Living With The Brewtus II

Living with the Brewtus II (by Paul L)

Written in Spring 2007

If you are reading this out of curiosity as you peruse web-sites and pages about coffee machines which cost the price of good plasma televisions, handmade watches or perhaps jewellery which keeps you in her good books for quite some time(!), then you will be hoping to hear why seemingly mad coffee enthusiasts would buy a machine like the Brewtus II.

If you have already been through that early shock of learning that Krups, low-end Gaggia and other coffee machines in department stores et al really are starter items only then you will be hoping to learn what it means to have a machine that probably seems like a dream to own.

I will try.


Summary no.1 to save those who like to go straight to the end doing so
No matter where I go in the World, how many 4 group commercial machines I see people lusting over as resurrection projects or how many God-shots are chased on 53mm group-heads, my Brewtus II is going nowhere fast. Never say never with anything in life but it is quite likely that it will be happily handed down when I am gone. I have not defeated it yet or taken it outside of a comfort zone, it is forgiving and does not try to defeat me. In a slightly rustic, expense-spared and industrial quality external finish, it is otherwise an SME turntable, a Mazzer grinder, a Mercedes-Benz (of old). There are always alternatives out there and quirks to any item but in owning a Brewtus II you don’t have to apologise to anyone, lust elsewhere or become disaffected with it.

I had too many years of a jar and a spoon whilst considering myself a coffee person. Delusional of course but coffee always has been my drink, even in pubs with mate’s downing their pints. I thought Starbucks and all those brand and non-brand coffee outlets we frequent (or used to!) were good and I understood nothing about coffee. My generation missed the era of coffee in the UK, roasting in local shops and coffee culture that we assumed were only the preserve of Italy, Holland and a more exotic world. Nescafé and the invention of the instant powdered coffee substitute has an awful lot to answer for!

So, in this generation believing they are discovering something for the first time (where have we heard that before  ) all quality machines are a mystery when we start.

I am going to assume you have read the first look available on the Bellabarista site or one of the many reviews which already exist. There is little point writing a me-too that you can read elsewhere.

The right place to start with a machine like the Brewtus II or any of it’s competitors is a reminder that coffee is a fresh food. It is worth pausing and repeating that, coffee is a fresh food.

Don’t let it stop you buying a Brewtus II if you are not yet very experienced with the whole plant to cup of coffee, are not yet completely absorbed with roasting and choosing varietals carefully or simply want a top machine. Whatever your buying reason, do continue your coffee journey if you want to do a Brewtus II justice. Work at continuously developing your skill, the quality of your beans, your roasting (or that of your roaster), the quality of your grind and your preparation all play a part. The Italians (Revered in coffee terms but actually babies in one sense in having less than 100 years experience in a 1,000 year old + pastime!) are right to pay attention to all of the four ‘M’s.

  • Macinazione is the correct grinding of a coffee blend
  • Miscela is the coffee blend
  • Macchina is the espresso machine
  • Mano is the skilled hand of the barista

Summary no.2 on what you can expect from a Brewtus II
A Brewtus II (and any of it’s peers) is a garbage-in, garbage-out device If you feed it:

  • pre-ground coffee it will tell you so;
  • fresh but poor or only reasonably ground coffee it will do likewise;
  • poor quality beans or roast, the same end result
  • poor preperation, tamping or basket-filling it will feed this straight back

When I looked for a better coffee machine than the Gaggia Cubika and subsequent Pavoni classic lever I previously used, I was already hooked. I had already discovered sites like Kenneth David’s great beginner’s encyclopaedia ( click on the coffee reference sub-heading and enter an Aladdin’s cave) so I knew that my reading was continuous and that month by month and year by year I would know what a Brazilian Santos meant in terms of general taste at different roasting levels or whether I preferred singles, doubles, ristrettos, machiattos or cappuccinos for a particular bean or blend even if I had no idea right now what people were talking about!

In my personal opinion the Brewtus II quite an ugly girl, there I’ve said it! This is not the fluted case of the Bricoletta, the slight sculpturing of the Izzo Vivi and Alex machines, the beauty of the Andreja Premium and sisters. The Brewtus is a bit plainer, not ugly as such but not quite as finished as these other machines. Unless, of course, you favour the plastic look over the exposed E61 group, stainless-steel genre altogether.

