Category Archives: Saeco

Brewin’ with Brandi: Caramel Maple Latte

Caramel Maple Latte RecipeIf there’s any way you’re going to make it through the trytophan-infused fare of the day, it’s via the magical meditative combo of coffee and drawing cartoon turkeys. So while you’re expressing yourself artistically, how about jazzing up your coffee with some seasonally-inspired syrup and sauce?

Today’s recipe features our favorite body lotion (er, Monin Caramel sauce) and Maple Spice syrup, which join forces to accent the espresso with sweet and creamy notes. Watch as Brandi crafts it on her new favorite easy-to-use superautomatic espresso machine, the Saeco Minuto.

Recipe: Caramel Maple Latte



In your serving cup, combine the sauce and syrup together, then add the espresso and stir well until thoroughly blended. Pour the steamed milk to taste — we used about 6 ounces, but you could use more or less depending on how sweet you like your coffee drinks.

The Reluctant Barista: How to Choose an Espresso Machine

As luck would have it, six years ago this holiday season I was gifted with an entry-level semi-automatic Breville espresso machine. This meant I did not have to select my own home espresso machine or, as Kat likes to call the process, Choose Your Own Adventure. My little dude is still chugging along with its tiny thermoblock and I am both excited and dreading the day I need to pick out the replacement.

Are you in the same boat? The number of manufacturers, models and variations on variations of home espresso machines can be overwhelming. Pour a cup of coffee, sit back and let’s ponder a few questions to set you on the right path for a successful adventure in espresso. This is an exercise in narrowing down available options until you are left with a manageable few to consider. Set aside budget (for the moment) and let’s think about who will use the espresso machine:

Do you have an interest in hand-crafting espresso?

Yes, I want to learn to make drinks myself No, I just want to drink espresso beverages
A semi-automatic espresso machine allows you to decide the dosage and the shot time which you can adjust to enhance the extraction of different styles of coffee. You have the time, counter space and additional equipment (grinder, tools, etc) to do-it-yourself. A superautomatic espresso machine makes life easier. There is less customization possible but shot consistency makes up for it. You will save time, space and possibly budget by having an all-in-one home espresso machine.

Alrighty then! How you approach espresso lands you squarely into one of these two distinct camps: Semi-automatic or superautomatic. Intuitively, this was the easiest espresso question to answer. If only there was a Harry Potter-style Sorting Hat to then announce the right machine for you! Instead, I will separate these two categories by their functionality and you can sort yourself.

Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines

So you want to hand-craft your espresso beverages, eh? Now it’s time to consider what style of semi-automatic might best fit your needs.

Do you drink milk-based espressos (like lattes, cappuccinos etc)?

Yes, Two words…Latte Art No, I like espresso and Americanos
Single boiler home espresso machines can froth milk. A heat exchanger or a dual boiler will get the job done better and faster, but they can cost more due to more complicated internal systems. Even though you won’t need the steam wand to froth milk, you may use it to add hot water to an Americano so make sure it is easily accessible for how you will use the machine. Some machines even have a hot water spigot separate from the steam wand.

Will you invest in a quality burr grinder?

Yes, a good espresso grinder is just as important as the espresso machine Maybe, I’m not sure No, I might use espresso pods, pre-ground espresso and/or a pressurized portafilter
The grinder may cost almost as much as the espresso machine you select. A well designed and well built grinder will offer consistent and uniform particle size necessary for a great shot of espresso. If you are on the fence about it, consider a semi-auto espresso machine with a built-in grinder for the best of both worlds. This will limit your selection to models that can be adapted for espresso pods or compatible with a pressurized portafilter. You will still get to make your own drinks and these options will make it easier for beginners or those pressed for time.

Recommended Semi-Automatic Machines

Based on your answers to the above questions, here are a few different suggestions for you to start your machine research.

Nuova Simonelli Oscar home espresso machine
Bryan uses the red Nuova Simonelli Oscar heat exchanger espresso machine that I want

Semi-Automatic, with a latte focus and a good grinder

This is where I am now. I have a Baratza grinder and I am ready to find a semi-auto with excellent shots and very good frothing capability. Heat exchanger models and dual boilers both make excellent foam fast.

