Reviews

Our coffee experts have a lot of opinions, and we want to share them with you. For insight and recommendations on a world of coffee equipment, your search starts here!
  • Breville Barista Express Vs. Barista Pro

    If you've followed Breville's espresso machine output you're definitely familiar with the Barista Express. This legendary machine is so many home barista's first machine due to its built in grinder. We love the simplicity of this machine and how it helps you learn the basics of crafting espresso. It also lets you use unpressurized portafilters, so you can learn and grow with the machine. This year Breville introduced the Barista Pro. This machine is very similar to the Express, but offers some extra bells and whistles. We wanted to dive into the differences between the machines to help you make a decision for your first purchase, or upgrade

    External Design and Features

    First, the basics: Both of these machines feature a built in burr grinder perfect for producing grounds specifically for them. They also share a case form factor, with the Pro offering slightly sleeker lines but generally the same shape. Both machines have a dedicated hot water spout for crafting Americanos. That said, the Pro's spout is angled slightly to fire directly into you cup so you can pull the water without moving it.

    The biggest difference between the two machines is the digital vs. analog displays. The Express has several buttons for different functions and an analogue pressure gauge in the middle of its interface. By comparison, the Pro has a bright, backlit digital display with smaller buttons. Some users do prefer having the analogue steam gauge, but we don't feel it ultimately adds all that much. The best way to dial in a shot is to focus on the time it takes to pull, rather than watching a steam gauge. That screen on the Pro also gives you deep control over brewing without cluttering the face with buttons.

    Internals and Performance

    The visual/interface differences between these machines is the most noticeable thing from afar. However, it's the performance that really sets the Pro apart. The Barista Express features Breville's Thermocoil water heating. Water is pulled through a heated coil to reach the perfect brewing temperature of 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Its allows the machine to heat fairly quickly, but you'll still want to turn it on and give it a minute or two to warm up.

    The Pro, on the other hand, uses Breville's newer thermojet heating. This allows you to pull shots within 20 seconds of flipping the machine on, it also means lightning fast warm up time for steaming. That also means almost non-existent downtime between drinks. The design principals between the two heating elements are similar, but the Pro's heating is just... better.

    Conclusion

    Both of these machines offer fantastic introductions to home espresso. It's why the Pro is offered alongside the Express rather than as a replacement. Which one makes sense for your first machine depends on your preference in their appearance, and whether you value the faster drinks of the Pro or the analogue gauge of the Express. If you already own an express and want a little more performance without advancing to an even higher end machine, the Pro is a fantastic upgrade. You can check them both out on our Breville brand page.

  • Miele CM5000 Series Review

    The Miele 5000 series seeks to pack the power and programmability of the 6000 series into a lower price point and smaller footprint. Does it succeed? Today we're taking a look at this interesting machine in a crew review!

    Appearance and Usability

    The Miele 5300 (and SCG Exclusive 5500) take the design aesthetic of the 6000 series as a guide. This means that the Miele "coffee box" look is present here as well. As part of the switch to the smaller case style, the 5300 and 5500 have dispensers on the outside of the case. These machine are also missing the light that is present on the 6000 machines. It's definitely a trade-off, and some will prefer the aesthetics of the 6000s. We like the way the 5000s look, and are especially enamored with our SCG exclusive. The color on the 5500 is really gorgeous and sets itself apart from the rest of the line.

    Usability on both machines is solid, with a similar interface to the 6000 series. Again the 5500 shines here, with its hot water spout and profiles for custom drinks. The case designs are good, though some with low cabinets may find accessing the water and bean hopper frustrating. The machines' compact size also results in smaller hoppers and tanks. We found this to be a worthwhile tradeoff though for anyone needing that smaller size. Cleaning and maintenance of these machines is as simple and menu driven as on its older siblings. All of this makes the 5000 series very user friendly and aesthetically pleasing. If you can, snag a 5500!

    Performance

    Performance wise, Mieles make great coffee. Heatup time is quick and the brews are good and strong. As we always say, you'll always get better coffee from a highly trained barista on a superauto. That aside, Mieles produce shots on par with machines from Jura and Philips-Saeco, the other two leaders on the market. The 5000 series machines are also great because they're giving you the same coffee that you'd get out of a 6000. That's not always true of the "compact" versions of larger machines, and deserves a callout.

