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The ultimate in prosumer espresso is dual boiler machines with PID temperature control; however, if a dual boiler is a little out of reach cost wise, but things like the PID, E61 brew group, and build quality without compromise are on your list of must-haves, then I’ve got a machine that might meet your needs: the ECM Classika PID.
ECM espresso machines are legendary for their build quality, and for good reason — they are designed by German engineers and assembled by hand in Italy. The Classika is a single boiler machine with E61 thermosyphon brew group and a half liter stainless steel boiler. It’s very compact — a little under 10 inches wide — but the big deal is the PID temperature control.
With the PID and the E61 group-head, you’ll get extremely accurate brew temps. A top of the line Gicar PID lets you quickly adjust brew temps in 1 degree increments. That kind of control is rare for a single boiler machine, and it’s ultimately going to let you adjust brew temps to extract the specific notes and flavors of a given coffee.
Like any single boiler machine, after steaming you’ll need to refill and cool down the boiler before pulling another shot. So you open the steam valve and flip the “P” switch which activates the pump, which is also how you get hot water out of the steam wand instead of steam. The steam wand is on a ball joint with generous clearance — even for larger pitchers — and has a 2-hole steam tip. Another advantage of the PID is consistent and accurate heating of the boiler up to brew temp. On a single boiler without PID it’s a bit of a guessing game. You can see it working by watching the orange light. When it’s on, it means the boiler is being heated. As the boiler gets closer to your set brew temp the heating cycles get shorter so there’s no temperature overshoot when reheating.
The Classika has another trick. Now most machines of a certain level have adjustable brew pressure. And it’s usually rather difficult to get at. They’re typically located under the machine or behind the case. On the Classika it’s up top. Just lift off the cup warming tray and it’s right there. So very easy to make adjustments for those who are inclined to do so!
Up top, the railed warming tray runs flush from front to back. Moving inside, the Classika has a large 3 liter water tank. All internal plumbing is top notch copper and braided stainless. Components attach to a solid frame with continuous rails. The stainless steel boiler is wrapped with a quality insulating jacket. Also, the layout of electrical components are sensibly located to protect them from undue heat and moisture contact. Overall, the internal engineering is an element that sets ECM machines apart from their competitors.
So overall, the ECM Classika deserves a close look from espresso lovers who desire a high level of control without the expense of a dual boiler PID machine. It’s superbly engineered and at under 10 inches wide doesn’t require much countertop real estate.
Keep in mind the pro’s and con’s of it’s smaller single boiler. It’s not meant to continuously produce multiple milk based drinks back to back. But with extra accurate PID control you should be able to finesse and tune your extractions just as well as you can on machines costing a whole lot more.