Upgrading from a Single Boiler Espresso Machine

by Whole Latte Love Updated: July 26, 2022 4 min read
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Updated for 2022

So you got into home espresso with a single boiler machine. It was relatively cheap and easy but after using it for awhile you’re tiring of the wait involved when going from brewing to steaming.

Today we’re talking upgrades! The typical step-up from a single boiler machine is to a machine with a heat exchange boiler. These allow for brewing and steaming simultaneously - which is way more fun, better brew temperature control for better espresso, and a significant jump in steaming power which is so important if you want a super-fine micro-foam for truly exceptional milk-based drinks.

You can expect to spend in the range of one thousand to two thousand dollars on a heat exchange machine. During this video I’ll have specific recommendations for some heat exchange machines machines that are good values. All are well reviewed with proven track records of long-term performance.

Don’t forget about the grinder

Now if you’re upgrading to a more capable machine, don’t forget the grinder. At the end of the day espresso quality is more dependent on the grind than the machine. Having a terrific machine is no help if you’re feeding it with an inferior grind.

At Whole latte Love we carry more than 30 burr grinders capable of feeding higher-end espresso machines. So there’s a lot to choose from. So before I get to espresso machine recommendations, Here are 3 grinder standouts in a range of prices.

Breville Smart Grinder

The Breville Smart grinder pro is an excellent value and is appropriate for budget conscious users in low volume situations. It has a less powerful motor and lacks the more robust build of other options. But it’s got some nice features and moves quickly from grinding for espresso to other brew methods like drip and press.

Baratza Vario Coffee Grinder

The Baratza Vario is a solid step up from the Breville. For a number of years it’s been considered the entry point into high-end espresso grinding. And like the Breville, moves quickly to grinding for other brew methods. it’s capable of delivering a grind suitable for even prosumer level machines. With the Vario you’ll have easier and finer control of grind size, with its macro and micro adjustments, sturdier construction and a more powerful motor.

Ceado E6P

The next step up are the commercial style grinders. On a price performance basis One of our favorites is the Ceado E6P. It features all metal construction, and Ceado’s steady lock technology for a very consistent particle size in the grounds. The E6P is a stepless grinder meaning extremely fine user control of grind size. It’s also one of the easiest grinders to clean and calibrate. It’s a fine example of a good value in an espresso focused grinder that should provide many years of reliable service.

So a lot of grinders to choose from but any of the 3 mentioned are good choices depending on your situation. Like most things you get what you pay for. If you have grinder questions or need more advice, use the comments and I’ll be happy to help.

Espresso machines

So onto the machines. Again, a lot to choose from so I’ll focus on heat exchange machines that have solid reputations with regards to espresso quality and steaming performance and are good values.

Expobar Office

First up are the Expobar Office machines. There are 4 machines in the Office line. The Pulser, Control, Lever and Lever Plus. All four are pretty much identical internally and all use Expobar’s custom E61 thermosyphon group which features a pre-infusion chamber above the shower screen which wets the coffee prior to the full pressure extraction. The Office Pulser uses a switch to start brewing, the Office Control model has programmable volume buttons. The Lever has the standard lever operated E61 group and the Lever Plus is the plumbable version for a direct waterline connection. Starting at about $1,100 Expobar office machines produce excellent espresso via the custom E61 group and are known for well balanced and powerful steaming. Use the link up here for a detailed comparison and an inside look at all four Expobar Office machines.

Nuova Simonelli

The Nuova Simonelli Oscar is a long time favorite of those upgrading from single boiler machines. And they’ve recently introduced the Oscar II which features some improvements. The Oscar II has a large 2 liter cooper boiler. The brew group is not an E61 but is thermosiphon for good brew temperature stability. Steaming is through a 4 hole tip. Shot volumes are programmable and are activated from buttons above the group. The Oscar II is rated for light commercial use and is a great choice for offices with adapters available for brewing with ESE pods and espresso point capsules.

Profitec Pro 500

The last machine we’ll look at is the Profitec Pro 500. It’s a more traditional styled machine with a mirror finish stainless case and drip tray. It has the E61 group but where this machines really shines is in the quality of the components. From massive sprung commercial quality valves, gicar controls, commercial grade sirai pressurestat, stainless steel boiler and all copper plumbing - the pro 500 features all the finest components available. Thanks to a nice mount, the pro 500 is also one of the quietest vibration pump machines available. With all that the pro 500 is just a few hundred dollars more than the other options. Now if you’d like to learn more, use the link up here for our video tour deep inside our favorite heat exchange espresso machine.

Like the grinders, these machines are just a few of the options if you’re looking to upgrade from a single boiler. If you have any questions use those comments and I’ll get you the answers. Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll be back soon for more of the good stuff on everything coffee.