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.

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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.

How To Guide: Ask a Question

Ask a Question

You’ve probably spent hours reading through product reviews and prolonged stories just to discover the question you’re looking for wasn’t there. Enter: Ask a Question—our way of saying, “Hey, we know you’ve got burning questions best answered before you’ve made a purchase.” Ask a Question is an interactive community of machine owners and product experts answering questions using their real experience. If it goes unanswered, our Crew steps in with the best response—we’re coffee machine owners, too!

Where To Find It

Under every product, we’ve included the “Ask a Question” tab. Click on the tab and you’ll see all the questions and answers. To ask and answer questions, you can be anonymous or log in to your account.

How This Works

  1. Type in your question. If there are matching questions in our Q&A database, we’ll show them immediately.
  2. If there aren’t any, submit a new question. You’ll get fast answers from customers who really own the item(s) and from our product experts. (About half the time you’ll get an answer in under two hours, depending on your question and the item you are asking about…)

Done! Now you can save time searching through the internet. If you need a place to start thinking of questions you’d want to ask, we’ve got you covered.

Good Topics To Ask About

  • Which items will best meet your needs
  • What customers who own an item think of it
  • How to use, fix or take care of an item
  • Product information
  • General advice related to the types of products we sell
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Here’s a customer’s answer to a question on the Saeco Xelsis Evo.


Share Your Experience

As a proud new owner of a coffee maker, you’re in the know. Make suggestions for newbies or share your early morning coffee routine. It’s your time to shine and show you’ve got this—remember the pure satisfaction of knowing the answer in class and impressing all the kids and teacher. Yeah, it’s something like that.

Now, you owners might be wondering how you’ll know there’s a new question to be answered. We’ll shoot you an email and let you know when there’s a new one. Or you can take a look under the Ask a Question tab and see if there’s anything you can answer. If you don’t know and you’re thinking you got to know too, just click on the “I Have This Question Too,” to let owners know. Our Crew can take on unanswered questions or provide other suggestions we know.

That’s all there is to it! Check out how many questions and answers you or others have entered by clicking on their name. You might be surprised at how much you know—any excuse to call Mom and brag, right?

 

Crew Review: Baratza Sette 270

How Does It Compare?

Here it is, the Baratza Sette 270! We’ll be testing its counterpart, the Baratza 270W soon, but in the meantime, we’ll give you the low down on Baratza’s two newest grinders. The main difference is the Sette 270W measure grounds by weight and features Bluetooth technology while the Sette 270 measures by time (as you’d find on a lot of grinders). Besides the extra technology added into the Sette 270W, these grinders, these grinders feature the same powerful mechanics.

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The anticipated Baratza Sette 270 has arrived on this week’s Crew Review.

Grind

Built with 40mm steel conical burrs,the mechanics of the Sette 270 seem similar to most other grinders on the market. We’ll just tell you, they’re not! The Sette 270’s magic is in its design. It’s the only grinder that has the outer burr rotate while the inner burr is fixed. With the motor mounted horizontally instead of vertically, the bean hopper is seated directly above the burrs, giving the beans a straight shot down the hatch—leaving virtually no grounds behind! Seriously, the coffee only travels vertically so the grounds don’t have a place to sit and stale.

The Sette 270 design create room for the bean hopper on top of the burrs.
The Sette 270 design create room for the bean hopper on top of the burrs.

This inspired design increases the Sette 270’s speed and efficiency. Baratza clocked the grinder at 3.5 to 5.5 grams per second! If you’re in doubt, check out our Crew Review video for yourself! Outfitted with a stepped macro and a stepless micro adjustment ring, it allows you to fine-tune your grind from French press coarse down to espresso fine. We’ve experimented with the finest settings to see if we could choke the grinder and the Sette 270 persevered! We’re blown away by how fast and efficiently the Sette 270 turns beans the size of pencil erasers into powdered sugar.

Sette_display
Three programmable buttons allow you to save more grind settings.

Once you’ve played around with the Sette 270 and found your just-right grind, Baratza gives you three programmable buttons to lock in time. But let’s say you want to change up your volume, Baratza’s got an answer for that too! Kyle from Baratza calls it, the “pulse” button. If you press and hold it, it’ll start manually grinding until you release it.

