We admit it, we’re guilty. We thought that size did matter with regard to boilers on a semi-automatic espresso machine — namely, that two boilers was better than one. The hierarchy in our mind was:
- Single Boiler: From the Saeco Aroma to the Rancilio Silvia, the single boiler is a great little semi-automatic espresso machine that requires special attention to boiler temperature so that you’re brewing well below the steaming temp and not burning your espresso. With a single boiler, you’re not able to brew and steam at the same time — we recommend steaming first, then brewing.
- Heat Exchange: Instead of pulling your brewing and steaming water from the same vat, per se, heat exchangers like the Rocket Giotto Premium Plus or Quick Mill Andreja Premium transports fresh water from the reservoir through the boiler via a copper tube that is specifically designed in length and girth to heat the passing water to the optimum brewing temperature, not the steaming temperature. We are talking about a nearly 40F degree difference, so this improved temperature regulation significantly upgrades the espresso shot quality. This functionality also allows for simultaneous brew and steam.
- Double Boiler: Only a few models on the market, such as the La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi or Izzo Alex Duetto, feature absolutely separate boilers for steaming and brewing, which allows you to maintain disparate temperatures and brewing and steaming at the same time. You can generally program your preferred brew boiler temperature on these machines and, in the home espresso machine space, they generally feature a quicker recovery time than their heat exchange counterparts.
So, based on those assessments, you’d understand why we were confused by the more is better idea — that maintaining temperature is significantly easier when you’ve got two separate boilers doing their own thing.
However, in our recent research and education around the new line of commercial Faema machines we’re now carrying, we learned that our hierarchical view was incorrect — in fact, Italians haven’t been using double boiler technology for decades, believing that the heat exchange technology provides for significantly improved espresso due to one major reason: It’s alive!
Boiler water is considered ‘dead’ water because it’s sitting in a little metal unit cooking away. Over time, this results in a significantly increased alkaline content in the water (ah yes, that lovely scale we keep talking about so much) and a mineral imbalance in extraction. Basically, the flavor’s different.
Since heat exchange machines are continuously cycling fresh water through their siphoning system, they have an improved mineral balance and cannot become stale like the water in the double boilers might. So the flavor is significantly better and, therefore, preferred by connoisseurs the world over.
If you’re in the market for a ‘prosumer’ machine, this is definitely important information for you to mull over. Not only is the footprint smaller on a heat exchange machine vs. a double boiler, but it just might pull a better shot.
Our adoration for Rocket’s Giotto Premium Plus semi-automatic espresso machine really knows no limits and maybe that’s a little bit embarrassing, but we’re not sure we care!
In our quest to fulfill our dream of a Rocket in every home, we filmed Gail walking us through this gorgeous machine from opening the box to making a latte. Watch for its awesome packaging (an OCD-lovers dream!), learn about its boiler which features 40% more steam power than other comparable models on the market and see Gail whip up a delicious latte in no time — replete with ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ latte art!
One of the best things about investing in a higher-end semi-automatic espresso machine, such as the Rocket Giotto Premium Plus or Rocket Cellini Premium Plus, is the improved steaming functionality. Larger boilers and professional-grade steam wands make producing velvety microfoam the standard in your home or office — but you can always improve on a good thing, can’t you?
Check out the steam tip upgrade available for any of the Rocket Espresso machines including the Rocket Cellini Classic. This 4 tip set features different hole patterns that will improve the aeration of your milk while steaming, allowing you to easily make creamy steamed milk, every time. We love the ability to experiment above and beyond the factory-provided steam tip and think it’s an excellent accessory to your already excellent machine.
Some people may consider the moment that you plunk down nearly $2k on an espresso machine a moment of personal reflection: Is excellent espresso so important to you that you can justify this expenditure? We consider it simply a moment of truth — while others may end up spending over $2k on their coffee throughout the year, they’d prefer to do it in $4 increments that seem like a negligible investment. You, on the other hand, have vision.
If you’re serious enough to get into the ‘prosumer’ class of home espresso machines, we can’t recommend the Rocket Giotto Premium Plus highly enough. It could be our favorite machine…and while we do try to remain machine-agnostic in our quest to ply you with the best coffee gear to suit your needs, our own moment of truth tells us that the espresso machine waiting on the other side of nirvana must certainly be the Giotto Premium Plus.
With its excellent temperature control, powerful steaming functionality and extremely functional design, the Giotto Premium Plus makes amazing espresso and silky foamed milk every time you go toe to toe. We love the separate water tank lid and its molded design — although we do wish that the drip tray was a bit bigger and we think the hot water nozzle sometimes gets in the way.
