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Capresso Espresso - Other - Andrew Sullivan's Review
Posted: January 7, 2008, 5:01pm
review rating: 8.5
feedback: (0) comments | read | write
Capresso Espresso Machines - Other
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Arrow The Capresso Espresso - Other has 9 Reviews
Arrow The Capresso Espresso - Other has been rated 5.80 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since November 30, 2001.
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Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Andrew Sullivan 8.50
Lisa 5.33
C Becker 5.25
Ty Wentworth 5.00
Simon Kleeger 5.00

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 6.2
Product Reviewed: BAR 351
Manufacturer: Capresso Quality: 5
Average Price: Varies Usability: 5
Price Paid: $350.00 Cost vs. Value 8
Where Bought: Faema Aesthetics 6
Owned for: 4+ years Overall 7
Writer's Expertise: I like coffee Would Buy Again: No
Similar Items Owned: Rancilo Silvia, countless drip coffee makers
Bottom Line: Compact unit that isn't nearly as bad as it ought to be.
Positive Product Points

This is a compact unit for both drip coffee and espresso-like drinks.  The manual actually tells you useful things about coffee.  The adjustment of the automatic sizes is straightforward.

Negative Product Points

The espresso isn't tremendous.  If you don't alternate between drip coffee and pressure-driven coffee, it takes up more room than whatever machine you'd have on its own.

Detailed Commentary

I originally bought this machine, in 2001, because I wanted to replace a plain old drip coffeemaker that wasn't working as well as we liked any more.  It was sort of an impulse buy -- I was initially just looking at options for an espresso machine, but then this was there, we had company coming for late-December celebrations, and I thought this would be a nice-to-have bonus.  It was also fairly cheap -- $350 is what I remember, but it's a long time ago, and I haven't the sales slip any more.  

The unit is, on the one side, a fully automatic single-thermocoil "espresso" machine; and, on the other, an automatic drip coffeemaker.  You cannot use both halves at the same time.  

The espresso side is supplied by a removable tank with a little screen filter in the bottom.  You take the tank out, fill it, and then pop it back in.  There's a nice little valve arrangement at the bottom of the tank that seems very well designed, but you need to be careful not to get gunk through the filter, or it will apparently clog the mechanism.  As far as I know, this never happened while I had the machine.

The portafilter is a non-standard size.  It has a little clip that is supposed to hold the filter basket in place when you dump out the old grounds.  This was made of some plastic that wore out about 3 years into owning it, so it broke in pieces.  I wasn't willing to buy a new portafilter, so I developed a callous on my thumb from holding the filter basket in place while dumping the coffee grounds.  My wife found this hugely annoying.  

The reason I did it that way was the pain I had in buying replacement filters after the original one cracked.  I bought two new ones.  I'm in Canada, and it seems they think that's incredibly exotic.  So I had to talk to someone on the phone, which meant a lot of on hold time.  Their site seemed to work beautifully for US residents.  But I am not one, and there wasn't an answer for me.  The service people I talked to, however, were quite pleasant and competent.  Had I known the portafilter was about to fail when I replaced the baskets, I'd have bought an extra of those too.

The steam wand was relatively easy to clean and use.  That said, it didn't seem to deliver the sort of pressure you need for proper froth, so we almost never used it.  That was ok, because the espresso wasn't that great either.  It had a "steam" position and a "water" position.  You could not control the volume of steam; I think this was part of the problem.

What we actually did with this machine, however, was to take a standard cappuccino cup, and put a "double espresso" in it every day.  With nicely ground fresh beans, this made for an incredibly satisfying cup of coffee in the morning.

The controls are tiny little rubber buttons.  They're sort of stupid, but spaced widely enough that one can use them reasonably well.  It was not hard to set new values for the amount of coffee the "single" and "double" buttons gave, though one could easily forget whether to press "memory" first or second or whatever.  You could not figure out how to do this from looking at the machine: the manual was critical.

The espresso machine was slightly painful to clean: you had to take a screw out of the brew unit and kind of disassemble some parts, into which surprising quantities of grounds had penetrated.  Over time, I suspect the seal around the removable part deteriorated.  That seems like a wear issue, though, and not a criticism of the manufacturer.

As a result of our coffee regimen, we found we almost never used the drip coffeemaker.  It came with a gold-cone filter.  It produced completely acceptable drip coffee when made with fresh-ground good beans.  Its temperature was not too high (or too low), and it delivered the large carafe (10 or 12 cups, I forget which) in a reasonable time without hurrying and wrecking the coffee.  

The machine had a clock, which meant that the burner element or the thermocoil would turn off after some period of time (ISTR a couple hours).  You could have had the drip side turn on and make your coffee in the morning if you wanted, but since we didn't ever make drip coffee in more or less no time after buying this, I can't report on the utility of that.  Generally, though, the drip coffee side seemed like a competent enough coffemaker, on par with (for instance) a Krups unit that may have kept me alive while an undergraduate and graduate student.

The machine started to leak somewhere internally, on the espresso side, this year.  Pressure dropped enough that what crema it ever made was not as good.  Since I'd screwed my grinder but good in a cleaning disaster I won't recount, for fear of never getting the red out of my face, I decided just to replace the coffeemaker at the same time.  So this unit has been replaced by Rancilio's Silvia.  (We hardly used the drip maker anyway.  If people want drip coffee when they come over, well, tough beans.  I have a press.)

I haven't rated the machine very highly, but that's by comparison with its better cousins.  If I had to rank it in its price range, for what it was trying to do, I'd have to rate it higher.  It didn't suck at all for what it was trying to do.  On the other hand, if you are going to spend that much (inflation adjusted), just buy a good machine.

Buying Experience

I bought this at Faema in Toronto, at Christie and Dupont.  The sales guy I guess figured I was cheap, so he didn't try to convince me to go up.  This was probably a mistake on his part, but he was nice enough, and was trying.

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Posted: January 7, 2008, 5:01pm
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