Watch as Gail takes us through the features and functionality of the EC702, a single boiler with a simple interface and metal case.
So you’ve finally pulled together the courage to add up how much you’ve been spending on all those lattes, macchiatos and cappuccinos you’ve consumed at your local cafe everyday. After looking at the grand total you think, ‘Wow, I could’ve set up my own espresso shop!’
When considering their purchase, folks often think about the kind of coffee they want to make and how easy it will be to use — generally, how much work they’re willing to do to craft their favorite drink every day. They also consider the initial monetary investment when purchasing the machine, but we rarely have folks thinking about the overall care and feeding of their new gear: How much work will it take to maintain and keep these machines running well? What kind of life expectancy might a specific machine have? Are there any known issues they should be aware of and prepare for?
To answer these questions, we’ve delved into the tech nitty gritty: From entry-level single boilers to high end ‘prosumer’ semi-automatics to mini caffeine robots (also known as superautomatics), we’ve got the 411 on the general longevity, maintenance and care of different machines. We couldn’t hit all of them, of course, but hopefully there’s enough info here to help you while considering which machine is right for you.
Not that we’re encouraging you to keep up with the Joneses, but if you’re in the market for a new espresso machine, we thought it might be helpful to share which models sold the best over the last year. Broken down by budget, here is what other folks have chosen for their home espresso setup, so definitely worth considering for yours.
#1: Saeco Aroma Black – $249.95 Stainless Steel – $288.00
With its compact size and sturdy demeanor, this machine packs more punch than the average eye can see. With the ability to use a non-pressurized portafilter and pressurized portafilter, customers have come to adore both options. As the pressurized simplifies the process of espresso with no need to be particular with its grind, it’s still able to extract an ideal shot. However, many of our customer have also upgraded to the non-pressurized portafilter, giving them the ability to work on their grind and tamping skills — just like real baristas!
#2: Saeco Via Venezia Black – $299.99
For all you Starbucks Barista owners, you may recognize this machine since it’s the same model made by the same manufacturers that created the Barista for Starbucks. A bit bigger than the Aroma, the Venezia’s insides are almost identical with the Aroma and functions the same way. But it does have a few more upgrades such as a bigger water tank (98 oz. vs. 80 oz.), steam wand that swivels and a little more clearance between the brew head and drip tray.
#3: Technivorm Moccamaster Thermo Coffee Brewer (KBT741) – Polished Silver – $279.00
Heating up one of the hottest cups of coffee that we’ve tested out (200 degrees F), the Technivorm KBT741 definitely made it on our list of hot items of 2011. It may look old school, but its coffee definitely isn’t of the cowboy variety! Customers have grown to love this Dutch-made machine because it incorporates the ideal way to brew and keep a piping cup of coffee hot without ever changing its formula. It may be a bit pricier than your average coffee maker, but coffee lovers who’ve invested in it understand this coffee maker’s worth.
#1: Rancilio Silvia – $629.00
The bottom rung and most reasonably priced of our higher end espresso machines, the Silvia has made a name for itself. With a stainless steel case, brass single boiler and upgraded commercial-grade steam wand, once coffee lovers want to make a move from their entry level machines to the big guns, the Silvia is usually first on the list. A bit particular about the grind, pairing it up with a higher end grinder such as the Rancilio Rocky, Baratza Vario or any of our commercial-grade grinders will allow you to extract a velvety shot every time. With an added upgrade option to install a PID, coffee connoisseurs will be able to set the temperature of their boiler to their liking, giving them more control of how they extract that ideal shot.
#2: Jura Capresso ENA 4 Automatic Coffee Center – Ristretto Black – $699.00
Customers have always loved the modern, clean cut lines of Jura’s line of superautomatic machines. But with the Jura Ena 4 customers have become even bigger fans since it not only offers the ideal look but also a smaller footprint with many bells and whistles. Programmable settings, professional grinder, maintenance notifications and a water filtration system, you’d think the machine had a mind of its own. And while it (and other Jura’s) are known for making the best shots on a superauto, the steam wand design is not our favorite, so if you love lattes and cappuccinos, you probably want to look at a different machine.
#3: Breville Barista Express – Programmable Espresso Machine with Grinder 860 XL – $599.99
With some of the programmable functions of a superautomatic but giving you the capability to control more elements like a semi-automatic, it could be said that the Breville Barista Express is the best of both worlds. With a stainless steel casing, built in conical burr grinder with measured dosage and programmable double & single shot buttons, you’ll still have the ability to control the tamp and pour of your shots. While it’s the hottest of Breville’s single boiler models, it still uses dual thermoblocks so temp consistency isn’t ideal.
#1: Delonghi Magnifica ECAM 23210B Compact Superautomatic Espresso Machine – $999.00
How can such a tiny machine offer so much?! With the ability to adjust the size and strength of your espresso preference, this machine’s interface is straightforward, easy to use and offers programmable buttons speeding up your drink making process. Easy clean up and no mess to fuss about, it also brews some of the hottest coffee from a superauto.
#2: Saeco Talea Touch – $999.00
Call it your very own R2D2 — the Saeco Talea Touch will leave you sitting back and relaxing as it whips up your favorite drinks for you! As the number of fans for superautomatic espresso machines have been growing, the Talea Touch gives you one more thing to love with its touch-screen interface, which makes choosing the strength, size and choice of espresso drink even easier. It also possesses notifications that will remind you to give it a good cleaning or when it’s time to fill-up on beans.
