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NEW TO COFFEE MACHINES?
What are semi-professional machines?
In short, semi-professional machines are the same machines used in cafes and any commercial environment.
Except that they had been modified with a smaller boiler and use up lesser power for prosumer usage. Performance power? Equivalent or better.
Exceptional quality of extraction.
You may not be aware, but coffee is not an ordinary nut.
It contains the most molecules of aroma many times of any natural food.
To get the flavors, coffee has to be extracted at the optimal temperature at the appropriate pressure.
Aromatic notes are amplified at the right parameters and properly preserved till it reaches your cup.
Every drip of espresso will have a higher density of TDS(Total Dissolved Solids), what you get is a cup full of richness with all the flavors fully expressed.
Unfortunately, these can’t be delivered by general domestic espresso machines. They are made with a lot of plastic parts and plastic can’t conduct heat to keep water flowing around the machine at stable temperature.
Normally domestic machines are inaccurate in their real pressure, heated by an a heating component call thermobloc. Thermobloc is a block of metal with very thin tubes for water to run through, expecting water to exit at the right temperature. It is inaccurate, produce very unstable and weak pressure for steaming milk.
As for semi-professionals, they are the same cafe quality, using traditional heating boiler systems.
Ease of usage
Good espresso machines make coffee making easier.
Users can use poorer and cheaper beans and achieve better results.
Semi-professional machines are designed to be repairable and durable, to be used as long as possible.
They can be used for generation under proper maintenance.
Components are always available for purchase to be serviced forever.
To withstand high heat and pressure within the machine, most components including the chassis are made with solid metal.
They are built like a tank and can carry on using for generations by refurbishing key components or gaskets when required. Spare parts are affordable and can be easily replaced.
The machines are allowed to be cleaned more thoroughly and quickly for longer longevity.
Baristas do understand that the build of the machine is of paramount importance.
As espresso machines exert a lot of pressure and produce a lot of heat within, sturdy construction of material are used to prevent deterioration.
Domestic machines in the mass market are normally made with plastic and using light duty components.
The heat and pressure will deteriorate the fragile parts faster.
Giving way to leakages, leading to melting components, reduced performance in the pump, unstable heating, etc.
They will reach an end of life in production and may not be serviced after the model phase out.
Semi-professionals are capable for heavy duty usage, and parts are always available.
High holding value
It’s found that semi-professional machines are always sought after and hold the best value over time.
A machine bought at US$50 50 years ago can be sold at US$5000 today.
Owners who decide to sell their equipment usually get back at least 70% of its current retailing price value. They may even sell for more than what they paid for from yearly inflation.
Whereas mass market domestic machines sold in the main departmental stores, hold almost no value after a couple of years with frail resale demand.
Real Milk Frothing Solution
The usage of boilers will ensure that you have strong steam to froth the milk adequately. The result is creamy and lustrous foam.
This can’t be easily produced in almost all domestic machines.
Foam quality in those machines is normally terrible.
Almost all the semi-professional machines(except Bezzera BZ09/Unica) sold by Fine Coffee Company are heat exchangers or double boilers. Which can froth milk and brew at the same time.
This can reduce the time to brew a milk recipe by 80%.
Ease of cleaning
Semi-professional machines are the only type of coffee machines which allow you to clean thoroughly using grouphead detergent or flush with pressurized hot water.
You can even pull down the shower screen to check and clean more thoroughly.
Again this can’t be done on domestic machines.
At best, their cleaning solution is to run with hot water
Why is it important?
As coffee is oily, the oil accumulates within the machine.
It will create layers and layers of oil and go rancid, affecting the taste of your coffee. There’s no way you can thoroughly clean the brewing chamber in an automatic machine. Unless performing a tedious cleaning process call descaling, which can damage your pump and other components.
Over time, the layers of coffee oil will get thicker, it will solidify and block the brew chambers and sensors. Affecting the quality of extraction, and damaging the components.
As coffee oil is acidic, it will corrode plastic or silicon components until it finally gives way to a major breakdown.