Pro Tip: It takes a second to engage the manual grind, so be quick about it! If you only want a small amount, do some trials with the grind and program it to save on beans.

Glamour

Did you know Sette in Italian is seven? Right, right! The name’s in the design. Purely talking about the Sette 270’s looks, the shape is similar to some recent espresso machines that have been released like the Nuova Simonelli Oscar II. The angular shape is breaking away from the mainstream style we’re accustomed to and showing off more curves. All these new dimensions are aesthetically pleasing and fit in easily with different espresso machines and coffee makers available.

The Sette 270 is named after its unique shape. Sette means seven in Italian.
The Sette 270 is named after its unique shape. Sette means seven in Italian.

Cleanup has never been easier! With the beans direct path, there are almost no residual grinds. If you do want to do some light cleanup, the bean hopper comes off easily with a door (Kyle calls it a ‘Hopper Stopper’) that swings shut. There’s a handful of beans left over, so you’ll want to either vacuum or tip those out. Afterward, we recommend taking a grinder brush and sweeping out the leftover grinds. A deeper clean is easy to achieve too. You don’t need a screwdriver on the Sette 270, the whole burr twists right off! Take the macro adjustment past the lowest setting and it’ll drop out. This does mean you’ll lose your grind setting, so be aware of the macro setting and be patient dialing it back in. Luckily, there are no loose screws or small parts to worry about.

Grade

We’ve been working our way up to this: What other benefits are hiding in the Sette 270’s horizontal design? Constructed to optimize efficiency, Baratza created the best convertible holder we’ve seen in a long time. The horizontal design freed up space for a container up to 5.75 inches tall and 3.50 inches wide. The width is based on how far the two arms extend. These arms also have a third smaller arm to easily hook in your portafilter. Switch it from espresso to holding a Hario V60—yeah, it can do that. It can handle holding different types of equipment for the different grind settings it offers.

The Sette's 270 three arms easily support a portafilter.
The Sette’s 270 three arms easily support a portafilter.

We know you’re itching for the deets on the Sette 270W. Kyle from Baratza visited us and revealed the in and outs of this new innovation. Both are built with the same mechanics, but the Sette 270W takes this innovation further using weight measurement and Bluetooth. Check out our Baratza Sneak Peek 270W video and let us know what you think!

Crew Comparison: Breville Dual Boiler Vs. Rocket Premium Plus with PID

How Does It Compare?

Don’t judge a book by its cover. The Breville Dual Boiler and Rocket Premium Plus are two completely different looking machines packed with impressive espresso power! The Breville Dual Boiler, as the name implies, features a double boiler while Rocket Premium Plus comes equipped with a heat exchanger. For someone looking to purchase one of these beautiful machines, one question to ask yourself is what type of boiler do you want: heat exchanger or double boiler?

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

There’s a heated debate about which type of boiler is better. Double boilers have a dedicated boiler for brewing and steaming, which allows you to accurately dial in the correct temperature for each independently. A heat exchanger has one boiler at steam temperature and a tube siphoning water from the reservoir through a chamber within the boiler that indirectly heats the water to a brewing temperature. While this method isn’t always consistent, an estimated brew temperature is based on the length of the chamber.

You’re probably wondering why this is even a debate. It sounds like you’d want a double boiler for consistency. We’ve dived into the differences in a past post you can check out here, but the gist is that heat exchangers are continually siphoning fresh water to brew while double boilers use water that’s collecting minerals from boiling. That’s not to say a double boiler makes worse brewing water, but the argument is how the water’s heated to brew. A double boiler actually has a quicker recovery time to brew drinks back to back, so you might consider in your comparison for the right espresso machine for you.

Shot

Breville is known for its user-friendly functionality and they certainly didn’t let us down! The Dual Boiler is outfitted with two programmable buttons that set your customized espresso volume and temperature settings. Or opt for the manual button to control the process. There’s also a little extra cushion for newbies: Breville comes with non-pressurized and pressurized portafilter baskets to make up for inconsistent coffee grounds (you know, the occasional chunkier grounds). Hallelujah! This semi-automatic has a little bit of something for entry level and experienced baristas.

