Articles From Whole Latte Love

Rancilio Epoca ST1: Benne! Benne!

Posted: 01/22/07
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Close your eyes. Imagine.

Rancilio Epoca ST1

Somewhere in the Italian countryside, halfway between Umbria and Tuscany, you pull off the winding road that you’ve been on for hours. You’ve found a little trattoria. The food is modest, there are no menus and the service is extremely casual, Nonna Maria does it all. You devour some fresh fish straight from Lake Trasimene – where you could spend a lifetime walking along the shore. You finish the feast with a ristretto that Nonna Maria brewed on the Rancilio she’s had back in the kitchen for decades. Bellissimo!

Now wake up.

After all, this is a product spotlight, not a Francis Ford Coppola film.

Luckily, the experts at Rancilio have made it possible to duplicate the espresso of your dreams on the Epoca ST1, without the help of Hollywood. Commanding attention with its chrome-plated brass portafilter, stainless steel drip tray and oversized cup warmer, it’s certainly stylish enough to compliment any cucina. It’s also tough enough for commercial use because of the powerful components integrated by the design team at Rancilio.

Prego – A Warm Welcome

Because Rancilio’s designers integrated such a large heat exchanger boiler into the Epoca ST1, you’ll be able to brew rich, hot espresso while enjoying a long steady flow of steam – perfect for café lattes. You’ll also be able to brew and steam at the same time with no down time, so you’ll be able to make all of your favorite coffeehouse style drinks with ease. That’s because the Epoca’s 3.9-liter copper heat exchanger boiler works extremely efficiently.

Shot pour from Rancilio Epoca ST1

Built with the ability to brew shot after shot with only minor variation in temperature, the Epoca ST1 utilizes a heat exchanger boiler to maintain two separate heating systems - one for brewing and one for steaming. Simply explained, water for brewing is heated within a tube that runs inside the center of the boiler, while steam is produced from hot water already inside the boiler. So not only is the ST1 known for the hot, dry steam and micro-froth it will produce, but also for its heat stability.

The boiler and group head on the Epoca ST1 are directly connected, so there is virtually no loss of heat as water flows from the boiler to the group head. Additionally, the Epoca ST1 brews at 1600 watts, unlike its predecessor the S24 that brewed at 1300 watts. So, from a cold start, the Epoca ST1 heats up very quickly – in less than 20 minutes.

Bella, bella – She’s a Beauty Cup Warmer on Rancilio Epoca ST1

In every sense of the word the Epoca ST1 is beautiful: beautiful to touch the smooth curves that grace its frame. Beautiful to brew delicious espresso using the commercial brewing components the experts at Rancilio made sure to include, like the chrome-plated, commercial-grade marine brass portafilter. And, the Epoca ST1 comes with both single and double spout portafilters.

Unlike the long-running Rancilio S24, the Epoca ST1 has many eye-catching features, like the stainless steel backsplash and drip tray, and oversized, passively heated cup warmer. In fact, the cup warmer is one of the first things you’ll notice on the ST1, especially when it’s lined with a dozen or more espresso cups. Beautiful!

Capisci? Do You Know What I Mean?

Close up view of switches on Rancilio Epoca ST1Brewing the perfect shot of espresso shouldn’t be compared to rocket science, it just takes a bit of finesse and a little practice. By outfitting the new Epoca ST1 with just one button, Rancilio made sure you can control all the brewing with ease. Ultimately, you control how long your brew is – ideal for the coffee aficionado in all of us.

Under the control panel on the stainless steel backsplash are two rocker switches. One is the main power switch that, when operational, powers the heating element and is illuminated with a green light. The second rocker switch operates the pump and activates the brewing feature. The experts at Rancilio suggest that Epoca ST1 always be left powered on. Simply flip the second rocker switch that controls the brewing when you want to brew.

In addition to those two rocker switches, there is an illuminated amber light that comes on when the reservoir needs to be refilled. A clearly marked pressure stat is located on the left side of the machine, enabling you to monitor the boiler pressure on the Epoca ST1. In order to maintain the required 1.1 bars of boiler pressure (as opposed to brew pressure), the heat exchanger boiler will automatically cycle on and off, allowing you to brew the ultimate shot of espresso and master the art of brewing. Capisci?

è Robusto – And It’s Sturdy Too

Another thing you’ll notice on the Rancilio Epoca ST1 is how solid the machine actually is; it exudes the strength enthusiasts long for. And while the housing plays a significant role in this, commercial components like the three-way solenoid valve have a lot to do with it too.

The three-way solenoid valve relieves the machine of excess water-pressure, allowing you to brew a second shot immediately following the first. The solenoid valve also removes any residual water from the used coffee puck, which makes it easier to knock out the grounds from the portafilter when done.

Steam Knobs on Rancilio Epoca ST1

Other indications that the Epoca ST1 isn’t joking around are the independent steam and hot water knobs, located on the front of the machine just above the backsplash. The knobs are directly above the wands they control and they turn in a counter-clockwise direction.

In addition, the steam wand is multi-positional and has a rubber boot to protect you fingers from burns while steaming. It will also accommodate virtually any size cup or frothing pitcher. This also makes it easy to immerse the three-hole wand directly into the milk pitcher – giving you the ability to froth milk for lattes or cappuccinos easily.

è Facile – It’s So Easy

While you’ll have some regular maintenance to perform, it’s nothing too challenging. You’ll have to backflush the Epoca ST1 at least every few days with Urnex depending on your usage, but that’s what will keep your machine running for years, like Nonna Maria’s.

Just place a blank filter basket into the portafilter and add a tablespoon of cleaner. Turn on the pump and begin the brewing process. As pressure builds, you’ll notice a difference in the pump sound. Turn off the pump and the cleaner will flow up into the brew group, through the three-way solenoid valve and down into the drip pan. You’ll repeat this process at least three times, or until the water runs clear.

Bravo!

Side view of Rancilio Epoca ST1

To sum it up, the Rancilio Epoca ST1 will continue to impress you for years – well beyond the honeymoon period, just like its predecessor the Rancilio S24. With features like a 3.9-liter heat exchanger copper boiler, three-way solenoid valve, separate steam and hot knobs and an oversized passive cup warmer you’ll see why the Rancilio Epoca ST1 will appeal to prosumers and commercial vendors alike.

The combination of sleek, curvy accents and its long list of features make this one of the strongest, semi-automatic machines out there. A timeless masterpiece, a real Botticelli.