We have carried Nespresso capsule machines for awhile now and we know that while they’ll definitely get the caffeinated job done, it’s unlikely that the shots they produce will ever knock your socks off. illy came to the scene recently with their reworked Francis Francis! machines that utilize the Iperespresso capsule functionality, so we decided it was time for a little side-by-side taste-off.
Note that there are a ton of variables at play here, especially since both of these use proprietary capsule systems and blends, we couldn’t necessarily judge the machine’s tech separate from the coffee’s flavor. Bunny selected a dark roast, light roast and single origin from each manufacturer for us to taste; watch as the crew gives their feedback on flavor!
In our next round of updated buying guides, Gail takes us through several single boiler espresso machines under the $1k mark, giving us a basic overview and comparison of their features. She talks about the Saeco Aroma, Via Venezia & Sirena, the Francis Francis X7, the Rancilio Silvia, the Ascaso Dream & Uno Pro with PID and the Crossland CC1. If you’re in the market for a machine, this is a great primer on some of the available options.
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.
Lately, we’ve been posting a slew of crew reviews (!), covering all the new refurbished machines we have available. We are a certified refurbishment center, specializing in Saeco machines, eventually taking on more models down the line. Gail checked in with the lead of the refurb team, Patrick, to talk with him about how the magic happens.
We’ve heard concerns from customers on whether or not they should worry about trace amounts of lead or metal poisoning within their machines’ boilers and parts. So we’re going to break down the makeup of particular metals that are housed within your unit to ease your mind — and your fears of caffeine withdrawal.
Water corrosion is where it all begins and understanding your machine and what conditions cause corrosion — oxygen, water, metal and a catalyst — will help you manage and maintain your espresso machine.
Used for some espresso machine boilers and stovetop espresso makers as it heats up the fastest, ‘aluminum is protected from corrosion by increasing the amount of naturally occurring aluminum oxide (Aluminum + Oxygen) on its surface.’
As a mixture of metals, also referred to as an alloy, and under ideal circumstances, Sergio Louissant of LatteMaestro.com explains that this combination protects the aluminum but also has a quicker turn around time in breaking down the aluminum oxide causing the aluminum to corrode.
Chloride in tap water wears down the catalyst that breaks the shield that is the oxide layer between the metal and boiler water, as stated in a piece in the JL Hufford Coffee Tea Supporter Forum. This causes damage to aluminum parts over time so it is best to use filtered water or to regularly clean and descale your machine to slow down the deterioration process.
However, even though machines with aluminum parts are less expensive, that doesn’t mean they’re frowned upon. With its ability to maintain good resistance against corrosion, it just may take more of a closer eye and knowledge to understand the chemistry of it’s maintenance and when its time to switch out parts to prevent the quick deterioration of this material. Because the connection between aluminum and degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s is still unclear, many folks try to avoid aluminum as a precaution.
Very resistant to corrosion, stainless steel can be found in Saeco, Nespresso and Capresso machines. But its downfall is being the life of the party when it comes to hosting bacteria for a longer period of time on its surface compared to any other metal.
However, bacteria aside, since you won’t be cutting, dicing or chopping any raw meat on or with stainless steel espresso machine boilers and parts, as long as you keep the stainless steel within your machine clean, this material is ideal for espresso machines as it provides excellent heat retention and assures rapid steam function.
Unlike stainless steel and aluminum, espresso machines that use copper/brass boilers and parts, such as Rocket, Rancilio, Quick Mill, Pasquini, LaPavoni and Francis Francis, not only act like a repellent to those grimy germs and retain heat longer, but they also are the most resistant to corrosion than any other metal.
However, even with it’s popularity in higher end machines, some users are still left worried about the lead content in brass boilers.
While lead is added to some brasses, most manufacturers plate brass with nickel, such as Rocket Espresso, preventing any lead from leaching into water, reducing corrosion and acting as a barrier between brass and water.
But taking extra care when it comes to lead in products, it was in October of 1999 that the California State Attorney General sued 13 key manufacturers and distributors over lead content, leading to the reduction of lead content to 1.5 percent from it’s original 2 to 3 percent in products sold within that state. Following this action manufacturers were asked to reduce lead or to follow the requirement to warn consumers about lead content even if it didn’t have the ability to leach into materials such as water.
Hopefully this trend will catch up to the rest of the 49 states in the U.S. but for now, whether you choose a machine with aluminum, stainless steel or brass, taking precaution is key but knowing how your machine works and what it reacts well with will also keep you happy, healthy and caffeinated.
Gift hunting season is on! For those with caffeinated accoutrement in their sights — but who are not quite sure about their target — we’ve created a series of introductory Buyer’s Guides to give you some ideas.
Check ‘em out:
- Back to School Coffee Fix for Students: Next semester is going to be even better than the last! Right? Right. Make it so with these java preps which require very little equipment and can easily produce excellent coffee from the convenience of cramped quarters — like dorm rooms.
- Give your Student the Gift of Espresso: It will increase their focus and concentration. They will get a 4.0. There won’t be a grad school that won’t accept them. They’ll go on to be extremely successful in their field. They’ll build you a little retirement cottage on a river somewhere. You will both thank that little espresso machine for years to come. Live the dream.
- First Time Espresso Makers: 2011 is your time to shine. We’ve selected some excellent introductory espresso machines that will have you — and/or the lucky beneficiary — making your favorite espresso drinks at home with ease.
- Picking a Grinder for your Cup o’ Joe: If you know anything about us, you know we’re serious about picking a good grinder. There are several out there that work for a specific purpose or budget, and this guide is a great primer.
- Gadgets for the Espresso Enthusiast: Is buying coffee gear for someone in your life kind of like trying to buy Richard Branson something he doesn’t already have? Here are some options for items they may not have in their setup — although we make no promises here.
Lately, we’ve been digging the Francis Francis X1 and X7 espresso machines because they have great features for their price class — primarily auto-fill boiler and sophisticated temperature regulation. But like any machine, there are drawbacks, and one thing we don’t like about these machines is the plastic spouts on the portafilter. In fact, if you apply too much pressure, you run the risk of cracking the plastic.
Gail talks to us about this issue and gives us some tips on how to work around this design flaw.
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.