2018 is a busy year for us.
With too many events ongoing locally and overseas and many machines requested for tuning up.
Our staffs might not be available to cater to every request to visit us immediately.
We had assembled some of the most useful videos at the Newbie Startup Guide as well as answers to FAQ below.
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The Experience and Service Centre is the only location in Asia, one of the only few locations in the world. Where one can try various genres of premium espresso machines to understand the difference between them.
The location is designed for information and educational purpose, for trying the machines and training. Visitors won’t have to worry about sales stress because it’s not designed to be a sales station. Service and sessions are free, an appointment must be made in advance before coming and priority will be given to first-time visitors. The Experience and Service Centre is not meant for sampling all the coffee that we carry. There will only be one blend of coffee used for the day. Do note again that the location is not meant for doing sales on-site particularly for accessories that we do not stock at the location. We do keep some machines at the location for urgent purchases but not all models are guaranteed.
Before booking an appointment, here are some answers to FAQ.
Question: What is the easiest way to choose the machine?
It’s actually quite easy to find a suitable machine.
We will suggest that it’s better to study all the features from the following page:
Choose the right espresso machine
The key decision is which of the 3 types of groupheads you prefer.
Question: Why are there so many types of machines?
Though there are many machines available, they all streamline to just a small difference in design, boiler heating system and grouphead system. Some machines may utilise heavy duty spares, the same used in cafes, or have some addon features.
These are the three main types of group heads.
Bezzera BZ Grouphead – BZ09, BZ10, BZ13 and BZ16
E61 Grouphead – Unica, Magica, Mitica, Galatea Domus, Pulser, Office, EB61 and Brewtus
Bezzera Spring Piston Grouphead – Strega
Here are three main types of boiler heating system.
Single boiler – BZ09 and Unica
Double boiler – Brewtus
Heat Exchangers – All other models
The two main types of pump.
Vibration pump – Has a duty cycle of 2 minutes of work, requires 1 minute of rest
Rotary pump – Heavy duty pump used in commercial environment.
Question: What’s Single Boiler, Double Boiler and Heat Exchanger?
Single boilers can only froth milk or extract espresso one at the same time. The boiler has to be set at different temperature for each purpose, so making a milk recipe will take a longer time as you will have to wait for the boiler to heat to the right temperature for each task. We will recommend single boilers to people drinking coffee in black only as it’s more tedious and time-consuming to make a milk recipe.
Double boilers were designed for amateur baristas in a commercial environment, for better temperature consistency. They can froth milk and extract espresso at the same time. However, the start-up time is much longer, has a higher chance of failure and are expensive to service with more sensors, safety valves, heating elements, and other key components to maintain.
Heat exchangers are a boiler in a boiler design. One boiler with only a set of spares to maintain, able to froth milk and brew coffee at the same time. Very efficient and power saving. Espresso is only brewed from the freshest water coming from the water network or tank. Unlike Single or Double boilers that only draw and brew from stale water residing in the boiler.
Question: Is there much difference between the Bezzera BZ versus E61 grouphead?
The Bezzera BZ is a remaster of the conventional E61 design using heating elements instead of water to heat the grouphead. It heats up faster, is smaller, and is cheaper to service due to its simpler design. In some way, it’s more durable than the E61 design.
In term of taste, most may not notice any remarkable difference. If any, the BZ should release a wider spectrum of flavours from its inherent heat profile.
The E61 is slightly more forgiving with more headroom for preinfusion which might make an extraction seem easier.
Question: Which machine produces the best extraction?
We don’t think there are many differences between the E61 and the BZ. Both are capable of producing cafe standard quality.
People from purely barista background may assume that the E61 is more forgiving and easier, coffee specialists who studied the science of coffee may reckon that the BZ should logically release an espresso with bigger contrast and clarity.
In any way, the Bezzera Strega’s spring piston design should be one notch better than the two due to its inherent behaviour of pressure reduction during extraction. It cuts off the extreme bitterness and sourness in coffee, releases a wider bouquet of aroma.
Heat exchanger models have a heat profile to release a wider spectrum of flavours, and brew with only fresh water, thus it remains our recommended type of boiler system.
Question: Which grouphead is the most durable?
The most durable should be the Spring Pistons, followed by BZ then E61. Many assumed that the older E61s are more durable, this is hardly true from the statistics we see on record. The complexity of using more valves and gaskets in the E61 grouphead, should result in leakages sooner and requires more servicing. When the cams and valves in the grouphead are engaged, they are exposed to metal to metal contact, thus abrasion may wear off some parts sooner.
