Reneka Techno - Review
The Bottom line: A very serious espresso machine for very serious espresso nuts. The best commercial machine for home use & an excellent choice for low-volume commercial settings.
More about Reneka: go to the Reneka company site
Where to buy: Just Espresso ( http://www.justespresso.com/ )
Previous machine: Gaggia Classic ("mid-range home espresso machine")
Product ratingsQuality: 10
Cost vs. Value: 10
Overall rating: 10
Positive product pointsRotary pump;
Plumbed in water supply, and drain;
Can be left on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week;
Electronic "brainbox" for temperature control and dosing;
Two separate boilers for brew water, and steaming;
Temperatures of both boilers can be programmed independently;
Very easy to "surf" with better than 1 degree precision;
Very stable temperature during brewing;
Looks absolutely smashing
Negative product pointsIf you have a 58mm tamper, it needs to be turned down to 57.5mm to fit in the Reneka baskets
Detailed commentaryOpening note: this review pertains to the 230V Reneka Techno. I have no experience with the 110V version of this machine.
I have used my Reneka Techno for four months now, and it is about time for a review. However, it is difficult to describe it in just a few words, there's just so much to say about this machine (mind you, mostly good stuff!). Besides that, I do have a reputation for tediously long prose to keep up. In any case, I'm afraid the following will be a *very* detailed commentary. Consider that fair warning…
A. OverviewDespite it's appearance, and compact size, the Reneka Techno is not a "prosumer" machine, but a full-blown commercial machine designed for use in low-volume settings. The same parameters also make the Techno a very serious, and probably the best espresso machine for those who demand a home machine of the absolute highest quality.
The Techno is way beyond any entry-level espresso machine, and outperforms all semi-commercial machines that I've tried. Considering its specifications, the Techno's closest competitors are the Unic Pony, and the single group La Marzocco Linea. However, the Pony is a pod-only machine (although it can be converted for ground coffee), and if you've ever lusted for a La Marzocco (and many of us espresso obsessionados probably have), you will have found that it is way too expensive, and, even if you could afford it, it probably wouldn't fit on the kitchen counter anyway.
Like the La Marzocco and Unic Pony machines, the Techno has two separate boilers - one for brewing espresso, and one for steam, and hot water. This, and the rotary pump are the most striking differences with the "prosumer" Bezzera's, ECM's, Isomac's etc., all of which use the more common heat exchanger system. According to, amongst others, David Schomer the twin boiler design allows for better temperature control, and thermal stability.
Reneka further improved on this by insulating the boilers, and using electronic sensors and a computer system to control the temperature. The temperature of the boilers can be independently programmed on the fly using the keypad. You can easily adjust the brewing temperature to best suit the particular coffee, or blend you're using, without affecting the steaming ability. Vice versa, it's just as simple to change the steam boiler temperature, without compromising brewing performance.
To tuck all the goodies in a compact case, the Techno's boilers are somewhat smaller than those of the LM Linea 1-group. Although the brew water boiler is fairly similar, 1.4 litre on the Techno vs. the LM's 1.8 litre, the LM's 3.9 litre steam boiler is pretty huge compared to the 1.4 litre the Techno's steam boiler holds. This a downside, in that you're somewhat short on the supply of hot water. On the other hand, if lots of hot water is what you need, then get ye a cheap electric kettle…
The relatively small steam boiler is in a way also an advantage. Since the Techno's hot water tap draws water from the steam boiler, the water is refreshed more often - especially if you're using the hot water tap for surfing, and heating the cups. Good news for those who enjoy americanos.
An interesting point is that, despite its smaller boilers, the Techno's heating elements are significantly more powerful than those on the LM. The 230V version has 1800W heaters in both boilers. In combination with the insulation on the boilers, this allows the Techno to recover much faster after pulling shots, making it easier to crank out several espressos in succession.
The insulation on the boilers also prevents the insides of the machine (eg. the electronics) from getting too hot, and it saves energy - when idle, the heating doesn't switch on very often. To save a bit more on your electricity bill, there is an "Eco" mode for overnight, which seems to lower the temperature of the boilers a few degrees. Heating up again in the morning takes about five minutes. My morning cup tastes great, and I hardly have to wait for it.
The Techno is an automatic espresso machine, meaning that the microcomputer "brainbox" (in combination with the flow meter) controls the dosing. There are three buttons for coffee dosing; one for a single cup, one of a double, and one for a large coffee (eg. café crema). Preinfusion is only available on the first two. The steam, and hot water buttons are also autodosing. All these are easily programmable.
1. Espresso brewing:One could say that the Techno is a "coffee first" machine, in that the machine has been designed with brewing espresso as the one most important function. A lot of work has been put in keeping temperature stable during brewing; heating the coffee boiler takes precedence over the steam boiler, and all functions that could downgrade performance while pulling a shot are inhibited; steaming, drawing hot water, and even the steam boiler autofill are disabled.
The Techno's electronics allows for pretty tight temperature control, and "surfing" the machine to the right point in its heating cycle is easy as pie. Just draw enough water from the coffee boiler to turn on the heater (indicated with a light on the keypad), and when the light goes out, you know where you are in the heating cycle. You can then pull a shot, or further lower the temperature of the brew water by drawing more water, either from the group, or via the hot water tap.
