Top 3

  • Top 3 High-End Superautomatic Espresso Machines of 2020

    This is it! The last in our series of Top 3s articles for 2020. We’re closing it out with a particularly fun category: High-end superautomatic espresso machines! These three machines represent our picks for sky’s the limit automatic home espresso. We’re not worried about budget or value here, just the most feature-filled machines on the market. Let’s get started!

    Saeco Xelsis

    We know, we talk about the Saeco Xelsis a lot. But it’s for good reason! For many of us here at SCG, this is the machine we’d pick even if you offered us one that was twice the price. The Xelsis really is a cafe lover’s superautomatic because of the range of options it includes, it’s stylish looks, and of course, its performance.

    Let’s talk about control. The touch screen interface on the Xelsis is truly remarkable, giving you careful control over drink parameters. It’s also easy to use and intuitive, something that isn’t always the case with coffee equipment. Using the Xelsis, you’ll be able to dial in the perfect latte, cappuccino, or other espresso drink and then save it to a preset to pull again and again.

    Then there’s the performance. With hot, delicious espresso that lives up to the Saeco name, you won’t be disappointed. Where this machine really takes performance to the next level is with its milik steaming. We’ve been hard pressed to find a superautomatic with milk production on par with semi-auto steaming. The fact of the matter is that there’s a degree of finesse and control needed during steaming that superautos have a hard time reaching. While the Xelsis isn’t quite on the level of a well trained barista, it’s as close as we’ve seen from a superauto. Our latte art gurus have even managed to pour art with the latte milk from this machine. With foam level being one of the parameters you can control on the Xelsis, you can even fine tune this as well!

    Finally, there’s the convenience features. The Xelsis has a self cleaning steam wand, front loading water tank, and is AquaClean filter ready, which all makes it as easy a machine to own as it is to use. It’s an easy choice for us as one of the best superautos you can buy.

    Miele CM6350

    Miele is known across the world of appliances for delivering high performance and high quality. Their superautomatic espresso machines are no different, and the CM6350 is at the top of that line.

    Th CM6350 is on this list because it is one of the top performing superautos on the market in terms of drink quality. Period. The espresso that this machine brews is fantastic, and the built in hot water spout allows you to make brilliant americanos as well. What’s more, this machines’ automatic milk steaming is the real deal, giving you near cafe quality lattes and cappuccinos. 

    Miele also makes maintaining this machine easy, with a high contrast guided interface for cleaning and maintaining. This interface also aids in drink parameter programming, which isn’t as robust as the Xelsis, but still more than adequate.

    If there are any complaints to be made about Miele superautos, it’s in the temperature department. This machine brews espresso at 200 degrees fahrenheit as needed for espresso, but there’s not much you can do to increase the temperature of the coffee or milk beyond that if you really need a scalding hot drink. We don’t feel this is a major issue with this machine, but it’s worth noting in case you drink coffee at burn-your-mouth temperatures!

    When you put together the quality, consistency, and ease of use with Miele superautos it’s not hard to understand why we hold them in such high regard!

    Breville Oracle Touch

    This last one is interesting. If what you want is a superautomatic machine that gives you your morning drink with just a button press, the Oracle Touch might not be for you. The reason we include it here is because it represents such an interesting crossover between semi and superautomatic machines.

    The Oracle Touch brews using a portafilter like you’d find on a semi-automatic espresso machine. It also uses a steam wand that works similarly to those found on semi-autos. The difference is that it automates the process of grinding, brewing, and steaming by combining a grinder and auto tamper and programming a number of preset drink options. All you have to do to use the Oracle Touch is select your drink on the color screen and move your portafilter to the grinder and back to the group head. The machine does the rest. 

    While this added step may seem counterintuitive, the benefit is you get flavors that are closer to a semi-auto machine using a traditional portafilter. You’ll also have more direct control over your brew since there are some more manual steps you can take as you work through the brewing process. 

    We think this machine is the perfect choice for someone looking to learn more about espresso as they enjoy automated brewing. That makes the Oracle Touch quite unique, and well worth including on this list!

    That’s a wrap for our 2020 best ofs! We hope you’ve enjoyed these articles and we can’t wait to bring you all sorts of holiday fun as we close out the year!

