Tag Archives: espresso machines

Crew Review: Nespresso Maestria

For ease, convenience and cleanliness, there’s really no beating a capsule espresso machine. Sure, you’re not going to achieve the God Shot, but if you’re looking for a great cup of coffee that you can easily make at home — one cup at a time — Nespresso‘s series of machines are definitely worth your consideration.

One of their newer machines, the Maestria, combines their typical espresso extraction technology with one great new feature: A steam wand! We really dig this because, historically speaking, milk frothing on a Nespresso machine was handled either by a stand alone frother (different variations of the Aeroccino) or via a cappuccinatore type system — neither of which gave you much control over the milk foam quality nor temperature.

Watch Gail take us from box to cup — showing us how to set up the Maestria and then making a latte using its steam wand.

Compare: Entry Level vs. Prosumer Coffee Gear

If you drop serious coin on your home espresso setup, will there be a practical performance difference? What if you spend more on your espresso machine than your grinder or vice versa?

We asked Gail to test out an entry level (Capresso Infinity) and a prosumer (Mazzer Mini E) grinder with an entry level (Krups XP5280) and prosumer (Rocket Giotto Evoluzione V2) espresso machine to see how they compare. Do you get a better shot using a high end grinder with an entry level machine? What about an entry level grinder with a high end machine?

Watch and find out!

Crew Review: Saeco Poemia

It’s the little espresso machine that could! Saeco’s newest small single boiler espresso machine takes design queues from their Xelsis-era of machines and functional queues from the tried-and-true Via Venezia and Aroma.

Watch Gail take us through features, show us how it works and then talk to us about how it compares to its predecessors.

The Race is On!: Rancilio Silvia vs. Crossland CC1

Time for a side by side grudge match with two of our favorites! We’ve collected some basic feature information on the Rancilio Silvia and Crossland CC1 so you can see how they measure up against each other.

For the Rancilio Silvia, we noted the stock functionality as well as the functionality you’ll gain if you upgrade it with a PID (a roughly $200 additional expense).

 

Feature Rancilio Silvia Crossland CC1
Configuration
  • Stock: Semi-Automatic. You’ll need to dial in the grind & tamp, then manually start and stop the shot.
  • With PID Upgrade: You can turn this into an Automatic with the PID by leaving the coffee button on and using the PID to start and then automatically stop the extraction.
  • Automatic
  • You’ll need to dial in the grind & tamp, but you can program shot infusion and duration for three different settings.
Boiler
  • Single Boiler
  • The 12 oz. brass boiler evenly distributes heat, so it will reach the desired temperature quickly. It will also maintain the temperature throughout multiple extractions and steam wand uses.
  • It has three thermostats to monitor the espresso, steam and boiler heat to maintain the ideal temperature for your caffeinated drinks.
  • Single Boiler + Thermoblock
  • In addition to the stainless steel boiler that is controlled by the PID interface, the CC1 features a thermoblock-enhanced steaming.
  • Rather than wait for the entire boiler to heat up to steam temperature, the thermoblock heats up the boiler water on the fly. This results in nearly endless steam (as long as you have water in your reservoir!) and no need to flush the boiler after you steam and before pulling your shots.
Solenoid Valve
  • Yes
  • The commercial-grade pressure relief system uses the three-way solenoid valve for easier clean up.
  • Yes
  • You won’t get mucky pucks from this machine, as it’s three-way solenoid valve sucks up any extra moisture and leaves you with a dry coffee ground puck every time.
Water Source
  • Reservoir / Internal Tank Only
  • The Silvia cannot be plumbed but has a 67 oz. removable water reservoir. Access is on the top of the machine and you can remove the tank or fill it while still in the Silvia. Without removing the reservoir’s lid, you can’t see how much water is left in there, so you’ll need to remember to check that regularly.
  • Reservoir / Internal Tank Only
  • The CC1 cannot be plumbed but has a 2 liter internal water reservoir. Access is on the front of the machine, as you pull the reservoir out and to the side to refill. This enables you to keep an eye on how much water you have left in the reservoir.
Pre-Infusion
  • Stock: No. The stock Silvia doesn’t have any pre-infusion capability, save for your manual switch on / off of the brew button briefly before beginning your full extraction.
  • With PID Upgrade: Yes. You can program pre-infusion time for one setting.
  • Programmable
  • The CC1 offers programmable pre-infusion and wait time for three different settings. This duration will be included in the overall shot time.
Programmable
  • Stock: No. The Silvia has a more simple interface controlled by manual switches. It gives you a little less to tinker around with and is fairly easy to use.
  • With PID Upgrade: Yes. You can select the temperature, pre-infusion, wait time and overall extraction time for one setting.
  • Yes
  • The Crossland CC1 integrated programming interface enables you to select temperature, pre-infusion, wait time and overall extraction time for three separate settings.
Digital Interface
  • Stock: No. Plain and simple, the Silvia does not have a digital interface or display and takes you back to it’s roots of relying on the machine itself without you adjusting it to give you your ideal cup o’ joe.
  • With PID Upgrade: Yes. You’ll have a digital read out of the temperature on the outside of the boiler, pre-infusion and shot time.
  • Yes
  • The digital interface displays your machines brew temperature, shot timer, boiler temperature and your programmed settings.
Thermostat
  • Stock: Standard, bi-metal thermostat, which can have up to a 20F degree differential, depending on where it’s at in its heating cycle. To work with this, temperature surfing is essential for brewing your espresso at the ideal temperature.
  • With PID Upgrade: Electronic. This will override the stock thermostat and maintain the boiler at the temperature you have selected in the interface. Note that it reads the outside of the boiler, so the set temperature should be roughly 20 degrees higher than your target shot temperature.
  • Electronic
  • The integrated PID allows you to set the temperature for three different settings. Additionally, it display actual boiler temperature vs. the temperature at the outside of the boiler.