As for the milk part, cleaning the steam wand is easier to clean than milk tubes in automatic machines and electronic frothers, etc.
Who uses them?
Used by professionals, connoisseurs, in luxurious suites with the rich and famous. Cafes are using such systems base on the same architecture.
They are also used in hotels, excellent restaurants and premium offices around the world.
How do I operate a semi-professional machine?
If you are new, you can make an appointment to the experimental centre for a visit.
Most users have no problem in espresso extraction or frothing milk. The biggest challenge is calibrating the grinder for the first use.
Are semi-professional machines hard to clean?
It depends on the user and amount of usage.
To clean a semi-professional machine, it usually involves flushing the grouphead with pressurised water after the last cup, usually done in a minute. Occasionally, flush with specialised detergent.
For regular servicing, users can do it on their own. They can pull down the gasket and shower screen to clean once or twice a year.
This can significantly increase the longevity of the machine.
What’re the differences between semi-professional and other machines?
The three main types of coffee machines.
- Does everything from grinding, frothing and extracting espressos, all in one machine at the press of a button.
- Quick in operation.
- Affordable to operate, the coffee powder can cost as low at 6 cents a cup.
- The user has full freedom of choice to coffee available from anywhere.
- ” Fully automatic machines are entirely unsuitable for brewing a good espresso. This has to do with the fact that the fragile construction of the plastic brewing parts cannot build up the necessary amount of pressure that’s needed to extract the brew sufficiently from the powder.” – International Magazine of Design March 2008 Germany
- The cleaning of milk tubes and brushing of coffee powder trapped deep in the chambers makes them the hardest to clean among all types of coffee makers.
- As most components are made with plastic with poor conductivity, the loss of heat will destroy the quality of the espresso.
- Reparation will be expensive as parts are proprietary and will be unserviceable upon phasing out. Most of the time, replacement of a faulty part requires replacement of a full assembly of components, which is usually costly.
- Instead of using boilers, most fully automatic machines use small heating groups known as “Thermobloc” that provide pretty weak and inadequate steaming power for frothing or extraction.
- Very limited temperature and pressure control to refine coffee flavors, leading to weaker extraction with undesirable profiles.
- Very fast in operation
- Easy to clean
- The cost of running a capsules system is probably the most expensive among all categories.
- Users are restricted to the number of blends available by the manufacturer.
- Like fully automatics, the machines are constructed using plastic components that limit the amount of necessary pressure to adequately produce a good extraction.
- Very limited temperature and pressure control to refine coffee flavours, leading to weaker extraction with adverse profiles.
- Instead of using boilers, almost all capsule machines use small heating groups known as “Tthermoblocs”. In most cases, it has very weak frothing power.
- As manufacturers strive to make their capsule machines smaller to be a selling point and reducing the cost, the Thermoblocs used are also getting smaller which lead to lesser time available for heating. That leads to a common issue of coffee not hot enough.
- As most components are made with plastic with poor conductivity, the loss of heat will destroy the quality of the espresso.
- Capsules machines use a much lower pressure than what they stated. It’s common that capsules manufacturers indicate that the pressure brewing is at 15-19 bars. The listed pressure is the initial thrust of pressure to puncture and perforate the capsules. It’s followed by a steady flow of lower pressure, approximately 7-9 bars of actual pressure used for brewing.
- Users consume toxin and metal from Aluminium* and Plastic** as they drink. It’s found that Aluminium releases toxic metal* that contribute to brain diseases like Alzheimer. 90% of plastic whether they are BPA free are found to leach estrogenic chemicals that cause certain types of cancer, puberty irregularities and impotency.
- Heavy duty and durable.
- Highest quality of extraction.
- Effective and efficient steaming power for frothing milk.
- Boilers are commonly made with full copper that has anti-microbial properties.
- Most semi-professional machines can produce a lot of hot water for other types of beverages.
- Good consistency of heat and pressure
- Extremely durable due to the use of mostly metal for its components and chassis. Most machines weight above 15KG easily triples the weight of capsules/fully automatic machines.
- The user has full freedom of choice to coffee available from anywhere.
