As with everything in life, when you choose one thing you will always have give up a little something elsewhere. And that’s not always a bad thing! But in order to make an informed decision you should know what it is exactly that you will be gaining and losing. When it comes to espresso machines, a lot of what you will be gaining and losing is espresso shot quality.
Let us preface by saying that there are a lot of factors that need to come together in unison in order to create the perfect shot of espresso. Everything from the grind, to the tamp, to the humidity in your environment need to be just right for that espresso to make the ultimate list of all things delicious. So one machine simply can’t make all things come true. But it certainly can get you close.
When it comes to espresso machines you have essentially three families: manual, semi-automatic and super-automatic. We are going to focus on the semi- and super-automatics since they tend to be the most popular. The super-automatics are the one stop shop machines. Espresso at the push of a button. Super convenient for those who want it. The semi-automatics give you a little more control over your espresso shot. You have the ability to fine tune your grind and tamp pressure to just how you like it. That is not to say that super-automatics don’t give you options, but there will inherently be less.
As a result, your shots will vary from machine to machine. We think that you can pull better shots on a semi-automatic but that comes at a cost. You will be required to hone your craft in order to get that sweet nectar just right. While a super-automatic will get you close enough with little to no effort. It all comes down to what you want! That’s really the best part of it all.
Watch the video below to hear Gail’s full explanation of espresso shot quality from machine to machine. And be sure to check out our YouTube channel as well for more information and Crew Reviews!
In case you didn’t already know, we love our Saeco Gran Baristo with Removable Bean Container. In fact, we love it so much that we made an updated Crew Review just for kicks! Well, we actually wanted to showcase this machine again because we found the more we used it the better our experience was.
What are some of our favorite features of this machine you ask? Well the first one is in the name, “removable bean container”! This comes in handy if you find yourself with a couple types of coffee just waiting to be brewed. Perhaps something different for the evening? We also love the programmable user profiles. Since everybody likes their coffee a particular way, the Saeco Gran Baristo makes it easy for up to 6 different users to customize and save their drink preferences. Another feature that really rocks our world is the adjustable spout. You are able to adjust the spout so you can have up to 6.5 inches of cup clearance. Quad-shot cappuccino anyone?
We did few tests as well to see just how well the Saeco Gran Baristo functions in real world environments. The results of our temperature tests are as follows:
Espresso - During testing we were able to get both of these drinks up to 171°F on more than one occasion.
Milk - After three rounds of automatic milk frothing we were able to get the temperature to 144°F.
Hot Water - The hot water generally stayed around the 160°F mark.
We give this machine a thumbs up for functionality, performance, and quality of the drinks it makes. Watch the updated Crew Review below and then head over to our YouTube channel to see what else Gail has been up too.
We all love our superautomatic espresso machines. And why wouldn’t we? They make us our espresso drinks with just a push of a button and for that we are grateful. Superautomatics are so good at what they do that we sometimes forget that they too need a little love and attention every so often.
So we asked Gail to give us a run down on what we should be doing to keep the espresso flowing morning after morning.
Watch this new installment of Ask Gail to find out the steps to proper superautomatic espresso machine care.
If we had a nickel for every time we heard this question, or a dime for every time a superautomatic was decommissioned due to this, we’d be rich (okay, maybe not rich, but we’d easily have a couple of dollars). However, we’d much rather save some machines then have the extra change jingling around!
The short answer is, unfortunately, that you cannot use oily beans in a superautomatic. Very dark and oily roasts clog up grinders and brew units over time, eventually leading to one very unhappy coffee robot. In superautomatic espresso machines, this is quite problematic, as you cannot take apart the grinders to give them a good, old fashioned cleaning. Eeeks!
If you’re looking for more info, and we know you are, Gail and Miranda have the lowdown for you. Take it away, ladies!
Nine out of ten home baristas agree, soupy pucks are a coffeehouse sin. Well, maybe not a sin, but in our experience it’s pretty close! What causes a soupy puck and why exactly is it so bad? When it comes to the hard questions, we like to ask Gail!
Gail and our excellent customer service team are always reiterating how important it is to dial in your grind – and this Ask Gail session is no exception! Having your grind too fine can cause soupy pucks, as a super fine grind will hinder proper water flow. The water is then “trapped” on top of the puck and released into the dredge box with the under-saturated puck, causing a sour or bitter espresso shot and the undesirable soupy puck.
If you think there could be more to your soup-tastic pucks, check out our first edition of Ask Gail!
