automatic espresso machine

  • The Reluctant Barista: Pops a Cap in the New Iperespresso Machines

    Now that I have built my espresso connoisseurship from zero to somewhere above average, but still far below that of Juan Valdez, I was reluctant to go back to my lazy ways. New single-cup espresso capsule machines from Francis Francis for illy arrived awhile back and I played coy. I stayed away until I found out our crew of espresso machine technicians were proponents of this capsule craze.

    I wrangled one each of the Francis Francis Y1.1 and the Francis Francis X7.1 Iperespresso Machines over to my desk. Mike and Jeff from the refurbish crew volunteered to be my guinea pigs ...er, I mean taste-testers. They programmed the extraction time on both machines to their preferred shot length to assist me with a side-by-side comparison. The new illy coffee capsules come in a canister -- like the whole bean and pre-ground illy coffees do -- and in the same flavor profiles. I popped the top off of a can of illy iperespresso Dark Roast capsules to try in the two new machines.

    francis_francis_x7.1-black

    Francis Francis X7.1 -- The Little Alien Dude

    This is reminiscent of a retro 50s espresso maker complete with a portafilter to make it look like you did the work of pulling a shot and a steam wand to froth milk.


    y1.1_iper_espresso_machine

    Francis Francis Y1.1 -- The Rubik's Cube

    Sleek and modern, this style fits in a Minimalist’s dream kitchen or office. Lightly touch the programmable single shot or double shot button and receive espresso -- yes, it really is that easy!

    In the end, it 'all boils down' to case style and drink preference. The illy iperespresso capsules have a patented pressurized design and both machines provide the right brew temperature and pressure to get the most flavor extracted. Upon Shiami's suggestion we ran hot water through the machines to get them up to temp and to pre-warm the demistasse cups. Then we hunkered down and watched the espresso as it streamed out of the two machines for 29 seconds each.

    All variables being equal, Mike and Jeff preferred the Y1.1 since it has one-touch operation right out of the box. Shiami preferred the X7.1 for her lungo. There may be a slight temperature advantage as the X7.1 maintained heat within the metal portafilter, but I did not taste a discernible difference as I sampled the espresso produced. If you are in need of steady milk frothing, the X7.1 is the one to pick. If your need for steamed milk is more occasional, an accessory frother like the Breville Smart Cafe paired with the Y1.1 is also a winning combination.

    So who did we declare the winner? For me, at least, simple is always better, so the tie goes to ... the Y1.1!

  • The Reluctant Barista: Jura GIGA 5 and the Secret Menu

    giga5_feature4There is something so intriguing about a secret menu. Starbucks has one. In-N-Out Burger has one. And now, the Jura GIGA 5 Automatic Coffee Center does too. After a hot tip from Kat that there was indeed a secret menu, I decided to play detective. I found these new recipes through my favorite machine testing method called 'random button pushing.' You won’t find this covered in the Jura user manual (unless you happen to look at page 20...). The Reluctant Barista has some delicious insider information to share.

    The initial screen shows what you might come to expect from a superautomatic menu: Ristretto, Espresso, Coffee, Hot Water, Cappuccino, Latte Macchiato, Milk, Milk Foam. From these simple settings you can further customize the coffee dosage, water temperature, water volume, milk volume and milk foam. The Jura GIGA 5 does not come standard with an integrated milk carafe, so I used a Jura Cool Control Automatic Milk Cooler and the included hose that came with the GIGA 5 to make a bevy of milk-based beverages.

    Last week I made my go-to drink, a foamy hazelnut latte and was happily surprised by how hot the drink got. Monday morning I had the GIGA 5 pour me a double cappuccino. I needed it! After the caffeine kicked in, it was time to explore uncharted territory. There were 12 more "secret" recipes once I twirled the rotary dial on top. I have to admit, these recipes perplexed me. Were they chosen by an Italian espresso aficionado? Were they chosen by the Swiss manufacturer? Who mixes lemonade and espresso? They did not seem to be targeted to Seattle taste profiles, or at least not my particular taste. However, I did try the recipe for 'Winter Magic Coffee.' This turned out to be what I would describe as a Nutella Latte. It was so popular with the SCG Crew that I ended up making 5 drinks back to back.

    Sadly, there was no barista gnome inside the Jura GIGA 5 to prepare the drinks. You need to provide your own ingredients. From home I brought my treasured Nutella and used Monin Honey Sweetener although it was sweet enough without it. The GIGA 5 walked me through each step with a series of easy to read screens. I especially liked the final step of each drink I made when the GIGA 5 screen simply said, 'Enjoy!'

    The Jura GIGA 5 "Secret" Drink Menu:

    • Marocchino – espresso, Monin Dark Chocolate Sauce, chocolate powder
    • Pepresso – espresso, Monin Dark Chocolate Sauce, mixed peppercorns (Watch Brandi make this recipe)
    • White Cool – espresso, carbonated lemonade, ice cubes
    • Gourmet Latte Macchiato – espresso, evaporated milk, Monin Irish Cream Syrup (non-alcoholic) or Bailey’s Irish Cream (alcoholic)
    • Irish Coffee – coffee, brown sugar, Irish Whiskey (alcoholic), whipped cream on top
    • Café Melange – coffee with whipped cream and chocolate shavings on top
    • Viennese Coffee – coffee, vanilla ice cream, Monin Vanilla Syrup and chocolate shavings on top
    • Winter Magic Coffee – espresso, Nutella, honey and a pinch of ginger and cardamom on top
    • Shakerato – espresso, lemons, sugar, ice
    • Mango Lassi – espresso, yogurt, mango puree
    • Red Cool – espresso, carbonated lemonade, Campari (alcoholic), ice
    • Summer Fire – espresso, Monin Coconut Syrup, lemon pepper

    Thank you GIGA 5 -- we will enjoy!

