Gear Guides

Gear Guides is Seattle Coffee Gear's shopping guide to help you find the right products to make coffee you love at home. Read up on the latest espresso machine reviews, comparisons and SCG's picks for best coffee makers.
  • The Convenience of a Superauto

    We talk a lot about semi-automatic and superautomatic espresso machines. If you've read our blog before you probably know that a superauto combines grinder and brewer in one. This is different from a semi-auto, which requires a standalone grinder. You may also know already that a superautos can brew coffee (and usually steam milk) with just a push of a button! But how do they stack up against semi-autos?

    Ease of Use

    The first and most obvious answer is ease of use. Professional baristas train for a long time to be able to make exquisite drinks on semi-automatic machines. A superauto makes this process far easier. It's true that in reality there's more to them than pushing a button and getting coffee out of one of these machines, but it's pretty close. The machine will also help you learn what different coffee drinks are if you're intimidated by the café menu!

    The other challenge with semi-auto machines is milk steaming. Where you may need to spend hours learning the perfect way to steam a pitcher of milk, a superauto's milk system does it by itself. Now, it's important to note, you'll never get milk like what a professional can steam on a superauto. Correctly creating microfoam and incorporating it into milk is so delicate that a machine will always struggle. However, milk systems in superautos do a great job, and steam milk better than many amateurs out there anyway!

    These machines also save time. The full process of grinding, weighing, brewing, and steaming milk on a semi-auto can take anywhere from 5-15 minutes depending on your skill level. A superauto can produce a latte or cappuccino in just a minute or two. What's more, there's usually less clean up with a superauto.

    Another component in the ease of use argument is maintenance. Semi-auto machines require you to know exactly how and when to perform backflushes, cleaning, and descaling. While these aren't impossible to learn, they do make maintaining a one of these machines more complex than a superauto. By contrast, a superauto will give you helpful indicators, warnings, and prompts. Typically cleaning and maintenance is a step by step process that the machine can walk you through as well.

    The Tradeoff

    None of this is to say there's no tradeoff with these machines. The biggest is control. On a semi-auto you can tease out the complexities of a single origin to really craft something unique. Superautos work better with blends, as they tend to pull shots with a little less finesse. This isn't to say their coffee is bad though. On the contrary, the control you get out of a semi-auto doesn't mean better drinks. Instead, semi-auto espresso machines are often enjoyed by coffee hobbyists who enjoy a more complex process.

    As noted above, the same is true for milk. Superautos create good milk texture, but not on the level of a pro barista. That said, it takes a lot of practice and skill to make quality steamed milk, and some higher end machines get very close to what a barista could do.

    Finally, superautos tend to create cooler drinks than semi-auto machines. This is a real stumbling point for some coffee drinkers, so be sure to take a look at reviews for the specific machine you're considering.

    One thing you don't necessarily have to compromise though, is price!

    Pricing

    Superautos, like semi-autos, run the gamut in terms of price. From the Saeco XSmall clocking in around $500 all the way up to higher dollar machines like the Miele CM6350. Truly, there's a superauto for every budget.

     

  • Review: Miele 6000 Line

    The Miele CM6000 Coffee System line offers an all-in-one coffee solution designed to be your one stop countertop stop for your morning coffee. But does it hold up to the task? This isn’t a new machine, but it is one of the more popular models, so we figured it was worth taking a look at whether it holds up in 2018. The short answer is yes, the long answer is... Well, you'll have to read on!

    Multiple Models

    The two models we'll be looking at are the 6150 and the 6350. Both of these superautomatics turn whole bean coffee into fresh espresso. The 6150 forgoes some of the bells and whistles. The 6350 adds a hot water spout, lighting, cup warmer, and a carafe to the machine, and therefor sits at a higher pricepoint than the 6150.

    Other than the differences mentioned above, the two systems operate very similarly, with a touch button interface and an informational screen. We'll highlight the benefits of the milk system and the water spout a little further down. First let's talk about coffee quality, a shared element between the two machines.