Jura has been busy designing a lot of new machines, and this latest model is sure to impress all of your friends! The Jura Impressa F8 contains a mix of some of the best features from the brand’s new and older machines. However, in our opinion the nicest part about this machine is its software and all of the programmability it has.
One of our favorite settings on the Impressa F8 is the “Expert Mode,” which allows you to be the authority and change the settings (shot volume, shot strength, shot temperature and amount of milk used) for all the drinks that are programmed on the machine. Likewise, the F8 gives you the option of changing the volume of your shot once the machine starts to brew, allowing you to customize and play around with your drinks on the fly. Finally, the machine also has a counter so you can keep track of how many shot you’ve pulled and how many drinks you’ve made, and use that to help calculate when your machine is due for a cleaning.
Speaking of cleaning, while Jura doesn’t provide you with access to the brew unit, which is the case on all of their superautos, they do provide you with some pretty efficient automated cleaning tools. These tools can be found and accessed in the maintenance section of the machine’s programming. For instance, you can program the Jura Impressa F8 rinse both your coffee and milk system to ensure your machine doesn’t get gunked up with coffee residue or old milk.
The Jura Impressa F8 is ideal for someone with a lot of users in their home, such as roommates or large family, that enjoy making a variety of coffee drinks. While we wish Jura had incorporated a little more stainless steel into the casing of the machine, we like that it has features like a bypass doser and digital screen as well as a ton of functionality. Watch as Brendan and Gail play around with the settings for making a cappuccino on the Impressa F8, and attempt Gail’s famous superauto latte art.
We are excited to announce a new addition to the Saeco family. Part of the Minuto class of the machines, the Saeco Pure is the second machine that is in this category that we know of, but the brand claims that they are going to add at least one machine to the family and possibly more.
The release of the Pure couldn’t happen at a better time as one of Saeco’s other beloved machines, the Vienna Plus, has recently been discontinued by the brand. However, the Pure is an excellent replacement. Like the Vienna Plus, the Pure’s simplicity and wallet-friendly price point make it a great option if you are just getting into the world of espresso. This machine is a great option even if you consider yourself an old pro when it comes to superautomatic machines, but just want just the basics and not all of the fancy and sometimes complicated settings that come with higher end superautos. Keeping on up your maintenance is also a breeze with the Saeco Pure. Just like the Vienna Plus, the Pure has a removable brew group, so you can pop it out of your machine whenever it is due for a cleaning. If you want to speed up the process, you can put the brew group in your dishwasher. We just recommend that you put it in the top rack of the dishwasher so it doesn’t melt.
While the Pure is part of the Minuto family, this model does have three major differences from the first Saeco Minuto. First, the Pure doesn’t have a coffee lever that allows you to brew drip like the Minuto does. However, there is a button to press that will brew a lungo (long espresso) so you can get something close to drip coffee. Second, you can’t adjust the strength of your shot (also known as the aroma). As such, you’re best option from regaining some control over your shot is to cut back on the amount of water that is going to be dispensed, which will make the coffee stronger. Third, the burrs inside the Pure aren’t ceramic like on the Minuto, but are stainless steel. Keep in mind these differences don’t make the Pure not as good of an option as the Minuto, just a different one. With the Pure, you are provided with some programmability with the bypass doser, the ability to program the length of your shot or the option to brew a double shot.
If you’re looking to add this machine to your family of appliances decorating your kitchen, check out Gail and Brendan’s demonstration of the Saeco Pure. They’ll go through the features, compare them with the machine’s almost twin, the Saeco Minuto and brew up Gail’s famous wet cappuccino. It’s so good; we’ll never get tired of it! If you listen carefully you can even pick up some pro-tips for milk frothing with a panarello from Gail.
Like many of our other favorite brands, Jura is always working on innovating their machines, and the latest edition is pretty easy on the eyes. The Jura Impressa C60 has the same sleek styling as its predecessor the Impressa C5, but many of the features on the machine have been enhanced. In fact, it almost seems as if Jura took a look at our list of areas that had room for growth and improved upon these items.
One of the more common complaints about the C5 was that users did not have much control over the functions on the machine. You had programmable control over the water volume, but not over the temperature or the shot volume. However, Jura has remedied this on the Impressa C60 by allowing you to adjust the volume, dosage and strength of the shot on the fly so you can make important last minute changes to your drink right before you brew. While you still don’t have the option to change your brew temperature on the fly with the C60, you can select it to be either “high” or “normal” in the machine’s menu.
