Buyer's Guides and Reviews

Coffees, Espresso machines, grinders, and other espresso equipment

Coffees & Grinders

Favorite Espressos 2014

Espresso pour In the site's early years, the reviews focused on espresso machines and grinders. Recognizing that coffee is the most important contributor to exceptional espresso, HB has expanded the popular Second Look review format to include peer evaluations of espresso blends. This year's theme is favorites nominated by the site membership. More...

Mazzer Mini / Mini E, Macap M4, Cimbali Junior

Mazzer Mini One of the most important selections of your equipment ensemble is the coffee grinder. It's tempting to overlook the grinder and focus on the espresso machine. Don't fall into this trap. This review covers six popular espresso grinders among aficionados: Mazzer Mini, Mazzer Mini Electronic Doserless - Type A & B, Cimbali Junior, Macap M4, and Macap M4 Stepless. More...

Espresso Machines

Slayer Single Group

Single Group Slayer Slayer has brought its commercial equipment brewing technology into a home-friendly single group design. In addition to featuring a slightly miniaturized version of its commercial brew group and sharing a lot of hardware with the larger machines, the single group Slayer features a custom electronic controller with a touch-based user interface. More...

Elektra Microcasa a Leva

Elektra Microcasa a Leva The Elektra Microcasa a Leva is the most traditional of Elektra's home espresso machines. Its stunning design recalls a golden era when Italians invented the espresso we know today. When you see one of these up close its beautiful design and lustrous finish tell you you're dealing with something special. This is more than a home appliance, it's a work of art. First introduced in 1980s, the Microcasa is a thoroughbred inspired by that era and whose design and build quality have only improved over the years. More...

Breville Dual Boiler (BES920XL)

Breville Dual Boiler The Breville BES920XL is a feature-laden, attractively-priced double boiler espresso machine designed for the prosumer market. Like most Breville products, the BES920XL is an aesthetically pleasing home appliance, with a high SO acceptance factor. This review covers all the features, performance, impressive attention to detail to ergonomics. More...

Vesuvius

Questions With the introduction of the Vesuvius by Ambient Espresso, the E61 group patented over 60 years ago fully embraces modern technology. It joins other dual boiler espresso machines that are based on the shiny chrome E61 group, but adds a feature rarely found in single group espresso machines: Programmable brew pressure profiling. Will blending the old and the new lead to better, more consistent espresso? Those are the questions explored over the course of this review. More...

ECM Technika IV Profi

ECM Technika IV Profi For those who are new to the types of espresso machines available for the home, the heat exchanger boiler design may be confusing. The article Espresso Machines 101 explains the most popular boiler designs: Single boiler (sometimes called "single boiler, dual use"), heat exchanger (HX), and double boiler. Over the course of this review of the ECM Technika IV Profi, I will compare and contrast the practical implications of its HX design with other espresso machines. More...

Bezzera Strega Review

Bezzera Strega The Bezzara Strega is a commercial lever group espresso machine in a small, pourover package designed for home use. Its design goal was to enable owners to produce shots far superior to any capsule or superauto with only a minimal learning curve. But the application of this design philosophy to a lever espresso machine had an unintended and entirely spectacular consequence: they produced a lever-pump hybrid that, with a few simple operating tricks, can make some of the world's best espresso, especially when using lighter roasted coffees. More...

La Marzocco GS/3 MP Review

La Marzocco GS/3 Although the Marzocco GS/3 MP is a fully commercial espresso machine with enough capacity to cater a small wedding, it's nicely sized for the home. This iteration of the GS line was introduced in 2005 with the latest temperature control hardware and innovative design changes that delivered state-of-the-art consistency. This review will summarize the updates to the GS/3 since its introduction and add the home barista's perspective. More...

Izzo Alex Duetto V3 Review

Izzo Alex Duetto V3 The popularity of the E61 group among home barista's is well established; Izzo's rendition of the group brings lots of other popular features like electronically controlled brew temperature (often called a "PID"), rotary pump, and the flexiblity to switch between water drawn from an inboard reservoir or directly plumbed. This review will summarize the Duetto's brew temperature consistency, steaming performance, and offer tips on producing the best espresso. More...

Quickmill Silvano Review

Quick Mill Silvano Along the continuum of espresso machine choices, the Quick Mill Silvano is not easily categorized. It's priced less than other espresso machines capable of brewing and steaming at the same time, thanks to its innovative design. For the first-time buyer, it may well solve the dilemma for those who want to prepare espresso and cappuccinos back-to-back, but aren't willing to stretch their budget to a semi-commercial choice. More...

Rancilio Silvia Review

Rancilio Silvia Over the last 10+ years, Silvia is unquestionably the most heavily documented home espresso machine on the Internet. Perhaps counter-intuitively, that's precisely why skipping it would seem like an error of omission. This review isn't a rehash the already formidable collection of information on the Internet, but instead it highlights the best tips, especially those tips geared towards the Rancilio Silvia's target demographic, first-time buyers. More...

