Category Archives: Semi-Automatic

Gear Guide: Expanding Your Skills With Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines

yah-skill

Taking Home A Semi-automatic Espresso Machine

In our previous post, we focused on finding the right machine for you by asking how committed you are to your espresso. Are you just friends? Or are you in a series relationship? If you’re ready to be committed to your coffee, then read on! In this post, we’re continuing our journey to help you make coffee you love at home by focusing on semi-automatic espresso machines.

Whether you’re an entry-level or experienced barista, it’s more important to ask yourself about dedication. Do you have barista skills? If not, are you willing to practice? We’ll discuss what features you should consider when you’re picking between different semi-automatic espresso machines.

Ready And Willing To Brew!

You’ve decided that you’re dedicated to learning how to brew espresso—sweet! Then consider a semi-automatic with a non-pressurized portafilter and traditional steam wand for cafe-quality espresso. A non-pressurized portafilter is designed so that the pressure that extracts your coffee is based on the coffee grind size and how much force you tamp with. That means for you, coffee connoisseurs, it’ll require dedication to learning how to dial in your grind consistency and learn to time the extraction—you may be pulling a few shots before you get the flavor you want.

Let’s be honest, we probably all want to make latte art. A traditional steam wand offers full control over technique from how much air you incorporate to how long you steam your milk. With a little know-how, you can create latte art-worthy milk! The hardest part of frothing milk is not incorporating too much—to pour latte art, you’re looking for texture that’s paint-like. Grab a gallon of milk and try your hand at frothing! If anything, you’ll be able to create a foamy, coffee shop quality cappuccino in no time.

The Rocket Giotto Premium Plus with PID features a hidden PID under the drip tray and sleek, kicked out side panels.
The Rocket Giotto Premium Plus with PID has advanced features like the a hidden PID under the drip tray.

At a local cafe, peek behind the counter and you’ll likely see baristas knocking coffee pucks out of portafilters and whipping down steam wands with vigor. Semi-automatics require more maintenance. You’ll spend more time adjusting settings—for instance, if you purchase a machine with a PID, you can change the temperature—and cleaning the machine from daily chores like wiping the steam wand to more in-depth maintenance like backflushing and descaling. Generally, we see these machines last longer than their automatic counterparts—if properly maintained. With more control comes great responsibility, but it’s well worth it for the quality of espresso you’ll be able to make with a little dedication.

Practice? I Just Want Coffee…

Fair enough! There are plenty of semi-automatics out there that are capable of pulling quality espresso with little effort. Some features we look for are pressurized portafilters and panarello steam wands. We like to think of these semi-automatics as entry-level. A pressurized portafilter (most often the basket is pressurized) assists in pulling quality espresso thanks to a double wall that compensates for pressure—meaning that if the grind is slightly off, it has got you covered. That doesn’t necessarily mean your espresso will be cafe quality—you’ll still want to experiment with settings to find coffee you love.

The Breville Duo-Temp Pro features pressurized and non-pressurized baskets for the portafilter.
The Breville Duo-Temp Pro features pressurized and non-pressurized baskets for the portafilter.

With a panarello steam wand, just stick it in your milk pitcher and let it go! It froths milk by pulling air in from a small slit at the top and incorporating steam for you. That does mean you get what you get. On most machines, you can’t control the steam power and you’ll generally end up with cappuccino foam. You can really only control how long the panarello steams your milk. Of course, if you’re not interested in learning how to froth milk, then you won’t mind the lack of control or features.

If you’re looking for an easy experience, then we recommend looking into machines that have these user-friendly features! Probably the biggest appeal is the ease of use and, of course, the affordable price that’s is due in part to fewer features. Although, some entry-level machine have both pressurized and non-pressurized portafilter options or even traditional steam wand that is designed to allow brewers to hone their skills.

Conclusion

If you’ve decided you just want coffee without practicing, then it’s the end of the journey for you. We have a few entry-level espresso machines that we’d think you’d enjoy. Remember, these machines have features like pressurized portafilters and panarello steam wands that help beginners make coffee they love effortless. Check these machines out:

Breville Duo-Temp Pro
DeLonghi Dedica EC680

If you’ve decided to be in a committed relationship, we’ve got a couple more tips for you in our next post—so stay tuned! Semi-automatics offer home baristas more control over their espresso with commercial-inspired accessories like traditional steam wands and non-pressurized portafilters.

Crew Comparison: Rocket Espresso Appartamento vs Breville Dual Boiler

How Does It Compare?

There’s nothing we love more than being able to brew and steam at the same time! And with either the Rocket Espresso Appartamento or the Breville Dual Boiler, we can do just that, but the user experience is completely different. The Dual Boiler packs in dedicated boilers alongside options like a pressurized portafilter and programmable shot buttons. On the other end of the spectrum, the Appartamento is Rocket’s smallest semi-automatic and, like other models in the line-up, sports a heat exchange boiler and traditional manual controls. The Appartamento will require more commitment and the dedication to learn, whereas Breville’s programmable features and range of accessories give baristas the ability to hone their skills.

The Rocket Espresso Appartamento is outfitted with a 1.8-liter copper boiler and legendary E61 brew group.
The Rocket Espresso Appartamento is outfitted with a 1.8-liter copper boiler and legendary E61 brew group.

Shot

Breville pulls out all the stops when it comes to crafting user’s experience. We’ve got a list of what makes the Breville Dual Boiler user-friendly, but one that stands out is its programmability. It features two programmable espresso buttons, in single or double shot quantities, the control volume by time. So while you’re concentrating on frothing your milk, you can press a button and let the Dual Boiler do the work—well, most of the work—for you. If you want to change it up, it also has a manual button to give you full control. The Dual Boiler also features pressurized and non-pressurized baskets for the portafilter. For beginners, the pressurized portafilter assists in extracting delicious espresso, especially if the grind is off. This gives beginners a chance to perfect their technique, or honestly, allows baristas to be lazy with the grind. When you finally perfect the grind, switch it up to the non-pressurized portafilter to brew like a professional. Whichever way you brew, the Dual Boiler’s user-friendly brewing makes it an easy machine to learn on.

The Breville Dual Boiler features two boilers that reach brew and steam temperature independently.
The Breville Dual Boiler features two boilers that reach brew and steam temperature independently.

The Rocket Espresso Appartamento’s design is influenced by traditional Italian espresso machines with its manual control lever and turn-dial knobs. Manual controls offer you freedom over your espresso and milk steaming. And with the Appartamento’s commercial-grade build, you’ll feel just like a professional barista. It’s equipped with two 58mm stainless steel portafilters (single and double spouts) and an E61 brew head that produces consistently hot espresso. Since there are no programmable features, there is a fairly steep learning curve and most of that is learning how to time pulling a shot while frothing milk. For experienced baristas, it’s muscle memory. For beginners, it’s more to handle—you can always slow down and froth, then brew. The Appartamento has features designed for an intermediate to an experienced barista, but with a will to learn an entry-level barista can pull delicious shots too.

