Seattle Coffee Gear’s monthly newsletter, The Grind, landed in an email box near you today — and if it wasn’t near enough for you to actually read it, you can do so here on the site or make sure you get up close and personal next month by signing up for future editions.
This month, we talk about the different functional types of espresso machines, include a recipe for Indochine Lemon, point you to our manufacturer manual resource on Brown Bean and introduce you to a few new products we have in the store. What you won’t see, however, is The Grind Special, which is for subscriber-eyes-only. Sign up to get that little bit o’ goodness every month.
Navigating the available options in the world of home espresso machines can sometimes be a little overwhelming. Functionally speaking, there are a few different basic variations:
Manual/Lever: With these machines, you are the pump. You grind, tamp and control the pressure during the extraction. You also manage the whole steaming process.
Semi-Automatic: Semi-automatics have 15 – 17 BAR pumps involved, which will settle down to about 9 BARs of pressure if your grind/tamp is accurate. You will grind & tamp, then initiate the shot on and off. Steaming is also up to you.
Automatic: Still grinding, tamping and steaming on your own, but you can program these machines to dose out a specific amount of water, so it will automatically end the shot.
Pressurized Portafilters: Automatic and semi-automatic machines can have a variation that includes a pressurized porftafilter. This makes the machine a little bit easier to use because you don’t have to be super particular about your grind and tamp.
Pod-Friendly: Another variation of semi-automatic and automatic machines are those that allow you to use what is basically a ground coffee version of a tea bag. These single serving pods make for easy, mess-free brewing.
Superautomatic: These machines manage the whole grind and tamp process for you, but on most of them you will still be required to steam your milk. Some of them (usually called ‘One Touch’) provide automated frothing and shot extraction into your cup at the touch of the button; others have an automated frothing system that will froth the milk separately and you can pour it into the cup after it’s automatically extracted.
Capsule: Probably the most simple machine in terms of materials and labor, these guys use a proprietary capsule filled with pre-ground coffee and extract it at the touch of a button — no grinding and tamping. Some of them have automatic frothing options.
We asked Gail to talk to us about these different machines, why someone would want to buy a specific type and why perhaps they wouldn’t want to buy it. Hopefully, this video will function as a good primer for learning the basic functional differences and help you as you research which machine best suits your needs.
Round two of our experimentation with the Breville machines covers steaming. We liked the fact that you could take off the panarello sleeve on this machine and have access to a standard steam wand that would allow you more control over steaming. So Gail tried it out both ways — with the panarello sleeve and without — to see how it performed and this video records the result for posterity.
The Brevilles are a recent addition to our suite of products here at Seattle Coffee Gear, and we have been messing around with them for awhile to determine the best way to make them perform well — and if that’s even possible! In this video, we take the Breville Die Cast Programmable espresso machine through the paces, trying out different grinds, tamps, filters and measuring the temperature. The result? Watch to find out!
While relying a bit more on form than function, Breville’s series of espresso machines do offer some great features like dosage programming and on-the-fly water heating, plus quite striking design. In this video, Gail discusses the different machines available and tells us their features, pros and cons.
DIY lovers are all into the idea of using lemon juice or vinegar to descale their machines, but while the latter will leave a nasty residue and we don’t recommend it for that reason, the former just isn’t concentrated enough to do as an effective job in as an efficient manner as a concentrated citric acid solution like Dezcal. This is what we find out from Gail, plus she makes freaky faces and it’s worth watching just for that.
One of the most popular questions we receive on a regular basis is around keeping the grinder chute free of clogs. Often, people will clean the burrs regularly, but forget about the chute and they’ll have inconsistent grind results because of that. It’s pretty easy to keep this area clean — watch as Gail demonstrates how to take care of a few different models of burr grinders.
While we dig how much metal Breville incorporates into their designs, we don’t know how well their functionality will stand up to the test of time and/or someone with more particular tastes. We checked out their burr grinder to see how it compared to other models that we carry, and weren’t very impressed with its particle consistency or maximum fineness. In fact, we’re pretty sure that even what they call ‘Turkish’ wouldn’t work in most espresso machines — but may very well work just fine in their machines with a pressurized portafilter basket.
At any rate, we had Gail show us this grinder’s ropes and demonstrate how it works.
Continuing our series of general comparison videos between different machines in a class, we took a look at some of the lower cost options available on the market. In this video, Gail gives us the basic rundown — pros, cons, likes, dislikes — on a few different single boiler machines, including the Ascaso Dream, Gaggia Color, Francis Francis! X7, Saeco Aroma and Breville Die Cast.
When we started carrying the Breville espresso machines a few months ago, arguably the most common complaint we heard was that the pressurized filter basket easily clogged and was difficult to clean. We looked into the construction to see if there was something we could change about that, but decided to go with a upgrade altogether by creating a unique, non-pressurized porftafilter basket specifically designed to fit Brevilles!
In this video, Gail talks to us about the baskets and pulls us a shot to show us how they perform. If you have a Breville, this is a highly recommended upgrade to your setup. You will need to be more in tune with your grind and tamp than if you’re using the pressurized baskets, however, but you’ll have the opportunity to significantly improve your shot.