Semi-Auto

  • Coffee Culture at Home!

    This may seem like a silly post, as we talk about brewing coffee from home all the time! But something that we don’t often talk about is what living with the equipment we provide can be like. It’s easy to recommend equipment we love, but we wanted to share a little bit of what brewing from home really looks like once you’ve got your equipment home!

    Pour Over

    Brewing pour over is rewarding, but also a bit intense! You’ll need room for a scale, kettle, and grinder. To streamline pour over brewing we think keeping your water source close to your kettle is key! When it comes to grinding, there’s a couple of different ways you can manage your beans. If you keep multiple kinds of coffee stocked, you’ll be weighing your grounds each time you brew and then pouring them into the bean hopper. This can be time consuming but ensures the least amount of waste! If you have one coffee that you like you can fill your grinder with it and then do your best to grind just what you need each time. Every grinder is different, so some might make this easier with timed or weighted dosing. 

     

    On top of all of this, you’ll need to warm your cup with hot water, set your dripper, and wet your filter. The whole process can take anywhere from five to ten minutes, but the end result is worth it! It also doesn’t require expensive equipment. Many of these concepts also apply to drip and press brewing, but in these cases you can walk away as the coffee brews, instead of needing to tend to it like a pour over, though the flavor profile will also change!

    Semi-Automatic Espresso

    Brewing with a semi-auto is a bit more complicated up front but can ultimately be a bit easier once you’ve got it down. You’ll need to dial in your grinder, which can be a bit tricky depending on your coffee of choice. You’ll want to arrange your machine and grinder together so you can move your portafilter back and forth easily, as well as have easy water access for your machine. 

     

    The actual brewing process is quick when you’re used to it, and with a machine like the Rocket Appartamento you can steam milk and brew at once. You’ll want a couple of towels on hand to clean out your portafilter after you knock the puck, and to wipe down your steam wand (after you purge it of course!). Aside from that, regular backflushing and descaling are key bits of maintenance!

    Superautomatic Espresso

    Superauto machines like the Philips Carina change a lot of this dynamic! All you have to do for prep is making sure you have a ready source of beans and water. The biggest hassle with a superauto is needing to refill the water tank, aside from that, it’s super easy to brew with these machines (Pun intended)! You’ll have some regular cleanup like wiping down and watching drip tray elements and the brew group that are very important, but otherwise maintenance just extends to replacing water filters and regular descaling. All in all these machines are quite easy to live with and maintain. 

    The only real downside to superautos is that they don’t give you quite the same degree of control that a semi-auto machine does. Many users will want the fine tuning you can achieve with a semi-auto, but if you just want good coffee without the extra work, these machines are the perfect option. 

     

    We hope this is a helpful window into what it’s like to have these machines on your countertop!

     

  • Brewing at Home for Maximum Efficiency

    Hello out there!

    2020 is certainly a weird and wild year, and we know it has many folks working from home. Our deepest condolences and most sincere thoughts go out to all of those affected by the outbreak. With all of that in mind, building an efficient coffee setup at home is key. We decided to break down some of our favorite brew methods and how long they take to go from whole beans to delicious coffee.

    Pour Over

    Pour over is definitely the slowest brew method we’re looking at today. From measuring, grinding, heating water, wetting filters, blooming, and pouring, a lot of work goes into the perfect pour over. While we think it’s totally worth it to get some of the tastiest coffee around, it’s not the most efficient way to brew. Pour over takes around 5-8 minutes to prepare for most home brewers, but can take as much as 10 minutes to get right if you’re not used to the process. It’s the perfect way to start your morning if you can find some time to spare though!

    Drip Brewing

    Drip brewing (and similarly, using a press) is one of the most hands off methods possible. While it can still take 3-5 minutes to set up your drip brewer, you can step away and get back to your other tasks while you wait for the coffee to brew. This may make it the ultimate option for your morning cup of coffee, as you’ll also get more than one cup out of a pot. Also the best choice if you’re brewing for someone else as well!

