The first machine we’ve reviewed to earn a perfect five-star rating. Accept no substitutes. This machine is specialty coffee Nirvana.
Recommended for: Large households, busy offices or restaurants, coffee purists, and power drinkers. Not recommended for casual coffee drinkers.
Table of Contents
- 1 An Overview of the Quick Mill Achille Lever Action Espresso Machine
- 2 Very Easy to Use, Easy to Clean (but Requires Elbow Grease!)
- 3 Pros & Cons of the QuickMill Achille Espresso Machine
- 4 Quick Mill Achille Review Conclusion
An Overview of the Quick Mill Achille Lever Action Espresso Machine
Are you looking for the ultimate specialty coffee experience? Have you been searching for a machine that will give you full control over every aspect of the process of not just making, but hand-crafting each drink you create and every shot you pull?
If so, then you’ve found the machine you want, and you’re going to love our detailed Quick Mill Achille review.
A few words of warning before we get into the guts of the machine. It’s not for everyone. If you’re not a hands-on kind of person, you’re not going to have any interest in this model. If you’re a casual coffee drinker, who enjoys one or two cups a day tops, the Achille would be serious overkill in your home, and there’s a better fit for you, somewhere else in the market.
For everyone else, read on, and get ready to be blown away. The Achille is what you’ve been searching for.
We’ll take a close look at everything this machine can do, and go over the things it wasn’t meant to do, by design, so you’ve got a complete picture before making a final purchase decision. Let’s get to it!
Form Factor, Footprint & Aesthetic
The very first thing you’ll notice about the QuickMill Achille is the overall aesthetic. With its lever jutting proudly upward, this is a decidedly old school machine, dressed all in stainless steel that’s been polished to a mirror-like finish. It gleams and demands to be noticed.
Immediately after you take in the sight of this almost anachronistic piece of equipment from another age, with its simple indicator lights, knobs, levers and gauges, the next thing you’ll notice is its size.
It is, simply put, a beast, measuring 31” (with lever) x 14” x 20” and weighing in at a hefty 88 pounds. As such, it’s not the machine for you if you have a tiny kitchen and limited counter space, and there’s almost no way it’s going to fit neatly under your kitchen cabinets unless you’ve had custom work done.
This machine requires a dedicated work space, and it's heavy enough that you’re not going to want to move it around once you find a home for it. That makes it a nonstarter for some people, who do not have enough room to devote to the unit.
As power drinkers who consume vast quantities of coffee on a daily basis, this is always a big deal for us, and one of the first questions we ask about any new espresso machine we get our hands on is “how big is the water tank.”
The Quick Mill Achille delivers in style on this front. You’ve got two options; you can either manually fill its impressive, top-loading 3-liter water tank, or you can run a dedicated water line to it (which is another reason you’re not going to want to move it, once you find it a home).
It’s got enough water supply, even without the dedicated line, to keep pace with even the busiest households or offices, and we love it.
One thing to note here is that like all the other Quick Mill models we’ve seen; the water reservoir does not use a filter. That’s fine by us. While we acknowledge that some people love machines with dedicated water filters, our view is that they represent an ongoing expense that will dramatically increase the total cost of ownership of the machine.
Granted, a filter cuts down on maintenance, because if you use one, you won’t have to descale as often, but there are other ways to achieve that same end. Either use distilled water or filter it at some other point. We’re fine with it as it is, but if that’s important to you, then it certainly bears consideration.
We’re including this section in our Quick Mill Achille review for the sake of completeness, but we’ll say upfront that the Achille is not a “beans to brew” system, and as a semi-automatic, it doesn’t have an integrated grinder.
In some ways though, we regard that as a good thing. If you buy a super-automatic, then you’re stuck with whatever grinder they’ve opted to put into the machine, and the industry average super automatic grinder only has six settings, which we don’t feel is enough.
The reason that matters, of course, is that how you grind your beans has a great deal to do with the final flavor of whatever drink you’re making. If you buy your own grinder, then you’re guaranteed to have as much control over that process as you want.
Since you’ll have to buy a grinder separately, we’ll include some thoughts below to guide your selection on that front.
In the world of grinders, you’ve got two basic choices: Blade and Burr.
Forget blade grinders. Their only advantage is that they’re super cheap, but if you’re going to spend a couple of thousand bucks on a top of the line espresso maker, then the last thing you want to do is pair it with a bargain basement grinder.