Field Trip: Zipwhip’s Textspresso Machine

Let us introduce you to the hardest working robot in the business: Zipwhip’s Textpresso!

This super-modified Jura Impressa XS90 shows off Zipwhip’s cloud-based texting service by allowing you to text an order to the machine and have it automatically craft it for you. Without leaving your desk/couch/hot tub, thankfully. If you needed a one-touch superautomatic espresso machine that is even more automated, then this little number will make all your dreams come true.

Watch as Gail and Allison visit with Zipwhip’s John and Kelsey, who walk us through how they modified the machine and then craft two drinks at the touch of Gail and Allison’s cell phones.

 

 

If you want to learn more detail about how they created the Textpresso, check out their blog; or if you’re interested in making your own little java robot powered by text message, it’d probably be a good idea to start by signing up for Zipwhip’s service.

 

 

Crew Review: Rancilio Bottomless Portafilter

While we have carried a bottomless portafilter for E61 brew heads that also did work fairly well in the Rancilio Silvia’s brew head, it didn’t seal quite as we might like and so there was often a little bit of water leakage over the top that really was just gauche.

Rancilio released their own version for their commercial machines that fits the Silvia, so we gave it a test drive. We did notice a bit of water leaking over the top, but nothing like the former model. And the spurting/spraying/mini-geysers? There were a few present in Gail’s extraction — more of a fine mist — but that’s just a result of channeling, baby.

Wanna see it in action? Watch Gail demonstrate it on our store’s PID-enhanced Silvia.

Crew Review: Rocket Espresso Machines – V2

Rocket Espresso has souped up their popular machines with a couple of cool new improvements:

  • Premium Plus — both the Giotto and Cellini models will now have dual manometers, one for the steam boiler and one for the brew head. The boiler has also been insulated to decrease recovery time between shots or steaming.
  • Evoluzione — since the Giotto and Cellini versions already had dual manometers, their background color will be changed to differentiate them from their PP counterparts and the boilers will also be insulated.

Both models will also feature an upgraded stock tamper, as well.

Watch Gail walk us through these new models and demonstrate making a latte.

The Lowdown on Distilled Water

A common inquiry we receive is in regard to the type of water customers should use in their coffee making equipment. Some folks think that distilled water will be their best bet, as they won’t have to worry about scale build up or performing descaling procedures for the life of the machine. While there seems to be as many supporters as there are detractors regarding whether or not it’s healthy for the human body, we do know that distilled water is not healthy for your machine. Seriously!

First up, let’s talk about your equipment. Putting water that has a lack of ions or mineral content through equipment that is basically composed of minerals (stainless steel, copper, nickel, brass, etc.) means the water will take that opportunity to take on ions from the surrounding space, contributing to a slow breakdown of those materials. It will essentially leach minerals out of the metal components and degrade the machine’s performance over time. Additionally, there are several models of machines on the market (such as the Rockets) that use a minor electrical charge to determine if there is water in the reservoir. If there aren’t enough minerals in the water to conduct that charge, the machine’s sensor will report that the reservoir is empty.

