Category Archives: Superautomatic

Crew Review: Krups EA82 Redux

KRUPS EA82Krups has been popular for decades, and much of the brand’s success is to due to the fact they create products with a high level of functionality and enduring quality. As such, it is no surprise that they are the maker of some of our favorite little robots, aka automatic coffee and espresso machines. Part of this lineup includes the Krups EA82 Espresseria, which has been around for a couple of years. In fact, its small size and affordable price have had made this machine one of our tried and true products. It has been awhile since we played around with all the features of this machine, so we decided to give it a more an in-depth look.

The Espresseria may appear unassuming at first glance, but this espresso maker packs in a lot of features for a machine in this range. The EA82’s display and programming make it incredibly easy to use, even for novice baristas. Likewise, the thermoblock boiler allows the Espresseria to create consistently hot drinks time after time. (A word to wise, by hot, we mean really hot, as in almost 200 degrees Fahrenheit. As such, you may want to let your drink cool down for a minute or two to avoid burning your tongue like us.) The milk frother does an excellent job of creating rich, foamy milk. Plus, it is nice to have the option of being able to have the EA82 froth your milk automatically or try your hand at frothing yourself. Most superautos only provide automatic frothing, so the opportunity to play around if you start to feel adventurous is certainly an added benefit.

If the Krups EA82 didn’t already simplify your life enough by making delicious espresso drinks for you, it also contains a special slot for storing a plastic coated manual. This feature ensures that your manual is always close at hand if you ever need to troubleshoot your machine. That’s right, no more digging through a “junk drawer” of manuals to find the one you need. Should you need further assistance, there is contact information for support in nearly every country imaginable, so no matter where you are help is never far away.

Finally, while most superautomatic espresso machines can be bulky, the Krups EA 82 is pretty small in size and will not take up a lot of space on your counter. As such, this machine is great option for people who are just starting out, don’t have a lot of room or looking for an affordable machine to help ease them into the world of espresso. To learn more about the Krups EA82, check out Brendan and Gail as they model a few of our stylish SCG t-shirts, and try out some of the machine’s settings.

Crew Review: Krups EA82 Redux

(Not so Scientific) Experiment: Cappuccinatore on the Intelia Focus

Intelia FocusWe love the fact that the Intelia Focus (also known as the black version of the Intelia) is energy efficient and has vibrating finger guard to quickly and painlessly send our beans down the grinder chute. However, we’ve long wondered if it is possible to use a cappunccinatore on this machine to froth your milk as you can on its stainless steel brother and the Intelia Cappuccino. Don’t get us wrong; we do like the panerello that comes with this machine, since it does allow for slightly more controlled milk frothing. Yet, since the Intelia Focus is superautomatic machine, there are some of us that wish the entire process was automated.

For people who aren’t familiar with the cappuccinatore, it is a hose-like attachment that travels from the milk frothing pitcher with your milk to the milk frother inside your machine. The milk is then sucked up from the container, frothed in the machine and finally dispensed in your cup. Before we tested the cappunccinatore on the Intelia Focus, we wanted to see how well it worked on a machine the cappunccinatore is built for, so we started our experiment on the Intelia Cappuccino. The milk this little frother produced was surprisingly hot, around 173 degrees Fahrenheit according to our Fluke temperature probe. After this impressive result we decided to repeat the experiment on the Intelia Focus. Since the Focus has the same internals as the Intelia Cappuccino, we had a good feeling about how this test would turn out. As expected, the cappuccinatore did indeed work on the Focus. We were surprised to find that the temperature of the milk produced was considerably cooler, however, coming in at about 140 degrees Fahrenheit on our thermometer. We’re not sure why there is such a huge difference in temperature, but were excited to that our experiment worked, since having more options is an always an advantage. Check out our video with Gail and Brendan to see how the cappuccinatore works on Intelia Focus for yourself.

(Not so Scientific) Experiment: Cappuccinatore on the Intelia Focus

Crew Review: Jura Impressa Z9

Jura Impressa Z9All of you techies out there are sure to fall in love with the new Jura Impressa Z9. The Swiss brand is known creating top-of-the-line machines; this one lives up to its name with an impressive lineup of features and functions. At least it impressed us anyway!