Breville Barista BES870XL
Breville Barista Express BES870XL

Semi-Automatic with a latte & shot focus, without a separate grinder

Not too many home espresso machines fit the bill but this Breville does! It has a thermoblock and an integrated burr grinder that saves space and economy of motion. It is a programmable semi-auto so it almost acts like a superautomatic machine and is very easy to use once it is set up.

infuserA thermoblock style, Breville Infuser BES840XL

Semi-Automatic with a latte focus and no grinder

This is where it all started for me — an older Breville model that was a bit smaller than this. It was an easy step into the world of espresso before committing to a costly set-up. Some come with pod adapters, pressurized and non-pressurized portafilter baskets for versatility.

Crossland CC1 + Baratza Preciso
The Crossland CC1 with a Baratza Preciso grinder is a great combo

Semi-automatic with an espresso focus and a good grinder

If your primary focus is quality espresso and you pay attention to tamp, temperature, timing and dosage then find a machine that allows you to control all of these variables. (This PID-controlled machine froths well too.)

Saeco Via Venezia
A small single boiler, Saeco Via Venezia with optional non-pressurized portafilter upgrade (right) and bottomless portafilter upgrade (left)

Semi-Automatic with an espresso focus and no grinder

Plop a pod in the basket and you’ve got what you need to make a ristretto or a lungo how you like it, when you want it. Quick and easy! Just in case you need a touch of frothy milk once in awhile there is a panarello too. A choice in portafilters helps you build espresso skills.

Superautomatic Espresso Machines

So ease of use is paramount for you, but you still want to drink great espresso-based drinks? A superauto may be the machine style for you. To determine which of the many versions available will be the best fit, here are a few more questions for you to consider.

Do you drink milk-based espressos (like lattes, cappuccinos etc)?

Yes, Creamy lattes are what life is all about No, I like espresso and Americanos
Not every superautomatic is great at frothing milk. Many users find that entry-level superautos don’t get the milk froth hot enough. A superauto that also has a steam wand is a nice touch so you can choose whether to use the machine’s auto-frother or its steam wand. Stand alone milk frothers are also a solution. Some superautos do not come with milk frothing capability. If you like espresso and Americanos (and maybe even an occasional Affogato!) this is not a problem. For guests who do like lattes a standalone milk frother is a quick and easy option for frothing milk or making hot chocolate.

Do you need a bypass doser for pre-ground coffee?

Yes, having the option for pre-ground coffee allows me to make a decaf sometimes No, I like fresh whole bean ground coffee for my espresso shots
Some superautos come with a bypass doser. This is a little chute directly to the brew unit so that you can use a different coffee than the beans that are already in the hopper. And that’s ok! if you don’t need the bypass doser that will save you some bucks on technology that you won’t use.

Recommended Superautomatic Machines

After considering the above questions, you should be armed to select which of the below machines speaks to you!

Saeco Xsmall superautomatic espresso machine
Bunny froths milk on a Saeco Xsmall superautomatic espresso machine, or as we like to call it, the Little Dude.

Superautomatic with a latte focus

Your favorite drink features creamy frothy milk, some Monin gourmet syrup and, oh yeah, espresso. If time and counter space are at a premium then a compact superauto can be a great option.

Saeco Exprelia EVO superautomatic espresso machine
Chris in the middle of “making” a one-touch cappuccino on the Saeco Exprelia EVO

Superautomatic with a latte focus and a bypass doser

For you, or for your guests, it’s great to have the option to make a decaf latte once in awhile. The pannarello wand assists by boosting more air into your steam. Or some models have one touch drink-making capability as a fancy feature.

Saeco Minuto superauto
Either/or Teri shows the Saeco Minuto superauto can serve regular coffee or strong espresso at the flip of a lever

Superautomatic with an espresso focus

Grab and go! Like in a true Italian espresso bar where you stand, converse a bit, have a few sips from your demitasse and continue on your way…Some superautos make quick and easy espresso or Americanos. The new Saeco Minuto will drop the pressure to make a single cup of true American-style filter coffee.

Saeco SyntiaPractically hands-free operation…here’s an action shot of the Saeco Syntia (after I made sure the shot glass was placed correctly!)

Superautomatic with an espresso focus and a bypass doser

Bypass doser capability is not always built into superautomatic espresso machines so make sure to verify its availability. The Saeco Syntia has a bypass doser and a pannarello wand making it a very versatile superauto.

