Cleaning Your Super Automatic Espresso Machine
Hygiene should be part and parcel of owning a super automatic espresso machine from day one. Unfortunately, many users only get around to cleaning when things stop working or the coffee starts tasting bad. By then, it is too late.
Fact: coffee residue and milk with steam create a really nice petri dish party for mold and other microbes. This can change the taste of your drink, to say the least.
Think about it. You wouldnt drink a cappuccino out of a cup that hadnt been washed for a week at least I hope not.
I know a lot of you are eyeing the automatic cleaning programs and thinking thats the easy solution. While you should definitely run those regularly, they dont let you entirely off the hook.
The first line of defense against mold and other nasties is cleaning your fully automatic espresso machine at the end of every single day that its in use.
Heres a rundown of my daily routine:
- Rinse out and dry the dregs drawer, drip tray and water tank.
- Clean the milk system.
- Remove the brew unit and rinse it under running water. Leave it to dry overnight.
Honestly, its very simple and only takes a few minutes but can add years to your machines life.
On top of that, anyone who uses their machine every day should give it a thorough clean at least once a week. Just to be clear: that means running a cycle with detergent as well as the daily wiping, flushing and rinsing.
Who Is A Home Espresso Machine For
Our picks are for people who have developed a taste for good espresso and want a reliable home setup that strikes a balance between automated convenience and moderate skill building. People who have learned about espresso by frequenting third-wave shops or reading a few coffee blogs will be able to develop their craft using our picks. And those who might be overwhelmed by coffee jargon should also be able to find their way on these machines. If you understand the basics of the grind, dose, and tamp, youre already practicing the core components of what baristas refer to as dialing in your espresso. For further instruction, see our starter guide on how to make espresso at home.
Best Under $: De’longhi Stilosa Manual Espresso Machine Latte & Cappuccino Maker
There are costly and budget espresso machines and then there are those that are in between, like the De’Longhi Stilosa Manual Espresso, Latte & Cappuccino Maker. The condensed machine boasts all the same functions as a three-digit appliance, minus a hefty price tag.
With this De’Longhi espresso maker, lattes, cappuccinos, and espressos are entirely achievable at home, even if you’ve never made one yourself. All you have to do is rely on the features, like the 15-bar pump that guarantees the optimal pressure to extract a single or double espresso and a manual milk frother that can be wielded to accessorize cappuccinos, lattes, and flat whites. It also includes a portafilter and a measuring scoop and tamper.
More than 400 users rave about this top-rated espresso machine, with many mentioning that it’s not only a great budget espresso machine, but also space-friendly for small kitchens.
“I got this as a Christmas present and have been using it almost every day,” one shopper shares. “I feel I have finally perfected the making of a great latte with this. Not like the industrial ones I used to use when I worked at Starbucks, but it’s a fantastic little machine that produces great-tasting espresso, awesome steamed milk, and saves you a ton of money and time.”
Buy it: $100
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Miele Cm 5510 Silence Automatic Coffee Maker & Espresso Machine Combo
What we like:
What we dont like:
- The sleek-looking touch menu is a little enigmatic for first-time users
- Larger footprint than some machines
The Miele combo coffee maker is a fully automatic machine with a built-in grinder. You can choose your favorite drink from the menu, or create your own. Save your drink preferences in a profile so you can easily brew up your customized beverage each time.
This machine tops off drinks with rich creamy foam. You can even brew up to eight cups with its included coffee pot. If you want to make specialty drinks for a crowd, the Miele allows you to brew 2 specialty drinks at once. This means that you can finish your drink orders in record time and sit down and drink coffee together.
Customers enjoyed this one-touch specialty drink coffee maker. However, some said that the latte tasted weak when using the one-touch button. They suggested making espresso and topping it off with custom milk to make a stronger-tasting latte.
The Miele is over $1500 to bring home making it one of the priciest machines on the list. However, it does have a lot of great features. With this machine, it is easy to make coffee or espresso drinks exactly to your taste. If you have the extra bucks and serious about your coffee, this may be a perfect fit for you.
What we dont like:
- Does not make an authentic espresso using bars of pressure.
De’longhi Magnifica S Smart: Was 480 Now 329
It’s not as elegant as the newer Magnifica Evo range, but at £329, the De’Longhi Magnifica S Smart is a genuine bean-to-cup bargain. The steam wand whips up hot and frothy milk for delicious cappuccinos and lattes, and tasty espressos and long blacks are just a button press away.De’LonghiWas £480Now £329Buy Now
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What Is A Coffee And Espresso Machine Combo
“Coffee and espresso makers each have their specialty,” says Chris Hallowell, our onsite coffee expert and owner of Turning Point Coffee Roasters. Depending on what type of coffee drinker you are, there’s one that fits you best based on which features you benefit from, such as speedy steamers, an impressive portafilter, automatic presets, or a built-in coffee grinder. âFor some, the routine of grinding your coffee, tamping it, brewing espresso and steaming their own milk can be meditative,â says Hallowell. “Others might want to push a button and have near-immediate caffeine gratification from a super-automatic machine.â
Saeco Xelsis: Best Value
Currently available for $1,799.00, youd be hard pressed to find another machine that packs as much into an affordable package as the Saeco Xelsis. In fact, I couldnt help but award the Xelsis the title of Best Value Super Automatic Espresso Machine.