This latest addition to Jura’s army of superautomatic robots has lots programmability that enables you to speed up and simplify your morning coffee routine. The auto-on option allows you to set the machine to turn on at a certain time so it will be all warmed up and ready to go as soon as you’re out of bed. Likewise, the six preprogrammed drink options allow you to make your favorite drink with just the touch of a button. You can even customize the default settings for these drinks so they are brewed with the exact volume, temperature, coffee strength and amount of milk you prefer.

Maintaining the Impressa Z9 is also a breeze. Both descaling and rinsing are programmed into the Z9, so you can easily clean your machine whenever you desire. If you’re not sure when to clean your espresso machine, the Z9 still has you covered, as it will keep track of the number of shots you have made and notify you when it is due for cleaning. Be forewarned that the Z9 will not let you slack on cleaning, since it will not let you brew shots until you clean it or replace your filter. While this may sound a little high maintenance, the upside is this process ensures your espresso machine stays in good working order. In fact, we have found that most Jura’s rarely need to go in for service as a result.

Finally, not unlike your iPhone, the Jura Impressa Z9 has a sleek and sophisticated case and you can change the background and color scheme on the machine’s touch screen. Ultimately, this espresso maker is a great option if you like the machine to do a lot of the work for you. Perhaps you are new to coffee, have never pulled shots using portafilter or just like the convenience of having your coffee made for you. To see more of the Jura Impressa Z9’s functionality, check out Gail and Brendan as they put the machine through its paces.

Crew Review: Jura Impressa Z9

Crew Review: DeLonghi Magnifica ESAM 3300

DeLonghi Magnifica ESAM 3300We aim to please, so since several of you have asked for a video on the DeLonghi Magnifica ESAM 3300 we went ahead and filmed one. After all, the Magnifica is one of our most reliable espresso machines as it as has been on both our shelves and on customer’s counters for years. In fact, we know of one customer who has had their machine for at least seven years! And why wouldn’t you want this little superauto residing on your counter? It’s compact design and built-in grinder means it won’t take much space. In addition, you can access the water tank and all of the controls from the front, so you don’t have to worry about moving your machine around to get to what you need.

Oftentimes superautomatic espresso machines come with so many bells and whistles it can be confusing to figure out how to use all of the options. Not so with the DeLonghi Magnifica ESAM 3300. What you see is what you get, and what you get with this machine is a really great deal. The Magnifica is one of the few superautos under $1,000 with a bypass doser. If you’re not familiar with bypass dosers, they are a nice feature to have since they allow you to brew with pre-ground beans as well as the whole beans in the grinder on your machine. Thus, if you want to try a different roast or switch to decafe coffee in the evenings you can do so without emptying the bean hopper on your machine.

Best of all, our customers report that they experience very few breakdowns on the DeLonghi Magnifica ESAM 3300, making them one of the least returned machines we sell. Treat your machine well, descale often and you too can you have this little robot on your counter for years to come! To see this machine’s functionality in action, check out Brendan and Gail as they make one of her famous wet cappuccinos.

Crew Review: DeLonghi Magnifica ESAM 3300

Crew Review: Saeco Xelsis Evo

Saeco Xelsis EvoSpring has long been a time of renewal and new beginnings, and that certainly seems to be the case for many of our grinders and espresso machines. A number of our favorite brands have taken your feedback on their products to heart and updated their machines accordingly, and Saeco now joins their ranks. Recently, the Saeco Xelsis Evo was released as an update to the existing Xelsis One Touch Espresso Machine.

The main difference you’ll see on the new Saeco Xelsis Evo is the updated milk carafe. Many of our customers found that on the previous Xelsis One Touch their milk wasn’t getting hot enough, which is problem that we often see on superautomatic machines. Saeco listened to this feedback and updated the hose that runs from the milk carafe to the espresso machine (it is now smaller), the lid on the milk carafe and even the milk frothing software in order to develop a machine that produces much hotter milk. The other nice thing about the Xelsis Evo is that the machine auto rinses whenever you turn it off, on or make a milk-based drink. This feature is almost as good as having your own personal maid, since it will help keep your milk carafe really clean. However, this is not an excuse to skimp on your machine’s maintenance, which is still really important if you want to keep your espresso maker in good running order.

