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The heat exchange boiler is
basically a main single boiler used for making steam (i.e. set at a
higher temperature), while lower temperature water used for brewing the
espresso is heated by being passed through a metal tube running through
the main boiler on its way out to the brew head. As the water flows
through the tube, heat is 'transferred' to just the right degree to make
the brew water the right temperature.
Timing is essential for effectively using this type of machine. If the machine is left idle for too long the remaining water in the tube will become too hot for brewing and will need to be flushed; conversely if too much steam is used for milk foaming, while colder water is continually passed through the brew group to pull espresso shots, the system may need time to warm up to the proper temperature again.]
If you have a passion for coffee and really want to get the optimal 'hands-on' feel for the art of espresso making, then it is worth investing a bit more to buy a quality HX boiler model. Technology these days is at a level where these models are no longer as intimidating as they once were – anybody can learn to operate them with relative ease. The experience of manually flushing the brew head and timing the flow of water to get just right temperature of water, at the right pressure, resulting in the perfect espresso extraction, can be amazingly satisfying. For this reason HX boiler models are without a doubt the most fun to use!
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