Detailed Reviews

Buyer's Guide to the Expobar Brewtus III

Expobar Brewtus If you were looking for a double boiler espresso machine for home use a few years ago, there would have been pretty slim pickings. In late 2004, WholeLatteLove introduced the Expobar Brewtus and the double boiler espresso machine home market took off. Ian Stewart updates the original buyer's guide to include the upgrades and options that have been introduced since the Brewtus' original introduction, including a new plumb-in rotary pump model. More...

Buying Advice

Questions "Which espresso machine should I buy?", "What's the best coffee grinder?", "I have a budget of $500, what is the best espresso machine?" "There are so many choices of espresso equipment! What general advice to you offer?" Visitors to this site ask these types of questions every day. The article How to choose an espresso machine and grinder at the right price offers the community wisdom gleaned from hands-on experience, presented in question/answer format. More...

Buyer's Guide to the Ponte Vecchio Lusso

Ponte Vecchio Lusso Lever espresso machines as a class are frequently labeled as finicky beasts that demand months of focused attention to master. The Ponte Vecchio Lusso, in sharp contrast, is exceptionally forgiving, making it an ideal candidate for an "espresso newbie" shortlist. Ponte Vecchio Lusso has remarkable temperature predictability and represents an espresso machine that grows with the skills of the barista. More...

Buyer's Guide to the La Spaziale Vivaldi II

La Spaziale Vivaldi II Over the years, Chris' Coffee Service has worked closely with La Spaziale to refine the product line based on feedback from consumers. These incremental changes in conjunction with the recent additions of programmable preinfusion and programmable temperature offset differential prompted us to update the buyer's guide with a fresh look at the La Spaziale Vivaldi II. More...

Buyer's Guide to the Vibiemme Domobar Super

Vibiemme Dombobar Super Beginning with the specifications, the standout features of the Vibiemme Domobar Super include original E61 grouphead, choice of semi-automatic and electronic (automatic) volumetric dosing, three position power switch, and 2.7 liter boiler and a huge 3.8 liter water reservoir. That's a lot of steaming power! This review will look closely at the characteristics that separate the E61-based competitors to help you decide if the Vibiemme Domobor Super is right for you. More...

Buyer's Guide to the Quickmill Alexia

Quickmill Alexia Based on the time-tested design of the E61 brew group, the Alexia is forgiving of minor errors in barista technique. As a single boiler espresso machine, it also offers simple brew temperature management. With an optional electronic brew temperature control, it can reliably and easily pinpoint the desired brew temperature over a range. Is it the choice for the espresso purist? A beginner? Or latte lover? Let's find out. More...

Buyer's Guide to the Quick Mill Vetrano

Quickmill Vetrano Shhh-h! Did you hear that? Yes, that is the sound of greater tranquility in the morning—the sound of the new whisper-quiet rotary pump E61 espresso machine by Quick Mill (alas, if only grinders could be so quiet). In addition to accepting a water hookup, its driptray optionally converts to direct-drain with minimum hassle. Once you've become accustom to the convenience and quiet of a plumbed-in espresso machine, you'll never go back to filling water reservoirs again! More...

Buyer's Guide to the Elektra Microcasa Semiautomatica

Elektra Microcasa Semiautomatica Over twenty years after its introduction, the Semiautomatica has remained unique. As the market for home espresso matured, other companies also produced home heat exchanger machines, but these were derived from small catering machines and looked far more conventional than the Elektra. If one imagines espresso machines as cars, they would range from subcompact little home machines to Mack truck four groupers. The Elektra Semiautomatica doesn't fit anywhere along this continuum, because it's the motorcycle of espresso machines. More...

Buyer's Guide to the Elektra A3

Elektra A3 Functionally, the model A3 is a no-nonsense heat exchanger espresso machine destined for small cafés. But the Elektra Sixties model A3 espresso machine's distinct styling is an attention magnet to anyone who enters the room. Is this machine a little over the top for your average espresso lover? You bet! For that reason alone, the idea of reviewing Elektra's one-group offering was enticing and nicely consistent with the site's motto, "Your Guide to Exceptional Espresso." So began the Elektra A3 espresso machine's intensive review process. More...

Fiorenzato Bricoletta - A Pro's Perspective

Fiorenzato Bricoletta This is an "old school" espresso machine; stylistically, it is modeled on the classic Art Deco Faema and Gaggia machines of the late '40s and early '50s. The enormous exposed E61 group dominates its front profile. The Bricoletta also features a rotary vane pump and direct plumbing option.

Chris Tacy takes it through the paces in his second Pro's Perspective review, commenting that he continues to be impressed by the state of the home espresso market, and in particular the Fiorenzato Bricoletta. More...

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