$2,200 for a super automatic. That's a lot of coin.
The S9 super automatic from Jura Capresso was their showpiece machine, at least until the uber tricked out Jura Capresso Z5 came out. Because the S9 was their primo machine, I was curious to see what was in the box and what could justify this price. So that's just what I did.
NB: By the time some of you may read this, the S9 may be discontinued by Jura Capresso, and replaced by the Jura Capresso S9 Avant, an upgraded model. Most of my comments below will apply to the new model.
Out of the Box - Jura Capresso S9 Super Automatic
When the Impressa S9 Super Auto arrives, you notice the weight right away. Then you notice all the goodies it comes with. The machine is exceptionally well packed, and double boxed (this is how Capresso ships them out). Form fitting styrofoam keeps the machine secure, so there should be no worries on how it ships. I like to mention this because I've had other machines shipped in pretty shoddy packaging in the past, so giving kudos for careful shipping is a natural.
Because Capresso is big on having their products in locations like Williams Sonoma and other storefronts, the boxes are well decorated, letting you know what you got inside. Nice graphics, a bit "old school" in the styling and fonts, but eye catching.
And what is inside the box? Besides the super auto itself, Jura-Capresso has tossed in just about every goodie in their stable. You'll find not one, but two frothing systems. There's the Dual Frother plus wand attachment which can do duty as a quasi-traditional wand. And the other system is one Capresso usually sells for $80 or more - an automated frothing system called the frothXpress Plus; it's definitely got "wow" appeal for espresso and milk frothing newbies.
| All the stuff... |
Everything the Jura Capresso S9 ships with.
For vets, it's cute for the first few minutes.
There's also a full Claris water filtration system; while I prefer to use Brita filtered water (plus the water in my region is pretty darned good), many people like the fact that the machine filters the water it uses "on the fly" as it were.
There's also a very well laid out instruction manual and video. Capresso is pretty much leading the industry in terms of quality and informative instruction manuals (except KitchenAid has them beat with their new Pro Line manuals), and their product videos are a good stop gap for those of you who absolutely refuse to read a product manual. (I don't like you types. Grr.)
The machine is pretty serious looking. The S9 has a silver / bronze finish with a protective semi-gloss coating, with black and chrome accents and controls. One thing I can't hide my disappointment on is the material used for the outer shell - it's plastic. For something costing $2,200, I'd expect more "substance". Capresso, you should have done better in this regard. (addendum - I've noticed that after about three months of storage just before pulling the machine out for one last time, some stains I forgot to clean up have become a bit permanent on the plastic outer body... a ghost of the stain remains. Grr. Plastic).
The thing is, while many people (mostly manufacturers and importers) believe that plastic is just fine, the people who pay the big bucks for products like this might think otherwise.
| || || || |
| || || || |
| Impressa S9 Front |
The business end of this machine.
| Left Side of the S9 |
Reservoir dominates the entire left side. Not shown: optional claris water filter.
| Right Side of the S9 |
Not much going on here. Steam wand does not rotate out from the machine - only left to right.
| Back of the S9 |
Waitasec... is this the business end?
The layout of the machine is fairly complex. Let's take a small tour of the Jura Capresso Impressa S9.
| Main Controls |
All the shot buttons, plus power button and rinse button
| Programming Panel |
Behind a door are the programming controls for the S9
| Steam and Hot Water |
Programmed Steam, Manual Steam buttons and Hot water dial.
| Spouts and LEDs |
Spouts and the two LEDs that light up the cup service area
A two line LED panel is located on the upper left side of the machine's front panel, seven buttons arranged below that - some for different drinks sizes, some for other functions. Below that there's a door which can be opened to gain further functionality, including machine programming.
In the middle of the machine is a sliding spout assembly for where the espresso and the hot water comes out - it adjusts for different cup heights. Two plastic spouts deliver the espresso, while a metal tube just to the right of the drink spouts is for hot water delivery, and is positioned so you don't have to move the cup between hot water spout and the espresso delivery spouts.
On the right side of the front panel is the steaming control buttons, a dial, and the steam wand. This is where you have to make decisions (which you can always change) - normal froth aider or the automatic frothXpress plus system. Above the spout is the dial that you turn to pour hot water (it's a bit stiff to turn!), and above that are two buttons - one for programmed steaming, and one for manual (time wise) steaming. Jura Capresso calls it "steam portion" and "permanent steam" (terrible naming! I suggest "programmed steam" and "manual steam").
The drip tray below all of this is pretty spacious. It's covered by a polished stainless steel perforated cover, which I suspect will be susceptible to scratching (addendum - I was right - 10 months of use shows lots of scratchies).
On the left side of the machine is the gargantuan (or so it seems) water reservoir. In truth, it is big, but not as big as you may think. It holds about 3 litres which is a fair amount, and one of the larger reservoirs I've seen on a super automatic.
On top, you see a fairly spacious cup warming area, the grinds bypass chute, and the bean hopper, leading to the built in grinder. There's a dial that lets you select six grind settings.