    Coffee Quality

    The coffee quality in the Miele line is excellent as far as superautos go. You'll never recreate the flavor of a carefully pulled shot from a semi-auto or manual machine on any superauto, but accepting that, the 6000 line does a great job. We really like espresso ready blends in this machine as a standard shot, and the "coffee" option is very good. We put coffee in quotes because this machine, like almost every other superauto, doesn't actually brew drip coffee. Instead, the machine is capable of a lungo style espresso drink that pulls more water through the beans. It did satisfy fans of drip coffee in our office though, even if it is definitely a different flavor profile than a standard filter brew.

    One thing we really like is the volume programmability of this machine. The process is a little convoluted, but you can set the machine to calibrate, which it does by brewing until you tell it to stop, and it will remember that volume. This means that if you have a large mug that you want to specifically have the machine brew for, you can program that and save it to a profile.

    The other unique option we liked was the machine's ability to brew a pot of it's lungo style coffee. You can set it to brew for different sized pots, and it's a nice option if serving a group. It does create tank refill issues, but we'll get into that in the next section.

    Case Design

    While we do like the striking, industrial look of the Miele for the most part, it's case design isn't perfect. On the good side, while plastic, the case feels solid and high quality. In many ways, it's more impressive than the stainless steel covers that over machine feature, and we like that the machine is consistent aesthetically. The spout is great too, it can almost fully retract into the housing, allowing for larger mugs. It's a nice consideration. Also very good is the design of the drip tray and the grounds bin. The whole unit slides out as one, which is standard, but the grounds bin is very easy to remove and clean separately. This is nothing new for superautos, but we especially appreciate the drip tray design. A plastic part sits on top of the exceptionally large drip tray, and it provides a spout to empty the tray from. This means you won't spill water everywhere as you move the tray to the sink for emptying. It's a nice feature that we'd love to see on more machines, as messy drip trays are always a frustration. The fact that the machine senses a full drip tray and warns you with a message to remove it is nice too.

    With all of that said, it isn't perfect. The biggest issue we have with the case design is the bean hopper's location, and the water tank. We should point out that these are points of contention on almost every superauto, and it's definitely a design challenge for these types of machines. The bean hopper is accessed via a removable cover on the top of the machine. What we love about it is it's depth, we were able to empty an entire 12 oz bag of coffee into it, but its location makes accessing it under cabinets a hassle. The same thing can be said for the water tank. The tank is 62 oz, which is comparable to other superautos, but the need to pull it up and out from the side can make it a hassle to refill. There are absolutely more frustrating water tanks in this machine's price range, but we still wish the tank were a little easier to access. This is exacerbated if you make pots of coffee or use the hot water spout on the 6350 model, as the tank will empty even quicker. It's also worth noting that the water spout pours quite slowly, so you may be waiting longer than you'd like for your morning Americano.

    In the end though, these are relatively minor complaints, and they aren't more egregious than on other similar machines. One thing we're happy to rave about is the menu system.

    Menus and Programmability

    We mentioned above that we're fans of the volumetric programming, but our love for the Miele's interface doesn't stop there. While there is a learning curve to this machine, once you get used to using it you'll be whipping up drinks in no time. The amount of customization here is really fantastic, and the machine's "quick access" options are very smart. You can get a shot, lungo, or milk drink with one button tap, or dig into the menu for more options. We really like this freedom, and it all feels really satisfying to use when you get the hang of it. The menu also offers intuitive access to things like auto-on and auto-shutoff, huge features for superautos, controlling the light in the machine (also a big bonus) and cleaning functions.

    We generally couldn't enjoy the interface of the machine more, just make sure you have the manual handy and be prepared to spend a few mornings experimenting to get everything dialed in!

    Milk System

    The last big touchpoint of this machine is the milk system on these machines. In general, we really like the milk off of this machine. We particularly appreciate how dry the cappuccino foam gets. A truly dry cappuccino is hard to come by even in some coffee shops, so getting that foam consistency is really nice. The same can be said about the Miele's lattes, while we're not sure we'll be pouring latte art with the foam from this machine, it is tasty and has a great consistency when you drink it. The ability to use a range of container sizes is again nice if you want to brew a big milk drink in the morning. It is worth noting that the milk temperature is lower than you get with a steam wand. This is a common thing that is nearly impossible to solve in a superautomatic system in our experience.