The respectable 2.25-liter water tank is easy to access in the back.
The respectable 2.25-liter water tank is easy to access in the back.

The Dual Boiler has an 84-ounce water reservoir that feeds a 10-ounce brew boiler and a 32-ounce steam boiler. The boilers may seem small but that’s to your advantage. After pulling espresso shots for the whole family, the small 10-ounce boiler refills and reheats in no time. The Appartamento, on the other hand, has a respectable 60-ounce (1.8-liter) boiler that we expect to find on a heat exchange machine. The larger boiler takes longer to heat up. It has to heat the whole boiler to steam temperature before it can heat water on the fly from the reservoir, so we have to wait (again) to pull consistent shots. Once the Appartamento is heated, it can make multiple lattes before needing time to refill and reheat.

Steam

While we’re on the subject of boilers, the Breville Dual Boiler has a programmable PID to control both boilers. This allows you to set the ideal temperature to create consistency for your brew. Also, the latest update on the Dual Boiler now allows you to control the steam boiler range from 265 to 285 degrees. Paired with the traditional steam wand, it feels like a true barista experience. The Dual Boiler features a three-hole steam tip that shoots hot steam evenly in your pitcher—it’s super easy to get your milk rotating into a nice whirlpool. However, we will say that the steam wand will take more practice and patience for a beginner to learn.

Showing off the steam power on the Breville Dual Boiler.
Showing off the steam power on the Breville Dual Boiler.

The Rocket Espresso Appartamento is right up there with practice and patience. The 60-ounce boiler packs some incredible steam power and, paired with the two-hole steam tip, it whips up milk foam with ease. The Appartamento, however, doesn’t include a PID to set your temperature, so you’re stuck with Rocket’s standard heat settings. If you wanted to get technical with your brew, Rocket does offer other models with a PID. After making a handful of lattes on the Appartamento, we’re impressed with the temperature and consistency. When we compared its steam power to the Dual Boiler, to us it seemed obvious the Appartamento stole the show.

Style

The real show stopper is the Rocket Espresso Appartamento’s new style. It’s still the same beautiful stainless steel body but with white or copper side panels that are revealed through cutouts. The body sticks to Rocket’s clean cut style with gear-inspired knobs and their logo stamped front and center. The Appartamento may have been built like a traditional espresso machine, but its style is better described as contemporary, especially with those retro spots. While the Crew is divided about what color we like more, both will easily integrate into a home brewer’s kitchen. And it’s no problem squeezing the Appartamento on any apartment counter—it’s Rocket’s smallest machine to date. It’s even smaller than the Breville Dual Boiler, which is 6.25 inches wider than the Appartamento. Think of that prime counter space you’ll save.

Copper or white? We're digging the retro dots.
Copper or white? We’re digging the retro dots.

Even though the Dual Boiler’s a tad wider, it’s equipped with convenient extras that make up for it. One of those extras is hidden under the drip tray—Breville has included a swivel foot that drops down on the counter to easily rotate the machine around. This makes accessing the water tank effortless. It also included a hidden storage tray behind the drip tray and a magnetic tamper—everything you need for espresso is close at hand. While the Dual Boiler also has stainless steel casing it’s a cover over a plastic body, but we’re OK with that since we still get the style with an affordable price tag.

The Dual Boiler comes with pressurized and non-pressurized baskets and a tamper that magnetically stick into the machine.
The Dual Boiler comes with pressurized and non-pressurized baskets and a tamper that magnetically stick into the machine.

Conclusion

Between the Breville Dual Boiler and Rocket Espresso Appartamento, it comes down to what sort of user experience you desire. With the user in mind, the Dual Boiler comes equipped with programmability and accessories like pressurized and non-pressurized portafilters for beginners or experienced baristas. The Appartamento’s got style. It’s one of those machines you look at and can’t help but ask about. But the manual controls require commitment and plenty of patience to learn how to brew. So if you have the time and the will to learn, either machine will offer you the chance to hone your skills.

The Crew is still debating what color is better: white or copper? Tell us what color you like the best in the comments below!

 

Crew Review: Breville Dual Boiler

How Does It Compare?

The Breville Dual Boiler and Breville Oracle are two crowd favorites in the Breville line-up. Both feature double boilers to control brew and steam temperature and have programmable features. The Dual Boiler, however, features a traditional steam wand while the Oracle is equipped with a panarello-style steam wand that limits your ability to texturize milk the traditional way. If you were looking to perfect your technique on a traditional-style wand, the Dual Boiler’s your machine. We typically view the Oracle as a hybrid between a semi-automatic and superautomatic (it auto-tamps and auto-steams with the panarello), so if you’re looking to perfect your barista skills, we’d recommend you check out the Dual Boiler.

The Breville Dual Boiler features two boilers that reach brew and steam temperature independently.
The Breville Dual Boiler features two boilers that reach brew and steam temperature independently.

Shot

Breville excels at providing people the perfect opportunity to improve their barista skills while still enjoying easy and convenient features. The Breville Dual Boiler has two programmable buttons to set your ideal volume for one or two shots. Or, if you want to have control on the fly, you can manually start and stop the flow of espresso with the manual button. While we’re talking about convenience, the Dual Boiler also has a digital interface that allows you to easily program settings such as brew temperature or pre-infusion length. So while experienced baristas have the option to take control over the brew, there is also an opportunity for beginners to easily customize their preferences.

The Dual Boiler features digital interface and programmable buttons to easily customize your drink.
The Dual Boiler features digital interface and programmable buttons to easily customize your drink.

Inside the machine, the Dual Boiler features stainless steel boilers and Italian pumps to create lattes seamlessly. It creates the ideal maximum extraction pressure during brewing and a nice low pressure during pre-infusion. The electronic PID, that you can set using the LCD display, keeps both boiler temperatures within a few degrees for consistent extraction. It also features a heated group head to maintain the stability of your espresso shot. Together, these features create a delicious and consistent shot that you can enjoy with or without milk.

Steam

Speaking of milk, the Breville Dual boiler features a traditional steam wand that allows you total control over the aeration. The 360º swivel steam arm gets at any angle to help you properly incorporate air with your milk. It’s also equipped with a three-hole tip that shoots hot steam into different directions to create evenly heated milk. If you’re looking to improve your frothing technique, the Dual Boiler’s steam wand sets you up to evenly achieve the right milk texture.

