Many prosumer espresso machines share the same “stainless steel box” look, but they aren’t all created equal. ECM is a brand that distinguishes itself by offering outstanding build quality and thoughtful engineering.
The ECM line-up is not overly extensive, and instead, it is carefully curated. There is just one perfect ECM machine for every kind of espresso lover. And in this article, we’ll help you find yours. Regardless of your priorities, one of these top seven ECM espresso machines is perfect for you.
The 7 Best ECM Espresso Machines in 2021
There are no bad ECM espresso machines! They’re known for their incredible espresso, best-in-class build quality, and stunning design. According to CEO Michael Hauck, the brand pairs past and present technology to create these modern yet timeless machines.
We collect old espresso machines and are interested in the technology involved. We love to open machines to see how much engineering went into these products.
Our top seven picks reflect a range of models, each striking its balance between cost and features. Read these mini-reviews for the critical aspects of each, then keep reading through the buyer’s guide to finding the perfect ECM machine for you.
As the brand’s only dual boiler, the Synchronika is ECM’s largest and most impressive machine. Indeed, it may be one of the most sought-after prosumer machines on the market, which is why it was an easy choice for our top ECM model this year.
The Synchronika wants nothing, especially if you add on the optional flow control device. The stainless steel steam and brew boilers are independently controlled by PID, guaranteeing temperature accuracy and stability (1).
In the newest model, the PID has been upgraded for higher steam power, so it’s faster and easier to make silky microfoam for latte art.
Because it has a rotary pump, the Synchronika can be plumbed directly to a water line. Not only is this convenient, but it allows for proper low-pressure pre-infusion. This longer, gentler pre-infusion improves extraction to bring out additional flavor notes (2).
The Synchronika is incredibly well-engineered, a hallmark of the ECM brand. Even the classic E61 group contains some unique upgrades to make it more durable and attractive. The internal frame is a single piece of steel, and the mirror-finish stainless steel wrapped exterior is stunning. Although, if you don’t mind paying a little more for aesthetics, the all-black 25th-anniversary edition of the Synchronika with wooden accents is a showstopper.
For a much more in-depth look at this impressive prosumer espresso machine, read our complete ECM Synchronika review.
The Technika V Profi PID is a heat exchanger espresso machine sporting many of the features you’d more often expect to find on a double boiler, so it stands out from the crowd. At several hundred dollars less than the Synchronika, it provides a nice balance between advanced technology and cost.
In particular, the Technika has both a PID and a rotary pump. The PID gives you more control over the steam boiler temperature, and thus the brew temperature. Though it won’t give you the same precise control over brew temperature as it would in a double boiler, you’ll still be getting improved temperature stability and durability versus a pressure stat.
Thanks to the rotary pump, this machine can either be plumbed in or run from the water reservoir, flexibility few heat exchanger machines can boast. And as a bonus, it’s certainly quieter than a vibration pump.
The Technika V is a new model, replacing the long popular Technika IV. The Technika V keeps everything beloved about the IV, but adds a few handy upgrades. For example, the PID display now doubles as an automatic shot timer, and the steam and hot water controls have a fresh style.
Interested to know more? We have an in-depth ECM Technika review.
For anyone more interested in pure espresso than milky drinks, the Classika PID offers unbelievable value. The quality of espresso it can produce is on par with double boiler machines twice its cost, with the only trade-off being that you can’t steam milk simultaneously.
Many brands look at single boiler machines as entry-level models. But instead, ECM has used the Classika as an opportunity to make an affordable machine for serious espresso lovers who happen to prefer straight espresso. The Classika is packed with advanced features; it just doesn’t have two boilers.
With the PID, you get impeccable brew temperature control, and you’ll see minimal temperature fluctuations. The updated E61 group head is the exact one found on ECM’s top models like the Synchronika, so you can even add flow control to this machine (3). And because it has only one boiler, it’s one of the smallest machines on the market to boast this technology.
Of course, you can still steam milk with the Classika, and it’s just a bit more cumbersome than with a dual boiler or heat exchanger. The boiler is small, so it takes a little longer, and after steaming, you need to cool and refill the boiler before you pull a shot. If you’re regularly making lattes for a crowd, this probably isn’t the machine for you.
The Classika sports the same gorgeous design as the rest of the ECM line-up, with mirror finish stainless paneling, a subtle PID display, and a pressure gauge.
You can find out more in our complete ECM Classika PID review.
If you like the workflow and design of a heat exchanger espresso machine but don’t require all the bells and whistles of the Technika, then the Mechanika V Slim is the machine for you. It has a significantly lower price, but you can create equally delicious espresso and milk-based drinks with a bit of temperature control know-how.
Unlike the Technika, the Mechanika V Slim has neither PID nor rotary pump, but those are the only differences. It has the same updated E61 group, an impressive stainless steel build, and even a marginally larger boiler.
The lack of PID is the biggest change because you can’t set the boiler temperature directly. Instead, you manage using cooling flushes. Sure, it takes a bit of practice to learn how long and frequently to flush to achieve the right brewing temperature. But once mastered, many users find they prefer this system because you can adjust brew temperature more quickly.
