We like to think of an espresso machine like a bicycle. In order to keep it running in tip-top shape you need to get your hands dirty once in a while. Maintenance on your machine (or bike) is something you should be doing with some sort of regularity. Personally we enjoy trying to figure out how to get the best out of our machines. But we also know that it can be frustrating when your espresso isn’t flowing and all you want is that pick me up!
Sometimes we find that brand new pressurized portafilters on Saeco machines won’t allow water to flow freely. After some sleuthing around we figured out that the problem lies with the spring inside the portafilter being too tight. When the spring is too tight, the coffee doesn’t flow, and that is just no good. So we asked Gail if she would show us how to fix this problem at home. It is surprisingly easy to fix, all you need is a Phillips head screw driver and a pair of clippers.
A word of warning however. Before you go clipping things off your espresso machine it is best to rule out any other variables that could be causing the issue. First, if you run your machine without the portafilter in place do you get water coming though the brew head? If that is working, take your basket out of the portafilter and see if you can see light through the holes. If you don’t see any light coming through, we’d recommend giving the portafilter a good deep clean as it is most likely clogged. If you do see light, try pulling a shot but don’t put any grounds in the basket. If you get water flowing though the issue could be with your grind. Try going a little more course than you usually do and see if that fixes the problem. But if you don’t get anything flowing through, your next step will be to watch the video below and follow Gail’s instructions.
In case you didn’t already know, we love our Saeco Gran Baristo with Removable Bean Container. In fact, we love it so much that we made an updated Crew Review just for kicks! Well, we actually wanted to showcase this machine again because we found the more we used it the better our experience was.
What are some of our favorite features of this machine you ask? Well the first one is in the name, “removable bean container”! This comes in handy if you find yourself with a couple types of coffee just waiting to be brewed. Perhaps something different for the evening? We also love the programmable user profiles. Since everybody likes their coffee a particular way, the Saeco Gran Baristo makes it easy for up to 6 different users to customize and save their drink preferences. Another feature that really rocks our world is the adjustable spout. You are able to adjust the spout so you can have up to 6.5 inches of cup clearance. Quad-shot cappuccino anyone?
We did few tests as well to see just how well the Saeco Gran Baristo functions in real world environments. The results of our temperature tests are as follows:
Espresso – During testing we were able to get both of these drinks up to 171°F on more than one occasion.
Milk – After three rounds of automatic milk frothing we were able to get the temperature to 144°F.
Hot Water – The hot water generally stayed around the 160°F mark.
We give this machine a thumbs up for functionality, performance, and quality of the drinks it makes. Watch the updated Crew Review below and then head over to our YouTube channel to see what else Gail has been up too.
Oftentimes when we find an espresso machine or coffee maker that allows us to make a cup of coffee exactly the way we like it, we use the machine until it no longer works for us. Only then do we then consider upgrading to a different model. However, that is not to say we won’t improve upon the machine while it’s still in our hot little hands when given the chance. Not only does this make the coffee the machine produces better, but it also might allow us to hang on to the espresso machine a little while longer. Luckily, we were afforded this opportunity with a few of our tried and true espresso makers and were able to create a Saeco Non-Pressurized Portafilter Upgrade that will work on machines like the Via Venezia and Aroma.
We were really excited that we here at Seattle Coffee Gear were able to develop an upgrade (that’s right you won’t find them anywhere else) for some of our favorite Saeco machines. The nice thing about this upgrade is that since the Aroma and Via Venezia already come with a pressurized portafilter, adding a non-pressurized portafilter increases the functionality of this machine. With the pressurized portafilter that comes with these machines you have the ability to use pre-ground in your machine, as the portafilter will compensate for the grind not being perfect. This will be your easy-peasy approach with no tamping necessary. In addition, with the non-pressurized portafilter you now also have the ability to get in touch with the barista side of your coffee experience and play around with the grind and flavors of coffee, which can be the most enjoyable part of espresso.
What is even better is we didn’t just create one non-pressurized portafilter upgrade for these machines; we created two. In addition to the standard Saeco Non-Pressurized Portafilter Upgrade, we also created a Bottomless Portafilter Upgrade for Saeco Machines as well. The bottomless portafilter is truly a great teaching tool, as you see your shot as it comes out of the portafilter. If you have done everything correctly, you will see your coffee first start to dispense around the edges of the portafilter, then form into a cone in the middle. On the other hand, if your coffee starts coming out on the side, or does anything else, that means you have fractures or channeling in your puck. All is not lost if this happens, part of the learning process is trying again and seeing if you can adjust your technique to get a better shot the next time around.
To use these Saeco Non-Pressurized Portafilter Upgrades on your machine, all you have to do is pop out the basket from your pressurized portafilter and put into one of the non-pressurized portafilters and you are good to go. Keep in mind that when you use these non-pressurized portafilters you have to be really in tune with the grind of the coffee. As such, you will want to a get good grinder and 53 mm tamper to complete your setup, which you can do fairly inexpensively. Ultimately, adding a non-pressurized portafilter to your Saeco setup is a great option if you are interested in upgrading to a fancier semi-auto and want to see what you are getting into. Or, perhaps you are enjoying your Aroma or Via Venezia but want to start trying to make the same drinks your favorite barista has been making at your local coffee stand. Speaking of brewing like a pro, check out as Gail shows off her barista skills while she and Brendan explore all the options these non-pressurized portafilters provide.
