ECM Mechanika V Slim Review: An Updated Take On A Classic
Just because you’re short on counter space doesn’t mean you should have to make sacrifices to your morning latte. The ECM Mechanika V Slim espresso machine features a redesigned interior that packs a big boiler into a small package.
This detailed review digs into this innovative heat exchange espresso machine in detail, from design quirks to milk frothing. Read on to find out if it’s the solution to your small kitchen woes.
Summary: The ECM Mechanika V Slim
- Prosumer espresso machine with heat exchanger boiler
- E61 group head with optional flow control add-on
- Durable, beautiful, and compact stainless steel build
Beautiful, functional, easy to use even though it looks complicated. Small-ish footprint for tighter spaces, and outshines any other gadget in your kitchen.– Customer
A Full Review of the ECM Mechanika V Slim
ECM is constantly innovating and improving its models. This review covers the ECM Mechanika V Slim, which is presently the most widely available option. However, there is a newer version, the Mechanika VI Slim, that costs a few hundred dollars more.
The Mechanika VI Slim adds a few interesting features, like a three-way control switch to easily adjust boiler temperature. Stay tuned for a full review of the Mechanika VI Slim in the near future.
Brewing Capacity – 4/5
The ECM Mechanika V packs a lot of brewing punch in a compact design. It’s almost hard to believe a 2.2 L stainless steel boiler fits in there! It was accomplished via a vertical reorientation of the boiler, allowing for improved performance in a smaller footprint.
The Mechanika Slim is a heat exchanger espresso machine, so it has one boiler with a separate region for lower-temperature brew water. This boiler type means you can steam and brew simultaneously without the space requirements of a double boiler espresso machine.
The new stainless steel boiler is heated by a powerful 1400 Watt element and features thermal insulation for greater energy efficiency.
The ECM Mechanika V Slim uses a vibration pump type, a common choice with heat exchange espresso machines. Vibration pumps are slightly louder than rotary pumps, but they are less expensive, more compact, and no less powerful.
There is no PID temperature control in this model, which will disappoint some consumers. A PID controller offers advantages in terms of temperature accuracy, though it’s far more useful in a double boiler. If you’re concerned about achieving perfect brew temperatures, the best strategy is to master the cooling flush.
The Classic E61 Group Head
The ECM Mechanika uses the E61-style group head found on most prosumer and commercial espresso machines. ECM custom makes their E61 groups for better performance and durability, including a stainless steel bell and pre-infusion cylinder.
The E61 uses a thermosyphon system to cycle hot water from the boiler to the portafilter. Because the group has substantial thermal mass, it maintains excellent temperature stability, according to Five Sense Technical Engineer Graeme Burton (1).
Around 4kg of chrome-plated brass is used to manufacture the E61 group, thus providing high thermal inertia. It takes a long time to heat up and cool down, but this is important for temperature stability.
Heating the boiler takes about 10 minutes, but plan on waiting 20 minutes to ensure thermal stability.
Optional Flow Control
Any E61 group can also be customized with the addition of flow control, which most dealers will do at no extra cost (2). This adds a valve and pressure gauge to the group so you can adjust water flow – and thus extraction pressure – as you pull shots. Flow control has become very popular in the past few years, providing another variable to optimize the extraction process (3).
User Friendliness – 3.5/5
The Mechanika V Slim espresso machine is well-engineered, but heat exchanger machines, by their very nature, take skill and practice. Controlling the brew temperature isn’t as simple as pressing a button; instead, you use cooling flushes, with a longer flush yielding cooler water. It’s not hard, but there is a learning curve.
This machine features several cosmetic and mechanical improvements versus the previous iteration. A big one is the easily accessible over-pressure valve (OPV) underneath the reservoir lid, which lets you tinker with the pump pressure.
That extraction pump pressure is displayed on one of two pressure gauges, with the other showing steam pressure. Having dual pressure gauges and positioning them at the top of the machine makes them much easier to monitor than other brands.
Milk Frothing – 4.5/5
The milk frothing is the standout performance feature of the ECM Mechanika V Slim espresso machine.
As a general rule, heat exchanger espresso machines offer better steam power for your money than double boilers – with precise control of brew temperature as the trade-off. Without the need to fit two boilers, the steam boiler can be larger, which equates to lots of power. There’s a reason the steam pressure gauge goes up to 3 bars!
The Mechanika V Slim has a professional-style stainless steel steam wand with a two-hole tip. To make it easy to use, it is fully articulated and has a double-walled design, so you can operate it at any angle without worrying about burning yourself.
The steam and hot water wands are operated with knobs, rather than joysticks. I think this is a smart design, making it easier to wield all that steam power.
Build Quality – 4.5/5
Build quality is a hallmark of ECM, and the Mechanika V Slim and VI Slim continue in that tradition of great espresso brewing equipment. These machines are beautiful and built to last.
The ECM Mechanika V Slim is built around a one-piece steel frame and finished with stunning mirror-finished stainless steel panels. No detail has been overlooked, from the perfectly engineered seams to the red accents in the control knobs.