The vibration pump is slightly louder than a rotary pump but is equally capable of producing the required pressure. The main difference is that the Mechanika can’t be direct-plumbed, so it’s not as practical in high-volume situations like a busy office.
What stands out about the Mechanika Slim at first glance is its size, and it’s even smaller than the Classika, measuring less than 10 inches wide. If you’re pressed for space but still want to prepare milky drinks like a pro, you can’t beat this model.
There are quite a few entry-level semi-automatic prosumer espresso machines on the market, and these machines may all look pretty similar. But don’t be fooled; the ECM Casa V is a cut above the rest.
What makes it stand out from the crowd? First of all, there’s the build quality ECM is known for. From its stainless steel outer casing to the commercial-grade components inside, the Casa V is made to last many years.
The brew pressure gauge and easily accessible OPV tucked beneath the drip tray distinguish it from cheaper options like the Gaggia Classic Pro or Rancilio Silvia from a performance standpoint. These features make it easier to dial in a perfect shot and repeat it repeatedly.
The Casa V is a single boiler machine, so it can’t brew and steam simultaneously. But it’s still a significant upgrade from the thermoblock heater found in cheap machines. You can expect better brew temperature stability and far superior milk-steaming capabilities. The higher steam pressure and drier steam of a boiler are key for achieving perfect microfoam for latte art. Plus, with a 1200 Watt heating element, the Casa V is good to go in just 5 to 7 minutes, nearly as fast as a thermoblock.
The Casa V is a great choice for small spaces and households with just a few coffee drinkers as the smallest ECM machine, and it lacks the capacity for higher volume settings.
For more details, check out our ECM Casa V review.
The ECM Elektronika II Profi is one of the brand’s newer models. It shares some features with the other heat exchangers, the Mechanika and the Technika, but distinguishes itself with programmable volumetric dosing. It’s the only automatic prosumer espresso machine on this list, making it our pick for easiest to use.
Instead of timing your shots or watching a scale, you program the volume of water you want to pass through the group and start the shot. An internal flow meter ensures that it will stop automatically. This is common in commercial espresso machines because it frees up the barista to steam milk or interacts with customers. For home users, it provides the same hands-off benefits.
Of course, if you prefer to be in control, you can run this machine in manual mode as well. But if you’re not going to take advantage of the volumetric controls, the Technika, which is the same price but includes a PID, is likely a better buy.
The ECM Barista A2 is a high-quality commercial espresso machine perfect for a mid-sized to the large cafe. With two groups, two steam wands, and a 473-ounce copper heat exchanger boiler, it can keep up in all but the busiest coffee shops.
Like the Elektronika, the Barista A2 uses programmable volumetric dosing, making drink preparation far more efficient in a busy scenario. Rather than worrying about shot timing, baristas can focus on steaming milk, chatting with customers, or doling out food. The Barista A2 also offers electronically controlled pre-infusion, guaranteeing more delicious espresso with less effort.
The steam temperature is PID controlled, so expect excellent temperature control and stability, perfect for a third wave cafe serving specialty coffee. It uses the same upgraded ECM E61 groups as the prosumer models, and it has a dual pressure gauge to monitor pump and boiler pressure.
A few features particular to commercial machines make this one shine. It’s effortless to drain the boiler for transport and access the inside for service. While service is something you hope to avoid on a home machine, regular maintenance is expected with a commercial espresso machine. This is unrelated to the Barista A2’s quality, which is exceptionally high, but just a fact of life for a machine making hundreds of espresso a day.
How to Choose the Best ECM Espresso Machine
Like I’ve already said, every ECM espresso machine is a great one, so choosing the best comes down to finding the right model to meet your needs. This buyer’s guide asks you the questions you need to do just that.
What do you plan to use it for?
This is an important first question to ask yourself before purchasing any espresso machine. Will you be using this machine at home or for a business? What kind of drinks do you plan to make?
A commercial machine has special requirements. One, it must be commercially rated, which means it has been independently tested to ensure it’s safe in a busy, high-volume environment (4). Two, commercial machines, like the ECM Barista A2, are designed for higher capacity. They might have multiple group heads, bigger boilers, and volumetric controls, all of which allow for faster drink turnover. And three, commercial machines are built to higher durability standards, as they are expected to produce far more espresso in their lifetime.
These features make them considerably more expensive upfront, but of course, the idea is you’ll be using them to make money.
If you’re buying a machine for home, the second question to ask yourself is what kind of drinks you’ll be making. If you mostly enjoy straight espressos or Americanos, you can save a lot of money by choosing a single boiler machine. But if you prefer milky drinks like lattes and cappuccinos, it is well worth paying a bit more for a dual boiler or heat exchanger so you can steam milk and pull a shot at the same time.
One style of machine ECM does not make is a lever espresso machine. If those pique your interest, take a look at the offerings from Elektra.
