Even if you don’t buy into New Year’s resolutions, there’s nothing wrong with thinking about little ways to improve your quality of life and that of those around you. (We know what you’re like without your morning coffee. It’s okay, this is a safe place.) Why not start with a commitment to make better coffee in 2013? Here’s a list our best selling gear from last year to help you get started!
Saeco Aroma Black – $229 Stainless Steel – $259
Compact and durable, the Aroma is a great entry-level espresso machine. It’s extremely easy to use, and the pressurized portafilter and included pod adapter will have you brewing with E.S.E. pods, pre-ground espresso, or freshly ground beans with ease.
Saeco Via Venezia Black – $299 Stainless Steel – $349
The Via Venezia and Aroma share the same internals therefore they function almost identically, but the Via Venezia offers some slight improvements: larger capacity water reservoir (98 oz), steam wand with more mobility, and more clearance between the drip tray and brew head so you can brew into larger cups. This little workhorse will keep you caffeinated with no problems.
Breville Infuser BES840XL – $499.95
The Infuser is the only espresso machine in this price range to offer an internal PID, and while it’s not programmable, it stabilizes the brew temperature for perfect shot extraction. With built-in pre-infusion, commercial style steam wand, and compact stainless casing, you’ll be proud to have this on your counter top.
Rancilio Silvia – $629 with PID – $879
Simple, reliable, durable. The Silvia is one of the best sellers in the home espresso market and it’s a great machine on which to hone your craft since you’ll need to be precise with your grind and tamp. Upgrade to the installed PID version for programmable temperature control.
Saeco Syntia SS Superautomatic – $849
The Syntia is a compact and stylish superauto that offers the convenience of automatic espresso brewing paired with manual milk steaming – perfect for folks who order extra-hot lattes. With Saeco’s removable brew group and Intenza water filter system, it’s also easy to maintain and a great option for those who need a little extra help in the morning. ☺
Crossland CC1 – $699 (now 10% off!)
A PID comes standard with this single boiler, which let’s you customize brew and steam temperature, pre-infusion time, and volume. We love the stainless steel casing, thermo-block enhanced steam to switch quickly between brewing and steaming, and the programmability for this price point.
Breville Double Boiler – $1199.95
When you’re ready to brew and steam simultaneously, you’re ready for this bad boy. With an easy to use interface, you can program the electronic PID with extraction temperatures, volumetric control, and pre-infusion duration.
Nuova Simonelli Oscar – $1050
If you think you need a dual boiler for simultaneous brewing and steaming, think again. Heat exchangers like the Oscar provide similar benefits at a lower price point. This machine has great steam pressure, a large water reservoir, and is also available as a direct connect machine. It’s available in a sexy metallic red as well – vroom vroom.
DeLonghi 23450SL -$1499.95
This is one of DeLonghi’s newer superautomatics on the market, and if you are a bleary eyed zombie before your morning java, you will appreciate its one-touch functionality. It produces some of the hottest coffee we’ve seen from superautos.
Saeco Exprelia -$1899
This one-touch dual boiler is streamlined and compact, and we love that if offers both one-touch functionality for auto-frothing milk or manual steaming with a stainless steel steam wand – no panarellos here. Right now we are offering a year’s supply of coffee with the purchase of a new Exprelia!
Rocket Cellini Premium Plus – $1799 Giotto Premium Plus – $1899
Hand craftsmanship, a commercial grade E61 brew head and high polished stainless steel seduce many an espresso lover to bring the Cellini or Giotto Premium Plus into their lives. You’ll be extracting delicious shots and impressing all your friends with this one.
Sky’s the Limit
Rocket R58 – $2699
You’re ready to take it to the next level with this powerhouse. The dual boilers work independently to stabilize the espresso boiler, and maximize steam pressure without compromising shot quality.
Saeco Xelsis – $2999 or Xelsis ID – $3199
The only thing missing from these superautomatics is the ability for them to read your mind…coming in 2015 (Just kidding!) Right now you’ll have to be satisfied with the ID’s fingerprint recognition technology to access your drink profile and create beverages at the touch of a button.
Izzo Alex Duetto II – $2250 Duetto III – $2495
This dual boiler has commercial quality components, electronic PID control, and the option to plumb into your water line. It’s new older brother, the Duetto III offers an upgraded fit and finish, larger drip tray, and stainless steel cup rails. Both solid performers can take your java to the next level.
One of the elements you can control on the Breville Dual Boiler is both the pre-infusion pressure and the duration prior to shot extraction. Factory setting is 60% of the overall pump pressure for 7 seconds, but what happens when you change the pressure? Or if you keep the pressure the same and change the timing? Of course, all coffee will react differently to these settings, so we decided to experiment with Equator’s Espresso Blend to see how making changes to this parameter affected the overall flavor of the shot.
Watch Gail try different pressures and different pre-infusion times to determine if the factory settings are the best bet for Equator Espresso.
When Breville’s YouBrew was first released, we weren’t in love with the grinding functionality. Of course, we’re crazy when it comes to high concentrations of coffee particles suspended in our water, so a ton of people loved its grind and brew functionality without issue. With the recent release of their glass carafe version, Breville has tweaked the grinder and improved the consistency and dosage functionality to produce a stronger cup. So, of course, we had to put it to the taste test!
