Have mentioned it here previously, but here goes again. I've had the pleasure of using two La Marzocco machines, a 3 group Linea and a 2 group FB/80. The Linea wasn't my fave by any means. Each of the 3 groups had varying water flow rates as well as lousy temperature stability. Could've been the refurb job that was done on it or maybe I just didn't understand the machine all that well. BUT did work on it daily for 7-8 months and was hard pressed to ever get anything I'd call great from it regardless of what tinkering was done. Now the FB/80 was a great machine. Much more refined than the Linea and much better consistency based on the time I spent on it. Really like the fit/finish of the LMs.
If I'm not mistaken only the Aurelia Competizione has a PID control, which might give it a slight advantage in stability. Based on my research the Volumetric and semi-auto Aurelias all have the same controls, therefore should have the same temperature stability. Believe me when I tell you, you'd be hard pressed to find a HX more stable than what I've seen with my Aurelia. Especially in stock form.
Have never used the Faema machine with the auto steam. I'll take your word for it that it is better than the Aurelia Smart Wand. Having said that I still believe a manual steam wand will offer better results than any type of automated system.
Ok I have visited both the Faema and the refurbished LM Linea supplier.
Firstly I visited the La Marzocco guys. It was great seeing all the new LM machines. The secondhand Lineas is imported from Greece and they are apparently about 5 years old. They are well used and dirty like hell. There buttons has also turned yellow from light exposure so they might even be older to my opinion. With the refurbishing they replace all the tap, group seals and also the seals between the boiler and the group heads, they do check for scaling, but apparently none of the machines they opened up so far had any scaling problems. For the rest of the they only replace if it does not work. they give a 6 month guarantee.
The Faema machines are great and they have excellent steam capability. The auto steam in my opinion is unbelievably good. I know how to foam milk and what the texture should be like. There is no bubbles, the foam thick and silky with a shiny surface. I have seen the results of the NS Aurelia auto steam and believe me it is not the same. The temperature stability seams to be good, they claim it to be one of the most stable on the HX machines on market.
The price of the E92 is actualy 9.400,00(USD) tax included, there Enova 2group was the only one in my price range at 7.000,00(USD) tax included, it has all the nice features, but it is plastic and ugly especially in burgundy the only colour they have available. They had other models as well like the E91 Ambassador, but all the covers are made form plastic. It probably should not bother me but it does, and I have to to feel proud of the machine in our shop.
I have also got some prices for the NS Aurelias the basic model is affordable but it apparently does not have the stability of the other models. I am going to research the Aurelias options this week.
At the moment I am considering these two options: 2group Aurelia or a new 2 group Linea.
The difference between the stock and WBC Aurelias are the jets in the top of the group head and bottom of the heat exchanger, the volume of the pre-infusion chamber, PID, and the body panels. The PID adds nothing to the temp stability. The group heads are MASSIVE and are mostly responsible for the temp stability with the other part being the restricted thermosyphon in the hX, which also makes it run a little cooler. The group heads are the same between the two machines. They definitely behave differently. They even sound different. I really like the extraction on the WBC model. The texture is softer with more "headroom".
I like the coffee on the Aurelia WBC very much but I like the build quality of the Linea better. I like all the metal in the frame. They are built like a tank which means you can keep rebuilding them forever. Although I do not think I would use a Linea in a production environment without PID. You actually have to do a lot of "temp surfing" on a non-PID Linea, which increases the learning curve dramatically. The Aurelia uses a lot of plastic body panels and for some reason NS machines legs will fall off or strip out really easily. I've had to drill out several to install rivet nuts in the under chassis. Not fun.
Build quality aside, I think the Linea and the Aurelia are different machines and pull espresso differently. You should take the coffee you will be using, or a couple of different coffees and test out each machine and get a feel for them both. They each behave so differently that I'm sure a clear winner will emerge quickly.
I'm not Mike, but will say the steam capability/capacity is fantastic on mine. This is using the stock steam wand tips as well. I'm a huge fan of the lever steam valves. Have used knobs on the previously mentioned LM machines and they just don't have the same direct feel to me as the levers do. As a matter of fact the knobs seemed to have a bit too much play, especially upon opening them the first 1/4-1/2 turn, kind of like a dead zone in which nothing increased/decreased. Don't know if that was built-in as a default or just everyday wear/tear.
BTW, my Aurelia hovers around 1.1-1.2 bars with a group water temp. of 199-200 and offers plenty of steam for my needs. It's easily capable of extracting from both groups while steaming from both wands if needed and never seems to miss a beat in performance. Choices, choices, choices...