We at Fine Coffee Company have the most comprehensive answers to most questions; that is from our many years of retailing and repairing many types of coffee machines.
ABOUT COFFEE MACHINES
What are semi-professional machines?
Answer: In short, semi-professional machines are the same type of 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. Here’s a video that might help
What are the benefits of these high tier espresso machines?
They are the only genre of espresso machines that can give you coffee quality matchable to commercial quality of connoisseur class.
The most obvious difference is the temperature used for extraction, is kept controlled in the right range. That can magically blossom out a much wider range of flavours from the coffee, giving you delicious coffee that is interesting, palatable and enjoyable.
Since it has a boiler in the machine, users will have great steaming power to froth the milk perfectly for good lattes or cappuccinos.
How long can semi-professional espresso machines last?
Like most electronics, durability depends on many factors.
Almost all the components in the machine are replaceable or can be rebuilt. Unlike domestic machines found in departmental stores, there are almost no proprietary parts in our machines. Most of the components used are the same that are used in the big cafe espresso machines. There’s almost no end of production to the spare parts, and you can always obtain components to fix them up. We won’t be surprised that the machine is passed through generations.
A tip to keep any coffee machines lasting longer is to always use softened water. Refer to the following: Water Softening
Why are you not introducing espresso machines with grinders integrated?
Espresso machines with grinders integrated are almost always a bad idea.
Beans that are kept in the grinder will be directly exposed to the heat from the boiler, that will mean that the coffee will deteriorate really quickly. It’s like storing your milk at room temperature and you will really have to finish it very quickly.
What happens when your coffee deteriorate? The oil from the coffee will vaporise faster, it’s the oil that helps to produce the greatest flavour from the coffee. The extraction will be very watery and your espresso will have a big drop in texture and body. It’s also a better idea for the long term, to have just one than both devices fail.
Why are there so many types of machines?
Each machine will have its own pro and cons base on the features it has. To give a better summary on what are the difference between the machines, you can check out this page for a quick review. Choose the right espresso machine
Which machine produces the best extraction?
There are three types of groupheads available from us. The E61, BZ and spring piston. 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. As for the boiler heating system, 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.
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 cappuccino.
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: https://www.finecoffeecompany.com/double-boiler-versus-heat-exchanger/
Is there much difference between the Bezzera BZ versus E61 grouphead?
Answer: The BZ grouphead is considered to be a remaster of the old E61 design to perform the similar task of heating the grouphead. It has the following improvements:
- Smaller footprint
- Faster startup time
- Softer grouphead gasket for easier fitting in of filter holder
- Longer durability on the grouphead
- Easy to service
In term of taste, most may not notice any remarkable difference between the two systems. 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 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 the other models, this is not backed by any evidence. Inside the E61, it has about 25 loose parts in the grouphead, like gears that brush against each other, and many more gaskets that will eventually wear off. Thus the E61 will definitely have a higher probability of having a part failing.
Besides that, the thermosyphon system will circulate hot water into the grouphead. This can cause additional stress and issues as limescale are often deposited into this area, increasing the abrasion in wear and tear. The bigger brew chamber will also mean that there is more space for residue or coffee oil to get trapped within the grouphead.
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.
Which are the special features available?
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. https://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 so you won’t need to top up the water tank.
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 4 bars as it may affect the brew pressure and the pump. It is important to always install a water softening system to keep the internals free from limescale. Refer to this page for more information on water softening. Water Softening
Heavy duty spares:
They are some models that are meant for heavy-duty usage, normally in a better pump or pump system.
These machines don’t mean that they will certainly not fail. It only means the pump is capable of repeating many shots with a lesser chance of over-heating.
What’s the difference between the Rotary pump and the Vibration pump?
The Rotary pump is quieter, lasts longer and runs at a 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).
Can you recommend us a suitable machine?
It depends on the features that you need, the capacity and whether you need it plumbed in. Refer to the following page for better assistance.
What size of portafilter are the machines using?
58mm professional standard
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.
USING THE MACHINE
Who uses them?
Anyone without any physical or mental disability can use them. It’s as hard as frying an egg, they are not hard to use as commonly thought.
The reduced size means that they are good for small environments like home, offices or smaller food establishments.
How do I operate a semi-professional machine?
Most users have no problem in making a good espresso or frothing milk. The biggest challenge is calibrating the grinder for the first time.
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.
Are semi-professional machines easily dirty and attracts a lot of pests?
According to a recent research, semi-professional espresso machines are the cleanest among the different genres with the least insects infested. That’s because insects will find the heat from the boiler unbearable.
Are semi-professional machines hard to clean?