Does this bother me? Not a bit.

Summary no.3 on the buying decision of a machine like a Brewtus II

  • it is a cheap machine for those who are on a coffee journey and expensive if you simply want to make quality coffee on auto-pilot
  • save your money if you are not ‘into the whole coffee thing’ as it were
  • don’t buy it as jewellery, there are better looking choices out there!

The Brewtus II is a big heavy machine, however in footprint it is surprisingly domesticated.

  • Drip Tray The drip tray is creased inside leading to an indented circle the size of a large coin so that if you want to plumb the drip tray then you can. Personally, I do not. I like the convenience of lifting it out to clean it simply. When I visited my vendor again recently and walked along their display of maybe 15 machines only the Brewtus II and the Izzo Alex had drip trays that were both large and pulled out really conveniently in my opinion.
  • Water Feed The water feed can be used via either water tank or again plumbed and unlike some machines, this is done with the turn of a switch underneath and so is instantly reversible and no extra kits to buy
  • Warming Tray This is large, removable for cleaning and conveneient save for the need to lift it off if you use the water tank. So, the first thing I did was stop at a DIY store and spend about £4 on tasteful 5” stainless-steel handles usually used as kitchen drawer handles and screw them onto the top tray on the holes it already provides. This gave me an instant convenience with the top tray
  • Water Tank The water tank is large but with only a hole the size of those large supermarket milk containers. I did miss a bit when pouring from my filter jug so I cured this for a whopping £0.74 by buying a food-safe plastic funnel!

Summary no.4 the Brewtus II is very practical

But you’re probably not reading this for the practicalities. Everyone wants to know about the incredible temperature stability, right?

The temperature stability is great apparently. Is it? I don’t know! You see I don’t think about it. I am aware that HX machine owners are always seemingly hot flushing, cool flushing, this flushing, that flushing and water dancing or something like that. In the process they are trying to avoid boiling water coming through the group, guessing what the temperature is. They become skilled at it of course but could not ask their Mum to help herself to a coffee.

I don’t mess around with any of this. The Brewtus II works on an off-set temperature basis as you will read elsewhere so the only thing I do pull a couple of ounces through the group to ensure it is stable and also to flush out any water from the pipes but that’s all. I have not seen boiling water come out through my group the way HX owners do if they are not ritualistic.

Summary no.5 the Brewtus II temperature control does not draw attention to itself

I spoke about the four ‘M’s earlier and about the coffee journey. This is the real reason for buying a Brewtus II because it is a machine you grow with. When I bought mine:

  • Roaster I had just changed from an iRoast to a Hottop for home roasting
  • Grinder I used a Macap MC5 grinder
  • Beans I bought greens from a specialist supplier

It was my goal to be able to change temperature to that demanded by the individual bean (or compatible blend). There is no substitute for knowledge, experience and continuously mastering the variables though. So, in 9 months since the arrival of my Brewtus II:

  • Roaster I have changed from a Hottop to a Gene Café because the latter will allow me to profile roasts and generate different flavour results. This is contrary to conventional web-lore so do visit the Gene Café aticles on the Coffeetime Wiki
  • Grinder I have also changed from a Macap to a Mazzer Mini E grinder. Web-lore describes them as rivals so either the former is great value and the latter over-priced trading on it’s decade old commercial placements globally or the latter is simply better. My view? Having owned both I would not change back form Mazzer to Macap in terms of engineering, longevity or most importantly grind quality and consistency. I, feel the latter is one of the best buying decisions I have ever made in any pastime and I expect to hand this down along with the Brewtus II!
  • Beans I have also changed coffee supplier helping to form the Coffeetime greens club (non-commercial) co-operative which has enabled me to source even higher quality beans with the double benefit of much, much cheaper pricing.

These changes are bringing me to a point of controlling the variables sufficiently with consistent shot after shot. The Brewtus II does that anyway but controlling the other variables really does make a difference.

Summary no.6 the Brewtus II is a great machine for getting to know coffee

You're not really going to let me get away with summary no.5 are you? I mean, I kind of skipped past the feature which attracts everyone to the Brewtus II. This is a work in progress.

