In the world of espresso machines, there are two different directions to take: Pump or steam. A lot of the machines we carry are pump driven and that’s pretty much the preferred method for quality espresso extraction, but we do carry a model that utilizes steam pressure and so we wanted to talk about why.
More than anything, our goal is to provide a wide selection of espresso and coffee related gear in a fairly vendor- and goal-agnostic environment. Whether you’re looking to artisan craft excellent espresso each morning or are simply interested in replacing your Starbucks habit, we want to be able to help you find the best tools to achieve your goal. We don’t judge, baby — we’re not snobs.
To that end, we added a DeLonghi coffee-and-espresso combination machine, which is a great solution for folks who battle it out for one type of java over the other in the morning. What may lack in ultimate taste is more than made up for in the convenience of a single unit.
Because these machines combine coffee and espresso makers, DeLonghi used steam pressure because of size and cost limitations. Utilizing one technology for both brewing coffee and pulling espresso makes for a sleeker design and a lower cost overall. But steam doesn’t get the same amount of pressure as a pump-driven machine and the steam pressure temp of 230-240F is well above the recommended espresso extraction temp of around 204F. The result? Burnt espresso.
Steam pressure is older technology and more affordable overall, so you will likely find it in some of the lower end espresso machines on the market. Just be aware of what you’re getting into — if price means more than flavor, steam pressure espresso machines may be the match for you.
Lime, calcium and other trace minerals exist in nearly every water supply, leaving behind white scaly deposits when the water has evaporated. Removing this scale on a regular basis is an essential component of any coffee maker or espresso machine maintenance regimen — even if you have ‘soft’ water, there will be trace amounts left over time that can build-up and hinder your machine’s performance.
Some folks suggest using filtered or distilled water from the get-go, so that you don’t risk pitting your boiler through repetitive use of the acid required to remove scale. That’s certainly one tack to take, but we’ve found that we prefer the taste of espresso made with water that has some mineral content to it. Because of that, we descale our machines about every three months to ensure that no deposits build up and ultimately burn out the boiler.
If you prefer minerals in your java as we do, there are a couple of products on the market that will help you keep your espresso machine or coffee maker in tip-top shape: Cleancaf or Dezcal. Which is better? Again, it depends on your preferences.
Billed as a cleaner and descaler, Cleancaf combines descaling acid with a detergent that will also break down the oils left behind by coffee beans. It also features a blue dye that helps with thorough rinsing.
Dezcal, on the other hand, is a straight-up descaler — and an incredibly powerful one at that. While it doesn’t have a detergent component, it’s a much stronger product and removes more scale; also, it doesn’t have a blue dye, which we think is a good thing.
Of the two, we recommend Dezcal over Cleancaf, but we carry both of them so you can determine which product is right for you.
We sell several semi-automatic espresso machines (such as the Saeco Aroma or Via Venezia, any of the Brevilles or DeLonghis that feature a pressurized portafilter basket. This is a major functional difference from other machines, like the Rancilio Silvia or Rocket Espresso semi-automatic espresso machines, which have non-pressurized baskets similar to commercial-grade machines. In the photo to the right, you can see the physical difference between a non-pressurized basket (on the left) and a pressurized basket (on the right).
OK, so they look different — but what do they do that’s different? Well, we think it’s all about forgiveness.
Continue reading Ask the Experts: What’s the Difference Between Pressurized and Non-Pressurized Filter Baskets?
We have read user reviews of the DeLonghi DCF210TTC and DCF212T drip coffee makers that have referenced issues with water on the counter top or coffee not brewing into the carafe mess-free. When a customer of ours came in the shop with a similar complaint, we decided to figure out what the cause of this issue is — and if there is any way to keep it from happening. After all, who wants a coffee pot that leaks all over the counter?
After experimenting a bit, we determined that it’s a carafe design issue: To ensure that the coffee brews directly into the pot, you need to make sure that the carafe is inserted with the spout lined up to the back of the machine. We have found that if the spout is off to the side, the carafe doesn’t trigger the water release correctly and ends up brewing outside of the pot and sometimes leaking water during the brew process.
