bunn of steel

20 07 2007

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.

Bunn ES1AI 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.

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5 responses

20 07 2007
cjwrightoboe

Hey! That is awesome! Isn’t there nothing like buying a machine and getting it to work with your own hands. And then reaping the benefits? I bought my second Graf machine for $100, sanded off all the rust, cleaned and reground the blade, adjusted the guide ever so slightly, and it’s currently my best running machine! I’m very happy for you. And my mouth is watering…

23 07 2007
quinncreative

You never cease to amaze me. I thought I knew you as an oboe-geek, making your own reeds. But this side of you–uber-coffee-geek, is astonishing and delightful! Nothing is as satisfying as taking something that doesn’t work and making it work. The crema (as it were) is to get it to make something for YOU! Grind on!

6 08 2007
Tex

I like your blog, David. You might mention that one of the nicest features of the ES-1A is the water wand. While other machines have open tubes that shoot super hot water at you, the Bunn has a GURGLE fitting. The hot water that shoots from other machines is dispensed in a very controlled manner. Very elegant solution!

22 03 2008
header? « Oboerista - thoughts from an oboist / coffeeist / dad

[…] his little brother Alex, Matthew and Heather. Of course, there were moms & dads there too. My espresso machine got to crank out a few lattes for the big folks, and the kids had their favorite snacks on hand as […]

11 07 2008
PID my HX - WTF? « Oboerista - thoughts from an oboist / coffeeist / dad

[…] Bunn ES-1A Espresso machine is a small professional model. It is a heat exchanger machine which was built in […]

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