There are also a few other, smaller goodies.
One peculiar thing I have found, is that the best shots are rather on the short side. Instead of the usual 50ml in 30-35s on my Gaggia, the ristrettos from the Techno tend to be in the 26 to 28 second range. This may be due to the use of preinfusion. The resulting flavour, though, is far superior and definitely more predictable. Because of its rotary pump the Techno is, in my opinion, capable of making better shots than you would get from a vibratory pump.
2. Steaming capabilities:Despite the "small" boiler, the Techno really doesn't run out of steam. You can easily let it steam for a several minutes without noticing degrading performance. One of the reasons for this is that the steam boiler is refilled with water from the brew boiler. When the autofill comes on, the high power (1800W) heating elements can quickly heat the already hot water up to steam temperature.
I initially had some doubts about the on/off-only steam valve, but it proved to be no problem at all. It's certainly not more difficult to use than a conventional steam valve, but actually quite simple.
One point that may put some people off, is that, as explained above, you can't froth milk while pulling a shot on the Techno. It's no big deal to me though. For starters, I'm unable to pull a decent shot, and froth milk at the same time. At least the steam boiler is ready when I need it, and it only takes a few seconds to stream enough milk for cappas.
C. Minor pointsThe Techno doesn't have any real downsides, though one thing that bothered me a bit was that the my tamper didn't fit in the Reneka baskets. But that's a minor point, and was easy enough to solve.
Otherwise, I haven't really found anything that put me off. But, of course, there's always dreams…
Maybe the temperature control could be further improved on. It would be nice to program the brew temperature with 1 °C precision, and maybe a PID algorithm could be used to reduce the thermal over-, and undershoot. A LCD display with an accurate reading of the brew boiler temp would also be neat. Perhaps these features can even be implemented using the same electronics. I hope the Reneka engineers will have a look at that.
Note: the temperature control has been improved on the Techno V2M. Temperatures can now be adjusted with 1 °C precision.
D. ConclusionThe conclusions on this site are usually expressed as product ratings. However, since numbers do not indicate the motivation behind them, I fear I can't refrain from elaborating a bit on the scores I assigned.
Quality: What can I say? The Techno just breathes quality. The outside already displays Reneka's manufacturing standards. The machine is very sturdy, and doesn't move an inch as you lock the portafilter securely into its three-point bayonet mount. The overall fit, and finish is excellent, and when operating the machine, it just feels "right".
Usability: Using the Techno for its most important purpose, making espresso, is quite simple - well, if you know how to. Learning to make good espresso isn't easy to start with, and when you get a new machine, you're back to square one. It does require a fair bit of trying and experimenting before you start pulling decent shots with the Techno, but once you get the hang of it, the quality of the espresso is next to none. Frothing is easier, but also takes some trial and error.
Cost vs. Value: The Techno is a commercial machine, and it does come at a price. Considering what you get for that, compared to other machines in this price range, it's really an excellent deal. If you buy it from René van Sint Annaland, and count in all the priceless info and online service you'll get, it's actually a steal.
Aesthetics: I haven't listed this above, because it really wasn't much of a concern for me, but just something near the end of a long list. With these specs, and performance, I probably would've bought it if it came in a concrete box covered with graffiti.
Overall rating: The Techno is not a prosumer machine. It is a real commercial espresso machine with all the goodies neatly arranged into a very beautifully sculptured casing. It performs excellently, conveniently, and quietly. The Techno rules.
Straight tens on all points does suggest perfection. Of course, the Techno is not a perfect machine. It does, however, come very, very close to the ideal single group (home) espresso machine to me, and there is no competition. I'll give it 9.9 on all points, and round that off to tens. Let's just say the rest is in the cup, and that tastes excellent.
E. Last words (promised!)I highly recommend the Techno, but I must stress that this is very probably not a starter-machine. For one thing, it is a bit too pricey to buy, only to find that espresso machines are way too messy, and too finicky for you.
The path to excellent espresso is paved with cleaning, cleaning, and even more cleaning.
And although it is really quite simple to get great shots from the Techno, it does require practice. And a lot of that, too. You really need to have the patience, and the drive to learn how to make the best espresso possible.
If you buy this as your first machine, be prepared for some serious disappointment. If you have owned an espresso machine before, and you're really serious about espresso, you're going to be in heaven with the Techno.
Buying experienceWith the help from René (Just Espresso), I was able to buy a Techno ex-factory from Reneka France. I also have regular contact with the export manager at Reneka, Valerie Egelé, who is a pleasure to deal with - an absolute darling, really.
With respect to using the machines, I probably wouldn't have been able to pull a decent shot by now, had it not been for the invaluable advice, tips, tricks, and advanced need-to-knows from the esteemed Mr. René van Sint Annaland from Just Espresso ( http://www.justespresso.com/ ). He has a lot of experience with both commercial machines and home units, and, as an active participant of alt.coffee, he understands the home users line of thinking. For the Techno, René gives the best advise & service humanly possible. That includes giving friendly answers to otherwise rather silly questions…
On the whole, I've been more than satisfied with all the service, and after-sales. My next machine will be a Reneka again.
Curious? Want to know more? Ask!