Semi-Automatics

  • 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!

  • Top Three Single Boiler Espresso Machines

    The Round Up

    Single boiler espresso machines are a great choice for your home, and we have the right machines to get the job done! Today’s top three machines are the Capresso EC Pro, Rancilio Silvia M and Crossland Coffee CC1.

    Single boiler espresso machines are more affordable than heat exchanger or double boilers, while still providing better steam pressure and thermal mass than comparable thermoblock models. Not to mention great for straight espresso drinkers, too! So, what’s the tradeoff? Single boilers require more attention to detail. For instance, temperature surfing is a technique used to bring the boiler down from steam to brew temperature—you don’t want to burn your espresso!

    For baristas new to espresso machines, these machines are the perfect introduction into espresso. That said, on today’s roundup even experienced hobbyists will find an espresso machine they’ll love without breaking the bank. Check out our top three machines and let us know what you think!

    The Novice: Capresso EC Pro

    If you’re new to using semi-automatic espresso machines, check out the Capresso EC Pro. It's small, but looks can be deceiving—the EC Pro has all the essentials you need to make creamy lattes! This novice machine offers baristas the opportunity to hone their techniques. The pint-size boiler offers slower and steadier steam power so you can learn how to texture milk at your own speed! This makes  perfect, silky milk for latte art easier to achieve than on quick-steaming commercial-rated machines.

    Even though it’s a novice machine, the EC Pro includes a non-pressurized bottomless portafilter so newbies can see the flow of espresso and improve their extraction—you don’t see this feature on machines in this price range! And it also comes with a pressurized portafilter—a super sweet cheat for baristas who want delicious espresso but haven’t gotten the extraction just right. The downside to this tiny machine is it’s small 42-ounce water tank and inarticulate steam wand. All-in-all, these cons don’t overshadow the EC Pro’s affordable price and introductory design.

    The Veteran: Rancilio Silvia M

    While producing fantastic espresso machines for cafes, Rancilio paused and gifted home baristas with a home machine, the Rancilio Silvia. Since then, home baristas have been going nuts for it! The Rancilio Silvia is a tried-and-true single boiler espresso machine that hasn’t changed much since its creation. However, the improvements that have been made have created today’s model, dubbed the Silvia M.

    The Rancilio Silvia M requires solid technique and skills to operate well. It comes with a 58mm non-pressurized portafilter—one of the most common commercial portafilter sizes—and a traditional steam wand. This classic single boiler, while impressive, has finicky temperature stability, so naturally, we included a fix—a built-in PID. We offer the Rancilio Silvia M with PID give you control over temperature to the degree. This makes coming back up to brew temperature after purging steam from the boiler much more accurate than classic 'temperature surfing'. That said, this single boiler espresso machine, with or without the PID, can produce impressive pressure for powerful steam and perfect espresso.

    The Hobbyist: Crossland Coffee CC1

    With the Crossland Coffee CC1, you can customize your coffee to your heart’s content! It features programmable espresso, pre-infusion and wait time that you can save to three profiles. Bonus: The CC1 also has a built-in PID for the same price point as the Rancilio Silvia M without the PID. Awesome.

    While the CC1 features user-friendly programmability, it still requires practice to master. The CC1 comes with a 58mm non-pressurized portafilter and a traditional steam wand (like the Silvia M). And with a single boiler, we want to steam and then brew, which means you’ll temperature surf to get the boiler back to brew temperature—but wait! There’s more.

    So, we’ve told a little white lie about this machine—it’s not a true single boiler. While the CC1 does have one boiler, it has an extra feature—a thermoblock for steaming! The thermoblock lessens the time between steaming and brewing by not bringing the boiler up to full steam temperature. We still consider the CC1 a single boiler, but with an extra trick up its sleeve—hey, we’ll never complain about getting our lattes faster!

    Conclusion

    Our top three single boiler espresso machines are the Capresso EC Pro, Rancilio Silvia M and Crossland Coffee CC1. For home baristas looking for their first classic espresso machine, check out one of these single boilers. Single boilers offer more control over espresso and these three picks have different features for every user level. Tell us what you think of these three single boiler espresso machines in the comments below.

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