Dont get me wrong, this isnt the perfect coffee maker. During my Saeco Xelsis review I was constantly annoyed by the milk systems insistence on purging water into my cup. However, theres just so much to love about this machine that Im willing to overlook the odd fault.
For starters, a slim design and stainless steel accents lend the Xelsis the air of a high-quality, well-conceived device. Furthermore, the machines huge, glossy user interface is a thing of beauty. Whats especially cool is the Coffee Equalizer, which allows you to dial in your drink settings via a row of sliders.
In terms of performance, I cant find fault with the ceramic burr grinder. Replete with 12 adjustment settings, Saecos grinder is quiet and consistent. Add in the fact that youve got six user profiles and an automatic milk system, and its clear the Xelsis can easily hold its own next to DeLonghi and Jura machines.
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Other Espresso Machines We Tested
A relatively new entrant into the home barista market, the Barista Perfetta Plus comes from the Swiss brand behind the beloved entry-level burr grinder, the Scala. The espresso shots we pulled from the Solis were great and in line with the mid-level Breville Machinesthe Infuser, the Barista Express, and the Barista Express Impress. Shots were nicely extracted with a striped layer of crema on top. The steam wand on the Solis is powerful and made terrific flat whites. It also does all this in a tiny package. Its barely more than seven inches wide. We cannot emphasize enough how big of a plus that is in a category filled with counter hogs.
Even though its so slim, its a solidly built machineheavy enough that when we went to lock the portafilter in place, it wasnt sliding all over the countertop. It has an adaptive PID controller, something that is really a must for a good semiautomatic machine, and a pressure gauge front and center to provide real-time feedback about over- and under-extracted shots. It also allows you to toggle between three different brew temperature settings, and manually program both the pre-infusion and the brew time. Unfortunately, changing those settings is not intuitive and requires a hard-to-remember set of button pushes. Make sure to keep your user manual handy. Overall, we liked the Solis and recommend it above every machine under $1,000 except the Barista Express Impress. With a price under $500, its one to seriously consider picking up.
Flaws But Not Dealbreakers
The preprogrammed double-shot setting on the Bambino Plus cut off the extraction too quickly during our initial attempts. But it was easy to reprogram the shot volume using the timer on my phone, and I strongly recommend doing this early onit will help expedite dialing in the espresso. In subsequent test sessions, I had to tinker with my grind setting only slightly to achieve desirable shots from the coffees we sampled.
Finally, the Bambino Pluss compact size does lead to a couple of shortcomings. This machine is light enough that you may need to hold it with one hand while locking the portafilter in place with the other. The Bambino Plus also lacks the hot-water dispenser thats included with other Breville models. Its a useful feature if you like making Americanos, but we dont think its essential, since you can always heat water separately in a kettle. Considering the Bambino Pluss incredibly compact size, we think sacrificing the hot-water dispenser is worth it.
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How Many Boilers Does The Machine Have
Most espresso machines are either powered by a single boiler or dual boilers. Suarez noted that getting an espresso machine with dual boilers where the steam wand and the group head have their own boilers is very helpful because you wont have to wait on the machine to catch up when pulling shots of espresso and steaming milk at the same time. These dual boiler machines are typically more expensive. Single boiler machines, meanwhile, use the same boiler for the steam wand and the group head, so after you pull a shot of espresso, youll have to wait for the machine to build pressure before you can steam milk.
What To Look Forward To
As we wrapped testing for the 2021 update, we learned Ascaso had just released the Steel Uno. At $1,350, its only $100 more than the Dream PID, and it offers more opportunities to experiment with the density, mouthfeel, and flavor of your espresso via volumetric shot programming. We look forward to testing the Uno for the next update and exploring how much worthwhile variation this feature in particular allows.
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What Is The Golden Ratio For Drip Coffee
According to the SCA, the golden ratio for filter coffee is 1:18. This can mean one tablespoon of coffee for every 18 tablespoons of water. However, since 18 tablespoons is time-consuming to measure, this translates to about 55 grams of coffee per 1000 ml of water. Some coffee lovers use a scale to weigh out the proper ratio.
