Reviews

  • Video Roundup: 10/18/2019

    It's another Friday and we have LOADS of videos to share this week!

    Let's dive in:

    First up, Gail took a look at the new 3200 LatteGo from Philips.

    Next, we tasted our Roast of the Month!

    Then we got another crew review, this time of the NON LatteGo 3200:

    Allie dropped by the studio to offer some Izzo tips and tricks:

    And last but not least, another terrifying Coffee Collaboration with Clementine!

    That's all for now, get to watching!

  • 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.

  • Video Roundup: 10/4/2019

    Another week, another roundup! It's time to dig in to all of our video content from this week!

    First up, a long awaited look at DeLonghi's LaSpecialista with Gail (and Jamie from DeLonghi!):

    Next, Gail showed us some handy tips & tricks for use with the Rocket Espresso Mozzafiato!

    And finally, of course, it wouldn't be Friday without a new Coffee Collaboration with Clementine:

    Check back next week for more videos!

  • Rocket Espresso Mozzafiato Timer Review

    Rocket Espresso makes some of the most impressive home espresso machines on the market. This is a manufacturer that has spent decades merging machine innovation with classic Italian design, and it shows. New this year are Rocket Espresso's models with timers. Both the Type V and Type R model received this timer update. We figured this would make now the perfect time to revisit these excellent machines!

    Appearance and Usability

    Both versions of the Mozzafiato feature Rocket Espresso's stunning case design. We often hear folks comparing these machines to other Italian espresso machines, but they are really a cut above. The solid stainless steel casing, industrial dials and gauges, and tactile controls and steam wand/water dispenser are a cut above the competition in the looks department. Other simple accents like the fact that you can hide the PID controller and the integrated cup rails are nice touches. Finally, the adjustable feet will help you slide these machines under your cabinets. All of this combined makes this a stunning machine that will turn heads and excited guests to try out a latte or americano.

    The visual difference between the Type V and the Type R is pretty minimal. The Type R's gauges feature a black background, while the Type V's are white. The biggest 2019 update to these machines is the integrated shot timer. While not brewing, this unassuming cutout really blends into the machine. While brewing, it's an easy to read (and handy) tool for making sure your shots are consistent.

    Using either of these machines is a real joy. The dials for the hot water and steam feel mechanical and satisfying, and respond well. The same can be said for the brew lever. Flipping it up and down gives you full control over the pump without buttons and touchscreens getting in the way. The aforementioned shot timer will allow you to get a perfect idea of how your shot pull is faring. This allows you to ensure that your espresso is pulling in 20-30 seconds, but can help you dial in longer shots for tricky single origins as well. This works especially well when paired with a scale like the Acaia Luna.

    Powerful steaming allows you to steam perfect latte milk to go with your carefully crafted shot as well. Lastly, the PID controller allows you to set and control the temperature of the boiler, and is controller with a handy connected remote. This can be hidden under or behind the machine to keep it from clashing with the look of the rest of the machine.

    Performance

    The inside of these machines is really where they go from great to fantastic. Both the Type V and Type R versions come equipped with a 1.8 liter heat-exchanger boiler. On a basic level, this means that you'll be able to brew espresso and steam milk at the same time on these machines. The Type R even comes with an insulated boiler, helping the machine to retain heat and use power more efficiently. Either way, with PID controlled temps, hot water,  steam, and espresso are all always just a twist or flip away. Both of these machines feature an E61 grouphead, which keeps the brew unit and the portafilter heated. This means that water doesn't lose as much heat when flowing through your coffee grounds. The result is better shots, pulled at the exact right temp. This is very important for recreating café quality espresso, just don't touch the brewhead!

    Pushing the water through the grouphead and your ground coffee is a powerful pump. On the Type V, this means a vibratory pump similar to the one found in the Apartamento. This powerful pump uses a three-way solenoid valve to manage pressure, and will perform for many years. The Type R features a rotary pump, which allows you to plumb the machine as well. This plumbing option is great if you're setting up a dedicated bar in your home and don't want to fiddle with a water tank.

    As already noted, the steam on these machines is excellent, allowing you to steam milk as well as they do at your favorite café. Ultimately, this means that with enough practice, you'll be brewing up cappuccinos and lattes to rival the best baristas in town.

