A quirky machine that makes good coffee with a simple press of a button, when it works.
Positive Product Points
All metal casing Easy to adjust size of drink Quality of coffee
Negative Product Points
Insufficient number of idiot lights to warn of problems Cannot clean grinder Unreliable
I wrote the following review after owning the machine for 3 months. Although my opinion has changed, I decided not to edit my original review, but rather add my current opinion under the 3 Month Review section. The contrast is interesting:
This review is about the Saeco Incanto Rondo Rapid Steam SBS. I have had this for about 3 months. The quality of the coffee is very good - it is better than I have been able to get w/ my drip or my French press machine. It is also very easy to use and to clean. The machine casing is mostly black, powder coated metal. The top is lexan plastic. The chrome looking parts are actually either chrome plated or stainless steel. This is the only superautomatic machine I have seen that is actually metal. The first impression you get from it is that you got a product that is actually worth what you paid for it. Very solid looking and feeling.
The machine has a large chrome dial on the front that is used to adjust the size of the brew from short espresso to caffe americano and everything in between. The dial has markings that approximate ounces, but not quite. On setting "6" I get about a 5 oz coffee. On setting 2 I get about a 1 to 1-1/2 oz espresso.
At the front of the dispenser is another chrome dial that adjusts the amount of creama you can get. This appears to be nothing more than a variable pressurized filter. Turn to the left for a more open filter, to the far right for a fully pressurized filter. This allows you to get pretty consistent creama. I have found that with very fresh coffee, and the dial set to low pressurization, you get a fair amount of real red-brown creama mixed w/ some lighter brown "false" creama. The creama is the lingering variety that clings to the side of your cup and stays to the end. With less than fresh coffee, the creama is mostly lighter brown.
I would not expect to ever get a godshot from this machine, but it does deliver a very consistent OK cup of espresso, and a consistently very good cup of caffe creama.
The machine delivers gobs and gobs of steam without waiting after your shot. I'll prepare my shot first, then the milk. You can get enough foam for a cappuccino in less than 30 seconds. The only problem purists might have is the steaming wand is designed for beginners. It is very easy to get fairly creamy foam if you are a beginner. Just immerse the wand in your pitcher, open the valve, and let her rip. But if you know how to make steam using a real steamer you will not consider this microfoam and will be disappointed. I have read on Coffeegeek that there are ways to get real microfoam out of these assisted frothers but I have not bothered to try. I am happy with what I am getting so far.
Like all superautomatics, the bean hopper is located above the boiler, so if you store your beans in the hopper they will bake. I add only enough beans for the shot I am about to make and I have gotten pretty good at it. The bean sensor on the machine is not overly sensitive so it will not stop grinding until the hopper is actually empty. This works out well because you can switch beans, like between decaf and regular, without a problem. This is because you can feel under the finger guard to know when the beans are empty. With some practice I have gotten pretty good at judging whether there are enough beans for a shot or not.
One gripe I have is the use of idiot lights. There is one led that lights to tell you either the beans are empty, the water is empty, or you need to empty the used puck hopper. Until you get to know the machine, this is very annoying. The light will come on and the machine will stop and you have no idea what the problem is. You see the red light and the machine stops. You add water - still red light - you add beans - still red light - you empty the puck hopper - still red light. Then you have to turn the machine off, then on, then the light goes out and you can make coffee. Once you get to get to know the machine though, this is no problem. Now I see the red light and I know from experience which of the 3 conditions is causing it.
One more glitch. The used puck hopper holds about 10 pucks. The machine only knows how to count from 1 to 10. If you empty the hopper after 5 pucks, the machine will still stop and light the red LED after 5 additional pucks. Then you have to remove and replace the puck hopper before you can make coffee. Just removing the hopper doesn't reset the counter - it has to go through the entire count of ten, regardless of how many times you empty the hopper in between.
Cleaning is easy. Every few days I remove the brew group and rinse it well w/ warm water using the spray hose on my sink. I also have a syringe that I use to run warm water through the short length of tubing in the brew group and the short length of tubing at the outlet. That cleans the entire machine.
In short, the machine has its glitches, but once you get to know them, they are not a problem. After that the machine makes great coffee, one after the other, with the simple push of a button. The all metal case (or mostly metal) makes you feel like you haven't blown a wad on a piece of plastic. The machine looks great and is very consistent. So far I am very pleased. If I feel different in 6 months, I'll report back.
I purchased it at Costco. As always, they were great.
Three Month Followup
This is a 1 or so year followup to my review. I tried really hard to like this machine, but have to return it for a refund. Fortunately I purchased it at a store with an excellent return policy. I had a hard time getting off the ground with this machine because it is very quirky. You can't use oily beans, when it fails to brew, it can take a very long time (hours) to figure out what went wrong, and maintenance can be very time consuming. But when I wrote my review originally, I thought that I had it all figured out. Sad to say - no.
About 3 or 4 months after buying the machine, I had to cut back on coffee, so since then I use the machine only once a week - Sunday mornings. Sunday evening I rinse everything out and let it dry before reassembly. Still the brew group would somehow routinely and inexplicably clog. I discovered that I could unclog the brew group by using a syringe to flush boiling hot water through it when cleaning. But now that no longer works. So now, dispite thorough cleanings after every day's use, and less than 100 days of actual operation, the machine will no longer dispense coffee.
That has been the way it has been with this machine. It will go two or three weeks making excellent coffee, then you get up in the morning looking forward to a nice cup, only to hear your expensive beans grind and compact into the portafilter, the pump strain to overcome a clog, and then noting. Not a drop of coffee. Then your fresh ground coffee is discarded.
An hour or so of maintenance later, and you either have a cup, or you give up and pull out the french press (that is what I did today).
This machine requires simply too much effort to maintain. You might better spend your money on a real espresso machine - they are ultimately less trouble and result in less disappointment and frustration.
If you do decide to go ahead w/ this machine anyway - make sure you buy it from a store with a good return policy. That is where mine is going back to.