Showing off the steam power on the Breville Dual Boiler.
Showing off the steam power on the Breville Dual Boiler.

The Dual Boiler also has a dedicated hot water spout for those Americano fans. We appreciate the separated functionalities because it can take awhile to draw hot water through traditional steam wands. You’ll be pulling hot water from the steam boiler, which you can set between 265ºF – 285ºF so that water is hot, hot, hot! Be careful, especially if you use the hot water spout for drinks like hot chocolate for the kids.

Style

Breville’s brushed stainless steel casing continues through their product line-up and we’re definitely OK with that. The soft, brushed steel makes the Breville look like a million bucks with an affordable price tag. With Breville’s line-up, the price is reflective of the advanced features and functionality. For example, the Dual Boiler is packed with, not one, but two powerful boilers and a programmable interface, so that makes us happy with its price point.

The Dual Boiler features a drop-down swivel foot that allows you to roll the machine to access the back.
The Dual Boiler features a drop-down swivel foot that allows you to roll the machine to access the back.

Breville included other handy features that generally people don’t realize they want—or need, frankly. The Dual Boiler is a hefty machine, weighing in at nearly 30 pounds, so accessing the back is nearly impossible—or is it? Like the Breville Oracle, the Dual Boiler comes with a hidden drop-down swivel foot under the drip tray. Once you engage the foot, it’ll easily roll around on your counter to remove the water tank. If you just need to fill up the reservoir, Breville’s thought of that too with a lid at the front of the machine to pour water into. You can even see when the water is low through a small window in the front of the machine. It’s the small, user-friendly features like this that continue to make Breville a go-to for new and experienced espresso machine owners.

The Dual Boiler comes with a tamper that magnetically stick into the machine.
The Dual Boiler comes with a tamper that magnetically stick into the machine.

Conclusion

The Breville Dual Boiler features something for beginners and experienced baristas alike. With both programmable and manual options, you can control the length of your brew or bask in the convenience by getting an espresso at the touch of a button. And since this is a double boiler machine, you can brew and steam at the same time—simply press the pre-programmed espresso button and you can concentrate on texturizing your milk. In the line-up of Breville products, the Dual Boiler is an advanced machine packed with features that will impress new and veteran home brewers.

Gear Guide: Finding The Right Espresso Machine For You

Finding The Right Espresso Machine: Semi and Superautomatics

Start Here: Welcome to Gear Guide!

If you’re ready to bring home an espresso machine but don’t know where to start, then you’re in the right place. We’ve created a simple buyer’s guide to espresso machines to help you make the coffee you love at home. This series is designed to help you choose which espresso machine that is right for you. We’ll start here with this simple question:

How Committed Are You?

Are you just friends or are you in a serious relationship with your espresso? We know, it sounds silly, but understanding your level of commitment is the first step to finding the right espresso machine for you. Think about your morning routine: Are you usually rushing out the door or do you cook a balanced breakfast? How you’ll be using your machine—basically, your relationship with it—is the best way to determine what you should take home.

Take a superautomatic espresso machine. This type of machine is for people who are rushing out the door. Most require little to no barista skills and typically operate at the touch of a button. It’s like having your own personal barista right in your kitchen. Depending on the model, some machines offer basic drink options such as espresso or Americanos while more advanced options offer a range of menu items, customized temperature or milk texture and more. Superautomatics have a variety of milk frothing options like a panarello-style steam wand, traditional steam wand or carafe, so you can choose which option is right for you. For instance, one-touch superautomatics whip up lattes right into your cup thanks to integrating milk systems like an attached carafe.

The Miele CM6310 Superautomatic comes with an attached stainless steel carafe to easily store milk in the fridge.
The Miele CM6310 Superautomatic comes with an attached stainless steel carafe to easily store milk in the fridge.

On the other side, we have the semi-automatic machine for the chefs out there. With semi-automatics, you should be willing to get involved and grow with it—to a degree. There are several entry-level semi-automatic machines that offer beginners assistance with features like the pressurized portafilter, that helps you pull a consistent shot every time or a panarello steam wand for thick, rich milk with little skill involved.

If you’re ready to expand your barista skills, the higher level semi-automatics let you control just about every aspect of your espresso shot and milk. High-level machines typically feature a traditional steam wand and non-pressurized portafilters, which require a level of skill, technique and preparation. For instance, on a non-pressurized portafilter, you’ll need a consistent grind, which requires a quality grinder and the senses (taste, sight, etc.) to dial in your grind. That means you have more control over how fine-tuned your espresso is! For those latte and cappuccino drinkers out there, you’ll appreciate the flexibility of a traditional steam wand. You can texture milk to be dense, dry foam or paint-like for latte art. Then sometimes there are advanced features like PIDs to regulate the boiler temperature or the ability to set the pre-infusion time.

Hello, steam power. The Nuova Simonelli Oscar II is a semi-automatic machine with programmable volume buttons.
Hello, steam power. The Nuova Simonelli Oscar II is a semi-automatic machine with programmable volume buttons.

Of course, some features and functionalities are found on both superautomatic and semi-automatic such as a panarello-style steam wand. That’s why we ask people to focus on their commitment level. Are you ready to learn how to dial in your grind? Do you want your machine to remember your drink preferences? Figuring out how committed you’ll be using your machine is the first step, now it’s time to think about coffee.

How Do You Like Your Coffee?

Tall, dark and…smokey? If you love Italian or French roast blends, then you’ll want to stay away from superautomatic machines. The reason being is the oils coating the coffee beans will clog the superautomatic’s grinder over time, creating a mess and may require extra maintenance. We always recommend avoiding an oily bean on a superautomatic to keep it in tip-top shape. That does mean, however, that you could enjoy a dark roast on a semi-automatic! You’ll want to make sure you clean the grinder a little more frequently with a grinder cleaner, but otherwise, a semi-automatic will have less trouble with dark roast. Also, we strongly discourage using grinder cleaners on a superautomatic because it could potentially damage the grinder or brew group.

Intelligentsia's Black Cat Classic is a medium, full bodied roast that's great in a superautomatic or semi-automatic.
Intelligentsia’s Black Cat Classic is a medium, full bodied roast that’s great in a superautomatic or semi-automatic.

Looking for a unique flavor to try as an espresso? If you love single origins, go ahead and try it out on a semi-automatic! You can change the temperature, grind, tamp—you get the idea. With more control over brewing, you’re able to dial in and find your perfect shot. Since single origins’ flavors benefit from hotter water than a blend, it’s harder to pull a shot on a superautomatic than a semi-automatic. Of course, a blend will be easier to perfect on either type of machine since it’s designed to have a balanced flavor.

