Superauto

  • Differentiating Superautomatic Espresso Machines

    Superautomatic espresso machines are a wonderfully convenient way to get your morning cup of coffee without the hassle of manually grinding and brewing. These machines give you the option of exploring a world of whole bean coffee with combined grinder and espresso brew units. We love these machines, but at first glance understanding their differences can be difficult. While there are elements of brewing quality that can be different from machine to machine, it’s hard to say which machine makes the “best” espresso. So much of this is down to personal preference, as each machine offers quite similar methods of grinding and brewing.

    The best advice we can give for espresso taste is to try coffee out of the machine you’re looking at before purchase. That will allow you to determine whether or not you enjoy the coffee over other machines. With that in mind, there are other parts of a superauto that can make a difference in your purchasing decision.

    Interface and Design

    One of the biggest factors in picking a superauto is interface. From the affordable Philips Carina’s simple touch buttons to the glossy, smartphone-esque touchscreen on the Saeco Xelsis, interface can change the experience of using a machine. Much of this is reflected in the cost of a superauto. Fancy touchscreens with wide control options and guided cleaning programs general cost more than simpler button based machines. 

    Further design elements to consider are things like top vs. front loading water tanks and water filtration. It can be a real frustration to have to pull your machine out from under a cabinet to fill the water tank. General dimensions are important as well, and of course, you have to make sure you like the way a prospective machine looks. These boxes are designed to stay on your counter, after all.

    Milk Steaming

    For many espresso fans, milk is as important as the ‘spro! Having a well textured latte or foamy cappuccino is the whole point in getting an espresso machine for many users. That’s why milk systems are so important in superauto shopping. We’ve talked about milk systems at length here at SCG, but this is another area where cost scales with complexity. You’ll find panarello wands on more affordable machines. By contrast, you'll see automated pipe and carafe based milk systems on more expensive options. 

    Here’s the secret about milk steaming systems: While a simple panarello may take an extra minute or two of work to use, they do give you more control. This means that if you’re picky about milk temperature and texture, a machine with a manual panarello want might be a boon for you even though it’s the more affordable option.

     

    Which is the ultimate key here. Expensive machines usually have a good reason for being pricier, but how those features impact the value proposition for you will vary. We’re excited to say, with such a wide market you will assuredly find the superautomato espresso machine for you! 

  • Why Isn't Every Coffee Superauto Recommended?

    If you’ve tuned in for some of our videos or checked out our blogs on superautos you may have noticed something. We talk a lot about how we don’t recommend oily beans for superautos. One question we get a lot is, why? Why can’t you enjoy an oily French Roast in your new Carina or Miele? The answer can be described pretty simply, but we wanted to give a detailed explanation to help you get the most out of your machine. 

    Grinders and Oil

    If you’ve made it this far, you probably know that all coffee beans have some amount of oil on them. The degree to which the oil is released and sticks to the bean is largely dependent on the roasting process, but can also be influenced by the beans themselves. In any case, some roasts literally glisten with oil. Others are, by comparison, quite dry. 

    When you run any beans through your grinder, it can cause oil build up. This is just a fact of life when it comes to grinding coffee. With most grinders, you can open them up and give them a cleaning. Usually this involves removing the hopper and unscrewing the burrs, which can be time consuming, but isn’t hard with a standalone grinder. 

    Without regular cleaning like this, particularly oily beans can cause thick buildup on the burrs. Because burrs operate so close together, this oil buildup can cause sticking. Between that and the kind of buildup it has on the rotor, your grinder can completely seize. Again, this is something you can fix with a standalone grinder.

    Superauto Grinders

    The issue with superauto grinders is that they don’t open up for cleaning. Because of the way they are designed, superautos have to have each of their parts carefully engineered and positioned to work. That means there’s no way to open up the burrs and scrub them. This may seem like a major flaw, but if you just avoid the oiliest of beans your grinder will run for years and years!

    One potential option is Urnex’ recent innovation in grinder cleaning - SuperGrindz. This cleaning powder is designed specifically for cleaning buildup from superauto grinders. For anyone who absolutely must have a French roast in their superauto, it’s a good option. We still urge caution though, and you should make sure you use SuperGrindz as directed on the packaging. We say all this because grinder damage due to oil buildup is often NOT covered under warranties, as it is considered user damage. 

    The best bet is still to avoid those oily beans altogether!

