dsas Senior Member Joined: 22 Apr 2012 Posts: 4 Location: Charleston, SC Expertise: I love coffee
Posted Sun Apr 22, 2012, 7:26am Subject: Advice re: automatic coffee/espresso maker - Am I looking for a Unicorn?
Hello, experts. My wife and I want to purchase a new coffee maker, but we're not sure if what we're looking for (ideally) exists. We're looking for a fully automatic grind-and-brew, but she prefers regular, American-style, 12 oz, drip coffee, whereas I enjoy both espresso and drip-style coffee. Neither of us drink latte/cappuccino. We buy locally roasted, high-quality beans and have spent enough time in Europe to know what good coffee tastes like.
We've seen a few machines that SEEM like what we're looking for. For instance, the Delonghi ESAM3300 Magnifica for $649 looks like it makes espresso and, with adjustments to water volume and "strength" can approximate whatever strength "drip" coffee you like. Is this true? Can my wife make a 12 oz. cup of medium strength coffee at the touch of a button?
In addition to the Delonghi ESAM 3300, we've looked at a few of the Jura models. I was initially excited about Jura as I am admittedly biased toward Swiss engineering and production in general (certainly over Italian production quality), but was surprised to read a few reviews panning Jura's quality.
What suggestions do you have? Jura? Miele? Delonghi? Other? We're expecting to spend $600-$1000.
Posted Sun Apr 22, 2012, 7:37am Subject: Re: Advice re: automatic coffee/espresso maker - Am I looking for a Unicorn?
Search the forums for "super-automatic" machines which is what you are describing - not automatic. Overall there is a bias agains these machines here since they tend to have inferior quality components particularly for espresso. Grind retention leads to stale grounds in the machine as well that can lead to bad taste.
A super-auto that makes espresso could also make an americano usually by adding hot water which is similar to brewed coffee.
Coffeenoobie Senior Member Joined: 11 Dec 2011 Posts: 2,972 Location: PNW Expertise: I like coffee
Espresso: N S Oscar Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Sun Apr 22, 2012, 9:31am Subject: Re: Advice re: automatic coffee/espresso maker - Am I looking for a Unicorn?
If you get any espresso machine you can add water to it and it is an americano that is very much like regular american coffee. So, you don't have to have a machine that does both and I think combo machines are not going to be nearly as good at espresso as an espresso machine.
Super autos will do the coffee at a press of a button but you lose a lot of quality for espresso. I have read they break often and are very expensive to repair. I have never owned one. I did drink latte out of one once, well I drank a sip out of a cup that one made once - then tossed it. There are a lot of capsule machines for sale on craigslist. That leads me to believe they are not as good as the TV ads make them out to be.
People here tend to want good espresso and will not recommend a super automatic. If you take the "hands on" (mano) out of the equation the espresso is not as good.
The Four M’s In Italy, arguably the heart and soul of espresso culture, a set of simple rules steers the craft of the beverage. The process is broken down into four equally important components known as the Four M’s: macchina (espresso machine), macinzaione (grinder), miscela (coffee blend) and mano (the person making the shot).
Macchina—The Machine There are hundreds of espresso machines on the market, ranging from $200 starter machines to $4,500 units that can do some things better than many commercial machines. When shopping for a machine, consider your budget and your goals. Are you looking for a long-term investment or a quick fix? Do you want a machine that’s simple to use or one that offers more precision? The best machines have a durable portafilter and filter basket, a good-sized boiler (up to a liter or more) and a traditional frothing wand without “convenient” gizmos. If you hit Google looking for guidance, check out consumer-written machine reviews and look for notes on durability, capability and ease of use.
Macinzaione—The Grinder The grinder is the “roadie” of the espresso world—often overlooked, but the show couldn’t go on without it. Truth is, the grinder is just as important as the espresso machine. You can make better espresso with a $200 espresso machine and a $300 grinder than you can with a $4,500 machine and a simple blade grinder or coffee bought pre-ground. Espresso is best when its sub-processes are quick and efficient. Coffee beans should be ground mere moments before brewing, with a grind that is as uniform and as even as possible.