Conclusion

Are you ready to commit to your espresso? Again, think about your morning routine and ask yourself how often you’ll use your machine. What sort of drinks will you be making on it? If you have a specific coffee roast preference, then that could also influence your decision. Have you made a decision? Good! In this next couple of posts, we’ll split off into several topics.

Check out the next post in the series:

Gear Guide: Expanding Your Skills With Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines

Crew Comparison: Rocket Espresso Machine Class Line-Up

How Does It Compare?

Hand-built in Italy, the craftsmanship and attention to detail have made Rocket Espresso some of the most desired espresso machines. Their line-up includes a list of impressive features, including the  legendary E61 brew head, and is constructed with commercial-grade materials. When you’re trying to decide on one machine, though, that’s where it can get tricky. Rocket’s contemporary, clean design resonated throughout the line-up and the deciding factor comes down to the features and details. In this Crew Comparison, we mixed it up to  dive deeper into certain features. We’ll discuss the differences between a heat exchanger and double boiler and  how a PID and pressure profiling affect coffee.

Boiler

Rocket equips their espresso machines with either a heat exchanger or double boiler system. While there is a bit of misconception that double boilers are superior, each system offers something unique. Take the double boiler, such as the Rocket Espresso R58. We used to categorize the double boiler at the top since you could set the appropriate temperature for each boiler. And, let’s face it, it’s much easier controlling two separate boilers. However, we’ve discovered that two isn’t always better than one. While the boilers are working, minerals are slowly leaching and creating what is affectionately called “dead” water. In short, the idea is that this water isn’t fresh.

The Rocket R58 features a dual boiler and PID to control the brew and steam  boiler.
The Rocket R58 features a dual boiler and PID to control the brew and steam boiler.

That’s where the heat exchanger excels. A heat exchanger works by pulling fresh, cool water from the reservoir through a tube that runs the length of the steam boiler—this creates the ideal brew temperature. To keep the temperature consistent, Rocket designed the system with the legendary E61 brew head to maintain heat as the water leaves the brew chambers and hits your coffee. Of course, that means the E61 is correcting an issue, so there’s question over consistency. We recommend pulling a shot evenly heat and to also purge water sitting in the tube. Two of the machines that feature heat exchangers is the new Rocket Espresso Appartamento and the Rocket Espresso Evoluzione.

The Rocket Espresso Appartamento is outfitted with a 1.8-liter copper boiler and legendary E61 brew group.
The Rocket Espresso Appartamento is outfitted with a 1.8-liter copper boiler and legendary E61 brew group.

PID

PID (Proportional, Integral, Derivative) is a temperature controller on the boiler(s). Thermostats and pressurestats are used to control the boiler heat and many machines are pre-programmed by the manufacturer. Enter the PID. The PID allows users to set the temperature that they want within a few degrees. It monitors the temperature and controls how often the boiler turns on or off. This regulate temperature and create less fluctuation. So, what does this mean for your brew? The consistent temperature evenly extracts grounds and enhances the quality of your coffee.

The Rocket Giotto Premium Plus with PID features a hidden PID under the drip tray and sleek, kicked out side panels.
The Rocket Giotto Premium Plus with PID features a hidden PID under the drip tray and sleek kicked outside panels.

On the Rocket Espresso Premium Plus with PID, the PID setting is hidden under the drip tray to maintain that clean cut style. But it’s there, continuously monitoring the boiler and maintaining it at steam temperature. Other models like the R58 have an external PID monitor that can be plugged in or stored away. Bonus, the R58’s PID controls the steam and brew boilers, which mean you can set the ideal temperature for each.

Pressure Profiling

What is pressure profiling? Pressure profiling is, put simply, the ability to change your extraction pressure. Common practice says the ideal pressure for the perfect espresso extraction is 9 bars, but recently coffee geeks have been playing with varying pressure to extract different flavors. The Rocket Espresso R60V features pressure profiling and our resident coffee geek, Joe took over the studio and presented an easy breakdown in this video. He started a low but long pre-infusion at two bars, then ramped it up to nine bars (classic pressure) and then slowed it down to six bars to extract more. Joe also did a modern pressure profile with pre-infusion at four bars and finished strong at nine bars. Of course, each profile will be unique to the coffee, so it’ll take some experimenting to find that sweet spot.

Rocket features a pressure gage so you can see what's happening in the boiler.
Rocket features a pressure gauge so you can see what’s happening in the boiler.

Conclusion  

Of course, there are other considerations you’ll make before you purchase a Rocket. The Appartamento is the smallest in the lineup and easily fits on a small counter, but if you’ve got space, the larger R58 is packed with dual features for the ultimate control. Or if you’re looking for a more stylish look, you could choose between the Giotto or Cellini in the Premium Plus or Evoluzione. Other models offer plumbable versions, so you would never have to refill your water tank again. We’ve glanced at the Rocket lineup, learned some of the key differences  and now we want to hear which model you’d like to take home! Drop us a comment below and let us know.

Crew Review: Breville Duo-Temp Pro

How Does It Compare?

First glance, we almost mistook the Breville Duo-Temp Pro for the Breville Infuser. These two entry-level machines feature the Breville touch with tons of user-friendly features and accessories to make home brewing convenient and, may we add, fun! However, the Duo-Temp Pro is equipped with one dial to flipped between brewing and steaming whereas the Infuser has two programmable buttons. While programmability is a bonus, we reap the benefits of the Duo-Temps Pro affordable price point while still being chock-full of advanced features, the same technology we see in the Infuser.

The Breville Duo-Temp Pro features an internal PID, auto-purge and pre-infusion to create great coffee at home.
The Breville Duo-Temp Pro features an internal PID, auto-purge and pre-infusion to create great coffee at home.

Others at this price point are the Saeco Via Venezia; however, some of the Duo-Temp Pro features and functionality outshine the Via Venezia. The Duo-Temp Pro comes with both a pressurized and non-pressurized portafilters allowing beginners a chance to grow into their machine. The Duo-Temp Pro also automatically purges water from the Thermocoil boiler to bring it from steam temperature back down to brewing—an incredibly convenient feature on a single boiler. Let’s dive right into the Duo-Temp Pro’s espresso.

Shot

The espresso on the Breville Duo-Temp Pro is impressive. The combination of our trusty grinder—the Rancilio Rocky right now—and the automatic pre-infusion time, it doesn’t take long to pull a wonderful shot. The pre-infusion is completely controlled by the Duo-Temp Pro since the only controls are the one dial that flips between brew or steam/hot water and the “Select” button for steam or hot water. That’s it. While it may feel limited, the fewer controls allow beginners to focus on honing their skills. Fewer controls, though, doesn’t mean fewer features. The pre-infusion is just the cherry on top.