- Affordable to operate, coffee powder can cost as little at 21 cents a cup
- They are relatively easy to clean
- Excellent resale values with constant demand
- More expensive start up cost
- Slower startup time.
Why is Fine Coffee Company not introducing espresso machines with grinders integrated?
Technically, if either function of the grinder or espresso maker fails, it’s a complete breakdown.
There are little cost benefits for having them together.
It is relatively much harder to service and maintain an all in one.
Back from a coffee science perspective.
Heat deteriorates and destabilises the quality of the beans.
It affects the coffee’s composition, which directly degrades the extraction quality and reduces the lifespan of its freshness rapidly.
If both grinder and espresso maker are built as one machine, the heat from the espresso maker will destroy the quality of the coffee in the built-in grinder.
Why are there so many types of machines?
Each machine will have its own pro and cons. To make it simpler to understand, we categorise them into 3 main types of groupheads.
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
There are 3 types of boiler heating system.
Single boiler – BZ09 and Unica
Double boiler – Brewtus
Heat Exchangers – All other models
What’s Single Boiler, Double Boiler and Heat Exchanger?
Single boilers can only froth milk or extract espresso one at a 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 need to wait for the boiler to heat to the right temperature for each task. We will recommend single boilers to people who drink coffee in black only as it’s much more troublesome to make a latte or cappuccinoo.
Double boilers and heat exchangers can froth milk and brew at the same time.
To know more about the difference between them, check out this page: http://www.finecoffeecompany.com/double-boiler-versus-heat-exchanger/
Is there much difference between the Bezzera BZ versus E61 grouphead?
The Bezzera BZ is an improvement to the 55 years old 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 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.
E61s still have a huge fanfare due to its classic design and might be slightly more forgiving with more headroom for preinfusion.
Which machine produces the best extraction?
We don’t really think there’s much difference between the E61 and the BZ grouphead. Both produce cafe standard quality. The Bezzera Strega’s spring piston design should have an upper edge.
Heat exchanger models have a heat profile to release a wider spectrum of flavours, and only brew with fresh water, thus it remains our recommended type of boiler heating system.
Which machine is the most durable?
The most durable should be the Spring Pistons, followed by BZ then E61. Many have the concept that the old E61 is more durable than other models, this is not backed by any evidence .However, the complexity of using more valves and gaskets in the grouphead, should result in leakages sooner and requires more servicing.
Spring pistons are definitely more long lasting, given the fact that there are much lesser components and the pump doesn’t require working as hard to pull the extraction. Extraction is instead done by solid springs, which can easily last for decades.
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.
For the Bezzera Strega, it requires strength for the user to pull down the lever, thus it is not recommended for petite ladies and children.
Which machine is the easiest to clean?
The cleaning process comparing BZ and E61 grouphead, is almost the same, backflushing is required. 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, cleaning isn’t a lengthy process as most will assume, usually done in a minute. For the Bezzera Strega, it’s the easiest to clean as backflushing is not required.
Like any coffess machines, users must use a water softener else scales may form and clog the system, causing expensive damages. It is also important to know that not all water filtration systems soften water.
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 huge damages over the long run, requiring expensive overhauls. It’s a misconception that water from Singapore is soft.
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’s no coffee loaded portafilters insert to the machine, there will be no resistance and the lever will bounce back with great force. Thus the user has to hold the lever and slowly release the lever back to its original position. Becareful not to pull the machine at the wrong angle and have it falling on you.
Can you recommend us a suitable machine?
If it’s for a higher traffic area with more than 30 extractions an hour. We suggest getting the Bezzera Mitica TOP with PID or Bezzera BZ16 with Rotary pump. For the grinder, we will recommend at least a Quamar M80E, with burrs at least 63mm.
If it’s for a small environment or for personal use. First decide if you want to have a Bezzera BZ, an E61 or Spring-piston grouphead. Their characters had been explained in earlier questions.
Once you are decided on the genre, you can start to choose the exact model that best fits what you need.
For the grinder, we know nobody likes to spend too much on the grinder.
