Next in our series of the crew’s favorite picks covers the world of traditional espresso machines. Find out which single, heat exchange and double boiler machines the team digs.
Single Boiler Espresso Machines
Heat Exchange Espresso Machines
Dual Boiler Espresso Machines
These two machines are natural competitors! The Silvia has been around for over a decade and has serious fans in her corner — from her commercial-grade components to her simple interface. The CC1 is the new kid in the game, but has inspired serious devotees in the short time he’s been around, particularly those that adore precision in their brew functionality.
We put these side by side for you to check out how they compare! Watch Gail walk through features, show off their internals and then demonstrate making a latte on each of them. If you’ve been torn between these two machines, this is a great video primer that will help break ‘em down for you.
Even if you don’t buy into New Year’s resolutions, there’s nothing wrong with thinking about little ways to improve your quality of life and that of those around you. (We know what you’re like without your morning coffee. It’s okay, this is a safe place.) Why not start with a commitment to make better coffee in 2013? Here’s a list our best selling gear from last year to help you get started!
Saeco Aroma Black – $229 Stainless Steel – $259
Compact and durable, the Aroma is a great entry-level espresso machine. It’s extremely easy to use, and the pressurized portafilter and included pod adapter will have you brewing with E.S.E. pods, pre-ground espresso, or freshly ground beans with ease.
Saeco Via Venezia Black – $299 Stainless Steel – $349
The Via Venezia and Aroma share the same internals therefore they function almost identically, but the Via Venezia offers some slight improvements: larger capacity water reservoir (98 oz), steam wand with more mobility, and more clearance between the drip tray and brew head so you can brew into larger cups. This little workhorse will keep you caffeinated with no problems.
Breville Infuser BES840XL – $499.95
The Infuser is the only espresso machine in this price range to offer an internal PID, and while it’s not programmable, it stabilizes the brew temperature for perfect shot extraction. With built-in pre-infusion, commercial style steam wand, and compact stainless casing, you’ll be proud to have this on your counter top.
Rancilio Silvia – $629 with PID – $879
Simple, reliable, durable. The Silvia is one of the best sellers in the home espresso market and it’s a great machine on which to hone your craft since you’ll need to be precise with your grind and tamp. Upgrade to the installed PID version for programmable temperature control.
Saeco Syntia SS Superautomatic – $849
The Syntia is a compact and stylish superauto that offers the convenience of automatic espresso brewing paired with manual milk steaming – perfect for folks who order extra-hot lattes. With Saeco’s removable brew group and Intenza water filter system, it’s also easy to maintain and a great option for those who need a little extra help in the morning. ☺
Crossland CC1 – $699 (now 10% off!)
A PID comes standard with this single boiler, which let’s you customize brew and steam temperature, pre-infusion time, and volume. We love the stainless steel casing, thermo-block enhanced steam to switch quickly between brewing and steaming, and the programmability for this price point.
Breville Double Boiler – $1199.95
When you’re ready to brew and steam simultaneously, you’re ready for this bad boy. With an easy to use interface, you can program the electronic PID with extraction temperatures, volumetric control, and pre-infusion duration.
Nuova Simonelli Oscar – $1050
If you think you need a dual boiler for simultaneous brewing and steaming, think again. Heat exchangers like the Oscar provide similar benefits at a lower price point. This machine has great steam pressure, a large water reservoir, and is also available as a direct connect machine. It’s available in a sexy metallic red as well – vroom vroom.
DeLonghi 23450SL -$1499.95
This is one of DeLonghi’s newer superautomatics on the market, and if you are a bleary eyed zombie before your morning java, you will appreciate its one-touch functionality. It produces some of the hottest coffee we’ve seen from superautos.
Saeco Exprelia -$1899
This one-touch dual boiler is streamlined and compact, and we love that if offers both one-touch functionality for auto-frothing milk or manual steaming with a stainless steel steam wand – no panarellos here. Right now we are offering a year’s supply of coffee with the purchase of a new Exprelia!
Rocket Cellini Premium Plus – $1799 Giotto Premium Plus – $1899
Hand craftsmanship, a commercial grade E61 brew head and high polished stainless steel seduce many an espresso lover to bring the Cellini or Giotto Premium Plus into their lives. You’ll be extracting delicious shots and impressing all your friends with this one.
Sky’s the Limit
Rocket R58 – $2699
You’re ready to take it to the next level with this powerhouse. The dual boilers work independently to stabilize the espresso boiler, and maximize steam pressure without compromising shot quality.
Saeco Xelsis – $2999 or Xelsis ID – $3199
The only thing missing from these superautomatics is the ability for them to read your mind…coming in 2015 (Just kidding!) Right now you’ll have to be satisfied with the ID’s fingerprint recognition technology to access your drink profile and create beverages at the touch of a button.