Now, let’s talk about the coffee. The Specialty Coffee Association of America performed extensive testing and found that the ideal mineral balance is 150 parts per million (ppm). Coffee produced with water that contains this level of hardness is better balanced and a smoother cup. A lower mineral content allows for too much available space, often resulting in an overextraction and a bitter flavor. Conversely, water with a higher mineral content won’t have enough available space, so coffee will be underextracted and possibly more sour. As distilled water has hardly any mineral content (roughly 9ppm), using it for coffee preparation will result in a bitter cup.

We often say that you should use water that you like to drink to make your coffee — after all, coffee is over 98% water. Another option is to use softened water, which encapsulates the minerals, maintaining their structure within the water while prohibiting their ability to adhere to internal components. This can give you the best of both worlds: A smooth and balanced cup of coffee while also reducing the overall maintenance for the life of the machine.

Crew Review: Izzo Alex Duetto II

One of the more popular double boiler espresso machines on the market, the Alex Duetto II has a lot to love about it. The functionality is awesome — PID interface to set the coffee and steam boiler temperatures, easy access to switching between 15 or 20 amp, convertible water source so you can use either the internal reservoir or plumb it in, anti-burn hot water and steam wands — which also now features a four hole steam tip.

Since our last look at this machine, several upgrades have been made, so we decided it was time for another run-through. Watch as Gail talks about features and specs, then demonstrates shots and making a latte. Dig it!

 

SCG’s Most Popular Coffee Gear – 2011

Not that we’re encouraging you to keep up with the Joneses, but if you’re in the market for a new espresso machine, we thought it might be helpful to share which models sold the best over the last year. Broken down by budget, here is what other folks have chosen for their home espresso setup, so definitely worth considering for yours.

Under $500
#1: Saeco Aroma Black – $249.95 Stainless Steel – $288.00
With its compact size and sturdy demeanor, this machine packs more punch than the average eye can see. With the ability to use a non-pressurized portafilter and pressurized portafilter, customers have come to adore both options. As the pressurized simplifies the process of espresso with no need to be particular with its grind, it’s still able to extract an ideal shot. However, many of our customer have also upgraded to the non-pressurized portafilter, giving them the ability to work on their grind and tamping skills — just like real baristas!

#2: Saeco Via Venezia Black – $299.99
For all you Starbucks Barista owners, you may recognize this machine since it’s the same model made by the same manufacturers that created the Barista for Starbucks. A bit bigger than the Aroma, the Venezia’s insides are almost identical with the Aroma and functions the same way. But it does have a few more upgrades such as a bigger water tank (98 oz. vs. 80 oz.), steam wand that swivels and a little more clearance between the brew head and drip tray.

#3: Technivorm Moccamaster Thermo Coffee Brewer (KBT741) – Polished Silver – $279.00
Heating up one of the hottest cups of coffee that we’ve tested out (200 degrees F), the Technivorm KBT741 definitely made it on our list of hot items of 2011. It may look old school, but its coffee definitely isn’t of the cowboy variety! Customers have grown to love this Dutch-made machine because it incorporates the ideal way to brew and keep a piping cup of coffee hot without ever changing its formula. It may be a bit pricier than your average coffee maker, but coffee lovers who’ve invested in it understand this coffee maker’s worth.

Under $1,000
#1: Rancilio Silvia – $629.00
The bottom rung and most reasonably priced of our higher end espresso machines, the Silvia has made a name for itself. With a stainless steel case, brass single boiler and upgraded commercial-grade steam wand, once coffee lovers want to make a move from their entry level machines to the big guns, the Silvia is usually first on the list. A bit particular about the grind, pairing it up with a higher end grinder such as the Rancilio Rocky, Baratza Vario or any of our commercial-grade grinders will allow you to extract a velvety shot every time. With an added upgrade option to install a PID, coffee connoisseurs will be able to set the temperature of their boiler to their liking, giving them more control of how they extract that ideal shot.

#2: Jura Capresso ENA 4 Automatic Coffee Center  – Ristretto Black – $699.00
Customers have always loved the modern, clean cut lines of Jura’s line of superautomatic machines. But with the Jura Ena 4 customers have become even bigger fans since it not only offers the ideal look but also a smaller footprint with many bells and whistles. Programmable settings, professional grinder, maintenance notifications and a water filtration system, you’d think the machine had a mind of its own. And while it (and other Jura’s) are known for making the best shots on a superauto, the steam wand design is not our favorite, so if you love lattes and cappuccinos, you probably want to look at a different machine.