The Bezzera BB005 will certainly work well enough for any small environment. The Quamar Q50E or M80E are still very popular and can be considered though it’s a small environment, as they have many useful features like 2 to 3 programmable dose, dose counts, visible scales to check the grind level, etc.
What is a PID?
PID is a temperature controller; the user can control the temperature of its brew.
Refer to this page for more information. http://www.finecoffeecompany.com/really-need-pid-temperature-controller/
Which are all those special features?
A PID is a heat controller. The user can control the level of bitterness and smoothness of the drink through temperature, as well manage the profiles of the aroma extracted.
Refer to this page for more information. http://www.finecoffeecompany.com/really-need-pid-temperature-controller/
Plumb in and drainage system:
Some machines have the option to plumb in from a direct water source.
Meaning no more top up of water.
And with a drainage system, there’s no need to worry about overflowing drip trays anymore.
This is an excellent feature for commercial environments.
However do take note that the inlet pressure must not be more than 5 bars as it may affect the brew pressure and the pump. If your water source is hard with too much minerals, it is important to install a water softener system.
Or stick with using water tanks and use distilled water.
Heavy duty spares:
They are some models that are meant for heavy duty usage.
Example: Bezzera Mitica TOP and Strega TOP.
These machines don’t mean that they will certainly not fail.
It only means they are capable of repeating many shots quickly with a lesser chance of over-heating.
As the cost of such machines is higher, and the spares will cost more.
If your consumption level isn’t demanding(making above 30 cups an hour or more than 1000 cups a month), this is not required.
As the benefits may not justify the cost.
What’s the difference between the Rotary pump and the Vibration pump?
The Rotary pump is quieter, lasts longer and runs on steady pressure.
If you are making more than 30 extractions in an hour, you should get a Rotary pump as vibration pumps may overheat at such capacity.
Rotary pumps are advised to be plumbed in with a continuous water supply. They can also draw water from a not pressurised source like a pail.
If you are using water from a not pressurised source, it may bring down the pressure of extraction. Users who plumb in are advised to regulate and ensure that their water inlet is stable at 1-5 bars pressure. (1 bar pressure is about 15 PSI).
What are the things necessary for a new semi-professional set-up?
Beside the main machine, you may need the following:
- A coffee grinder – You can do without it if you purchase your coffee in powdered form, but that won’t be recommended as powdered coffee will oxidise very rapidly which affects the taste and extraction directly.
- A tamper (All machines come with a plastic tamper)
- Brush for cleaning (Most machines come with it)
- A milk jug for frothing (Optional)
Most machines come with a double portafilter, a single portafilter, a single basket, a double basket, a blind filter, a cleaning brush and a plastic tamper.
The Strega does not come with the blind filter as it should not be backflushed.
The Bezzera BZ series doesn’t come with single portafilters.
Does it cost a lot to own a semi-professional system?
Coffee can cost as low as 11 to 30 cents per espresso shot if you are doing beans to cup. Such machines allow the user to use cheaper grade of coffee beans and still produce a decent espresso.
Fully automatic machines vary greatly in their performance, won’t be cheaper and will never be at the same grade.
Single serve coffee capsules, which are popular among domestic users in recent years, cost 68 to 88 cents per espresso shot.
Among the 3 solutions, only the semi-professional espresso machines can produce cafe quality coffee.
In term of running cost, semi-professionals are definitely cheaper in the long run. Users will have the freedom of choice to use any coffee from around the world.
Can one use a semi professional machine for commercial use?
It depends on your consumption level.
Under our observation, most cafes in Singapore and Malaysia don’t see the requirement for two groupheads or a huge commercial machine.
The main advantage of a full commercial machine is its big boiler, so hot water displaced by fresh cold water intake won’t have a significant impact on its thermal stability.
This can be a problem in places like Italy. Where an enormous amount of customers are requesting for espresso during rush hours. The barista will have to churn out espressos back to back continuously, drawing a huge amount of hot water from the machine.