The Rocket stars in many of our YouTube videos, so check them out to see it in action — and then maybe it will be time for your own moment of truth: Yes, excellent espresso is that important.
Lime, calcium and other trace minerals exist in nearly every water supply, leaving behind white scaly deposits when the water has evaporated. Removing this scale on a regular basis is an essential component of any coffee maker or espresso machine maintenance regimen — even if you have ‘soft’ water, there will be trace amounts left over time that can build-up and hinder your machine’s performance.
Some folks suggest using filtered or distilled water from the get-go, so that you don’t risk pitting your boiler through repetitive use of the acid required to remove scale. That’s certainly one tack to take, but we’ve found that we prefer the taste of espresso made with water that has some mineral content to it. Because of that, we descale our machines about every three months to ensure that no deposits build up and ultimately burn out the boiler.
If you prefer minerals in your java as we do, there are a couple of products on the market that will help you keep your espresso machine or coffee maker in tip-top shape: Cleancaf or Dezcal. Which is better? Again, it depends on your preferences.
Billed as a cleaner and descaler, Cleancaf combines descaling acid with a detergent that will also break down the oils left behind by coffee beans. It also features a blue dye that helps with thorough rinsing.
Dezcal, on the other hand, is a straight-up descaler — and an incredibly powerful one at that. While it doesn’t have a detergent component, it’s a much stronger product and removes more scale; also, it doesn’t have a blue dye, which we think is a good thing.
Of the two, we recommend Dezcal over Cleancaf, but we carry both of them so you can determine which product is right for you.
We sell several semi-automatic espresso machines (such as the Saeco Aroma or Via Venezia, any of the Brevilles or DeLonghis that feature a pressurized portafilter basket. This is a major functional difference from other machines, like the Rancilio Silvia or Rocket Espresso semi-automatic espresso machines, which have non-pressurized baskets similar to commercial-grade machines. In the photo to the right, you can see the physical difference between a non-pressurized basket (on the left) and a pressurized basket (on the right).
OK, so they look different — but what do they do that’s different? Well, we think it’s all about forgiveness.
Continue reading Ask the Experts: What’s the Difference Between Pressurized and Non-Pressurized Filter Baskets?
The team recently got together to analyze the cost and benefit of making your espresso at home and we released this study last week that details relative savings associated with each drink.
It’s kind of surprising, but we found data to support the fact that the average American coffee drinker can spend about $2800 each year on their daily coffee. This is based on the average cost of a latte at $2.45 and the average number of coffee drinks consumed per day of 3.2. Obviously, lattes can be significantly more expensive (we often shell out nearly $4.50 for a grande soy latte) and your daily consumption can vary, but we figured the averages balance each other out.
If you’re looking for ways to cut your expense budget but don’t want to give up your daily joe, strike a compromise between your hedonism and pragmatism by investing in a home espresso machine.
If you’re looking to rock like a pro barista, you need to perfect the art of microfoam — that glossy smooth steamed milk that makes latte art possible. It’s really not that difficult to pull off once you know the step-by-step process:
- Keep your steaming pitcher in the refrigerator/chilled
- Start with icy cold milk (about 34F degrees)
- Begin steaming by getting the milk to spin rapidly clockwise, then
work the surface of the milk for about 15 – 20 seconds in one of the
- Standard Steam Wand: Bring the tip of the steam wand to the top, so that it just barely breaks the surface to suck in air and milk
- Panarello Steam Wand: Submerge the wand so that the top of the
milk and the air intake slot or hole are even, allowing milk and air to
be drawn in evenly — if you submerged it above the air intake, you’ll
just steam the milk; if you submerge it well below the intake, you’ll
end up with fluffy, bubbly foam
- Plunge the steam wand all the way into the milk and then roll the milk for the remainder of the steam
- Temperature-wise, your milk should measure between 140F – 180F
degrees — if it’s too cold, it will be chalky; if it’s too hot, it
will be scalded
- Tap the pitcher on the counter to settle the milk and force any air bubbles to the top
- Prior to pouring, roll the milk slightly around the pitcher to
incorporate the foam and the milk. The milk should have a shiny, glassy
smooth surface that is free of any bubbles
- Pour to make your favorite latte art
More visually inclined? Check out our video.
If you’re planning on transporting or storing your machine, it’s important that you drain the boiler of any residual water from the last use. The main reason is so that it doesn’t freeze, expand and damage the internal components.
Here’s a guide on how you can drain your boiler before you store or ship it. This care tip is essential to the longevity of your machine, so don’t skip it!