Another drawback of the Impressa C5 is that while it would brew your coffee at one touch of a button, there was no automatic milk frothing option. This may not have been an issue for budding baristas, but we have found a lot of superauto users enjoy having the machine do the work for them and wished the C5 would do the same. Well, you no longer have to dream, as this wish has been granted. The C60 is equipped with Jura’s Fine Foam Frother, so you can make light and fluffy milk for cappuccino with just a touch of a button, no barista school required!
Ultimately, the biggest pro of the Jura Impressa C60 is the really inexpensive price of the machine, considering all of the options it has. We also like the programmable auto-shut off, since it allows you to go about your business around the house, and elsewhere, without having to worry whether you left your machine on. Do-it-yourselfers may not like being able to access the brew unit on the machine for cleaning, which is an issue on all Jura superautos, but we haven’t heard any complaints as they have tablets that do the job for you.
To see what exactly has been upgrade on the Jura Impressa C60, watch as Brendan and Gail explore the new functions on this machine. Of course, this test wouldn’t be complete without rewarding all of their hard work by making their signature cappuccino.
Just when you thought brewing your morning cup of Joe or espresso on a fully automatic espresso maker couldn’t get easy easier, Nespresso has created a new machine that further simplifies the process. Not only is the Nespresso VertuoLine capable of brewing espresso and coffee, but it also has been designed to do the thinking for you when it comes to making your preferred beverage.
How this possible? The machine is programmed to read the bar code that is printed around the rim of each capsule and determine the pressure (it still does nine bars of pressure on espresso), water volume, temperature and rotational speed it should use to brew each blend. If you’re wondering what rotational speed has to do with making coffee, Nespresso has developed a new technology that actually spins the coffee capsule while it is brewing. Water is then injected into the capsule while it spins, which likely allows the grounds to get better saturated. Some people may miss having the ability to program their machine themselves, but Nepresso believes you won’t ever need to as they have done a lot of testing to ensure their brewing parameters are just right.
One downside of the Nespresso VirtuoLine is that the old Nespresso capsules won’t work with it, since they aren’t designed for the VirtuoLine system. Thus, if you are upgrading from one of the previous Nespresso machines, make sure to use all of your old capsules before retiring your old machine. However, your new Nespresso VertuoLine does come with a sample box of capsules (or “Grand Crus” as Nespresso calls them), so you can sample the four espresso and eight coffee blends to determine which ones you like the best.
Overall, we really liked this upgrade to the Nespresso line. This compact machine brews a very hot and smooth cup, with a lot of crema. There is even a surprisingly large amount of crema on the coffee option; you may want to stir it in to the rest of the coffee in order to combine the flavors. Likewise, since the VertuoLine is so easy to use, it is a great option for people who want no muss and no fuss when creating their brew. The machine is also great for people who only want to brew one cup at a time or for households where everyone wants something different. To see how the new brewing process works, watch as Gail and Dori give the coffee and espresso a whirl on the VertuoLine.
In our technologically advanced lives, where nearly everything can be done in an instant, the desire for a fully automatic espresso machines is continuing to grow. Luckily, we have brands like Krups who are “dedicated to precision and technical perfection” to continue to create fancy little superautos for us. We recently got our paws on the newest machine to hit the U.S. market, the Krups Falcon EA84, and decided to give it a whirl.
With such an impressive name, we were a little disappointed that the Krups Falcon didn’t fly around our kitchen when we unpacked it. In all seriousness though, this machine does have some pretty impressive features. Instead of having pre-set drink options, the EA84 allows you to tailor your drinks to your specifications on the fly. For instance, you can choose the number of shots you want, the strength of the coffee (aroma) and the volume of water used to make the drink. Besides being smart enough to create the perfect drink, this machine also keeps track of how many drinks you’ve brewed and how many coffee pucks are in the dregs box. This allows the Falcon to remind you when it is time to clean the machine, descale, empty the dregs box and change the filter.
Another aspect we like about this machine is the super cappuccino, which is a milk frother and hose that you can attach to the steam wand to create rich and steamy microfoam. In fact, for automatic steamer, the super cappuccino gets surprisingly hot. In addition, there is even a handy container built into the corner of the machine’s drip tray where you can store this device when it is not in use. Ultimately, the Krups Falcon has a lot of programmability, making it a good option for someone who likes to try new things, and not get in a routine of having the same shot every day. To learn more about the Falcon, watch as Gail, Brendan and Scooter examine its functions.