  • Top 3 Espresso Grinders of 2020

    It’s time for another of our 2020 Best Ofs! This time we’re taking a look at espresso grinders. It’s important to differentiate between espresso and brew grinders to make sure you get the right bit of gear for you. A brew grinder will be designed for slow brew methods like drip, pour over, press, and cold brew. On the other hand you have espresso grinders, which are designed to brew fine enough for use in semi-automatic espresso machines. While grinders exist that can do both, they are few and far between, and to get the very best espresso you’ll want a dedicated grinder. Let’s take a look at our favorite espresso grinders available today!

    Eureka Mignon Notte

    The Eureka Mignon line is one of the best lineups of espresso grinders available. The balance of price, performance, and reliability make these grinders incredibly easy to recommend. Because they are priced above many entry level espresso grinders, we often recommend them as an upgrade, or for a new user who’s a little more confident. This is part of why we were so thrilled to bring the Notte in as a Seattle Coffee Gear exclusive.

    The Mignon Notte trades the sound insulation in the Mignon Silenzio for an incredibly attractive price point for a grinder of this quality. That means for a cost comparable to more entry level grinders, you’ll get the exceptional design and build quality of a Eureka Mignon. But what does that look like specifically? First of all, you get the same powerful 50mm flat steel burrs that come in the Silenzio. Burrs of this size and quality are hard to come by at any price point, and we love the consistency of the grounds out of the Notte. You’ll also get the Mignon-standard metal casing, which will help your Notte to last years and years. Finally, there’s the precision stepless adjust. Instead of stepped settings, the Mignon Notte gives you a free-moving burr, which lets you develop an extremely precise grind for trickier single origins. 

    So what do you lose out on? As noted, the Notte is a bit louder than its more expensive brethren, but don’t let that fool you, the noise level is very comparable to any other entry level grinder. You also only get a simple push button dosing option. This means you’ll need to measure your grounds with a scale to ensure the correct grind amount. The good news here is that with a little bit of practice, you’ll be able to feel out the right grind amount quite effectively.

    The Eureka Mignon Notte is one of our absolute favorites on the market, so it’s a no brainer for this list.

    Rocket Espresso Faustino

    If you know anything about Seattle Coffee Gear, you know we love Rocket Espresso machines. The same thing is true for their grinders! Last year their larger Fausto espresso grinder found a little sibling with the Rocket Espresso Faustino. There’s a number of reasons we feel it’s a great fit for this list.

    First of all, the Faustino delivers on performance. With 50 mm flat steel burrs, this grinder will give you serious consistency and quality. On top of that, you’ve got a stepless grind adjust, which we prefer for more precision grinding (though it does come with a bit of a learning curve). These features alone make the Faustino easy to recommend, but it also comes with Rocket Espresso’s signature visual design prowess and solid construction. This grinder is a looker, and it’s built to last. You can even get versions that include case cutouts with side panels, just like the Appartamento espresso machine (which also makes it a perfect pair with one of our favorie machines).

    Then there’s the programmability. Programmable dosing isn’t a must-have, but it’s an incredibly nice feature that can save you a lot of time. A vibrant, intuitive touchscreen drives the programming on the Faustino. With this, you can set specific dosage times, so once you dial in a grind, you can get your grounds with one press of the portafilter. The Faustino also offers a large hopper capable of storing a lot of beans. This is perfect to pair with that timed dosing. What’s more, it fits all of this into a compact case fit for any kitchen.

    You might think Rocket Espresso is only about espresso machines, but the Faustino proves they know grinders too. 

    Baratza Sette 270

    Baratza are absolutely one of the kings of coffee grinding. Whether brew or espresso, this manufacturer knows 

  • 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.

  • Gail's Picks: Best Drip Brewers of 2019

    Welcome to another edition of Gail's Picks for 2019! Today it's all about drip brewers, and we have three fantastic coffee machines to share with you. Drip brewers are really a standby for any coffee lover, and finding the perfect one can be a challenge. That's why we're showing off a few, with specific brewers working best for specific coffee drinkers. Without further adieu, let's get started!