If you like experimenting with single-origin specialty coffees, opt for a single or dual boiler with a PID, like the Classika or Synchronika (5). This gives you the best possible control over brew temperature, making or breaking a unique coffee (6). On the other hand, if you prefer to stick with a classic espresso blend, you can probably get away without a PID and put the cost savings toward a great grinder.
Where does it need to fit?
While home espresso machines do come in a range of sizes, they are all quite large for the most part. So it’s worth thinking about where your machine will live and measuring the space before you buy.
The smallest machines tend to be the single-boiler models, like the Classika and especially the Casa V.
But if you are pressed for space, don’t feel like you need to sacrifice the ability to make milky drinks.
Heat exchanger machines can be just as tiny with the right engineering. ECM has made the Mechanika V Slim just as narrow as the Classika by reorienting the boiler.
Double boiler machines will always be the largest for the simple reason that two separate boilers, and often two independent control systems, need to fit inside. If you have your heart set on a double boiler, be sure to keep its dimensions in mind.
What pump type is right for you?
Rotary pumps have the reputation of being higher quality than vibration pumps because they are more expensive, but this isn’t strictly true. A rotary pump certainly has some advantages, but the difference in espresso quality between the two pumps will be undetectable for the average home user.
So why pay more for a rotary pump?
Two reasons. The best reason is that a rotary pump allows you to plumb directly to a water line. This is crucial in a commercial setting, but it can be convenient at home. It eliminates the annoying task of filling the water reservoir and allows for line-pressure pre-infusion, though it does limit your ability to move the machine around. Many ECM machines, including the Synchronika, Technika, and Elektronika, allow you to seamlessly switch between the water tank and plumbing.
The second reason some people prefer rotary pumps is that they are quieter. In general, your grinder will be louder than either style of pump, but if you’re really looking to minimize decibels in the morning, a rotary pump may be worthwhile.
Do you want flow control?
Flow control has become very trendy in the last few years. In espresso machines with flow control, you can modulate the brewing pressure at the group as you pull a shot; this extra level of control, according to professional barista Fabrizio Sención, can improve extraction and potentially tease new flavors out of a coffee (7).
It benefits how we approach and extract espresso, and helps us to ensure that all the grounds are evenly saturated with water.
This is a fun and delicious way to play with yet another variable for true espresso nerds.
To keep up with consumer demands, ECM opted to develop an aftermarket flow control device that you can add onto most E61 group heads (8). Initially, the flow control mod had to be bought and installed separately, but at present, one can be added at no extra cost. This is presumably to keep up with competitively priced flow control machines like the Lelit Bianca or the M&V Vesuvius.
If you’re interested in flow control, you can buy any ECM semi-automatic machines with an E61 group: the Synchronika, Technika, Mechanika, and Classika.
If you’re shopping for a prosumer espresso machine, you can’t go wrong with a model from ECM. The brand pairs Italian tradition with German engineering to make beautiful and functional espresso makers built to last.
Our top pick in 2021 is Synchronika, ECM’s sole dual boiler espresso machine. It has every feature you could ask for, including PID temperature control, a rotary pump, and even optional flow control. Or, if you’re not ready to drop the big bucks on a dual boiler, the Mechanika V Slim is a top-notch heat exchanger machine at a very reasonable price.
Where are ECM espresso machines made?
ECM espresso machines are made in Milan, Italy, the home of the espresso machine (9). They are not mass-produced; skilled technicians handcrafted each.
ECM and Profitec are “sister companies.” They share a CEO, and in many cases the internal components of their machines are identical or nearly so. Of the two, ECM is known for slightly better build quality and more refined design, with slightly higher prices to match.
What does “single boiler, dual use” mean?
“Single boiler, dual use” is another way to refer to a single boiler espresso machine, and it is about the fact that the one boiler is used for both steam and espresso, so you cannot pull a shot and steam milk at the same time.
- Partida, V. (2017, December 5). PID vs. Pstat. Retrieved from https://coffeetechniciansguild.org/blog/2017/11/21/pid-vs-pstat
- Aloe, R. M. (September 14). Pre-Infusion for Espresso. Retrieved from https://towardsdatascience.com/pre-infusion-for-espresso-dab5185b8094
- 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/
- Kitchen Appliances Pro. (2020, January 26). Espresso Machine Certifications. What are they and what are the differences? Retrieved from https://www.kitchenappliancespro.com/blogs/news/espresso-machine-certifications-what-are-they-and-what-are-the-differences
- Rhinehart, R. (2017, March 17). What is Specialty Coffee? Retrieved from https://scanews.coffee/2017/03/17/what-is-specialty-coffee/
- Fekete, M. (2019, February). How brew water temperature effects espresso extraction. Retrieved from https://www.beanscenemag.com.au/brew-water-temperature-effect-espresso-extraction/
- Grant, T. (2020, July 29). How Flow Profiling Affects Espresso Extraction. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2020/07/how-flow-profiling-impacts-espresso-coffee-extraction/
- 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/
- Radaelli, M. (n.d.) Global coffee culture has a Milanese Flavor. Retrieved from https://luminosityitalia.com/pages/Milan-impact-on-global-coffee-culture.html