We took one of our most popular coffees, Lavazza Super Crema, and brewed it using different temperatures on theLa Spaziale Mini Vivaldi. While the 204F degree espresso extraction temperature is a general rule of thumb, a lot of single origin/estate beans and even some blends are particularly sensitive to heat and will perform better at a different temperature.
Watch as Gail brews several shots at different temperatures, tasting each to determine the ideal brew temp for Super Crema.
While working on a Francis Francis in our repair center, we found out it’s awesome little secret: It comes with an internal PID! You can’t adjust it yourself, and some of the newer models like the X7 aren’t designed to be adjusted at all, but it will keep the boiler’s temp within 1 degree of the set temperature — unlike less sophisticated thermostats that have a varying range of about 20 degrees and, thus, require temperature surfing.
Josh and Gail cracked open an X7 to show its guts and glory!
We’ll never know how Marilyn Monroe’s figure would have held up over time, but that’s not the kind of Hourglass we’re talking about here, baby! We’re talking about the cold coffee brewing system that creates a smooth concentrate that you can use to make hot or cold coffee for up to two weeks afterward.
Or so they say! But can you, really? These are the big questions that only the crew at Seattle Coffee Gear are prepared to take on. We had Gail brew up a batch of the Hourglass coffee; she then tested it the next day for a baseline flavor assessment and then we followed it up 1 week and 2 weeks later to see how the flavor stood up.
Saeco’s newest release in the US is the Syntia, a petite, scaled down version of their also recently released Xelsis. Like the Xelsis, it has a stainless steel casing (love!) a sleek, futuristic design (double love!) and some programmable options (ok, this love-fest is getting ridiculous!). It also has a bi-pass doser for pre-ground coffee, the standard removable brew group and it even utilizes the magic of magnets.
Sadly, it doesn’t have the patented Saeco Brewing System (SBS) that varies the pressure to give more or less crema on your shot, but there’s always a catch, right? If you have limited counterspace or cupboard clearance, this is definitely the superautomatic for you. Watch Gail take us through its features and demonstrate its functionality.
The Ascaso Dream UP is considered a ‘versatile’ espresso machine, meaning that — like its predecessor — the brew head has been designed for use with both ESE pods and ground coffee. However, the stock brew head definitely favors pods and you don’t get as rich of a shot using grounds as you can off of other machines in this class.
When we did our review recently, we noticed that even though the new UP has a three-way solenoid valve, it didn’t seem to perform that well, leaving really soupy grounds behind. So we decided to experiment with the machine by installing the Brew Head Upgrade kit to see if that improved the performance. It did!
Watch Gail show us the different screens, talk about how they perform and demonstrate a shot. We even spliced in footage from the original review (accompanied by super sessy muzak!) for easy side-by-side comparison.
The newly re-engineered Izzo Alex II is a semi-automatic espresso machine out to make a name for itself: It’s currently the only heat exchanger for home use that has a PID! Combine that with the convertible water source (which Izzo pioneered) and the no burn steam wands, and you can almost make up for the not-so-superb fit and finish elements that we don’t love about it.
Watch Gail take us through its features, functionality and demonstrate making a latte — all on her birthday!
In answer to the oft posed question ‘can’t I just use pre-ground coffee from __[insert your favorite store/roastery/cafe here]__?’, we have held an aging test.
We’re big on freshly grinding your coffee before each shot, as pre-ground starts to dry out (even in air-tight containers) within the first 24 hours. To show you how the shots degrade, we dialed in and ground a bunch of coffee, then pulled a shot the day of for baseline purposes. We then pulled shots 24, 48, 72 hours and 1 full week later to show how the shots measured up — and to give our unequivocal vocal and facial feature responses to their flavor. Yowza!
Watch Gail as we go through the initial testing and then check in throughout the subsequent week.
Recently re-engineered to include a three-way solenoid/brew pressure release valve, Ascaso’s Dream UP is just as aesthetically fetching as its ancestors and functions pretty much the same. It comes with a nice aluminum tamper (unlike the plastic style included with many other machines) and two different steam wand tips that you can choose from — a panarello (which incorporates air and steam for you) or a three-hole traditional steam tip (which requires a little more skill and allows you to stretch the milk).
Gail talks to us about the features, demonstrates the different wand tips and makes us a latte — with absolutely no latte art to speak of.
Since your coffee is over 98% water, it makes sense that the quality of the water will impact the taste. One of the subjects regularly bandied about in the home espresso world is if there is a significant impact on one’s shot if using a machine that has a separate brew boiler — especially if the machine isn’t pulling a lot of shots regularly and the water has a chance to sit for awhile in that boiler.
We have spoken with folks on both sides of the ‘divide': Those that think the water goes stale in the brew boiler so that a heat exchange provides a cleaner, fresher taste and those that think the temperature control and performance differential you get from a double boiler outweighs any concerns of water flavor.
So we asked Gail to perform a practical test for us on the La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi: We dialed in our shot and then let the machine sit for a couple of days. Then we pulled shots with the water in the reservoir and boiler and shots with fresh water in the reservoir and a completely flushed brew boiler. Watch and find out the results.