    On the milk front, the 5000 series also offers the quality that the larger machines do. While we couldn't quite get latte art out of one of these machines, a truly experienced barista may be able to bridge that gap. The milk is also steamed quite fast, though your mileage may very with certain alternative milks.

    The number of drink options available is great across the board, and there's a notable difference here where it counts. For example, lattes and cappuccinos are more varied here than on some superautos, where just the volume of milk vs. coffee changes rather than milk texture. The Miele's "coffee" button is also better than on a lot of machines. Because superautos brew espresso and not drip coffee, you're never quite getting that with the coffee button on a machine like this. Instead, you're getting a lungo pulled shot. That means a shot that has extra water poured through it. It's kind of like an Americano but with water pulled through the coffee instead of added after brewing. With Miele's carafe mode, you can actually brew a whole pot of this drip-like brew. Other machines can brew single cups, but something about the ratios on Mieles make it a little closer to drip brewing.

    Conclusion

    If you have the budget and counter space, the 6000 Mieles are still a really great option. With that said, we think the 5000 line is here to stay, and they're fantastic machines if you need something more compact or affordable. Check out the 5500 here and the 5300 here!

  • Gail's Picks: Best Drip Brewers of 2019

    Welcome to another edition of Gail's Picks for 2019! Today it's all about drip brewers, and we have three fantastic coffee machines to share with you. Drip brewers are really a standby for any coffee lover, and finding the perfect one can be a challenge. That's why we're showing off a few, with specific brewers working best for specific coffee drinkers. Without further adieu, let's get started!

    Bonavita Connoisseur

    The Bonavita Connoisseur is the perfect brewer to get for that budding coffee fan in your life. It also makes an excellent secondary brewer if you primarily drink another form of coffee like espresso or press. This is an affordable machine that has no frills, but doesn't need them. For under $200 you're getting rock solid temperature stability, arguably the most important part of a drip brewer. That means that while you can't control the temperature of the water, it is solidly in the 198-202 degree range for proper extraction. It'll brew your coffee perfectly without scorching it and creating that icky flavor that cheaper drip brewers create. This is why we think it's perfect for new coffee drinkers. In a lot of cases people think that burned tasting coffee is just the way coffee tastes. The Connoisseur can show them a better way!

    This brewer also has a great pre-wetting feature that blooms the coffee in a manner that you'd get from pour over. Overall it creates a really tasty pot of drip without complications, and that's why we think it's one of the best drip brewers of 2019!

    Technivorm Moccamaster

    The Technivorm Moccamaster is a classic machine that will last many years if properly maintained. While this brewer lacks programmability, it makes up for it in sheer reliability, performance, and style. Featuring Technivorm's signature industrial design, the temperature stability here is exceptional. There's something about Technivorm brewed coffee that's just different than what you get out of other brewers. It's bold, flavorful, and complex, and that's all thanks to the design of the heating element and spray head. Again, this machine is also built like a tank. We've seen Technivorms last decades if properly maintained and cleaned. This glass carafe version also features an auto-shut off warming plate that won't burn the coffee after it has been brewed.

    What's more, these machines com in a variety of different colors! This makes it the perfect option for the style conscious kitchen. You'll be able to match your machine to the color scheme of the rest of your equipment.

    Breville Precision Brewer

    Finally, we have the Precision Brewer. This machine combines the incredible performance of the above mentioned machines with a suite of customization options. From pour over, to cold brew, to iced coffee, and more, the Precision Brewer lives up to its name. You'll be able to control every aspect of the brewing process with this machine, making it one of the smartest drip brewers available. For times when you're not looking for all of that functionality, you can just brew with the pre-programmed SCAA-rated Gold Cup setting. This will brew coffee that adheres to standards set by the specialty coffee association for properly tasting and evaluating minute details in the coffee. When you do want to get more hands on, you can play with the different settings to get the perfect flavor profile from different kinds of coffees. Pretty much the pinnacle of drip brewing tech, we love this machine!

    The SCG exclusive Tribute Edition also includes a pour over adapter. This allows you to use a pour over dripper and the built in settings to brew incredible automatic pour over.

