Tag Archives: Semi-Automatic

Selecting a Tamper for your Portafilter

It’s not just about how sexy it looks on your countertop, baby. Well, okay, that’s definitely part of it, but you also need to make sure you’re choosing the tamper that will best fit your portafilter. In addition to basic diameter considerations, there are some models that feature filter baskets with shapes conducive to different styles of tampers.

Watch as Gail shows us portafilters for several different models and provides her recommendations on which tampers fit best.

Compare: Rocket R58 vs. Rocket Hx Espresso Machines

For years now, we have had a deep and abiding love for Rocket Espresso‘s heat exchange machines, so when their new dual boiler model, the R58, hit the market, you know that a dance party ensued. But aside from sharing some of the aesthetic principals of its Hx counterparts, how does the R58 compare? And why would you choose one style of machine over the other?

In this video, Gail does us the sweet favor of breaking it all down for us. She talks about functional and feature differences, why you’d want a dual boiler or a heat exchanger and then crafts cappuccinos on both styles of machine to demonstrate how they compare, performance-wise.

Crew Review: Saeco Poemia with Non-Pressurized Portafilter Upgrade

There’s a lot we love in the world; we’re just Pollyanna like that. But if we had to pick something we love a bit more than other things (and we’re working on a well developed sliding scale and/or bell curve here), upgrading something lo-fi into something a bit more hi-fi is definitely one of them. Maybe it’s the McGyver-esque shape and feel of it, we don’t know. Whatever it is, the Saeco Poemia was an excellent candidate for a little soupin’ up — especially given our awesome non-pressurized portafilter!

So this is how it went down: We asked Gail to pull shots with it, she did so and we filmed all the action for your viewing pleasure. Really, it’s a blast — so sit back, relax and watch the crema ensue.


Compare: Rancilio Silvia with PID vs. Nuova Simonelli Oscar

While these two machines certainly have some core functional differences, they are often compared by folks because once you retrofit the Silvia with a PID, its price tag is very similar to that of the Nuova Simonelli Oscar. So, is one better than the other? As usual, it’s all a matter of perspective.

Watch Gail discuss the features and functionality of these machines, then demonstrate how they perform in terms of drink quality. She also talks about why you might choose one over the other, so if you’re on the fence regarding these two models, this comparison video was made with you in mind. Cherish it.

Compare: Heat Exchange Espresso Machines

Heat exchange espresso machines offer simultaneous brew and steam functionality by employing a large steam boiler with an embedded brew boiler and a dual pump. They’re easy to use and work well for the majority of home espresso enthusiasts who aren’t interested in dialing in and playing around with different temperatures.

In this video, Gail explains to us what a heat exchanger is and how it works, then talks to us about models from Pasquini, Rocket Espresso and Nuova Simonelli.

Rancilio Silvia with PID: Shot Temp in Cup

If you retrofit a PID on a Rancilio Silvia, how should you calibrate it to ensure you’re getting the ideal shot temperature? How much of an impact does preheating your cup have on the end shot temperature? In this video, Gail measures the temp of extraction with and without preheating the demitasse beforehand.

Grinder Throwdown: Virtuoso vs. Smartgrinder vs. Rocky

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
Burr Size 40mm 40mm 55mm
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?

Compare: Double Boiler Espresso Machines

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.

Compare: DeLonghi Single Boiler Espresso Machines

In the market for a little dude? And by ‘little dude’ we mean a small single boiler espresso machine from DeLonghi, of course!

We asked Gail to set these guys up and give us a side-by-side feature set comparison between the EC155, BAR32, EC270, EC702, ECO310BK and kMix. Watch as she breaks it all down into wonderful, bite-sized pieces.