Machine comparison, old/used! Krups Novo 2100 vs Saeco ViaVenezia

Need help with equipment usage or want to share your latest discovery?

#1: Post by coyote-1 »

I know that on this forum, where LaMarzocco machines are commonplace, my comparison of old consumer-grade appliances might seem silly. But play along anyway if you'd like! I'm comparing these machines because I've been able to get good espresso out of both with consistency, and I therefore think that either would be a viable choice for beginners in this hobby.

First off, both were not expensive in their time. My Krups was gifted to me, while the Saeco was obtained for $15 at a thrift store. But my understanding is the Krups was around $250 or so 20 years ago, while the Saeco was around $300 a decade ago. So they were similarly priced.

Next: build. Both are well made for what they are. The Krups has lasted this long, so it can't be bad. But it's small and the exterior is plastic. Functionally not an issue really, but from the standpoint of an overall experience it's a bit offputting to have to hold the machine in place while inserting the portafilter. The Saeco, with its all-metal shell, stays put. And even though its footprint on the counter is not significantly larger than the Krups, it holds much more water. And you can see that water without opening the machine, so you know how much is left in the tank. (The Krups' smallish tank resides entirely inside the device.)

Next: portafilter. Here the Krups is better, as it uses the baskets themselves for pressurization rather than having a whole mechanism inside the portafilter. That said, to become unpressurized on the Saeco all one need do is remove that mechanism from the portafilter - while with the Krups, you need to purchase an unpressurized basket. NOTE: the unpressurized aftermarket portafilters for the Saeco are really nice, and have a professional look and heft. This, combined with the weight of the Saeco machine itself, really adds to the experience of making espresso.

Now to the coffee. After obtaining the unpressurized basket for the Krups, I was pleasantly surprised by the espresso I was getting! It was good, and it was consistent. I think I know why. A 20 year old 15 bar vibration pump is no longer up to factory spec. So it takes a few seconds before water begins to come through, and then it takes time. That amounts to "pre infusion", along with lower pressure overall! While I have no means to officially measure it, I'm guessing it's coming somewhere around 9 bar at the group head. I found 28 seconds from first drip was giving me great results. Incidentally, the temperature on that unit with its small thermoblock is very steady. Temperature surfing was a non issue as long as I used it within a certain timeframe of initially powering it up.

As for the Saeco? At first, the flow with the unpressurized basket was way too much. The cup was filling in 15 seconds... and if it did not fill in less than 20 seconds, it was choking the basket and not flowing at all. I really had to be careful about the grind, and could not get an extraction longer than 20 seconds. So I modified it by adjusting the OPV and adding a dimmer. I'm now getting pre-infusion, and a 28 second shot. And it's delicious, and consistent. On this machine with its boiler, temperature surfing is a must. But once you got it, consistency is not difficult.

As for steam? This is where the Krups fails. Yes it can steam milk for a cappuccino or something and not be terrible, but it's never great. So the Krups is essentially an espresso-only appliance. The Saeco with its native panarello also is not great - but that changes if you remove that panarello, and add the Gaggia panarello. Don't use the outer sleeve; only use the single hole interior component. It generates a great microfoam. Obviously it takes longer to do this than would a dual boiler, but it does the job. I'm a beginner in latte art, but I've been able to get a couple nice hearts and other shapes with the ViaVenezia's microfoam.

I hope all that helps someone along the line. At this point I'm using the ViaVenezia daily. From beginning to end, it's a satisfying experience and is producing delicious espresso. And it's fun to manipulate the dimmer dial, to get pre-infusion! The Krups? That is waiting in the basement. If the Saeco fails, I have a backup that I know works.