• Budget Grinder Shootout

    Happy 2021! 

    We wanted to kick off the new year with a look at four fantastic budget grinders that are perfect for new users. Check out the video below to see these grinders in action, hosted by yours truly! (And check out our new studio!)

    Let’s recap the breakdown:

    Bodum Bistro

    The Bistro is a grinder with a lot of range and some great usability features. First, it can definitely handle everything from a shot of espresso with a pressurized basket to a press. The grounds are not as consistent as we’d like at either extreme, but fine for both applications and everything in between. 

    With a layout of grind times and recipes built into the hopper lid, you’ll be able to get started quick with this grinder. We also liked the grippy rubber material on the catch bin as well as the rubber gasket that prevents mess. Unfortunately, due to static buildup, the catch bin can get messy in a hurry.

    Otherwise, we had good retention results, but the general plasticy nature of the dials and buttons here leave something to be desired.

    Capresso Infinity

    The Infinity offers quite simple controls in its timer dial that grinds until it stops. The timer doesn’t match up to seconds, which can be confusing at first. We generally just found it easier to single dose (pour in only the beans you need) or just manually hold the dial in place to grind and then rotate it closed when finished.

    The Infinity offers decent consistency and a little less range than the Bistro. With that said we generally liked the quality of the grounds more and enjoyed the lack of mess and low retention. The casing on the Infinity also feels more solid than the other grinders in this lineup.

    Solis Scala

    The Solis Scala is a really nice sweet spot on this list. It offers a pretty solid range that can definitely run from pressurized espresso shots up to presses. It also provides an impressive degree of consistency across its range. Its timer/push button activation is intuitive and it offers some solid retention and limited static.

    The catch bin is a little small and the plastic lid might take a little bit of getting used to. This grinder also feels a little plasticy all around, but it’s not quite “cheap” feeling either.

    Overall, the Scala is a highlight of this list when you combine performance, price, and usability.

    Baratza Encore

    The classic on this list, the Encore is definitely a great option that will last you many years. While we actually think the Scala stands toe-to-toe with the Encore in terms of performance, there’s no denying that Baratza’s grinder offers great range and consistency. We also love the simplicity of this machine.

    Static here is minimal, but the Encore does usually end up retaining half a gram of coffee or so. Not terrible, but it could be better. Otherwise, this is a great grinder that is also easy to get parts for, meaning you can keep it running for a very long time with a little bit of elbow grease.

    So there you have it! Unfortunately as usual we can’t just point to one of these grinders as the king of the entry level. But hopefully this comparison has helped you understand what makes them tick just a little bit more.

  • 2020 Solis Holiday Gifting Guide

    Are you gifting a Solis Espresso machine this holiday? Maybe you know someone receiving one and want to help make their holiday the best it can be. We’ve got some tips for the best way to deliver that new machine to the coffee lover on your list!

    The Bundle

    First of all, for holiday 2020 you can get a Solis Perfetta bundled with the stellar Eureka Mignon Notte for a great deal. Just find the option to add a grinder on the Perfetta’s product page. The Mignon Notte offers an incredible, consistent grind that compares to grinders way above its price point. You’ll need this to be able to take advantage of the Perfetta’s unpressurized portafilter basket. By bundling these two options together, you can save big!

    With that in mind, there are more odds and ends that make the perfect add on to you or your giftee’s new espresso machine. 

    Scales and Storage

    One of the keys to properly brewing any coffee is getting the right ratios. You’ll want to ensure that you start your espresso brew with a ratio of 2:1 water to coffee. A great way to do this is by using a scale like the Acaia Lunar and the portafilter plate add-on. These tools are on the expensive side, but they provide a high degree of accuracy for weighing your grounds going in, and the shot coming out. 

    Coffee storage is important as well! By using a container like an Airscape you can extend the life of your coffee. These containers make a great gift!

    Upgraded Accoutrements

    The Solis Perfetta comes with a great tamper and milk pitcher, but that’s not all the budding home barista needs to use their new machine to the fullest! For starters, a tamping mat from Rocket Espresso really helps to avoid countertop nicks and contain any mess. 

    There’s also the option of an upgraded milk pitcher! We’re impressed with the pitcher that comes with the Perfetta, but there’s always room for an upgrade. Rocket Espresso’s stylish matte pitcher is a great candidate and makes pouring latte art a little easier with its spouted mouth. 

    Finally, a shot glass with volume markings is a great little tool for dialing in the perfect shot. We recommend this one from Rhino Coffee Gear.

    Mugs Galore

    The one thing missing after all of this is something to drink out of! Without a functional, stylish mug, it can be difficult to enjoy that tasty latte or cappuccino!

