on June 4, 2013
I have not written reviews before, but I have been a coffee, capucchino drinkers for years. Although I don't claim to be an expert in any sense of the word, I think that I am knowledgeable about making a good espresso and cappuchino. I read the 4 reviews that were posted on this machine prior to writing my own review, and I felt this machine deserved my review as well. Although this machine is not perfect and does require some trial and error over days/weeks, I think that it does a great job for the price and is well worth the investment!!!!!
I have had my machine for over a month now. I make 3-6 capuchino's a day for my wife and I. Compared to the Starbuck's espresso/capuchino barista machine we bought years ago, this machine is wonderful. We were inspired to buy it when we were in Puerto Rico and had a latte/capuchino at the airport with Latte art. Not only did we enjoy the art work, we realized how poor our old espresso/capuchino machine was.
Although appearance and looks aren't everything - lol -, it is important. I personally think that this machine is gorgeous and looks great on my kitchen countertop. I love the stainless steel. I love the way it is laid out. I love the way the tamper is held. I love the way it looks when you turn it on and the lighting that it has. Everything is easy to access. If you need to put in water and its under a counter top, you just pull the machine out so you have room to refill it or turn it sidewise. I have absolutely no complaints about the layout of the machine. I think the design is fabulous.
On the good side, I must say that it is fabulous having a grinder on the machine that directly feeds grinds into the container that you make your espresso in. It makes making an excellent espresso so easy. The espresso/coffee also really does taste soooo much better when you are grinding beans immediately before you use them versus having them ground for days or weeks ahead of time. It is also sooo convenient not have a separate grinder, and it is such a nice system to have. I went into a local Starbuck's the other day, and they had a very similiar layout on the machine with the coffee beans in a conical plastic holder above the machine feeding into the grinder just like the Breville machine.
Personally, I cannot comment on the burr grinder and how well it does because I am not that knowledgeable. The grinds seem consistent and well done, and I have no complaints about the burr grinder's grinding.
On the negative side, I currently have the grinder grinding the minimal amount of coffee possible RYI, there is a range of settings on how much it should grind on the front of the machine. I have my setting on the most minimal coffee to grind, and I have the grind setting on a very fine grind. When the grinder is on its automatic function of grinding, it grinds an amount that slightly over flows the container that the coffee goes in and you lose some coffee. You would think when your grinder is set on the minimal amount of coffee grinds and a fine grind on top of that, it would deliver an amount that would not spill over the side and cause wastage of your coffee. I haven't dared to set the grinding amount at anything more than the minimal amount fearing it would just waste more coffee. The actual amount of ground coffee that is wasted is not much whatsoever, its the principal of automatic settings still wasting coffee grounds that bothers me. For your information, you can always control the amount that is being ground by manually starting and stopping the grinder by pushing the basket in and out, but I like to start the grinding, walk away from the machine, and not have to worry about it grinding slightly more than it should. Of course, once you tamp it down, you will probably have to grind a little bit more in order to have it at the right level so although its a minor inconvenience overall its absolutely great to have fresh ground coffee so easy to grind and put into the holder to brew great fresh espresso.
Making espresso shots
I have to admit, even after a month of using this machine, I still have to play with different factors to make great espresso. One of the things that I really love is the pressure gauge that works when you draw each and every shot. The pressure gauge helps you determine whether you have the right pressure each time you brew a shot to create a great shot. Without the pressure gauge, you would have absolutely no idea the pressures or barr being generated by the machine. Now I can look at every shot and know the pressure and whether it hit the right zone to make the perfect shot.
Generating the right pressure may be tricky at times. The pressure apparently depends on several things such as grind fineness,how much grinds you put in the basket, the bean type and other factors. You just have to play with these features to find the best combination for the perfect shot of espresso. I also think that each type of coffee bean that you use, the amount of time since the bean was roasted, and the age of when that coffee bean was roasted also plays a factor in terms of what grind you use and how much you have to pack or tamper the grinds.
I have talked with customer support many times as I try to learn how to create a great espresso and great microfoam for capuchinos and latte art, and I must highly commend Breville for having a technical support line staffed with people really willing to help out. It is a major reason why I kept my machine and will keep it. Any company that cares about their products and their customers satisfaction with their products should model themselves after Brevilles customer service department. They are very friendly. They try to be very helpful, and I think generally they are very knowledgeable. Although at times, you can get frustrated with them because they really tell you that there are so many factors involved including the type of bean you are using, when it was roasted, how it was roasted and a myriad host of other factors. At first when I was in the learning stages, I actually went to whole foods grocery store as they will tell you and tried to buy the coffee that they recommend. Unfortunately, after making a trip there, I can tell you that the coffee they recommend apparently is unique to the California market, and they do not sell that type in any of their stores in Florida. The bottom line though is that I think the customer service department really makes a good effort to understand your needs and to get you to use the machine properly to produce the espresso and microfoam that you are after. Although I ended up not believing everything they told me and rightfully so, I think that most of their advice is very appropriate and helpful.
Microfoam is an art. I have been searching to perfect the technique over the last month, but its not necessarily easy. I think it can depend on the machine. I think that it can depend on the milk you use, and I think that it can depend on your technique and a combination of all these factors. Sometimes, I steam the milk (I usually use 2%) and the taste is absolutely devine, and I can't wait for the next cup. Other times, too much of the milk remains as heated milk rather than turn mostly into microfoam so I still feel that I am learning. Overall, when I do it correctly which is about 80% of the time, I am in heaven with my fresh espresso and microfoam, and the other 20% of the time, it is very good.
Ideally, I wanted to be able to do latte art with this machine. I have tried over and over and over to do it, but to be honest, I just can't get the microfoam or something write like they show you on the video's on youtube. I don't know if its the machine (remembering this is only a $599 machine versus the many many thousands of dollar machines at commercial places) or me, but I haven't been able to make my latte art "hearts" or other things well or consistently.
Overall, I really like this machine makes excellent espresso and microfoam with trial and error initially, and it is well worth the price. Use the customer service provided to help you learn about how to use this machine if you need help. I am sure that this Breville machine is not nearly as good as a commercial machine that cost megabuck or maybe even other models that only cost thousands, but for the asking price, I really don't think you can ask for much better, and I am really glad that I bought it. I hope this review helped.
PS The rating for this Breville machine price deserves a 5 star. I gave it a 4 star rating only because it seems that the people buying these machines are very, very particular and want the best even the price is nothing like you would pay for a commercial machine that would give them their ideal coffee.