Izzo Alex Duetto II – $2250 Duetto III – $2495
This dual boiler has commercial quality components, electronic PID control, and the option to plumb into your water line. It’s new older brother, the Duetto III offers an upgraded fit and finish, larger drip tray, and stainless steel cup rails. Both solid performers can take your java to the next level.
Professor Bunny in the house! We have often been asked about how grind, dose and tamp affect each other, so we posed a few questions to learn more about it. First, how does coffee dosage affect coffee grind? As you dose more, do you need to make the grind coarser or finer? How about when you dose less? Then we turned to tamping: When you tamp more lightly, how do you have to adjust your grind to still extract within the 20 – 30 second timeframe?
In these two videos, Bunny takes on these questions and a whole lot more! Watch her experiment with the Crossland CC1 and Baratza Vario-W and learn how to change your grind in order to meet your dose amount or tamp pressure.
How does Coffee Dosage affect Coffee Grind?
How does Tamp Pressure affect Coffee Grind?
Have you ever heard the saying, ‘Fake it ‘til you make it?’ This is my mantra in a sea of professional coffee quaffers. The words crema, micro foam, portafilter and panarello were not previously in my vocabulary. I enjoy any coffee that I don’t have to make myself. And after such a confession, you can now see why I approached the Crossland CC1 with trepidation.
At first glance the Crossland CC1 had a nice compact size for a serious espresso machine. It was not a countertop hog. I flipped the switch on and watched Gail’s video while the machine warmed up. Miranda walked by and gave me a pro pointer: ‘Pre-heat the portafilter in the group head.’ There are two knobs on the front of the machine which I pushed with hilarious results as 202°F water streamed through the empty portafilter and into the drip tray; I’m glad the drip tray had good capacity. I glanced at the water reservoir level, visible from the front, and there was still plenty of water left to try again.
Next, I unfolded my Seattle Coffee Gear cheat sheet and began with renewed hope that I could pull a decent shot my first time out. The included 58mm portafilter felt heavy in my hand as I used an Ascaso grinder that had been dialed in already. The delicious smell of freshly ground Velton’s Bonsai Blend filled me with anticipation. I tamped the fluffy grinds using an Espro calibrated tamper that Teri had told me about. This is a great beginner tool since I am not familiar with what 30 pounds of pressure feels like.
Now, the Crossland CC1 was ready, and so was I. From the menu, I selected the one-cup option (which is programmable) and positioned my lucky cow cup to catch the espresso. What I observed was that more dripped out one side than the other — a rookie mistake! My dosing and tamping skills needed much more practice. Before anyone noticed, I used the knock box to discard my mucky puck. This was user error, not the fault of the machine or the grind. My crema looked alright and the espresso was tasty, but I would not win a barista competition any time soon.
The Crossland CC1 was ready to go for milk frothing with no delay, thanks to a large boiler and thermoblock combination. If you like milk based drinks like I do, this is important because you don’t have to wait long to steam your milk. I scored a chilled stainless steel frothing pitcher from the SCG break room (a magical place where countless cups of coffee are consumed) and filled it 2/3 of the way full.
The tip of the traditional steam wand was just under the milk when I turned the front button to ‘steam’ and turned the dial on the side of the CC1 to inject the milk with perfectly heated steam. It made my milk much foamier, much quicker than I expected. I was impressed! *Procedural Note: I had previously frothed my milk prior to pulling the shot, just like Gail has advised us to do on a machine like this, but Kaylie stole my milk for her latte. Hence the CC1 steamed two pitchers of milk and pulled a nice shot of espresso without hesitation.
Although I did not brag about my first attempt, or even my second attempt the next morning, the CC1 is a great machine to learn on. It felt solid and there were no delicate parts for me to break. It was forgiving of my lack of skill! Imagine what it could do for someone who actually knows how to pull an espresso shot — the possibilities are endless.
In The Great Espresso Machine Wars of 2011, the bloodiest battle was that between the rotary and the vibratory pump. Seriously; things got real.
You didn’t hear about it? Well, it’s really not something we like to rehash — and there were definitely lessons in there for all of us. But even though we’re not yet prepared to talk through it (too soon!), we don’t mind taking a couple of pumps apart and asking one of our favorite engineers for his input on how these bad boys work.
Watch as Gail and Bill Crossland go through the internals of a vibratory and rotary pump, discussing how they work, why you might select one over the other and what to expect from them. Then we measure the sound differential between the vibratory pump on the Rocket Espresso Premium Plus and the rotary pump on the Rocket Espresso Evoluzione to learn if the whole ‘it’s quieter!’ argument really holds water. Finally, we pull shots to see if there is a noticeable, practical difference in flavor between the two styles of machines.
Time for a side by side grudge match with two of our favorites! We’ve collected some basic feature information on the Rancilio Silvia and Crossland CC1 so you can see how they measure up against each other.
For the Rancilio Silvia, we noted the stock functionality as well as the functionality you’ll gain if you upgrade it with a PID (a roughly $200 additional expense).
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