In this video, we brew up batches of java on the Technivorm and on the YouBrew, then ask our trusty crewmates to taste them and give us their opinion on which they prefer. Find out which coffee maker — if any — prevailed!
Given that she had to coerce us into cleaning our bedroom by rather surreptitiously hiding small change in the corners (and encouraging us to ‘find what the fairies left!’), our mother would be quite relieved to know of our passion for cleanliness in adulthood! And while you won’t find nickels and dimes in the brew head or the water tank — at least, you shouldn’t — Breville’s maintenance supplies make it easy and almost as fun to keep your espresso machine clean.
She then discusses their charcoal/resin filters, shows how to install them and explains why they’re necessary — especially with the Dual Boiler.
In the market for an entry-level coffee grinder? You don’t need to drop a ton o’ loot to pick up a nice model from either Baratza or Breville.
Looking for an entry-level espresso-grade grinder and not sure where to start? Well, we like a grudge match around here, so you may have seen the previous stand-offs between the Breville Smart Grinder vs the Rancilio Rocky and the Baratza Virtuoso vs Breville Smart Grinder. Those may have left you wondering: How do all three stack up against each other? Being the mind readers that we are at SCG, Kat and I used a Breville BES900XL and Velton’s Bonsai Blend to put these grinders through the paces.
Let’s compare them side-by-side:
|Baratza Virtuoso||Breville Smart Grinder||Rancilio Rocky|
|Burr Type||Conical steel||Conical steel||Flat steel|
|Case Material||Plastic||Brushed stainless steel||Stainless steel|
|Height||13 inches||14 inches||14 inches|
|Hopper Capacity||8 oz.||1 lb and hopper is removable!||8 oz.|
|Weight||16 lbs||5.6 lbs||18 lbs|
|Programmability||None||LCD screen lets you set grind (coarse to fine) volume (in cups and shots depending on fineness of grind) and dosage (weak to strong)||None|
|Timer or on/off switch||Timer and manual||Timer and manual setting||Manual only|
|Time to grind double shot||12 sec||22 sec||20-30 sec|
|Dosing||Only with timer, not by weight/volume||Automatically adjusts with grind; from coarser (dose in cups) to fine (dose in shots)||Doser avail for +$10, otherwise chute only|
|Grind consistency (1-5 scale, 5=most consistent)||40 individual step settingsFinest setting: 3
Coarsest setting: 1
|25 settingsFinest setting: 4
Coarsest setting: 2
|55 settingsFinest setting: 5, like talc
Coarsest setting: 3
|Shot performance (scale of 1-5, 5=strongest)||3: Overall, a solid shot, with the depth you’d expect from a fresh grind and proper dial-in.||4: A solid shot with great flavor and slightly more complex notes using the 2nd finest setting.||5: Shot has a great mouth feel, and you can taste more complexity and richness to the shot.|
|Notes||No frills, no fuss, easy to use, it’s a strong performer for espresso and other coffee applications. No electric panel makes trouble shooting a breeze as your grinder ages.||The lightest of the pack, this grinder is extremely versatile and a great value. It’s all about the features and accessories: portafilter holders, ground coffee canister, removable hopper to switch out beans.||Commercial quality for home use and it shows. Largest footprint of all grinders, a big commitment to your counter top, but with definite benefits in shot quality.|
The Rocky is a literal heavyweight coming in at 18 pounds and a hundred dollar heftier price tag, but there’s no doubt that the commercial quality burrs make a difference when it comes to tasting the complexity of your shot. I love the Virtuoso’s ease of use and inherent versatility, so it’s often my go-to for testing espresso, pour overs and french press. But like an ostrich, I am drawn to shiny objects and I wish it had more stainless in the casing. The Smart Grinder fulfills this need, and weighing in under six pounds means it doesn’t need to be a permanent fixture on your countertop – but it could be because it’s great for households with multiple coffee drinkers with different bean preferences. What would you choose?
It’s time to get serious people.
If you want to make excellent espresso drinks at home, a double boiler machine allows you to demonstrate both your dedication to the cause and your enviable skills. Featuring separate boilers for steaming and brewing, these machines offer excellent temperature control and simultaneous brew/steam functionality.
In this video, Gail talks to us about four different models — the Rocket Espresso R58, Izzo Alex Duetto II, La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi II and Breville Dual Boiler — including their features, pros & cons and why you might purchase one model over another.
One of the benefits of an espresso machine with a PID interface is that you get to play around with the temperature, almost without consequence. Of course, you’ll end up in a jittery haze as you taste shot after shot, but that’s all part of the fun.
Watch Gail pull shots of Atomic Cafe on the Breville Dual Boiler, using different temperatures; we taste them and then discuss how they compare.
While we loved several of the features on Breville’s BES830XL, the temperature consistency did leave a bit to be desired. So imagine our tearful joy when we learned that Breville was implementing an upgrade to the internals of this machine and releasing a new model!
You can check out the differences between the older heating tech and the new heating tech (if you’re into that kind of thing) in this video. Then watch Gail take us through the BES840XL’s features and demonstrate functionality. The BES840XL will be available in mid-June 2012.