The same can’t be said for Asia, particularly Singapore and Malaysia. As most customers in the queue are asking for milk recipes. After the espresso is done, the barista will spend time frothing or pouring the milk, cleaning the milk jugs, etc. That time allowance should be sufficient for the espresso machine to recover its heat.
Besides, there are other advantages to having two to three separate single head semi-professional machine than having a single commercial machine with multiple heads.
1. You will have more steam and water wands to use.
2. You can switch off one machine during the low peak hours to save power.
3. You can do closing earlier by cleaning and shutting off one machine first.
4. Failure of one still has another going.
5. Each machine will have real independence and user can set and individual profile for each machine.
6. You can easily transport the machines and organise events at different venues.
7. You can send one machine out for events, and the cafe remains operational with another.
8. The cost of two semi-professional machines is normally cheaper than a single commercial machine
9. The cost of servicing and repairing a semi-professional machine is easier thus less expensive.
What size of portafilter are the machines using?
58mm professional standard
How should the user maintain the machine and how long can it last?
The best way to keep your espresso machine working for a long time is to use softened water without minerals. If your water is hard, descaling will be necessary if the water flow seems obstructed.
As most components in a semi-professional espresso machine are made of heavy metal, and most parts can be replaced to keep machine functioning.
One can certainly keep the machine functioning for a long time under proper care, even for generations.
We will strongly advise users to practice back flushing with water after each session of use, and with grouphead detergent occasionally.
Grouphead detergents will clean the grouphead effectively, removing most organic oil and residues from the coffee.
The oil will build up and corrode individual components, as well turn rancid affecting the quality of the coffee.
Such oil and remnants cannot be removed by flushing with just hot water.
This is the reason coffee machines that can’t perform backflushing with grouphead detergent, gradually breaks down in years.
If you are using the espresso machine to make less than 20 cups a day, use the grouphead detergent at least 1-2 times a month.
For the commercial environment, you may have to use it 1-2 times a day. It doesn’t cost much for the grouphead detergent. .
We will also recommend users to pull down the shower screen to clean once every 6-12 months, this can be done easily without special tools when the machine is cold.
For spring lever machines like the Bezzera Strega, no backflushing is required nor can be done.
As there are no escape valves where oil or remnants can be trapped.
Users can use the provided brush to brush and pull the shower screen down to clean occasionally
Why are there no manual hand grinders from Fine Coffee Company?
The process of using hand grinder is very time and effort consuming.
The user will easily increase the duration of just grinding from several seconds to several minutes.
As usability is an important aspect of a good espresso system. We will recommend electric grinders, which are hardy and perform well in their job.
What should a new user take note?
Two things that are important.
It is important to use soft water. Descaling will be necessary if you are using hard water. Do not use alkaline or mineral water.
As that will accelerate the process of calcification and possibly choke the tubes and block the sensors. This can be dangerous as if it’s choked, it can cause overheating and eventually meltdown causing damage, hurt and fire.
In very rare and extreme cases, the safety valves are also choked which can be hazardous.
Grouphead detergent should be occasionally used to remove trapped oil from the grouphead.(Except Bezzera Strega).
For low consumption usage, grouphead detergent should be used once every two weeks or more.
For cafes, it’s recommended to clean every 1 to 2 days, depending on usage.
Grouphead detergent is food grade and is specially formulated to remove coffee oil trapped in coffee machines.
Only semi-professional machines are capable of utilizing grouphead detergents to clean thoroughly which increase the longevity of espresso machine considerably.
Never use descalers and grouphead detergent back to back.
Do not use the grinder for other purposes.
2. Maintain the freshness of coffee
Do not over purchase roasted coffee in large amount.
Coffee once exposed to oxygen will start oxidizing and deteriorating.
This directly affects the flavor, the aftertaste and the extraction quality.
We will recommend purchasing sufficient coffee for just a week of use.
Do not put your beans into the freezer, as they rapidly absorb moisture once they are out of the fridge.
Moisture not only deteriorates your beans, but it also adds moisture to your grinder and causes technical failures.
Be weary of where you purchase your coffee from, as poorly processed coffee may have stones hidden in the pack that can easily damage any grinders.
