How To Choose A Single Boiler Espresso Machine

ECM Special Edition Classika Espresso Machine, from Clive Coffee

If you’re a coffee lover who is thinking of transitioning from your local cafe to home espresso for the first time, a single boiler espresso machine is a great place to start. There are plenty of great options out there, but figuring out which is right for you can be a challenge. In this video below, we'll cover some of the main differences between the single boiler machines we carry and how to choose between them.

Video Text Transcript Below:

A note before we begin: I’ll be referring to things like PIDs and E61 group heads moving forward. If any of these terms aren’t familiar to you, I recommend watching the first video of this series. Alright, let’s go.

I’ve lined up our most popular single boiler machines here as examples. We have the ECM Casa V and the ECM Special Edition Classika PID. To differentiate them let’s look at a few factors, starting with PIDs.

ECM Special Edition Classika, from Clive Coffee, lifestyle

The ECM Casa V does not have a PID temperature controller installed. Instead, it uses a simple thermostat. While these keep the boilers in roughly the proper range for brewing, your brew temp will fluctuate up and down such that pulling the same shot twice in a row can be a bit tricky. The benefit is that with these machines you save a fair bit of money in comparison to a double boiler and you don’t have to worry about as many electrical components. On the other hand, the ECM Classika does have a PID, which also functions as a nifty shot timer. This allows the Classika to keep your brew temp right on the money so you can dial in your recipe precisely. This is particularly great for dark and light roasted coffees, which benefit greatly from lower and higher temps, respectively. Deciding whether or not you’d like to have a machine with a PID comes down to how much control you’d like over the taste of your coffee. If you’d do want a fair degree of control, we recommend getting a machine with a PID.

Next, let’s look at group head types. The Casa has a saturated group head, in which the boiler and group are essentially one piece. These types of group heads cost less to produce and also warm up far faster than E61 style group heads, like the one on the ECM Classika. The Casa takes less than 10 minutes to warm up where the Classika takes around 25 minutes. Both machines use a toggle switch for power, so by plugging them into a simple outlet appliance timer you can have them automatically start up so they’re ready when you need them.

Boiler size is our third consideration. In a single boiler machine, boiler size determines how many shots you can pull in a row, as well as steam capacity making it a vital consideration. The Casa has a small sized boiler of .4 L. The small boiler can reheat water quickly for shots. When it comes to steaming, however, this relatively low capacity means that steam power can peter out when steaming large quantities of milk - generally any more than 12oz. The Classika has a 0.75 L boiler - much larger than the Casa - which provides substantially more steam capacity, for those that prefer a latte or cappuccino in the morning.

Next up is footprint. Many looking at single boilers choose them for their size. The Casa has an especially small footprint, making it easy to fit into just about any kitchen. While the Classika is still small compared to many espresso machines, it’s a bit deeper, requiring slightly more space on your countertop.

Lastly, let’s take a look at the noise levels of the different machines. Both machines use vibratory pumps, and produce varying levels of noise due to the way the pumps are mounted inside the machine. The Classika is noticeably quieter than the Casa thanks to the sturdy rubber mounts used to hold its Ulka vibratory pump in place. It produces more of a pleasant hum, where the Casa produces a louder, slightly rattly noise. The importance of noise depends most on your preference, but for those worried about pump noise, we always recommend a quieter machine, as pumps only get noisier over time.

Please note that since we recorded this video, we have added many more single boiler machines to our inventory — the Rancilio Silvia, Lelit Victoria, ECM Puristika, and Profitec GO - ALL great machines! Shop them all in our single boiler collection!