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

    Welcome back to our Gail's Picks series for 2019!

    Today it's time to take a look at our picks for the best high-end superuatomatic espresso machines in 2019. These machines have so much programmability and tech in them that it's almost like having a personal barista. But what sets these three apart from other expensive superautos? Read on to find out!

    Miele CM6350

    The Miele CM6350 is a powerful brewer that offers a pipe based system that connects to a carafe for milk steaming, and four customizable profiles. This machine set a standard for high-end superautos and still is one of the best you can buy. The menus can take some getting used to, but there's no denying the quality of coffee and milk that comes out of a miele superauto. Add to that a hot water spout, large hopper, and a removable reservoir and you've got a compelling option at its price point. Those four profiles allow you to set elements of drink creation for multiple users, so that the whole family can dial in their perfect latte.

    Miele is also the only superauto maker to offer carafe based coffee brewing. While the "coffee" from a Miele isn't truly drip coffee, it's about as close as you can get from this style of machine. With carafe brewing, you can brew a whole pot of this lungo pulled espresso at once to serve multiple guests. It all combines to make the CM6350 one of the best machines you can buy for families.

    Saeco Xelsis

    Last year the Xelsis got a major re-launch and totally blew us away. We declared it one of the best machines of 2018, and it maintains that this year. The new Xelsis redefines programmability, user interface, and milk quality for superautos. The touchscreen on the face of the machine gives you full control over multiple pages of drink parameters. Things like volume and strength are standard, but being able to adjust temperature, milk foam, and specific ingredient volumes is a great addition. All of it is extremely easy to understand and read as well. This extends to the AquaClean filtration and HygieSteam system as well. Both of these components are easy to understand and manage, and make maintenance of the machine a breeze.

    The front access water tank, general look and feel of the machine, and sturdy construction drive home the premium nature of this machine. Then there's the milk quality. Xelsis' HygieSteam system really nails one of the hardest aspects of drink creation. Professional baristas spend hours learning techniques to get just the right amount of foam for lattes and cappuccinos. The Xelsis still can't quite match a real, human pro, but it gets as close as we've seen. All of that makes it one of the best superautos you can get!

    Jura Z8

    Reaching for the highest of the high end machines, the Jura Z8 is like an espresso supercomputer. Its massive 4.3-inch touchscreen delivers a glorious user experience that offers programmability and simple one touch recipes. 21 of these recipes are built in, and brewing them is as easy as can be. Adjustable milk temperature and texture provide an exquisite set of options for lattes and cappuccinos as well, really living up to that "cafe in your kitchen" concept. Plus, this machine makes some of the best espresso available in the superauto category. This is achieved with Jura's exclusive P.E.P. brewing system, which teases out more of the depth in the brew method that you can normally only get by manually pulling shots.

    On top of being one of the best in the business in terms of drink quality, the Z8 offers looks and easy maintenance as well. CLEARYL smart filtration keeps you informed on when you need to change the filter and clean the machine. On the case side, thick plating and solid construction provide a visually appealing and high quality feel to the machine. While this is one of the more expensive machines on the market, it justifies this with its high performance.

    Conclusion

    And there you have it, our three favorites in the high-end market for superautos. We love these machines, and feel they represent some of the best options available for your kitchen. We're pretty sure you'll love them too. We're not done yet though, check back for more of Gail's Picks in the next week!

     

  • Gail's Picks: Best High End Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines of 2019

    Welcome back to Gail's picks for the best machines of 2019!

    Today we're taking a look at the very best higher end semi-automatics on the market, starting with the Rocket Espresso R58.

    Rocket Espresso R58

    The Rocket Espresso R58 is a hand built, perfectly tuned machine. Practically a cafe for your countertop, this machine uses commercial grade components alongside Rocket Espresso's signature style, and it really wows. Every machine this manufacturer produces is powerful, but the R58 takes it to another level. The steel frame houses two boilers. The steam boiler clocks in at 1.7 liters, with the brew boiler is about half a liter. Having both of these boilers allows you to easily steam and brew at the same time. Having this ability puts your drink output on the level with your local cafe. The R58 also features tactile controls and an easy to use PID controller interface to give you loads of power without tons of work.

    Beyond all of these major features, the R58 is plumbable and offers some of the best pre-infusion available. A working piston and a static chamber combine to perfect infuse water into the grounds before brewing. This creates an incomparable shot of espresso. Even better, you can plumb this machine for maximum ease of use, perfect for the serious home coffee enthusiast.