Now you have thoughtful criteria to evaluate and select the best home espresso machine to meet your caffeinated (or decaf!) needs. The next step is to research our Learn section with informative articles and YouTube videos, ask questions and read reviews. Will there be a new home espresso machine on your counter in the New Year? There might be on mine!

Tech Tip: Saeco Minuto Test Mode

Saeco Minuto - Test ModeWhile the Saeco Minuto offers some unique functionality compared to Saeco’s other superautomatic espresso machines — such as brewing coffee at a lower pressure to produce a more drip coffee like flavor — it still offers a Test Mode to help diagnose and resolve issues with the machine.

Knowing how to get into Test Mode is important, as it can assist you in determining what a particular error might be and how you can fix it. Since you can run each functional component separately, you can test things like whether or not the pump is working or if the grinder is grinding but not dosing. You can also learn helpful info like how quickly your grinder is rotating, how many drinks you’ve made and more.

In this video, Brendan guides us through Test Mode on the Saeco Minuto — how to get into it, navigate through it and interpret what its telling you. Once again, indispensable knowledge for Minuto owners everywhere!

SCG Tech Tips: Saeco Minuto Test Mode

Tech Tip: Saeco Talea Giro Test Mode & Troubleshooting

Saeco Talea GiroWhen you have an excellent tech resource like Brendan around, you sometimes have to just lock him in a room with a bunch of superautomatics and force him to teach you his ways of diagnostics and troubleshooting! Okay, we really didn’t have to lock him in the room — he was more than willing to share his expertise with us — but we did spend an afternoon with him as he explained the Saeco Talea Giro’s test mode and errors for us.

As you may have learned from our other forays into Test Mode, this is a wonderfully helpful tool that you can use to run each functional element of your superautomatic separately, without making coffee, in order to determine what might be the cause of an issue with the machine. Is your machine not brewing because the pump isn’t working, or are you simply grinding your coffee too finely? You can find out by running the pump to see if water comes out of the machine, sans coffee.

After he guides us through Test Mode, Brendan then dives into the Talea Giro’s more cryptic errors and alarms — since it doesn’t have a display screen and only a series of symbols and lights to communicate any issues it might be having, it can sometimes be difficult to interpret. He gives us a few tips and tricks in understanding what the errors mean and how you might be able to easily resolve them.

SCG Tech Tips: Saeco Talea Giro Test Mode

SCG Tech Tips: Saeco Talea Giro Alarms & Errors

Tech Tip: Saeco Syntia Test Mode & Troubleshooting

Saeco SyntiaWhile it’s true that the Saeco Syntia offers a display with icons and text that will signal to you when something is going wrong, we often hear from folks that aren’t clear on what’s going on with it. Is that a close up of a fly’s head or a symbol telling you to descale? Is it signaling that the tap is open a smidge or is it warning you that snakes are coming out of your espresso machine? These are the big questions, folks.

In our next series of Saeco superautomatic espresso machine troubleshooting, Brendan takes on the Syntia series. Using the SS model, he first guides us through Test Mode, which is the highly useful diagnostic tool that enables you to run each functional component separately, and without making coffee, so that you can deduce what might be going on with your Syntia. Then, we dive into interpreting the rather cryptic symbols that appear as errors or alerts on the machine.

Even though we used the SS model for this demonstration, much of this applies to the Syntia Focus and Syntia Cappuccino models, too. If you’ve wanted to learn more about the inner workings of your machine, these are your go-to videos!

SCG Tech Tips: Saeco Syntia Test Mode

SCG Tech Tip: Saeco Syntia Alarms & Errors

Tech Tip: Saeco Intelia Focus Test Mode

Saeco Intelia SuperautomaticsSince the Saeco Intelia Focus features a pretty darn clear menu screen that will alert you specifically to any issues and errors, we thought that going over them was of very little import. Instead, we wanted to focus on its Test Mode, which is cool because it allows you to run each of the functional components separately and independently of actually making coffee. So if your machine is behaving badly (naughty machine!) and you want to find out what might be the source of its bad behavior, test mode can be a helpful deduction tool.

Watch as Brendan guides us through test mode — how to get into it, navigate through it and then use it to diagnose any functionality or performance issues with your machine. And while we did use the Saeco Intelia Focus as the demo machine for this troubleshooting video, this process applies its Cappuccino and SS counterparts, too.

