Category Archives: Reviews

Video Crew Review: Ascaso Dream UP

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. :)

Taste Test: La Spaziale Brew Boiler Water

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.

Video Crew Review: La Marzocco GS/3

As we wrote last week, Seattle Coffee Gear now carries the La Marzocco GS/3 — and now here’s the Gail review that shows you how this excellent piece of equipment performs. Watch as she walks us through its features, function, pros and cons, then whips up a latte.

New at SCG: La Marzocco GS/3

If you have a pretty penny to spend on your home espresso setup, or you’re looking for a light-duty commercial machine for your business, La Marzocco’s GS/3 is a single group wonder that’s definitely worth your consideration.

Featuring dual stainless steel boilers (3.5 liter steam and 1.5 liter brew), convertible water source options, mechanical paddle brew functionality and a PID interface, the GS/3 is known to offer some of the best temperature consistency on the market.

We love its powerful steam boiler — you can easily produce silky microfoam in what seems like seconds — and the pre-infusion control that the paddle gives you. It’s also got a monstrous drip tray (into which you can install a drain kit) and a unique bottom-access 3.5 liter internal water reservoir which makes refilling easy, regardless of your overhead cabinets. We do wish the casing design was a little less industrious looking and shinier — but that’s just us. And we realize that, at nearly $7k, this piece of equipment is really priced well outside many folks’ budgets.

Other than those two minor cons, there’s not much bad to say about this machine; if you’re serious about your espresso and can justify the investment, the GS/3 is one of the best options available and worth checking out.

Ascaso Duo Series Specs

Recently re-engineered, Ascaso’s Duo series is designed to give you a little bit more power than a traditional single boiler at a portion of the cost of a heat exchange or double boiler. With a semi-automatic version or programmable/automatic version available, the Duos feature a brew boiler, thermoblock for steaming and two separate pumps so that you can theoretically brew and steam at the same time.

We have noticed that the steaming function is not as strong as you find on machines that have a steam boiler to back it up, and also that the Duos do not have a PID on the brew boiler, so you still have to temperature surf to be certain of where your temperature is at in the heating cycle. Watch Gail show us the internals of a Duo, temperature surf and pull a couple of comparison shots.

Rancilio Silvia & La Marzocco Filter Basket Face Off

One of the most loved home espresso machines on the market is the Rancilio Silvia, which offers a great value in terms of price and performance. And, as with most things that are well-loved, this machine gets a ton of attention, tweaks and upgrade suggestions as folks quest for the best shot possible. One of the suggested changes is to swap out the stock filter basket that comes with the Silvia for one that is manufactured by La Marzocco — not only does the latter basket fit more coffee volume, it also has straight sides so you can tamp it more firmly.

We picked up one of these baskets and Gail did a toe-to-toe comparison of how each basket performs to see if there really is a noticeable difference. Enjoy!

DeLonghi Gran Dama Dosages

Some of the earlier versions of the DeLonghi superautomatics didn’t seem to brew as rich of an espresso shot as their counterparts made by other manufacturers. With the release of the newer Gran Dama and Perfecta (the 6600/6700 and 5500 models), we noticed that the shot not only was hotter, it was richer too. Our techs examined the grounds from a disassembled machine and let us know that these machines were now grinding finer than the previous versions; additionally, the dosage functionality has changed.

Watch Gail talk about the dosages, grinding, programming functionality and how to brew a double shot roughly equivalent to what you can get off a semi-automatic.

Steam Test: Non-Fat vs. 2% vs. Whole Milks

Silky milky! We tested out non-dairy milks to see how well they produced microfoam and now it’s time to turn to dairy milks — specifically, which steams better: Non-fat, 2% or whole milk? And do they perform similarly across the board, regardless of the machine used?

Gail steamed up each of the milks on the Rocket Giotto Evoluzione, Saeco Xelsis and Saeco Via Venezia to see which works the best, if there are commonalities or if each machine works better with different types of milk. Watch and learn the results!

Steam Test: Non-Dairy Milks

Maybe the moo juice just doesn’t agree with you or perhaps you’ve got philosophical dietary restrictions that say coffee is okay but animal’s milk isn’t and you still want a latte. Whatever the reason, it’s well known that achieving microfoam with non-dairy milk is next to impossible.

We recently requested samples of Pacific Natural Foods’ Barista Series soy blenders, which are specifically formulated to achieve better steaming and foam results. They also sent along some samples of rice and hemp milk, so we took those out for a spin, as well, to see how they stood up under the pressure.

Watch Gail test ‘em out! Mmmmmnnnnnutty.

Video Crew Review: Hario Pour Over a la Gail

We spent an afternoon up at Hario USA (now Roustabout Products) earlier this year and posted a wide array of videos from that field trip. But there’s nothing like a Gail review, is there? So we asked her to show us the ropes on how to use one of the Hario pour overs. Watch as she talks to us about the process and whips up a smooth cup of coffee using Velton’s Twilight Blend. Delish!