Today an in-depth comparison of four of our favorites. the ECM Synchronika, Rocket R58, Profitec Pro 700 and the Expobar Brewtus IV-R. We’ll find out how they are similar and different and help you decide which one best fits your style.
Well, they are all dual boiler, PID machines with E61 groups, rotary pumps and they can all connect direct to household plumbing. With those features you get very stable brew temps, quiet operation and ease of use. Now the ease of use comes in a number of areas. with the dual boilers you can brew and steam at the same time. PID in combination with the thermo-siphon E61 group gets you accurate and stable brew temps with no guesswork. And a plumbed machine? There’s just nothing like it. Always ready to go - not having to fill reservoirs or empty drip trays all the time? Believe me once you’ve been relieved of those duties you’ll never look back.
And when plumbed I’ll tell you how two of these machines can work a little extra magic on your espresso - but more on that in a minute. Plus I’ll tell you about two little pieces of technology which make using and maintaining these machines a whole latte more enjoyable.
The Expobar Brewtus IV-R
I’ll start with the Brewtus IV-R. More than a decade ago we asked Expobar to make a dual-boiler machine for high-level home espresso enthusiasts. The Brewtus was the result. During development, Todd our machine expert asked Expobar for a design using a heat-exchanger in the steam boiler to feed water to the brew boiler. It’s a unique setup with incredible temperature stability even as new water enters the brew boiler.
Compared to the other machines we’ll look at the Brewtus is what you might call utilitarian as far exterior case work. It’s rock solid with some of the thickest metal you’ll find in a machine case. But, it lacks the high-level finishing work of the other machines we’ll look at. Under the hood however it’s every bit as capable. Copper brew and steam boilers are both fifty-seven ounces. Now that’s a large brew boiler. In comparison the Profitec and ECM use a twenty-five ounce brew boiler and the Rocket’s is twenty. Internal components are high quality and have been refined based on user feedback over four Brewtus generations resulting in a solid and reliable machine.
The Brewtus like all Expobar machines uses a customized E61 group with a special pre-infusion chamber milled in behind the shower screen. As an extraction starts some water drops onto the coffee as the chamber fills and pressure builds more slowly than on a standard E61 with that extra space. The pre-wetting and pressure ramp up acts as a type of pre-infusion which may improve extractions and help prevent channeling in the coffee puck yielding more consistent extractions.
The Brewtus delivers steam from a fifty-seven ounce boiler through a no burn wand and stock single hole tip. Hot water and steam are knob controlled through standard valves.
The Profitec Pro 700 & ECM Synchronika
The Profitec Pro 700 and ECM Synchronika machines are nearly identical internally. Boilers are stainless steel and 68 ounces for steam and 25 ounces for brew. Now I mentioned these machines could do a little magic, and that’s in the form of line pressure pre-infusion. When the E61 lever is in the pre-infusion position line pressure is applied to the coffee prior to the rotary pump turning on. If your plumbing line pressure is around the average of about 60 PSI you’ll get a four bar pre-infusion for as long as you like. This capability is unique in this group of machines. The Expobar Brewtus and the Rocket R58 have solenoid valves which close off line pressure when the pump is not operating so you can’t do a line pressure pre-infusion.
Now when we start getting technical and talking about things like solenoid valves it brings us to thinking about what’s under the hood of these machines. The quality of the internal components and how they are engineered as a system. In my opinion the profitec and ECM machines are standouts in this regard. Open these machines up and you’ll see there’s an elegant simplicity to how the best available components are laid out. There’s no crazy plumbing, proper placement of electronics for better protection from heat and moisture, overall an easy to work on design with fewer points of failure than other machines. They are fine examples of top class German engineering.
The internal quality is quite literally mirrored on the exterior of the Pro 700 and the Synchronika. Exquisite craftsmanship is evident. There’s extra detail in the fully rolled panel edges and finish work that’s perfect under close inspection. Again these two machines are nearly identical inside. Outside the Synchronika has a few extra details. On both machines you’ll appreciate the PID display which alternates between brew and steam boiler temperatures and changes to an automatic timer when pulling a shot. Both machines have low wear sprung valves. They’re lever operated on the Synchronika and knobs on the Pro 700. Wands are no burn and steam is delivered thru a two hole tip. Extra details on the Synchronika include custom top and bottom nuts on the group, a chromed end on the group lever, matching chrome accents on angled portafilters, and valves inscribed with ECM branding. In the end the Pro 700 and Synchronika are identical in capabilities. What the Synchronika offers is extra detail touches on the outside.
The Rocket Espresso R58
Our last machine is the Rocket R58. Put one on your counter and there’s no mistaking what it is. From the feet which resemble rocket engine nozzles to extensive branding front and back, and the iconic “R” on the steam knob. Even the portafilters have a rocket logo.
Now Rocket takes a different approach with its PID in two ways. First, the display and control unit attaches to the machine via a coiled cable. It’s rocket’s feeling that customers prefer a cleaner look with no digital display on the face of the machine. So you attach the display as needed. Second, Rocket has chosen to display the actual temperature of the brew boiler. On the other machines there’s an offset programmed into the PID so you set the brew temp you want and that offset gives the proper internal boiler temp to get it. With the Rocket you look up your desired brew temp in a manual to get the required boiler temp and program the PID using that to produce your desired brew temp.
The boilers in the Rocket are copper with brass end plates. Twenty ounces for brewing and 61 on the steam side. Internal components are of excellent quality and laid out well. however the overall design and engineering is a little more complex and not as elegant as what you’ll find in the Pro 700 and Synchronika. The vacuum relief in the R58 vents internally on the ECM and Profitec machines any moisture from the vacuum relief is piped to the drip tray.
Back outside the machine the water and steam wand are no-burn. Valve bodies are massive. They are not sprung like those on the ECM and profitec machines so a little more turning involved to get from closed to fully open. Case work is really nice with rounded top edges and good finishing.
So recommendations. If you’re looking for value it’s hard to beat the expobar brewtus IV-R. It’s typically priced at least seven hundred and fifty dollars below any of the other machines. For some, it’s not as beautiful as the others but it’s capable of making espresso that’s every bit as good. The R58, Pro 700 and Synchronika are within ten percent of each other price wise. The R58 is what I’d call the flashy one of the bunch. It makes a statement with all that branding and the decision to have the PID control as a separate detachable unit. If you appreciate elegant reliable engineering and detailed finish work the Pro 700 and Synchronika should get the edge. Plus they can do line-pressure pre-infusion, something the other machines can’t do. And if your okay with the PID visible on the machine customers just love the automatic shot timer.
Day to day, plumbed in dual boiler machines are the easiest machines to use. And I promised to tell you about two pieces of technology that make them even easier. First is a wifi timer switch. These can be programmed so your machine turns on and off on a schedule so it’s all heated up and ready to when you are and you can turn it on and off from anywhere anytime. There’s many types available for around thirty bucks. If you get a switch just make sure it’s rated to handle the power load of your machine.
Second is an inline water filter. We recommend BWT’s Bestmax Premium filter. It makes for better tasting coffee. But just as important, with proper use you will never need to descale your machine. And that’s a big deal. In most cases descaling of dual boilers should only be performed by a qualified machine technician. BWT’s patented ion-exchange technology removes calcium and replaces it with a amount of magnesium that will not cause scale yet maintains flavor. So better flavor and no descaling.
Now if you’ve got any questions on these machines or anything coffee use those comments and I’ll get you the answers. Come back soon for more of the best on everything coffee brought to you by Whole Latte Love.