We’ve all been there: A leaky machine! A lot of friction occurs within the Saeco Water Tank manifold when you remove it, fill it up with water and then insert it back into the machine. Over time, the seals and spring can wear down and you’ll begin to notice dripping from the water tank when it’s not inserted to the machine. These kits will replace those seals and springs to get you back in working order in no time!
We’re really excited about it, as you may have been able to tell from the first sentence of this post, but what does this mean in practical terms? Well, you can now have multiple, whole bean blends at the ready to switch up your espresso routine. As we all know, fresh ground coffee creates the best tasting shot, so you can officially say “goodbye” to a pre-ground alternate. Though the bypass doser option technically still exists with the Gran Baristo, so you can really go wild with your on-hand bean selections! Extra bonus points for the coffee empty cycle, which grinds through the leftover beans in the grinder chute, allowing your next shot to be the blend that is currently in your hopper.
There are about nine other things about this machine that we’re in love with, but we don’t want you to doze while we ramble. So, without further ado, a Crew Review to answer all of your burning questions about the new Saeco Gran Baristo!
The Saeco Via Venezia is one of our favorite machines. The perfect blend between affordable and sturdy, the Via Venezia has also proven to be a trooper in terms of longevity. With the most commonly replaced part on this machine being the steam knob, which Brendan demonstrates below to be easy peasy when using our Via Venezia Steam Knob Kit, you and your machine will enjoy many a year of great espresso together!
If you’re a new at home barista, the Saeco Poemia espresso machine is probably your new best friend. Not only is the machine is easy to use, but it is also very forgiving of those who are still learning. The pressurized portafilter means there is no need to perfectly tamp your espresso and the panarello wand makes milk frothing a breeze too! With this compact and stylish machine by your side you will be making lattes in no time!
However, what happens if, heaven forbid, your best friend eventually starts to act funny? For instance, you may notice that coffee or water is pouring over the top edge of your portafilter when you pull a shot on your machine. While this sounds scary, never fear, this is not the end of your relationship. All it means that your brew head gasket is no longer making the seal between the brew head and the gasket, which can easily be remedied by using SCG’s tune up kit for the Saeco Poemia.
The tune up kit comes with five parts: a brew head gasket, brew screen and screw, boiler spring and boiler valve. It is easiest to install these parts by flipping the machine over, but before you do this you will want to remove all accessories so they don’t get in your way while you are working on the machine. Once you have flipped your machine over, the next step is to remove the worn out parts so you can replace them. You should remove them in the following order: 1) brew screen 2) boiler bushing – make sure keep this piece close at hand since there is no replacement part included in kit 3) boiler spring and boiler valve and last, but not least 5) the brew head gasket.
After you have removed all the old parts, make sure to clean and remove any coffee grounds that have gathered around the brew head. You may even have to flip your machine right side up again to get all the grounds out. However, it is really important to make sure all of the grounds are removed since coffee is acidic and will eat away at your brew head gasket. Once you have give your espresso maker a thorough cleaning, you can begin installing the replacement parts from SCG’s tune up kit for the Saeco Poemia in your machine. You should install the parts in the reverse order that you removed them, so start with the brew head gasket. When you have installed the new parts and reassembled you espresso machine, you can then double check your work by inserting your portafilter into the machine to make sure that it lines up properly.
Knowing it is time to give your beloved Saeco Poemia some maintenance isn’t always as dramatic as having coffee leaking over the side of your portafilter. Some other signs that it is time replace these parts are if you hear your pump working harder than it used to. This can happen if you have so much coffee residue built up on your screen or portafilter, so that your pump does actually have to work harder to get through that pressure. Or you may find that your coffee just tastes off and you’re having trouble noticing a difference in taste between different blends of coffee. This could also be due to the fact that you have a lot of coffee residue built up that is affecting the taste of your shot. Luckily, SCGS’ Tune Up Kit for the Saeco Poemia can resolve all of these issues, and the installation is actually relatively painless. For more detailed instructions, watch as Brendan walks us through the process step-by-step. Your old friend will be up and running again before you know it!
We love the fact that the Intelia Focus (also known as the black version of the Intelia) is energy efficient and has vibrating finger guard to quickly and painlessly send our beans down the grinder chute. However, we’ve long wondered if it is possible to use a cappunccinatore on this machine to froth your milk as you can on its stainless steel brother and the Intelia Cappuccino. Don’t get us wrong; we do like the panerello that comes with this machine, since it does allow for slightly more controlled milk frothing. Yet, since the Intelia Focus is superautomatic machine, there are some of us that wish the entire process was automated.