The Duo-Temp Pro's clean controls make it easy for beginner's to learn.
The Duo-Temp Pro’s clean controls make it easy for beginners to learn.

As we touched on briefly, the Duo-Temp Pro has an automatic purge, which is huge for a machine of this caliber. Since this is a single boiler machine, you can’t brew and steam at the same time, so naturally, we always steam first. After steaming, flip the switch back to neutral and you’ll hear the auto-purge remove the hot water and then flush in cool water from the reservoir. In a matter of seconds, you’re ready to brew! Bonus for the Duo-Temp Pro: It’s equipped with an internal PID that helps regulate the temperature.

The Duo-Temp Pro features a concealed storage for your extra baskets and accessories.
The Duo-Temp Pro features a concealed storage for your extra baskets and accessories.

The simple controls and automatic features create a user-friendly experience perfect for beginners, so without fail Breville paired it with the appropriate accessories. Generally, we see machines at this price point with only a pressurized option, however, the Duo-Temp Pro has both pressurized and non-pressurized baskets for the 54mm portafilter. The non-pressurized basket is an opportunity for beginners to hone their skills and advance into the professional’s field. Breville also included accessories such as their patented RAZOR Dose Trimming Tool, cleaning accessories and the magnetic tamper, which is stuck alongside the brew head out of the way.

Steam

The Breville Duo-Temp Pro features a traditional steam wand, which will take more practice to learn but offers more rewards than a panarello-style steam wand. Because the Duo-Temp Pro uses a thermocoil heater, the steam wand produces heat on the fly and it’ll take a while to get up to speed—hey, that offers beginners plenty of time to get their technique down. We decided to use the Duo-Temp Pro to froth milk for latte art to test its capabilities (and ours). The Duo-Temp Pro has a one-hole steam tip, which does present some challenges heating the milk. If you leave it pointed in one direction and don’t angle it correctly, you’ll likely to unevenly heat the milk. The key here is to become familiar with the steam wand and find that sweet spot to spin the milk to incorporate any microfoam with the warm milk.

The Duo-Temp Pro comes with a traditional steam wand.
The Duo-Temp Pro comes with a traditional steam wand.

So, how did it go? Because it takes a while to get to full steam power, we had plenty of time to find that sweet spot and we were able to get beautiful latte-art milk on the Duo-Temp Pro. One thing we noted was from startup it took the thermocoil about 25 seconds before we saw steam. If you turned the dial to steam to remove condensation and then to neutral it would auto-purge and for a moment, we thought that was it. Fortunately, it only took a few seconds for the steam power to kick back in and work it’s way up to full steam.

Style

Clad in a brushed stainless steel casing, we couldn’t be happier with the outfitting on the Breville Duo-Temp Pro. The user-friendly controls are clean, evenly spaced and the buttons are backlit when the machine’s on, creating a seamless interface. Commercial-grade stainless steel portafilter and steam wand further accentuate the Breville’s fresh style and, of course, make delicious coffee. Bonus to the Duo-Temp Pro, it is BPA free for all the parts that come in contact with water and coffee.

Equipped with a 61-ounce water reservoir, you won't be running to the sink very often.
Equipped with a 61-ounce water reservoir, you won’t be running to the sink very often.

The brushed casing and compact size allow the Duo-Temp Pro to easily fit into any home brewer’s kitchen. At only 10.25 inches wide, its slim profile can easily squeeze on the smallest counters and fit a couple mugs on the cup warmer. Even though it’s a compact unit, the spacious 61-ounce water tank can easily handle multiple lattes. We were worried at first that the auto-purge would drain the reservoir but we went from the reservoir’s maximum capacity down to the minimum with four lattes and an espresso shot. Perhaps the only downside to the auto-purge is it’s a bit noisy doing it.

Conclusion

The Breville Duo-Temp Pro is an excellent entry-level semi-automatic. Its simple controls are balanced with advanced features, such as auto-purge, and offer beginners plenty of opportunities to hone their skills. The Duo-Temp Pro can produce several milk-based drinks and perhaps the only misgivings we could see people experiencing is the steam power. Since it’s a thermocoil, it takes a time to kick in but, hey, that’ll allow beginners some time to find the right angles to texture their milk. Practice makes perfect and the Duo-Temp Pro is the right machine for practicing.

Crew Comparison: Nuova Simonelli Oscar II vs Rocket Appartamento

How Does It Compare?

Crafted from brightly polished stainless steel, both the Rocket Appartamento and Nuova Simonelli Oscar II are beautiful machines we’re torn between—we can’t decide which one we love more! If you’re in the market for a powerful, semi-automatic espresso machine, you’re in the right place. Both machines are built by well-loved manufacturers in the coffee community, so whichever way you go, you’ll have plenty of fellow coffee lovers to show off too!

The Rocket Espresso Appartamento is outfitted with a 1.8-liter copper boiler and legendary E61 brew group.
The Rocket Espresso Appartamento is outfitted with a 1.8-liter copper boiler and legendary E61 brew group.

The main difference between the Oscar II and the Appartamento is control. The Oscar II features programmable shot time buttons, while the Appartamento offers mechanical control over the entire brew process. To that point, the Oscar II has no option to change the factory-set pre-infusion time, unlike the Appartamento’s manual pre-infusion brew lever. The Oscar II, however, is NSF certified! If you’re a small business looking for a fantastic machine, the Oscar II is suitable for a commercial environment and with the two programmable buttons anyone can make delicious espresso.

The Nuova Simonelli Oscar II's updated style stunned us! It looks nothing like the first Oscar.
The Nuova Simonelli Oscar II’s updated style stunned us! It looks nothing like the first Oscar.

Shot

Operating these two heat exchangers feels completely different. The Rocket Appartamento features a manual operation reminiscent of classic lever espresso machines, but we’d call the Appartamento’s style contemporary. The Nuova Simonelli Oscar II is built with a set pre-infusion time without the option to customize and two programmable buttons—introducing the convenience of a superautomatic. The Oscar II’s programmed by time, not volume, so the consistency of your grind each time will affect the volume of your espresso. For instance, the finer the grind, the slower the flow. While there’s no manual extraction time on the Oscar II you can stop the flow of espresso at any time.

The Oscar II features two time controlled espresso volume.
The Oscar II features two timed controlled espresso volume.

Side-by-side, the Appartamento was slimmer than the Oscar II. It may be small, but its espresso is anything short of spectacular. Designed with the legendary E61 brew head, the Appartamento produces consistently hot shots on par with the rest of the Rocket lineup. The 1.8-liter boiler is the same size as the Rocket Espresso Cellini Evoluzione V2 and only 0.2-liters smaller than the Oscar II—so the Oscar II has the Appartamento beat there.

