I frequently follow all types of espresso equipment on eBay. On occasion, I will place a bid – one that is laughably low. On very rare occasions, these items receive only a few bids, but my low bids are routinely left at the starting gate. About 2 years ago, I (somehow) won a Cunill “Full Metal” espresso grinder as the lone, low bidder, and lightening struck again recently.
I bid on a Bunn ES-1A Espresso machine. I was not the lone bidder, but I WAS the winning bidder. The ES-1A is no longer made. It carries a Bunn badge, but is actually a Gaggia Espagnol (a.k.a. Futurmat) espresso machine. It sports a single E-61 group with electronic dosing, heat exchanger, 4 liter boiler, 110 volts, and a rotary pump. Water & drain plumbing is required. Wow! This thing is REAL!
I had never touched an HX machine before, and have absolutely no experience in repairing or troubleshooting one. It was perhaps a foolish thing to bid/win this device, but I honestly never expected to win it, and knew that it could simply be too broken or too complicated for me to bring to life in my kitchen. I gambled, and brought a 90 lb. box into my home the next week.
While contemplating bidding, I researched the machine online extensively. One name came up continually – Robert Harmon. Mr. Harmon lives in Texas, and has this exact espresso machine in his home. He bought his on eBay a year prior, and documented his process & progress online. I contacted him via email to see if he would be willing to advise me in my journey, and he was not only willing – he was enthusiastic. We emailed digital photos back and forth, annotated with arrows & circles – all to educate me on my new machine. He is knowledgeable & patient, and has been simply wonderful in his mentoring. I did not know the difference between a thermostat and a pressurestat last month. I do now. I had never used a multimeter before. Mr. Harmon walked me through each process patiently. Thanks to Robert (“Tex” on coffeegeek.com forums), the Bunn ES-1A is running beautifully in my kitchen, and simply makes the best espresso I have ever had, be it from a Seattle, Paris or Florence café.
The machine did not function when I first unpacked it. Once I was able to get the pump to move water through the system, I was unable to get the boiler to “light”. I bought my first digital multimeter, made jumper cords, and successfully isolated the problem thermostat. Valves were soaked & scrubbed, and parts that didn’t mate properly due to corrosion & crud were polished to seat properly. I replaced the group gasket (stone-hard) and will still need to replace the anti-siphon valve, which intermittently still quietly hisses as a minute amount of vapor escapes. The machine is not yet plumbed to water mains or drainage, but is pulling temporarily from a 3 gallon water bottle & drains to my kitchen sink.
This is simply an amazing machine. It is not so large that it will take over a kitchen, but rather seems quite understated in its appearance. It does not look like today’s prosumer gleaming stainless machines, nor does it look like an intimidating full-size café machine. With very good direction (you’re the best, Tex!), I was able to work on this machine myself. It simply makes great espresso & froths milk like a champ.