Here, you’ll find a continually growing list of Prosumer espresso machines reviews. While most of these are reviews of the features and specs, and what I’ve learned about these machines from doing my research to decide which Espresso machine to upgrade to, my goal is to use each Espresso machine on the list for a week or so, and then to create a proper user review – which I’ll link to from below as and when they’re done. So save this page to your favourites 🙂 and come back soon to see if I’ve done any more reviews. Also, if you join my mailing list ‘Brew Time’, I’ll drop you an email when I’ve done a new Prosumer espresso machine review.
First, a bit of background
Until a couple of years ago, I only brewed coffee at home with manual brewers, and I chose to enjoy Espresso only at coffee shops. I didn’t think it was reasonable to expect to be able to make great espresso as a novice home Barista using inexpensive Espresso machines – and I just couldn’t justify the investment in a prosumer Espresso machine, to make maybe one Espresso per day.
Then, something happened… Sage by Heston Blumenthal sent me “The Oracle” semi-automatic espresso machine to use for a week to review, and I caught the Espresso making bug. It’s all their fault! ;-).
While the oracle is semi-automatic, so it takes quite a lot of the skill out of it – it still requires some skill, just enough to frustrate me to the point that I started to become obsessive about the quality of the shots I was pulling, and on improving my latte art skills which were complete nonexistent at the time.
So The Oracle went back after I’d used it for just over a week for the review, and there was a void in my kitchen, I needed an Espresso machine. I did some research, and there were many Espresso machines I fancied, but they were all out of my budget. The only option I could really afford at the time to allow a couple of hundred quid for the grinder, was the Gaggia classic.
From what I’d read, the pre-2009 versions of this machine were particularly well built, and when paired with a capable grinder the results were generally quite good, and more than adequate for a novice home Barista. The only issue is that they come with a domestic pannarello wand, but this can be easily modded with a £12 Rancilio Silvia steam wand, so that’s what I did.
I bought the classic on eBay for £100 cash, and picked it up from someone only a few miles away (we live in a fairly soft water area, so I knew limescale wouldn’t be too much of an issue even if it hadn’t been used with filtered water). I then bought the Rancilio Silvia wand and spent 10 minutes or so swapping it out.
I thought I’d give the classic maybe 6 months to a year and then look at upgrading. This was almost 2 years ago, and the classic has served me very well! I’ve got an incredible amount of use out of the classic, given that it was already 13 years old when I bought it. Given the immaculate condition it was in when I picked it up, I do believe the seller’s claim that they only used it occasionally. I, on the other hand, have given this Espresso machine some serious use.
When I’ve been practising latte art, at times I’ve used it 5-10 times in a row or maybe more, and a machine like this isn’t designed for this level of use. I even used it for a charity event at one point and used it like a commercial machine – ok I was using V60s too for filter coffee, and the classic was getting a rest in between use, but still.
So I can vouch for this machine at least when it comes to reliability and sturdiness, although just keep in mind that mine is from 2003, and the saying “they don’t make them like they used to”.
The only slight issue the machine has ever had is a slight drip from the steam wand, and I replaced the group gasket a while ago as it was leaking slightly from the group head, but this was only just over a fiver, and 10-20 minutes, although I did replace the shower screen while I was at it, but that was only about £6, and I don’t think it actually needed it, but I thought I may as well do that at the same time.
I think I’ve more than had my money’s worth from this machine now though, so I’m looking to upgrade. What I came to realise though is that where I am at now, trying to decide which Prosumer Espresso machine is the right one to go for – is the same position that everyone else finds themselves in when they’re starting out on this Espresso making obsession, or upgrading from a less capable machine.
So I thought it would be a great idea to do as many hands-on, one week or more Espresso machine user reviews as I possibly can, along the same lines as the one week user review I did with Sage the Oracle, and share everything I discover with you while I’m trying to decide which machine is right for me. Hopefully I’ll do a good job while I’m at it of sharing my experience with each machine so that you can decide which might be best for you based on your preferences and your budget.
Right now, however, most of the reviews you’ll find below are based on my research, and not based on my experience, but I will update them accordingly and link to the in-depth reviews, as and when I complete them.
I won’t include Sage the Oracle, or Gaggia Classic here, as I’ve already discussed these machines above, so I’ll start off with:
Sage Barista Express:
I had my eye on the Barista Express as soon as I tried The Oracle, but it was a bit out of my budget at the time.