    Conclusion

    That brings us to a close on another set of top threes! With that, we're done with Gail's Picks for 2019! We hope we've helped you make some tough decisions about what to pick up to step up your coffee game this holiday season.

  • Gail's Picks: Best Superautomatic Espresso Machines of 2019

    If you know anything about Seattle Coffee Gear, you know we love our superautomatic espresso machines. These brewers take the process of brewing espresso and turn it into an accessible set of button presses. Judging superautos is similar to judging their less automatic brethren. That means that we look at their internals, performance, and reliability. On top of these elements it's important to consider programmability and ease of use. We're excited to bring you this top 3, featuring a trio of brand new machines!

    Philips Carina

    Up first is the Philips Carina. We often talk about SCG exclusive machines needing to earn our interest. Offering a machine that no one else has is great, but only if the machine lives up to the promise. In the case of the Carina, we're pretty thrilled. The Carina isn't the fanciest machine on the market, and it isn't loaded with programming and complex menu systems like some of the competition. Instead, this is a machine that makes brewing your morning espresso simple and affordable. We often hear that these machines are quite expensive, especially when you're not sure you'll like one. Adding an option like the Carina to our lineup was a no-brainer, because it provides a jumping on point. It's affordable enough to make it a compelling choice for those new to espresso, and specifically, to superautos.

    That's not to suggest that this machine isn't also worth every penny. Its brewing capabilities are extensive, offering straight shots, lungo pulled "coffee" and milk drinks. You steam the milk using a panarello steam wand, which is less automatic than other machines. While this difference in convenience is noticeable, you also get the chance to steam your milk how you like it. This means that you can control temperature and foam more than with other milk systems. You may even find that this entry-level brewer ends up lasting you far longer than you anticipated.

    Philips 3200 LatteGo

    Another new Philips offering, the 3200 LatteGo earns its spot because of its innovative new steaming system. While many of the things said about the Carina are also true of the 3200, it's LatteGo and the additional drink options that it offers that justify the price tag. So what is LatteGo?

    If you're familiar with superautos, you've probably seen carafe based steaming systems. These systems use a carafe full of milk as a reservoir to steam your milk. Once you're done steaming, you can simply store the carafe in the fridge. It's more convenient than trying to pour the perfect amount of milk every time. The biggest downfall of most carafe systems is cleaning. They often use pipes to pull milk up to the steam chamber, and they're often challenging to clean. The LatteGo simplifies many of these processes with a three part design that comes apart easily for cleaning. We love this ease of use and maintenance, and think the carafe's design is ingenious. It's why it's on our list of best superautos for 2019!

    Miele CM5500

    The Miele CM5500 is yet another new machine part of the new 5000 line from the company. It's also another SCG exclusive, and the same rules about needing to impress apply here. We're big fans of Miele's 6000 line, and this series takes those features and packs them into a lower price point and smaller footprint. What we really love though, is how little was lost in the transition. The 5500 is one of the most affordable superautos that include multiple user profiles. You can use those profiles to customize your drinks, which is a huge deal for families and couples. The programming options allow you to set things like volume and strength, allowing you to get the perfect coffee drink in a few button presses.

    Outside of the programmability, Miele's other features hold here as well. Things like automatic milk frothing, a hot water spout, guided cleaning, and Miele's special carafe mode (allowing you to brew 40 oz of coffee at once) make this a special machine. We're sure you'll love it as much as we do!

    Conclusion

    That does it for our top 3 superautomatics of 2019, but we're not done yet! We'll have plenty more top threes as we round out this eventful year. See you next time!

  • Gail's Picks: Best Semi-Autos of 2019

    Welcome back to our series on the best products of 2019! If you're looking to get started in the wide world of semi-auto espresso machines this list is the perfect place to start! Read on for our top 3 best semi-auto espresso machines of 2019.

    Breville Barista Pro

    The Breville Barista Pro is the new big sibling to the Barista Express. If you're familiar with that machine, the basics apply here as well. This is an espresso machine that combines brewer and grinder into one package. The result is an easy to use, fantastic entry into home espresso brewing. With that in mind, what separates this from the Barista Express?

