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The Experience and Service Centre is the only location in Asia, where one can try various genres of espresso machines to understand the difference between them.
The location is designed for information and educational purpose, for trying the machines and training. Service and sessions are free, an appointment must be made in advance before coming and priority will be given to first-time visitors. For those who urgently need to purchase a machine, we do keep some machines at the location but not all models are available.
Before booking an appointment, here are some answers to FAQ.
Question: What is the easiest way to choose the machine?
It’s quite easy to find a suitable machine.
We will suggest that you study all the features from the following page:
Choose the right espresso machine
Most important is to choose one of the three types of groupheads you prefer, then decide if you need it for heavy duty usage.
Question: Why are there so many types of machines?
Though there are many machines available, they streamline to just a small difference in design, boiler and grouphead system. They are basically all commercial machines but downsized to something smaller. Some machines may have spares suitable for higher consumptions levels or can be left on for longer periods of time.
To know more, please visit this page:
Choose the right espresso machine
Question: Which machine produces the best extraction?
From the three types of groupheads, BZ, E61 and Spring piston.
We think the best comes from the Spring Piston machines, that’s the Bezzera Strega. That’s possible from its inherent behaviour of pressure reduction during extraction. It cuts off the extreme bitterness and sourness in coffee, releases a wider bouquet of aroma.
Between E61 and BZ, they are quite similar. Technically, BZ should edge better in our opinion, as the grouphead has little space for coffee remnants to retain. These retained remnants can transfer the taste of stale or decaying coffee to your espresso. The E61 will be more forgiving and slightly easier to extract well though.
Question: Which grouphead is more durable?
The most durable should be the Spring Pistons, followed by BZ then E61. This is quite clear cut.
Spring pistons have very little components in the grouphead and the parts can withstand a lot of punishment, you can probably still find relic machines that are over 70 years old and still usable on Ebay. E61s have about 25 loose parts in the grouphead that can be worn. The BZ is like a remastered version of the E61, it reduces the number of wearable parts to only 5 items. The BZ cut down the number of parts by introducing two mechanical components, these two components are quite hardy.
To know more, please visit this page:
Choose the right espresso machine
Question: Is it necessary to go for a barista course before you know how to use these machines?
We don’t think it’s really necessary but there might be no harm in hearing more.
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?
If you are lazy, these machines might be the best choice for you. Here in the Experimental & Service Room, our staffs take no longer than 5 minutes to clean 4 machines. This totally dispel the myth that professional machines are a hassle to clean or use.
In automatic machines, they can’t properly clean, so this makes cleaning sounds extremely easy. They can probably do some rinsing with some hot water passing, but that does nothing much to the coffee oil. Which will simply stick around, accumulate, rot and goes to your next drink. Until one day, the oil is so thick, it blocks the valves and things go wrong.
In professional machines, you can follow the same routine and you can get the same result. Or you can do a cleaning step call backflushing. Both BZ and E61 groupheads will need to do that. Backflushing is basically pressurising the brew chamber with hot water to do a more thorough cleaning. For daily cleaning, you only need to flush it five times after your last cup with hot water. That should be a less than 1 minute job.
You can also flush it with a specialised type grouphead detergent, to keep it sparkling clean. This extends the life of your machine by a lot, and gives you much better tasting espresso which are free from rancid bits from the past. As for how often to use the detergent, it depends on the number of cups you make a day and the type of grouphead.
Below is a video of backflushing with detergent, this is a little lengthier than the daily flushing with water.
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.
Of course, you can do some simple maintenance 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 normally give you a set of cleaning agent. Follow the product’s videos on how to use them from our website.
What’s most important is to 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. For more information regarding this, visit this: Water softening
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.
Refer to this article: Water softening
Always be careful of hot surfaces, steam and water.
If there is no loaded portafilter with enough coffee of the right grind size to retain water in the brew chamber. There will be no water in the chamber to form a resistance to hold back the lever, and the lever will bounce back with tremendous force upon release. Thus the user has to hold the lever and slowly release the lever back to its original position. Please be particularly careful during the first time you use, or if you notice that coffee is flowing out very quickly from the portafilter as it means no water is retained in the chamber. Be careful not to pull the machine at the wrong angle and topple the machine falling on you.
Question: Can you recommend us a suitable machine for an environment with higher traffic?
The Mitica TOP PID, BZ16 with rotary pump or Strega TOP can handle most demanding cases. They are with components that are more heavy duty or can connect to a water network directly.
Technically, they are the same commercial machines used in cafes except being smaller. They are also simpler with less wearable components or extensive electronics. If they can fail you, don’t expect anything else can be better.
Question: Why are Semi-Professional Espresso Machines more expensive?
The machines 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, all machines were tested before sending out.
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 ample space to work with. So despite the parts costing lesser, the cost of labour increases significantly. All machines were tested for at least 2 hours before being released for sale, each Bezzera machine comes with a test certificate.
Consider that a commercial cafe machine with similar capabilities can easily cost 4 times more. These commercially rated smaller machines are actually deemed by insiders to be extremely underpriced since the labour is longer and workmanship can be more challenging.
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 like any luxury products, 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?
Such semi-professional machines are basically commercial machines used in cafes but downsized.
- Professional machines are designed to bring the best out of the coffee using the correct range of temperature and pressure. Even a lousy quality coffee, can bring out some shades of goodness in it. Frothing is done with powerful steam. This is the only type of espresso machines that can give you cafe quality coffee. Since these are commercial machines, they are highly serviceable, and can last for a longer time.
Electro-mart domestic machines, generally use uncontrolled pressure at full blast, at very unstable temperature. For most of them, they don’t use a boiler but use a heating element call thermoblock. The thermoblock usually runs a little cooler at the beginning of the extraction when the amount of essence oil is at its richest, runs hotter at the end when astringents increases. There’s also no grouphead that is kept warm to preserve the aromatic profiles. Not only does it flatten out the aromatic notes, making most taste similar. They have a much higher tendency of bringing out astringents. Frothing milk is normally not ideal as they do not have sufficient steam to properly froth and spin the milk.
Heat and pressure will have a direct impact 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 with high friction which can burn out the aromatic profiles. In years of research, the Italians had perfected the right parameters to achieve the desire espresso quality.
Commercial machines use a hydraulic system that delivers water pressure at a maximum of 9-12 bars of pressure. A restrictor valve forbids water from reaching higher pressure. The heat range is always hovering within the healthy spot so astringents are significantly reduced. Particularly effective in a heat exchanger boiler heating system or a spring piston grouphead. The rate of flow for the extraction can be controlled by the user by controlling how fine is the coffee’s grind size. A correctly extracted espresso 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 point 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 thermoblock starts with a low heat and gradually gets extremely hot. 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.
In a majority of the cases, they are also not designed to divert excess pressure like commercial. 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 machines, 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 commercial 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 commercial 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and we will reply as soon as possible.
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 we don’t have a full collection of items for sale in the Experience and Service Centre.
If you need to visit urgently, please message us on Facebook.
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.