In terms of the next step up in cost from the classic, if you’re looking at the cost of the machine only, then it would be the Rancilio Silvia (which I’ll get to shortly), but taking into account the fact that the grinder is included with the Barista Express, as a package the Barista Express including integrated grinder is more affordable than The Rancilio Silvia plus Rancilio Rocky grinder package (which is around £650-£700).
The integrated grinder is a dose-controlled conical burr grinder, with a 250g hopper. I’ve had the smart grinder pro for nearly 18 months, I’ve been very happy with it – I can’t tell you if the integrated grinder on the Barista Express is the same or as good as the Smart Grinder pro though, as I’ve not had a chance to try the Barista express as yet.
I’m keen on Sage Appliances in general, due to the quality of their equipment I’ve used, and the dealings I’ve had with them. For instance, after 6 months of using the Smart grinder pro, the grinder started to make an odd sound. The only thing I’d done differently is that I’d tried some beans from a roaster I’d never tried before. I assume a stone or some other object which wasn’t a coffee bean, had ended up in the grinder, although I couldn’t find anything. So I phoned Sage Appliances, I didn’t announce myself on the phone (so they didn’t know I was a blogger), and I got straight to a human – I didn’t get a computer giving me a huge menu, or a load of on hold music.
I was quickly put through to a very friendly fella, who told me what to do on the phone to check there wasn’t something jammed in the burrs. I did this, got back to them, they sent me a replacement felt washer the very next day. I put this on, the problem persisted, a couple of days later they sent out a brand new replacement smart grinder, and collected the other one. There was no messing about, no accusation that I may have caused the problem myself (which I may well have), they just sorted it.
So anyway, the Barista express is on my list based on the fact that I trust Sage machines, and that it appears to be a great Espresso machine for the price.
I’m not too keen on the idea of the slightly smaller portafilter size, it would mean I’d have to retire my wooden handled Motta tamper, but it does come with a tamper which slots neatly into front of the machine. The other slight issue with the portafilter being 54mm rather than the standard 58, is that I can’t find any bottomless 54mm portafilters in the UK. This isn’t a deal breaker, but I quite fancy a bottomless portafilter.
The integrated grinder is a big plus when it comes to the price point, but I can see the benefits of having a separate grinder. The grinder is hugely important of course, and I can’t help but assume that with it being integrated, and at such a low price point, that the grinder won’t be quite the same as the stand-alone smart grinder pro – but that’s an assumption, and as the saying goes – to assume make an Ass of U and Me ;-). I’m also slightly concerned as to the effect on the burrs of the machine heating up, again I’m doing that assuming thing, but I would expect that the burrs will heat up as the machine does, and I would think that this would mean you’d need to adjust the grind accordingly when everything is heating up.
I’ll hopefully get a chance to review this machine properly in the future.
Dimensions: 38cm wide, 37cm deep, 35cm
Weight: 10 Kilos.
What’s it made of? Stainless Steel with some plastic cladding.
Boiler: Single, Stainless Steel.
Portafilter Size: 54mm
Price: £599.95 RRP
La Pavoni Europiccola
La Pavoni domestic machines (they make commercial machines too) are old-school traditional lever Espresso machines. There’s no PID, no buttons, no pump, it’s a solid metal boiler with a group, a lever operated piston, and a steam wand, basically.
The benefits of this is that these machines are relatively inexpensive given the quality of Espresso they’re capable of producing, and there’s not as much to go wrong, which makes these very reliable machines.
The negatives of using a machine like this in theory is that there’s more onus on the user, more skill required, and the general consensus if you do some research, is that these machines aren’t for beginners. After a couple of weeks of using this machine, though, I find it a doddle, in fact I’ve been pulling far more consistent shots with this than I was previously with my semi-automatic Gaggia classic.
I also find it to be a really enjoyable process, the connection you have with the machine when you’re pulling the lever, you can feel what’s happening – if it’s too easy you can feel straight away that the grind needs to be finer, if it’s too difficult to press you can tell that the grind needs to be more coarse, and the satisfying feeling when you’ve got it spot on, followed by the amazing resulting Espresso, is just brilliant.