    The most easily notable difference is appearance. The Barista Pro trades the Express' dials and guages for an LCD screen. While losing the analog look may be a turnoff for some, the screen conveys so much information, and we find workflow to be smoother on this brewer. It is, overall, an easier machine to get used to. The bigger change is internal. The Barista Pro features Breville's new ThermoJet heating system. This heating element gets water up to temp in seconds, giving you near immediate ability to brew after turning the machine on. We feel these things combined put the Barista Pro over the top into one of the best machines of 2019.

    Rancilio Silvia With PID Controller

    The Silvia is a legend, that much you probably already know. The fact of the matter is that despite the years on this machine, it remains one of the best brewers you can get as a new user. It's even the sort of machine that an experienced home espresso enthusiast can get years and years of use out of. It's all down to the simplicity and durability of the machine.

    If there's one thing that the Silvia could see improvements on, its the thermostat. There's nothing wrong with the base Silvia's heating, but like most non-PID controlled heating systems, you have to learn to "temperature surf" to get the most out of the machine. Our exclusive PID controller update to the machine solves that and gives you consistent an reliable temps for steaming and brewing.

    Rocket Espresso Mozzafiato Timer

    While we have the Type V on display here, both that and the Type R model represent one of the best Italian espresso machines money can buy. Dazzling stainless steel casing and classic styling give this machine a great look. With that said, it's the ease of operation and performance that land this machine on our list. The Mozzafiato's 1.8 liter heath exchanger boiler will have you pulling multiple shots in a row and steaming at the same time. What's more, the tactile, responsive controls mean that there's very little between you and your espresso.

    For 2019, the Mozzafiato saw an update in the form of an integrated shot timer. This may seem like a small upgrade, but being able to see your shot times at a glance makes pulling shots far easier. It also helps with dialing in your shots, leading to less wasted coffee and time. We love this machine, and we know you will too.

    Conclusion

    Thanks for joining us for our top semi-auto machines of 2019. We'll have more lists coming very soon, including a list of best semi-autos at the very top end of budget and performance. Check back for that an more soon!

     

  • Gail's Picks: Best Espresso Grinders of 2019

    Today we're powering on with our top machines of 2019! Earlier this week we brought you our top 3 brew grinders for the year. We have 4 espresso grinders to talk about today! As usual, our top machines lists take a look at new and old machines to provide guidance on what the best options on the market are as of preparing the list. Like brew grinders, we have some great classic espresso grinders and a newer face or two as well! Join us as we give these machines a look.

    Baratza Sette 270Wi

    This grinder was featured on our 2018 list, and it maintains its spot here for good reason. This grinder makes its mark with its weight based dosing feature. Incorporating Acaia technology, the portafilter holder actually weighs during grinding. This means that you can get a perfect grind weight without needing to dial in a timer. This makes dialing in your overall shot very easy compared to trying to figure it out by timing. The result is faster dialing in times with less wasted coffee, which is all anyone can ask for in their grinder!

    Dosing wouldn't help if the Sette didn't also produce great grounds, and we can confidently say this one does. Some of the best, most consistent grounds we've ever seen come out of the Sette, especially impressive when considering the price point. Add in bells and whistles like easily removable burrs (for cleaning), a hopper gate, and a compact footprint and it's easy to see why this grinder makes the list.

    Eureka Mignon Specialita

    The Specialita is a compact, powerful, and consistent grinder that easily makes our list. 55mm flat steel burrs and a powerful motor bring some incredibly consistent and high quality grounds to your espresso set up. The vibrant touchscreen allows for timed dosing that allows you to quickly and easily dose for a shot. Outside of that, the simplicity of this machine is part of why it is so very great. Eureka's Mignon line does a wonderful job of putting very little technology between you and your grounds without sacrificing quality and performance.

    On top of all of this, the Specialita is whisper quiet, has a hopper gate and stepless grind adjust, and should fit on virtually any countertop. As a bonus, it's available in striking red and chrome finishes.

