Crew Review: Baratza Virtuoso Preciso Burr Grinder

Hitting the streets this coming October is Baratza’s newest offering, which is a variation on a theme: The Virtuoso Preciso takes it’s basic functionality from the popular Virtuoso grinder, but it’s tweaked a bit with some of the dialing-in features available on the more expensive Vario model.

Watch Gail take us through this grinder’s features and functions.

How To: Baratza Vario Burr Adjustment

The Vario gives you a little more control over your grind than you find on a traditional stepped grinder (like its counterpart, the Virtuoso, or the Rancilio Rocky) because it allows you to tweak the fineness within each step of the burrs. If you find that your Vario doesn’t seem to be going fine enough for espresso, or that you have very little room to move on the fineness side of the spectrum once you get to your espresso setting, you may want to adjust the burrs so they are closer together.

Gail walks us through how to do this and demonstrates it on a grinder. Watch and learn!

Compare: Francis Francis X1 vs. Ascaso Dream UP

For the antique/retro lovers in the crowd, the X1 by Francis Francis and the Dream UP by Ascaso have an old school look without the old school technology. Gail takes us through the similarities and differences of these two single boiler espresso machines.

Crew Review: Francis Francis X1

We are not ashamed to admit that we have been diggin’ hard on the Francis Francis machines lately. We really love their auto-fill boiler and their sophisticated temperature control — with only around a 2 degree variance instead of the 15-ish degree variance we sometimes see on single boiler espresso machines in this similar price class.

Watch Gail take us through the features of the X1 — a stainless steel counterpart to the X7:

Now watch her compare the functional and feature differences between the X1 and the X7:

New! Saeco Superautos: Xelsis Digital ID & Focus

We’ve just added two new kids to the Saeco lineup, at opposite ends of the spectrum: The Xelsis Digital ID for fancypants folks and the Focus for semi-fancypants folks that also have limited counter space. Here are their stories:

Saeco Xelsis Digital ID
This one-touch superautomatic is identical to it’s non-Digital ID counterpart except for one thing: Fingerprint reading! Yes, that’s right, if you can’t get it together to scroll through the different programmed users to find your profile that early in the morning, maybe simply placing your index finger on a panel atop the machine is the answer. The Digital ID can be programmed to recognize the print on the finger of your choice, automatically pulling up your preferences. Then getting your coffee is as easy as pushing the button that corresponds to a previously programmed product — espresso, long coffee, cappuccino and more.

The Verdict: While we’re all about technological gadgets that improve our quality of life, we’re not totally certain that this fingerprint-reading espresso machine is one of them. We love the Xelsis otherwise, however, and this machine has all the same excellent features and functionality. Maybe this functional addition could be a fun conversation piece?

Saeco Focus
For adherents to a more streamlined, less complicated approach to life, the new Focus is an excellent option — it’s functionally very similar to the new Saeco Syntia, sharing its compact design, simple and straightforward interface, ceramic grinder and SBS functionality, but with a black casing instead of the stainless steel.

The Verdict: It would be hard to go wrong with this machine, and if stainless steel doesn’t matter to you, stylistically, you’ll get the same functional machine with the Focus that you do with the Syntia for a little bit cheaper.

Gail the Great vs. the Frothing Thermometer!

In the history of great competitions, never has there been a match so perfectly paired than that of Gail versus a steaming thermometer. Will her sense of touch correlate to an accurate steaming temperature? Is she stopping when it’s too cool or scalding her milk? Will she ever be able to do latte art? We asked these big questions and put her to the test to find out the answers.

Compare: Mazzer Mini vs. Macap M4

It’s a tough call which one of these grinders is a better investment — ultimately, we think that they are so similar, the decision is really about the adjustment mechanism.

Gail walks us through the technical specs of the Mazzer Mini and Macap M4 burr coffee grinders, pointing out their differences and demonstrating their grind quality. We’re not sure if this answers the big question about which one to purchase, but hopefully the side by side comparison will serve as a helpful resource.

Espresso Machine Storage Tips

Leaving your machine alone for the winter? Need to store it or move it (by hand) to a new location? Gail gives us some tips on what you should do to prepare your machine so you limit the possibility of damage.