The photo above is my new (well it’s not new, but it’s new to me) La Pavoni Euripiccola, and this is the flat white I made with it this morning ;-).
There are essentially two versions of this machine, the Europiccola, and the professional, (they have other models now too, but they’re mainly just aesthetic variations). The main difference is the boiler size, the Europicolla is 0.8L, and the Professional has 1.6L. The Europiccola will heat up quicker with a full boiler, than the pro, due to the water volume – but the pro is capable of pulling double the amount of shots before the boiler needs refilling (which means waiting for the boiler to cool before filling, so it’s not just a case of pouring more water in, these machines don’t have a reservoir like semi auto machines, you put the water directly into the boiler).
I find that my 2005 Europiccola takes around 6 or 7 minutes to reach full temp, and from what I can gather the Professional takes around double the time with a full boiler.
What’s great about these machines is that they’re brilliantly well made machines which are serviceable and can last not just for years, but for decades! They hold their value well, in fact vintage models in good condition often sell for more than brand new ones. You can often find decent working machines on eBay from a couple of hundred quid, or for quite a bit less if some restoring is required, or you can buy one ready restored as I did, from a few hundred quid upwards.
I bought mine from a specialist restorer in Germany who restores both pre and post-millennium machines, and mine is a 2005 machine, and he upgraded it with a pressure gauge.
Dimensions: 20cm wide, 29cm deep, 32cm tall.
Weight: Europiccola 5k, Professional 5.5k
What’s it made of? It depends on the model, but they’re very solid, mainly cast brass, various plated finishes including brass, chrome, copper & gold. Group head is Brass.
Boiler: Single, Copper.
Portafilter Size: Pre Millennium 49mm, Post Millennium 51mm
Price: From €505 (about £450) RRP new, depending on model and finish.
The Rancilio Silvia is a very well known Espresso Machine, and is often the suggested first prosumer machine for the newcomer home barista. It’s clearly a more serious Espresso machine than my old Gaggia classic, it’s a couple of hundred quid more, but you can see where that money is going.
It has a solid brass 12 oz (340ml) boiler controlled by three thermostats & chromed brass brew group, 2.5L water tank, stainless steel casing, decent steam power (even more so if you fit a PID), full-sized 58mm portafilter – it does have a lot going for it for the price – £449 plus £5.99 delivery at Bella Barista.
You might find them a bit cheaper from another supplier, but just look at the reviews first, trust pilot, google reviews etc., as there are some suppliers who’re selling into the UK from other parts of Europe, they’re selling a bit cheaper and all is probably fine unless you come to need a repair or something, at which part you may struggle if your machine doesn’t have a UK warranty. I’d done my research when I was considering taking the plunge and buying this machine, and Bella Barista were going to be the firm I was buying it from. They still may be, as I might decide on this machine, but I’m going to try to get hands-on experience with as many machines as I can while reviewing them, before making the decision on which Espresso machine to stick with.
They tend to sell used from £200 – £300, but they sometimes come up with lots of extras included for around this kind of price such as tampers, tamping mats, knock boxes, different baskets etc., they do sometimes come up on eBay as packages with a grinder too.
By the way, don’t forget that your grinder is hugely important. There’s no point investing in a great espresso machine and having an awful grinder, as it will be the weak link in the chain which prevents you from making great espresso. Bella Barista do some package deals including a grinder, and they actually recommend pairing the Silvia with the Eureka Mignon rather than the Rancilio Rocky grinder.
If you want to read a really in-depth review of the Silvia, check out this review on home barista.
I find myself slightly torn between the Silvia and the Barista Express, without having tried iether machine. Barista Express works out slightly cheaper including the grinder, and has the pressure gauge and PID. But I can see the benefit of having a stand-alone grinder, and I do already own the Sage Smart Grinder Pro. Silvia has no pressure gauge, and no PID, for which reason I get the impression that it can be a bit on the unruly side, and requires some temperature surfing to get the best results, which seems like a bit of a pain – although you can fit a PID, which also improves steam power from what I’ve seen.
I like the look of the pressure knob on the Silvia (I know that may seem a bit sad 😉 ), the portafilter is 58mm which means it matches my Motta tamper, and it means I can get a bottomless portafilter for it.
Dimensions: 23.5cm wide, 29cm deep, 34cm tall.
Weight: 14 Kilos.
