7 Best Dual Boiler Espresso Machines
Dual boilers are at the top of the heap for espresso machines. Not only can you brew and steam simultaneously, but you have precise control over both processes. Serious espresso and cappuccino lovers should settle for nothing less.
Spending a small fortune on a top-of-the-line model is possible, but it is not mandatory. With more brands offering double-boiler espresso machines, there is something for everyone. Whether you prioritize high performance, cool style, affordable price, or ease of use, one of these seven great dual-boiler espresso machines will meet your latte needs.
At A Glance:
The 7 Best Dual-Boiler Espresso Machines in 2023
The espresso machines on this list all share a common feature: separate steam and brew boilers. But beyond that, they’re a diverse collection of espresso machines. No matter your budget or needs, we’re confident there’s a dual-boiler model fit for you.
|La Marzocco GS3 MP||
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|Lelit Bianca V3||
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|Lelit Elizabeth V3||
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|Breville Dual Boiler||
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|Rancilio Silvia Pro X||
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|Izzo Alex Duetto IV Plus||
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|Bezzera Matrix DE||
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The La Marzocco GS3 MP costs nearly $8000, which puts it out of reach for most of us. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t get credit as the best pick of the year. Because if you can afford it, you will get your money’s worth.
The GS3 is suitable for home users or small coffee shops. This is thanks to its sizable stainless-steel boilers, NSF rating, and world-renowned La Marzocco build-quality (1). The GS3’s beautiful, customizable design will make it the focal point of your home or business.
The defining feature of this machine is the manual paddle (MP). For low-pressure pre-infusion and pressure profiling, you can manually adjust brew pressure between 0 and 9 bars. A new upgrade is the pressure gauge on the group head for instant feedback. Mexican barista Fabrizio Sención explains the value of these features (2).
It benefits how we approach and extract espresso, and helps us to ensure that all the grounds are evenly saturated with water.
Marzocco also upgraded the steam wand with a Teflon insert, which maintains a professional wand’s powerful, dry steam while keeping the exterior cool. The GS3 now has WiFi connectivity and an associated app that makes operating it easier than ever.
This impressive machine has dozens of other exciting features. So if you can stomach the price tag, read Home Grounds’ La Marzocco GS3 review.
If you want the flow profiling capabilities of the GS3 in a more affordable package, the Lelit Bianca V3 is the machine for you. That’s why we chose it as our Runner Up; it’s the high-performance espresso maker for the rest of us.
The Bianca has smaller boilers and a more compact design than the GS3, making it better suited for home use. A neat touch is the movable external water reservoir that can sit on the back or side of the machine, making it easier to find a spot in your kitchen.
The E61 group head is capped with a flow control paddle for pre-infusion and manual flow profiling.
Dual PID temperature controls let you set a specific steaming and brewing temperature, quickly done with the vibrant digital display.
The V3 is the newest edition of the Bianca and includes a few notable updates. Energy efficiency is a big deal, and unique ECO and low-power modes have been added. Adjustments to the PID yield a faster heat-up time, which was already impressive in the older models.
The La Marzocco GS3 is the superior machine on paper, but for most serious home espresso enthusiasts, the Lelit Bianca has everything you need.
If you want the brewing and steaming functionality of a dual-boiler without breaking the bank, let me introduce the Lelit Elizabeth V3. This compact machine costs well under $2000, with surprisingly few sacrifices.
The Elizabeth includes the same Lelit Control Center found on the brand’s top machines (like the Bianca just discussed). With it, you can access many advanced features. You can set the boiler temperatures, which are PID controlled. You can also program pre-infusion and shot length. Pulling a delicious espresso becomes as simple as pressing a button.
There is also a built-in shot timer, an easily accessible OPV, a commercial 58 mm portafilter, and a no-burn steam wand.
The only real sacrifice made is the steam boiler size, smaller than any other on this list at 600 mL. This will only present a problem if you need to make a lot of large milk-based drinks in a row for a series of very impatient coffee lovers.
The Breville Dual Boiler (BDB) is unique among espresso machines, and it has a bit of a cult following for that reason. It combines the features of a prosumer model – two boilers, PID temperature control, programmable pre-infusion, and a 58 mm basket – with the user-friendly feel Breville home espresso machines are known for. And it does it at a very reasonable price!
