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Compact espresso set up - anything better than Mara X + Niche


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Considering all the inputs - very detailed and comprehensive.

on my journey, I think Mara x is a great fit.  If I find compromises, it sounds like I will find ways to get around them.  Option to control flow and at the end of the day sell and upgrade I want to, means it’s a winner.  Thanks so much for all the help.

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10 hours ago, Mpbradford said:

Considering all the inputs - very detailed and comprehensive.

on my journey, I think Mara x is a great fit.  If I find compromises, it sounds like I will find ways to get around them.  Option to control flow and at the end of the day sell and upgrade I want to, means it’s a winner.  Thanks so much for all the help.

You will love the MaraX. I have had a few different machines in the past ranging from my starter machine Sage Barista Express then on to a decent HX machine (Izzo Alex) and then Expobar Office Lever Dual Boiler after.

The MaraX is a really good hybrid of the HX and DB machines. It feels modern and pulls really nice shots out of the box. Great value really when you compare it to other makes too.

 

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Very informative posts so far. 

Good choice @Mpbradford I will continue my debate between the MaraX and Elizabeth. At the moment I am leaning towards the MaraX, I like it’s more traditional appearance and the idea of lifting/pulling a lever to make espresso! Looks quite satisfying. And I’m usually someone who appreciates modern technology.  Logically the Elizabeth seems a better choice as you can give less thought to temperature and steam pressure. 

How do you find using the mignon? To what level do you have to maintain beans in the hopper to prevent popcorning? I might consider a specialita or something similar instead of waiting for a niche. 
 

@Doram @DavecUK so I understand correctly, for the MaraX if you were to alternate between brewing and steaming for a total of 4 lattes in brew temp priority mode, do you have to complete each shot within 5 mins of the previous even if steaming in between? 

I assume steam pressure (in BTP mode) is more than enough to produce good microfoam for latte art? 

Thanks. 
 

 

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2 hours ago, HVL87 said:

@Doram @DavecUK so I understand correctly, for the MaraX if you were to alternate between brewing and steaming for a total of 4 lattes in brew temp priority mode, do you have to complete each shot within 5 mins of the previous even if steaming in between? 

I didn't test this situation either, but it might be useful to know how the machine works.

My understanding is that in brew temp priority the machine keeps the group head in the set brew temperature you chose (between 3 settings).
As soon as you use the machine in any way (lift the lever to make coffee, purge the steam wand or draw water from the tap) - you 'wake' the heating element, which starts to heat the boiler to get it to steam pressure. While this is happening, the brass keeps the group in the correct brew temperature for a while (a few minutes, but not sure exactly how long), so in that time you can brew in the set temp. However, eventually the group will heat and shoot above the set temperature. At this stage, if you want to go back to the set temperature, you need to give the group time to cool down (say 15 minutes). As far as I understand, this 'window' of time you have before the group gets too hot will not become longer if you brew and steam alternatively (so you can't do a routing of brew->steam->brew>steam and keep doing it as long as you are faster than 5 minutes, if this makes sense).

I would assume though - and I am no expert, so maybe @DavecUK can confirm if that is true - that the brass will not become far too hot instantly. It will heat up slowly and gradually. If you keep going for too long, your group temp might be hotter than your first shot, but if you don't need 100% accuracy, if you are serving milk drinks to guests, having the group a little too hot for your 4th shot might not be such a big deal? Also, as it's an HX machine, you might be able to do a 'cooling flush' to cool the group a little if you want to keep going? You won't get precise temp control then, but it might not be a problem? You could maybe get a group thermometer and find a routine to cool down the group quicker for multiple shots? 

Of course, if you plan to use the machine in the World Barista Championship and need to serve 4 judges with identical perfect espresso shots to be drunk neat then this wouldn't be ideal on Mara X. But maybe if you occasionally make 4 milk drinks to guests that usually enjoy instant coffee then this is something you can live with? What I am trying to say it's very personal. It depends on how you usually want to use the machine and on your expectations. For my use the Mara X is good enough, but I appreciate that for others only a double boiler with complete flexibility and accuracy will do. 