    Bonavita Connoisseur

    The Bonavita Connoisseur is the perfect brewer to get for that budding coffee fan in your life. It also makes an excellent secondary brewer if you primarily drink another form of coffee like espresso or press. This is an affordable machine that has no frills, but doesn't need them. For under $200 you're getting rock solid temperature stability, arguably the most important part of a drip brewer. That means that while you can't control the temperature of the water, it is solidly in the 198-202 degree range for proper extraction. It'll brew your coffee perfectly without scorching it and creating that icky flavor that cheaper drip brewers create. This is why we think it's perfect for new coffee drinkers. In a lot of cases people think that burned tasting coffee is just the way coffee tastes. The Connoisseur can show them a better way!

    This brewer also has a great pre-wetting feature that blooms the coffee in a manner that you'd get from pour over. Overall it creates a really tasty pot of drip without complications, and that's why we think it's one of the best drip brewers of 2019!

    Technivorm Moccamaster

    The Technivorm Moccamaster is a classic machine that will last many years if properly maintained. While this brewer lacks programmability, it makes up for it in sheer reliability, performance, and style. Featuring Technivorm's signature industrial design, the temperature stability here is exceptional. There's something about Technivorm brewed coffee that's just different than what you get out of other brewers. It's bold, flavorful, and complex, and that's all thanks to the design of the heating element and spray head. Again, this machine is also built like a tank. We've seen Technivorms last decades if properly maintained and cleaned. This glass carafe version also features an auto-shut off warming plate that won't burn the coffee after it has been brewed.

    What's more, these machines com in a variety of different colors! This makes it the perfect option for the style conscious kitchen. You'll be able to match your machine to the color scheme of the rest of your equipment.

    Breville Precision Brewer

    Finally, we have the Precision Brewer. This machine combines the incredible performance of the above mentioned machines with a suite of customization options. From pour over, to cold brew, to iced coffee, and more, the Precision Brewer lives up to its name. You'll be able to control every aspect of the brewing process with this machine, making it one of the smartest drip brewers available. For times when you're not looking for all of that functionality, you can just brew with the pre-programmed SCAA-rated Gold Cup setting. This will brew coffee that adheres to standards set by the specialty coffee association for properly tasting and evaluating minute details in the coffee. When you do want to get more hands on, you can play with the different settings to get the perfect flavor profile from different kinds of coffees. Pretty much the pinnacle of drip brewing tech, we love this machine!

    The SCG exclusive Tribute Edition also includes a pour over adapter. This allows you to use a pour over dripper and the built in settings to brew incredible automatic pour over.

    Conclusion

    That brings us to a close on another set of top threes! With that, we're done with Gail's Picks for 2019! We hope we've helped you make some tough decisions about what to pick up to step up your coffee game this holiday season.

  • Top Three Milk Frothers

    If you’re looking to enliven your plain old cup of joe with delicious frothy milk, then you’re going to love having an electric milk frother! At the touch of a button, boring milk is whipped into frothy foam perfect for your morning cappuccino crave. To make it easier for you to choose, we rounded up the top three milk frothers: the Bodum Schiuma Milk Frother, Jura Automatic Milk Frother and Breville Milk Carafe. Pair these stand alone frothers with your drip brewer or French press to make coffee setup! Find out the features and functionalities of our top three picks!
  • Top Three Alternative Coffee Brewers

    Every coffee geek wants to play the mad scientist. It’s time you shake up your daily coffee routine with one of these alternative coffee brewers: the Copper Turkish Coffee Pot, Hario Drip Pot and Bodum Santos Stovetop Vacuum Coffee Maker. Sure, you could brew a regular old French press—or you can entertain your brunch crowd with a live showing of fresh coffee from a vacuum pot! Or divine their future through a coffee reading with Turkish coffee. Step away from the ordinary and discover a new way to brew.
  • Top Three French Press Coffee Makers

    French press. It’s the go-to coffee maker that anyone can use. It’s easy to learn how to brew with and makes a deliciously full-bodied cup. What’s not to love? To narrow down your choices, we rounded up the top three French press coffee makers: Bodum Brazil French Press 3 Cup, Espro Press P5 and Frieling Insulated Coffee Maker French Press.
  • Top Three Pour Over Kettles

