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Thread: SILVIA to EXPOBAR OFFICE - is it worth $700 up

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    Senior Member ozscott's Avatar
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    SILVIA to EXPOBAR OFFICE - is it worth $700 up

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Thanks to a advice on from this site and looking at review on other sites it seems to me that people often go through a process of upgrading over their amateur Baristas life!. Sometimes, like much in this modern world, I wonder (when stepping back from getting caught up in it) how much better is better when upgrading.

    My position is that I manage to get better (consistently) coffee than 90% of the Cafes in Brisbane from my Sunbeam Ristretto - hard to imagine unless you have used one!

    However I would like to go the exta yard so to speak, and have a bit more grunt in the milk department and recovery time. Having said that most of the time I make 2 cups, and sometimes 4, and very rarely 6 - almost always milk coffees.

    My question is this. Knowing the above, my question to those with experience of these things is this. Is the Expobar Office machine (bottom of thier range) with the heat exchanger better than the Rancilio Silvia - and if so so much better as to justify twice the purchase price. When I say better I am mostly referring to the quality of the shot of espresso, given that both machines should have decent steaming for milk.

    I suspect that after forking out the dough to upgrade human tendancy is to justify it be saying "Course its better". It may be, I dont know. If its only better in terms of recovery time and serving a larger number of coffees with simulatenous steaming then please say!

    Appreciate your thoughts in this difficult decision making time..

    Cheers :-/

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    TC
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    Re: SILVIA to EXPOBAR OFFICE - is it worth $700 up

    Scott- if its milk texture performance and recovery time youre referring to here....its absolutely NO CONTEST when comparing a Sylvia to any HX machine...

    Chris

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    Senior Member ozscott's Avatar
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    Re: SILVIA to EXPOBAR OFFICE - is it worth $700 up

    Found this on coffeegeek:

    "The brew pressure is preset at about 12 bar. I dropped mine to about 9.5 on the recommendation of others on this site. You’ll need some way of measuring the pressure, ideally a pf gauge. To change the brew pressure:
    a) turn on, measure the brew pressure and turn off the power
    b) take the back off as described above
    c) locate the OPV – a brass screw at front right (water arm side) at the bottom of the unit – it has clear plastic pipes coming off it
    d) turn the screw one whole turn anti-c/w to reduce, c/w to increase brew pressure by probably 1 bar
    e) turn on (hands clear of internal wiring) and check the pressure
    f) repeat (a) (d) (e) until you are happy.

    Any other adjustments are beyond my capabilities, though I did wonder whether it would be possible to increase the damping on the vibe pump mountings to keep the noise level down.

    RUNNING HOT, RUNNING COOL

    Coffee was great from day one, however extensive flushing was initially required to avoid bitter shots. Expobar has a real quality assurance problem with thermosyphon restrictors. Don’t put up with it: get it fixed.

    The principle of an e-61 group is a thermosyphon, which takes boiler water through the group, and this stabilises the brew temperature. There is a restrictor that determines how much water gets through. Faulty/missing restrictor = too much flow = too hot group = too hot brew water = massive cooling flushes required or burnt coffee.

    If you’ve got steam coming from the group, or a delay of a few seconds before water comes through (look for this with the pf off), then you’ve got this problem. I did, and I needed 300ml initial cooling flushes, with another 200ml before every shot because it was rebounding to ‘too hot’ within seconds.

    It’s not just me. Simon James reported exactly the same problem and put me onto the solution. Read the forums and you’ll see people saying that ‘Expobars run hot’. Expobar Australia said that sometimes the machines had a restrictor dislodged in transit or even that they’d forgotten to be installed. They certainly don’t make the suppliers aware of this.

    I dropped the boiler pressure from the factory set 1.0-1.2 bar to 0.8-1.0 bar. This reduces the temperature and helped out somewhat, and there was still plenty of pressure for dry steam. But there was still steam at the group and too much flushing required, so I contacted the extremely helpful Dean at Expobar Australia. He sent the supplier Aroma Fresh a restrictor and instructions on what to do.

    (Tech note: If you want to do it yourself, the copper thermosyphon pipe goes from the top of the boiler to the group. Undo the last nut before the right-angle on top of the boiler and gently pull away the pipe, leaving the right-angle in place. The restrictor is the white plastic thing in that right-angle. There are two types of restrictor – Euro with a bigger hole, and the Rest of the World version that I got.)

    The result when fitted? Sour coffee. It was too cool. I had to up the boiler pressure to 1.2-1.4, which is as high as it would go with the pstat wound until it would go no more. Here’s the bizarre thing: the temperature slowly climbed over the next couple of weeks, I reduced the boiler pressure back down, and now everything is just fine. Small cooling flushes only, in fact the pf rinse water is often enough, and then stable temperature for several minutes afterwards."

    Are such matters fixed up before delivery by the importer - Chris? I am not a techy so I dont want to open machines up and get pressure guages. If I shell out over a grand I dont want dramas - if I get the grind and tamp right, and extract for the correct time, shouldnt I expect great coffee (assuming nice fresh beans)? If not please let me know. Thanks again

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    Senior Member ozscott's Avatar
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    Re: SILVIA to EXPOBAR OFFICE - is it worth $700 up

    My last post was about the Expobar of course.

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    Re: SILVIA to EXPOBAR OFFICE - is it worth $700 up

    Very good question ozscott. I was actually wondering the same thing. Im very interested to hear other replies.