    If we have any complaints about the milk system in the 6150 it's from a maintenance perspective. The machine does a decent job of rinsing the milk pipe, but because it sits in a rubber mount on the drip tray, it's important to also keep the mount clean. we didn't realize that some coffee had splashed on the mount at one point, and it resulted in a need to remove the pipe and clean it in the sink. Generally, we're also more comfortable hand cleaning the pipe more frequently, but this isn't strictly required. If you DO want to rinse the pipe, it is at least extremely easy to remove, rinse, and reattach, so it won't add more than 30 seconds to your coffee making. This is, of course, alleviated with the carafe system present on the 6350, which is a very easy to use tool. You simply plug the milk pipe into the top of the carafe, and then the machine auto rinses the pipe after steaming. The carafe can then be washed separately.

    Verdict

    Overall, we're big fans of the Miele coffee system. While there are ergonomic improvements we'd love to see in future updates, this is a machine that holds up. From solid coffee to excellent milk texture, we find that this machine delivers. Give the 6150 and 6350 a look if you're interested in a high end superauto!

  • Holiday Purchase guide: Presses and Other Alternative Brew Methods!

    We’ve talked about various drip and espresso brew methods this season, but there’s a simple, delicious alternative that exists as well: The press! The French Press is a consistent, inexpensive brew method that makes stronger, full bodied coffee. It can be easy to get lost in the weeds of these simple machines, but we’re here to help. We’ll also look at a couple of other interesting methods that don’t fall into traditional categories!

    The Aeropress

    The Aeropress coffee maker makes delicious press cofffee using a simple, easy to pack brewing system. Instead of needing to bring a full sized press on a camping trip, the Aeropress folds and packs into itself, while still brewing excellent coffee. This is achieved through small paper filters that filter out grounds to provide a grit free cup of press coffee. Some people love this brewer so much that they use it at home!

    For a more classic press design, check out the Bodum Brazil French Press. This 8 cup shatterproof press is simple, affordable, and makes a classic cup of pressed coffee.

    A Wide World of Weird Brewers

    For a solution your gift recipient may be surprised by, take a look at the Fellow Duo. The Duo is an awesome little brewer that provides the full tasting cup of coffee of a press and less acidity, like you’d get from pourover. It also does it all easily and in just about 5 minutes. Simply add medium-coarse ground coffee and hot water to the steeping chamber and stir. Then, let the coffee steep for 4 minutes. Finally, twist the top of the brewer, and fresh, delicious coffee will fill the lower half. This brewer’s coffee tastes great and is grit free!

    Another weird coffee option that makes a great cup is the Bodum Santos Stovetop Vacuum Coffee Maker. This brewer sits on the stove and uses pressure from the hot water to brew your coffee. It’s easy to use, fun to watch, and delicious! Check it out for the curious coffee drinker on your gift list.

    Check back soon for more holiday gifting tips!

  • Holiday Buying Guide: Pourover!

    Drip brewers and espresso machines are great tools for producing a great cup of coffee, but today we’re looking at a slower alternative that might thrill someone on your guest list. For those that enjoy a carefully crafted cup of coffee, look no further than some pourover gear!

    The Perfect Pour

    There are three key components to any pourover set: Kettle, dripper, and scale. You need something to serve it in, but in a pinch any coffee cup will do as a thing to brew into. Lets start with drippers!

    There are a few things to consider when picking out a dripper. First, material is very important. While you can get a cheaper plastic dripper that may taste fine to some, it’s important to remember that you’re pouring water that’s quite hot through it. Plastic drippers are safe to use, but can impart flavors that will cause your coffee to taste off. Stainless Steel drippers look nicer and last longer, but some can taste the steel flavor in them. Plenty prefer this type of dripper, so it’s worth trying to find out if the person you’re buying for likes drip coffee from a glass or stainless carafe. Finally, there’s ceramic drippers. These are prone to breaking, but don’t impart any flavor and are easy to clean. Once you’ve settled on material, it’s down to style. The two styles we prefer are the Hario V60 and Kalita Wave. Both look nice on the shelf and are great at evenly distributing grounds and water. Just make sure you get the right filters!

