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Thread: Upgrade time?

  1. #1
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    Upgrade time?

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Hi guys,

    Ive dilly dallied around on this for quite a while and I think its time to make a decision so I need a bit of advice. Wed all like a $3k machine but practically its out of reach of most of us. Ive always liked the thought of a HX machine, however the majority of the time Im only making two milk-based drinks at a time; when I make more than that a HX would be handy but I reckon thatd be about a 1 in 50 occurrence. So really a single boiler is <grits teeth> adequate for me at the moment.

    Im generally happy with the steam performance of my Silvia. Whats really starting to annoy me is the shot consistency, which I think may be temperature-related; its good, but I find I dont always get the same results from two consecutive shots. Channelling isnt too much of an issue, my dose technique is pretty good I think and the tamper tends to be the right size :). I was doing a lot of testing last night on our new blends and was frustrated that when the heating light was off and when I purged the head, sometimes it would come out as water, and other times it would be flashing into steam, which points to a degree of temperature variation in the boiler. I guess this is the reason people temperature-surf. So I guess what Im looking for is at least a Silvia, but more temperature stable. A better group would be better too if it can be justified. Finally, for reasons which Ive been unable to change, any replacement if thats the best option should be a neat looking machine, such as the Silvia or low-end Expobars, and not like the Giotto, VBM Domobar or any other machine with the E61 exposed. Dollars; well preferably as little as possible like we all say, but it depends really on what the options are. I cant imagine going on the high side of $1500 but even a PID upgrade of $250 or so would have to be justified. In hindsight, Chris Domobar would have been nice if it had more of a Silvia look to it, but I wasnt quite at this point when that was around.

    So, options. I guess one would be to PID the Silvia. Another would be to sell the Silvia and upgrade to something else that has better temp characteristics, be it SB, DB or HX, but I suspect the latter two are going to be a bit pricey. Bear in mind the main criteria in this exercise is to get better quality espresso (ironic since I rarely drink espresso), and if it happens to have better steaming capabilities then so much the better.

    What do you think?
    Greg

  2. #2
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    Re: Upgrade time?

    Hi Greg, you have to get over that nudey prudishness when it comes to group heads and go e-61...

    Your brief returns 2 x 2 word answers:
    [*]Domobar levetta[*]PID Silvia...

    For me, the Domobar every time due to beauty, simplicity, tweakability and the fact that the e-61 group is just soooo forgiving leading to consistently better espresso...

    I had a Silvia as the car boot machine and she got dumped for a levetta. I have no regrets whatsoever and would NEVER go back!

    Chris

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    Re: Upgrade time?

    Thanks Chris,

    Unfortunately the machine lives in a kitchen which is not mine in the same way the shed is mine, so those factors have to be considered. I personally have no issue with the E61 look. I guess if I got one the aesthetics would become normal over time. I guess a second hand Expobar Office may be an option if I could find one - theyre traditional in appearance and E61ish arent they?

    Im particularly interested to hear from anyone who has one as to what measurable difference the PID has made to a Silvia. Most have said its better with the PID because they dont have to temp surf, but I dont do that anyway so Im looking at measurable differences in shot quality. The cost of that would be easier to justify but if the improvement is only going to be minimal its hardly worth it.

    Greg

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    Senior Member Lizzie's Avatar
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    Re: Upgrade time?

    Hi Greg,
    i dont have any experience witih a Sylvia, but the Bott has benefited greatly from the PID... or rather, i have!
    the quality of the extractions is a lot more stabile, no more burning of the grinds or mis-judging the cooling flush and ending up with too cold a pour.
    it is simply load, lock and pull.
    and, the advantage of being able to increase or decrease the brewing temp according to the bean has been fantastic.. i find the Africans need a bit more heat than the South Americans or the SE Asia beans...one degree extra/less makes a lot of difference in the flavours in the cup. ;)


    by the way: congratulations on the start of your Brown supplies!!

    [smiley=tekst-toppie.gif]

    L

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    Re: Upgrade time?

    Hi Greg,
    I was/am in exactly the same boat as you. I would love a big flash machine, HX or DB, but found it hard to justify for the number of drinks I make. I also found it hard to get shot consistency with the Silvia, and a couple of years ago I went the PID route(I think that I was Jimís first Ausi customer) and have been very happy with the result.
    With the PID there is no surfing and the shots are damm near identical, the only concession is to weather and bean type. I suspect that like many others, once you are familiar with the process, the speed with which the drink is produced makes for a longer wait for the boiler to get up to speed for steaming, which can be a bit of a pain. [smiley=sad.gif]
    This can be overcome by judicially cleaning up whilst waiting. [smiley=rolleyes.gif]
    I have decided to stay with Silvia for the moment for the following reasons:-
    The heat up time in the morning I suspect is quicker, only 300ml as opposed to >litres.
    Power usage has got to be less?
    Ease of cleaning/descaling.
    Very mechanical and simple, very little to go wrong.
    I havenít found another machine that really calls to me at the price I want to pay.