Besides, blade grinders don’t live up to their name. They smash the beans into pieces, which gives you a highly inconsistent grind.
As for Burr Grinders, you will find two varieties: Stainless steel and ceramic. Of the two, ceramic is the better choice because stainless steel burrs tend to heat when used, which can burn your grounds and ruin the flavor of your drink. Not good.
Since you have to buy a grinder anyway, you’re better off not skimping and get the best one you can.
Another hidden advantage of buying your own is this: Integrated grinders don’t do well with oily beans, which means that if you prefer Dark Roast, you’re not going to be able to use your favorite beans. You get around that with a standalone, especially if you opt for a manual grinder.
The Boiler System
Unlike many of the espresso machines on the market today, which utilize aluminum boilers, lined with stainless steel, the QuickMill Achille features an expensive, insulated copper boiler. Again, this is pure old school, but copper boilers are known for their quick heating and even temperature distribution, so you’ll be thrilled with the results you get from your machine.
Quick Mill Achille PID?
Note that while some Quick Mill models feature a PID on the front face of the machine allowing you to control the boiler temperature, that’s not the case with the Achille. If you want to change the boiler temp, you’ve got to get inside the housing, where you’ll find a control knob for that purpose.
That’s inconvenient, but in practice, once you get the boiler’s temperature where you want it, this is not something you’ll find yourself having to change on a regular basis, so it’s not nearly as much of a problem as it first seems.
Telescoping Coffee Spigot
Another fairly short section, because the Achille doesn’t have coffee spouts that move up and down. They are located at the bottom of your portafilter, and you’ll have about 3.5” of clearance between the spouts and the drip tray where you’ll set your cup.
Note that when you purchase the machine, you get two portafilters; one for pulling single shots, and one for pulling doubles. Also included with your purchase are water hardness testing strips and a backflushing disc, which we’ll talk about in more detail in the section on cleaning.
Pro Tip: If you’ve owned other Quick Mill products in the past, be aware that the Portafilters from E-61 machines are not compatible with this one!
The Brew Unit And Control System
This is the heart and soul of every espresso machine, whether super automatic or semi- and the Quick Mill Achille lever is no exception.
The first thing to talk about here is the lever action. To pull a shot using this machine, you’ve got to get actively involved. After preparing your puck and inserting the portafilter, you’ve got to manually bring the lever down and allow pressure to build. There’s a gauge on the front face of the unit that displays your current pump pressure, so you’ll be able to see exactly when you’ve got optimal pressure.
It takes at least nine bars of pressure to make a great espresso, and the Achille’s pump is rated for a maximum of sixteen bars output, which gives you plenty of power to pull a world-class shot, every time you use the machine.
The rest of the controls are as old school as the lever action itself. Knobs and levers control all the machine’s functions, and you’ll find no high-tech wizardry here. Note that the rotary pump inside the machine is used only to fill the boiler. It does not provide any pressure to the pump! That’s what the lever is for, and where you enter the picture.
Basically, you’re looking at a pure analog machine here. There’s nothing digital about it. No complicated menus to have to slog through, and not much to memorize or remember. This is about as “ back to basics” as it gets, and by the time you’ve run through the initial setup, you can fairly say that you’ve got a good handle on its use.
Having said that, this machine is a lot like chess. It’s easy to learn the basic rules but can take you a lifetime to truly master. Same thing here. What this machine does though, is it gives you fine-grained control over every aspect of the drink crafting process, and it provides you with all the tools you need to make any specialty coffee or hot water-based drink you can imagine, and we love that.
The Milk Frothing System
Where milk frothing systems go, there are, broadly speaking, two ways a company can implement the feature. Either an auto-frother or a steam wand.
Newbies tend to prefer the auto-frother because it automates the process, so there’s nothing to think about, and you get highly consistent results. The downside, of course, is that the consistent results you get may not be the ones you want, and there isn’t typically much you can do to change that.
The steam wand, on the other hand, gives you a high degree of control over both the milk temperature and the quality and quantity of froth you get, but it takes practice to learn to use well, and this, more than anything, is what intimidates beginners.
The Achille uses a fully articulated steam wand, and it is excellent. You won’t have any trouble producing as much or as little froth as you like, and you can adjust the temperature of the milk to taste.