Another thing we like about the Saeco Xelsis Evo is that it is a very sophisticated superautomatic with lots of programmability. You can create up to six different user profiles and save nine customized drink options for each profile. A few of the features  you are able to adjust are the aroma (or the dosage of your coffee), the volume of the shot and if you’re making a milk-based beverage, the amount of milk you want as well. With so many options that allow you to create the perfect cup of coffee for everyone, the Saeco Xelsis Evo is ideal for a large household, or even a small office, with lots of different users. If you don’t have a large family, don’t be surprised if a lot of your friends start coming over for visits!

To learn how to take advantage of all the options on this machine, watch Gail and Brendan as they try a few of them out and make a cappuccino.

Crew Review: Saeco Xelsis Evo

Semi-Automatic vs. Superautomatic Espresso Machines

superautomatic espresso machinessemi-automatic espresso machineIf you are coffee connoisseur (or at least a budding one) by now you’ve probably heard about semi- and superautomatic espresso machines. You’ve likely also heard that there are some differences between the two when it comes to operating them. However, you may have wondered, “What really makes a semi-automatic espresso machine (besides being able to create a really good shot) different than a superautomatic (which is often described as more convenient) machine?” T o clear up any lingering questions, we decided to explore these two types of machines in a little more depth, so you can see what factors make these machines unique. And of course, ultimately determine which is right for you.

Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines

Semi-automatic machines are generally the most popular choice for consumers who are looking for a “traditional” home espresso machines. These machines feature a boiler, portafilter and a switch to activate/deactivate the pump to perform the extraction. It is this last feature that puts the “semi” in automatic, if you will. While the other features are automated, you have control over when the extraction begins and ends. There are also semi-automatic machines with programmable doses that allow you to program the extraction to stop after a certain length of time.

Brewing

As we discussed above, whether you flip a switch or program in when you want the extraction to end, with a semi-auto you have control of the water flow for every shot you make. Why is this a good thing? It provides you with opportunity to perfect your shot. For instance, if you create a good looking shot but it’s pouring slowly, you can let your pump run longer to provide more time to complete the shot. On a superautomatic you usually don’t have this option. Superautos usually have a preprogramed time for shots that determines when to end them, which could potentially cause shots to end too soon.

Portafilters and Grinders

Another key component of using a semi-automatic machine is using a portafilter to insert the coffee into the machine. There are a couple of different styles of portafilters that can come with a machine, but the two basic types are non-pressurized or pressurized.

Non-pressurized portafilters are usually larger (58 mm) sized and made with chrome or chrome plated brass. This provides the heftiness that is necessary for temperature stability, which makes it possible to create a better shot of espresso. However, this design requires that you have a very precise grind and tamp. This can make non-pressurized portafilter harder to use, since it is more technical, but many people claim it is worth the effort since you can get a really great shot – if you have the right equipment. For this reason we recommend that you get a good grinder (which we’ll discuss more later) if you get a semi-automatic machine.

Pressurized portafilters use either a valve or special filter basket that will not let water out of the portafilter until the right amount of pressure has been reached. This allows the portafilters to compensate for an imperfect grind or uneven tamp, which make them a good option for people that don’t have a grinder or who are using pre-ground coffee.

Finally, if you want to get into ESE pods you’re in luck, since many semi-automatics accept them. You can purchase baskets that will allow pods to fit into pressurized and non-pressurized portafilters or can even find portafilters that are designed specifically for pods.

Most semi-automatic machines do not come with a built in grinder. We won’t say all, because there are a few that do, like the Breville Barista Express, but most do not. This means that you will either have to get a separate grinder or use ground coffee beans to dose your portafilter. If you want to be able to play around with your grind and tamp to achieve that perfect shot, you will want to get a non-pressurized portafiler and a really good grinder. In fact, it’s best to start out with as high of quality grinder as you can afford, since the grinder is more important than the machine when it comes to getting good shots. On the other hand, if you don’t want to get a grinder or have to tamp your coffee, a pressurized portafilter will be the best option for you.

Frothing/Steaming

There a couple of different types of boilers you can find in semi-automatic machines and, depending on which you choose, it will impact whether you can brew and steam at the same time. Generally, smaller and less expensive machines will contain a single boiler. This helps keep the machine’s footprint small, but it also means that you won’t be able to brew your coffee and steam your milk at the same time. However, mid-range or higher end semi-autos will usually have a thermocoil, heat exchanger, single boiler with a thermoblock or a dual boiler. All these options, with the exception of the thermocoil, have a bigger boiler or even two boilers allowing you to brew and steam simultaneously.

