In corner number one we have the Rancilio Silvia. An iconic single boiler machine, ready to brew up anything you throw at it.
In corner number two we have the Breville Barista Express. With it’s built in grinder and optional pressurized portafilters, brewing up great espresso has never been so simple.
Ring the bell referee, its the Silvia vs Barista Express!
The Rancilio Silvia is a single boiler espresso machine. The boiler is built out of brass and has a removable heating element, which makes repairs much cheaper if the heating element ever burns out. The case material on the Rancilio Silvia is stainless steel, so you know this machine is built to last! Our comparison showed that the steam pressure is better on the Silvia, which is to be expected given the design differences between these two espresso machines. At just 9.5 inches wide and 11 inches deep, the Silvia has the smaller footprint- but don’t forget about your grinder!
The Breville Barista Express has a stainless steel boiler with a thermocoil design. What’s a thermocoil? A thermocoil or thermoblock takes water from the reservoir in an espresso machine and heats it on the fly, versus heating up a full boiler of water. The benefit is a shorter wait time for the water to come to temperature, but it is not as consistent. The Barista Express has a built in burr grinder, so for someone on a budget or with limited counter space this would be an excellent option. The Breville has several programming options, something the Silvia does not have.
So 3 different espresso machines walk into a coffee bar. A semiautomatic, a superautomatic, and a hybrid. The barista asks, “What’s so special about you?” (referring to the hybrid). To which Gail responds, let me tell you!
Ok, maybe we should stick to just drinking coffee and leave the jokes to the professionals. Either way, in our quest to demystify the Breville Oracle, the hybrid espresso machine, we decided to compare it to a semiautomatic and a superautomatic so that we can show off what it encompasses from both families.
The Rocket Giotto Premium Plus with PID is our semiautomatic in this comparison. A classic heat exchanger machine with an E-61 brew head. The steam power on this machine is excellent, but the home barista will need to practice in order to get the perfect milk for their lattes.
The Breville Oracle is similar to the Rocket Giotto in that they both have a full sized 58mm portafilter. But what makes the Oracle more like a superautomatic is the internal grinder and tamper. The oracle allows you to adjust the tamp pressure and dosage, but the control you have is still limited when compared to the Rocket.
The Saeco Exprelia Evo, our superautomatic in the lineup, features both an auto milk system and a traditional steam wand. The Oracle also has an auto milk system, but we think it acts more like a traditional steam wand than anything. On the Oracle, you can adjust the temperature you want your milk to get to as well as your desired foam amount.
Watch our full comparison video below to learn more about these three espresso machines. Which one is the best fit for you?
As with everything in life, when you choose one thing you will always have give up a little something elsewhere. And that’s not always a bad thing! But in order to make an informed decision you should know what it is exactly that you will be gaining and losing. When it comes to espresso machines, a lot of what you will be gaining and losing is espresso shot quality.
Let us preface by saying that there are a lot of factors that need to come together in unison in order to create the perfect shot of espresso. Everything from the grind, to the tamp, to the humidity in your environment need to be just right for that espresso to make the ultimate list of all things delicious. So one machine simply can’t make all things come true. But it certainly can get you close.
When it comes to espresso machines you have essentially three families: manual, semi-automatic and super-automatic. We are going to focus on the semi- and super-automatics since they tend to be the most popular. The super-automatics are the one stop shop machines. Espresso at the push of a button. Super convenient for those who want it. The semi-automatics give you a little more control over your espresso shot. You have the ability to fine tune your grind and tamp pressure to just how you like it. That is not to say that super-automatics don’t give you options, but there will inherently be less.
As a result, your shots will vary from machine to machine. We think that you can pull better shots on a semi-automatic but that comes at a cost. You will be required to hone your craft in order to get that sweet nectar just right. While a super-automatic will get you close enough with little to no effort. It all comes down to what you want! That’s really the best part of it all.
Watch the video below to hear Gail’s full explanation of espresso shot quality from machine to machine. And be sure to check out our YouTube channel as well for more information and Crew Reviews!
We’ve descaled double boilers, heat exchangers, every superautomatic under the sun and even simple thermoblock-driven machines, but in all of our years giving scale the what-for inside espresso machines, we had not descaled a La Pavoni. So when Sam’s Uncle Bob asked us to show him the ropes, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to delve into something completely new!
The first part of the process, of course, was to find a willing participant, and Bunny stepped in to do the job. After working in our retail store for years and performing tune-ups for customers, she knows a thing or two about descaling machines, so we tasked her with researching how to perform it on a manual lever style machine like the La Pavoni. What she learned (and what we then filmed) was deceptively simple! It will take some time, patience, a little elbow grease and, of course, some Dezcal, but it was a very effective method for removing scale within the La Pavoni’s boiler and on its heating element.
Watch as she guides us through the process. And if you happen to have a La Pavoni or a lever machine that you descale in a different way, we’d love to learn new techniques! Post your process in the comments and we’ll share with the class.
SCG How-To Guides: Descaling La Pavoni Manual Espresso Machines
Does your Saeco Via Venezia need to be repaired but you don’t have a repair center in your area? Did you try on a DeLonghi Magnifica for size and it didn’t quite fit? Will that Rocket Espresso R58 see more action at your vacation home? Regardless of your reason for shipping your espresso machine — repair, return or simple transit — ensuring that it’s packed properly to limit damage is key.
In this series of videos, we asked a member of our shipping crew, Spencer, to guide us through the best practices for three general styles of espresso machines: Small (under 35lbs), large (over 35lbs) and superautomatics (watch those drip trays!). Check out the video that most closely matches your style of machine to learn how the pros do it.
Episode One: Packing a Small (Under 35lbs) Espresso Machine
Episode Two: Packing a Large (Over 35lbs) Espresso Machine
Episode Three: Packing a Superautomatic Espresso Machine
Looking for a quick and easy way to keep the milk-residue at bay on your espresso machine’s steam wand? If you can take it apart and soak the components in a solution like Rinza or Full Circle’s Milk Cleaning Solution or Milk Wash, that’s a great idea, but what if there’s a leetle bit o’ milk hanging out in the internals of your wand?
Check out Gail’s super simple tip for keeping your steam wand super clean, even if you can’t easily take it apart to clean separately.
For classic espresso extraction, it’s difficult to beat the clean lines and elegant design of La Pavoni’s series of lever espresso machines. We sell a few different variations, so asked Gail to take us through a feature and functionality comparison of them.
If you’d like to see these guys in action, we have a few different videos on that topic:
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.
Keeping your equipment sparkling clean is just as important as the freshness of your coffee and dialing in your grind & tamp — in fact, without the former, the latter will be an exercise in futility. If we have to tell you that rancid coffee oils will adversely impact the quality of your shot, we’re sorry. But if we have to be the first, then we might as well do it right, right? So we asked Louie Poore, who specializes in educating professional baristas on proper equipment care for Urnex, to give us the rundown.
First, he introduces us to Urnex’s new Full Circle, sustainably-produced cleaning products — including a toe-to-toe comparison of Cafiza and Full Circle’s coffee equipment wash.
Next, he walks us through using tablets to backflush the La Marzocco GS/3.
Finally, Gail shows us the newly arrived 1, 2, Brew Kit for Espresso Machines, which features the goodies you need to keep your machine in tip-top shape (plus a bag of Velton’s Coffee of your choice!).