SCG Tech Tip: Saeco Intelia Focus Test Mode

Tech Tip: Saeco Incanto Deluxe Test Mode & Troubleshooting

Saeco Incanto DeluxeThe Saeco Incanto Deluxe has been around for a loooooooong time … and for good reason! It features a simple digital interface, volumetric programming, Saeco’s SBS brewing system and an easy to use panarello steam wand, all wrapped up in a metal case. If the Vienna is the workhorse of the Saeco superauto line-up, the Incanto may very well be the show pony!

It’s so reliable that even its Certified Refurbished counterparts have a long life after they’ve been re-homed with a new java family, so with a mix of both new and gently-used models on the market, we thought you might want a little guidance on how to troubleshoot, diagnose and possibly resolve some of its minor quirks.

In this duo of videos, Brendan does just that: He first shows us how to get into and then navigate the Test Mode on the Incanto, so that you can run each functional component independently and possibly deduce the source of any issues you’re experiencing. Then he takes us through a walkthrough of the alarms and errors your Incanto may throw at you during the course of doing business. These are as equally important to understand, leading to a speedy resolution (and more coffee!).

If the Incanto Deluxe is your partner in caffeinated crime — or you want it to be — get to know it a little better right now.

SCG Tech Tip: Saeco Incanto Deluxe Test Mode

SCG Tech Tip: Saeco Incanto Deluxe Alarms & Errors

Brewin’ with Brandi: Creamy Caramel Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe

Pumpkin Spice Latte recipeAs the seasons change each year from splendid summer to austere autumn, so arrives the legendary Pumpkin Spice Latte. This year, Sam had had more than enough and attempted to launch a full-scale boycott against … with only very minimal success (sorry, Sam). But in deference to her cause, Brandi decided to take a little bit of a mad scientist approach to this favorite seasonal drink by incorporating both caramel (AKA Kat’s body lotion) and candied orange into it!

Watch as she uses the Saeco Exprelia Evo to produce this delicious twist on the Pumpkin Spice latte. Yes, we were surprised by how truly delicious it was! We highly recommend that you craft this gem yourself and surprise those around you with your unique re-imagining of a rather cliche beverage.

Recipe: Creamy Caramel Pumpkin Spice Latte



Combine sauce and syrup together, add espresso and stir. Top with steamed milk and enjoy!

Tech Tip: Saeco Odea Test Mode & Troubleshooting

Saeco OdeaWe had a customer come into the store a few years ago with his Saeco Odea Giro in tow. He loved the coffee that it made and wanted to have it tuned up by our repair team. While he had it in, however, he wanted to find out if his model had a particularly tender heart because he felt like the only way it would work each morning is if he started out by giving it a hug.

It’s true that the Odea series kind of got a bad rap because not only were its sensors particularly sensitive, it had limited tools with which to communicate its feelings to you. What does a slow blinking exclamation point mean versus a fast blinking or solid exclamation point?

In these two videos, Brendan demystifies the rather cryptic errors and alarms that the Saeco Odea series of espresso machines can show. Then, he shows us how to take the machine into Test Mode so you can run each functional component separately and diagnose what might be having an issue.

If you’re in need of a secret decoder ring for your Saeco Odea machine, check out these videos.

SCG Tech Tip: Saeco Odea Series Test Mode

SCG Tech Tip: Saeco Odea Alarms & Errors

Saeco Superautomatic Brew Unit Care

SaecoRecently, Brendan talked to us in detail about best practice in the care and maintenance of Saeco’s superautomatic espresso machine brew group. Because they have produced such a wide array of machines throughout the years, they have a few variations in their brew group designs, so it can sometimes be confusing on how to access the parts for cleaning and maintenance.

So we asked him to join us again and demonstrate how to take apart one of their newer iterations, which involves a rather tricky technique to release a few tabs and release the top of the unit. Once you have removed this, however, it’s super easy to access the brew screen to clean it thoroughly.

Watch him disassemble, give tips on care, then reassemble a brew group for models including those in the Odea, Talea, Syntia, Intelia, Exprelia and Xelsis lines, among others.

SCG Tech Tip: Saeco Superautomatic Brew Unit Disassembly