    Having said all of that I think that I could be quite easily persuaded to change my mind. So keep us up to date on your progress.
    My second crack.

    Bruce (The fence sitter)

  6. #6
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    Re: Upgrade time?

    All of this is very subjective of course when lots of passion enters into the decision making process, but having said that, if I was in your position Greg and wanted not only consistently great espresso quality but best bang for buck, then it is very difficult to bypass the PID argument, especially one of Jims kits.

    I guess in the overall scheme of things, there would be very little difference in monetary terms between the two recommendations that Chris made (which I whole-heartedly support by the way), since if you went the Levetta route, the sale of your Silvia plus the difference to buy the Levetta would be only slightly more than buying one of Jims kits and installing it yourself. If you had Chris install it for you, I imagine their would next to no dollar difference.

    Something else to keep in mind with the PID mod, is that most of Jims current kits also allow for PID control of the Steam as well and with this arrangement, the time difference between brewing and waiting for steam to build is significantly shorter and when ready, the steam power is maintained right to the end with little, if any, variation in output.

    I guess with even the Levetta, there will be a need to run a cooling flush before you start pulling shots, but with a PIDd Silvia et al this just isnt the case.... Once the PID has achieved equilibrium, you just walk up, pull your shot(s) (one after the other), switch over to Steam and within a very short time start texturing away to your hearts content.... a Litre at a time if required :o.

    So there you have it mate.... my two bobs worth. All the best with your decision,

    Cheers,
    Mal.

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    Re: Upgrade time?

    Wow thanks for the feedback guys, and the toppie Lizzi! :) It sounds like a PID might be the go.

    One other option Id consider would be a second-hand Expobar or something as the lower end ones have the ... necessary ... aesthetics. How would something like, say, an Expobar Office compare in shot quality to a PIDd Silvia, given the group is better quality? If I could get them for around the same price such that cost ceased to be a factor, would shots be comparable? Given Id then have a HX rather than a SB which while a lower priority, is a bonus I could put up with.

    Greg

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    Sleep is overrated Thundergod's Avatar
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    Re: Upgrade time?

    Whats all this talk of justification?

    If "justification" is the question then the answer is "coffee".



    And Greg, I dont know where youre going to find a 2nd hand Expobar.
    I cant imagine anyone giving one up.

  9. #9
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    Re: Upgrade time?

    Quote Originally Posted by Thundergod link=1196122872/0#7 date=1196167872
    And Greg, I dont know where youre going to find a 2nd hand Expobar.
    I cant imagine anyone giving one up.
    Yep, youre right there TG..... Dont think Ive seen a single used Expobar prosumer machine up for sale, so thats got to be telling you something. 8-)

    ::) Now then, Chris has got a simply gorgeous Diadema Unico Splendor Demo up for sale at a hell of a good price... bit beyond a PIDd Silvia or a new Levetta but hey, were talking about a machine to last a lifetime here and a look to die for..... Priceless,

    Mal.

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    Re: Upgrade time?

    Hi Greg,

    I may be able to help. I have a Sivia PID plus rocky at home and a La Cimbali Junior and Mazzer Mini at work. I have to say that the HX machine is fabulous and can churn out lovely coffee with amazing speed and consistency, We have at least 10 coffee drinkers at our office and the Cimbali is perfect.

    However to be perfectly honest I cant say that the coffee produced is superior in quality to what I get from the Pid Silvia(I did notice an improvement in consistency and quality when the Silvia was modified) I have used the same beans at home and work on a few occasions now and to my palate the coffee quality is the same. I drink double espressos 2 a day max.

    I realise that this is purely my observation only and contrary to what others have said

    Perhaps one of our sponsors could set up a blind tasting to settle this question once and for all. Why not get a good barista to pour shots from a silvia and a few other machines and offer the cups for tasting to a panel of tasters who are unaware of which machine produced which cups.

    Now I would like to know the outcome of that tasting assuming it hasnt been done already.

    Cheers

    Louis

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    Re: Upgrade time?

