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
Decided to up your latte game and invite a ‘prosumer’ espresso machine into your home? I was interested in learning more about two of the the heat exchangers that we have in the store — the art deco inspired Nuova Simonelli Musica and the hand crafted Rocket Giotto Evoluzione — so I decided to take them each for a test drive. Now, if you’re into straight up features and spec comparisons, check out the table I’ve laid out below; but if you learn more from hands-on experiences, read on!
I started with the Musica and instantly fell in love with its portafilter. The smartly angled handle enables the filter basket to lie flat on the counter. Jessica held my hand as I dialed in the grind using the Mazzer Mini E – Type A grinder. After pulling a number of double shots, I came to appreciate the Musica’s automatic pre-infusion and programmable volumetric buttons, making this machine a breeze once you figure out the right grind and tamp for your bean. You can also steam milk extremely quickly using the standard three hole steam tip. I loved the paddle functionality to control the steam, allowing you to pulse or flip up for maximum power.
As I approached the Rocket, I could see my reflection in its highly polished casing. With a commercial-grade brew head, I was in store for consistent shots given the thermal stability provided by the E61. After inserting the portafilter, I flipped up the lever all the way to begin shot extraction. I was glued to a timer while pulling shots, and this would be best practice given there isn’t volumetric programming on this machine. Steaming was straightforward with a traditional steam knob and single hole tip, giving me a little more time to work up the microfoam.
In the end, there was no difference in shot or milk quality from these two exceptional machines, so it all boils down to a few essentials in your decision set. If you need a convertible water source, crave sleek steel lines and appreciate the ritual of classic espresso extraction, the Giotto Evo is a strong bet. If you need an NSF rated machine for a small cafe environment or dig modern conveniences like programmable volumetrics and disco lights, give the Musica a happy home.
Nuova Simonelli Musica
Rocket Giotto Evoluzione
|Dimensions||12.75 in W x 16 in D x 16.75 in||12 in W x 17 in D x 15 in (16.5 in w/ cup rails)|
|Reservoir Size||2.3 Liters||2.9 Liters|
|Water Source||Either reservoir or direct connect||Convertible|
|Case Design||Stainless steel with optional disco lights||Stainless steel and fancy like a race car|
|Steam Wand||Traditional, not insulated, 3 hole tip||Traditional, insulated, 2 hole tip|
|Pre-infusion||Automatic and programmable||Passive|
|Boiler Volume||2 Liter||1.8 Liter|
|Gauges||Boiler pressure||Steam boiler & brew head pressure|
In the market for a heat exchange espresso machine but not prepared to drop a cool $2k on the endeavor? The Oscar by Nuova Simonelli and the Cellini Classic by Rocket Espresso are two excellent machines that feature commercial-grade components and performance for a relatively modest budget. And by ‘relatively modest’ we mean you’re still willing to sink at least a grand into your home espresso setup, love.
Check out how the two machines stack up against each other in Gail’s comparison video! We talk about their features, show off their innards and demonstrate their performance in this side-by-side review.
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.
While these two machines certainly have some core functional differences, they are often compared by folks because once you retrofit the Silvia with a PID, its price tag is very similar to that of the Nuova Simonelli Oscar. So, is one better than the other? As usual, it’s all a matter of perspective.
Watch Gail discuss the features and functionality of these machines, then demonstrate how they perform in terms of drink quality. She also talks about why you might choose one over the other, so if you’re on the fence regarding these two models, this comparison video was made with you in mind. Cherish it.
Heat exchange espresso machines offer simultaneous brew and steam functionality by employing a large steam boiler with an embedded brew boiler and a dual pump. They’re easy to use and work well for the majority of home espresso enthusiasts who aren’t interested in dialing in and playing around with different temperatures.
As a follow-up to our introduction to Easy Serving Espresso (E.S.E.) pods earlier this week, we asked Gail to take us through the pod adapters for a few of the machines that we carry and then we did a taste test comparing them against a machine that comes pod-friendly. This series of videos shows how the adapters are installed and how well they perform, shot-quality-wise.
First up, the Nuova Simonelli Musica pod adapter installation and taste test:
Next, the La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi pod adapter installation and taste test:
Now we install the adapter on the Rancilio Silvia and taste some shots:
Finally, we asked Brandi and Teri to join Gail as she performs a taste test, comparing the three adapted machines with the Saeco Via Venezia, which is a pod-friendly machine without the requirement of an adapter:
For folks that dig precision, a dual boiler espresso machine with PID temperature control of the brew boiler is hard to beat. While we tend to shoot from the hip in general around here, that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate a shot pulled from one of these beauties!
We asked Gail to pull shots from the Izzo Alex Duetto II, La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi and Breville Dual Boiler so that we could see how they compare. No science at work here, friends (hey, old habits die hard!), but we did use the same grinder for each machine (the Nuova Simonelli MCI), coffee (Lavazza Super Crema) and brew temp (199F) to try to nail down a few of the variables.
Watch as we taste and discuss the shots from each of these machines, then rank them in terms of our favorites, flavor-wise.
A little bit of the ol’ science behind the magic! Dialing in a grinder is one of the most fearsome tasks for new home espresso enthusiasts, and we’re often asked for advice on how to get the hang of it.
While we produced a video a couple of years ago that covers this topic, we have had many folks ask more questions that weren’t covered in the original version and we’ve learned a few new tips and tricks along the way. Watch Gail dial in the Nuova Simonelli Grinta for the Nuova Simonelli Oscar, providing recommendations that can be applied to any home espresso setup.