Machines to Tinker With!
Hey coffee fans!
We talk a lot about “entry-level” machines, and “prosumer” machines here at Seattle Coffee Gear, but there’s another kind of machine we don’t get into as much. While it’s hard to put a label on them, we’re talking about machines like the Rancilio Silvia and the Crossland CC1. These are machines that require a little extra TLC to get the most out of.
That’s not to say that they aren’t good starter machines or ones that will last you many years. We love 'em’ and you can brew some cafe quality drinks on them too. You’ll just need to spend a little bit of extra time learning to get the most out of them. In some ways, learning on a machine like this is perfect! You’ll be able to understand everything there is to know about how to brew the perfect espresso and steam great milk.
To get the absolute perfect espresso you need temperature consistent water and consistent pressures. Add in finely ground, dialed in coffee, and you’re good to go! Important to note with machines like the CC1 and Silvia is they only come with unpressurized portafilters. We’ve talked about this before, but the quick version is it means you’ll need a perfect grind to get a perfect shot. For that reason, you’ll want to pair one of these machines with a dedicated espresso grinder. The upshot is that you’ll be learning to brew espresso on the same kinds of portafilters you’d eventually be wanting to use anyway!
Milk steaming on these machines can take a bit longer than what you might get from something like a Rocket Espresso machine. That said - with patience and practice you can get incredible micro-foam off of a CC1, Silvia, or similar machine. Part of that is because their steam systems remove barriers between the user and the equipment. With simple dials and switches, you’re in complete control of the steaming process. This can be less true of more user friendly, entry level machines, which can rely on less tactile interface to seem less intimidating.
Maintaining these machines means you’ll need to backflush them and descale them like most other espresso machines. You’ll also probably find that you might want to take an even more hands-on approach to maintenance. Disassembling the brew head to change gaskets, opening up the machine to learn about the boiler components, etc. While you need to be very careful to avoid voiding your warranty, these machines can take some extra tuning and TLC on the inside to really shine.
If you’re willing to really practice, tinker, and exercise patients, these kinds of machines can be extremely rewarding to own and use!