sure milk didn't stay in the wand! I noticed you can feel the click of an integrated switch that is activated to turn on the steam production once you have turned the knob a tiny bit. I'm guessing all the termoblocks all have this kind of arrangement. At least I'll be used to this problem if it happens to me again.

    I'll keep the milk thermostat in mind too. I mostly turn mine off at the wall switch when I'm done. An old habit from when I was on a power saving kick to get my house's standby power down. I measured this machine, and it uses 2.7 Watts when off! Just like the EM5900 did before it. Pretty lousy for modern electronics. Good things can get <0.5W these days.

    I've used vinegar too over the years. I haven't tried other cleaning tablets yet. Anyone made maintenance videos for this machine?
    I like it so far. Even the design (rear water), boxy serious look. And the coffees good!

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by fraz View Post
    So I had a look around local whitegoods places this morning and the range was pretty disappointing.
    But they did have the Sunbeam EM7000 which actually ticks all my boxes. So a bought it . $600 at good guys, but wasn't up for continual trawling shops with a toddler.
    The online reviews that give EM7000 a bad rap seem like people who don't have a grinder at home and are trying to use pre-ground supermarket coffee, and/or don't know how to work an espresso machine.

    Thanks everyone!
    I am sure you will be happy with it. It certainly will be a good step up from your earlier machine. I have one, and an early 6910. I find them great. The 6910 has done about 10,000 shots. All it has needed is a new collar, and steam thermobloc, And a thermal fuse. Not bad I reckon. Gave it to my daughter and bought another old 6910.

    Didn't know about the issues on the 7000 that Tampit mentioned. I have always left mine on! Will turn it off now!



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