The electromagnetic switch found in the BZ groupheads, that controls the flow of water, rarely fail.
Spring pistons are extremely durable. It is possible as there are much lesser components and the pump is not heavily involved to make the extraction. Extraction is done by a set of solid springs, which can easily last for decades.
Question: Is it necessary to go for a barista course before you know how to use these machines?
We don’t think it’s necessary but going to a barista course can allow a user to better understand and appreciate the quality of good coffee.
Question: Are the machines hard to use?
As long as the grinder was calibrated properly, it should not be difficult. You can check the newbie guide for more information. We have ample information on our website to guide you.
For the Bezzera Strega, it requires some strength for the user to pull down the lever. Thus it is not recommended for people with smaller build and children.
Question: Which machine is the easiest to clean?
It’s a myth that professional espresso machines are tedious to clean. Here in the Experimental & Service Room, our staffs take no longer than 5 minutes to clean 4 machines.
The main part of cleaning such machine is a step called backflushing. Both BZ and E61 groupheads will need to do that.
For lever machines like the Bezzera Strega, backflushing should NOT be done and that makes it the easiest to clean machine. You can clean it up in seconds.
What’s backflushing? It’s to flood the brew chamber and rinse off the residue and oil within it. This will keep the gears and valves clean, to last long, and make your next espresso taste great without the rancid oil from the previous cups. If it’s just regular daily cleaning, flushing with just water is sufficed and that should take you less than a minute. For home users, you are only required to do it after the last cup.
You can do a more thorough cleaning with a grouphead detergent, that should take another minute.
Below is a video of backflushing with detergent, a little lengthier.
Of course, you can do more thorough cleaning like pulling down the screen to clean, drain the boiler, descale, etc. Those are done as needed and depends largely on your usage pattern.
When you purchase an espresso machine from us, we will give you a set of cleaning agent. Follow the videos on how to use them from our website.
Like any coffee machines, users must use a water softener else limescale may form and clog the system, causing expensive damages. Limescale is the main culprit for most failures in any coffee machines. It is also important to know that not all water filtration systems soften water.
Question: What should I look out for when using the machine?
It is always important to use softened water for espresso machines; else it can cause massive damages over the long run, requiring expensive overhauls. Water from Singapore is not soft enough.
Always be careful of hot surfaces, steam and water.
If you are using the Bezzera Strega or any lever machines, always keep your head away from the direction of where the lever will bounce back. If there is no loaded portafilter insert to the machine, there will be no resistance from water kept in the chamber and the lever will bounce back by tremendous force. Thus the user has to hold the lever and slowly release the lever back to its original position. Be careful not to pull the machine at the wrong angle and have it falling on you.
Question: Can you recommend us a suitable machine for an environment with higher traffic?
Get those machines with a Rotary pump, or a machine with no pump but rely on inlet water pressure through a connected water circuit.
Get a good water softening system set up.
Question: Why are Semi-Professional Espresso Machines more expensive?
The SPEM are usually at least 20 kg, and most of them are made of solid metal components, inside and outside. Assembling an espresso machine like this has to be done mostly by hand and each machine easily takes a worker a few days to complete. There are no shortcut and pipe connections within the machine must be sealed with sealants that can withstand high temperature and pressure.
The machines are basically the same commercial machines used in cafes, but downsized to a countertop size. These smaller versions were only introduced in the last 20 years. It is far more challenging to assemble a small machine that has tight space between the components, compare to a large machine that has a spacious room and easy to work inside. So despite the parts costing lesser, the cost of labour increases significantly. Consider that a commercial cafe machine with similar capabilities can easily cost 4 times more. These smaller machines are actually deemed by insiders to be underpriced until an eventual awareness cause a fad to go full blown and becomes the desired household appliance.
If cost is the issue, then the more you should appreciate these heavy machines. They retain a high value of worth, sought by both commercial and private users internationally, you will never lose every cent of what you paid. Instead, the cost of these machines always increases with time, as they usually increase their prices at 3% per annum, in line with worldwide inflation rates due to the huge amount of metal and labour required.
Question: What’s the difference between machines sold at electro-marts with Semi-Professional Espresso Machines?
In coffee extraction, heat and pressure are key to how your coffee will taste.
