We can say that a thermoblock or a small volume boiler is an initial class, a large volume boiler is an average one.

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Best espresso machine under $500 Go Study New Zealand
What is the Best espresso machine under $500 - 2022 review

Heating element

It can be a flow-through thermoblock, a storage boiler of small or large volume, a boiler with a heat exchanger. It is in this sequence that almost any of the best espresso machine under 500 can be roughly attributed to the lower or upper limit of the initial class. Although a large storage boiler or even more so a boiler with a heat exchanger (or even a multi-boiler system) is already a sign of the middle or professional classes. More specifically, we can say that a thermoblock or a small volume boiler is an initial class, a large volume boiler is an average one. The advantage of a thermoblock against a small boiler is that it can supply hot water of the required temperature in a much larger volume, it does not need to be heated up every conventionally 40-60 ml. The downside is that the stability, uniformity of the stream of heated water is lower, it turns out that part of the water goes to one temperature, part to another, part to a third. It is clear that the difference is in degrees, but this also matters for a reference espresso.

Control electronics

The main separation is with auto-dosing of a portion, when the machine pours the programmed volume at the touch of a button and stops itself, or without it, when both starting and stopping must be done independently. Examples of auto-dose carob coffee makers: Delonghi EC 685, Redmond RCM-1503, Gaggia Baby Dose/Twin. The rest of the "bells and whistles" are less significant, and they should be considered as typical bonuses, all other things being equal.

Additional elements / valves

As a rule, any appendage is worth a significant surcharge, but it has a positive effect on the usability or quality of the final product. For example, the so-called three-way valve/solenoid. It allows the coffee maker to depressurize the brew group after dispensing stops. This allows the dispensing to be stopped instantly without parasitic extra drops, and also “dries out” the coffee pellet, making it much easier to empty the filter. A typical sign of the middle/professional class.

Here is also the electronic temperature control of the boiler, the so-called PID. It significantly increases the thermal stability of the system and the uniformity of the temperature of the hot water supplied, which positively affects the final taste. Also a sign of the middle/professional class.

There are also elements that do not affect the taste of black coffee, but make it possible to simplify the preparation of milk drinks, up to automatic cappuccino machines, as implemented by Polaris Adore Cappuccino (and numerous clones, dozens of them) or VITEK VT-1522.