A poor design issue? Possibly. But with a little bit of extra attention before each brew, it’s definitely easy to work around.
If you’re looking to rock like a pro barista, you need to perfect the art of microfoam — that glossy smooth steamed milk that makes latte art possible. It’s really not that difficult to pull off once you know the step-by-step process:
- Keep your steaming pitcher in the refrigerator/chilled
- Start with icy cold milk (about 34F degrees)
- Begin steaming by getting the milk to spin rapidly clockwise, then
work the surface of the milk for about 15 – 20 seconds in one of the
- Standard Steam Wand: Bring the tip of the steam wand to the top, so that it just barely breaks the surface to suck in air and milk
- Panarello Steam Wand: Submerge the wand so that the top of the
milk and the air intake slot or hole are even, allowing milk and air to
be drawn in evenly — if you submerged it above the air intake, you’ll
just steam the milk; if you submerge it well below the intake, you’ll
end up with fluffy, bubbly foam
- Plunge the steam wand all the way into the milk and then roll the milk for the remainder of the steam
- Temperature-wise, your milk should measure between 140F – 180F
degrees — if it’s too cold, it will be chalky; if it’s too hot, it
will be scalded
- Tap the pitcher on the counter to settle the milk and force any air bubbles to the top
- Prior to pouring, roll the milk slightly around the pitcher to
incorporate the foam and the milk. The milk should have a shiny, glassy
smooth surface that is free of any bubbles
- Pour to make your favorite latte art
More visually inclined? Check out our video.
If you have an espresso machine which features a panarello tip on the steam wand (such as a those from Saeco or DeLonghi), learning how to steam milk to your preference can take a few tries. Here are some tips on how to produce different kinds of milk textures using this type of steam wand:
- Super Fluffy Foam: If you keep the air intake (hole or slit) above the surface of the milk, you’ll create big foam and bubbles.
- Steamed Only: Fully submerge the air intake in the milk to produce steamed milk with no foam.
- Microfoam: Keep the air intake level with the milk, drawing in equal amounts of milk and air.
- Overflow Watch: If your foamed milk is about to overflow from the pitcher but it’s not up to your preferred temperature, simply submerge the wand completely (up above the air intake) and continue to steam.
If you’re planning on transporting or storing your machine, it’s important that you drain the boiler of any residual water from the last use. The main reason is so that it doesn’t freeze, expand and damage the internal components.
Here’s a guide on how you can drain your boiler before you store or ship it. This care tip is essential to the longevity of your machine, so don’t skip it!
We love DeLonghi’s Alicia Moka Espresso Maker because it’s very portable and easy to use. Utilizing the Italian Moka method for espresso extraction, this compact unit makes a rich, tasty brew anywhere near an outlet.
Great for the home or office, the Alicia also has a detachable base, which makes it very easy to clean and serving espresso is a snap.
You may be sensing a theme here…keep it clean! The best way to keep your machine out of the repair shop and performing optimally is to regularly maintain all of its components.
Your machine’s brew group is arguably the most important part, so taking the time to keep it in tip top shape means it will give you delicious espresso shots for years to come.
We’ve compiled some how-to tips for each of the basic styles of home espresso machines. If you need more assistance, refer to your user manual or give us a call.
Striking design and fool-proof functionality combine in the Nespresso Lattissima. This eye catching superautomatic espresso machine is perfect for those of us that are morning-challenged. The patented coffee capsules take out all of the guess work around coffee grind level, tamping, etc., and are incredibly easy to clean up after your single cup is brewed!
The Lattissima also features a removable milk container, which you can fill with your favorite kind of milk and then store in your refrigerator between uses. Groggy mornings are made infinitely easier by placing your chilled milk container in the stand, popping in a coffee capsule and brewing a single cup of espresso, cappuccino or lungo at the touch of a button. Enjoy!