We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Temperature, temperature, temperature. For truly great espresso, there is a fine balance between too hot and not hot enough — and maintaining the temperature from portafilter to lips is very important. Oh yes, yes it is.
The first step is to let your machine warm up all the way; often, folks think that as soon as the light goes out (generally around 1 – 2 minutes after turning it on), the machine is ready to rock. Not so! In fact, all that means is that the machine has reached ideal boiler temperature, but all of the other parts of the machine have not, so if you pull espresso right at that time, the water is going to cool significantly as it travels through colder apparatus to reach your cup. Depending on your machine, we recommend waiting anywhere from 10 – 30 minutes to allow your machine to reach an even heat.
Next step is to pull some water through the system to warm up the brew head, the portafilter and — if it’s a heat exchange — the copper tubing that pulls water from the reservoir to the brew group. Let it run through and fully warm up all the metal components.
Finally, make sure you’re pulling into a preheated cup; you can easily preheat by using the cup as the container to catch the water you just pulled through the brew group, or you can keep your cups on top of your espresso machine and let them toast as your machine warms up.
Do you have any tips on how you maintain ideal temperature for your espresso extractions? Drop us a comment here if there’s something we didn’t cover that you think is essential.
With so many different kinds of espresso machines on the market, researching which is the best for you can sometimes feel like popping open a big ol’ can of worms. Superautomatic or semi-automatic? Single boiler, heat exchange or double boiler? Is the E61 brew group really that great?
Our goal here at Seattle Coffee Gear is to provide as complete of a picture as we can about as many machines as possible. We read through user reviews to develop general pros and cons, have our techs test out the machines, experiment with different grinders to see how they perform with different machines and, ultimately, drink way more coffee than we should. All of this informs our YouTube videos, the writing we do here, our product descriptions and — one of the best resources we have — our Selecting an Espresso Machine Video.
If you’re just learning about espresso machines and aren’t sure what will meet your needs and budget, this video is a great place to start. We’ve organized the different machine classes by price range and compared their performance against each other, so you can see technical facts like how hot they brew or which type of pump they have and more subjective assessments such as the ease of use or quality of shot.
We’re constantly updating and adding machines, so definitely check out updated Crew Review videos once you hone in on the right machine for you.
We’re all more conscientious these days about our environmental footprint — what we do every day and how that impacts the world around us — and our pocketbook. What started as a random inquiry every now and again eventually developed into a dull roar…people want to find a way to keep their fully intact machine out of a landfill.
So we developed our Recycling Program to fill this need: we will break it down into all of its components, reuse any parts that are still good and then recycle most of the rest.
If you’re interested in the program, just contact us and let us know the make, model, age and condition of your machine. We’ll get back to you on how to deliver your machine to us. Feel good when you choose a new, upgraded model that your old machine is still being green!
One of the things that sets the crew here at Seattle Coffee Gear apart from the rest is that we have a storefront that features over 60 machines on display for anyone to come in and check out during their selection process. The experience of coming into the store, asking questions, working with Gail and understanding which machine meets your needs and your budget is fairly unique in this space, so we thought we’d make a movie in an attempt to replicate that experience for folks that don’t live in the Seattle area.
If you’re in the market for a semi-automatic espresso machine and aren’t sure where to start, this video is a great primer for what we think are the best in class machines that will fit in anyone’s budget.
Part 1: Gail talks about the different types of machines and then discusses the Saeco Aroma and the Rancilio Silvia semi-automatic espresso machines.
Part 2: Gail continues up the semi-automatic espresso machine line with an introduction to the Quick Mill Alexia and Rocket Giotto Premium Plus.
We’re all looking for ways to stretch our loot a little further these days. Keeping your home espresso machine in excellent condition means you can enjoy high quality espresso for years to come at a significantly reduced cost than what you’d pay at a local cafe.
To that end, our techs offer a Tune Up service for both superautomatic and semi-automatic espresso machines. This is a popular service that we wanted to share with more people around the country (yes, you can ship your machine to us for this service) and so we asked Gail to describe how this service works, what we do, etc.
For those of you not into watching videos or if you’d like to contact us about having your machine tuned up, we have full detail on the service and a contact form here.
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.