PID?: No – but you can fit one, and having a PID on this machine will give you much more consistent shots, and more steam power.
What’s it made of? Iron frame, stainless steel case.
Boiler: Single, 340ml solid Brass.
Portafilter Size: 58mm
Price: £469 RRP
I wouldn’t recommend this machine on Amazon, at the time of writing all the options are more expensive than Bella Barista, and none of them appear to be shipping from mainland UK.
Lelit Anita / Combi
This is the only other integrated grinder Espresso machine I’m aware of other than Barista Express, and it comes from the Italian firm Lelit.
Anita is available in two models, PL042EMI RRP £609.99(without PID) & PL042TEMD RRP £699.99 (with PID).
Lelit is a fairly new brand to me, although there’s quite a lot online about the brand especially from Italy and Australia. From what I can see they’ve been improving these machines for the past 7 or 8 years at least, and the latest version seems to have a lot going for it.
In the UK they’re sold by Coffee Beans Coffee Machines in Bourne, Lincolnshire, who offer a two-year warranty on the machines.
They look like nice machines, with similar features to the Barista Express such as 3 way solanoid valve, PID (with the slightly more expensive version), brew pressure gauge, 38mm conical burrs with stepless grind adjustment, built-in tamper, steam wand with multi hole steam tip.
Dimensions: 31.5cm wide x 25.5cm deep x 37cm tall.
Weight: 10.2 Kilos.
PID?: Version EMI: No, Version TEMD: Yes.
What’s it made of? Stainless Steel.
Water Tank: 2.7 Litre.
Boiler: Single, 250ml Brass.
Portafilter Size: 57 mm
Price: RRP PL042EMI £609.99 (without PID) & PL042TEMD £699.99 (with PID).
Nuova Simonelli Oscar II
The Oscar has been a very popular Espresso machine since its release in the late 90s, and the Oscar II is the latest improved model, sold in the UK via Bella Barista.
It’s a stunning, minimalist looking machine, with some great features for the price.
This is heat exchanger boiler machine, which means you can pull shots and steam milk at the same time. It’s a very well priced machine considering it has a heat exchanger boiler, which is one of the main features that makes this machine so popular, especially for people who like to make milky coffee.
It doesn’t have a PID, and although it’s a heat exchanger machine so it doesn’t need a PID to regulate the temperature (heat exchanger machines have a much more stable temp).
The boiler is a large 2 Litre copper heat exchanger boiler, with auto fill and auto switch off if empty – which means that you don’t need to worry about keeping your boiler full to stop it from burning out, it fills itself up and will shut itself off if the tank runs out of water to keep the boiler topped up.
It has a fixed 1-second pre-infusuion, you can’t change this – although from the quality of the shots it pulls so I’ve heard, there probably wouldn’t be a great deal to be gained by doing so, although some people like to have complete control over everything including pre-infusion.
The thing you’ll consistently hear from the many reviews online for this Espresso machine is that this machine has a lot of steam power. Seattle Coffee Gear review the Oscar II alongside the Rocket Appartamento (which is an over £1k machine) and you can see that the Oscar II has slightly more steam power.
Dimensions: 30cm wide x 40.8cm deep x 40cm tall.
Weight: 13 Kilos.
PID?: No, PID isn’t required with HX boiler machines to regulate the temperature.
What’s it made of? Stainless Steel & Plastic.
Water Tank: 2.8 Litre – plumbed in version also available.
Drip Tray: Plastic, 1 Litre.
Boiler: Single, 2 Litre, Auto-fill, Copper, Heat Exchanger.
Portafilter Size: 58 mm
Occasionally available used on the Buy/Sell/Swap section of UK Coffee Forums (You need 5 posts on the forum before you can access this section).
Sage Dual Boiler:
This machine has all the same features as the Barista Express but without the integrated grinder, and it’s dual boiler, meaning you can pull shots and steam milk at the same time.
The PID on the dual boiler (and the Barista Express & The Oracle) is very clever, you can set brew temp, shot volume, shot duration, pre-infusion, auto on and auto off, and you can use it to start the cleaning cycle.
The steam boiler has an integrated heat exchanger, and the espresso boiler has a digital PID. The group head is also heated, with a PID controlled embedded element.