    Conclusion

    The Rocket Espresso Mozzafiato line is, simply put, an excellent legacy machine. You can buy a brewer like this and not have to worry about upgraded or replacing for decades with the proper care. It's hard to imagine a better offer at its price point. Shop the Mozzafiato here.

     

  • Rocket Espresso Appartamento Review - 2019

    Hello out there!

    It's been a while since we took the time to look at the Rocket Espresso Appartamento here on the blog. With Gail's excellent recent crew review over on YouTube, we figured there's no time like the present!

    Look and Feel

    The Appartamento is one of the most stylish machines on the market. The stainless steel casing, side cutouts, and E-61 brew head all make for a stunning looking machine. A hot water spout rounds out the machine's external design. Rocket Espresso Machines have a great history of embracing the visual design of Italian espresso machines while also leaving their distinct mark on the machines as well. In addition to the Rocket Espresso logo on the steam valve, for the Appartamento it's those case cutouts on the side. The insert panels come in copper and white from the factory, and we also offer black panels ourselves. these color options mean you can match the machine with your kitchen even if stainless isn't your main look.

    And oh how you'll be able to fit it in. The Appartamento's name comes from its size. This is a machine designed to fit in any kitchen, even tiny apartments. What's impressive about this is that it still offers the power and style of larger machines, and looks great in larger kitchens as well.

    As for feel, the mechanical nature of the Appartamento's controls mean that you'll always feel in control of the brewing and steaming processes. From satisfying tactile motions like flipping on the brew lever or turning on the steam, to the chunky power switch and solid build of the components, this is machine is a joy to use. The anti-burn steam wand also helps you to keep the steam wand free of milk, and it's double-wall design should protect from serious burns as well.

    But let's talk more about what's under the hood.

    Internals and Power

    The Appartamento features a heated E61 brew group head, 1.8 liter heat exchanger boiler, and a three way solenoid valve. But what do these things mean?

    For starters, the group head keeps the portafilter and brewing unit hot. This means you won't lose temperature as water is pushed through the group and into the portafilter. So long as the portafilter is kept hot by leaving it in the group, you won't lose temp as the coffee is brewed either. All of this means that you'll get exceptional shots every time you pull the brew lever. The heat exchanger boiler provides plenty of heat and water for brewing, and its design allows you to brew and steam simultaneously. This is a huge feature for home espresso machines, and cuts down on drink prep time. Finally, the three way solenoid valve safely controls water flow through the group head, keeping water hot and preventing messy spray when finishing the brew process.

    These components all combine to offer a really great package in a small form factor. We have always loved the Appartamento, and still do.

    Conclusion

    There really aren't many better options for your first semi-professional espresso machine. The value contained in the Appartamento is impressive. This is a powerful, smart, stylish, and long lasting machine that you'll likely use for many years. Give the Appartamento a look on Seattle Coffee Gear here.

  • Roast of the Month: TOCA Pink Moon

    This month's roast of the month comes to us from the lovely TOCA coffee roasters!

    Pink Moon is a lovely blend of flavors that combines floral and fruit notes with a twist of citrus at the end. A spring roast, TOCA suggests that the floral and fruity notes inspire renewal and invigoration, and we can't help but agree! Pink Moon features Ethiopian and Guatemalan beans, two origins known for unique and recognizable flavor profiles. While the washed processing of these two coffees keeps stronger berry notes in check, there's loads here to savor. For starters, there's the more floral notes, which TOCA lists as black tea. We taste this as a nice overtone that runs through the whole sip, never quite fading. Instead, tropical fruit and citrus notes layer in on top of the tea flavors. The result is a great balance of sweet, floral, and bitter.

    Often when we say balance, we mean that the flavors of a roast sort of mix together to balance each other out. While this doesn't mean the flavors are lost in the mix, Pink Moon is an especially great example of balance actually making each flavor easier to pick out. This means that Pink Moon provides a set of noticeable, tasty notes without washing out any of the complexity. This is a great roast to try as a pourover first to get an understanding of everything at play flavor wise. From there we recommend sticking to drip and press brewing, though with just the right finesse this could also be a great espresso.

    Grab a bag today!

  • Video Roundup: 5/31/2019

    Happy Friday!