    Rocket Espresso Faustino

    Rocket Espresso is one of the most well known names in Italian espresso machines. This is for good reason, their brewers are some of the most incredible machines you can get from a style and performance perspective. This year they extended that to the home espresso grinder in the new Faustino. Featuring 50mm flat steel burrs, stepless grind adjust, and time dosing, this is a wonderful grinder to pair with your new Appartamento. That's not all though, the compact footprint of the Faustino is a selling point too. This is a grinder that you can easily fit in a wide range of setup sizes, and its stylish looks will compliment more than just a Rocket Espresso machine.

    All of this is why we're happy to include it on our 2019 best of list!

    Eureka Atom 65

    On the high end of our best of 2019 list we've got the mammoth Atom 65 from Eureka. This beast of a grinder may not have the footprint of the other grinders on the list, but its sheer power, consistency, and and quiet operation makes up for its taller profile. Its name comes from the brilliant 65mm flat steel burrs that its powerful motor drives, and those burrs and that motor really do provide some of the best grounds you can get. It's also an incredibly quiet grinder that will have the rest of your home sleeping like babies when you grind for your morning shot.

    The Atom 65 also features burrs that adjust from the bottom. That may not seem like a big deal, but it means you can open and clean the grinder without losing your grind setting. It's a feature found most often on commercial grinders, and one that makes maintenance so much easier.

    Conclusion

    Check back in for more of our favorites for 2019!

  • Gail's Picks: Top Three Brew Grinders of 2019

    The year is coming to a close and it's time to celebrate our top threes for 2019! We'll be rolling out our top three favorites in a range of categories over the next month. To kick thinks off we're starting with the best brew grinders of the year! These grinders are for use with drip brewers, pour overs, and other non-pressurized brewing methods. (In other words, these guys won't do espresso!) Let's get started!

    Virtuoso+

    The Virtuoso+ comes to us from Baratza. This grinder features 38mm conical steel burrs. That means that it'll produce consistent, clump free grounds perfect for slow brew methods. A digital dial lets you dial in a specific time, which means you can determine how much you'll need for pourovers, drip brewing, or whatever method you use. That'll cut down on waste and ensure that you have the perfect amount of grounds every time. The fact that you can push the button and walk away means you can save time by setting up your grew while it grinds. We also notice less static in the catch bin than what we tend to see with most brew grinders.

    If we can find any cons, its that the hopper does not have a bean gate. This means you'll have a hard time removing all of the beans to change them out without grinding through them.

    Eureka Mignon Filtro

    The Filtro is one of Eureka's new brew grinders for 2019. This grinder steps up the burr game to 50mm flat steel burrs. These large burrs are controlled by a stepless grind adjust. This can feel finicky at first, but the stepless adjust means there are literally infinite settings you can set the burrs to. This will give you very fine control over grinding to adjust flavor for specific roasts. Aside from this, this stylish grinder provides super high quality grounds fed into its durable catch-bin. Simplicity in design means this grinder is a breeze to learn and use, and a hopper gate makes switching beans easy.

    The only real con with this grinder is its simple interface doesn't allow for programmed timed dosing, so you'll have to hold the button down to grind.

    Baratza Encore

    The perfect entry level grinder, the Encore uses 40mm conical steel burrs and simple operation to bring perfect brew grinds to your drip life. While this grinder doesn't offer as much control in burr adjustment as the ones above, it's powerful, consistent, and easy to use. This is a fantastic grinder for a new pourover enthusiast!

    The only real issue here is the simple operation and lack of programming paired with limited control. This is still a grinder that will be perfect for drip, press, and pourover brewing.

    Conclusion

    That's all we've got for 2019's best brew grinders! We'll be back this week with more 2019 best ofs!

     

  • LaMarzocco Linea Mini 2019 Review

    From a storied history producing commercial machines to nearly indestructible home machines, there's a lot to love from LaMarzocco. In light of this, we thought it would be the perfect time to take a look at a classic made for home. Read on for our 2019 look at the Linea Mini!

    Appearance and Usability

    The Linea Mini is the home version of the legendary Linea. That machine has been a workhorse in commercial settings for decades. Serving coffee shops around the world with reliable, powerful performance. The home version translates the look and feel of the Linea well. Visually, this machine really does give the appearance of the full size Linea. The only main differences are size and the brew paddle, which we'll get into momentarily. We love the look of the Linea Mini, but it's similarity to the commercial machine it emulates may be a turnoff for those looking for a less industrial look.