Check out that side profile of the legendary E61 brew head.
Check out that side profile of the legendary E61 brew head.

Pro Tip: We recommend pulling seven seconds of hot water to heat the brew head and portafilter, so they don’t cool your shot. Since these are heat exchangers, it’ll also purge warm and stagnant water that’s been sitting in the tube.

Check out that portafilter. The open spouts offer a beautiful view of your espresso.
Check out that portafilter. The open spouts offer a beautiful view of your espresso.

We’re pleased both machines included commercial-grade portafilters. The Appartamento comes with two heavy-duty, stainless steel portafilters, in single and double spout options with interchangeable single and double baskets. The Oscar II features breakaway spouts on their one double spout portafilter with a single or double shot basket (no second portafilter for the Oscar). Rocket included more heavy-duty accessories such as their sleek metal tamper whereas Nuova Simonelli dropped in a plastic guy—not a deal breaker, but we’re more appreciative of Rocket’s thoughtfulness.

Steam

Of course, if you’re considering the Oscar II, you know by now that Nuova Simonelli’s steam power is famous—Barista Championship famous. They’re the official espresso machine for the competition and the proof is in the microfoam. The four hole tip evenly heats milk in all directions while the steam pressure is nice and dry, perfect for incorporating air into the milk. With the Oscar II’s updated 360° rotating ball joint, it’s easy to texture milk at any angle and achieve the ideal foam whether you’re a latte or cappuccino lover. It is a traditional wand, so have a towel on hand to wipe away milk. We’d still call the OScar II an entry-level to a prosumer machine, but the spring-loaded lever makes it difficult to regulate steam pressure.

Hello, steam power.
Hello, steam power.

The Rocket Appartamento, like its other siblings, has an anti-burn traditional steam wand and dedicated hot water spout. Anti-burn doesn’t mean it’s cool to the touch—seriously, use caution—but it’ll help milk from sticking on. Don’t skip wiping down the wand! You’ll still want to purge and clean it like the Oscar II’s wand. We’ll also add that the steam pressure on the Appartamento is powerful and capable of creating beautiful latte art worthy microfoam, however, it’s a lot harder to control. Texturing milk takes practice and practice makes perfect, so don’t give up with either machine.

The iconic Rocket logo and power switch on the front of the Appartamento.
The iconic Rocket logo and power switch on the front of the Appartamento.

Style

Mamma mia! Handcrafted in Italy, each Rocket is a beautiful, one-of-a-kind machine in every box. The Rocket Appartamento introduced big, beautiful and bold dots on the sides and we’re absolutely smitten with the new design! The SCG Crew is, of course, in a heated debate about which color is best—copper or white—and it’s safe to say there’s no ending that topic anytime soon. The colored cutouts correspond with the wide, stout feet on the Appartamento, which are noticeably bigger when you remove the drip tray like an adorable, large-footed puppy. Make no mistake, while the Appartamento’s sized for an apartment, it’s a fierce espresso machine. Its small footprint is packed with commercial-grade features.

Copper or white? We're digging the retro dots.
Copper or white? We’re digging the retro dots.

The updated style of the Nuova Simonelli Oscar II has left us starstruck! This famous machine is carved to reflect the light like the futuristic cyborg it reminds us of—Cylon, anyone? The stainless steel casing extends to the front and sides but is replaced in the brew head with a chrome-coated plastic. Still, the curves and edges complement this powerful heat exchanger. Even the less-desirable steam switch sticking out at the top can be overlooked by its new extended steam wand (though we’re still not a big fan).

Conclusion

We’re still torn between the Rocket Appartamento and Nuova Simonelli Oscar II, but it’s easier to decide once you know what you want. If you want 100% control, the Appartamento is your guy. If you love the convenience of a superautomatic, but want to have more control, then you want the Oscar II. Both have updated styles with polished stainless steel that shines like a beacon to your espresso. Their unique style and shape will also make it easy for you to decide on which is best. The Oscar II’s curved edges are nothing like the Appartamento’s boxy body. These two heat exchangers make it hard for a Crew to decide, but you know what, we like options here at Seattle Coffee Gear. We’re curious what you guys think about the Nuova Simonelli Oscar II and Rocket Appartamento—drop us a comment and tell us which one you’re leaning towards. Also, don’t forget to tell us if you like the Appartamento in copper or whitewe’ve got a debate to settle.

Crew Review: Capresso EC Pro

How Does It Compare

The Capresso EC Pro is one of our favorite machines to recommend to entry-level baristas. Equipped with a pressurized and non-pressurized naked portafilter, low powered traditional steam wand and user-friendly interface, the EC Pro offers plenty of opportunities to hone your craft. Its affordable price and small footprint make it easy to squeeze into your life too. The DeLonghi Dedica EC680 similar price point makes it a worthy opponent to the EC Pro, but it doesn’t offer nearly as much skill-building opportunities.

The Capresso EC Pro industrial stainless steel body is a nice touch for this lower priced machine.
The Capresso EC Pro industrial stainless steel body is a nice touch for this lower priced machine.

The Dedica comes with only pressurized portafilter in single and double basket options—if we include looks, the portafilter’s spouts are nothing fancy—that will compensate for subpar coffee grounds and deliver yummy espresso for newbies. The panarello steam wand creates quick and undeniable foamy milk that’s great for cappuccinos. You could make a latte, but you would need to work the milk into paint-like texture before pouring latte art. The Dedica’s great for baristas looking to get quick and easy quality espresso whereas the EC Pro will provide plenty of entry-level experience to improve.

Shot

The non-pressurized naked portafilter is a shining gem on this machine. The naked bottom—ahem, we’re talking about the lack of spouts—allows barista’s a clear view of the stream of espresso. It’s essentially training wheels for baristas. When the grind size and tamp pressure are correct, the extraction is even and creates gorgeous tiger-striping, which is the light and dark colors merging together. Some call it magic. Others call it the results of a good extraction. We say it’s both.

The EC Pro comes with a non-pressurized naked portafilter and pressurized filter, respectively.
The EC Pro comes with a non-pressurized naked portafilter and pressurized filter, respectively.

We should also mention the portafilters are made from durable stainless steel—that’s commercial-grade right there. Since this is an entry-level machine, however, the interface is simple in design. It features a couple of switches and a dial to change between brewing and steaming. At this lower price point, the EC Pro has a single boiler, which means you can only brew or steam. For entry-level home brewers, that’s actually not a bad feature, so you can focus on one task at a time.