Edited by Doram
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5 minutes ago, Doram said:

I didn't test this situation either, but it might be useful to know how the machine works.

My understanding is that n brew temp priority the machine keeps the group head in the set brew temperature you chose (between 3 settings).
As soon as you use the machine in any way (lift the lever to make coffee, purge the steam wand or draw water from the tap) - you 'wake' the heating element, which starts to heat the boiler to get it to steam pressure. While this is happening, the brass keeps the group in the correct brew temperature for a while (a few minutes, but not sure exactly how long), so in that time you can brew in the set temp. However, eventually the group will heat and shoot above the set temperature. At this stage, if you want to go back to the set temperature, you need to give the group time to cool down (say 15 minutes). As far as I understand, this 'window' of time you have before the group gets too hot will not become longer if you brew and steam alternatively (so you can't do a routing of brew->steam->brew>steam and keep doing it as long as you are faster than 5 minutes, if this makes sense).

I would assume though - and I am no expert, so maybe @DavecUK can confirm if that is true - that the brass will not become far too hot instantly. It will heat up slowly and gradually. If you keep going for too long, your group temp might be hotter than your first shot, but if you don't need 100% accuracy, if you are serving milk drinks to guests, having the group a little too hot for your 4th shot might not be such a big deal? Also, as it's an HX machine, you might be able to do a 'cooling flush' to cool the group a little if you want to keep going? You won't get precise temp control then, but it might not be a problem? You could maybe get a group thermometer and find a routine to cool down the group quicker for multiple shots? 

Of course, if you plan to use the machine in the World Barista Championship and need to serve 4 judges with perfect espresso shots to be drunk neat then this wouldn't be ideal on Mara X. But maybe if you occasionally make 4 milk drinks to guests that usually drink instant coffee then this issue is something you can live with? What I am trying to say it's a very personal thing. It depends on how you usually want to use the machine and on your expectations. For my use the Mara X is good enough, but for others only a double boiler will give the complete flexibility and accuracy they want. 

Thanks for the detailed reply. Removing steaming milk from the equation, does that mean you have 5 mins total to complete as many shots as you want before the group gets too hot? Or does brewing another shot essentially act as a “cooling shot” and reset the 5 min timer? 

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18 minutes ago, HVL87 said:

Thanks for the detailed reply. Removing steaming milk from the equation, does that mean you have 5 mins total to complete as many shots as you want before the group gets too hot? Or does brewing another shot essentially act as a “cooling shot” and reset the 5 min timer?

Good question. I don't know the answer (but would love to know too). Maybe @DavecUK or someone with a group thermometer can answer that? My guess is that a shot on it's own wouldn't be enough to cool the group, and that once in operation the machine will race to reach steaming pressure, but exactly how long you have before the group is too hot I really don't know.

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51 minutes ago, HVL87 said:

Thanks for the detailed reply. Removing steaming milk from the equation, does that mean you have 5 mins total to complete as many shots as you want before the group gets too hot? Or does brewing another shot essentially act as a “cooling shot” and reset the 5 min timer? 

Just putting this out there to further confuse the situation. I know the Mara X is the forum darling and it certainly does pack some clever trickery in to the mix but I just wonder from reading through your posts if you might just be served a bit better by a more traditional Hx machine with a PID? The PID will bring the stability you want and you will not need to worry about getting shots done in a set period of time or the steam pressure etc. You will just have to pull a cooling flush before your first shot or if the machine has been idle for a long period. I know cooling flushes are now considered the work of the devil but they are just another small step in your routine, really no big deal once you know your machine.

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17 minutes ago, BlackCatCoffee said:

Just putting this out there to further confuse the situation. I know the Mara X is the forum darling and it certainly does pack some clever trickery in to the mix but I just wonder from reading through your posts if you might just be served a bit better by a more traditional Hx machine with a PID?