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.

The same can’t be said for the Rocket Premium Plus—it’s all hands on! It comes with the standard non-pressurized baskets and the PID is the only digital control you have over this machine, otherwise, you’re manually controlling pre-infusion and brew time. The Rocket’s manual lever mechanics are reminiscent of traditional Italian espresso and is well suited for this machine’s sleek design, but that does mean you’ll have to dedicate yourself to expanding your barista skills and techniques.

The Rocket's built in PID is purposefully hidden underneath the drip tray to maintain the sleek appearance.
The Rocket’s built-in PID is purposefully hidden underneath the drip tray to maintain the sleek appearance.

Being consistent on a heat exchanger adds an extra challenge for brew temperature, but the legendary E-61 brew head uses a thermal siphon system to maintain the brew head temperature and makes your espresso consistently hot—and the brew head even hotter. Seriously, don’t touch that bad boy! It’s too hot to handle. Jokes aside, the E-61 brew head is exposed and poses a risk for burning whereas the Breville Dual Boiler also features an enclosed heated brew head that’s out of harms way.

Steam

Both use a traditional steam arm, which generally take practice to perfect your frothing technique. If you’re willing to put in the time, these machines are capable of making delicious steamed milk in short order. Bonus points go to the Rocket Premium Plus for outfitting it with a no-burn wand making cleanup a breeze. We will say while the Rocket is a no-burn that doesn’t mean it’s not hot—it’s on fire! After making ourselves a latte, we needed to use a towel to handle the steam arm. With the Breville steam wand, you’ll also want to keep a towel nearby to quickly wipe it off after use, as it becomes a bit harder to clean if you leave it too long. While it may take a bit more cleanup, Breville designs its products to be incredibly convenient and added a finger guard loop that makes it easier to adjust the wand for steaming and cleaning even when it is hot.

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

Circling around to the PID again, they upgraded the Breville Dual Boiler so you can adjust the steam boiler temperature between 265ºF – 285ºF. The PID on both machines will keep the temperature within  one degree of the set temperature. Since the Rocket is a heat exchanger, the boiler is designed for steam and that’s pretty evident when you turn it on. The Rocket’s steam pressure is comparable to the Nuova Simonelli’s. Hands down, the Rocket Premium Plus has powerful steam and we’d even venture to say it’s more powerful than the Breville Dual Boiler.

P.S. The Rocket uses Celsius, so Fahrenheit users will have to convert the temperature. That’s what you get when you get a Rocket hand-made in Italy.

Style 

Every Rocket’s hand-made in Italy with individual personality showing through the fine details. Rocket’s contemporary design will look flawless in brewer’s kitchens while it’s traditional components please espresso enthusiasts. The Premium Plus, both the Giotto and Cellini models, are purposefully constructed with simple turn knobs and levers and has no visible technology. Like we mentioned before, there is a digital PID, which has far better temperature control than without it, but Rocket was stern on maintaining a clean, structured style.

The Rocket Giotto Premium Plus features sleek designs with kicked out side panels.
The Rocket Giotto Premium Plus features sleek designs with kicked outside panels.

 The Breville Dual Boiler owns its modern design and is outfitted with a list of convenient features. The brushed stainless steel maintains uniform with many of today’s kitchen appliances. The pressure gage placed front and center on the Dual Boiler adds some vintage taste alongside those convenient programmable features. In fact, Breville hides a lot of the components, such as the three-way solenoid valve that’s clearly visible behind the Rocket’s brew group. The Breville Dual Boiler user-friendly features such as being able to program the auto-on time and alerts make the Breville’s overall design a crowd pleaser.

