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Best Heat Exchanger Espresso Machines

Best Heat Exchanger Espresso Machines

If you’ve ever gone to a busy coffee shop during its rush hours, you’re familiar with how long the lines and the wait can be. This generally isn’t a problem, as people are usually understanding and can entertain themselves with phones or by looking around.

What the average customer doesn’t know is that it would be all too easy for the wait to be even longer. Without innovative designs to their boilers, espresso machines would only be capable of steaming milk or brewing espresso at one time – not both.

A heat exchange boiler has no problem handling both functions simultaneously. As a result, drinks can be prepared that much more quickly. If you’re looking for a speedy espresso machine, we’re here to help by providing you a guide to the best heat exchanger espresso machines.

Here is what we’ll discuss:

  • What is a heat exchanger espresso machine?
  • How do they work?
  • What’s better, a dual boiler or heat exchanger?
  • Our picks for the best heat exchanger espresso machines

Quick Summary

Not in the mood for reading? Here's a quick overview of the top heat exchanger machines in this guide and why we picked them.

  • Best Overall Heat Exchanger Espresso Machine: Nuova Simonelli Appia Life Semiautomatic - Available in one- or two-group configurations, sold in a few different color options, and it has an effortless automatic cleaning system.
  • Best for Home: Nuova Simonelli Musica - Attractive look you'll love displaying, small size, and availability in a pour-over format that makes it semi-portable.
  • Best for Commercial Use: Unic Mira 2-Group Volumetric - Easy volumetric dosing, quiet rotary pump, and built-in cup warming shelf on top.
  • Best for Entry-level: Nuova Simonelli Musica - It has a gorgeous design, beginner-friendly automatic dosing, and a compact size so it can fit in virtually anywhere you need it to.
  • Cheapest: Nuova Simonelli Oscar II - Budget-friendly, available in two different stunning colors, and extended steam arm that's perfect for aerating milk.

What is a Heat Exchanger Espresso Machine?

Put simply, an espresso machine has two main functions: brewing espresso and frothing milk. While you could argue that an espresso machine doesn’t absolutely need to be able to brew milk, the fact is that the majority of coffee shop drinks use a mixture of both espresso and milk.

The most popular examples of such drinks are lattes and cappuccinos. It makes sense, then, that an espresso machine should be able to prepare both the milk and the espresso in order to cover the widest range of menu items.

The problem is that brewing the espresso and steaming the milk require different degrees of pressure and heat. A boiler is the part that generates the heat and also helps generate the pressure. An espresso machine with only a single boiler, then, would traditionally have to wait in between steaming and brewing to adjust to the correct temperature for either function.

A heat exchange boiler gets around this waiting period. Heat exchanger espresso machines can froth your milk and brew your espresso at precisely the same time, which reduces the overall time it takes to make a drink.

How Do They Work?

Heat Exchanger Machine 

Heat exchanger espresso machines still only have a single boiler inside them. We just mentioned above, however, that traditional single-boiler designs must wait in between steaming and brewing. So, how does a heat exchanger boiler manage to steam and brew at the same time?

We’ll need to get into boiler structure in order to explain. Remember, the espresso machine’s boiler has two different functions it needs to perform: brewing espresso and steaming milk. In a single-boiler system, there is only a single boiler to do these things.

A heat exchange boiler system is still a single boiler, but there’s a crucial difference. Rather than being a boiler with a single compartment, heat exchange boilers effectively have two. There’s a tube running through them that carries brewing water to the group head, separating it from steaming water.

Because the water is separated by function, the espresso machine is able to heat them to correct temperatures for either function. In short, steaming and brewing can both be done together.

What’s Better, a Dual Boiler or Heat Exchanger?

 Dual Boiler Machine

Heat exchange boilers aren’t the only systems designed to support simultaneous brewing and steaming. In fact, there’s another excellent system that can accomplish the same thing: dual boiler systems.

Dual boilers are fairly self-explanatory. Instead of dividing a single boiler into separate compartments for steaming and brewing, they simply have two boilers. One boiler holds water for steaming, the other holds water specifically for brewing.

This might leave you wondering whether a dual boiler or heat exchanger espresso machine is better. There’s actually a surprisingly heated debate about this in the barista community.

Here’s the truth: there isn’t one boiler type that is definitively better than other. There are benefits to either heat exchange or dual boiler systems, and it’s up to you to decide which one is better for your situation.

Dual boilers are extraordinarily powerful in terms of steam generation and they’re fast. This makes them excellent for high-volume establishments like large coffee shops and restaurants. There are a couple drawbacks, though: dual boiler machines tend to be more expensive and can take longer to heat up when you first turn them on because they have two boilers to bring up to temperature.