    From a usability perspective, this machine is a dream. Big, easy to use nozzles for steam and hot water control make those functions a breeze. The articulated steam wand is easy to manage and provides great steam. Finally, that brew paddle greatly improves the functionality of the machine. Giving you more tactile control over water flow means you can pinpoint accurate extraction times. With pre-programmed one second pre-infusion, you know you'll get perfectly responsive brew starts too. Plus, it's a lot of fun to use!

    Rounding out the look and feel of the machine are a big 3.5L water reservoir and a great set of indicators. The lights are easy to read and provide all of the info you need for operation. Meanwhile, that tank should last many shots before needing refilling thanks to its size.

    Performance

    On the performance front, the Linea Mini truly doesn't skimp. In fact, the LM's NSF rating means you could actually use this in a coffee shop if you wanted to. Most shops will need to be able to handle brewing multiple drinks at once, but it speaks to the quality of the machine.

    One piece of this puzzle is the Linea Mini's integrated brew group. Instead of separating the brew group and the boiler, like most machines, the integrated brew groups combine these parts. The result is a single, seamless part that keeps temperature stable throughout the brewing process. This means that the Linea Mini manages stable temps on par with E-61 machines while maintaining the signature Linea look.

    Temperature is maintained with a PID controller, providing rock solid temps that don't fluctuate like with standard thermostats. That controller manages two boilers, a .17L brew boiler and a 3.5L steam boiler. Each is the perfect size to handle its task, and having both means you can brew and steam at the same time with stable temps.

    The steam want on the Linea Mini is the same one that comes on the large standard Linea. This means you'll be steaming milk in seconds with power on par with your favorite coffee shop. Other odds and ends include a solenoid valve, cup warmer, and the option to plumb in the machine.

    Conclusion

    There's only a couple of issues with the Linea Mini. For one, the warm up time might seem extreme if you just want a latte in the morning. It can take 15 minutes to warm up for brewing, and up to 30 to be able to steam. That warmup time is worth the wait, but it also means that you'll either want to leave this machine on 24/7, or start it well before you're ready to brew. The only other con is the lack of programmable pre-infusion. While the pre-programmed option should be all you need, for super invested home baristas, more programmability is a good feature.

    Otherwise, this is a machine that really lives up to the LaMarzocco name. It's one of the closest things to putting the power of a professional cafe right on your countertop.

  • Izzo Vivi PID Pro Review

    The Izzo Vivi PID Pro is a dazzling stainless steel marvel that comes in at a great price point for what's on offer. Stainless steel casing and boiler material, a powerful heat-exchanger heating element, E-61 group head, and more, Join us as we break down what makes this machine tick.

    Appearance and Usability

    The Vivi really speaks for itself from an appearance standpoint. This machine is a beautiful collision of stainless steel, with the material comprising the casing, frame, and boiler. This means that the Vivi has a stunning shine that will dazzle every morning. There really aren't many other machines that stand out like an Izzo, and the Vivi is no exception. The lines on this machine also offer that classic Italian style to go along with the shine. The PID controls are easily accessible along with other levers and knobs. The PID interface also houses the machine's handy shot timer. The brew lever is nice and snappy, with clear action for starting and stopping water flow. Steam controls are al easy to manage with the twist of the dial. One thing to note is that the dials themselves are plastic, but this is partly to keep them cool to the touch during use. They are high quality, durable, and look great, so we don't see it as a real issue.

    In general, using this machine is a breeze. It is of course a technical brewer, but a great one to learn on. If you've used other Italian espresso machines you'll be right at home with Vivi. If you're more familiar with more entry level machines there will definitely be a learning curve. That said, it's more than worth it to learn to pull shots on a "professional style" machine like this. The only negative we can offer about using the Vivi is that the case does get very hot. Because there's not tons of clearance around the machine and its working components, you do have to be mindful to avoid getting burns.