It depends on the amount of usage and model. Most semi-professional espresso machines have this great feature of able to do backflushing. It is usually done after the last cup, and is a less than a minute job.
What is backflushing? It is to clean the brewing chamber with pressurised hot water.
Backflushing removes the coffee oil from building up in the brew chamber which will eventually build up and clog all valves causing major damages. Not only that, the oil that stays behind will go rancid and goes to your next cup of coffee.
It is also good to backflush with grouphead detergent occasionally. How frequent depends on the amount of use, but typically once or twice a month for home users should suffice. Here’s a nice video that tells how to backflush with the grouphead detergent.
Do you need to send for regular servicing?
The machine is split into two areas. The front area where the grouphead and wands are, and the inside area where the boiler, pump and controllers are.
Over time, you may want to do some maintenance on the front part because it’s exposed to the most wear and tear. Unless it’s mission critical, you can choose to do it when you notice that issues are starting to appear. If you are a handyman, you can probably do the servicing of replacing the gaskets yourself.
As for the internal part of the machine. It largely depends on the conditioning of the water. Water in Singapore is not soft. We will always inform users that it’s mandatory to install a water softening system as limescale is the leading cause of issues to coffee machines. You can read more about the issue and the ways to resolve it here. Water Softening
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.
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 into 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. Be careful not to pull the machine at the wrong angle and have it falling on you.
Does it cost a lot to use a semi-professional system?
Coffee can cost as low as 11 to 30 cents per espresso shot. A good espresso machine allows the user to use a cheaper grade of coffee beans and still produce a decent espresso. Users will also have the freedom of choice to use any coffee from around the world. Single serve coffee capsules, which are popular among domestic users in recent years, cost 50 to 88 cents per espresso shot. In terms of running cost, a bean to cup machine is definitely cheaper in the long run.
Another thing to factor in, is semi-professional machines retain a high resale value and the cost of them increase with inflation. Owners will not lose the total capital cost from the purchase.
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.
Can one use a semi professional machine for commercial use?
It depends on your consumption level.
Under our observation, most food establishments in Singapore and Malaysia don’t see the requirement for multi-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 as much impact on its thermal stability. This can be necessary in places like Italy. Where long lines 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.
However, that’s normally not the case in Asia, with a different culture of drinking beverages. Where customers are split between choosing coffee or tea. Also, most customers who ask for coffee prefer to have their drink in a milk recipe. 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.
A huge commercial machine with a big boiler will come with a price of higher utility bill due to much larger power consumption. If your shop location is unable to provide sufficient amps to power all your power hungry units, you will need to modify and upgrade the power loading and that can cost a lot.
It’s becoming a trend for establishments to purchase single group units and add on more units if necessary. Having extra units can give you an insurance if one unit fails or out of service. It is also easier to operate with more steam and water wands available. The cost of two single unit won’t nnecessarilycost more than having a double unit.
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. If your water is hard, descaling will be necessary periodically. As descaling is also a damaging process, it will be better to use a softener as a preventive measure than doing too much descaling.
We will strongly advise users to practice back flushing with water after each session of use, and with grouphead detergent occasionally. This can keep the grouphead functioning longer before any maintenance required.
Users can also 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, backflushing should not 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
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 cause overheating, leaks and other damages.
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.
Do not use the coffee grinder for other purposes.
2. Obtain good coffee
Coffee should be maintained fresh enough by a close roast date or the roastery has a decent packaging solution to retain its freshness.
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 wary 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.
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.
Always check that your water reservoir is full or water network is properly connected.
Refer to the troubleshooting page for any issues.
What is the optimum pressure for extraction?
For Bezzera semi-professional machines, we suggest 12 bars for vibration pump. You can go to 9-10 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
The 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?
We don’t charge 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Alternatively, our online guide should help.
Do you do onsite demonstration or calibration before or after purchase?
We do not offer onsite calibration or demonstration worldwide.
Our couriers don’t engage in such services.
If you wish to have more information, please proceed to make an appointment to the experimental room.
Alternatively, our online guide should help.
Do you do on-site installation?
No, we don’t provide on-site installation.
If you need demonstration services, please make an appointment to the experimental room.
AFTER SALES SERVICE
How can I arrange a warranty claim or repair?
For warranty claim, please contact us for Return Merchandise Authorization(RMA), stating the fault and the location of the device.
For repairs after the 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 Descaling services.
All machines to be repaired 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, 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.
Can machines be fixed onsite?
We will need to bring the machine back for proper servicing. Food grade sealants and threadlockers that are applied to components, need at least 24 hours to cure fully. Time will also be necessary to heat the machine up for tests and the machine to cool for our technicians to work with.
Power tools are sometimes required during the servicing.