     

  • 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!

  • Philips 1220 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, and learn more about the Carina on our spotlight page!

  • Choosing a Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine - Part 1

    Choosing a semi-automatic espresso machine can be hard. With prices ranging from $100 to many thousands of dollars it can be difficult to know what matters. Read on for some helpful tips and info on picking out a new espresso machine!

     

    Price

    You may be tempted by machines that offer espresso and milk steaming for around the hundred dollar mark. While it's understandable to want to save on a machine, price is actually a good indicator of quality in the espresso machine market. A very inexpensive machine can be a great way decide if you like the taste of espresso, but it isn't likely to last or produce quality beverages.

    We find the sweet spot for first time buyers to be in the $500-$1000 range. There are numerous machines in this price range that offer quality and consistency alongside reliability. Above $1,000 you're mostly paying for more advanced features that give you finer control over your brewing. You may also be looking at more generational machines with components that can last decades.

    While a well researched first time user could certainly get their money's worth out of a high end machine, that $500-$100 range is a good thing to shoot for. Especially because you will need a grinder capable of espresso grinding to go with your machine!

    Pump

    Espresso is brewed by pumping water through a puck of finely ground coffee at 9 BAR. This is achieved with powerful pumps that are generally either vibratory or rotary. Lower end machines often don't have pumps capable of pushing water through at 9 BAR of pressure, so they use pressurized portafilter baskets to make up the difference. These portafilter baskets create additional pressure, but they don't always offer the purest flavor from the grounds.

    If you're just starting our with espresso you may want to practice with pressurized filters, as they are more forgiving of a grind or tamp that's not quite right. However, most espresso drinkers like to quickly move to unpressurized espresso brewing. For that reason, we recommend ensuring your espresso machine will be able to brew with an unpressurized filter.

    On the higher end, pump type comes down to reliability and how long it'll last. An expensive Izzo or Rocket Espresso machine will have a high quality pump that should work for decades. On top of this, they are usually designed so that its easy to work on and replace the pump, whereas less expensive machines might not offer this.

    Latte dripping from a coffee machine

    Boiler Type

    Perhaps the most important part of a semi-auto espresso machine is the boiler and heating element. All other things being equal, this is the thing you'll notice the biggest difference in in terms of usability. The obvious thing to consider here is boiler material. A sturdy stainless steel boiler in the Izzo espresso machines offered on SCG will last decades without a hint of leaking. However, this isn't necessarily a must have element of your first espresso machine. One thing you should consider carefully is how the heating element works, and how this effects heat up time.

    A traditional single boiler design can take many minutes to warm up, which often means you'll want to turn the machine on well before brewing, or leave it on (always check your manual before leaving your machine on for long periods. Many aren't designed for this). On the flipside, the thermocoil heating element in a Breville Bambino or Barista Pro can heat up in seconds. This is also important for milk steaming, as you'll need a lot of heat to steam a whole pitcher of milk. Stronger, faster heating elements help you to complete this process quicker.

    Again, on the higher end, you can purchase machines with multiple boilers. These kinds of machines allow you to steam milk and brew at the same time, as each process pulls from a different boiler. While this is extremely convenient and worth it for power users, it's absolutely not a thing you should get hung up on with your first purchase.

    What's Next?

    Next week we'll dig into more of the nuances with picking out a semi-auto espresso machine, such as PID controllers, control mechanisms, interfaces, and more.

  • New Product: Jura Z8

    Last week we took a look at the Jura D6, but that's not the only new Jura machine! The Z8 is a high end machine with an extensive featureset that justifies its high price point. So what sets this machine apart from its sibling machines?

    Connectivity and Performance

    The Z8 takes the stellar performance of Jura's existing machines and adds in a whole lot of connectivity and ease of use features.

    The most noticeable addition is the 4.3 inch touchscreen. This display is clear and concise, and reminds us of a high quality mobile device. The interface is extremely clear and easy to use, giving you a huge degree of control over your drinks.

    This machine also features smart visual touches like a blue-lit water tank, smart tracked filtration, and one-touch options for your favorite drinks. On the whole the Z8 offers 21 drink recipes, most of them with a high degree of customization.

    The Z8 also connects to Jura's J.O.E. mobile app, giving you control of this machine via bluetooth.