If you’ve never used an espresso machine before, you can pretty much count on the fact that your first 3-4 milk-based drinks aren’t going to turn out quite the way you had hoped. That’s to be expected because there is a learning curve with the steam wand.
If you stay at it though, you’ll master it in short order, and be able to impress all your friends with your Barista skills, and create real coffee magic!
Cup Warming Tray
The Quickmill Achille has a cup warming tray, and if the machine is going to be in use on a near-constant basis, it will prove to be a real Godsend, although if you’re just pulling a single shot intermittently, you may be better off just dispensing a bit of hot water into your cup while you’re making your preparations, then dumping it when you’re ready to brew.
If you’re new to the world of specialty coffee drinks though, you should know that the humble cup warming tray is a lot more important than you might think! The main reason is heat loss.
See, specialty coffee drinks were meant to be enjoyed at temperatures somewhat lower than most Americans prefer to drink their coffee, and one of the biggest, most persistent complaints about espresso machines sold on the American market is that the coffee just isn’t hot enough.
Of course, the primary way to address this problem is by increasing the boiler temperature, but you’d be amazed at how much heat you lose when you dispense your coffee creation into a cold cup. The cup warming tray minimizes that.
If you’re skeptical, try an experiment.
Brew two of your favorite coffee drinks (you’ll notice the effects more profoundly in milk-based drinks, but whatever your preference is, make that).
Brew the first drink in a cold cup, and the second in one that’s gotten to spend some time on the cup warming tray. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes!
Very Easy to Use, Easy to Clean (but Requires Elbow Grease!)
Okay, so we have to make a couple of caveats here.
While this machine is easy to use and clean, it’s not the same kind of “easy” as what a super automatic offers.
You can find super automatic espresso machines that automate virtually all of the maintenance functions, thanks to their spiffy high-tech controls.
That’s not what we’re talking about here. In the case of the Achille, maintenance is easy not because it’s automated – in fact, nothing is automated, but the machine is so well-designed that it’s easy to access every component you’ll have to take care of.
Having said that, since you’ll be performing all the maintenance by hand, you’ve got to allocate sufficient time to do it.
Broadly speaking, your routine maintenance tasks will be as follows:
This last may not be familiar to you if you’re new to semi-automatic machines. Backflushing is for a semi-automatic, what cleansing tablets or rinsing the brew unit is to a super automatic. It keeps the innards clean, and you want that.
Don’t worry, this machine is built with solid stainless steel, inside and out, so there’s no risk of rust.
Just put a bit of cleanser into the backflushing disc and activate the pump several times in rapid succession to give it a thorough cleaning, and you’re all set.
If you have any problems, or if anything breaks, the unit is designed with easy access in mind, and although the components are commercial grade and of exceptional quality, sooner or later, something is going to break down.
If you’re a dedicated Do It Yourselfer, when that happens, the excellent user manual will be your go-to source for information, and you should be able to fix or replace just about any component that has failed.
If you’d rather trust your machine to an expert, then anyone armed with the manual who knows his way around basic electronic equipment (pumps, heating units and control switches) will have no problems getting it back in working order.
Honestly, as ruggedly as this machine is built, with proper care, it will provide you with years, if not decades of reliable service, and in our view, this is one of the best machines on the market today.
Pros & Cons of the QuickMill Achille Espresso Machine
We love the Quick Mill Achille. It connects us to every part of the process of really crafting a specialty coffee drinks, and honestly, we wouldn’t change a thing.
Yes, you have to do everything manually, but that’s the point of the model. That’s by design, so if that’s not the experience you’re looking for, then you’ll automatically pass this machine by. If you are though, then our view is that the Achille is well deserving of its perfect five-star rating.
Quick Mill Achille Review Conclusion
And that wraps up our Quick Mill Achille review. It’s an excellent machine, and about as old school as it gets. Lever action machines aren’t for everyone, because there is more physical work involved in pulling your shots, but if you want to feel completely connected to every part of the process, these are the kinds of machines you want, and there are few better than the Achille.
That said, this is a high capacity machine, so it’s not recommended for smaller households or casual coffee drinkers. With a capacity of up to 20 shots per hour, this machine is most at home in large households with multiple heavy coffee drinkers, businesses, or busy office environments.
For people in those groups, it is highly recommended. It’s built to last a lifetime.
Sources & Resources
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