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Milk It For All Its Worth: Cappuccinatores Milk Systems And Settings
Despite being more of a mouthful than the drink its named after, this milk frothing system is really quite simple. Milk is sucked up a hose and then frothed with steam.
In fact, any integrated milk frothing system is basically a jazzed-up version of this system.
If theres a special built-in container for the milk, expect that to reflect in the price tag. On the other hand, systems that draw milk directly out of a carton or jug will often be more affordable.
Still, before you go pushing the credit card limits, you should know that simple cappuccinatores consistently outperform more elaborate systems in our reviews. Heres why:
- Theyre much easier to clean and are far more hygienic.
- Switching between different kinds of milk is easy.
- Simple systems often reduce the machine footprint and are more flexible.
The Jura E8 and Jura Z8 are a real testimony to this, as you can read in the reviews. Sounds too good to be true? Well, theres a bit of a catch: very few machines produce barista-quality froth for milk based drinks.
Surprise, surprise! You only get barista results with a barista tool a steam wand. The only problem is that a manual milk frother not only requires some skill, but runs counter to the whole concept of a super automatic espresso machine.
So what can you do to milk the white stuff for all its worth?
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Best Splurge Coffee Maker: Ninja Dualbrew Pro Speciality Coffee System
If you want a machine that can quite literally do it all , Ninja’s DualBrew Pro Speciality Coffee System is a bonafide winner. Complete with nine coffee ground brew sizes and four pod sizes, you can even choose between four brew styles: classic, rich, over ice, or specialty.
This machine also comes with a fold-away milk frother, which can turn hot or cold milk into a frothy topper in minutes. The 60-ounce water reservoir is … well, huge, and the glass carafe is large enough to make 12 cups of coffee. There’s even a hot water option, so non-coffee drinkers can reap the benefits by making tea or hot chocolate, too.
With an abundance of features, though, comes a higher price tag. Even so, you’re getting a huge bang for your buck here, as echoed by its 4.2-star rating from more than 300 shoppers. It received top reviews for its quality, value, and performance, with buyers noting that it’s a surprisingly compact size for its wide capabilities.
Does It Matter What Type Of Water I Use In My Coffee Maker
When it comes to coffee makers, the type of water you run through the machine can make an impact on your morning cup.
“Filtering your tap water can make all the difference in your coffee,” Nakamoto says. “Instead of tasting bitter, filtered water can help make your coffee taste fresh. It has a smoother flavor because the water used to brew it is cleaner. Given that coffee is mostly water, implementing quality water into your brewing method is a must.”
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Cleaning The Water Tank
While you dont have to worry about coffee residue in the water tank, theres plenty of other nasty stuff like algae that loves water. Once its all gross, youll have no option but to buy a new one.
So no free pass on cleaning it. Before refilling the tank, I recommend always rinsing it out with hot water and letting it dry. Then, fill it with fresh, cold tap water and let it drip dry.
More and more models come with a tank that can go in the dishwasher. Hooray for that! Still, its good to give it a rinse by hand after it comes out of the machine to get rid of any residual detergent.
On this front, Miele which is very serious about making its products dishwasher-safe leads the way.
Using The Right Water
A coffee break without water just leaves you, well, gnawing at bitter beans. And since thats not quite what were looking for, no ones going to argue that water is key to coffee preparation.
Seeing as its a pretty big deal, its worth driving home a few points relating to how water can impact coffee flavor and determine the life of your machine.
Its obvious when you say it out loud, but freshness matters. You dont use old, stale beans, so why use old, stale water? Not to mention, leaving water to stagnate in your tank is a big no-no.
As fresh water leaves the faucet or filter, it mixes with oxygen, and the resulting bubbles are essential to good coffee.
Just to be clear: a filter whether built into your machine or of the Brita jug variety wont transform your water into a magic liquid thats better suited to brewing. The primary function of a water filter is to extend the intervals between descaling your machine. Ill get into this in more detail when covering cleaning.
A much better freshness hack is the tank size.
So to that end, unless you have an office full of blurry-eyed people to caffeinate, bigger is not better. Extra-large water tanks just tempt you to fill them and forget. With a small one, you cant help but refill it frequently so freshness is guaranteed.
At least the pricier models allow you to adjust this and to be honest, its one of the first things I check when pulling a shot on a new machine.
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The Best Espresso Machine With Built
The Breville Barista Express Impress goes one step further than most machines with a built-in grinder by adding an automated tamping and dosing system. While the tamping lever is appreciated for streamlining workflow, it was actually the intelligent dosing system that was truly a revelation. Using a precise amount of coffee every time is key to consistency and quality in espresso, and the dosing system was able to deliver a coffee weight within a half of a gram every time. We also liked the nearly instantaneous switch to steam temperature for making lattes, and the programming options.
Best for: People who want to streamline their shot pulling process and prioritize ease of use and consistency in their espresso.