    PS For what its worth. If spare cash is limited I think the best bang for buck after Pidding the Silvia would be to upgrade from a popper to a Hottop or Genecaffe home roaster

    In my case I opted for the Hottop and have been more than satisfied with the significant leap in quality that resulted Well worth the money IMHO

  12. #12
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    Re: Upgrade time?

    Quote Originally Posted by papalui link=1196122872/0#10 date=1196172369
    PS For what its worth. If spare cash is limited I think the best bang for buck after Pidding the Silvia would be to upgrade from a popper to a Hottop or Genecaffe home roaster
    Gotta be kidding mate :o

    If the budget is tight, theres no way you could go past a a half-way decent Corretto setup for a small fraction of the cost of either a GC or a HT. This leaves plenty of cash in hand to satisfy what ever is desired in espresso hardware. Im not knocking either of the factory roasters but one can achieve exceedingly good results in a Corretto, at least the equal of the factory jobs and batch sizes at least double what either the GC or HT can manage.

    For mine, Id be putting the extra cash towards the Unico in the first place if you had enough left to splash out on a factory roaster. Lots of ways to skin a cat I guess....

    Mal.

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    Re: Upgrade time?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mal link=1196122872/0#8 date=1196170471
    Quote Originally Posted by Thundergod link=1196122872/0#7 date=1196167872
    And Greg, I dont know where youre going to find a 2nd hand Expobar.
    I cant imagine anyone giving one up.
    Yep, youre right there TG..... Dont think Ive seen a single used Expobar prosumer machine up for sale, so thats got to be telling you something. 8-)


    Mal.
    Funny you guys say that because on that certain evil web site. ;)

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    Re: Upgrade time?

    Thanks Papalui, thats useful info. Anyone else got thoughts re HX vs PIDd Silvia? FWIW I know someone with an Expobar Office who is thinking of selling but I need to work out whats going to be the best solution. I like the idea of precise temperature control as with a PID, but I also like the idea of a HX machine. Sadly, only one will eventuate, but which? "That is the question". :)

    Greg

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    Senior Member Magic_Matt's Avatar
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    Re: Upgrade time?

    Quote Originally Posted by papalui link=1196122872/0#10 date=1196172369
    PS For what its worth. If spare cash is limited I think the best bang for buck after Pidding the Silvia would be to upgrade from a popper to a Hottop or Genecaffe home roaster

    In my case I opted for the Hottop and have been more than satisfied with the significant leap in quality that resulted Well worth the money IMHO
    Something tells me that Greg doesnt need to upgrade his roaster!

    Have you considered a workaround on the E61 aesthetics issue, Greg? Maybe bring home an Oscar and say, well, it was either this or an exposed group... ;)

  16. #16
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    Re: Upgrade time?

    Would something like one of these do the job Greg? Theyre not too exposed??

    Also- spill the beans about your roaster *:o



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    Re: Upgrade time?

    The Diadema would be marginal, the others would be OK. But price would be out on all of them. The Expobar Office you sent me info on about this time last year is probably the best HX bet thus far, and has some kind of E61 group. Realistically, if I had $2-3k to spend Im sure Id be able to work around the aesthetics, but since thats not going to happen for a while yet its purely a theoretical argument so I dont bother making a case for it.

    Roaster? A cement mixer and a PIDd gas-powered Spitfire shed heater - what else? ;D Nah, still got the coretto for my occasional home roasts, which are very few and far between these days.

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    Re: Upgrade time?

    Done a lot more thinking on this. The stability and adjustability of the PID does sound like a useful idea, and it sounds like itll bring it to on par (above, below?) with a HX machine. But Im a bit concerned there may be other non-temp related factors here that may let the Silvia down, e.g. pre-infusion, dispersion etc, and the HX may be a better option if linked to a decent group. Plus if a PID Silvia and a HX are much the same in terms of espresso performance, the slow but steady stream of HX machines on the market may make it a similar proposition cost-wise, in which case the bonus of plenty of steam would be well worth it. Yet a PID I guess doesnt need a cooling flush whereas a HX does?

    Does anyone have any thoughts on other espresso performance-related factors of the two paths under consideration?

  19. #19
    Senior Member robusto's Avatar
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    Re: Upgrade time?

    Greg, sounds like in the circumstances you need to PID your Silvia. Its the most cost effective way to achieve your goal.

    Furthermore, there is the added advantage that you get to keep the familiarity of your machine. No need to go back to basics, to learn how to steam milk all over again as you would have to do with another machine.

    My recommendation is to buy the same cheap but very good and effective PID I put on my old Silvia. The all up cost will be around $AU100.

