ECM Classika PID Espresso Machine Review: Worth It or Nah?
If you’re not into milky drinks like lattes and cappuccinos, a single boiler espresso machine is the best bang for your buck. With the Classika, you get many of the same bells and whistles found on ECM’s high-end models, not to mention their legendary quality, at a fraction of the cost.
Keep reading for all the details.
Summary: ECM Classika PID Espresso Machine
- Single boiler semi-automatic espresso machine with PID temperature control
- Same special E61 group head as ECM’s top-of-the-line models
- Outstanding manufacturing quality is a hallmark of the brand
From day 1 the ECM Classika has pulled absolutely excellent shots consistently, each and every time. It is easy to control and monitor the brew pressure and temperature.– Customer
We’ve covered many ECM’s lovely machines. And for a good reason – they’re all great!
But to find out if maybe Classika is the one for you, read our detailed review below.
Brewing Capacity – 3.5/5
Because this is a single boiler machine, you can’t steam milk and make coffee simultaneously; it takes 3 to 4 minutes after brewing for the boiler to reach steam temperature. But that’s the only reason this machine loses points regarding brewing capacity because it is right on par with more expensive models when it comes to the quality of the espresso.
Indeed, with the same modified E61 group head (1) and stainless brew boiler as its big brothers, the Synchronika and the Technika, the Classika is essentially making the same espresso. You’ll just need to be a little more patient for your latte.
On that point, a single boiler espresso machine like the Classika (and even the Puristika) does have one distinct advantage over the larger dual boiler machines, and that’s heat-up time.
The Classika’s 33-ounce boiler will be ready to rock in under 10 minutes, while bigger machines can take up to 30 minutes.
With the integrated PID controller, you can set the boiler temperature in 1-degree increments. This is an impressive degree of control when compared with other machines in this class. As the boiler approaches the set temperature, you’ll see the heating cycles get shorter, to make sure you don’t overshoot the mark when reheating.
One big difference between the Classika and higher-end models is using a vibratory rather than a rotary pump. While this doesn’t affect espresso quality, vibratory pumps are noticeably louder.
They’re also incompatible with direct plumbing, so you’ll have to keep the water tank topped up. While you can’t do line pressure pre-infusion, you can still play with manual low-pressure pre-infusion thanks to the E61 brew group.
User Friendliness – 4/5
This is a semi-automatic espresso machine, which means it requires a bit of skill to use. With a prosumer machine like this, you’re going to need to take the time to dial in the grind size, dosing, and extraction time. This is espresso as a hobby, not just a drink.
As with any hobby, practice makes perfect (2). But putting in the work and seeing (or in this case, tasting) the improvement is a big part of the fun.
Which is not to say that the Classika isn’t user-friendly. ECM is known for paying attention to the little details that make an espresso machine enjoyable to work with.
First and foremost, the PID display automatically acts as a shot timer as soon as you pull the lever to start an espresso. This is the same upgrade the top-end models received, and it has proven exceedingly popular with users.
Another bonus is how easily you can adjust the pump pressure. Unlike most machines, where the overpressure valve is on the bottom or buried deep inside, in this one, it’s right on top. Access is as simple as lifting off the cup warming tray.
Likewise, the removable water reservoir is accessible from the top, and you don’t need to remove the cup warmer to take it in and out, which is nice if you like to store cups up there. If it’s at risk of running dry, the machine will automatically shut down to avoid damage, a handy feature for a machine you can’t plumb in.
Milk Frothing – 3.5/5
The ECM Classika PID espresso machine doesn’t have the same super-charged steam wand power that ECM’s upper-end models are known for. Still, it’s more than capable of producing the silky smooth microfoam or airy froth you need for a latte or cappuccino (3).
A switch at the top of the machine toggles between brew, steam, and hot water modes. When you flip it to steam, you’ll see the temperature start to rise on the PID display. Like the brew temperature, the steam temperature is adjustable using the PID control, to increase it to up the steam power.
The steam wand has a well-balanced 2-hole tip and a fair amount of clearance for bigger pitchers. The ball joint attachment gives it plenty of articulation. Keep in mind that the steam wand doubles as the hot water wand. This is a nice feature for keeping this machine relatively compact — it comes in at just under 10 inches wide — but you may find it interferes with your workflow if you typically use both in preparing a drink.
Build Quality – 4.5/5
ECM espresso machines are built to last, thanks to their premium German engineering and Italian craftsmanship.
Even less expensive models like the Classika meet the same high standards. Properly maintained, you should get decades out of this machine.
As compared with brands like Breville or DeLonghi, which often don’t run much cheaper, ECM’s quality is a massive step up. Everything is stainless steel, and the casing has a beautiful mirror finish. Looking at the joints and seams, even behind the drip tray, you can see the skill with which these machines were handmade.
It comes with ECM’s popular chrome-plated, commercial-style 58 mm portafilter, including baskets for a single shot or double shot. There is also the option to add on a bottomless portafilter if you want to dial in your espresso.
Inside, the internal plumbing is all copper and braided stainless steel, and the electronics are well-positioned to be isolated from exposure to heat and moisture.
My only gripe? It comes with an all-but-useless plastic tamper. I’d love to see it upgraded to the same hefty, stainless option you get with the more expensive models.
Cleaning and Maintenance – 4/5
Manufacturers have designed these machines with ease of maintenance in mind. According to CEO Michael Hauck, that was an intentional decision because their in-house technicians did so much of the service.
We are more careful in thinking about positioning of parts, in thinking about the layout of the machine, [about] how easily we can do the service. Because in the end, this is also what we do.
As a result, the interior is smartly laid out, with all serviceable parts easy to access and manipulate. And the switch from a pressurestat to a solid-state PID in the latest model means one less mechanical part to break down.
As a user, your primary responsibility will be managing water since you can’t plumb this machine into a water line. Fortunately, this task is easy because both the drip tray and water tank are huge, at 32 ounces for the latter and 101 ounces.
Don’t Buy the Classika If…
You make a lot of milky drinks: If you’re regularly making lattes and cappuccinos, especially a few in a row, it’s probably worth dropping the extra cash on a heat exchanger like the Technika or a dual boiler like the Synchronika.
You’re on a tight budget: If you’re hesitant about the cost, the entry-level ECM Casa V is a fantastic machine. It’s a bit cheaper because it lacks a PID display, but the manufacturing quality is just as outstanding.
You want something easy: If you just want great espresso at the touch of a button, a semi-automatic espresso machine is not the way to go. Instead, you can find a super-automatic option in the same price range. For example, the Jura ENA Micro 9.
If you’re confident a single boiler machine will meet your needs, put the ECM Classika PID espresso machine at the top of your list. It’s a bit more expensive than others in its class, but with the PID controller, modified E61 group head, and impressive build quality, you can be confident you’re getting your money’s worth. This may well be the last espresso machine you ever need to buy.
- Burton, G. (2011, January 11). The E61 Group Head: An Oldie but a Goodie. Retrieved from https://www.fivesenses.com.au/blog/the-e61-group-head-an-oldie-but-a-goodie/
- Grant, T. (2020, July 14). A Guide to Dialling in Espresso. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2020/07/a-guide-to-dialling-in-espresso/
- Klimanova, Y. (2018, December 14). Why Does Milk Foam & How Does It Affect Your Coffee? Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2018/12/why-does-milk-foam-how-does-it-affect-your-coffee/