Tag Archives: semi-automatic espresso 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!


How To: Dialing in a Coffee Grinder

A little bit of the ol’ science behind the magic! Dialing in a grinder is one of the most fearsome tasks for new home espresso enthusiasts, and we’re often asked for advice on how to get the hang of it.

While we produced a video a couple of years ago that covers this topic, we have had many folks ask more questions that weren’t covered in the original version and we’ve learned a few new tips and tricks along the way. Watch Gail dial in the Nuova Simonelli Grinta for the Nuova Simonelli Oscar, providing recommendations that can be applied to any home espresso setup.

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!

Milk Steaming Tips

One of the wiliest dragons to slay in the home espresso universe is milk steaming — there are basic tenets one must follow, but from there it’s just practice, practice, practice. The kind of machine you’re using will play a big part in your milk frothing success, as well as whether or not you’re working with a traditional wand vs. a panarello or a steam boiler vs. a thermoblock.

Gail walks us through tips, tricks and things to keep in mind when steaming your milk, either for the ‘wet paint’ texture for latte art or the dense, shaving cream microfoam for cappuccinos. Watch her demonstrate best practice on the Rocket Giotto and the Saeco Via Venezia.


New! Non-Pressurized & Bottomless Portafilters for Saeco & Starbucks Machines

The most popular mod/upgrade to Saeco and Starbucks semi-automatic machines is the non-pressurized portafilter, which turns a pretty basic machine into one that can produce shots that rival gear several hundred dollars up the food chain. When the last of them that Saeco had produced were gone, we knew we had to do something to fill the gap.

So we had them produced ourselves! And since we could do anything we wanted, we made them chrome-plated brass and also requested a bottomless model be manufactured. The new model of the non-pressurized portafilter is significantly upgraded in terms of temp stability and design, and we’re really digging it!

Watch Gail talk about these new toys and demonstrate a shot using the bottomless model.

Compare: Breville Dual Boiler vs. Rancilio Silvia

In another of our not-so-infamous grudge matches, we pit Breville’s new Dual Boiler against the tried and true single boiler Rancilio Silvia, featuring a PID retrofit. Other than having an additional boiler on its side, how does this new machine measure up against the Silvia?

Watch as Gail takes us through the usual specs, features and functionality and then whips up lattes on each to show how they practically compare.

Compare: Breville Barista Express vs. Rancilio Silvia

After a couple of requests for this comparison model, Gail breaks it down for us: features, pros, cons, performance, etc. While the Barista Express includes a built-in grinder and a lower price tag, the Silvia + Rocky combo is a time honored tradition.

Watch Gail go through their specs and whip up a latte on each of these machines to show you how they compare in terms of performance and end product.

Compare: Rocket Giotto vs. Nuova Simonelli Musica

We’d be hard pressed to choose between these two models ourselves, and we’ve had several customers ask us for a comparison between the two. The Rocket Giotto and Nuova Simonelli Musica are high end home machines with similar features and practical performance, but the Musica does have programming functionality and is NSF rated for use in a commercial application.

Watch Gail talk us through the different features and then whip up lattes on each machine so you can see how they perform.

Experimenting with Ristrettos

You know that since we are part of the goblin class, we love short things, right? It took us awhile to strong arm Gail into doing a ristretto comparison on several different machines, but we finally wore her down and here is the proof of our labors!

Watch as Gail pulls double ristretto shots (1.5 oz total) on the La Marzocco GS/3, Rocket Giotto Evoluzione, Nuova Simonelli Musica, Rancilio Silvia and  Saeco Via Venezia.