Semi-automatic machines usually come with a traditional steam wand, which require you to “work” the milk a bit in order to get a good froth. While there is a slight learning curve to frothing milk, it isn’t as hard as it seems. In fact, some people prefer having a traditional steam wand, since it again provides them more control over how to the final product turns out. Some semi-autos do come with a panarello wand that injects air into the milk, making the frothing process easier.

Superautomatic Espresso Machines

Often known as the machines that “will do everything but fold your laundry,” superautomatic espresso machines are great for people who like the convenience of being able to make their drink of choice in just a few minutes. While it may be hard to believe, these machines do indeed do almost everything for you including grinding, tamping, brewing your coffee and even steaming the milk for your espresso shot. As a result, these machines are incredibly easy to use and will produce a consistent shot every time, with no muss or fuss.

Brewing

Part of the magic of superautomatic espresso machines is that they make creating your favorite drinks a breeze. The machines all have varying levels of programmability, but some of the most common features on these machines are the ability to adjust your brew temperature, brew volume, extraction time and water hardness. Many machines also have an auto-on function, so your machine will be warmed up by the time you get up in the morning. In addition, some superautomatic espresso machines have one touch pre-set espresso drink options, others have you manually enter your drink selection while others still let you save personalized drink selections.

Most superautomatics come with a built-in grinder, so you don’t have to worry about grinding your beans yourself. Yet this doesn’t mean you don’t have any control over the results. Many superautos will allow you to adjust the fineness and the dosage of the coffee so you can get the flavor and strength you desire. The downside of having a built-in grinder is that while you have the ability to it, there are a limited number of changes you can make. Thus, there is some advantage to having a semi-auto machine that allows you to have a separate grinder, which provides you with an infinite number of grind settings.

Another caveat is that they do not do well with super oily or dark roasts. The oil the beans produce can cause the grinder to clog over time, often doing a number on the machine. Finally, if you want to brew pre-ground coffee, some machines also feature a bypass doser. This feature provides you with the opportunity to brew something besides the beans you already have in the machine’s bean hopper, such as a decaffeinated version of espresso.

Frothing/Steaming

Not unlike semi-autos, there are a variety of options when it comes to what type of boiler is inside your superauto. The most common options are thermocoil heating systems (which don’t give you the ability to brew and steam at the same time), thermoblock heating systems and dual boilers (which do allow for simultaneous brewing and steaming).

Superautomatic espresso machines also offer a couple of choices when it comes to frothing milk. There are machines that use a standard steam wand to froth milk or ones that have a panarello. Some superautos make the process even easier and will automatically froth your milk in a separate carafe or even have a steam wand that will come down and froth your milk right in your own cup.

So, Which is Better?

When it comes down to purchasing a machine, some people use how much maintenance is required to decide what type of machine to get. While this is not a bad factor to keep in mind, you should be prepared to do regular maintenance on either a semi-automatic or superautomatic machine. It’s true that semi-automatic machines do require a little more maintenance, since you will have to clean the portafilters, baskets and shower screen. However, superautos need TLC too, and there are some steps like cleaning the brew group, steam valve and steam wand that are important to perform no matter what type of machine you have.

Ultimately, what is most important when picking out a machine is determining what you want to get out of your machine and what features are most important to you. Now that you know a little more about each type, hopefully you can figure out which will work best for you.

Crew Review: DeLonghi PrimaDonna Exclusive

DeLonghi PrimaDonna ExclusiveIf you are as big of a fan of ‘90s music as we are, you might have learned from Sheryl Crow that “a change would do you good.” Clearly, the manufactures at DeLonghi have taken this advice to heart with the creation of the DeLonghi PrimaDonna Exclusive. This espresso machine is upgrading and replacing the DeLonghi Gran Dama 6700. While the 6700 is a great machine, and well loved by many of our customers, DeLonghi has made a few tweaks to the machine’s design to make it even better.

One of the newest, and coolest, features of the PrimaDonna Exclusive ESAM 6900 is the one touch chocolate system. As part of this unique function, DeLonghi has included a new separate carafe that has a spin drive built into it that allows you to mix up and heat hot chocolate. Not only does this keep something as sugary as hot chocolate separate from your milk, but also allows you easily create drinks like mochas and chocolate for the kids.