On the other hand, heat exchange boilers don’t need to use as much time or energy to reach optimal temperatures. They also tend to be more affordable than their dual boiler counterparts. One flaw of heat exchanger espresso machines is that you don’t have as much control over temperature, because there’s only a single boiler to work with. In dual boiler systems, you can oftentimes tweak the temperatures of either boiler since they’re separate, allowing you to fine-tune brewing and steaming temperatures with a greater degree of accuracy.

Top Heat Exchanger Espresso Machines 

Nuova Simonelli Oscar II

 Nuova Simonelli Oscar II

Whenever we see or hear someone asking about the best and most affordable home espresso machines, we think of the Nuova Simonelli Oscar II. This robust and compact espresso machine was designed with commercial-level power and a modest size that makes it perfect for enthusiastic home baristas.

Of course, it has a heat exchange boiler that will let you steam and brew together. Another benefit to the boiler, though, is that it’s made from copper. This is a naturally antimicrobial material, so you can enjoy more peace of mind regarding its level of sanitation.

If you’re a beginner when it comes to using espresso machines, another major plus to the Oscar II is its programmable dosing buttons. You can save the correct timings for either single or double doses into its buttons. Down the line, making a single or double shot of espresso is essentially reduced to pushing the correct button and waiting for the machine to end the brew cycle for you.

  • Majesty Coffee Price: $1,295
  • Machine Type: Semiautomatic + Timed Dosing
  • Plumbing: Pour-over
  • Pre-Infusion: Yes
  • Black or Red Options: The Oscar II comes in two handsome colors, red or black, so it fits into a wide range of settings.
  • Ergonomic Steam Lever: Feel free to make as many lattes as you like – the ergonomic design of the steam trigger will keep your wrists from hurting.
  • Cup Warmer: On top of the Oscar II, you’ll find a small flat space that functions as a shelf which preheats your mugs for you.
  • Copper Boiler Construction: Because the boiler is made from copper, it is antimicrobial.

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Unic Mira 2 Group Volumetric

 Unic Mira 2 Group Volumetric

Need something with commercial-level output? Check out the Unic Mira 2-Group espresso machine.

One grievance many baristas have with heat exchanger machines is the need for cooling flushes. This means that you have to run the group head briefly prior to brewing to ensure it reaches the correct temperature for extraction. With the temperature stability of the Unic Mira, the need for cooling flushes is virtually eliminated, saving your employees time.

The machine even has double steam wands, which means there’s one steam wand on either side. This design is great for accommodating two baristas, as both will have access to steam arms for milk-based drinks.

  • Majesty Coffee Price: $7,493
  • Machine Type: Automatic
  • Plumbing: Direct-Connect
  • Pre-Infusion: Yes
  • Thermal Stability: Because the group head is attached to the boiler, heat loss is minimal, shielding your flavors from temperature fluctuations.
  • Cup Warmer: The space on top of the machine can be used to store your mugs within easy reach.
  • Rotary Pump: With a quiet rotary pump, you can rest assured the Unic Mira won’t shatter conversations with its noise.
  • Twin Pressure Gauges: You can use the pressure gauges on the front panel to monitor the machine and make sure it’s reaching the correct pressure levels.

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Nuova Simonelli Musica

 Nuova Simonelli Musica

Many high-end compact models like the Nuova Simonelli Musica are designed with heat exchange boilers. The reason for this is obvious: heat exchange boilers don’t take up as much space as dual boilers do, so the overall machine is able to be smaller.

With machines like the Musica, though, you’re still getting something that’s quite impressive. It has an appealing aesthetic with a glossy exterior that you’ll want out where guests or customers can see it. If you choose to get the Lux version, it has LED edges that make it even more remarkable.

It even has indicator lights to make it easier for beginners to operate. These lights will tell you when you need to perform some kind of maintenance, such as refilling the water tank.

  • Majesty Coffee Price: $2,245-3,240
  • Machine Type: Automatic
  • Plumbing: Pour-over or direct-connect
  • Pre-Infusion: Yes
  • Programmable Water Nozzle: You can program the amount of water necessary for particular drinks, such as Americanos, into the nozzle. That way, you get the same amount every time with no need to measure.
  • Push-Pull Steam Lever: The push and pull design of the steam lever won’t tire your wrists out.
  • Copper Boiler Construction: The boiler is antimicrobial for increased sanitation.
  • Backlit Buttons: Even if the lighting is dim, you’ll be able to operate the espresso machine with its bright backlit buttons.

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La Cimbali Casa

 La Cimbali Casa

Whether you’re looking for an espresso machine for your home, office, or small business, the La Cimbali Casa is a superb option. As an automatic espresso machine, beginners will be able to learn to use it quickly.