    Kettles and Scales

    Next up is the kettle. Kettles range from under $50 to well into the triple digits. The most important thing when choosing a kettle is flow control. You’ll want to stick with kettles that feature gooseneck style spouts have solid build quality. We recommend options like the Bonavita Elective Pourover Kettle or the OXO On if you’re trying to stay under $100. If you’re looking to splurge, the Fellow Stagg EKG+ is an excellent kettle with some awesome app integration with Acaia scales (more on that in a minute).

    Finally, having the right scale will really up your pourover game. The Hario V60 is a great option under $100, it’s reliable, fast, and accurate. For a scale that will really blow the recipient away, check out the Acaia Pearl. This scale not only features several modes, extreme accuracy, and water resistance, but also interconnected app features. Acaia’s Brewbar app pairs with these scales (and the EKG+, mentioned above) to help you dial in and perfect your pourover brewing.

    Of course, if your gift recipient doesn’t have one already, they’ll need a grinder. For that, we love the Baratza Encore. Oh, and don’t forget the filters!

  • Holiday Buying Guide: Stocking Stuffers!

    What do you get the coffee drinker that already has everything? We've got you covered today with another holiday buying guide! From smaller items to drop in as a little something extra to bigger surprises in small packages, we've got you covered.

    Odds and Ends

    First up, let's look at a few smaller extras that many coffee drinkers may overlook. For your outdoorsy friends, check out the GSI Outdoors collapsible dripper. This neat little tool is great for making pourover at home or on the go. It's billed as a camping device, but it works great in hotel rooms and relatives houses too! Another neat little add-on to a classic coffee making tool is the Fellow Prismo add-on for Aeropress coffee makers. The Prismo provides extra resistance to an Aeropress brewer, allowing you to get thicker, richer coffee from the device. It's a fun way to try something a little different out of a standby coffee maker. Stepping up on price, but still offering great value, is Kalita Wave stainless steel dripper. While we agree that your choice in dripper is largely going to come down to personal preference, the Kalita is a beloved option, and the stainless steel version lasts for years! For the home barista that enjoys milk drinks, cups and pitchers are always a great option. Spouted frothing pitchers generally offer the best control for latte art. As for cups, we love Acme's line of drinkware, such as this Demitasse set.

    Big Surprises

    What if you're looking to go the extra mile with a stocking stuffer? Maybe you want to tease a bigger gift, or just like the idea of the surprise of a more expensive item in their stocking. If that's the case, take a look at items like the Espro Calibrated Tamper and OCD Coffee Distribution Tool. These devices help with prepping espresso shots. The OCD gives you excellent distribution of grounds in the portafilter. This is a must for brewing with a bottomless portafilter and ensures even extraction for better tasting espresso. The Espro Tamper "clicks" at 30 lbs. of pressure. It's a great tool to train yourself on proper tamping technique.

    Finally, one of our favorite coffee crafting stocking sized items is the Acaia Lunar Interactive Espresso Brewing Scale. This definitely the luxury car of coffee scales. Acaia's tech is top notch, and the Lunar packs it into a tiny package that's perfect for weighing shots. with multiple modes and integration with Acaia's range of apps, this scale will take your espresso brewing to the next level.

    Look out for more holiday shopping guides and some incredible deals very soon!

     

     

     

  • Holiday Buying Guide: Drip Coffee

    Welcome to another holiday buying guide from Seattle Coffee Gear! Today we're taking a look at some of the features and controls to look for in a drip brewer! If you're shopping for a new classic drip coffee machine for someone on your guest list, read on!

    Features Vs. Performance

    Like with many coffee machines, cost usually comes down to feature set and performance. Build quality and reliability also factor into this, but generally any drip brewer you find at Seattle Coffee Gear or similar retailers will be pretty long lasting. Let's start by taking a look at some of the features you might be looking for in a brewer.

