One of the primary considerations one must take into account when selecting an espresso machine is what’s more important to them: Convenience over flavor. Outside of budget, this is arguably the most important thing to think about when you’re determining what type of machine is right for you.
While superautomatics offer a lot of convenience — internal grinder, easy clean-up, automation and programming — the models available on the US market utilize plastic in their brew group design, which doesn’t regulate temperature quite as consistently as their metallic brew group counterparts. This results in a little bit of an underextraction that is fairly standard on superautomatics — generally giving a sour, weak flavor. However, you can tweak and program the shot to a certain extent to achieve a shot that is close to that you’d get off a semi-automatic (for which you grind, tamp and dial in your shot yourself), with a few limitations.
We asked Gail to walk us through the basic parameters of how to achieve the best shot possible on a Saeco superautomatic, using the Xelsis as a demo, and she also shared with us some of the commonalities between these machines and superautomatics produced by other manufacturers.
Where do espresso machines and coffee makers go to die? Not in the landfill, if we can help it! At Seattle Coffee Gear, we launched a recycling program last year in an effort to keep as many fully assembled machines from landing in the trash. Many of these are pretty complex — they have circuit boards, electrical wiring and miscellaneous metals that are best kept out of our ground water supply.
Our partner in this venture is Uesugi USA, a Japanese company that (as luck would have it) have a US presence here in the Seattle-area. We pulled Henry into the mix and headed out to their facility to talk about what they do and see how they take these machines apart, break them down to their components and funnel them back into the commodity supply chain as cleanly as possible.
Mineral content in your water will play a part in the coffee that you make and your machine’s longevity. In this video, Gail talks to us about a few different filters and softeners available for espresso machines, as well as explaining how a filter and softener differ.
Creating a silky microfoam can be a challenging enterprise: Even with the higher end prosumer machines we sell, it is arguably the most difficult skill to learn and sometimes takes more practice (and patience!) than folks expect from the outset.
The technique involves infusing the right amount of air and steam at the right pace to ‘stretch’ the milk, ultimately resulting in that wet paint texture that can be used in latte art, if you’ve got the skillz. You rest the tip of the steam wand on the surface of the milk and ‘ride’ it as the milk is slowly expanding with tiny air bubbles and coming up to temperature via the machine’s steam. You’ve got to keep a steady roll going, the bubbles to a minimum and eventually you’ll submerge the wand completely once you’ve achieved the amount of foam you want and need to simply bring it up to temperature.
If you’re anything like us, you probably used your gear’s user manual for one of three things:
To ineffectively swat at flies, yet one day you accidentally killed one and couldn’t bear to keep the gut-stained book around.
To prop up the uneven handmade bookshelf lovingly made by a friend/parent/spouse/sibling/child that never sits right on the wood floor.
To start a fire in the fireplace to enjoy while sipping on a delicious glass of chai spiced wine. (Guilty!)
Or, maybe you just recycled it by accident. Whatever the case, the fact of the matter is that now you have no wisdom to guide you. We created our manufacturer manual repository over at Brown Bean to connect you with the source code. We have manuals for a lot of models both current and historical, so if you’re looking for tips on how to perform maintenance or need to find out what that error code means, check ’em out.
Don’t see your model there? Leave a comment here and we’ll see if we can’t track it down and add it to the repository.
Seattle Coffee Gear’s monthly newsletter, The Grind, landed in an email box near you today — and if it wasn’t near enough for you to actually read it, you can do so here on the site or make sure you get up close and personal next month by signing up for future editions.
This month, we talk about the different functional types of espresso machines, include a recipe for Indochine Lemon, point you to our manufacturer manual resource on Brown Bean and introduce you to a few new products we have in the store. What you won’t see, however, is The Grind Special, which is for subscriber-eyes-only. Sign up to get that little bit o’ goodness every month.
DIY lovers are all into the idea of using lemon juice or vinegar to descale their machines, but while the latter will leave a nasty residue and we don’t recommend it for that reason, the former just isn’t concentrated enough to do as an effective job in as an efficient manner as a concentrated citric acid solution like Dezcal. This is what we find out from Gail, plus she makes freaky faces and it’s worth watching just for that.
Several models of superautomatic espresso machines feature a bi-pass doser which allows you to use pre-ground espresso to brew coffee without changing the beans in your hopper. Saeco and DeLonghi models allow a maximum of 1 tablespoon or scoop of pre-ground coffee per brew and Jura models allow up to 2 tablespoons or scoops. We occasionally run into situations where customers bring in a superauto for repair because they have used either pre-ground coffee that is too fine or they have used too much of it in the brewing, resulting in the development of a cement-like coffee clog on the brew group and the eventual break down of that group — either by breaking the gears or the group completely seizing up.
In this video, Gail talks to us about how much one should use in the bi-pass doser, as well as shows us an example of the fineness in ground that should be used, demonstrated on the Jura Ena 4.
Doing its part to keep cups full in more ways than one, Jura UK is holding a charitable auction in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If you are in the UK and have always wanted an Ena5 — or if you just really, really love the color pink — you can take part in the auction of a one-of-a-kind Jura Ena5 with a pink and silver two-tone case.
Anyone who keeps up on our fetishes over here knows that the Jura Ena series are our favorite superautomatic espresso machines because they’re simple, reliable, space-conscious and make a great cup of coffee. And while we won’t get into our other fetishes, suffice it to say that we are huge supporters of finding a cure for breast cancer!
We hope Jura UK is successful in raising a nice contribution to the three charities that sponsor Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the UK, and we highly encourage you to help them out by bidding on this great machine.
If you’re in the market for a machine that kind of does it all, choosing which one is right for you can be a little bit tricky. We asked Gail to walk us through the superautomatics priced in the $899 – $1199 price range and in this video she discusses their features, similarities, pros and cons.