#3: Breville Barista Express – Programmable Espresso Machine with Grinder 860 XL – $599.99
With some of the programmable functions of a superautomatic but giving you the capability to control more elements like a semi-automatic, it could be said that the Breville Barista Express is the best of both worlds. With a stainless steel casing, built in conical burr grinder with measured dosage and programmable double & single shot buttons, you’ll still have the ability to control the tamp and pour of your shots. While it’s the hottest of Breville’s single boiler models, it still uses dual thermoblocks so temp consistency isn’t ideal.

Under $1,500
#1: Delonghi Magnifica ECAM 23210B Compact Superautomatic Espresso Machine – $999.00
How can such a tiny machine offer so much?! With the ability to adjust the size and strength of your espresso preference, this machine’s interface is straightforward, easy to use and offers programmable buttons speeding up your drink making process. Easy clean up and no mess to fuss about, it also brews some of the hottest coffee from a superauto.

#2: Saeco Talea Touch – $999.00
Call it your very own R2D2 — the Saeco Talea Touch will leave you sitting back and relaxing as it whips up your favorite drinks for you! As the number of fans for superautomatic espresso machines have been growing, the Talea Touch gives you one more thing to love with its touch-screen interface,  which makes choosing the strength, size and choice of espresso drink even easier. It also possesses notifications that will remind you to give it a good cleaning or when it’s time to fill-up on beans.

#3: Quick Mill Alexia Semi Automatic Espresso Machine – $1,195.00
Bring the cafe into the comfort of your own home with the Quick Mill Alexia. A single boiler machine featuring a commercial-grade stainless steel casing, professional E-61 brew head and the ability to control your machine’s boiler temperature with the optional PID, you’ll reach barista status in no time. Even with a learning curve of dialing in that exact grind and finding what 30 lbs. of pressure feels like when tamping, customers love the look and the quality of shots and frothy milk this machine allows them to create.

Under $2,000
#1: Rocket Cellini Premium Plus – $1,699.00 Rocket Giotto Premium Plus – $1,799.00
As customers walk through our store, the sparkle of the polished stainless steel Rocket Espresso machines are certainly eye-catching. But once they taste the smooth espresso shot it produces, it definitely seals the deal. Encompassing a tank for water accessibility, a heat-exchanger boiler that gives you a faster turn around time to produce your favorite shots and the ability to steam and brew at the same time, both the Cellini and Giotto have become the dream machine for coffee lovers. The only difference between the two are the sleek lines of the Cellini and the angular sides on the Giotto.

#2: Jura Capresso Impressa C9 One Touch Automatic Coffee Center – $1,899.00
Even with a small kitchen you can get the full cafe experience with the Impressa C9. Giving you the ability to see what functions your machine is accessing with the LED interface, you can program your drink’s temperature preference, volume and strength at a spin and push of the knob. Customers enjoy the fact that they have accessibility to use the automatic cappuccino system, where they can froth milk, brew coffee and have it poured all in one cup without lifting more than one finger. Who want’s to do that?!

#3: La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi I Espresso Machine – $1,995.00
Moving up to the big leagues, this double boiler gives you the ability to make drink after drink for parties or expertly feed your espresso craving in the comfort of home! With a professional-grade design and NSF rating, the Vivaldi also offers programmable dosage, easy temperature management, large water tank and an improved steam wand.

No Limits
#1: Rocket Espresso Cellini Evoluzione Espresso Machine – $2,099.00 Rocket Espresso Giotto Evoluzione Espresso Machine – $2,199.00
Why choose? For those who can’t decide whether they want a reservoir or plumbed-in machine, Rocket has a convertible option! With the capability to use the internal water reservoir or plumbing right into a water source, you’ll never debate on whether you made the right decision. Encompassed by polished stainless steel case, you’ll be able to monitor your boiler and brew head pressure with the dual gauge reading and extract ideal shots out of the commercial E-61 brew group.

#2: Saeco Xelsis SS One Touch Superautomatic Espresso Machine – $2,339.00
At the price you’ll be paying, we can vouch that this is one of the best superautomatic machines we’ve tested and seen yet. Unlike most superautomatics that are made of all plastic, folks love this machine because of its stainless steel casing. Its one-touch features are top notch because not only will it froth, brew and pour, but it will also make sure to clean your frother so there’s no milk residue build-up when you use it the next time around. Yummy!

#3: Izzo Alex Duetto II Semi Automatic Espresso Machine – $2,395.00
Doubling the power up, the Alex Duetto encompasses all the favorite features customers love and look for in their high end machines: brass-copper double boiler, stainless steel casing, commercial E-61 brew group, no-burn steam & hot water wands and a multi functional PID to control temperature, amps, degrees, and steam boiler pressure. Control freaks, dig this!