I know that I could put a timer plug on any machine, but then what about priming the boiler? I suppose I could do that the night before, but anyway it would be great to just come downstairs and the espresso machine is heated up and ready.
If you’re looking at dual boiler machines, then you’ll be aware that they’re not cheap. At £1299 RRP (on offer at the time of writing on Amazon at £1117.50) the Sage dual boiler is among the lowest priced dual boiler Espresso machines you’ll find.
If you read the Amazon reviews it scores a very solid 4.5, and that review score is being hindered by a bizarre 2 star review by someone who is marking it 2 stars because they thought it was supposed to come with a grinder, which it clearly doesn’t, but anyway, nearly all of the other reviews are 5 star, and if you read them all, as I have, you get the conclusion that this is a very good machine for the dosh.
Dimensions: 37cm wide, 36cm deep, 36cm tall.
Weight: 15 Kilos.
PID?: Yes – Espresso boiler and group head are PID controlled.
What’s it made of? Case is plastic clad with stainless steel.
Water Tank: 2.5 Litre.
Boiler: Dual. Stainless Steel.
Pump: Dual Vibration pumps, one for each boiler.
Portafilter Size: 58mm
Price: £1299.99 RRP.
Expobar Office Leva Dual Boiler
The closest in price I can find to the Sage Dual Boiler when it comes to dual boiler Espresso machines is the Expobar office dual boiler.
This to me though looks closer to a commercial Espresso machine, with the E61 grouphead, and the general look of the machine. I do like the look of it, it looks slightly menacing like it would spit espresso in your face if you pissed it off.
In fact, the name seems a bit wussy doesn’t it, giving how tough it looks? The name in other Markets for this machine is “Brewtus”, which makes more sense, but they can’t use that brand name in the UK for some reason.
Whatever it’s called, it does appear to be a seriously good machine. They’ve been around for a long time, well over a decade, and they’ve upgraded them over the years.
It comes with the famous E61 brew group, which is considered by many to be the benchmark, you certainly wouldn’t expect to find this brew group on budget machines. It’s a heavy duty machine, all metal inside and out, copper boilers, serious steam power, big drip tray, and is available with a water tank or plumbed in. It has an inbuilt PID, and when you google for reviews, you find lots of very happy folk who have used this machine for a long time.
The standard version comes with a vibration pump, you can upgrade to rotary pump if preferred, I’ve read good things about this machine with both pumps, I think the rotary pump is quieter, and commercial machines would usually have rotary pumps rather than vibration, so I would think it’s worth the upgrade depending on the cost.
There is a single boiler version of this machine available for a couple of hundred quid less, if you’re not bothered about having dual boiler.
Dimensions: 26cm wide, 46cm deep, 43cm tall.
Weight: 20 Kilos.
What’s it made of? Case is stainless steel. Boilers are copper with brass ends.
Portafilter Size: 58mm
Price: £1532.00 RRP for the tank fed version, £1599 RRP for plumbed in version. Best deal I can currently find is from Bean Heroes, £1149 / £1199. Also available from Bella Barista currently for £1185 / £1285. Click Here for Expobar Leva machines ending soon on eBay.
From here there’s quite a bit of a jump in price when it comes to the machines that I’ve got my eyes on, starting with:
Rocket R58 Dual Boiler Espresso Machine
I really like the look of the Rocket R58, they’re similar looking to the Expobar and other machines such as the Izzo Alex Duetto which I also like the look of, but I quite like the fact that with the R58 the PID display is separate to the machine, rather than being fixed on the front. Having a digital display is great, but I think being able to hide it around the side rather than have it fixed on the face of such a good looking machine doesn’t sound like a bad idea.
While a lot of the features are similar to the lower cost Expobar, the R58 PID controller allows you to adjust temps for both boilers, meaning you can also change the steam pressure from the factory setting of 1bar, you can also turn off the steam boiler via the PID if you’re not using steam.
While the Expobar leva is available with water tank or plumbed in, the Rocket R58 comes both in one, you can just set it to whatever you prefer, reservoir or mains water.
It has a rotary pump, E61 brew group, digital PIDs, 0.58L brew boiler, 1.7L steam boiler, 2.5L water tank (plus plumbing in kit).
The drip tray is smaller than the Expobar Leva, but if you’re plumbing it in, you’ll plumb in the drain to the waste water, so you won’t need to empty it.