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    Re: SILVIA to EXPOBAR OFFICE - is it worth $700 up

    well i too was hoping to shell out a couple of gs for a machine, but opted to speak to chris in person(sorry to have interrupted your class last wed night) about coffee courses at w/a college and opted to enrole in advanced coffee making short course...my not solve ozscots querie ,but its an option in understanding hx machines, barista skills and coffee itself.

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    Re: SILVIA to EXPOBAR OFFICE - is it worth $700 up

    ozscott -

    I am convinced that the addition of a PID to to control (or cheap digital thermometer to simply monitor) can successfully solve the Silvia temperature stability issue.

    But I am going to reinforce Chris opinion that Silvia is not the right machine for producing multiple milk drinks.

    I use a Silvia daily, and am very satisfied. But making lattes, caps, etc. more than 1 at a time is not a happy thing. Plenty of steam power, but cycle time is a killer.

    JGG

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    Re: SILVIA to EXPOBAR OFFICE - is it worth $700 up

    RE: Expobar > Silvia

    IMHO, yes. I have only used an EB-61 and a Brewtus. Each time, I didnt get great results out of them, but I got enough out of them to be able to easily say that they are a lot easier to use than a Silvia.

    In discussions about these, people constantly focus on the whole thermosyphon group vs single boiler thing. Forget about that for a second. The Expobars have a preinfusion chamber, which seems to make them pretty forgiving. Additionally, their brew pressure is easily adjustible.

    RE: Adjustments by the Vendor

    We are fortunate that the expobar importers seem to put a fair bit of work into getting their machines running well. I would presume that after the few reported instances of missing restrictors, that would be behind us.

    The whole point of buying from someone like Chris is that he can and will do all of the adjustments to get the machine as plug-and-play as possible. Chris bought a pressure-measuring portafilter so that he can make sure the pump pressure is right. I have no idea how he will adjust the pstat, but I think that its a safe bet that hell get it right. I gather that one can attach a pressure gauge cheaply to the steam wand to measure boiler pressure. A better way of doing it is to adjust by making coffee and tasting it, but the gauge probably makes it easier to get in the ballpark quickly.

    RE: "f I get the grind and tamp right, and extract for the correct time, shouldnt I expect great coffee (assuming nice fresh beans)? "

    OK, first things first. Depends on your definition of great. Ill put it this way; I think that you should be getting better tasting results than with your sunbeam ristretto and it should be easier to get these results. The machine itself, however, will not give you good results. The most that it can do is to provide you with a stable and easy to use platform. The limiting factor will be you and your grinder. If you arent pairing this machine up with a good grinder, dont bother. Then there is a bunch of stuff for you to take care of. Dosing is not on your list and is actually really difficult. Grind adjustment should be relatively easy given a stepless grinder and a consistent dose. Tamp seems to be difficult to screw up.

    Once you are able to produce an identical shot five times in a row, you can move up to the next set of tweakery; getting the temperature spot on for your blend, but you will probably feel that your coffee is great long before that. If you were to decide that you want to tweak your temperature by tweaking the pstat, which you have said that you dont, you might find the lack of a boiler pressure gauge slightly irritating, as it means that you cant easily return to a given point. However, note that if you bought a silvia you wouldnt even have this option. If you want easy temperature tweakability, that costs money.

    For the price, I think that the Expobar is a pretty good deal and I, personally, would try to stretch my budget to getting one over a Silvia. If I were to buy one, though, I would want to know that whoever was taking my money was someone who would make sure that it is set up correctly and someone who I could talk to if something went wrong.

    Hope that helps,

    Luca

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    Re: SILVIA to EXPOBAR OFFICE - is it worth $700 up

    Quote Originally Posted by jggall01 link=1151320885/0#6 date=1151330275
    ozscott -

    I am convinced that the addition of a PID to to control (or cheap digital thermometer to simply monitor) can successfully solve the Silvia temperature stability issue.

    JGG
    Or,

    A low hysteresis Pressurestat powering a suitably specd Solid State Relay would do a pretty good job too, minus the ease of temperature setpoint variability offered by a PID controller of course, but a lot simpler for someone with a HX machine to install at home.

    Mal.

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    Re: SILVIA to EXPOBAR OFFICE - is it worth $700 up

    thanks for the replies - still poncdering...if I can stall the Sunbeam with 15 bar pump on the third finest setting of my grinder with no tamping at all, would it follow that I can therefore grind fine enough for the Silv or Expo... or is it consistency in the grind itself that is the important factor?

    Cheers

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    Re: SILVIA to EXPOBAR OFFICE - is it worth $700 up

    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    The machine is usually over emphasised. It is simply a device that delivers water to the puck. It determines both the temperature and to some extent the pressure that the puck experiences.

    On the other hand the grinder determines how the water flows through the puck and how it extracts the coffee. It is easily as important as the machine and generally considered more so. The ability to choke a machine with your grinder on its finer settings doesnt mean it will work well with the machine. The quality of the grind is extremely important. When I upgraded from a Gaggia MDF to a Cimbali Cadet, the improvement in shot consistency and quality was immediately apparent. I was surprised, because the MDF grinder is supposed to be good enough for espresso and could easily choke the machine on its finer settings.

    So its a synergy between machine and grinder AND barista. They all have to work in harmony.

    That said, Id always pick a HX machine over the Silvia for both ease of use, and consistency of shots. HX machines are in a different league to the Silvia. You wont be disappointed, especially if you buy from a vendor you can trust with good support.

    Good luck,

    Mark.



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