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Breville Cafe Roma - Charles Gauthier's Review
Posted: April 21, 2013, 8:58pm
review rating: 10.0
feedback: (0) comments | read | write
Breville Cafe Roma ESP8XL
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Arrow The Breville Cafe Roma has 41 Reviews
Arrow The Breville Cafe Roma has been rated 7.19 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since April 5, 2006.
Arrow Breville Cafe Roma reviews have been viewed 289,490 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Ben Egger 10.00
Charles Gauthier 10.00
Don Ferron 9.00
Marc Tischler 8.50
Dean W 8.33

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 8.6
Manufacturer: Breville Quality: 8
Average Price: $249.00 Usability: 8
Price Paid: $125.00 Cost vs. Value 10
Where Bought: Future Shop Aesthetics 9
Owned for: 1 year Overall 8
Writer's Expertise: I like coffee Would Buy Again: Yes
Similar Items Owned:
Bottom Line: Like all sub 500 machines the Roma was designed to attract uneducated buyers.  But if you pair it with real accessories it is a fair quality first machine.  Makes a great component in a $500 system... till you upgrade.
Positive Product Points

Better guts than you think
Good drip tray

Negative Product Points

No steam control (all or nothing)
Wet steam (let it run to dry out)
Rattles (mine at least)
Bad accessories ... read on

Detailed Commentary

OK, I have read the good and bad about this machine, and I have come to really like my Roma, but it does need some work to get it up to its potential.

I like the overall look and most of it is either cast iron or polished sheet metal.  It is much heavier then you think and this gives it a nice stable platform.  One problem with all the metal is that the water reservoirs cover is hinged at the back and on my machine the front is supposed to have a little rubber foot to stop it from rattling, but the rubber bit does not contact right and she rattles every time the pump is on.  The reservoir has a removable jug, but it is kind of small.  That being said I would refill it with fresh filtered water every day regardless of the size, and I can easily make 4 doubles and steam milk with one fill so really not a problem.

Now it comes set up for uneducated users including a garbage tamper, a froth aider, and 3 pressurized baskets.  So on top of the cost of the machine I needed to buy a good tamper and real baskets (non-pressurized - from The Cutting Edge).  I also bought the Breville BGC400 Grinder ($100 at Fshop at the same time)
Once I moved to the new baskets the espresso was much smother but I needed a large dose and very hard tamp to get an OK shot (relatively it was miles better than the other baskets).
The next big expense was when I realized that my BCG400 grinder just was not good enough.  I got a store demo Baratza Vario ($300 very lucky) and now I can enjoy a real espresso.
Just to be clear:  as delivered this machine will produce something like espresso, and foamed mile for a sorta cappuccino.   It would not make drinkable espresso or latte quality milk (but will still be OK for the uneducated).  Once upgraded with proper accessories this is a nice little machine.

As is the case for all espresso machines you need a quality grinder.  After using the BCG400 for 6 months and then upgrading I am now a true believer in the advantages of a quality grinder.  If you are unable or willing to spend retail $300 (save and buy used or demo or something) you will not get real espresso regardless of what you buy.  It is not just can it grind fine enough, but can it grind consistent to the size you are looking for, can it make the small changes you need to get a proper grind for your coffee.  Cheaper grinders can have a small wobble that will generate an average size small enough, but the grind will have powder and rocks and the water will flow right on through.  Spend your money on a grinder.  Sorry for the aside on grinders but it does matter… with this machine, with expensive machines, with all espresso machines.

Now that I have everything in place, I can make a regular repeatable espresso in the morning or at night.  Generally it is a double or two in the morning and then some extras on the weekend.
The Roma is a basic machine, and so has a thermo block, this is good in that I never have to wait to recover, but I don’t get really consistent temps.  This leaves me wanting for a temp stable machine but my upgradeitus is being held in check (at least for a while)

As far as steaming goes my machine has a longer steam wand then in the picture on the CG site.  It also has the metal tube to enhance the frothing with the little holes at both ends.  I removed that and underneath is a nice clean steam wand with a single hole at the end.  The tip is even removable for cleaning.  When you flip the switch to steam you had better have a cup under the wand.  It will pee for about 30 sec while the temp comes up from brew to steam.  After the steam starts I like to let it run for another minute to dry out some more.  After the 90 sec, I turn the steam off, put the wand into the milk and turn it on before block has a chance to cool down.  It is a little slow (60-90 sec) to create my latte milk.  Now my skill is still a work in process but on good days I get really nice micro foam.  On off days I get OK micro with a bunch of small bubbles.  I am sure the machine is not helping but in truth the fault is probably 80% mine.
After steaming, to pull a shot I just remove the porta filter, switch to brew until I get a nice stream of water coming out (after steaming I get a few seconds of stream), then switch back to standby and replace the porta filter and she is ready to go.

I believe that Breville built this little machine mostly with good quality off the shelf parts from their better machines, they just cheaped-out on a few bits and on the accessories.

Buying Experience

Machine from Future shop, with the grinder.  I knew what I wanted and was able to get the Roma and the grinder for $125 and $100 respectively.  Staff knew nothing as expected.

From espressoplant I was able to get a lot of advice and was able to get there old demo Vario.  Thank you for all the help. (Note: they do not carry this or I would have bought it from them)

From iDrinkCoffee I was able to get the 51mm tamper, and many other of the small accessories that I needed.  And thanks for the advice to upgrade the grinder before the machine.  I will be back to get a better machine at some point...

What great luck for me to have two great stores close by in the west end of Toronto.

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Posted: April 21, 2013, 8:58pm
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