Flick a switch on the side of the Mara X, and boom - you have a traditional HX machine with a PID. (not that I know anyone who owns a Mara X and uses it in steam priority mode, but the option is right there if it helps anyone in a multiple shot situation). 

I therefore think if Mara X is too limiting, the next option would be a dual boiler (such as the aformentioned ASC Minima, Elizabeth et al). 

Edited by Doram
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7 minutes ago, Doram said:

Flick a switch on the side of the Mara X, and boom - you have a traditional HX machine with a PID. (not that I know anyone who owns a Mara and uses it in steam priority mode, but the option is right there if it helps anyone in a multiple shot situation). 

I therefore think if Mara X is too limiting, the next option would be a dual boiler (such as the aformentioned ASC Minima, Elizabeth et al). 

Yes but using it like that upsets people hahaha! 😁

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1 hour ago, HVL87 said:

Thanks for the detailed reply. Removing steaming milk from the equation, does that mean you have 5 mins total to complete as many shots as you want before the group gets too hot? Or does brewing another shot essentially act as a “cooling shot” and reset the 5 min timer? 

Once the steam has boosted and then stays boosted shot after shot...you have to do your shots as if it was an HX...and you wouldn't need to flush an HX after every shot in a sequence of shots....just the first one unless you wait too long.

 

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25 minutes ago, Doram said:

Flick a switch on the side of the Mara X, and boom - you have a traditional HX machine with a PID. (not that I know anyone who owns a Mara X and uses it in steam priority mode, but the option is right there if it helps anyone in a multiple shot situation). 

I therefore think if Mara X is too limiting, the next option would be a dual boiler (such as the aformentioned ASC Minima, Elizabeth et al). 

I don’t yet know if the MaraX is too limiting as I don’t completely understand how it works yet 😄

37 minutes ago, BlackCatCoffee said:

Just putting this out there to further confuse the situation. I know the Mara X is the forum darling and it certainly does pack some clever trickery in to the mix but I just wonder from reading through your posts if you might just be served a bit better by a more traditional Hx machine with a PID? The PID will bring the stability you want and you will not need to worry about getting shots done in a set period of time or the steam pressure etc. You will just have to pull a cooling flush before your first shot or if the machine has been idle for a long period. I know cooling flushes are now considered the work of the devil but they are just another small step in your routine, really no big deal once you know your machine.

I don’t mind pulling a cooling flush but then it depends on how long it takes for the temp to stabilise? How does that work with an HX with PID. I guess it’s machine dependent. 
 

20 minutes ago, BlackCatCoffee said:

Yes but using it like that upsets people hahaha! 😁

😄😄

 

 

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22 minutes ago, HVL87 said:

I don’t mind pulling a cooling flush but then it depends on how long it takes for the temp to stabilise? How does that work with an HX with PID. I guess it’s machine dependent.

Yes very much so. Some take a little flush others can be a good amount.

ECM claim one of their PID Hx machines does not need a flush at all. Which one it is escapes me at the moment. I have seen some tests on it that support what they say, nothing I would describe as truly 100% independent though.

ECM machines are premium machines and attract a price to match though!

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On 22/11/2020 at 17:19, DavecUK said:

Once the steam has boosted and then stays boosted shot after shot...you have to do your shots as if it was an HX...and you wouldn't need to flush an HX after every shot in a sequence of shots....just the first one unless you wait too long.

 

What is considered waiting too long? In your review you mention 5 mins between shots max. So if you’re pulling 3 shots you have 10 mins total from first pull assuming no more than 5 mins between shots? I guess you have to steam in that time if needed.

If you do wait too long you have to wait a further 15 mins for it to stabilise. Can you flush to speed up this process? If so, would there be any way of knowing when the temp has stabilised? 

MaraXL 2021 with LCC? 😄

Thanks. 

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