It has a stainless steel cup surround at the top which is a plus if you use the cup warmer to store cups, if you have the clearance above it to use it as a cup holder of course. I do really fancy this machine, and although it’s an £1800 machine, it’s not the most expensive prosumer machine on the market. The only thing that does put me off slightly is the removable PID, although I suppose that’s a plus when it comes to replacing the PID if needs be, as it just plugs in.
Something I really like too is there are solid wood parts available for this machine, check them out:
Dimensions: 31cm wide, 44cm deep, 41cm tall.
Weight: 29 Kilos.
PID?: Yes. Not fixed to the front, though.
What’s it made of? Case is heavy gauge stainless steel. Boilers are copper.
Portafilter Size: 58mm
La Spaziale S1 Vivaldi II and Mini Vivaldi II
La Spaziale make some serious commercial machines, and it’s fair to say I think that their prosumer machines shoehorn commercial quality into the scaled down single group prosumer machines. This is a great looking machine, available in white, red and black, it’s slightly wider than the rocket and the Expobar machines, but similar height and depth.
What always impresses me about these machines when I watch the videos is the speed of the milk texturing. I’ve never seen any other prosumer machine as fast as this when it comes to steaming, it seems to take around 10-15 seconds to steam for a single cup, which is crazy fast.
These are made as prosumer machines, but they are often used commercially, as they’re capable of decent volumes, but they’re relatively inexpensive in comparison to commercial machines.
The difference between the vivaldi and the mini vivaldi is that the mini has a vibration pump and is hand fed (whopping 3L tank though) and the vivaldi is a rotary pump, and plumbed in. The Mini also has a smaller brew boiler, but apparently the steam power is just as good on both. The steam is lever activated on the mini, and knob activated on the regular vivaldi.
Dimensions: 41cm wide, 41cm deep, 38.5cm tall.
Weight: 28 Kilos.
What’s it made of? Case is stainless steel with coloured plastic side panels. Boilers are copper with brass ends.
Portafilter Size: 53mm
Price: The mini is available from Beanheroes for £1239, and the regular vivaldi for £1479. There aren’t many firms that publish their pricing online for La Spaziale machines, and I think this is just because most of the firms that supply these machines are wholesale suppliers. Click Here for S1 Vivaldi Espresso machines ending soon on eBay.
La Spaziale S1 Dream T
La Spaziale currently provide the espresso machines for the UK Barista Championships, and the machine that is used, is the La Spaziale S40. This is their benchmark espresso machine, a commercial machine costing several thousand pounds.
The Dream is basically a scaled down prosumer version of this machine in terms of programmability. While it’s scaled down in size, and number of groups, the rest of the functions and features are almost identical. The programmability with this machine is amazing, as is the fact that you can save 4 different user settings, so if there is more than one person using the machine, you can select your own profile with your specific user settings.
For many home users this machine would be overkill in terms of the programming side of things, and if you strip away all of the programming functionality, unless I’m missing something it’s basically the S1 mini, but with a knob for steam instead of the lever? The programmability does seem incredible though, so for someone who wants this kind of intelligence from their machine, this could be the perfect machine.
You can get the dream for a couple of grand, which isn’t cheap but it’s not the most expensive either, the very top of the prosumer range is probably about £5,000! In fact if you look at the new slayer single group machine which is aimed at the top end of the prosumer market, is just a tad under £8,000! Looks cool though, can’t have it, didn’t win Euromillions on Friday.
Dimensions: 41.5cm wide, 41.5cm deep, 38.5cm tall.
Weight: 28 Kilos.
PID?: Yes, haha, you could say that!
What’s it made of? Case is stainless steel with coloured plastic side panels. Boilers are copper with brass ends.
Portafilter Size: 53mm
Buying Used / Refurbished machines
There are some good offers that come up on eBay for refurbished machines. Coffee_Expression offer refurbished commercial espresso machines with warranty, they’re based in Oldham, I can see some of the machines they sell are two or three group, but they do sometimes have single group refurbished commercial machines, and it looks like they’re being refurbished to a very high standard. Check this out for a before and after:
Currently they have a reconditioned Iberital L’Anna single group inc grinder at £799 – which seems like a bargain – I’m not sure what the grinder is.
Click Here to see other reconditioned/refurbished espresso machines ending soon on eBay.
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