 Conclusion

There’s a lot we could say about the Rocket Premium Plus and Breville Dual Boiler: They’re both close in price and feature similar capabilities suitable for entry-level to prosumer. For a powerful, hands-on Rocket, we’ll be preaching, “Practice makes perfect,” to anyone hesitant on buying a more manual espresso machine. The Rocket Premium Plus isn’t as complicated as you’d think—actually, we’d say its simple mechanics make it easier to control and allows you to focus on mastering your grind and extraction time to achieve your perfect espresso. Of course, Breville Dual Boiler compensates a little more for entry-level baristas with its programmable buttons that let you set your espresso settings, removing all the guesswork each time you brew. Then, of course, we’ve dived into the debate between two types of boilers. Each boiler design has its own list of pros and cons for different people. We’ll just say, checking out all the machine on the market, the way the machine’s mechanics are handled impacts the quality. Breville and Rocket both excellence in quality and the proof is in the coffee.

Adult Mexican Coffee Affogato

Once in a while you need a little extra humph with your coffee. What’s better than a little tequila and coffee liquor to get the engines revving? Quick answer: Adding ice cream to your booze! Drink up this deliciously creamy Adult Mexican Coffee Affogato that’s just in time for Cinco de Mayo. Thank you, Jane for taking all of our favorite things into one yummy drink!

We used the trusty Breville Barista Express so we could grind and brew our espresso in one go. The easy programmability is nice after a couple of espresso shots, too, and you can be sure you’ll have a line out the door for this drink! We picked Victrola’s Streamline Espresso for the smooth chocolate and fruit flavor that’s robust in an espresso.

Pro Tip: We recommend a robust coffee blend for this drink, but it’s not necessary with the coffee liquor to get a well-rounded flavor.

Equipment

Ingredients

  • 16 grams coffee
  • 1/2 ounce tequila
  • 1/2 ounce coffee liquor
  • 1 BIG scoop vanilla ice cream
  1. Prep your espresso machine ahead of time. (If you’re using the Breville Barista Express, we clocked it at 70 seconds)
  2. Add one big scoop of ice cream, tequila and coffee liquor into your glass.
  3. Grind 16-ounces of coffee to make two shots of espresso. Brew straight onto your glass!
  4. Stir it up and take a big bite of your Mexican Coffee Affogato. ¡Delicioso!

Three Mother’s Day Brunch Ideas: Coffee and Food Pairings

Brunch

Skip the hour-long wait for cold coffee and expensive food for Mother’s Day brunch, we’ll help you show off your culinary chops with the best coffee and food pairings. Just like wine, different coffees pair with food to enhance and complement the flavor. We decided to help you cheat a little and made some suggestions for meals to plan with these three coffee profiles: savory, sweet and balanced. Whether your mom has a sweet tooth or prefers her food slathered in hot sauce, we’ve picked out some great brunch ideas to pair with coffee.

Savory: Cafe Ladro Ladro Espresso

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Ladro’s signature espresso blend brings out complex flavors in our cup. Roasting notes describe it as creamy, sweet and chocolatey notes. The SCG crew first thought was, “Spicy Mexican food?” It’s full and savory body is the perfect blend for a robust cup of French press or as espresso. Whichever way you serve it, Ladro Espresso is a shining example of coffee that’ll complement your favorite savory dishes.

Pair It With:

  • Salt & Pepper Avocado
  • Spicy Mexican Food
  • Cornbread Muffins

We’re going all out with our favorite Mexican-brunch dish, Huevos Rancheros! Spicy peppers add an extra kick and lots of flavor to Ladro’s signature blend. Try this delicious Huevos Rancheros recipe from Epicurious. 

Sweet: Victrola Rwanda Gakenke Hinga Kawa

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Grown by the Hinga Kawa (“Let’s Grow Coffee”) women’s association in Rwanda, this coffee’s as rich in flavor as it is in Rwanda’s women’s history. The women of Hinga Kawa, both Hutu and Tutsi, experienced the darker days of Rwanda’s history but have decided to make poverty their enemy, not each other. This coffee is an example of the brave women at work. Decadent notes of black cherry and cinnamon are sure to please Mom’s sweet tooth while sparkling grape adds a bit of bite. This coffee’s bright profile is best with some fresh fruit and muffins.

Pair It With:

  • Cinnamon Coffee Cake
  • Blueberry Muffins with Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Baked French Toast

Who says you can’t have coffee and mimosas? A tall glass of OJ and champagne will complement the sparkling acidity found in Victrola’s Rwanda coffee. Pair it with a sweet treat such as this Raspberry Scones recipe from Martha Stewart.

