Coffee machines are made with many different heating systems. As of recent years, many popular espresso machines have transitioned away from traditional boiler designs to a new feat of engineering usually referred to as thermoblocks, other names include ‘thermocoil’ and ‘thermojets’ (slightly different designs). A thermoblock works by heating water to a precise temperature as the liquid flows through it, eliminating much of the heat up time of traditional boilers. While this comes with a distinct advantage of heat up time, thermoblocks do come with some drawbacks.
Many thermoblock coffee machines have recently introduced ‘dual thermoblock’ heating systems, using one for the coffee extraction and another for milk steaming - which allow for speed in transition between the two. Unfortunately, due the large required amount of power which flows through a thermoblock, simultaneous coffee brewing and milk steaming is not possible unlike a traditional dual boiler design. Such a large power draw would likely overload your electrical circuit.
That being said, thermoblocks, especially dual thermoblocks, are still quite advantageous. Single thermoblock requires a cool-down time between coffee brewing a milk steaming, and generally a longer heat up time as well. The cost of a dual thermoblock machine pales in comparison to most dual boiler machines, and this provides an economical and accessible coffee machine design to hobbyist baristas which are much convenient and faster to heat than traditional single boiler machines in similar price ranges.
Single Thermoblock Coffee Machines
A great machine at a great price. The Philips 3200 LatteGo is one of the most economical options for fully automatic espresso machines in the price range. It’s design features an automatic frothing system, which brings a feature usually found in more expensive machines, however requires a longer transition time between milk steaming and coffee brewing unlike more expensive dual thermoblock alternatives.
DeLonghi’s standard Dinamica espresso machine is an affordable fully automatic machine that provides some of the best coffee available on automatic machines. Additionally, the machine comes with an iced coffee function, and a single dose preground option for decaf. The Dinamica is an ideal machine for coffee lovers, and has an optional manual milk frothing steaming wand for those who want to make the occasional cappuccino or latte. Unfortunately, it being a single thermoblock system means longer transition times between coffee brewing and milk steaming.
A very unique entry into the lineup of integrated grinder semi-automatic espresso machines, the DeLonghi La Specialista Arte comes with non-pressurized baskets and produces a better quality coffee than fully automatic alternatives - that is, if you feel comfortable with the extra work involved. The machine takes some of the guesswork out of the espresso making preparation process with barista-favoured tamping tools and a dosing funnel to eliminate that’s common with most other integrated grinder machines. It’s single thermoblock means some transition time between the coffee brewing and milk steaming, however we found the steam power especially good on this machine and would consider it a great bang-for-buck in its price range.
Dual Thermoblock Coffee Machines
Dual thermoblock coffee machines are the luxury of new machine technology - featuring fast transition times between coffee brewing and milk steaming. Below are some recommendations from our top picks.
The Dinamica LatteCrema features the same iced coffee function as its less expensive single thermoblock sibling, however this machine is packed with powerful dual thermoblock heating systems and a fully automatic LatteCrema milk frothing system. A home luxury, this machine can produce cappuccinos and lattes back-to-back in quick succession.
Jura may be the gold-standard with fully automatic espresso machines. This machine is packed with dual thermoblocks for quick coffee brewing and milk steaming, and the newest model also has a dedicated hot water spout for authentic Americano coffee beverages. The machine also comes with a proprietary P.E.P. (pulse extraction process), which yields a uniquely fully bodied coffee and great shot consistency. Everything about this machine is fantastic, except its heavy price point.
The La Specialista Prestigio may be one of the least expensive dual thermoblock machines on the market. We consider it to be somewhat of a hybrid between an automatic and semi-automatic espresso machine. With it’s integrated grinder and tamping process, this machine is very close to the cleanliness and workflow of a fully automatic, however the machine produces a fantastic espresso a level above fully automatic machines. At a great price point, this machine is a great choice for anyone who wants to get extra reward from little extra work in their daily espresso preparation process.