    None of this would matter if the machine didn't perform, but thankfully, the Z8 does. Using Jura's P.E.P. brewing process, this machines brews hot, well extracted espresso. The Z8 also steams impressive milk using the included cappuccinotore.

    Overall, this is a strong machine operating at the top end of the superautomatic price range. Check out the Z8 on Seattle Coffee Gear right here!

  • Superauto Milk

    If you've shopped around for an espresso machine before you're probably encountered the great super vs. semi-auto debate. You probably also know that superautos grind whole coffee beans and brew consistent shots. One thing that can be a bit of a mystery though is milk systems. With options like cappuccinotores, panarellos, and carafes there's a lot to learn when it comes to superauto milk!

    Setting Expectations

    One thing that is key to your decision making at the top is expectations. The first thing that can be a tough latte to swallow is temperatures. Superauto machines always struggle to produce milk at a hot enough temperature for some coffee drinkers. This has to do with the relatively narrow band of temperature that's acceptable for milk steaming, as well as the tech at play in automatic systems. This is one reason to potentially consider a panarello system, but more on that in a bit.

    The other issue is microfoam quality. There is no automatic frothing system that exists that can fully recreate a professional's work. Because it takes minute adjustments to maintain a good froth and incorporate foam, superautos have a tough time nailing it. The good news is that these machines are getting closer! Examples like the Saeco Xelsis can even produce milk for latte art with a bit of practice.

     

    Types Of Steam Systems - Panarello Wands

    So with the understanding that temp and texture are tough to recreate, what are the options out there? Let's start with panarellos.

    Panarellos (like the ones on the Saeco X-Small, pictured above), look quite a but like manual steam wands. The biggest difference is in material and shape. Panarellos often combine metal materials like stainless steel with plastic, making them more cost effective than fully manual steam wands. They also are designed to froth milk with less careful pitcher adjustments. Where a steam wand is simply a tube with a tip at the end to release steam, panarellos guide and restrict steam flow more carefully, and add a bit of air to the steam. This means they are less powerful and capable than a manual wand, but easier to use. Some panarellos even have built in temperature sensing to ensure that milk is frothed to the perfect temp. In action, this means that you'll physically hold a container of milk up to the wand while it does its thing. Generally you won't need to make any adjustments though, and the wand will take care of the rest. The benefits here are in more direct temperature control, while you give up some texture quality and ease of use.

     

    Types Of Steam Systems - Cappuccinotores and Siphons

    So what about cappuccinotores?

    These nifty attachments fit onto panarello wands and other systems to make the frothing process fully automatic. This brings a standard panarello wand in line with other milk siphon systems that don't utilize carafes. With these systems, milk is sucked up into the machine, then heated and textured, then poured into the cup. Systems like this are incredibly easy to use, you just drop a pipe end into your milk and the machine does the rest. The biggest issue with these systems are temperature control and cleanup. Because these machines literally suck in the milk from the container, keeping them clean is key. Removing and rinsing the pipe regularly is important, as well as using a cleaning solution to get inside of the machine. Most superautos with pipe systems will have an automated cleaning procedure that you can run with some cleaner as well. A great example of a machine with a siphon system like this is the Miele CM6.

     

    Types Of Steam Systems - Carafes

    The last type of milk system we'll cover today is the carafe. Technically, carafe based systems are a subset of siphons. Generally carafes simply act as a container to easily store the milk you'll use in a siphon system. This is the case with the optional carafe that comes standard with the Miele CM6350 or as an add on to the 6150, as well as the Xelsis from Saeco. It's worth mentioning carafes though because of how much simpler they make the process. The Xelsis' hygiesteam system works with a carafe to alleviate the cleaning issues we mentioned above, and even just cutting out the step of pouring milk into a container to be siphoned from is a time saver. On some machines, like the Incanto Carafe, you actually just plug the carafe into the espresso machine instead of using a siphon. These systems are considered high end, so the biggest downside you'll face is price. Additionally, as with any siphon system, temperature can be lower than desired for some!

    With new systems like Phillips' Latte GO on the horizon, superauto steaming continues to change and evolve!

     

Items 1 to 10 of 62 total

Page:
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. ...
  7. 7
Subscribe

Finally, something for that inbox

Join our email list and be the first to learn about exclusive offers and new products.

close

Join our email list

GET 10% OFF ONE ITEM*

Be the first to learn about exclusive offers and new products - starting today!

 

JOIN
*Some exclusions apply. See email coupon for more details.