    Performance

    The Vivi's performance is tough to beat at its price point. We offer some incredible machines around the $2,000 mark, and whole heartedly recommend all of them. The Vivi is no different, and if it wasn't up to snuff with the other brands we sell, it wouldn't be on our shelves. So with all of that said, what really makes this machine tick? First off, the heating element is a heat exchanger in a stainless steel, 1.8 liter boiler. This kind of heating element and volume means you'll be able to steam milk and brew while remaining temperature stable. That's a huge boon for shot and milk quality, as well as time. That, however, is just the tip of the iceberg

    Other brewing elements are the powerful pump, solenoid valve, and heated E61 Group head. The group head in particular is an important piece of the Vivi puzzle. E61s help water maintain temp as it passes through the portafilter, which it also heats. The result is hot shots that are brewed at the proper temp and pressure, without any blowback or spray thanks to the solenoid valve. Overall this is a stellar machine that can churn out delicious drinks in a hurry.

    Conclusion

    Between powerful insides and all of that stainless, there's a reason we offer this exclusive machine. Definitely one of the best options out there at the $2,000 or less pricepoint, and a perfect upgrade from an entry level machine. Learning to brew on a Vivi is worth the learning curve! Check if out on our store here.

  • Philips Saeco Carina Superautomatic Espresso Machine Review

    If you follow us here, we're guessing you're familiar with Philips Saeco's prowess in the superauto market. From past machines like the Vienna, through the modern Incanto Line, to the best in class Xelsis, this is a proven manufacturer. New on the scene is a full line of Philips machines, and with it, a new Seattle Coffee Gear exclusive. We wouldn't sell you this machine if we didn't believe in it, so it's high time to put it to the test!

    Appearance and Usability

    The new Philips line uses case stylings similar to the Xelsis. This gives all of these machines a sleek, stylish look that fits into any kitchen easily. Carina's faceplate a simple glossy black, keeping the buttons readable. Front access water is a huge plus, thought beans are still top-loading, with a grind setting dial in the hopper. The drip tray is simple and functional, though it can be a touch finicky to slide in and out at first as you get used to it. Simplicity is the name of the game for Carina's interface. On the front you'll find buttons for espresso, coffee, hot water, and steam. At first this can seem like a limited set of options, but combined with controls for strength and water volume, and the panarello steam wand, there's a lot you can do here. With a few button presses you'll be pulling shots, pouring americanos, and whipping up lattes. As with most superautos, the coffee button pulls a long shot rather than true drip. This means you won't quite get drip coffee, but something somewhere between an espresso and an americano.

    Also present are simple rinse and AquaClean. The latter is one of our favorite parts about the Carina - it uses Saecos current AquaClean filtration. This means you'll get guided alerts on when to change the filters. This filtration system makes cleaning and maintaining your machine incredibly easy.

    Another note here is the panarello steam wand. Sometimes these devices get a bad rap in the superauto world because they're less "auto" than cappuccinotores and carafes. This is true, but panarellos also give you full control over degree of foam, and temperature. Sure, it takes a little bit of extra effort, but you save yourself from being stuck with milk that isn't hot or foamy enough for you.

    Performance

    This machine uses the same brewing hardware as the higher end machines in the new Philips line. This means you'll be getting the same quality of espresso machines double the price, and it's far better than pod-based machines at this price point. You also get to bring your own beans. It's true - the Carina isn't quite at the level of the Xelsis, but for a fraction of the price, it's impressive. Impressive enough to recommend even to someone replacing an Incanto or Pico. Dialing in grind, strength, and volume will let you get the coffee tasting just how you like it too. Carina also heats quickly, going from off to ready to brew in under a minute. Steaming requires a bit of additional heat up time, and we recommend starting with your milk and then pulling your shot.

    The AquaClean filtration performs as well as you'd expect, and as noted above, the panarello works great. It's not quite as convenient as a carafe or cappuccinotore, and it's slower than a more expensive semi-automatic, but it still heats up and works quickly.

    Conclusion

    The biggest strength that the Carina has is its price point. This is definitely not a "cheap" machine, as it has features, performance, and style well beyond its price point. That price point is, however, an extremely attractive piece of the puzzle. The Carina is one of the lowest price superautos on the market, and that's with few compromises. We absolutely recommend this machine for any new superauto customer. It's even a great replacement if your Incanto is getting a little long in the tooth! Check out the Carina exclusively at SCG here.

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