    For those looking for stylish, colorful additions to their cupboard, we really love mugs from notNeutral. The glass look offers refinement and keeps things unique with smoke or colors. If you’re into the modern look but not the notNeutral style, mugs from Fellow are the perfect fit. the Monty and the Joey always end up as consistent SCG favorites around the office. Finally, for those seeking traditional styling and high performance sipping, look no further than mugs by Acme Co. 

    That just about covers it, but what’s a great espresso setup without some fresh coffee? We’re excited to offer Seattle Coffee Gear Coffee Club Gift Subscriptions starting this holiday! Head over here to get a subscription set up, and your giftee will enjoy delicious fresh coffee hand picked by our experts!

    We hoped this has helped to make your giftee’s Solis holiday a little extra special!

  • Top 3 Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines of 2020

    It’s time for one of our biggest best-of categories of the whole year - semi-automatic espresso machines! We love our brew, our grinders, our superautos, and everything else that we give top 3s for each year. With that said, semi-automatic espresso machines are one of the most complex products we offer (alongside superautos), so we take them quite seriously. This year we’re breaking this category into two. First, we’ll talk about semi-automatic espresso machines that can fit into a fairly wide range of budgets, and closely consider value in our picks. Later we’ll have a list of skies-the-limit high end machines that might be a little high dollar for the typical shopper. Let’s get started!

    Rocket Espresso Appartamento Nera

    The Rocket Espresso Appartamento is a longstanding entry on this list, and one of our most popular machines. If you know us, you know we love Rocket Espresso to the moon and back, and there’s a reason for that. This is a brand that focuses extensively on performance, reliability, and providing an authentic Italian espresso experience. All of these tenets are clearly present in the Appartamento. This year this machine saw some new styling in the form of the Nera, so naturally we’ve decided to put that version on this list!

    The Appartamento Nera starts with the incredible Appartamento as its base. If you’re not familiar with the Appartamento, here’s a primer!

    The Appartamento features a 1.8-liter heat exchanger boiler that gives you the power to brew and steam milk at the same time. On top of this, the heated E61 grouphead helps heat up the portafilter, which keeps water temperature consistent as it passes through the portafilter. These two elements alone make the Appartamento a really compelling machine at its price point. While there are other brewers in this range that offer similar prosumer features, the Appartamento also does it with a high degree of build quality and striking design. It also squeezes all of this into a small footprint that can fit most kitchens comfortably.

    The Appartamento, like every Rocket Espresso machine, also offers ultra tactile controls that are a joy to use. From the action on the brew lever to the twist of the steam knob, you’ll really feel each part of the drink crafting process here. It gives you that barista feel without the cost of a commercial machine.

    The Nera is a visual update to the Appartamento that trades the shine of the fully stainless case for a slick new side panel style. Don’t worry, the stainless case is still there under the powdercoat, but the black sides at a new level of elegance to the already striking cutouts that make the Appartamento so visually striking. With multiple insert covers, you can get just the right look for your Appartamento as well. This machine really is one of the best of the best, and now it’s got a new look too!

    Rancilio Silvia Pro

    The Rancilio Silvia is a legendary machine in its own right. Many new espresso users start with a Silvia to learn. While it can be a challenging machine to dial in, it’s still a great way to get started with more serious brewing and steaming. This year, Rancilio has finally introduced a new offering, the Silvia Pro.

    The Silvia Pro really is a whole new beast. First of all, this machine is equipped with not one, but TWO boilers. A 1-liter steam boiler powers the steaming, and a 300ml brew boiler is dedicated for your shots. This means that you can brew and steam at the same time, giving you that true barista feel. Both of these boilers are controlled by dedicated PID controllers. This gives you rock solid temperatures as well as control over each boiler’s temperatures. You can also turn off the steam boiler, which gives you improved recovery times for brewing multiple shots when milk frothing is optional. 

    Additional features like auto-on programming, energy saving, a shot timer, and a hot water spout round out the package. All of this combined really makes the Silvia Pro a huge upgrade over the base model. We think it’s a great time for it too. If you’ve had your Silvia for several years, you might be ready for an upgrade yourself, and the Silvia Pro really delivers. 

    We think this machine offers really fantastic shots, a range of great features, and truly efficient operation. It’s an easy pick for our Top 3 Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines.

    Solis Barista Perfetta

    New to Seattle Coffee Gear this holiday season is the Solis Barista Perfetta! We normally like to give machines some breathing room before we put them on this list, but this is one special semi-auto. Coming in at an entry level price point for unpressurized espresso brewing, this machine really punches above its weight. We’re thrilled to be able to offer it to all of our budding baristas out there.

    The Perfetta’s thermoblock boiler offers quick heatup times with consistent temps that stand shoulder to shoulder with other brewers in its pricing level. It’s also got the pump to deliver with pressurized and unpressurized portafilters. The Perfetta’s portafilter also works with E.S.E. pods without needing an adapter, a real plus for newbies. Other features like hot water, strong steaming performance, and an easy to read pressure gauge place the Perfetta on equal footing with similarly priced machines. What really impressed us here is the extra details.