Balanced: 48th Parallel Coffee Longitude 123 Degrees W

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Serving a balanced breakfast is almost as important as having coffee in the morning—almost. 49th Parallel Coffee’s Longitude 123 Degrees W is a clean cup with delicate sweet notes of fruit and nuts. Delightful to drink without cream or sugar, this blend’s light flavor won’t overpower your meal. This balanced blend is perfect for all types of brewing, so brew it with Mom’s favorite coffee maker.

Pair It With:

  • Berry & Nuts Parfait
  • Scrambled Cheddar Eggs with Citrus Glazed Bacon
  • Eggs Inside Whole Grain Toast

A complete balanced breakfast needs four things: protein, carbs, fat and flavor. Our favorite go-to recipe is pancakes and bacon! Dress it up with this Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes by The Baker Mama for clean eating and Citrus Glazed Bacon by Martha Stewart. The citrus glaze brings out the best acidity in this cup.

Crew Review: Nuova Simonelli Oscar II

How Does It Compare?

The future is here. You’ve been asking for it and finally we’ve got it! We unboxed the Nuova Simonelli Oscar II and we hardly even recognize it. The original Oscar was wrapped in a plastic shroud that dulled the mighty power of its espresso. The Nuova Simonelli Oscar II is decked in steel and features clean reflective angles—hello, gorgeous! The new design did a complete 360 from the original, literally; the new C-shape front allows room for the extended steam wand that rotates on a 360° ball joint to reach every angle of your frothing pitcher.

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The updated steel body and C-shaped structure create beautiful dimension.

The innards of the Oscar II and Oscar are nearly the same. It’s still a heat exchanger with a copper boiler, which produces that fierce steam power and allows you to brew at the same time. The reservoir saw an upgrade in capacity and a bigger hole for sticking your hand in to clean out any gunk. Mostly, the Oscar II’s design finally reflects the high-quality that makes the Nuova Simonelli machines top of the line.

Oscar2_water
The updated water reservoir holds 2.8 liters of water for more cappuccinos.

Shot

Hurray for heat exchangers! If you’re like us, we love to brew and steam at the same time so we can get to our latte faster. The Oscar II features front-facing indicator lights for the boiler and reservoir so you’ll know exactly when you’re ready to brew. Even though our indicator light clicked off at the nine-minute mark, you’ll want to give your machine a good 30 minutes to heat up. 

Oscar2_buttons
Program a single or double shot using the soft-padded buttons. Above are two lights that indicate low water and the boiler temperature, respectively.

The two programmable buttons allow you to set the volume of a single or double shot. Getting the right volume is easy-peasy, too. Press and hold one of the volume buttons and wait for it to flash; once it’s flashing, press again to start the flow of coffee. When the cup’s filled to your desired caffeine intake, press it again to program the volume time. Tada! Coffee is served. Great coffee at that! We noticed the Oscar II pulled consistent shots and even at the set factory settings offered delicious espresso. Pro Tip: unboxing the Oscar II we noticed it pulled longer shots that give you enough wiggle room to program your preferred shot time.

Steam

Nuova Simonelli is the official espresso machine provider for the Barista Championship, so you know it’s got it going on. The steam power behind the Oscar II is a force to be reckoned with—they can’t let those professional baristas down. On a 360° rotating ball joint, you can get into any container at any angle to froth. Plus, the four holes releasing steam add extra power on all sides. The steam’s nice and dry, too, so there’s no extra moisture but plenty of piping hot goodness.

Oscar2_steam

Grabbing the nearest pitcher of ice cold milk, we put the steam wand to the test. Whole-y milk froth, Batman! In less than 10 seconds, we were looking at microfoam and feeling hot, hot hot! Needless to say, you’ll want to watch out where you put your hands when you’re steaming—remember the four holes that release steam. It’s so quick too, that some of Seattle Coffee Gear’s novice baristas were having trouble texturing the milk just right. The steam power is definitely something you’ll want to get a feel for with practice. Of course, our veterans took to it like a duck to water and were swimming in ponds of beautiful latte art quality milk.