Miscela—The Blend Like your favorite fruits and vegetables, coffee is seasonal. It has a short shelf life and, in its best forms, can taste wildly different depending on its origin, roast level and blend components. Visit a local roaster and try their espresso; if you like it, consider buying their beans. Or seek out artisan roasters on the Internet, where you can read espresso blend reviews written by other home espresso enthusiasts. Beans can be shipped in three days or less so, when they arrive on your doorstep, they’re often as fresh as four or five days old. Here’s another tip: if you see talk on a roaster’s website about pulling “single origin” shots (making espresso with beans from one farm) during the process of crafting their blends – those people are cutting edge, and a good bet for a great blend.
Mano—It’s All You Even with the best equipment and the finest beans, espresso doesn’t make itself. Whether your shot is bitter or sour, or a creamy, balanced elixir with a lovely lingering aftertaste, is up to you. You’ve selected your tools. You’ve kept them clean and well maintained. You’ve bought fresh beans and ground them just moments before brewing. You’ve preheated your cups. Now it’s time to pull that perfect shot.
I wish there was a unicorn. I don't think he has been invited yet. Let me know if you find one.
Buying advice: GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER. Don't cheap out on the grinder.
JasonBrandtLewis Senior Member Joined: 9 Dec 2005 Posts: 6,278 Location: Berkeley, CA Expertise: I live coffee
Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -... Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -... Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup Drip: CCD, Chemex Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Sun Apr 22, 2012, 7:27pm Subject: Re: Advice re: automatic coffee/espresso maker - Am I looking for a Unicorn?
"Punt" was my way of saying I'm punting this question -- meaning, "I pass." It had nothing to do with recommending you do anything.
That said, not wishing to cause any further disturbances with misunderstood football analogies, I'll stick to the point at hand:
Super-automatics sacrifice quality in the cup for the convenience of getting it there. Ergo, if you value convenience more than quality, a super-auto may be for you. OTOH, if you want both -- high quality espresso and the convenience of a super-auto, then -- yes -- you're looking for a unicorn. (And let's not forget, this presumes your wife will be as happy drinking americans as she is with brewed coffee.)
Posted Sun Apr 22, 2012, 8:17pm Subject: Re: Advice re: automatic coffee/espresso maker - Am I looking for a Unicorn?
One of the major issues with (most) superautomatics that affects quality in the cup is the lack of temperature stability for brewing. Good espresso must be brewed in a fairly tight temperature window.
I've never seen one of the Quickmill "Monza Deluxe" machines in person, but it has a programmable, heated, metal brew group so I believe there is a good chance that it could make a great espresso. Unfortunately it is also more than twice your stated budget at around $2600
The superauto machines I've seen that sell at or under $1k generally produce poor results, even when using prime time coffee beans. (EDIT) Most of the available superautomatic machines use plastic brewing groups.
Panisse Senior Member Joined: 23 Apr 2012 Posts: 3 Location: France Expertise: I love coffee
Posted Mon Apr 23, 2012, 7:12am Subject: Re: Advice re: automatic coffee/espresso maker - Am I looking for a Unicorn?
My wife and I have been using, and loving, the "Delonghi Magnifica Cappuccino" that came with our rental here in France since September 2011. I think that's the model that corresponds to #ESAM 3300. The espresso is the best coffee we have ever made at home. And it is easy to crank up the water to make a more diluted drink whenever our guests request "café américain." It will be no surprise to readers here that it is better to use beans than pre-ground coffee, and that the quality of the beans we put in the top makes a huge difference in the coffee that comes out the spout. We've settled happily on Mexican beans from the local organic grocery. Comments I have seen about the tendency of grounds to migrate within the machine are accurate; and probably too the complaints that the inner parts are not all professional quality and designed to last forever. But my guess is that if well-maintained and regularly cleaned these babies should last for several years of regular use at least. I would not buy one if I were about to open a coffee bar; but we are going to get one for our house in the US. (Which is why I stumbled across this forum.)
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