    Semi-Automatic Espresso

    Semi-Auto brewing is a mixed bag in terms of effort. An experienced home barista can pull a tasty shot in just a few minutes. The time from grinding to pulling to even steaming milk is quick, but takes practice to master. We recommend practicing and dialing in your grinder when you have more time on your hands. By properly dialing in and familiarizing yourself with your equipment, you can whip up a delicious mid-morning or afternoon pick-me-up from your semi-auto machine in 5 minutes or less.

    Superautomatic Espresso

    Superautos are the pinnacle of convenience for espresso machines. Given how fast an easy it is to brew with a superauto, it’ll barely impact your routine. Pulling shots just takes a button press with a Carina or Xelsis. What’s more, depending on what kind of milk system your machine has you may even be able to automatically froth milk for lattes and cappuccinos. By combining all of these features, you’ll be able to get the same kinds of drinks you normally grab on your afternoon break in just minutes from your kitchen. The only downside is that superautos don’t produce drip coffee, but most *do* offer a lungo option, which is a long espresso shot that gets closer to the flavor of a drip brew.

    So there you have it! Four fantastic brewing methods that will fit your schedule throughout the day. Stay safe out there and enjoy your coffee!

     

  • Cleaning Milk Systems

    If you're anything like us, ensuring that your milk steaming wand or siphon is clean is super important. Buildup and gunk in milk systems is one of the nastier things that can happen to an espresso machine. But never fear! It's easy and affordable to keep your steam system in tip-top shape. Let's take a look at how to maintain the milk system on a couple different types of espresso machines!

    Semi-automatics

    Semi-automatic machines typically have a simple wand system for steaming. This is the type of machine where you hold a pitcher of milk up to the wand to heat it. Using a product like Urnex's Rinza is the easiest way to clean your steam wand, and can be used for panarello style wands as well.

    All you have to do to use Rinza is soak the wand itself for 20-30 minutes. If your machine allows it you can leave the wand attached, but make sure you're able to submerge the wand in the mix of Rinza and water.

    After soaking, rinse the wand and run steam through it to clear out any of the solution.

    Superautos

    Superautos are simpler to clean, but it can seem complicated because of their software systems. The best way you can maintain them is by using the specific cleaning agents that the manufacturer recommends. However, in a pinch, Rinza can work in superautos as well.

    Usually cleaning a superautomatic milk system is as simple as diluting the cleaning agent and using the prompts in your machine's menu to run a milk system cleaning cycle. For some machines, a specific button combination is needed to activate the cleaning process. As always, consult your machine's manual for the full rundown.

    In any case, we do recommend running a few rinse cycles before actually using the machine to fully rinse out any cleaning solution.

    So there you have it! Keeping your wand or milk system clean is a key thing for getting the most our of your machine. You should clean your steam system every month or two depending on use, and ALWAYS make sure to purge your steam want and rinse your siphon or carafe after every use!

  • Super or Semi?

    Superautomatic and semi-automatic machines have similar names but ultimately work quite differently. If you're a regular reader you already know the difference between them. For the uninitiated, a superauto handles everything from grinding the beans to steaming your milk. All you have to do is press a few buttons and maybe hold a pitcher, otherwise the machines does it all. On the flip-side, semi-automatics are a little more hands on. While they don't requires you to manually pump water in (we'd call a machine like that a manual machine) they do require you to grind and tamp the beans yourself. They also require you to steam milk yourself for lattes or cappuccinos.

    So which one's for you? If you're new to espresso, you may jump to assume that a superauto is the right option. While that's absolutely the right call for any users, there's reasons to take a closer look.

    Superautos

    The superauto customer is someone who simply wants good coffee quick. Maybe you like a range of drinks, maybe you're laser focused on getting the best latte or americano. In either case, if your concern is convenience, superautos are the way to go. These are machines that don't require finesse to operate and can brew coffee just a few minutes after being plugged in. There are considerations, of course, you won't want to use especially oily beans, for example. Superautos also can struggle to produce very hot drinks due to the nature of their design.

    In any case though, if you are more concerned with quick coffee than learning the ins and outs of espresso, these machines are for you.