    I would not get hung up on pre-infusion -- Ive tried brewing with and without that on my Grimac and I dont see any difference.

    The Rancilio group does not have a thermosyphon. But it doesnt need it to maintain stability. It is a very thermostable apparatus in its own right.

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    Re: Upgrade time?

    $100?! I was looking at one of Jims excellent kits, but they cost considerably more than $100. Pray tell! Are we talking the real deal or a bush mechanics PID (bent coathanger linked to a 9V battery and a bit of headphone wire wrapped around a fridge magnet or something?? ;D)

    Thanks for the advice Robusto, I must say the views of people who have used both are invaluable!

  21. #21
    Senior Member robusto's Avatar
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    Re: Upgrade time?

    Nine volts! What do you want to do, fry it? Standard AA battery is all you need.

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    Re: Upgrade time?

    So what was the $100 PID then?

  23. #23
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    Re: Upgrade time?

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Pullman link=1196122872/15#19 date=1197267043
    $100?! I was looking at one of Jims excellent kits, but they cost considerably more than $100. Pray tell! Are we talking the real deal or a bush mechanics PID (bent coathanger linked to a 9V battery and a bit of headphone wire wrapped around a fridge magnet or something?? ;D)

    Thanks for the advice Robusto, I must say the views of people who have used both are invaluable!
    Having used and fitted Jims kits Greg, they are worth EVERY CENT. I reckon a 12 year old could fit one....

    Everything is plug and play, every wire is perfect and the PID is pre-programmed and ready to roll.

    Spend the extra few dollars and save yourself costly and precious time sourcing and then fabricating.

    Chris

  24. #24
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Re: Upgrade time?

    Yep,

    I agree with Chris..... Jims kits are thoroughly complete and professionally assembled ready for fitting to your machine, with full and easily understood instructions. This is what you are paying for, thought you would realise that Greg :-?.

    Re: the option of doing it all yourself from scratch.... well, you could be lucky and source all the hardware for less than $100 as Robusto did but even then, you still need to fit everything and set it up so that it works properly. Im sure that this is well within your capability to do but at the end of the day its a toss-up, fit one of Jims Kits and know that all the hard work has already been done or take it on as a project/experiment and learn as you go. In the end, either option could end up costing you the same amount of money.

    Cheers,
    Mal.

  25. #25
    Senior Member Lizzie's Avatar
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    Re: Upgrade time?

    hmmm, the fact the Chris thinks that a 12 year old could do it makes me feel a bit ho-hum :-[, but in reality, Greg, if I can fit a PID to my Bott it, by definition, IS easy!
    Jims kits are complete both in hardware as well as accompanying instructions... the man himself is on-line just about 24/7 and has no trouble with dumbo-questions...

    naturally, if you are so inclined, the "search -and-rescue-the -part" option Robusto so masterfully installed could be an enjoyable exercise... but this little duck went with Jims gear and has no regrets, not for the purchase, nor the fitting, nor the results-comparison pre-and post PID!

    for my money, a PIDed Bott does the job... brilliantly!
    Rob and i would only be looking for an upgrade from the current set-up if and when we have a house with a big kitchen-bench... and cash we dont really need for anything else!! ;D ;D

    cheers,

    L

  26. #26
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    Re: Upgrade time?

    Hi Greg
    I put a PID on both your old Quaha and the Botticelli. Main difference probably was the controller. On the Quaha it was a reject from Jim- a calcontrols 3200 one. Ok stability (very good actually) but no matter what I did it always took a while to get back to temp after steaming.
    The Bott got the Watlow kit- wow, wow, wow! It really is that good. It gets back to temp after the most minor flush after steaming in a matter of seconds.
    Theres also the fact that the Bott is a fantastic machine anyway!
    All the best
    Brett

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    Re: Upgrade time?

    Thanks guys. Mal, Ive never looked at any PID options apart from a Jims Kit, so I didnt know what could potentially be different with other options. Robustos since explained this to me, and I now see the cheaper options are just the controller, the quality of which can vary significantly. While I have no problems with tinkering, the overwhelming satisfaction with Jims kits are a good enough reason for me to see that as the path should PID be the solution - and based on the comments here it really seems to be the way forward.

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    Re: Upgrade time?

    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    Hi guys,

    Just letting you know I settled on one of Jims SD3C kits, a 1/32 DIN with steam control. Very happy with the quality of the whole kit, easy installation instructions and the controller makes brewing a breeze! Plenty of experimenting coming up Im sure. Thanks Jim!

    Greg



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