Steam-driven espresso machines are few and far between these days, especially as folks learn more about ideal brewing temperatures for different coffee preparations. Steam pressure has the bad rap of burning the coffee, and while it will create a nice level of pressure for your espresso extraction, it isn’t going to give you those phenomenally complex and sweetly balanced espresso shots a lot of people covet.
But what steam pressure does give you is value: Without an additional piece of equipment in the mix, machines that use steam pressure for their extraction tend to be on the cheaper side of the cost spectrum. Capresso’s 4-Cup Espresso & Cappuccino Machine is one such animal: For under $60, you can quickly and easily brew up a few cappuccinos on a daily basis without a lot of fuss or muss.
You’d expect that a machine driven by steam pressure would give you a lot of power when steaming or frothing your milk, and in this machine’s case, you’d be right. After we pulled our shots, we let the steam loose and it nearly blew our milk across the room — thankfully, we realized quite quickly that the steam valve’s knob could be regulated for more or less pressure. It produced an okay microfoam (it has a panarello that auto-froths and you have little control over this) very quickly in our 20 oz. milk pitcher, and after we drained all the steam pressure, we guessed we probably could have used a larger pitcher and still had success. The wand isn’t super long, however, so bear that in mind.
Quantity over quality
If you ascribe to the more is better school of life, and quantity means more to you than quality, then the fact that you can set this baby up for four shots in one go will be a huge plus.
You’re basically working with an enclosed boiling pot of water, a hose and a filter head. Not much to encase here and the machine’s size reflects that. Nice and petite for the space-conscious.
We didn’t know this was possible, but yes, too much steam can be a bad thing. Especially when it’s coming into contact with your arguably very tenderhearted ground coffee. While we pulled four shots in one extraction, the shots definitely tasted on the burnt side and more closely resembled what you get from a stovetop/moka pot than what you’d get off a pump-driven espresso machine. Crema? Forget it.
Because you’re working with only steam pressure to get the job done, you have to be careful to release all the built up pressure before you remove either the portafilter or the cap to the boiler. We had a lot of pressure built up after making our lattes, and it was a few minutes before it all released. We had ugly visions of early morning fogs frighteningly punctuated by exploding portafilters, spewing coffee grounds all over the place. Definitely take care to release all of the built up pressure before doing anything with portafilter or opening up the boiler cap.
If you really can’t justify spending more than $100 on your espresso machine, or being able to whip up two fairly average cappuccinos quickly is your prime directive, this machine may be your ticket. The espresso results from a pump machine far outweigh the savings that you get with a machine like this, so we’d opt to save our loot and jump right into a machine that is pump driven. However, if you love stovetop/moka pot espresso and you want an easy way to do that in the morning, plus have steamed/frothed milk, this could meet your needs very well.