Style

Curvy in all the right places, the Nuova Simonelli Oscar II is carved to catch your attention. The clean look of the steel complements modern taste while the C-shaped frame adds futuristic dimension. Stand head on, the rippled brew head and reflection off the drip tray are reminiscent of a Cylon from Battlestar Galactica (seriously, go search “Cylon” right now). All these elegant curves and edges are interrupted by something it seems Nuova Simonelli forgot to add—oh yeah, the switch for the steam wand. Sticking out like a sore thumb, the switch flips on or off and we’ll generously add you can push it ever-so-slightly to get quick steam. For power and functionality standing behind the steam pressure of the Nuova Simonelli, it’s unfortunate to see the steam lever handled so carelessly.

The color block look is another eye-sore on this machine. We love the chrome. We love the black. We’re not fans of the gray. The color of the steam switch doesn’t coordinate with the rest of the design, either, unless you count the muted gray buttons and portafilter as a close match. Rubbing a finger over the surface of each button, it’s like flipping through the channels of an old remote control. The outdated texture leaves us yearning for more.

Oscar2_sidefront

The Oscar II comes with a 58mm commercial-grade non-pressurized portafilter with breakaway spouts—can we just say those open spouts offer the best view in the house? What’s not lovely is the plastic handle. You’d think the chrome cap was metal but it’s not. The other faux-steel look is the rippled chrome brew head. While you can’t tell from a distance it would have been nice to move away from plastic and committed to real steel like the rest of the body and drip tray.

Conclusion

The Nuova Simonelli Oscar II captures power and style. The updated steel body reflects the high-quality build of Nuova Simonelli’s internals and the new angled front adds intriguing dimension as well as more room for a longer steam wand. Just to recap, we steamed milk in 10 seconds! The steam wand on the original Oscar has nothing on the new one! It’s much easier to access and angle your pitcher in. While we went off on the plastic components a bit there at the end, the overall design is a refreshing upgrade from the previous model with all the same powerful gears making delicious espresso. 

Spring Apricot Scones

Scone1

The sun is shining, Cinco de Mayo is around the corner and we’ve got coffee on the brain! Naturally, we picked up a bag of our only coffee grown in Mexico, Velton’s Mexico Nayarita, and brewed ourselves a pot. This single origin is bursting with sweet notes of apricots and strawberries with hints of citrus and that got us thinking…we need a scone with this! Well, truth be told Gail has been dropping not-so-subtle hints on our videos that she really wants scones with her coffee. Inspired by the flavors of Velton’s Mexico Nayarita—and Gail’s subtle hints—we cooked up this recipe for Spring Apricot Scones!

We surprise her with a fresh batch of these scones on this week’s episode of Good Morning Gail—and let’s just say they were a hit with Gail and her cup of Velton’s coffee.

Equipment

  • Medium-sized bowl
  • Pastry blender
  • Mixing spoon
  • Cookie sheet for baking
  • Brush for egg wash

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cups peach greek yogurt*
  • 3/4 cups dried apricots
  • 1 lemon for zest
  • Optional 1 egg for egg wash
  • Optional pinch of Demerara sugar**
  1. Set the oven to 425 degrees and grab the cooking utensils you’ll need.
  2. Prep ingredients. Grab a cold stick of butter from the fridge and chop into small chunks (you don’t want it melted or at room temperature). Dice apricots to the desired size and zest one lemon. The lemon adds refreshing flavor perfect for springtime!
  3. In a medium bowl, mix all the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
  4. Add the chopped butter to the flour mixture and use a pastry blender mix until the butter is in pea-sized pieces.
  5. Fold in peach greek yogurt, dried apricot and lemon zest until all the flour is moist (don’t use the pastry blender for this part).
  6. Add a bit of flour to a flat surface and shape the dough into a circle. Aim to have the dough height at half an inch and then cut into triangular sections at the desired size. Pro Tip: We cut it once down the middle and then into five triangle pieces.
  7. Optional, but highly recommended, scramble an egg and wash the top and sides of the scones. Sprinkle Demerara sugar on the top. **Demerara sugar doesn’t melt and adds a nice sugary crunch to the top of these scones.
  8. Bake for about 13 minutes or until the tops are golden. Enjoy these refreshing scones with a cup of Velton’s Mexico Nayarita coffee!