    Drip brewers can be as simple as a machine with a single button (such as the Bonavita Connoisseur), or have a myriad of options. Some of the features you might be looking for are things like single cup brewing, temperature control, pre-infusion, and pourover or cold brew options. Other useful options include things like custom programming for pre-infusions and brew methods. By dialing in specific options you can unlock different elements of a roast's flavor profile. One of our favorite machines for programmability is the Breville Precision Brewer. This brewer offers a host of custom options for getting exactly the drink you want. We love it so much that we worked with Breville to offer the Brewer's Cup Edition linked above. This version includes a pourover adapter out of the box! Another important consideration is whether the person receiving the machine prefers a glass or stainless steel server. Stainless servers keep coffee insulated and erase the need for a warming plate on the brewer. These plates can lead to scorched coffee if left on, but some can taste the difference between stainless and glass. Make sure you know before you gift!

    Maybe you're not looking for a ton of options though, and just want a great cup of coffee with the push of a button!

    Simplicity and Style

    For a simpler cup of coffee, consider a brewer like the Technivorm Moccamaster. While a brewer like this may come at a higher price tag, it also simply and perfectly brews just the right cup every time. In the case of a high performance brewer like this, it'll also offer extreme reliability and longevity. These brewers can last decades, and may be the perfect higher dollar item for that special someone on your guest list.

    At the end of the day, so much of the drip brewing shopping process is about options. If you or the person you're shopping for likes pourover, cold brew, and experimentation, take a look at the Precision brewer. For those looking for an easy, no frills cup of joe, the Connoisseur or Moccamaster is the way to go.

  • Holiday Buying Guide: Semi-Automatics

    It’s November, which means Turkey day is rapidly approaching. Let’s be honest, what that really means, whether you’re dreading it or excited, is that holiday shopping season is upon us. Are you looking to spoil someone on your list this year with a new semi-auto espresso machine? Maybe you’re just buying for yourself? We’re here to help! Here’s a guide for what to look for this holiday season if you’re shopping for a semi-auto espresso machine.

    Build Quality

    The first thing you should look for in any machine is build and component quality. Along with this, you’ll want to determine what sort of power you’re looking for, and if the prospective machine delivers. For example, the Rancilio Silvia and Crossland CC1 offer an extremely strong build quality and the power to brew unpressurized espresso. These are features that will matter if you’re looking for a long term machine.

    On the flip-side, less expensive machines my only brew with pressurized baskets. This is due to a weaker pump, which is common in cheap machines. That doesn’t mean the less expensive machine is the wrong gift, it’s just important to know the capabilities going in. The stronger components in machines like the Silvia and CC1 mentioned do come with a cost attached. There’s a reason machines like this retail for under $1,000 while delivering such robust, quality espresso...

    Cost Vs. Features

    One of the core things to think about when purchasing an espresso machine is feature set vs. cost. It can be tempting to chase a great seeming deal, but it’s important to understand what you’re getting. Some key features to look for are control methods, programmability, and ergonomics. The machines referenced above offer solid espresso for a great cost, but lack the programmability of some other machines in the segment. By contrast, other machines might offer less powerful and consistent brewing, but provide programming features or more intuitive controls. This is why it’s important to know where the person you’re shopping for’s skill level is.

    For beginner home baristas, it may make sense to look at less expensive options with simpler controls. This will result in a need to upgrade sooner, but it’s better than ending up with a machine that is more than what the user is ready for. Generally we recommend going a little over what you think the user might be ready for. This way you get someone a machine that they can grow into, but won’t overwhelm them. In fact, it’s why we've mention machines like the Silvia and CC1 so much. These machines aren’t the $2,000-$3,000 “generational” machines like a Rocket or an Izzo, but they provide a fantastic starting point. Their limited frills means that the user will need to learn the fundamentals of espresso to use them. It also means they’ll be well equipped to upgrade to a more expensive machine down the line. Even if they don’t machines like these will last for years and years.

    Don’t forget the grinder

    One of the other most important things to look out for when gifting an espresso machine is the grinder! Not every grinder can handle grinding fine enough for espresso. This is especially true of unpressurized espresso. Make sure that the person you’re buying for has a capable grinder already, or that they’re receiving one this holiday! We’ll have more on that and other holiday shopping tips soon!