DeLonghi has also upgraded the programmability of the machine. The PrimaDonna has a new profile system, that allows you to create six profiles where you can customize everything from the length of your shot to the strength of your shot, and even the amount of milk you want in your drink. There is also an auto-start option for each profile, so you can have different start times for drinks on weekdays and weekends. All of this is accessible on a large, color display that is easy to see and navigate.

In addition to the new features, the machine still includes many of the functions users have always enjoyed; such as the long coffee feature as well as options for creating one touch lattes, cappuccinos and macchiatos. The variety of drinks you can make on this machine and the number of customizable profiles makes it a great option for large households or people who like having a lot of choices. To learn more about the new DeLonghi PrimaDonna Exclusive, watch as Gail and Brendan walk us through the features and teach us a few tips.

Crew Review: DeLonghi PrimaDonna Exclusive

Tech Tips: Test Mode on the Saeco Xsmall

Saeco XsmallTrue to its name, the Saeco Xsmall is the brand’s smallest superautomatic espresso machine on the market. As result, this machine takes up very little space on your counter but still comes at an affordable price with a lot of basic functionality. The machine’s streamlined design also makes everyday maintenance, like filling the water reservoir, emptying the dregs box or even cleaning the brew group (yes, it’s removable!) a breeze.

Another one of our favorite features on the Xsmall is the troubleshooting-related, test mode section on the machine. In fact, when one of our superautos starts acting up, one of the first things we do is access their respective test mode sections. Why is this helpful? Test mode allows you to operate the functions of your espresso machine freely, outside of the software of the machine. This means you can run your grinder, pump or brew unit motor to see if they are working properly without having to brew a shot and wasting your favorite coffee beans. To make the troubleshooting process easier, these different components are broken down into four test mode levels on your machine (for instance there are different levels for checking the machine’s sensors, brew unit, water flow, grinder and boiler) so you can test everything related to one area individually.

While test mode is extremely useful, getting into it on the Xsmall can be a little challenging. In this video, our parts guru Brendan teaches us how to access it and navigate the four different testing levels on the machine.

 

SCG Tech Tips: Test Mode on the Saeco Xsmall

Tech Tips: Test Mode on the Saeco Intuita

Saeco IntuitaOne of the hidden secrets of many espresso machines is that they come with an accessible test mode section. What is great about test mode is that it is an excellent resource for troubleshooting your machine. For instance, test mode can allow you to determine if components like your water pump, grinder or brew unit motor aren’t working because they are broken or because something in the machine has been misplaced and is keeping them from working.

One espresso maker that has this functionality is the Saeco Intuita. Luckily, as its name suggests, getting into the test mode section on this machine is more intuitive than it is on other espresso machines and only requires a few simple steps. Once you are in test mode, there are five different levels to explore, which allow you to test everything from the lights on the machine to the grinder. You can even test the machine’s sensors to make sure they are working properly, which is a great way to help pinpoint what is causing an alarm in regular mode.

In this video, Brendan shows us how to access test mode on the Intuita, guides through each of the different levels and explains how to use each one to diagnose any problems you are having with your machine.

SCG Tech Tips: Test Mode on the Saeco Intuita

Tech Tips: Saeco Talea Touch Test Mode

Saeco Talea TouchThe fact that the Saeco Talea Touch does nearly everything for you (except fold your laundry) makes it one of our more popular espresso machines. Not only does this machine’s technology allow for easy brewing, but it also enables you to access the Test Mode section, so you can give it a “check up” and explore the cause of any issues that may be occurring.

One of the greatest benefits of Test Mode is that it allows you to freely operate the functionality of your machine. For instance, you can do things like check to see if your grinder is working without brewing a shot of coffee, monitor if your brew unit motor is running right or even see if your pump is in good shape. While this mode is useful, the Test Mode for the Talea Touch is one of the more challenging to get into. You must know a special code, as well as how use it, which are both cryptic enough to warrant the use of a secret decoder to finger them out. This is also the case for both the new and the refurbished Saeco Talea Touch Plus, which requires you go through the same process to access the Test Mode.

Luckily, we have something even better – our parts and tech expert, Brendan, who told us the secret code and how and when to enter it. Once we were in, he also showed us how to navigate through the system and play with the options, which are much easier to use.

SCG Tech Tips: Test Mode on the Saeco Talea Touch