If the pressure or heat is too high, it might burn the coffee which makes it more bitter and astringents start to develop. If the pressure or the heat is too low, it can’t fully extract, you lose the body and the taste goes flat. Then there’s also the rate of flow of water, if it’s flowing or extracting too fast, the water can’t capture the essential oil from the coffee fast enough. If it’s too slow, heat will accumulate on the top of the coffee puck and burn out the aromatic profiles. In years of research, the Italians had perfected the right parameters to achieve the desire espresso quality.
SPEM uses a hydraulic system that delivers water pressure at a maximum of 9-12 bars of pressure. A restricting system forbids water from reaching higher pressure. The heat range is always hovering within the healthy spot so astringents are significantly reduced, more effective in a heat exchanger boiler heating system or a spring piston grouphead. The rate of flow of the extraction can be controlled by the user by controlling how fine is the coffee’s grind size. The standard is set that an espresso that is correctly extracted, should give an amount of 25ml +-5ml in 25 seconds. The most essential parts of the extraction are usually coming from the first 15 seconds of the extraction, where the essence of the oil, which is highly soluble, comes out the most. The control of the different variables at this period will greatly decide the quality of the extraction. Extraction is not only about the measurement of crema or dissolved solids achieved.
Almost all domestic espresso machines sold at electro-mart, are usually equipped with an unrestricted pump, pumping pressure at its maximum rating of 15-19 bars of pressure, which is way too high. The machines are usually heated with a thermobloc heating system, made of aluminium. Upon activation, the thermblock starts with a low heat and gradually gets hotter. This results in losing the essences of a good espresso in the earlier seconds of the extraction, and instead amplify the astringents released in the later part of the extraction with the scalding temperature at the end.
In a majority of the cases, they are also not designed to divert excess pressure like SPEM. This means that the water pump onto the coffee must be able to pass through and exit from the nozzle. Else water that is obstructed will have no route to deflect, causing pressure to build up and leads to water hoses coming off to bleed the pressure, resulting in leakages. This will ultimately mean that coffee grind setting for these machines cannot be too fine to allow easier passing of water. As a result, the extraction is done too quickly with a fast flow, often coming up with 40 ml within 10 seconds. Professionally, this is termed as under extraction, which relates to poorly extracted flavours and a weak body.
Last is the choice of material used. The thermobloc heating element used in most electro-mart sold espresso machines, are made with aluminium which is linked to nerve diseases like Alzheimer. As the water path for the thermobloc is very narrow, it’s necessary to do a chemical rinse call descaling to reduce limescale regularly, and this process is bound to cause an increase of leaching of aluminium and also lead from its brass parts. In some cheaper SPEM, brass is used for the boiler.
As for cleaning which it appears to be easier for the electro-mart machines. They usually do not clean sufficiently. Milk tubes are full of contaminants which cannot be easily cleaned, coffee oil builds up within the brew chamber and the nozzle and goes rancid.
What it all means when users ask how much better can an espresso taste with a SPEM machine compare to a small coffee machine sold from the nearest electro-mart. It might not be as noticeable for a very dark blend, but it gets clearer when the coffee is properly roasted to be a lighter shade. In research, coffee that is roasted to medium roast has the most amount of favourable aromatic notes. A SPEM can deliver an espresso under the right conditions and releases a wider profile of flavours with much lesser astringents. As for espresso machines that do not offer the optimal conditions for the best extraction, they will make any coffee taste similar to each other as they are unable to properly extract at the right speed, heat and pressure.
We understand that travelling to the Experience and Service Centre may be a hassle and not necessary, particularly for our overseas customers.
Clients can request drop us an email at email@example.com and we will reply as soon as possible.
You can also refer to our Newbie Starter Guide for basic understanding.
APPOINTMENT REQUEST FORM
Priority will be given to first-timers.
Please do not be more than 30 minutes late else appointment will be cancelled.
As time slots are limited and our coffee specialists can be unavailable for assignments or leave.
Please input more options for available date and timing to allow us to easier slot you in.
Please note that there are no sales for accessories in the Experience and Service Centre.
No sales on accessories are made on site; please make orders online.
Fine Coffee Company Experience and Service Centre
100 Pasir Panjang
#04-09 Singapore 118518
We are just 8 minutes walk away from Pasir Panjang or Labrador MRT.
This is how the building looks like. Carpark and main lobby should be entered from the main road, do not turn into Pasir Panjang Road.