Category Archives: Semi-Automatic

Crew Review: Bottomless Portafilter

If you’re interested in fine-tuning your grind and tamp — or just really love a good show — the bottomless portafilter provides a great tool for calibrating your technique. In this video, Gail shows us how it’s done.

New! Breville Die-Cast Programmable Espresso Machine BES820XL

Always on the look-out to expand the vast array of espresso machines we have available, we just added the Breville series to our products over at Seattle Coffee Gear. As we’ve begun testing them, we’re starting to dig the 820XL — for a machine under $500, it’s got some great features.

First off, the die-cast, stainless steel casing is really gorgeous, with smooth lines and incredibly sturdy and durable finish. It also has programmable buttons, so you can easily reproduce your espresso shot every time, without having to worry about watching it to turn it off. Finally, it has a unique boiler design that results in a bit better temperature regulation than you might find on other single boilers in this class.

On the downside, it only comes with a pressurized portafilter, so you’ll have less control over your shot and it will be infusing the espresso with air — not producing a traditional crema. It doesn’t have a three-way release valve, so you end up with a watery puck, and the portafilter is stainless steel so suffers from some inconsistency in temperature regulation (unlike its chrome-plated brass brethren).

Overall, it’s a good value — if you’re not ready to lay down the cash for a Silvia but want something a little more powerful than the Aroma, this could be right up your alley.

The Grind: September 2009

The September issue of Seattle Coffee Gear’s monthly newsletter has hit the bricks! In this month’s issue, we have a delicious Buttercream Cappuccino recipe, a directory of our most recent videos, some tips on using oily beans in your superautomatic and a few new product features. Plus, a coupon code for 10% off $99 or more during the month of September. Check it out!

Rancilio Silvia V3 Single-Hole Steam Tip

When Rancilio was reworking the new Silvia, which was released in May, they tested it with a three-hole steam tip. It seemed to work just fine in their European testing labs, but when it hit the market in the US, they got nothing but grief. Ostensibly the difference in using a machine on 220V as opposed to 110V, the tip just didn’t offer a big improvement — the power and the boiler size simply couldn’t support the increase in steam expression and the resulting milk frothing was sub par.

Since the first iteration of the V3, they have released a new round of machines that comes standard with a single-hole steam tip. The steam wand is still the awesome, 360 degree articulating wand that we have grown to love on the V3, but with a single hole in the steam tip instead of three holes — which has vastly improved the steaming performance. If you’ve got the first generation of the Silvia V3 and would like to see how a one-hole tip performs, you can pick one up for just $9.95.

Does Size Matter?

For some of us it does! Especially if you’ve got a snug kitchen into which you’d like to introduce a high-end espresso machine. In this video, Gail and Kat line up several models of machines and measure them out so you can see how they compare, dimension-wise.

Final 2 Giro D’Italia Giottos For Sale

Our primary goal with auctioning off the Giro D’Italia Giottos was to raise a nice chunk of change for Coffee Kids, one of our favorite charities. And while we got a lot of coverage and many folks learned about our auctions, the going price for these machines wasn’t quite what we were hoping for — they’re more expensive than the regular Giotto Premium Plus models, but many of the going auction prices for this limited edition ended up being around the same retail as the standard Giotto. We weren’t able to close one of the bidding deals and we were able to secure one more machine, so we thought that we’d do something a little different with the final two for sale.

Instead of auctioning them off, we’ve opted to list them on our website for the price of $3299, which will include a $1500 donation directly to Coffee Kids. Our original goal was to raise about $2500 (or, $500 from each machine), so this will definitely cover that and then some. These are collector’s edition models and will only be more rare as time passes, so we’re hoping that someone out there will find the value in both the machine and Coffee Kids’ cause and purchase this model because they resonate with them both.

Our first real foray into charitable auctions didn’t turn out as well as we would have liked, but we learn something new all the time! We’re optimistic that the right two people will come along and purchase these last two available models at some point in the future, and that we’ll be able to pass along their generosity to Coffee Kids.