The defining feature of this model is its compact design, measuring just 9.8” wide by 17.5” deep by 15.5” tall.
It is small enough to fit comfortably in most kitchens. Keep in mind, however, that it is still a prosumer espresso machine. It’s larger than an average Breville home model and weighs 55 pounds!
The ECM Mechanika comes with two portafilters, a double spout and a single spout. ECM portafilters are among the best in the business, with an angled grip and weight-balanced shape.
I’m often asked to compare ECM with other prosumer machines. It’s easy to get bogged down in the many “chrome box” style espresso makers.
ECM vs Profitec
Profitec is the sister company of ECM espresso machine. They operate under the same ownership, with machines designed in Germany and built in Italy.
The obvious comparison with the Mechanika V Slim is the Profitec Pro 500, a similar high-quality heat exchanger machine.
- The Mechanika V Slim has a slightly larger boiler, producing more powerful and longer-lasting steam, a win for latte lovers.
- The Profitec Pro 500 has a PID, yielding more control over brew temperature.
- The Pro 500 doesn’t have the slim build of the Mechanika, measuring 11.9” wide.
ECM vs Rocket
Rocket is another prosumer brand manufactured in Italy, immediately identifiable by its iconic R logo. The closest Rocket model to the Mechanika is the Rocket Espresso Appartamento, also marketed for its compact design.
- The Appartamento is wider and shorter than the Mechanika, a good option if you want to house it under your upper cupboards.
- The Appartamento has a copper boiler that is about 20% smaller than the Mechanika’s. Copper was once favored for its better thermal properties, but now most espresso lovers prefer stainless steel for its better resistance to limescale.
- The pressure gauges are easier to monitor on the Mechnika.
- The Mechanika interior is better laid out for service.
The two machines are a similar price, so I’d be hard-pressed to recommend the Appartamento unless you prefer the aesthetics.
Cleaning and Maintenance – 3.5/5
If you’ve never owned a respectable prosumer espresso machine before, I’m here to tell you they require significantly more maintenance and owner involvement than the average domestic espresso maker. That’s the bargain you make for a machine that makes better espresso and lasts years (if not decades) longer. It’s up to every coffee lover to decide if that’s a trade they want to make.
The Mechanika V Slim isn’t compatible with direct plumbing, so you need to monitor the level in the water tank and drip tray. Fortunately, both are large, measuring 101 and 35 ounces, respectively. Other regular exterior maintenance includes lubricating the gaskets in the group, backflushing with water regularly, and wiping down the panels to keep that mirror finish looking pristine.
A common feature of all ECM machines is their well-designed interiors. Some maintenance is still best performed by skilled technicians, but the engineering in the Mechanika makes some work accessible to the average owner. Even though the inside of the Mechanika is a little cramped thanks to its compact design, it’s easy to access any user-serviceable parts.
The stainless steel boiler is much less prone to scale build-up than a copper boiler, but I still advise using filtered water in your espresso machine. Plus, it makes your espresso taste better!
Things We Liked:
- Heat exchanger boiler can brew espresso and froth milk simultaneously
- Ultra-powerful steam pressure
- High-end construction and well-designed interior
- Compact design suitable for small kitchens
Things We Didn’t Like:
- No PID for temperature control
- Takes some practice to master
Don’t Buy The ECM Mechanika V Slim If…
- You rarely make milk-based drinks: If lattes and cappuccinos aren’t your things, save money by choosing a single boiler machine like the ECM Classika. It can steam milk when needed, but you can’t brew and steam simultaneously. If you never make milky drinks, check out the ECM Puristika. This “purists” espresso machine lacks a steam wand altogether, focusing on great coffee.
- You want better temperature control: The best temperature accuracy and precision come from a double boiler equipped with a PID; there’s no way around it. If you want to stick with the ECM brand, the expensive and top-of-the-line Synchronika is your best bet. A more affordable pick is the Profitec Pro 600.
- You don’t want a prosumer espresso machine: Not everyone wants a 50-pound espresso machine that takes practice to operate. Standard home espresso machines are much easier to use, though they may not last as long. Consider something like the Breville Barista Pro or Breville Oracle Touch.
The ECM Mechanika V Slim is the espresso machine to get if you have limited space but don’t want to sacrifice brewing and steaming performance. The 2.2-liter stainless steel boiler rivals those of much larger – and more expensive – machines. Don’t let your small kitchen counter keep you from hosting all your latte-loving friends!
- 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
- Bryman, H. (2019, April 10). Whole Latte Love and Profitec/ECM Launch Flow Control Device for E61 Groupheads. Retrieved from https://dailycoffeenews.com/2019/04/10/whole-latte-love-and-profitec-ecm-launch-flow-control-device-for-e61-groupheads/
- Grant, T. (2020, July 29). How Flow Profiling Impacts Espresso Extraction. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2020/07/how-flow-profiling-impacts-espresso-coffee-extraction/