HB Reviews - Espresso and Coffee
Lucca Atom 75 Grinder
The Lucca Atom 75 is the Eureka Atom 75 customized for Clive Coffee. It includes an improved burr set, a sensor-based grind adjustment system with TrueGrind smartphone app that is completely repeatable. The grinder and TrueGrind app are Wi-fi connected via an online database for storing the grind settings and dosing of your different coffees and prep methods. Clive Coffee says the Lucca is a grinder that can dial itself in. With two evaluation grinders, we'll test this claim.
Niche Zero Grinder
Ten years ago, when we did the Titan Grinder Project, several of the commercial conical grinders, those by Macap, Fiorenzato, and Compak cost around $800. They were low volume items, used by very few cafes. Since then, a far wider choice of titan conicals and flat burr grinders have reached the market, including many single dosing models built expressly for hobbyists, but except for some outstanding manual models, the minimum price of entry remained around $1500. And then came the Niche Zero grinder.
Baratza Sette 270 Grinder
When it comes to exceptional espresso, the grinder is the most important piece of equipment. In the past, espresso aficionados had few options among high-end grinders; in the pursuit of consistency, home baristas would often choose commercial grinders that looked natural in a cafe but ungainly on their kitchen counters. With the introduction of the Baratza Sette 270, that's about to change.
BPlus Apollo Manual Grinder
Why use a hand grinder at all? With electric grinders of all shapes, sizes, and prices, it's worth asking why one would consider buying a hand grinder. Judging by the popularity of hand grinders among HB members, these small, non-electric grinders have their niche. This review covers areas where they excel: Value, portability, function without electricity, quiet operation, and a certain "zen" experience.
ECM Puristika Review
Classic. Forgiving. Attractive. Ubiquitous. These are just a small sample of the descriptions that fans of the E61 espresso machine have used in the more than 60 years since its introduction. One word that is rarely suggested? Diminutive. No surprise, since its heavy, saucer shaped grouphead is a beefy chunk of chromed, polished brass. That's why its refreshing to see an E61 variant that's stripped to the bare essentials, dedicated to the espresso purist—the ECM Puristika.
Lelit MaraX (PL62X)
There are three kinds of espresso machines: those where variables have a control setting, those with control contortion, and those with no control or hope of a good espresso. Now there is the MaraX— the espresso machine you thought you would get before you know anything about espresso machines —no contortions, no settings, but the variables are controlled. There's a hidden switch for setting temperature, but the MaraX makes good espresso with an absolute minimum of fuss.
Decent Espresso DE1+
The small form factor of the Decent Espresso DE1+ belies the remarkable capabilities of this espresso machine. Its significant technological innovations include rapid temperature adjustment, brew pressure control, flow rate specification, real-time sensor feedback, and upgradable software interface. The DE1+ pulls great shots of espresso, offers unparalleled extraction control and feedback, and makes other espresso machines feel, well, primitive by comparison.
Lelit Bianca (PL162T)
After the first week of using the Lelit Bianca, the show tune "anything you can do, I can do easier; I can do everything easier than you" comes to mind. Since the Lelit Bianca has been reviewed on other sites, we'll focus on its performance, comparing it to lever and other profiling espresso machines. We will also cover the experience of using it, both for beginning and more advanced hobbyists. Interested in having full manual control of flow and pressure? If so, the Lelit Bianca is worth close consideration.
The Cafelat Robot manual lever espresso machine has been eagerly anticipated since Paul Pratt revealed it in April of 2016. Anyone who knows about Paul would have high expectations because of his reputation as a premier restorer of espresso machines from the 1950s and 60s. The Robot is Paul's interpretation and upgrade of the Faema Baby, a manual pourover machine introduced in 1950. It embodies the beauty of an ultra-simple pourover machine. Is the in-cup performance equally appealing?
Flair Espresso Maker
The concept of the Flair Espresso Maker isn't new. Pourover piston espresso machines were introduced in 1950 but soon went out of fashion, so it's great to have modern versions. The Flair isn't perfect. There were minor fit and finish issues. But none of these interferes with its functionality. With an independent source of hot water, a thermometer, and a good grinder, it does make real espresso.
Back in 2005, HB reviewed the redesigned Olympia Cremina of the time, comparing it to a restored model 20 years older. Over the last decade, Olympia Express has continued to make incremental improvements to the construction of this timeless lever espresso machine. This update looks at the latest rendition of one of the most popular (and probably the most expensive!) lever espresso machine for the home consumer.
Speedster Espresso Machine
The Speedster is so unique, it's often referred by its name without the preface of its creator, Kees van der Westen. Singular. Detailed. Striking. Sculpted. Modern. Classical. Beefy. Polished. Unique. Artistic. Precise. Bespoke. Detailed. Retro. Sweeping. Serious. These are just a small sample of the superlatives that one could apply to the Speedster Espresso Machine.
La Marzocco Linea Mini
The idea of a stripped down La Marzocco home espresso machine modeled after the old, simple Linea goes right to the heart of diehard baristas. In a world of precision digital systems and measurement and data driven coffee brewing, the idea of a purely analog experience felt not just retro, but rather liberating. Chris Tacy reviews the home-friendly version of the single group Linea, the new La Marzocco Linea Mini.
Profitec Pro 800
Owners of pump-driven espresso machines may be guilty of promoting the myth that lever espresso machines are difficult to use. Thanks to the classic design of the huge brass group on the Profitec Pro 800, it's the epitomy of no-fuss operation. Although the group design may be old school, the Pro 800 sports modern features like an electronic temperature controller and a 'no burn' steam arm.
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.
Breville Dual Boiler (BES920XL)
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.
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.
Profitec Pro 700
The E61 group may have been invented in the early 60s, but double boiler espresso machines based upon this design for home use are relatively recent. The popularity of the E61 / double boiler combination has really taken off the last few years with the introduction of models from several manufacturers. This review will summarize the strengths and weaknesses in ergonomics, construction, and features of Profitec's latest model, the Pro 700.
"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.
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.
Bezzera Strega Review
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.
La Marzocco GS/3 MP Review
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.
Izzo Alex Duetto V3 Review
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.
Quickmill Silvano Review
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.
Rancilio Silvia Review
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.
FAQs and Favorites Digest
Before investing time in reading reviews, it helps to know the basic terminology of espresso making and espresso equipment. This article has a few must-read introductions and how-tos are also recommended. To help you navigate to topics that interest you, it also contains links to the best topics all in one place, categorized by forum and subject area.
Buyer's Guide to the Expobar Brewtus III
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.
Buyer's Guide to the 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.
Buyer's Guide to the 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.
Buyer's Guide to the Vibiemme Domobar 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.
Buyer's Guide to the 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.
Buyer's Guide to the Quick Mill 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!
Buyer's Guide to the 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.
Buyer's Guide to the 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.
Buyer's Guide to the Andreja Premium
This guide focuses on one of the most popular espresso machine designs among home enthusiasts—the venerable "E61". The E61's gorgeously sculpted and highly polished group is recognized as a hallmark of fine espresso machines. The design of the E61 group earns its reputation as the heart of an espresso machine that is forgiving of minor errors in barista technique. This guide will explain how to operate the Andreja Premium and ends by comparing it with two other similar espresso machines from two different manufacturers.