  • Video Roundup: 11/9/2018

    Happy Friday!

    We're here with another video roundup!

    First up, our top 3 espresso machines of 2018!

    Next up, we took a peek at the new Breville Bambino!

    Followed by another top 3, this time focused on grinders:

    Finally, Gail's favorites for 2018!

    Thanks! Make some coffee you love this weekend!

     

  • An Overview of Izzo Espresso

    You may have noticed an exciting new product line on SCG recently: Izzo Espresso! We're extremely excited to bring Izzo to our list of machines. We thought we'd take some time to introduce each of the machines in the line here today.

    Roasting First

    One of the things that differentiates Izzo from other machine manufacturers is heritage. Many machine companies start with a goal of building a great espresso machine. This has created incredible machines from a wide range of producers. Izzo, on the other hand, started as a roaster! This means that the company sought to create the perfect machine for brewing their coffee.

    This unique approach is precisely why we've decided to bring on Izzo coffee alongside their machines. This is classic Italian espresso roasting with big flavor and big body. We definitely recommend grabbing some coffee with your new machine! We should, however, be really clear that this coffee tastes great in many machines. Further, these machines are incredible brewers capable of brewing coffee from anywhere! Let's give them a look!

    Vivi PID+

    The Vivi is Izzo's most compact machine. Like its bigger siblings, the first thing you'll notice about Vivi is its stunning design. The gorgeous, shiny stainless steel extends to the case, frame, and boiler of the machine. The controls on the machine are tactile and responsive, giving you fine control of pre-soaking grounds and steam. The gauges on the front of the machine are precise and easy to read, and the machines' PID temperature controller interface is simple and doubles as a shot timer. Finally, you might notice the Vivi's exposed E-61 grouphead. This group keeps water temperature constant as it flows into the portafilter. This leads to even extraction and hot shots, every time.

    The inside of this machine is exciting as well. The Vivi's stainless steel boiler is 1.8 liters and features a heat exchanger design. This means the boiler heats up incredibly quickly and has the power to pull shots and steam milk at the same time.

    Our criticisms are very minor. For one, this is a hot machine. This is normal for machines of this type, but you'll definitely want to avoid leaning on it! We also found ourselves making fine adjustments to the PID setting to really find the best temp to pull shots AND steam milk. This is because of the size and shape of the boiler. It's a minor nuisance though, and one common in machines of this nature.

    Overall, this is an excellent brewer for someone looking to get into high-end espresso and really start tweaking their drinks.

     

    Alex PID+

    Next up is the Alex PID+. For starters, this machine offers everything that the Vivi does so well. The Alex PID+ is all about "more is more." The boiler is stepped up to a 2.3 liter size. This is a massive boiler for a home machine, and it means you'll be pulling shot after shot without slowing down. This added capacity means added size as well, so fitting this machine on your countertop may prove more difficult than with the Vivi. Bigger size means more room for cups, and a deeper drip tray as well. Finally, the Alex PID+ has a rotary pump, making plumbing in possible if you have the right water!

    The only real complaint we have with this machine is that it might be a little bulky for some kitchens. If that's not a concern for you, it's a fantastic option.

    This is a beautiful machine best suited for a heavy espresso drinker looking for a "prosumer" solution to the daily coffee shop run. While the Vivi is an excellent option for a wide range of kitchens, the Alex PID+ is a slightly larger size investment. With that said, the larger boiler, rotary pump, deeper drip tray, and cup warmer real estate definitely justify the slight bump in price.

     

    Alex Duetto IV+

    Last but not least, the Duetto IV+. At first glance, this machine may look just like the Alex PID+, and while it shares similarities in terms of design and component quality, it's a different animal. This machine takes the exquisite attention to detail of the PID+ and Vivi and adds a host of tweakable features, and a whole second boiler. The second boiler means that the machine is able to steam and brew far faster than you can. We'd challenge even the busiest home barista to outrun this machine!