For people who aren’t familiar with the cappuccinatore, it is a hose-like attachment that travels from the milk frothing pitcher with your milk to the milk frother inside your machine. The milk is then sucked up from the container, frothed in the machine and finally dispensed in your cup. Before we tested the cappunccinatore on the Intelia Focus, we wanted to see how well it worked on a machine the cappunccinatore is built for, so we started our experiment on the Intelia Cappuccino. The milk this little frother produced was surprisingly hot, around 173 degrees Fahrenheit according to our Fluke temperature probe. After this impressive result we decided to repeat the experiment on the Intelia Focus. Since the Focus has the same internals as the Intelia Cappuccino, we had a good feeling about how this test would turn out. As expected, the cappuccinatore did indeed work on the Focus. We were surprised to find that the temperature of the milk produced was considerably cooler, however, coming in at about 140 degrees Fahrenheit on our thermometer. We’re not sure why there is such a huge difference in temperature, but were excited to that our experiment worked, since having more options is an always an advantage. Check out our video with Gail and Brendan to see how the cappuccinatore works on Intelia Focus for yourself.
(Not so Scientific) Experiment: Cappuccinatore on the Intelia Focus
Are you new to the world of espresso and searching for a machine that you can cut your teeth on? Or perhaps you’ve gotten a starter apartment (or a weekend home) and are looking to outfit it with the latest gear with out breaking the bank? Well, you’re in luck since there are quite a few espresso machines under $300 that not only brew espresso but also allow to you to froth milk. To help you narrow down your options, Dori and Chris have kindly gathered their five favorite inexpensive machines – the Saeco Poemia, DeLonghi EC702 Pump, Saeco Aroma, Capresso EC Pro and the Krups Precise Tamp, to show them off.
A few of our favorite aspects on each machine (which are ranked from low to high in terms of price) are:
Saeco Poemia – With a pressurized portafilter and panarello, the Poemia is very forgiving and makes brewing your favorite drink a breeze.
Saeco Aroma – The Aroma has been around for ages, and is one of our most loved and best performing home espresso machines we have tested. You can also easily get parts for this machine should you need to replace anything.
DeLonghi EC702 Pump – The EC702 self-primes so you don’t have to wait a long time for your DeLonghi to heat up in the morning. In addition, the machine maintains consistent heat for brewing and steaming with two separate thermostats.
Capresso EC Pro – The EC Pro is a great option if you are looking to a machine that you can grow into. This machine comes with a pressurized portafilter basket to ease you into espresso as well as a naked basket if you really want to get into perfecting your tamp and timing your shots. Plus, the simple design of the machine makes easy to use no matter what your level.
Krups Precise Tamp – Unlike the other espresso machines under $300, which only have on/off brew cycles, the Precise Tamp is programmable. The machine also will auto-tamp your coffee grounds and has cappuinatore, which is like an automatic frother and can make a cappuccino or a latte – a big upgrade over the other options.
When it comes down to it, all five of these compact semi-automatics are great starter options for people who want to get a machine at a reasonable price point. The main differences when you go up the scale in price are that you get a machine with more metal components (instead of primarily plastic pieces) and slightly heftier parts (such as chrome-plated brass portafilters instead of aluminum). With these espresso machines you also have the option to upgrade to a non-pressurized portafilter and traditional steam wand once you’ve gotten the hang of pulling your own shots. Check out our video to learn more about each machine and find out Chris and Dori’s top picks.
Spring has long been a time of renewal and new beginnings, and that certainly seems to be the case for many of our grinders and espresso machines. A number of our favorite brands have taken your feedback on their products to heart and updated their machines accordingly, and Saeco now joins their ranks. Recently, the Saeco Xelsis Evo was released as an update to the existing Xelsis One Touch Espresso Machine.
The main difference you’ll see on the new Saeco Xelsis Evo is the updated milk carafe. Many of our customers found that on the previous Xelsis One Touch their milk wasn’t getting hot enough, which is problem that we often see on superautomatic machines. Saeco listened to this feedback and updated the hose that runs from the milk carafe to the espresso machine (it is now smaller), the lid on the milk carafe and even the milk frothing software in order to develop a machine that produces much hotter milk. The other nice thing about the Xelsis Evo is that the machine auto rinses whenever you turn it off, on or make a milk-based drink. This feature is almost as good as having your own personal maid, since it will help keep your milk carafe really clean. However, this is not an excuse to skimp on your machine’s maintenance, which is still really important if you want to keep your espresso maker in good running order.
Another thing we like about the Saeco Xelsis Evo is that it is a very sophisticated superautomatic with lots of programmability. You can create up to six different user profiles and save nine customized drink options for each profile. A few of the features you are able to adjust are the aroma (or the dosage of your coffee), the volume of the shot and if you’re making a milk-based beverage, the amount of milk you want as well. With so many options that allow you to create the perfect cup of coffee for everyone, the Saeco Xelsis Evo is ideal for a large household, or even a small office, with lots of different users. If you don’t have a large family, don’t be surprised if a lot of your friends start coming over for visits!
To learn how to take advantage of all the options on this machine, watch Gail and Brendan as they try a few of them out and make a cappuccino.