  • Playing with Preinfusion on the Breville Dual Boiler

    It's fun to play with parameters! If you didn't learn that in the 2nd grade, life has probably been pretty rough for you -- but now is your time to shine.

    One of the elements you can control on the Breville Dual Boiler is both the pre-infusion pressure and the duration prior to shot extraction. Factory setting is 60% of the overall pump pressure for 7 seconds, but what happens when you change the pressure? Or if you keep the pressure the same and change the timing? Of course, all coffee will react differently to these settings, so we decided to experiment with Equator's Espresso Blend to see how making changes to this parameter affected the overall flavor of the shot.

    Watch Gail try different pressures and different pre-infusion times to determine if the factory settings are the best bet for Equator Espresso.

  • Compare: Double Boiler Espresso Shots - Izzo, La Spaziale & Breville

    For folks that dig precision, a dual boiler espresso machine with PID temperature control of the brew boiler is hard to beat. While we tend to shoot from the hip in general around here, that doesn't mean we can't appreciate a shot pulled from one of these beauties!

    We asked Gail to pull shots from the Izzo Alex Duetto II, La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi and Breville Dual Boiler so that we could see how they compare. No science at work here, friends (hey, old habits die hard!), but we did use the same grinder for each machine (the Nuova Simonelli MCI), coffee (Lavazza Super Crema) and brew temp (199F) to try to nail down a few of the variables.

    Watch as we taste and discuss the shots from each of these machines, then rank them in terms of our favorites, flavor-wise.

  • How-To: Mavea Purity C Water Filter Installation

    Filtering your water is essential if you plan on plumbing in your espresso machine to a direct water line in your location. Without this, you run the risk of scale build-up that can only be removed by a professional taking apart the machine and physically removing the scale. How quickly this occurs will depend on your location -- we did have a cafe attempt to go without filtration for just a couple of months and their equipment completely seized up as a result. Clearly, they were working with very hard water, but it's not a risk we recommend you take, at all.

    For commercial locations, there are tons of filtration options that will address a wide variety of water source needs. If you're looking at that kind of a setup, then you'll need to install something a bit more sophisticated and robust that will be able to address the multiple appliances that will require water (such as drip coffee makers, ice machines, water fountains and your espresso machine) in a way that's easy to manage. But for just straight espresso machine filtration, the Mavea Purity C filters are simple, easy to install and do an excellent job of filtering out what you don't want in your espresso machine's boiler.

    Watch Gail as she walks us through an overview of how she installed a Mavea filter on our La Marzocco Linea.

  • Espresso Machine Storage Tips

    Leaving your machine alone for the winter? Need to store it or move it (by hand) to a new location? Gail gives us some tips on what you should do to prepare your machine so you limit the possibility of damage.

  • Which Brew Temperature is Best for Lavazza Super Crema?

    We took one of our most popular coffees, Lavazza Super Crema, and brewed it using different temperatures on theLa Spaziale Mini Vivaldi. While the 204F degree espresso extraction temperature is a general rule of thumb, a lot of single origin/estate beans and even some blends are particularly sensitive to heat and will perform better at a different temperature.

    Watch as Gail brews several shots at different temperatures, tasting each to determine the ideal brew temp for Super Crema.

  • Ask the Experts: Which Machines Need to be Backflushed?

    Cleaning and maintenance is a hot topic in this neck o' the woods, but some folks aren't clear on which specific maintenance routines apply to the type of machine they own. This comes up specifically in regard to backflushing -- do you or don't you?

    You do backflush if you own a machine with a valve system referred to as a three-way solenoid, brew pressure release, three-way valve, solenoid valve or any other combination of these phrases. Not sure if your machine has this? If your machine has an E61 brew group (such as those on Rockets, Quick Mills, Izzos or Grimacs), it has this valve system. Other models that feature this without the E61 are those made by La Spaziale, Pasquini, the Rancilio Silvia and Ascaso's Uno Pro and Duo series. This valve system relieves pressure post-brew, which results in a drier puck, but it sucks a little bit of coffee and water into the system each time which can build up in there and adversely impact the machine's performance. Backflushing forces detergent and water through the valve system, thoroughly cleaning it and maintaining the system. It also has the added benefit of cleaning up behind the brew head's screen without taking it apart.

    You don't backflush if your machine doesn't have this system -- because you don't have the valves to clean! Some machines that don't need backflushing include the Saeco Aroma, Via Venezia, Sirena, models made by Breville, those from Francis Francis/illy and Delonghi and Capresso semi-automatics. But since you're not forcing detergent through the brew head, you will need to take it apart semi-regularly to clean up behind the brew screen.

    The best way to determine if you need to backflush your machine is to read the manufacturer's manual and the machine's technical specifications to see if it has the valve system. If it doesn't, you're good to go; if it does, you should backflush once every 1 - 2 weeks, depending on how often you use the machine.

    Not sure how to do it? Watch us backflush the Rocket Giotto E61 or the Rancilio Silvia.

  • Ask the Experts: What's a Panarello?

    Creating a silky microfoam can be a challenging enterprise: Even with the higher end prosumer machines we sell, it is arguably the most difficult skill to learn and sometimes takes more practice (and patience!) than folks expect from the outset.
  • Ask the Experts: Can I use Lemon Juice to Descale my Machine?

    DIY lovers are all into the idea of using lemon juice or vinegar to descale their machines, but while the latter will leave a nasty residue and we don't recommend it for that reason, the former just isn't concentrated enough to do as an effective job in as an efficient manner as a concentrated citric acid solution like Dezcal. This is what we find out from Gail, plus she makes freaky faces and it's worth watching just for that.

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