    La Marzocco Linea Mini

    The Linea is one of La Marzocco's, and espresso in general's, absolute classic machines. Powering cafe's for decades, its a machine that offers legendary performance without putting anything between you and the brewing process. The Linea Mini is the home version of this machine, and its historic heritage is apparent in every part of its design. Simple, industrial design elements house elements like PID-controlled dual boilers, La Marzocco's signature saturated group, and the iconic brew paddle. This is a serious brewer that will last many years, can be plumbed for maximum convenience, and is fun to use. That brew paddle mentioned above allows you to initiate brew cycles confidently, and 1 second pre-infusion will ensure quality shots again and again.

    In fact, this machine is even NSF certified. That means you could use it to brew espresso in a small cafe or coffee cart. While we'll always direct commercial customers to machines specifically designed for cafes, it speaks to the Linea Mini's reputation. Commercial grade steaming and that saturated group head help that rep, creating consistent temperatures for crafting the perfect latte or cappuccino. We loved this machine, and it even comes in several colors!

    Rocket Espresso R Nine One

    At the highest of the high end, we couldn't help but squeeze the R Nine One onto our list. This machine is practically a spaceship that brew coffee, and it's evident as soon as you lay eye on it. Eschewing Rocket Espresso's more standard Italian design tropes, the R Nine One is really a next level machine. Like the other machines on our list, this one features two boilers, one for steaming, and one for brewing. This gives you consistent power to prepare milk and espresso at once. That's standard on prosumer machines like this though, what really makes this machine different is its programmability. The R Nine One's screen provides helpful feedback, and allows for some wild programming options. Pressure profiling is the concept of applying difference degrees of pressure with the pump through pulling the shot. Difference pressure profiles can create small differences in flavor. In the case of the R Nine One, this is something you can control.

    This means that you can use the R Nine One to recreate the brewing process of dozens of different brewers. This is done by mimicking the way they apply pressure to the grounds. You can, of course, also just use this technology to dial in your favorite profile for your beans. This system is in addition to all of the other bells and whistles you'd expect. That means a stainless steel frame and case, a saturated E-61 group, Pid controller, and plumbability. You really can't go wrong with this machine. That's why it's on our list of favorite high-end semi-autos for 2019!

    Conclusion

    Semi-autos aren't the end of the story! We'll be back with more of Gail's favorites, including best high-end superautos, very soon!

  • Video Roundup: 11/15/2019

    Happy Friday Coffee Fans!

    We've had a load of fun filming this week and have a few videos to share. Make sure you check out Gail's Picks for 2019, which we've been sharing in separate posts here on the blog! Today we're going to dig in to our regularly scheduled content.

    Fist up, we got a look at the La Marzocco Swift Espresso Grinder from John.

    Next, Clementine brewed up some apple cider coffee!

    Last but not least, Allie, Nicole and I had a taste of our newest roast, Onyx Coffee Lab:

    That's all for this week! Join us next week for more fun video content!

  • 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.

  • Video Roundup: 11/1/2019

    Hello friends!

    It's time yet again for another weekly video roundup here at SCG! We've got 4 videos hot off the press for you this week, let's get started!

    First, we've got John with a review of the Rocket Espresso Boxer Timer One Group:

    Next is a much requested comparison between the Philips Carina and the Saeco Vienna, should you think about upgrading?

    Then Clementine offered up a tasty treat for this magical season:

    Last but not least, Allie provided some helpful tips and tricks for the Izzo Vivi PID Pro:

    And that's all for now! We'll be back next week with loads more to share.

  • Philips Espresso Machine Giveaway!

    Hey friends!

    If you follow us on social media you know this week we launched a giveaway for 3 fantastic new Philips espresso machines. The machines up for grabs are the Philips Carina, 3200, and 3200 LatteGo. Each of these machines is super easy to use and makes great coffee and milk drinks!

    We've partnered with Gleam to make this giveaway simple to enter. All you need to do is head over to this page and click each item in the list. To get every entry opportunity you'll need a Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram account, and an email to use for our newsletter! Each list item will ask you to log into your accounts to complete the action, or it will ask for your email address in the case of the newsletter signup. We have tried to make this process as useable as possible, but if you run into issues feel free to contact us. We can't wait to announce the winners after the giveaway wraps up!

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