The BDB is an automatic espresso machine that allows you to program single and double-shot doses by volume or time – or you can operate it like a semi-automatic if you want to be more hands-on. It has automated cleaning and descaling cycles and heats up in a fraction of the time of most double boiler machines, and these features make it a joy to use and own.
The trade-off is it lacks the build quality of a prosumer model. While the casing is a solid brushed stainless steel, the interior components aren’t commercial grade, and this is purely a home machine.
The Rancilio Silvia Pro X is the narrowest dual boiler espresso machine we’ve encountered, less than 10″ wide. If you have limited counter space but don’t want to make any sacrifices regarding your morning coffee, this is the machine for you.
The original Rancilio Silvia single-boiler espresso machine has been around for decades and has always been among the most popular prosumer espresso machines. So there was much excitement in 2020 when Rancilio launched the Silvia Pro, which adds a second boiler and a few other long-awaited updates. Though the brew boiler measures only 0.3 L, Andrew Bettis of Rancilio Group claims its performance is above average (3).
It produces temperature consistency that is right up there with the best available. It can basically take as much espresso volume as you can throw at it.
Upgrades to the Silvia Pro X include a PID temperature controller that doubles as a shot timer, a pressure gauge, an adjustable soft-infusion stage, and a professional stainless steel portafilter. The Silvia Pro X has also been given a much-needed aesthetic improvement. It’s available in traditional stainless steel, matte black, white, or pink.
The Izzo Alex Duetto IV Plus might be the most underrated machine on the market. It’s almost like it’s being neglected because of its reasonable price. But don’t be fooled; this is an impressive double boiler machine that should probably cost more. Scoop one up before anyone catches on!
The Alex Duetto has two large copper boilers, dual PID temperature control, two pressure gauges for monitoring brew and steam pressure, a rotary vane pump, and a classic E61 group head (4). The group head has been raised in the latest edition, making this one of the best machines for accommodating larger mugs, with up to 6 inches of clearance between the group and drip tray.
The build quality is top-of-the-line. The front panel has been reinforced to better support the hefty E61 group. The back and sides are double-walled for improved heat insulation. This offers the double benefit of keeping your kitchen from heating up while improving the machine’s energy efficiency.
Many prosumer espresso machines share a common aesthetic, often described as the “chrome box look.” To please customers looking for something out of the ordinary or better matched to their decor, manufacturers sometimes add powder-coated finishes or colored accents. But Bezzera has gone above and beyond with the Matrix DE.
The Matrix DE features colorful light-up glass side panels and beautiful rosewood accents. A full-color touchscreen display provides access to its many features, including changing the color of the panels to suit any whim.
We could just as quickly award this machine for its brewing chops.
It has not two but three PIDs to control the temperature in the brew and steam boilers and at the electrically heated group head.
The result is remarkable temperature stability and accuracy (5). It also offers programmable volumetric controls for four different shot volumes, an automatic pre-infusion, automated backflushing, and the ability to program a start-up time.
This is an advanced, high-performance automatic machine with a futuristic look to match!
How to Choose the Best Double Boiler Espresso Machine
There are a few important factors to consider when choosing the right dual boiler machine for your home or business. These include how much espresso you brew daily, how much space you have, and whether you plan to plumb it directly to a water line – among other things. This buyer’s guide will walk you through the decision.
Why are Boiler Size and Material important?
The size and material of the dual boilers in your espresso maker will impact the user experience. There is no right or wrong choice, but one is likely more suited for your needs.
Brew Boiler Size
The size of the brew boiler dictates how many shots you can pull back-to-back. Smaller brew boilers can only heat enough water for a few shots before they need time to refill and recover. This is a disadvantage in high-volume situations, so they aren’t the best choice for commercial machines or busy households of espresso lovers. On the other hand, a smaller brew boiler heats up faster, gives the machine a smaller footprint, and lowers costs. It’s a better choice for lighter users.
Steam Boiler Size
The steam boiler’s size also influences capacity. Bigger steam boilers can steam for longer without needing time to reheat. They also produce higher steam pressure, allowing for faster milk steaming. Again, they make sense in high-volume situations – for example, you must prepare four large milk-based drinks quickly.
The flip side is that larger steam boilers lead to massive espresso machines that cost a lot and take a long time to heat up. A 1 to 2 L boiler is plenty for the average user, and the boiler temperature and steam wand tip can also influence steam pressure from a smaller boiler.
