Some espresso machines are like great hulking beasts; taking a bite out of your wallet and bullying your toaster off the counter and into the obscure cabinet where you keep the waffle iron. However, even among our prosumer catalog, more modest alternatives do exist. In this blog we’ll take a look at some of the brewing giants who are decidedly more gentle, both on your budget and your kitchen. South of $2,000, the 969.Coffee Elba 3, ECM Classika PID, and the Rocket Espresso Appartamento are fairly compact and affordable options for anyone looking to upgrade to prosumer brewing.
When it comes to choosing an espresso machine, few things are more important than how you intend to use it. Fortunately, the three aforementioned choices offer up quite a bit of diversity in both function and aesthetics.
As the only single boiler option in our assortment, the Classika PID is perhaps the most distinct of the three machines. It’s actually the only single boiler machine in our catalog to feature an E61 group, and on this list it’s the only machine to also feature a PID temperature controller. You can program both brew and steam temperature, and the control display doubles as a shot timer when the pump is engaged. Compared to the Elba 3 and the Appartamento, the Classika is going to heat up faster thanks to its smaller 0.75 L stainless steel boiler (roughly 10-15 minutes to brew). Transitioning to steam temperature takes about 3 minutes more, but you can’t brew and steam at the same time. The combination of the PID, E61, and accessible OPV (or expansion valve for adjusting brew pressure) make the Classika ideal for precision brewing thanks to its incredibly stable temperature and external pressure adjustment. Size wise the Classika is a fairly standard 15.75” tall but only 9.84” wide.
Easily the most visually distinct machine on this list, Rocket’s Appartamento wowed us with its flashy and eye catching design. When we finally got our hands on one, its impressive steaming let us check the boxes for both style and substance. Without a PID, the Appartamento is a traditional HX (or heat exchange) espresso machine which means that it uses a pressure stat to control temperature. Despite its lower price point than Rocket’s other HX models, the Appartamento has the same 1.8 L copper boiler and 1200 W heating element found in the Giotto and Mozzafiato machines; this inclusion puts it on par with both in terms of steaming performance. Thanks to its unique, disc-shaped feet, the Appartamento is more than a bit shorter than its contemporaries, measuring only 14.2” H. Rocket rounds out the package with an E61 group for temperature stability, and customizable side panels, available in both copper and white.
Our third entry, 969.Coffee’s Elba 3 is a relative newcomer to the prosumer landscape and a Whole Latte Love exclusive. The Elba is just as skinny as the Classika PID, but even better at steaming than the Appartamento. Measuring just 9.25” wide and featuring a unique detachable drip tray, it’s a machine designed for convenience but elevated by the inclusion of wood accents. While it may be a bit taller at nearly 17”, the unique sliding reservoir cover allows you to refill the machine without having to remove the lid, or the cups on top of it. Its incredible steam performance can be attributed to a rapid heating, 1.5 L copper boiler with a 1500 W heating element. For the tinkerer, the Elba ups the ante on the Appartamento with a dual gauge monitors both brew and steam pressure. In the back of the machine, the OPV is accessible for brew pressure adjustment. Something worth noting that for fans of cocoa, tea, and Americanos, is that the Elba does not have a hot water wand so it’s really a machine for the espresso and milk purists.
Not sure which of these machines you’ve fallen for? Here’s a quick breakdown of what each one is working with
This machine will pull the best shots of the bunch, costs the least, heats up the fastest, and allows for the most customization. Its single boiler design makes it better for a smaller household since it can’t brew and steam at the same time, unlike the Appartamento and Elba 3.
Short, steamy, and sexy, the Appartamento carries itself well, owing to its Rocket pedigree. It nicely blends compact size with steam power for a well rounded HX machine. If you’re looking for more precise brew control, the PID/OPV on the Classika and dual gauge/OPV on the Elba 3 allow for more tinkering.
The ideal choice for milk drinkers who want great steam performance, married to a slim profile. 969.Coffee’s Elba 3 brings a lot of interesting ideas to the table with its removable drip tray and sliding reservoir lid. The 1500 W heating element makes the Elba 3 the best choice for steam power.
Still can’t decide? Leave us a comment and leave it to our coffee experts to suss out your dream machine for you!