    On today’s Top Three, we selected the best kettles to complement your pour over coffee maker. Whether you’re brewing with a Hario V60 or Chemex, you need a good kettle to control the flow and accuracy of your pour. Our top three pour over kettles are the Bonavita 1L Electric Gooseneck Variable Temperature Kettle, Fellow Stagg Pour Over Kettle and Hario Buono Coffee Drip Kettle in copper.
  • Top Three Coffee Scales

    Why should you use a scale to brew coffee? We’ve all eyeballed or heaped in a tablespoon of coffee and hoped for the best. We’ll let you in on a little secret: To enjoy sipping a consistently delicious cup of coffee, use a coffee scale to weigh your grounds and water.
  • Top Three Double Boiler Espresso Machines

    The Round Up

    We brought out the big machines for today’s top three double boiler espresso machines, the La Marzocco Linea Mini, Rocket Espresso R58 Dual Boiler and Breville Dual Boiler. Double boiler espresso machines are equipped with two boilers: a brew boiler and a steam boiler. While the steam boilers reach and hold pressure ideal for frothing milk, the other maintains consistent brewing temperature.

    Chances are in your search for a high-quality espresso machine, you’ve read the debate between double boilers and heat exchange espresso machines. Coffee enthusiasts have long expressed their opinions about the pros and cons of each boiler type and we suspect it’ll continue on. One of the benefits dual boilers reap is temperature stability and the capability to brew more drinks back-to-back than a heat exchanger. Not to mention that, like a heat exchanger, you can brew and steam simultaneously. A double boiler machine is for someone who wants to brew multiple drinks back-to-back and requires a faster turnaround time.

    La Marzocco Linea Mini

    In your morning quest for coffee, chances are you’ve encountered the La Marzocco Linea series powering your local café. Home baristas can now rejoice! The La Marzocco Linea Mini is your pint-sized commercial machine for home brewing. Well, not quite pint-sized, the Linea Mini is the largest machine on our list. It certainly puts a dent in the budget and counter, but for the right espresso lover, this espresso machine will impresses with an integrated brew group to maintain temperature stability and energy efficiency, and commercial-grade portafilter and steam wand.

    Home brewers aren’t the only people who’d benefit from the Linea Mini. Built to commercial standards, the Linea Mini is NSF-rated, so homey cafés and small diners can bring espresso to their menu. And, hey, this large machine’s roomy cup warmer will ensure patrons can enjoy toasty cups with their coffee.

    Rocket Espresso R58 Dual boiler

    The Rocket Espresso R58 Dual Boiler was an easy pick to make our list. The craftsmanship of Rocket’s espresso machine continues to entice coffee enthusiasts. Equipped with a programmable PID and, of course, double boilers, espresso temperature is under control—your control that is. Best of all, the PID is removable to store when it’s not in use to preserve the clean, classic style Rocket is famous for.

    The Rocket lineup is renowned for its commercial-quality build and the R58 is no exception. It’s build with the legendary E61 brew head that helps maintain temperature stability during brewing. And the R58 features a commercial-grade rotary pump that’s quiet—so the house can sleep in without sacrificing your morning espresso.

    Breville Dual Boiler

    Designed with the consumer in mind, the Breville Dual Boiler is user-friendly and affordable—like really affordable. What we love about the Dual Boiler is its intuitive interface that creates an enjoyable experience for anyone ready to master espresso. Two programmable espresso buttons make it easy for you to focus on frothing the perfect latte milk while the Dual Boiler pulls your pre-programmed shot. And if you’re an experienced barista, switch to the manual brewing to operate on the fly.

    Keeping true to their brand, Breville has designed this machine with extra goodies to fit anyone’s lifestyle. The Dual Boiler comes with two pressurized baskets for beginner baristas to practice their grind and two non-pressurized for experienced brewers. There is also a magnetic tamper conveniently attached to the machine and auto-on feature, so you can wake up to a pre-heated machine.

    Conclusion

    We’ve pulled out some of our top three double boiler espresso machine, the La Marzocco Linea Mini, Rocket Espresso R58 and Breville Dual Boiler. Equipped with dual boilers, these espresso machines create impressive steam pressure in one boiler while the other maintains the perfect  brew temperature. What do you think of our choices? Share your favorite double boiler espresso machine in the comments below.

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