Navigating the available options in the world of home espresso machines can sometimes be a little overwhelming. Functionally speaking, there are a few different basic variations:
Manual/Lever: With these machines, you are the pump. You grind, tamp and control the pressure during the extraction. You also manage the whole steaming process.
Semi-Automatic: Semi-automatics have 15 – 17 BAR pumps involved, which will settle down to about 9 BARs of pressure if your grind/tamp is accurate. You will grind & tamp, then initiate the shot on and off. Steaming is also up to you.
Automatic: Still grinding, tamping and steaming on your own, but you can program these machines to dose out a specific amount of water, so it will automatically end the shot.
Pressurized Portafilters: Automatic and semi-automatic machines can have a variation that includes a pressurized porftafilter. This makes the machine a little bit easier to use because you don’t have to be super particular about your grind and tamp.
Pod-Friendly: Another variation of semi-automatic and automatic machines are those that allow you to use what is basically a ground coffee version of a tea bag. These single serving pods make for easy, mess-free brewing.
Superautomatic: These machines manage the whole grind and tamp process for you, but on most of them you will still be required to steam your milk. Some of them (usually called ‘One Touch’) provide automated frothing and shot extraction into your cup at the touch of the button; others have an automated frothing system that will froth the milk separately and you can pour it into the cup after it’s automatically extracted.
Capsule: Probably the most simple machine in terms of materials and labor, these guys use a proprietary capsule filled with pre-ground coffee and extract it at the touch of a button — no grinding and tamping. Some of them have automatic frothing options.
We asked Gail to talk to us about these different machines, why someone would want to buy a specific type and why perhaps they wouldn’t want to buy it. Hopefully, this video will function as a good primer for learning the basic functional differences and help you as you research which machine best suits your needs.
As we wrote about last week, the “new” Saeco Incanto Classics have hit the street and are making a name for themselves. Watch Gail as she talks to us about the features, pros and cons plus shows us how the Incanto works by making us a latte — with polar bear!
Would it be glib to say it’s called Classic for a reason? Probably, but we’re going to go with it anyway! The Incanto Classic is basically the newest, freshest version of the old Saeco Incanto SBS machines that we were refurbishing during much of 2009. They were so popular that we worked with Saeco USA to import a batch of the new Classics and we have them up for sale.
More reviews and a video to come, but definitely worth checking out. The steel construction is an anomaly in the superautomatic world, so that merits a second look in and of itself. With the same programming features/interface as the SBS and the Saeco Brewing System functionality, it gives you a lot of flexibility, but doesn’t require you to be a computer programmer to get a cup of coffee in the morning. And if you are a computer programmer, they do provide a great instruction manual that’s easy to follow.
So, watch this space for more reviews/videos on the recently revamped Incanto Classic!
DIY lovers are all into the idea of using lemon juice or vinegar to descale their machines, but while the latter will leave a nasty residue and we don’t recommend it for that reason, the former just isn’t concentrated enough to do as an effective job in as an efficient manner as a concentrated citric acid solution like Dezcal. This is what we find out from Gail, plus she makes freaky faces and it’s worth watching just for that.
Several models of superautomatic espresso machines feature a bi-pass doser which allows you to use pre-ground espresso to brew coffee without changing the beans in your hopper. Saeco and DeLonghi models allow a maximum of 1 tablespoon or scoop of pre-ground coffee per brew and Jura models allow up to 2 tablespoons or scoops. We occasionally run into situations where customers bring in a superauto for repair because they have used either pre-ground coffee that is too fine or they have used too much of it in the brewing, resulting in the development of a cement-like coffee clog on the brew group and the eventual break down of that group — either by breaking the gears or the group completely seizing up.
In this video, Gail talks to us about how much one should use in the bi-pass doser, as well as shows us an example of the fineness in ground that should be used, demonstrated on the Jura Ena 4.
What started out as pretty darn good in theory didn’t end up very nice in practice. Saeco’s attempt at an easy-to-use single boiler automatic, the Nina Bar, leaves much to be desired. We don’t love all the plastic, the low quality metal used in the portafilter (which doesn’t hold heat very well) or the steaming power. It’s nice, however, that you can program the shot timing and if you’re looking for something a little more stylized than the Aroma, you might dig the case and design.
Watch Gail as she goes over the Nina Bar’s features, pros, cons and demonstrates how to make a latte.
One of the most popular questions we receive on a regular basis is around keeping the grinder chute free of clogs. Often, people will clean the burrs regularly, but forget about the chute and they’ll have inconsistent grind results because of that. It’s pretty easy to keep this area clean — watch as Gail demonstrates how to take care of a few different models of burr grinders.
We’ve added a few more listings and reviews of several espresso machines to the Brown Bean Community.
If you own any of these machines, we’d love it if you could take the time to provide your own perspective on what you like and don’t like about it. We play around with and test them, but if you’re using one of these day-to-day, you have a much better feel for how it is to use this machine at home. Why not share those experiences with other coffee lovers looking for a machine?
Single and double boiler espresso machines can have greater temperature control if a PID is installed to more minutely manage the thermostat on the boiler. In this video, Gail talks about what a PID is and gives us the lowdown on why you might want one and how you can get one.
Looking for a superautomatic espresso machine without all the bells and whistles? Check out the Odea series by Saeco — a lower cost option that provides you with basic automation around shot extraction and the tools to get the rest of it done.
In this video, Gail talks to us about the Saeco Odea Go and Giro, discusses the differences between the two machines and demonstrates how to make a latte on the Giro.