#3: Quick Mill Alexia Semi Automatic Espresso Machine – $1,195.00
Bring the cafe into the comfort of your own home with the Quick Mill Alexia. A single boiler machine featuring a commercial-grade stainless steel casing, professional E-61 brew head and the ability to control your machine’s boiler temperature with the optional PID, you’ll reach barista status in no time. Even with a learning curve of dialing in that exact grind and finding what 30 lbs. of pressure feels like when tamping, customers love the look and the quality of shots and frothy milk this machine allows them to create.
#1: Rocket Cellini Premium Plus – $1,699.00 Rocket Giotto Premium Plus – $1,799.00
As customers walk through our store, the sparkle of the polished stainless steel Rocket Espresso machines are certainly eye-catching. But once they taste the smooth espresso shot it produces, it definitely seals the deal. Encompassing a tank for water accessibility, a heat-exchanger boiler that gives you a faster turn around time to produce your favorite shots and the ability to steam and brew at the same time, both the Cellini and Giotto have become the dream machine for coffee lovers. The only difference between the two are the sleek lines of the Cellini and the angular sides on the Giotto.
#2: Jura Capresso Impressa C9 One Touch Automatic Coffee Center – $1,899.00
Even with a small kitchen you can get the full cafe experience with the Impressa C9. Giving you the ability to see what functions your machine is accessing with the LED interface, you can program your drink’s temperature preference, volume and strength at a spin and push of the knob. Customers enjoy the fact that they have accessibility to use the automatic cappuccino system, where they can froth milk, brew coffee and have it poured all in one cup without lifting more than one finger. Who want’s to do that?!
#3: La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi I Espresso Machine – $1,995.00
Moving up to the big leagues, this double boiler gives you the ability to make drink after drink for parties or expertly feed your espresso craving in the comfort of home! With a professional-grade design and NSF rating, the Vivaldi also offers programmable dosage, easy temperature management, large water tank and an improved steam wand.
#1: Rocket Espresso Cellini Evoluzione Espresso Machine – $2,099.00 Rocket Espresso Giotto Evoluzione Espresso Machine – $2,199.00
Why choose? For those who can’t decide whether they want a reservoir or plumbed-in machine, Rocket has a convertible option! With the capability to use the internal water reservoir or plumbing right into a water source, you’ll never debate on whether you made the right decision. Encompassed by polished stainless steel case, you’ll be able to monitor your boiler and brew head pressure with the dual gauge reading and extract ideal shots out of the commercial E-61 brew group.
#2: Saeco Xelsis SS One Touch Superautomatic Espresso Machine – $2,339.00
At the price you’ll be paying, we can vouch that this is one of the best superautomatic machines we’ve tested and seen yet. Unlike most superautomatics that are made of all plastic, folks love this machine because of its stainless steel casing. Its one-touch features are top notch because not only will it froth, brew and pour, but it will also make sure to clean your frother so there’s no milk residue build-up when you use it the next time around. Yummy!
#3: Izzo Alex Duetto II Semi Automatic Espresso Machine – $2,395.00
Doubling the power up, the Alex Duetto encompasses all the favorite features customers love and look for in their high end machines: brass-copper double boiler, stainless steel casing, commercial E-61 brew group, no-burn steam & hot water wands and a multi functional PID to control temperature, amps, degrees, and steam boiler pressure. Control freaks, dig this!
While their semi-automatic machines are fairly standard performers in the budget-value market, their design has always left a bit to be desired — featuring a lot of plastics and lower end casing materials. DeLonghi’s new kMix series of appliances (ranging from toasters to blenders to coffee makers to espresso machines — and more) have a fun, minimalist design in a variety of bright colors and polished metal.
Watch Gail test out their 15 BAR pump espresso machine, going over features and functionality and giving it a test drive. Performance-wise, it is similar to their other models, just in significantly cuter packaging.
If you dig the convenience of a capsule espresso machine but are looking for a little one touch madness, this Delonghi – Nespresso hybrid may be the choice for you. Watch Gail break down its features, functionality and performance — making a few drinks and testing temperature.
You know that we are game to try almost anything — that’s how we ended up in this racket, after all! So when DeLonghi let us know that they had joined forces with Nescafe to try their hand at developing a capsule espresso machine, we rolled up our sleeves and got down to business. Not only does this machine make the java, it will also whip up your milk for you from good ol’, tried-and-true powdered milk. This machine almost brings us back to our halcyon days of pulling shot after shot of chicken noodle soup from the Lavazza Blu. Ah, youth.
Watch Gail try this baby on for size by testing out an Americano and a hot chocolate. Very interesting … but we’re not sold quite yet.
In a sea of one-touch superautomatics, only the strong will survive! And the short — of course, we are biased since we are members of the goblin class. But if there’s one thing people don’t love about these highly functional robotic cappuccino machines, it’s that they often take up more counter space than a small child (which probably shouldn’t be let loose on the counter, but we don’t judge). So all the kids have come to the table with their version of a diminutive one-touch that gives you automated milk frothing and espresso shots at the touch of a button.
The newest contender is DeLonghi’s Magnifica S Cappucino. Watch Gail go through features, functionality and make one-touch drinks, including measuring the temp on the autofroth.
When is it time to say when? We’re often asked where the portafilter should be in respect to the machine — at a 90 degree angle? 45 degree? A little over to the right? Every machine will be a little bit different and the key is to make sure that it feels snug. Additionally, you’ll find that you’ll move it further as the gasket ages.
Watch as Gail demonstrates the position on several of our demo machines of varying style and age.