I hope I have outlined that one could buy a Brewtus II whether it is really needed or not and jump straight into playing with temperatures. In my opinion though, there would be so many variables for the inexperienced buyer (and I was one) that conclusions would not be meaningful. With a huge amount of ground covered in a couple of years and a high quality coffee set-up accompanying my Brewtus II from "bean to cup", I will very shortly start testing brew temperatures to see how a shot might taste at 92C and 96C. I have no idea whether to expect taste differences or whether the drop in temp from the group to the cup renders it negligible, these will be group tests too which are always fun. A small set of enthusiasts is now established and we get together open-mindedly to experiment and conduct taste tests with a vastly experienced coffee friend presiding over things. I have no doubt will attract a great deal of interest and results will be awaited keenly.

Once in, the findings will be added here.

Ahem… Postscript (June 2007)

2 months after I wrote this article, something unexpected has happened. I sold the Brewtus II!

Does this invalidate any part of what I have written? No, I think all my comments are representative and remain honest. So what happened? I bought an Izzo Alex MKII as a replacement machine.

I did what?

Alas, my Brewtus II did have an achilles heel. It proved unreliable in the area which it gave it it's unique selling point. The digital temperature controller failed on me about every 3 months and when this happens the machine shuts down because it will no longer retian temperature. There is only one cure and that is to fit a replacement digital temperature controller.

I became very skilled at this and my vendor was fantastic in their support and their speed of response. When this happened for the third time though and meant a fourth controller was required I had had enough, my confidence was dented too far and I did not relish a lifetime of this outside of warranty at my cost.

Would I have changed machine if Expobar had overcome it?

That's an interesting question and has a two-part answer.

  1. Firstly it did not come to this because I had no first hand knowledge of the actual problem.
  1. Secondly, because my vendor made it really easy to transition across to another brand if wanted to do so. I did so.

Now, this means of course that those tests of temperature stability and temp profiling for different coffees are no longer going to happen. To cut a long story short, I observed an Izzo Alex MKI in action on a weekly basis whilst living with my Brewtus daily and it was an interesting contrast. The same coffees were regularly been drunk on both. With the Alex MKI I felt that the flavour differentiation and visible extractions were better so, I transitioned to an Izzo Alex MKII.


The Izzo machines receive greater attention to detail in design and manufacturing than Expobar machines as far as I can see. This comes across in weight, double-skinned cases, quietness and finish. I was happy to flush and water-dance and so on to achieve temperature stability, I just felt subjectively that eahc time I saw the smooth rotary pump extraction of an Alex in action I preferred it.

The Alex extractions of an Alex look fantastic with ease with thick, brochure-quality mouse-tails which don't channel or blonde. The taste in the cup is fantastic. Sure, I'm now cool-flushing as part of my routine but it matters not, the results are worth it. The mouthfeel is richer, the taste is generally sweeter, the characteristics are clearer and I now realise they were previously muted.

My conclusion is that despite all the qualities of the Brewtus II and it's fantastic grouphead (and therefore shot) temperature stability you still have to try rotary v vibe and dual boiler v HX to make up your own mind.

Sorry, if you've read a long way down in anticicpation, hopefully you've gained some benefit out of this as indeed I have. If you've not seen a rotary pump machine (the Alex is not the only one) in action make a point of doing so and see if you come to the same conclusion.

So, an unexpected twist in the tale but as I said much earlier, never say never to anything you think you will keep without changing! I don't profess to be a professional, just an enthusiast learning as I go along.

April 2008 update
I have updated this postscript to expand on my Brewtus sale and move to the Alex. It was not fair to do so last year in case mine was a one-off and it disadvantaged either the vendor or the manufacturer. Please note I still only have my own experience to go by so I can not honestly suggest there is any general problem with Brewtus reliability.

How do I feel one year on? I really like my Alex and I do not feel inclined to change. If my Brewtus had been fine then I would probalby have stuck with it too. In fact, I still use my Pavoni sometimes and I'm also happy with that!

This must mean that either I am not discerning or that I have become very used to coffee machines and can happily use them and switch from one to another. I think (hope) it's the latter.

One friend has suggested that as my staple diet is not espresso then I don't need the dual boiler temperature stability. I have thought about this and I don't agree. I can taste variations in my milk drinks and my americanos. I can taste the variations in my first Pavoni shot from the second shot every single time. So, I'm not inclined to agree.

All of this means I don't have single conclusion but I hope it gives an entertaining or informative few minutes along the way.

Paul L