It also has a rotary pump, which means it won’t make as much noise as other alternatives. You won’t need to worry about it shattering the peaceful atmosphere of a home or office hard at work.

  • Majesty Coffee Price: $2,995
  • Machine Type: Automatic
  • Plumbing: Direct-connect
  • Pre-Infusion: Yes
  • Compact Size: The small size of the Casa makes it a perfect fit for small homes and businesses.
  • Rotary Pump: Rotary pumps are often quieter than their vibratory alternatives, so you won’t have to worry about the espresso machine being too loud.
  • Boiler Insulation: Thanks to its boiler insulation, the machine doesn’t have to use as much energy staying up to temperature.
  • Stainless Steel Shell: The case of the machine is made from stainless steel, which is both attractive and durable.

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Rocket Appartamento

 Rocket Appartamento

The Rocket Appartamento is an espresso machine that has earned a loyal prosumer following, and with good reason. Rocket really knows how to make machines that combine beauty and power.

For starters, the Appartamento has an unforgettable look. It features the beautiful stainless steel that Rocket is well-known for, but with the addition of circular cutouts on the sides. These circular cutouts come in copper or white coloration if you’re concerned about the machine matching with a particular color scheme.

Of course, the Appartamento is a powerful espresso machine, too. It has an E61 commercial brew group that promotes even greater temperature stability by circulating water from the group head to the boiler. It also has non-compression hot water and steam valves that are sturdy and fairly inexpensive to replace if your machine ever needs repairs.

  • Majesty Coffee Price: $1,690
  • Machine Type: Semiautomatic
  • Plumbing: Pour-over
  • Pre-Infusion: Yes
  • E61 Commercial Brew Group: Helps regulate temperature by circulating water continuously between the brew group and the boiler.
  • 304-Grade Stainless Steel Case: A high-quality stainless steel case protects the machine from damage.
  • Non-Compression Hot Water and Steam Valves: Not only are these valves user-friendly, but they’re affordable to repair.
  • Cup Warmer with Removable Guard: You can use the top of the machine to hold some of your cups and preheat them for you.

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Nuova Simonelli Appia Life Semiautomatic

 Nuova Simonelli Appia Life Semiautomatic

As company, Nuova Simonelli likes to push themselves to continuously raise the bar on what an espresso machine should be. The Appia Life series is a perfect example of this innovation.

Available in one- or two-group configurations, you could feasibly use this machine in either a home or a larger business. Just as you can choose the number of groups it has, you can also choose the color it comes in, with black, white, or red options available.

One of the biggest perks to this espresso machine is its automated cleaning system. When you’re done using the machine for the day, you can tell it which group head to clean, and it will take care of the rest for you.

  • Majesty Coffee Price: $4,000-7,200
  • Machine Type: Semiautomatic
  • Plumbing: Direct-connect
  • Pre-Infusion: Yes
  • Color Options: Searching for an espresso machine with the right look? You can choose from three color options for the Appia Life, giving you more power to match it with your home or business.
  • Raised Group Heads: Since the group heads are raised, you’re able to brew into taller cups.
  • Automatic Cleaning: When you’re finished with machine for the day, you can have it clean its group heads automatically for you.
  • Cool-Touch Wands: Regardless of how many drinks you steam in a row, the wand will always stay safely cool to the touch.

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Wrap Up 

If you hate waiting or want to make sure your customers’ wait is as short as possible, getting an espresso machine that can steam and brew at the same time is a must-have. Otherwise, you’ll find your baristas often have to pause in between brewing the shot and steaming the milk or vice-versa.

With a heat exchanger espresso machine, you can cut down on the amount of time it takes to produce a freshly made milk-based drink. In a business, this means your productivity increases. At home, it means that moment you get to enjoy the first sip is that much closer.

Didn’t see the right espresso machine for you on this list? Call us at 888-978-5224 and our knowledgeable team will be happy to help you find the perfect espresso machine. Alternatively, you can browse the list of espresso machines below for even more options.

Related Guide: Top Commercial Espresso Makers


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★ Customer Reviews ★

MajestyCoffee Verified Customer Testomonials

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Cant wasit to review

I need someone to reach out and get me correct mobile ap…. I have not been able to use machine yet.

One of the best

Awesome machine, great price, great quality!

Eureka Atom 75 Espresso Grinder

Eureka Mignon Specialita Espresso Grinder

Grind quality is great, very adjustable via stepless burr adjustment and timer. Relatively quiet, unit is heavy and build quality seems high. Black model did not come with the laser cut chrome sides as pictured, just a plain black side.