semi-automatic espresso machine

  • The Reluctant Barista: Tackling the Rocket R58 Dual Boiler

    58I had an 'Aha! Moment' this morning and it changed my whole relationship with espresso prep. Very reluctantly, and only because I was on a deadline, did I approach the Rocket Espresso R58 Dual Boiler. Kat asked me why I was more reluctant than usual to pull shots on this machine and I didn’t have a good answer. Shiami encouraged me and told me that I would love the quality shots an E61 brew group produces.

    To start, I frothed a pitcher of milk, which I do regularly on the Rocket Giotto, and the difference between a heat exchanger and a dual boiler became apparent. In the same time it takes me to get a nice velvety microfoam at 150 degrees on the Rocket Giotto, I found the Rocket R58 had gotten up to 170 degrees! There was foam but the higher temperature killed the creaminess. The powerful steam cut frothing time almost in half and I had not adjusted for that fact.

    Next, I enlisted Fillmore from the repair department to expertly dial in the grinder. I watched him grind into the portafilter from a Mazzer Mini. He pulled a shot and it was too quick. He adjusted the grind a tick finer, pulled another shot and it was still a little fast. He re-adjusted, then felt the espresso grounds in his hand and they were fine like ground pepper. On the third extraction the shot pulled evenly and within 22 seconds we each grabbed a shot and tasted it. Zoka Organic Espresso Quatro -- yum!

    As I stared at the shiny stainless steel Rocket R58 with its 58mm portafilter, I was still reluctant to pull my own shots. I recounted all of the variables Gail recommends for a perfect espresso shot: filtered water, the right grind, the correct tamp and a deluxe hand-built Italian espresso machine (just kidding! Kind of…). Finally the answer was clear to me: While I understand how to make espresso, my problem is I can’t tamp!

    I love it when Kaylie makes me a latte, I use E.S.E. pods at home and I will occasionally use the new Francis Francis capsule machine for an afternoon pick-me-up. As a result, I have avoided the tamping issue altogether. Aha!

    There are benefits to having the entire SCG demonstration arsenal at my disposal. I lined up a tamping mat, a tamper and a knock box. Long overdue tamping practice began and continued until both the Rocket R58 drip tray was full (twice!) from pulling shots and the knock box was full of spent pucks. From this experience I found out the following:

    1. The R58 brew head warning sticker states, ‘Caution Hot Surface,’ and that’s the truth
    2. Pre-warming your portafilter in the brew head yields great results, however it also makes it hot to touch when you tamp
    3. Fillmore's Pro-Tip: A half flip of the lever allows for a mellow pre-infusion using passive boiler pressure
    4. It is hard to get espresso grounds out from under your fingernails

    Many people go through a coffee preparation progression as their taste, budget or skills change. I went from French press to stovetop espresso maker to a small single boiler machine. How do you know when you are ready for the next step, in this case a dual boiler? Identify your comfort level and your ultimate goal. My comfort level had me afraid to tamp, but my goal was a fresher shot. So it turns out that I am ready to upgrade. For now, a heat exchanger model is my next step.

    There is a machine for every person though, so who does need a dual boiler espresso machine? For me, the styling of the Rocket line is what an espresso machine 'should' look like -- I would love to see one on my counter top. Like a heat exchanger, a dual boiler saves time if your preferred drink is milk-based since you can froth and pull shots simultaneously. The R58 in particular can be used with the internal reservoir or plumbed-in for even more convenience. Finally, espresso is all about consistency; with commercial grade parts, dual pressure gauges, a rotary pump and an external PID, the Rocket R58 uses current technology to allow you to pull the best shots you are capable of every time.

    Where will your preparation progression lead you? The Rocket R58 Dual Boiler is not a starter machine. When you are ready to take things to the next level though, this espresso machine is one of the very best. Don’t be reluctant to try it!

  • Compare: Convenience of Superautos vs. Capsule vs. Pod Espresso Machines

    If convenience is king in your household, your espresso machine selection will likely center on superautomatic, capsule or pod-friendly options such as those made by DeLonghi, Jura, Nespresso and Saeco.

    But which of these three machine styles produces a better shot? Does it matter? Of course it does! Watch as Gail demonstrates making an Americano on a pod-friendly semi-automatic, a capsule machine and a superautomatic. We compare flavor and discuss the relative convenience and ease of use.

  • Compare: Rancilio Silvia with PID vs. Nuova Simonelli Oscar

    While these two machines certainly have some core functional differences, they are often compared by folks because once you retrofit the Silvia with a PID, its price tag is very similar to that of the Nuova Simonelli Oscar. So, is one better than the other? As usual, it's all a matter of perspective.

    Watch Gail discuss the features and functionality of these machines, then demonstrate how they perform in terms of drink quality. She also talks about why you might choose one over the other, so if you're on the fence regarding these two models, this comparison video was made with you in mind. Cherish it.

  • Crew Review: DeLonghi EC860

    As you know, it doesn't take much to make us happy, but something we love more than anything is when a manufacturer gets a little bit crazy with its bad self and releases a piece of equipment unlike others we have tested. DeLonghi's new EC860 is a sort of hybrid between traditional espresso machines and their robotic counterparts, featuring standard espresso extraction with the option to automatically froth the milk.

    Watch as Gail talks to us about its features, then demonstrates shot extraction, frothing with the wand and making a one-touch (aside from all the touching involved with grinding and tamping, of course!) cappuccino with its automatic frothing option.

     

  • 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.

  • Crew Review: Izzo Alex Duetto II

    One of the more popular double boiler espresso machines on the market, the Alex Duetto II has a lot to love about it. The functionality is awesome -- PID interface to set the coffee and steam boiler temperatures, easy access to switching between 15 or 20 amp, convertible water source so you can use either the internal reservoir or plumb it in, anti-burn hot water and steam wands -- which also now features a four hole steam tip.

    Since our last look at this machine, several upgrades have been made, so we decided it was time for another run-through. Watch as Gail talks about features and specs, then demonstrates shots and making a latte. Dig it!

     

  • 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.

  • Crew Review: Capresso EC100

    While our deep love for the Rocket Cellini is endless and binding, we do appreciate that not everyone has $2k to drop on their home espresso setup and they'd still like to make a rockin' cup of joe in the morning. The Capresso EC100 is a small semi-automatic espresso machine that features stainless steel finishes and flexible brewing options -- although, we did learn that you'll need to use smaller sized pods for these if that's the route you want to take ... 40mm vs. the standard ESE.

    Watch Gail take us through the features and demo its functionality.

  • Rocket v. Silvia

    If you drop $1k more on your espresso machine, is there a discernible difference and / or improvement in the shot quality and flavor? We dialed in the Rocket Giotto Evoluzione and the Rancilio Silvia, pulled shots simultaneously and asked three of our fearless compatriots to taste them. Watch as they tell us which they prefer and why.

  • Crew Review: Rancilio Epoca S1 Tank Commercial Espresso

    While perhaps not totally at home in your kitchen, this commercial-class machine is an excellent choice for locations that will not be doing a ton of espresso drinks but still want to be able to whip up the drinks in a timely, expert manner.

    The Epoca S1 comes with an internal water reservoir (no plumbing) and runs on 15 amp / 110 volts, so you don't have to have special electric outlets installed. It's not a super mobile machine, however, because it's a bit unwieldy, so may not be the best choice for caterers, but if you're staying in one spot this could be the solution for your small cafe.

    Watch Gail take us through the features and show us how this little baby performs.

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