How To Choose A Single Boiler Espresso Machine

How To Choose A Single Boiler Espresso Machine

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.

What is a single boiler?

ecm classika espresso machine lifestyle photo by clive coffee

A single-boiler is an espresso machine that uses a singular brew boiler. Rather than having a second boiler dedicated to steaming, as dual boilers do, or using a coil attached to the boiler that flash heats water for brewing, like a heat exchanger, a single-boiler system performs a dual function: brewing espresso and steaming milk. Our selection of single-boiler espresso machines is the perfect introduction to the budding home barista and the espresso purist alike. 

Single boilers are perfect for home baristas who are: 

  • Beginning their espresso journey 
  • Have a smaller budget for the machine, grinder, and accessories
  • Prefer straight espresso shots over milk-based drinks
  • Require a small footprint

What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a single boiler machine?

ecm puristika espresso machine & eureka single dose grinder lifestyle by clive coffee

 The ECM Puristika and Espresso Purity

While we carry one single boiler machine that does not have a steam wand and, thus, no steaming capabilities at all, the ECM Puristika has the advantage of being the sole machine to be truly focused on the home barista that prizes espresso quality above all else. Even though the Puristika lacks a steam wand, it offers upgrades perfect for the espresso tinkerer— it can use our Lucca Flow Control system, which is ideal for those aiming to experiment with different roast levels and bean varietals to push the limit of their espresso recipe. While you can use a handheld or standalone milk frother to fulfill your needs, if you want the ability to steam milk drinks, the Puristika is not for you, and you should consider our other offerings. 


  • Mainly stainless steel construction 
  • PID for temperature control 
  • Elegant touchpoints 
  • Minimal plastic 


  • No steam wand (a positive for some)

The Main Disadvantage of a Single-Boiler: Milk Steaming 

milk emitting into a microfiber cloth by clive coffee

While the Puristika is an outlier in the single-boiler category, every other single-boiler in our lineup can steam milk. The main drawback is that a single-boiler uses a brew boiler for both brewing and steaming; the boiler is relatively small, meaning when switching to steam mode, there is a limited capacity for steam, affecting steam speed, dryness, and wait time. The wait time for the boiler to create steam when switching into steam mode varies from machine to machine. For instance, the Profitec GO takes about 45 seconds to 1 minute, depending on what temperature you have the PID set to, and the ECM Classika takes about two minutes to get up to steaming temperature. 

Here’s the best way to construct a milk beverage on a single-boiler

  1. Pull your shot and then immediately switch to steam mode
  2. Depending on your machine, wait for the heating lamp to indicate it is up to temperature or read the PID. 
  3. Purge the steam wand of residual water into a steaming pitcher or the drip tray until it turns to steam.
  4. Steam your milk 
  5. Switch back into brew mode and refill the boiler 

Making a milk drink isn’t as seamless or on demand as a dual-boiler or a heat exchanger, but it becomes super easy once you have the workflow down. 

Miss Silvia, Rancilo’s Single Boiler Legacy 

rancilio silvia espresso machine and baratza vario grinder lifestyle by clive coffee

The Rancilio Silvia became famous by accident but has gained a cult following on the espresso forums after being introduced to the home market in 1997. It has a solid reputation for reliability, and little has changed over the last 20 years. Simple and sleek, it’s a workhorse that stands out for its ease of use, reliability, and repairability. The Silvia is often modded post-purchase with an aftermarket PID and shot timers because it helps the user control brew temperature, impacting the quality and consistency of your extractions. 


  • Fast heat-up time: 10 minutes from a cold start
  • Straightforward usability and design logic 


  • It takes the longest out of our single boilers to switch between brewing to steaming (2.45 minutes) and back from steaming to brewing (2 minutes)
  • No PID 
  • No shot timer

Single Boilers with PID Temperature Control 

profitec go espresso machie in red with eurkea mignon specialita grinder in black lifestyle photo by clive coffee

For home baristas concerned with the utmost accuracy and want a precise and augmented espresso experience, a PID is essential to the experience because it gives you direct control over your brew and steam temperature. Single boilers with PIDs are much more accurate and reliable at maintaining a set temperature than heat exchangers with PIDs or a 3-way temperature switch. The Profitec GO, ECM Classica, and ECM Puristika have a PID with an integrated shot timer. Check out our blogs, The Science of Brewing Coffee and How to Brew Dark, Medium, and Light Roasts, to learn more about all the variables that impact espresso before and during the brewing process and how to maximize flavor with whatever roast level you choose to brew with.  

How do you choose between single-boiler machines?

These machines generally do the same thing. They all have very similar internals— vibratory pumps, reservoir-only operation, and small footprints. Choosing the perfect machine for you comes down to four factors: drink type, features, budget, and aesthetics. 

  • Drink type: Do you want to make milk-based drinks? Or simply shots of espresso? If you’re an espresso purist with no intention of steaming milk, the ECM Puristika could be a great option. 
  • Features: Do you want a PID or temperature control? Check out one of these three: Profitec GO, ECM Classika, and the ECM Puristika.  Do you want flow control? Check out the ECM Classika with flow control variant. 
  • Budget: Our favorite budget pick is the Rancilio Silvia. It’s simple, reliable, and has stood the test of time. 
  • Aesthetics/Brand: Choose a machine that fits your space and decor. Our favorite is the ECM Classika. It features a joystick quick steam valve, a stylish e61 group head, and an angled stainless steel bottomless portafilter. 

Check out our compare page to see the specs side by side, or shop all single-boilers. If you have any questions or want to talk with one of our espresso machine experts, contact us here.

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