Pro Tip: With any single boiler machine, we recommend steaming first so that you’re espresso does sit and get cold. Texturing milk first also offers the opportunity to work your milk if you’re doing some latte art.

The user-friendly interface make this machine easy to operate for first time home brewers.
The user-friendly interface make this machine easy to operate for first time home brewers.

Steam

It’s so satisfying to pour latte art that actually looks like art. The Capresso EC Pro’s traditional steam wand provides just enough steam power to allow you time to properly incorporate your milk with air for that just-right microfoam. Practice makes perfect, so don’t give up! The one-hole tip provides a steady stream of heat, so getting the wand angled to swirl the milk will help even the temperature and create microfoam.

The traditional steam wand only moves in an up and downward motion, making it difficult to angle milk containers.
The traditional steam wand only moves in an up and downward motion, making it difficult to angle milk containers.

However, getting a great angle on the EC Pro can be a challenge. The steam wand only adjusts up and down, which limits the wiggle room for containers. The clearance from the machine provides enough space for a pitcher and you’ll easily be able to angle it to perfect your technique.

Style

Surrounded with a stainless steel cover, the little Capresso EC Pro looks like a tyke-size industrial machine. Whether you think that’s good or bad is up to you, but we think that steel cover provides a nice, expensive-looking touch—they could have just wrapped it in plastic, you know? Also, this classic cut looks exactly like a miniature commercial machine. We’ll also remind you the EC Pro has some commercial-inspired features such as the stainless steel portafilter—oh yeah, super nice.

The industrial designed EC Pro looks similar to commercial-grade machines.
The industrial designed EC Pro looks similar to commercial-grade machines.

Where the Capresso EC Pro style lacks in flair, it makes up for with amenities. The small footprint also means it’s perfect for tight spaces—say in an apartment next to the microwave? The small cup warmer has a metal top to heat those cups up and tiny rails to keep things aligned. The straight forward switch and dial interface are probably our least favorite look, but it’s efficient and straight-forward.

The brew/steam and on/off switches are user-friendly but not much to look at.

Conclusion

For any entry-level barista, the Capresso EC Pro will have everything you need. It’s like training wheels on a bike: Once you learn how to ride, you take the wheels off. The EC Pro’s naked portafilter shows you how well it’s extracting—goal is to have tiger stripes—and lets you practice to perfect your technique. And we’ll add it’s just downright gorgeous to see. If you’re looking for convenience during training, the pressurized portafilter’s got your back. All in all, the price-point, entry-level training and high-quality features give the other tiny semi-automatics a run for their money.

Crew Comparison: Nuova Simonelli Oscar II vs. Oscar

How Does It Compare

“Life in plastic—it’s fantastic!” Said no coffee lover ever—we felt the same way about the Nuova Simonelli Oscar. Built with a 2-liter heat exchange boiler, professional-grade portafilter and legendary steam power, the Oscar I was an affordable high-quality semi-automatic machine. However, the Oscar’s quality was hidden under a plastic shroud of semi-sheen black or cherry red that wasn’t aesthetically pleasing. Thankfully, we can all rejoice in the newest addition, the Nuova Simonelli Oscar II, and let us just tell you, it looks nothing like the original.

The Nuova Simonelli Oscar features a classic cut that espresso lovers are sure to enjoy.
The Nuova Simonelli Oscar features a classic cut that espresso lovers are sure to enjoy.
The Nuova Simonelli Oscar II's updated style stunned us! It looks nothing like the Oscar.
The Nuova Simonelli Oscar II’s updated style stunned us! It looks nothing like the Oscar.

Designed like a Cylon from Battlestar Galactica, the Oscar II marries futuristic design with industrial stainless steel. The curved-in shape is becoming a new trend, like with the Baratza Sette 270, and we’re digging this style. Comparing it to the Oscar’s classic cut, the Oscar II offers ample space for the brew head and a 360-degree rotating steam wand. The new design for the Oscar II has improved its overall look and functionality—A+ Nuova Simonelli!

Shot

The commercial-grade 58mm portafilter was included in both models with channel spouts that offer a beautiful bird’s eye view of your espresso. The Oscar II’s pronounced brew group also showcases the new volumetric controls that the original Oscar lacked. On the Oscar II, you can program the espresso volume by time for either a single or double shot. The interface remains user-friendly with the new programmability. As you’re brewing, press and hold one of the espresso icons to set your volume, but remember it’s timed based, so you’ll want to dial in your grind and set it to produce consistent shots.

The Oscar II features two time controlled espresso volume.
The Oscar II features two time-controlled espresso volume buttons.

The Nuova Simonelli Oscar and Oscar II create consistently hot espresso thanks to a temperature compensated brew head. It’s a highly debated topic about the consistency of heat exchanger overall. To mitigate those concerns, the heated brew head should assist with consistency—the debate continues. 

Pro Tip: With a heat exchanger, it’s ideal to pull water for seven seconds to warm the brew head and portafilter. The extra heat siphoned through the brew head will help maintain the temperature of your shot.

The Oscar features two simple buttons: on/off and brew, along with a steam dial.
The Oscar features two simple buttons: on/off and brew; along with a steam dial.

Steam

Nuova Simonelli blessed the Oscar II with high-quality heat exchanger and Championship-worthy steam wand (for those of you that don’t know, Nuova Simonelli is the official espresso machine sponsor for the National U.S. Championship). Both semi-automatics are built with a 2-liter copper boiler and produce virtually the same steam power. The perfectly dry steam is exactly what you’re looking for to texture milk—water and milk just don’t mix. The Oscar II, however, has insulation wrapped around the boiler, which is noted to increase energy efficiency.

Hello, steam power.
Hello, steam power.

Nuova Simonelli’s famed four-hole steam tip performs a lot better on the Oscar II’s beautiful steam wand. The Oscar’s stouter steam wand proved difficult to angle a pitcher into texturized milk. To be blatantly honest, it was annoying to work with. The fixed finger guard also got in the way when foam expanded, which made it gunky and a pain to clean. The new extended wand rotates on a 360-degree ball joint and comes with an adjustable finger guard for larger frothing pitchers—A+ again, Nuova Simonelli.

Style

Of course, you can’t compare the Oscar and Oscar II without talking about their looks. The Oscar II radical makeover has completely stunned us. The all-over stainless steel received high praises from the office. It reflects the professional quality materials Nuova Simonelli has gifted their products. It reflects contemporary taste and mirrors modern appliances to keep home brewers’ kitchen’s uniform. Sure, Nuova Simonelli snuck a few plastic parts of the Oscar II—check that out under the Oscar II Crew Review—but in comparison to the Oscar’s complete plastic casing, we’ll be lenient with the Oscar II.