    But it's not just the boiler that sets the Duetto apart. First of all, if you have a kitchen wired for 20A, the Duetto can accommodate. While it works perfectly fine for 15 amp wiring, the 20 amp mode gives accelerated heatup times and blazing fast steam recovery times. It's a great option for the busy kitchen with the ability to take advantage of the feature. Additionally, this machine is a techie's dream.

    The Duetto gives you external access to elements like pump pressure, boiler drains, and heating elements. This means you can tweak and tease every aspect of the machine's operation. All of this means that hobbyist home baristas will have field day making fine adjustments and changes to their shot creation. Most machines make accessing these components much more of a chore, so it's a welcome addition alongside the larger boiler. It is worth noting, only experienced users and technicians should mess with a lot of these items, and doing so could affect your warranty.

    We hate to sound like a broken record, but the only thing we can knock the Duetto for is potential size concerns in smaller kitchens. It combines the smart design throughline of the other Izzo machines with a second boiler and tweakability not common in machines at this price point. Check out all of these machines below!

     

     

     

  • Seattle Coffee Gear’s Top Three Espresso Machines of 2018

    It’s that time of year again! Leaves are falling, the air is getting cool and crisp, and Summer is well and truly in the rear view mirror. All of this means that we have plenty to share about our favorite machines for 2018! Today we’re taking a look at SCG’s top espresso machines of 2018! We focused on picking the best buys of the year, not limiting the list to machines that came out this year.
     
    Chances are that if you’re a coffee enthusiast, you’ve seen a machine from Rancilio. From stalwart commercial machines to no-frills home machines, Rancilio earns its reputation. The Silvia is no exception! For starters, many of the Silvia’s features are inspired by its commercial siblings, but adapted for the smaller form factor. The controls are also extremely easy to use. Simple on/off switches control extraction and steaming, with clear indicator lights to tell you when something’s not right.
    All of this combines with excellent construction and component quality to produce a solid machine. The Silvia doesn’t have the bells and whistles of some higher dollar machines. It also doesn’t have the boiler capacity of machines above its price bracket. It makes up for this with usability and reliability. New this year is a stylish black powder coat over the stainless steel frame. The classic stainless Silvia is still a nice looking machine, but the black may fit better in your kitchen, and we love how it looks.
    The Silvia is the perfect machine for someone upgrading from an entry level brewer or looking to spend a little extra on their first machine!
     
    If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you know that we’re big fans of this machine. The Saeco Xelsis is an update to a classic machine that well outperforms the previous model. We’ve said it before, but the programmability, milk quality, and ergonomics of this machine punch above their weight. It’s an excellent superautomatic in its price bracket.
    The control options in the Xelsis are more varied than most other superautos. This means you get to change things like milk texture, flavor, strength, and so much more with the slide of a finger. Additionally, while the shots from the Xelsis are on par with any of its competitors, the milk is the real star. The hygiesteam system froths milk with quality that’s not easy to achieve from a device of this nature. That system, plus Saeco’s tried and tested AquaClean water filtration, make maintaining the Xelsis easy.
    It’s great machine wether it’s your first superauto, or an upgrade.
     
    We don’t have too much to say about this machine that we haven’t already. Between the Appartamento’s stellar looks, excellent build quality, and capable components, this is simply one of the most successful home espresso machines that we offer. The first thing you’ll likely notice is its looks. This machine shines with its beautiful stainless steel casing and tactile controls. These controls give you the ability to make fine adjustments to your brewing process. They also help you “feel” every aspect of pulling the shot and steaming your milk. This gives you a great sense of the science behind your brewing.
    It wouldn’t be one of our favorites though if wasn’t also high performing. The Appartamento features a 1.8 liter heat exchange boiler, this will allow you to steam milk and brew shots at the same time, something that’s hard to find in machines at this price point. The heated E-61 group also keeps water temps and extraction even through the brewing process. To top it off, the build quality of the Appartamento is extremely solid. In the end it’s a fine machine for someone ready to buy a machine they’ll hold onto for a very long time.
    Check out the video version of this piece, where I discuss these picks in our studio! Stay tuned for even more best of 2018s, coming very soon!

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