There's no easy way to get inside the Impressa S9. The brew group is not removable, like it is on Saeco machines and older Solis machines.
First Use - Jura Capresso S9
After oogling at this monster machine, it was time to fire it up. If you read the product manual, or at least watched the video, you'd know the steps to take when starting up the machine.
It has brains, did I mention that?
It has brains because it knows if it is empty of water internally, and tells you what to do to get the machine filled and ready to rock and roll. Turn it on. Watch the panel. Follow instructions. Simple as pie.
The machine goes through its fill steps, and then is pretty much ready to brew - if you have some beans in the machine. Here's one very important thing to remember - if you want to adjust the grinder's fineness, do it only when the machine is running, and actually grinding coffee.
And that's what I did - my automatic reaction is to tune a super-auto grinder as fine as it can go, and for my first "garbage shot" on the machine (always do a few shots to season a machine), I dialed the grind as fine as the settings would go. And then I dialed in the brew volumes. In fact, you can program a helluva lot on this machine:
- Amount of coffee (display will read POWDER QUANTITY)
- Coffee temperature (NORMAL or HIGH)
- Cup size (display will read WATER QUANTITY)
- Steam portion (this lets you program by time how long the steam wand will work)
- Amount of hot water (preprogrammed water volume, display reads TEA PORTION)
- Claris filter cartridge (sets up the filtration system)
- Water hardness (use that water hardness strip, if you're not using the claris filter)
- Economy mode (controls how long the steam thermoblock is active after use)
- Auto turn-on (set by time of day)
- Auto shut-off (set by how much time since last use)
- Supplies and cup counter (information only)
| Customizing the S9 |
While the range of options may seem complex, the display panel helps walk you through most changes and customization features.
But I digress. I programmed in all the water volumes (btw, these settings stay in place even if you unplug the machine!) - you do so by pressing the P button, then cycling to WATER QUANTITY, and then pressing any of the three left side brewing buttons (special cup, short cup, long cup). As the brew starts, the display will eventually read ENOUGH COFFEE / PRESS P. When you hit the volume you want, press the P symbol button, and we're almost done.
But not quite! The Impressa S9 lets you further fine tune the volume. You'll see something like this on the display: –_ _ _ ll_ _ _+ and you can press the plus or minus on the programming panel to up (or lower) the volume slightly - one press each way equals about 2 or 3mls of liquid. Niiiiiiiiice!
I like it when machines walk you through a process in a fairly straightforward way :)
Once I had that all dialed in, I was ready to do my initial tests... but just to be safe, I gave the machine another half hour to fully warm up, and loaded in some Black Cat, supplied by Intelligentsia.
By the way - I also let it heat up for another half hour because I wanted to see if the top cup warmer did the job and appropriately warmed the cups, but alas, it does not - they are barely above room temperature.
Fortunately, the hot water function on the machine is insanely easy (and the drip tray is deep enough to dump the heating water), so I ran the hot water a bit to heat it up, dumped it, and brewed the shot.
Here's where my first truly happy moment with the Impressa S9 came. The shot of espresso. It was fast, no doubt (all super autos brew way too fast, completely ignoring the science out there that says espresso must be brewed in 25 seconds, give or take 3 or 4 seconds), but I was seeing wisps of steam vapor rising... I quickly grabbed the fluke and rammed the thermocouple up one of the pour spouts.
91C at the spouts. WOOOOOT!
By my early guess, that translated into brewing temperatures of around 95C (200F) or higher. Colour me impressed.
As I saw the shot develop, well, it was no La Marzocco; heck, it wasn't even a Silvia. But as the crema formed, it had the look of "real" crema, not that false blond stuff that so many super autos seem to churn out. The crema wasn't as dark as I'd expect from a handcrafted shot, but it was a pleasing medium-dark golden brown, and looked like real crema, not "pressurized adapter" fake stuff.
| Temperature Tests |
Finishing off an americano brew (hot water in place), the temps exiting the spouts are over 92C! Good job, Capresso!
The shot wasn't spectacular, it was on the thin side (the too fast extraction), but it was something I'd rank higher than pod espresso, and even higher than any "crema enhancer" espresso that you might get from a machine like the Solis SL70 (with the pressurized baskets) or a Saeco or Starbucks Barista.
One area where it truly ranks higher - it was probably the best super-automatic shot I've had in the home so far. And I give only one thing the credit - the brewing temperature.
With that pleasant first experience under my belt, I decided to give the frothXpress plus system a first go. It is a gizmo - we like gizmos around here - but my early attempts to use it were bad. I think I had it connected wrong, or the line was dirty or something, because in later tests, I was developing decent froth with it (visually - taste is another matter). But I couldn't get much froth out of it, at all in this first test. (stay tuned)
And with that, my first look and first use of the machine was over. Now you get to find out what I did over the next 10 months (over 21 months of time) testing this bad boy got.