    For starters, the Perfetta is solidly built with a quality case that combines some metal and plastic elements in a way that feels more premium than some entry level machines. It also features auto-purge solenoid valves, which really make brewing unpressurized more enjoyable. Where other machines might produce some soupyness or spray when trying to brew with an unpressurized basket, the Perfetta performs on par with far more expensive machines from a pressure perspective. This is a really great feature that will help newer users get more life out of this machine, and transition to a more prosumer option smoothly. 

    The Perfetta’s manual single hole steam wand also mimics more expensive machines, and while it does take some practice, you’ll get some great milk from this machine. You can also program in shot times, which really helps you to understand the process of brewing espresso on a deeper level, and aids with dialing in. Adjustable temperatures give you a little more control over your brew than what we’d expect as well. Finally, the Perfetta squeezes all of this into a compact footprint that should fit on any countertop. 

    These are a lot of terms to throw out, but they all mean one thing when you put them together. The Solis Barista Perfetta is one of the best starting points for any new user. It lets you start with pressurized brewing, either with grinds from your brew grinder or E.S.E. Pods. From there you can learn how to dial in an espresso with a dedicated grinder, and steam up some really great milk drinks. It’s something we’re so happy to bring to our customers, and it’s our new favorite starting point for new users.

  • Solis Perfetta Review

    If you’ve spent some time on Seattle Coffee Gear you’ve probably seen some of our exclusive machines. When we bring a machine on as an exclusive like this it’s because we feel it’s a unique piece of gear that just needs some help getting into customers’ hands. We’re excited to share that the Solis Perfetta joins our lineup of exceptional exclusives. Read on to learn more about this mighty little machine!

    The Basics

    The Solis Perfetta is a unique offering because it’s sort of an “Entry level plus” machine. While machines in the $100-200 range exist, we usually don’t recommend them unless it’s to someone unsure if they’re even interested in owning an espresso machine. They’re the sorts of machines you’ll likely replace within a year or two of purchase should they hold your interest.

    For those who already know that they want to get started in the home espresso world, we point to the price range of the Solis Perfetta. There are other great machines in this price bracket, but what impressed us about the Perfetta is how much more it offers. 

    This is a machine that can get you started, and act as a solid platform for brewing espresso and steaming milk for years. This all starts with its reliable basic design features. 

    The Solis Perfetta is powered by a single thermoblock boiler that offers quick heat up times and solid performance. You’ll also get a commercial style single hole steam wand perfect for creating microfoam for your lattes and cappuccinos. You can also pull hot water through the steam wand for americanos and rinsing. On the portafilter front, the Perfetta comes with both pressurized and non-pressurized portafilters, and the pressurized filter works with E.S.E. pods without the need for an adapter.

    All of this means you’ll have the basics for a great home espresso experience there for you from the start. You can start learning how to dial in a shot with your pressurized filter, then graduate to the true art of pulling with an unpressurized basket when you’re ready. Excitingly, this also allows you to use an existing brew grinder that can grind fine enough to pressurized espresso to get started. You’ll also be able to steam up milk with some great textures for lattes and cappuccinos, or brew an americano right there with the hot water dispensed from the steam wand.

    What really impresses us about the Perfetta though is the ways in which it brings more high end features to this great price point.

    The Details

    First of all, the Solis Perfetta includes auto-purge solenoid valves, which may seem confusing, but it’s a big deal. These valves help the machine handle pressure buildup in the portafilter, which is what makes this brewer really work for using non pressurized baskets. For comparison, this is a feature found on high end Rocket Espresso machines and similarly priced offerings. It’s rare to find it in a $400-600 machine.

    Next up there’s the programming. This machine allows you to program shot times in for both single and double shots. That means once you dial in your shot you can simply push the button next time and get the same result every time. This also cuts out a variable as you learn. Getting different volumes from shot to shot? You’ll know it’s not an issue with your shot timing, helping you to adjust your tamp or grind to compensate.

    Beyond programming shot times, you can also adjust the brew temperature. While we recommend starting with a stock standard 200 degree fahrenheit temperature, the ability to explore the effects of water temp on espresso is huge. This is the sort of feature we tend only to see on machines at or above the $1,000 mark. A built in manometer should provide some additional flair, and can help you track down certain issues with your shots too.

    Finally, there’s the case. While this machine has a small reservoir and drip tray, it makes up for this with it’s great footprint. The Perfetta should fit next to a grinder on just about any countertop, and that makes it easier to use for those just getting started as well. It’s also solidly built, with metal and plastic components that don’t feel cheap or compromised.

    The most important part though? The Solid Perfetta brews great shots. Really. We were very impressed with the taste and consistency of espresso pulled on this machine, and it’s why we decided to bring it on. Check out the Solis Perfetta today, and get started on your espresso journey!

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