*Like, you could use plain greek yogurt, but peach is just oh-so-good in these apricot scones.

Crew Comparison: Chemex Ottomatic vs. Bonavita Brewer 8-Cup

How Does It Compare?

If you’re looking for hands-off brewing, then you’ve come to the right place. Sit back, relax and let the Chemex Ottomatic and Bonavita Brewer 8-Cup take the reins. The Bonavita Brewer acts like your typical drip brewer but the Chemex Ottomatic has branched off from the norm and married pour over with automatic functionality. What does that mean, you ask? Basically, the Chemex took their iconic carafe and created a brew system that pre-infuses and blooms coffee as you’d perform for a pour over. Traditional drip coffee makers feature a continuous drip and usually don’t pause to allow the coffee to bloom, which is the case for the Bonavita Brewer.

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The Chemex Ottomatic with the Chemex Classic Coffeemaker Series carafe.
Bonavita8_Full
The Bonavita Brewer 8-Cup features the updated stainless steel-lined carafe.

How does the taste compare? We were curious if the Chemex’s innovative automatic pour over would create a different tasting cup. Using a fresh bag of Zoka Coffee’s Tangletown Blend, we brewed a pot on each. Our first thoughts were the taste was the same. After a couple of sips, Gail noticed that the coffee from the Ottomatic was smoother while the Bonavita had brighter acidity. The bottom line is both brewers make a similar cup.

Brew

Now that we know the coffee tasted similar on the Ottomatic and Bonavita, we wanted to understand the brewing processes. The Chemex Ottomatic is a new way to brew and it does it rather elegantly—dinner and a show! There’s no clunky basket obscuring your view of the brewing process; you can see the brew head gently dispenses hot water and pauses occasionally to allow the grounds to bloom. With all that pausing on the Ottomatic, it took roughly seven minutes to get our coffee. The Bonavita Brewer got us a cup in five and a half minutes since it continuously drips. Bonus: The Bonavita Brewer 8-Cup (model BV1900TS) is also SCAA certified, which means it went through rigorous testing on brew time, temperature, and overall quality.

ChemexOtto_4
The Ottomatic’s shower head evenly wets the grounds and pauses to allow coffee to bloom.

Another well-known brewing step called pre-infusion is featured on both machines. The Ottomatic automatically pre-infuses before brewing, which we appreciate if it’s truly trying to replicate pour over. The Bonavita’s pre-infusion, however, needs to be manually started. To turn it on, you press and hold the power switch for about five seconds (or waiting until the light flashes) then release and press it again to engage. See? Not bad but we could see people skipping this step and going straight to brewing and missing out on utilizing a great feature on the Bonavita.

Use this button to turn on and activate the pre-infusion.
Press and hold this button to activate the pre-infusion feature.

Brains

They might brew up the same cup, but they don’t think the same way. Besides the different brewing methods, the Ottomatic features a hot plate that’s automatically turned on after brewing. The carafe gets pretty toasty and pour over fanatics might scoff at the heating element—you know, we sort of turned our nose to it too. It’s great when you’re moseying around in the morning, grabbing a cup of coffee here and there, but if you accidentally leave the house—the Ottomatic won’t turn off. We tested it ourselves with a full carafe and gave it five hours to turn off. When we came back it was still on and the coffee was ridiculously hot. Why Chemex left out the auto shut-off is mind boggling. They included so many brainy automated pour over features in the brewing process that we expected the full automatic deal.

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The Ottomatic features a hot plate that turns off after brewing. The red light signals that it’s brewing.