Check out that portafilter.
Check out that portafilter. We’re digging the open-spout view.

We’re also fans of the Oscar II C-shape design, which looks similar to the Nuova Simonelli Musica. This design creates more clearance to allow important features such as the steam wand and brew group to take center stage. The brew group features ridges and curves that create futuristic dimension similar to, you guessed it, a Cylon. Our one critic of the Oscar II is the steam wand switch that sticks out at the top. We appreciate the Oscar II fresh and lively style.

The Oscar traditional espresso machine design is wonderful for coffee lovers who will enjoy the nostalgic appearance. The modern features, however, such as the Oscar’s large, in-your-face steam dial and rubber buttons, took away from the classic style. 

Despite the plastic casing, we appreciate the traditional style of the Oscar.
Despite the plastic casing, we appreciate the traditional style of the Oscar.

Conclusion

The Nuova Simonelli Oscar II fresh style finally showcases its high-quality build. While we’re still impressed with the Oscar’s capabilities, the Oscar II new aesthetics are not only pleasing to the eye but offer more functionality from features such as the steam wand. If we had to choose, we’d go with the Oscar II. It’s also important to know that the Oscar has been discounted by Nuova Simonelli too, so you’ll only be able to find it on the market as used. If you’re loving the new wave of futuristic and contemporary styled espresso machines, then you’ll love the way the Oscar II shines in your kitchen.

Crew Review: Rocket Espresso Appartamento

How Does It Compare?

The Rocket Espresso Appartamento’s apartment-size footprint means you don’t have to sacrifice counter space for delicious espresso. Rocket shaved a few inches off the sides of the Appartamento to optimize counter and cabinet space: 10.5 inches wide by 17 inches deep and 14.25 inches tall. That’s 1.5 inches narrower and nearly 2 inches shorter than the Rocket Espresso Cellini Evoluzione Espresso Machine V2. Even with its healthy trim, the Appartamento doesn’t lack in capability.

 The Rocket Espresso Appartamento is outfitted with the same 1.8-liter copper boiler and E61 brew group as the Rocket Espresso Cellini Evoluzione.
The Rocket Espresso Appartamento is outfitted with the same 1.8-liter copper boiler and E61 brew group as the Rocket Espresso Cellini Evoluzione.

It’s built with the similar heavy-duty components as the Rocket Espresso Cellini Evoluzione Espresso Machine V2 and the Appartamento espresso and steam performance continues to shine amongst the other semi-automatics. The Cellini Evoluzione and Appartamento are equipped with a 1.8-liter copper boiler, but unlike the Cellini Evoluzione, the Appartamento doesn’t have an insulated boiler. That extra padding improves thermal stability and increases energy savings. Aside from the insulation, the Appartamento’s performance is on par with the Cellini Evoluzione.

Shot

Rocket stuck with what they do best and outfitted the Appartamento with professional grade materials. It’s equipped with a heat exchanger and the legendary E61 brew group for consistently hot performance. Trust us, after pulling a couple shots, the portafilter got nice and toasty—perfect for retaining heat for your shots. Pro Tip: Do a seven-second flush through the brew head to get the best shot possible.

Rocket’s standard commercial-grade 58mm portafilters made it in the box too, and we’re happy to have them! This tiny tyke didn’t get skimped on accessories: it comes with double and single spout portafilters that can pair with their respective baskets to please everyone’s caffeine needs. And we’ve complained time and time again about plastic tampers—fear not with Rocket, they included the same nice, shiny metal tamper you see with other models.

The 2.25-liter reservoir
The respectable 2.25-liter water tank is easy to access in the back.

What it didn’t come with is a plumb-in option that a few Rockets do include. At this price point, we’re not missing it with the Appartamento’s respectable 2.25-liter reservoir. While the reservoir is a nice size, the drip tray is a bit shallow for catching that excess water from the solenoid valve. Without any bevels, it’s easy to wear the contents of the tray if you’re not careful—Pro Tip: empty it out sooner rather than later. At least you have a nice view of that beautiful stainless steel while you’re concentrating on not spilling.

Steam

Built with a 1.8-liter boiler like the Rocket Espresso Cellini Evoluzione Espresso Machine V2, it comes as no surprise that the Appartamento has similarly magnificent steam performance. The two-hole steam wand evenly warms and circulates milk to achieve perfect microfoam. It heats up so quickly that a beginner might find they didn’t have enough time to texture their milk, but we would still recommend this machine to an entry-level to a prosumer buyer.

Appartamento_3:4
The traditional steam wand and dedicated hot water tap make creating lattes or Americanos a snap.

Like the previous models, it’s a no-burn wand, which means it’s harder for the milk to burn on after steaming. Keep those finger guards on, though! The steam wand is still extremely hot to the touch after a couple of lattes.

Style

Those big, beautiful spots. Choose white or copper, but choose wisely: The pearl white complements everyday kitchen appliances (yahoo…) whereas that copper sing to more modern vibes. OK, so the SCG Crew is a little torn between the two colors. To be fair, the copper is a bit on the darker side—some would say bronze—so that’s where the true-to-its-name white got the Crew’s vote. Check out the video and tell us what color you dig.

Copper or white? We're digging the retro dots.
Copper or white? We’re digging the retro dots.

Someone’s had to notice by now that the colored cutouts match the new wider, stouter feet. This is another debate between the Crew (as most aesthetics are a heated topic around here) and we’re 50/50 on the look. The body’s clean edges against the curved detailing provide a beautiful contrast. The gear-inspired knobs and Rocket’s logo stamped boldly on the front add a nice touch to this machine. The stainless steel casing that Rocket is known for continues to showcase their equally famous high-quality products. It’s no surprise that Rocket continued these fine-tuned details, even in a small and lower priced machine.

The iconic Rocket logo and power switch on the front of the Appartamento.
The iconic Rocket logo and power switch on the front of the Appartamento.

We thought perhaps the smaller footprint would mean small everything else, but a quick glance at the manual says otherwise: it has a 1.8-liter boiler, 2.25-liter water tank and E61 brew group. So what did it lose? To be honest, nothing. The cup warmer is a bit roomier and Rocket’s given us an (unfortunately plastic) cup rail to wrangle in mugs. We tried to replace it—because you know us and aesthetics—and discovered it’s not compatible with Rocket’s current metal racks. Perhaps a future accessory down the road, Rocket? We sure hope so. Either way, all that room for a handful of mugs means we can finally display our sweet Acme cups.

Conclusion

What do you think of Rocket’s new addition? The Rocket Espresso Appartamento has all the makings of Rocket’s bigger models packed into a mini machine. The new colored dots add extra style to an already good looking machine, and with two color options, there are more choices for a home brewers kitchen.