    Semi-automatics

    Semi-automatics definitely require more work than a superauto. While there are grinder/machine combos, you'll probably need to buy a separate grinder at some point if you get into semi-autos. These machines also have a real learning curve. Dialing in a tricky single origin to taste good on your semi-auto can be very challenging. It can also be tough to learn to steam milk at first, as there is technique involved. The thing you do get out of semi-autos though, is control.

    Controlling the brewing process with a semi-auto gives you a lot of options. You can really pull specific notes out of lighter roasts, or get extra hot milk. You can make your cappuccinos as dry as you'd like, or, with machines that have PID controllers, control brew temperature. All of this definitely results in a more hobbyist angle. With all of that said, after some practice, making drinks on a semi-automatic machine gets much quicker. Before you know it you'll be brewing with speed and confidence.

    Of course, none of that matters is if you're mostly looking for a quick caffeine fix, or a simpler drink. It's also important to note that superautomatic technology has come a long way. While it's still hard to replicate the work of an experienced barista on expensive machines, they're getting close. You can get incredible good coffee from a superauto, it all comes down to your desire to tweak and control the process!

  • 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.

  • 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!

     

  • What Makes An Expensive Machine Better?

    It may seem odd that espresso machines have such a wide price range. Why is it that we recommend such expensive machines when $200 options exist? What makes a $2,000+ machine worth it? Loads of factors actually! Some may seem obvious, but others are not.

    Heating Elements

    Arguably the largest cost point of an espresso machine is its heating element. Espresso needs a tight temperature band right around 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Producing consistently hot water like this can be a challenge. You have probably noticed that as soon as you pour boiling water, it drops by a few degrees. Water for espresso needs to get from the water tank, through a heater, then to the portafilter at 200 degrees. Cheap machines tend to fail to do this without telling you. The result is lower quality espresso.

    Another factor is heatup time. Some machines are designed to quickly heat small quantities of water for each shot. Machines with larger boilers take longer to heat up initially but hold more hot water for multiple shots. In both of these cases, water is heated quickly and efficiently, which isn't always true with cheaper brewers.

    Pumps

    Consistent hot water is one of the keys of brewing perfect espresso. Consistent pressure is the other big element. 9 BAR of pressure must be applied to the puck with the water in the portafilter. This pressure is what creates proper extraction. To brew good espresso, the pump must be able to quickly put out 9 BAR and sustain it through the brew process. Cheap machines offset this requirement by using pressurized portafilters. These portafilters have additional material in them to provide resistance. While some great machines do brew with pressurized filters, they generally still have consistent pumps. Cheaper machines lack this.

    Case Material, Interface, Odds and Ends

    Another core element of machine pricing is materials. It may seem obvious, but a shiny stainless steel machine just costs a lot more to produce than one made of plastic. While plastic isn't always a bad thing, it can be a factor for many users. Having that solid, metal case can be a major selling point. More important than the case though, is the inside. hoses, gaskets, and fittings made from solid, long lasting materials matter. Cheaper machines might use plastic on the inside of machines at common failure points. More expensive machines avoid this by using stronger metal and rubber.

    Also important are things like controls. Does your machine have mechanical control elements like levers and dials? Or are you simple pushing a cheap feeling button for steam? This won't matter for some, but for others having that tactile control is important.

    Finally, little odds and ends like cool touch steamwands, specific grouphead styles like E61, and three way solenoid valves may SEEM minor, but they can matter. E61 groupheads, for example, help hot water stay hot during brewing. There are a lot of seemingly small bullet points that really matter in the long run.

    ...And Much Much More!

    Beyond everything here, there's so much more to talk about in the nitty gritty. Temperature controllers, plumbability, NSF certifications for commercial outlets, and even more! Trust us when we say, there's a lot that goes into upping your espresso game. It's worth it to do hard research on your new machine purpose to understand the cost. It'll help you end up with a generational machine for you to learn on instead of one you'll replace in a year or two.

  • 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.

     

  • An Overview of Izzo Espresso

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

    Roasting First

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

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

    Vivi PID+ Pro

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

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

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

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

    Alex PID+ Pro

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

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

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

     

    Alex Duetto IV+ Pro

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

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

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

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

     

     

     

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

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

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