What is the first thing a user should do when first receive a machine
First fill up the water tank with water before switching on.
It will take a little while before it’s turned on.
Please note that the machine, with all its internal tubes, are filled with air instead of water since it’s new.
The air may cause the valves to be blocked. It’s important to pull water out from the machine and have water channeling out of each nozzle before start making any coffee.
During the first run, switch on and activate pump according to the instruction manual to pump water through the valves.
Do not allow the pump to activate for more than 60 seconds. After prolonged activation of the pump, switch off or deactivate machine for half amount of rest time.
After water starts passing through, water in the tank may be entirely drawn into the boiler. Top out of water tank will be necessary.
Refer to the troubleshooting page for any issues.
What is the optimum pressure for extraction?
For Bezzera semi-professional machines, we suggest 11-12 bars for vibration pump. You can go to 9 bars for Rotary pumps.
Below is a video from Luca Bezzera explaining why is it so.
As machines are built base on different measurements and algorithms. What works on other machines may not function as well on the brand you purchase.
We will suggest that users stick to the default setting for the best-recommended setting recommended by the manufacturer.
MAKING A PURCHASE
How to get a sales quotation or invoice?
To get a quotation, register an account and add all required items into the cart.
Registration can be done from the following webpage: My account
Quotation can be downloaded from the link provided on the cart page.
Cart can be found here: Cart
Where is the distribution centre located?
As Fine Coffee Company in an online store serving most of Asia, all stock are located in Singapore for distribution due to taxation and logistic reasons.
Why are models sold by Fine Coffee Company cheaper than similar models from other brands?
For coffee machines, we work with bigger brands like Bezzera and Quamar. Who are not only manufacturers of espresso machines but also producers and wholesalers of OEM parts, to other brands.
Being the top line of the production, their machines are naturally cheaper and are built with thorough research. Particularly Bezzera, who was the inventor of the first espresso machine with the longest period of history in espresso machine production.
How long will it take to deliver within Singapore?
Normally within 3-5 working days if the items are in stock. It may take longer during the peak seasons.
For machine orders, we do send on weekends.
Are the prices inclusive of GST?
All prices are inclusive of GST. GST can’t be refunded for international purchases as we are not GST registered.
Do you ship internationally?
We ship mainly to the following nations:
Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines, Vietnam & India.
For other nations, you can email us at email@example.com for shipping quotations.
By making any purchase to be delivered outside of Singapore.
You agree that we are free from any level of liability and warranty that includes failure and defects of the machine, damage from freight and any form of direct or indirect damages.
We will also not be responsible for any customs duties or complications that may occur in the importing nation’s territory.
Do you accept payment via credit card?
We accept payment via Smoovpay payment system.
Smoovpay is an online credit card processing company established in Singapore to handle payment from any nations.
Do take note that any form of credit card payments can only be arranged to be shipped out minimum 48 hours later.
Is there any place to look at the machines?
You can view most of them at the experimental centre in Singapore; it’s by appointment only.
Is there any place to learn how to use the machines?
You can arrange to visit the experimental centre in Singapore; it’s by appointment only. There are no charges.
AFTER SALES INFORMATION
How can i arrange a warranty claim or repair?
For warranty claim, please contact us for Return Merchandise Authorisation(RMA), stating the fault and the location of the device.
Diagnostics are free.
For repairs after warranty period, charges will be base on whether courier services are required and the component charges.
Labour charges are inclusive in component charges except for thorough descaling.
All machines to be repair have to be sent back to Singapore.
Due to homologation, availability of spares, technical conditions & other limitations.
Fine Coffee Company will not be able to provide any service, modifications, repairs, spare parts or technical support for machines purchased not from its authorized local distribution source, grey imports or machines purchased from overseas.
For full information, please refer to the warranty and support page
Advice for foreign buyers
We will encourage the purchase of Bezzera machines which does water and electrical tests for every machine after production.
For Expobar, as they don’t do tests on every machine but randomly. You can request us to do basic water and electrical tests before shipping.
Machines that had gone for tests may remain wet inside.