Copper, Stainless Steel, or Brass?
Many metals can be used for boilers, but stainless steel and copper are the most common at the prosumer espresso maker level. You may also see brass in the lower-cost options.
- Copper has excellent thermal properties; it is good at conducting and retaining heat and is also naturally antimicrobial. However, copper is expensive and less resistant to corrosion and the build-up of scale.
- Stainless steel has a lower thermal conductivity than copper. It is widely used because it is corrosion-resistant and more affordable.
- Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, and it is less conductive than copper alone but also less expensive and easier to work with. They use it in cheaper machines with small brew boilers.
Rotary Pump vs. Vibration Pump
Dual boiler machines rely on either a rotary or a vibration pump to achieve the extraction pressure required unless it’s a manual machine. Both are equally capable of achieving the high pressures needed, but there are differences between them that influence user experience.
Espresso machines with rotary pump can be plumbed directly to a water line. This is convenient because you don’t need to worry about filling the water tank, and it allows for accurate, line-pressure pre-infusion. The downside to rotary pumps is that they are larger and more expensive.
Vibration pumps are smaller and less expensive. But as you might guess from the name, they vibrate. So espresso machines with vibration pumps are usually louder. That said, advances in sound-dampening technology have improved this in recent years.
Do you have enough space for a dual-boiler machine?
Dual-boiler machines are inevitably large. The double boiler design guarantees it. But they still come in a wide range of sizes.
Think about where you plan to house your espresso machine before making a purchase. Options like the Breville Dual Boiler are wider and shorter, making them more practical for fitting under upper cupboards. Others, like the Silvia Pro X, are very narrow and more suitable for limited counter space. Then there are massive machines like the La Marzocco GS3 that demand a dedicated espresso bar.
If you take espresso and milk-based drinks seriously, there is no substitute for a double-boiler espresso machine. It is the only way to achieve the precise temperature control needed to get the best from your specialty coffee.
The La Marzocco GS3 MP is our top pick if money is no object. With manual flow profiling, huge stainless steel boilers, a new-and-improved steam wand, and that iconic La Marzocco build quality and design, there is little this machine can’t do. If you can’t justify spending your kid’s college fund on a coffee machine, our Runner Up, the Lelit Bianca, packs many of the same features into a far more affordable package.
A heat exchanger espresso machine is another way to brew espresso and steam milk simultaneously without needing two boilers. Instead, a single boiler is designed to have a lower-temperature region for brewing water and a higher-temperature region for steam. They are less expensive than double boilers but offer poorer temperature stability and control.
PID temperature control digitally controls brew and steam temperature using a continuous feedback loop (6). This modern development offers better temperature stability than older pressure stat designs and lasts longer. However, it is more expensive.
The best 2-group espresso machine depends on the needs of your cafe. At Home Grounds, we especially love the iconic La Marzocco Strada or the modern Slayer Steam commercial espresso machine. Both have the necessary features to produce an incredible espresso shot and are beautiful focal points for a coffee shop.
- Brown, N. (2014, December 18). La Marzocco Banking on High-End Home Brewing Growth with New Home Division. Retrieved from https://dailycoffeenews.com/2014/11/18/la-marzocco-banking-on-high-end-home-brewing-growth-with-new-home-division/
- Grant, T. (2020, July 29). How Flow Profiling Affects Espresso Extraction. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2020/07/how-flow-profiling-impacts-espresso-coffee-extraction/
- Bryman, H. (2021, December 2). Rancilio Adds Silvia Pro X to Homeline, New Grinders for Cafes. Retrieved from https://dailycoffeenews.com/2021/12/02/rancilio-adds-silvia-pro-x-to-homeline-new-grinders-for-cafes/
- Burton, G. (2011, January 11). The E61 Group Head: An Oldie but a Goodie. Retrieved from https://fivesenses.com.au/blogs/news/the-e61-group-head-an-oldie-but-a-goodie
- Stanley, Z. (2022, June 20). How does temperature stability affect espresso extraction? Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2022/06/how-does-temperature-stability-affect-espresso/
- La Marzocco Home. (2015, October 15). A Brief History of the PID. Retrieved from https://home.lamarzoccousa.com/history-of-the-pid/