The Bonavita Brewer 8-Cup also switches off brewing—which we’ll add saves your boiler. Thank you auto shut-off! There is no heating element, instead, it comes with a thermal carafe that can keep your coffee warm for about an hour give or take. For the best results, you’ll want to remove the basket and twist on the lid that comes with it. Speaking of the carafe, you might notice the new carafe is stainless steel lined. Bonavita has discounted the glass-lined and introduced this model instead. The coffee’s still hot and flavorful with the new carafe so it gets high marks from us! Overall, the brains of the Bonavita are not glamorous, but it’s practical and sufficient for getting a cup of coffee. And the Bonavita eliminates worrying about forgetting to turn the coffee pot off on hectic mornings.

The Bonavita's new stainless steel-lined carafe keeps coffee warm for about an hour.
The Bonavita’s new stainless steel-lined carafe keeps coffee warm for about an hour.

Beauty

Chemex is renowned for its elegant designs. The carafe’s iconic hourglass shape paired with the wood and leather makes a beautiful statement piece in your home. The history and following of the Chemex Classic Coffeemaker alone make it desirable. Looking at the Ottomatic brewing system without the carafe, the matte black and chrome will complement modern kitchens. It’s compact, smooth and designed to be seen from any angle—we had it lined up next to our Technivorm in the kitchen and then swung it around with the cord against the wall, it looked great either way. The one downside to its design is the plastic water reservoir, brew head, and hot plate surface. It cheapens the overall design of Chemex and one of the appeals of Chemex is the high-quality materials used in the carafe.

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The Ottomatic doing what it does best—making a pot of coffee.

The Bonavita Brewer 8-Cup is wrapped in brushed stainless steel and matte black like the Ottomatic. And just like the Ottomatic, the water reservoir, brew head, and basket are plastic—but were you expecting something else from a conventional drip brewer? Technivorm’s coffee makers are nearly identical in the overall structure and feature a stainless steel body with plastic brewing components. It’s a look that works and the materials function to make a good cup of coffee—plus, the Bonavita is SCAA-approved—so you know this coffee maker holds ups.

The plastic components, such as the reservoir, are expected on a conventional drip coffee maker such as the Bonavita Brewer.
The plastic components, such as the reservoir, are expected on a conventional drip coffee maker such as the Bonavita Brewer.

Conclusion

Coffee is the most important feature you could ask for in a coffee machine and both machines deliver a robust cup. If you’re looking to replace your old, worn out drip brewer, then you’re probably not looking at the Chemex Ottomatic; it makes a great cup but you’re purchasing a coffee maker like the Chemex for the iconic design. The Bonavita Brewer 8-Cup may be the least unique coffee maker on the market but its stainless steel body will look uniform with your stainless steel appliances—and the SCAA certificate pinned on it easily elevates its position.

Bonavita8_ShowerHead
The Bonavita Brewer 8-Cup (model BV1900TS) is SCAA certified, which means it’s been rigorously tested for brew temperature, time and overall quality.

Stefan’s Iced Tonic Espresso Recipe

We’ve got another delicious Coffee Collaboration recipe we just had to share: Iced Tonic Espresso with a dash of orange! We’ve received a lot of orange recipes that have and haven’t gone so well (hint: this crazy disaster with the AeroPress) and luckily this drink’s incredibly easy to make. All you’ll need is an espresso machine to make your shot and voilà—Iced Tonic Espresso à la orange.

Here’s a suggestion for picking out your coffee for this drink: We’ve sampled lots of coffees with citrus notes and that got us thinking we should pick a blend with balance. Zoka Coffee’s Zoka Java combines bright fruits with chocolate and nutty flavors.

Equipment:

Ingredients:

  • 1 orange slice
  • 6 ounces of tonic water
  • A couple ice cubes
  • 6-8 grams of coffee for a single shot
  • Squirt of orange (optional—but totally recommended)
  1. Prep your ingredients: slice up an orange and have your tonic water on hand.
  2. Add a couple ice cubes to a 10-ounce glass. Place the glass under the brew head of your espresso machine.
  3. Grind 6-8 grams of coffee into your portafilter. Brew directly into the glass. Aim for 20-30 seconds (you’ll want to dial in your shot and grind for balance between sour and bitter flavors)
  4. Add 6-ounces of tonic water and a slice of orange—and an extra squirt of orange if you’d like! Enjoy!

Pro Tip: The tonic water will fizz on contact! Add in more or less tonic water to taste.