    Welcome to another Friday Video Roundup!

    First up, it's a wonderful crew review of the new Jura Z8 from Allie!

     

    Next up, Gail gave us a classic Crew Review of the brand new Rocket Espresso Faustino grinder!

    And finally, an all new Coffee Collaboration from Clementine (with special guest)!

     

    That's all for now! Join us next week for more coffee content!

  • SCG Expert Review: Barista Pro All-In-One Espresso Machine

    The Barista Express has been the gold standard for new home baristas for years now. By combining a quality espresso grinder with solid brewing and steaming, Breville build a winner in the Express. It has always been an easy machine to recommend as a first purchase, or upgrade from a cheaper, less powerful brewer. So how does the new Barista Pro stack up? Is it just a higher price tag with a fancier face? The short answer is no, the long answer is a lot more interesting.

     

    Visual Design

    The Barista Pro features a completely redesigned case that maintains a similar footprint as the Express, but with a totally different look. Most recognizable is the addition of a backlit screen, somewhat similar to the Barista Touch. This screen provides information about grind fineness, amount, and timers. Keeping all of this on one screen makes dialing in the machine a little friendlier. Rather than track numbers in different places, you can review everything about the grind settings at a glance. The screen also offers a shot timer, a huge boon for any machine. Measuring shot time is key to pulling a good shot, so having this information visible on the main display is a great feature.

    Otherwise, the visual design and controls are on par with that of the express. This machine is simple to operate with intuitive controls for pulling shots, adjusting the grinder, and steaming milk or adding hot water. All of this combines for a design package that is a step up from the Barista Express. That said, if these visual improvements were all this machine offered it'd be a hard sell given the price difference. Thankfully, there's a lot more under the hood in this new model.

    Brewing and Steaming Performance

    Breville has always had a knack for fitting powerful heating systems into affordable machines. The Barista line has always been a great example of this, but their new machines push this concept even further. First introduced in the Bambino, the Barista Pro features Breville's new ThermoJet heating system. The Bambino already impressed with its heatup and steam times, but getting this enhanced heating element in a more prosumer machine is exciting. From lightning fast heatup times to a near non-existent delay going from brew to steam, this heating system does work.

    When dialing in, we were able to pull several shots in a row with the Pro heating up. As far as making lattes, the milk steaming both switched on faster, and steamed milk faster than the Express by a considerable margin.

    Another interesting upgrade on this machine is the hot water spout. This spout functions like you'd expect, but it's angled to allow you to make Americanos without moving your cup. Some of this depends on your cup size and design, and it is surprising to see the hot water come out at an angle at first. While this isn't nearly the overhaul that the heating element and look got, it's worth mentioning for even easier Americanos!

    Verdict

    Overall it's extremely easy to recommend the Barista Pro. It's true that its price pushes into competition with machines like the Silvia and CC1, but those machines don't also have a built in grinder. There is certainly an argument for being able to upgrade these devices independently, and both of the aforementioned machines are viable options, but if you're new to espresso or looking to upgrade from the Express, the Pro is a no brainer.

    You do still run into the combo machine issue of sludge in the drip tray, and stepping up into dual boiler machines will provide even faster steam and heatup times. With all that said, we're huge fans of the Barista Pro here, and you should absolutely add it to the list of machines to research before you make your next purchase.

    Check out the Barista Pro on Seattle Coffee Gear here!

  • Video Roundup: 3/22/2019

    Happy Friday!

    It's time for yet another video roundup here at SCG!

    First up, we had the pleasure hanging out with the guys from Anchorhead!

    Next up, Allie gave us a good old fashioned Crew Review of the Motif Brewer!

    Then John showed us how to change the brewers on a Eureka grinder!

    Finally, Clementine showed us how to make an espresso Old Fashioned!

    That's all for now folks! Have a great weekend!

  • Video Roundup: 3/8/2019

    Happy Friday!

    Welcome to yet another video roundup. We've had some fun this week over on our YouTube, so let's jump in!

    First, Allie gave us some descaling tips on the Breville Barista Express!

    Next up, Gail gave us a look at the Atom 75.

    Finally, Clementine explored the Rooibos Espresso Latte in a new Coffee Collaboration!

    That's all for now! Go enjoy some coffee you love!

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