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We’ve updated our espresso machine review for 2019.
On the flip side I have long lusted after one of the ‘consumer commercial’ machines that weighs enough to crush a counter with double boilers or (shock horror heresy) thermal blocks, and looks the part with gauges and valves, all serviceable. The closest Choice has tested (eg Sunbeam PU8000) have had fairly ordinary scores for taste. Ease of use is not so important to enthusiasts as the dispensed product so I do appreciate the enumeration of the scoring, and I accept the tests are targetting consumers and what they are buying, not enthusiasts.
Regardless it would be interesting to see how a machine such as the $1,800 Saeco SE50 faired among the consumer oriented ranges from Sunbeam, Breville, etc. It is priced similarly to the consumer oriented Sunbeam PU8000 so it and similar machines might be thrown into the mix if budget allowed.
Sometimes the real surprise is like the K-Mart machine - cheaper might be surprisingly good, and sometimes as with many of the Sunbeam and Breville machines hit the mark as well or better than the ‘real’ ones.
A post was merged into an existing topic: Is the $89 Kmart coffee machine worth buying?
Coffee machines that you’re better off avoiding:
And the best coffee machine brands revealed (member content):
It is probably me, but I push back any time pod machines are included as equals or exact replacements for proper espresso machines. The difference in product complexity is non-trivial as well as the differences in skill required as well as the beans we individually are happy to buy, for starters. Sometimes the process is part of the enjoyment, as with vinyl vs CD’s or downloaded music. Then there are the full automatics - another level as well as an affront to purists - and consider whether instant coffee ratings should be combined with the coffee machines output? Taste, reliability, ease of use!
s/old coffee curmudgeon
Another review (member content) and a question. I suspect Choice will respond with the ‘correct’ answer, but.
@BrendanMays or @jhook, the How We Test indicates great beans are procured, it mentions how the flavour of ‘non-espresso filter machines’ is ‘controlled’ but I did not notice it mentioning that the grind was adjusted for each individual machine. It states
We use a reference machine to check the consistency of our taste testers. Our lab testers use single-wall baskets where supplied (double-wall if no single is supplied) and an ECM grinder to get the right grind.
I can imagine the effort necessary to find the best grind for each machine and I presume that would be done, but was it? I could interpret the statement means the ‘right grind’ for the reference machine was used for all, or the ‘best grind’ was established and used for each individual machine. Individual tastes yielding preferences for different grinds? Too many variables so some had to become constants?
After decades of having manuals and semi-automatics I am acutely aware each machine seemingly has its own sweet spot of grind for each bean, and fine adjustments are sometimes necessary to account for weather changes.
Thus using the best beans for blind tastings could be misleading unless the grinds are managed per machine. Would you confirm or correct that Choice testers ‘manage’ the grinds for each machine, individually? Or do they disagree with my premise? Or are all machines tested using a reference grind as determined for the reference machine?
BTW, nice that the few high end machines were added to the test, they are interesting points of comparison.
Good question! I’m checking with the product tester and I’ll let you know
Notwithstanding that, I’m ‘reliably informed’ that if one is particular about the grind then a grinder with speed calibration and conical burrs of a particular Rockwell rating to ensure hardness and consistency and a specific angle of the burrs is the only way to ensure the bean is cleaved appropriately and accurately …
I’ve confirmed with our product testers that the grind is adjusted to suit each individual machine
Awesome! Thanks for confirming it.
Thanks for the video on this machine and for the review!
I don’t like advanced machines and this one seems to be easy to use.
I’m using semi-automatic Gaggia Classic and totally satisfied with this purchase.
If I will need to change my Gaggia I’ll try this machine
Another update was published 14 Sep 2020 (member content) and appears in the recent magazine.
I have an ongoing curiosity how Choice categorises manual and semi-auto machines. I approached @BrendanMays after the prior test publication with my input, yet my methodology has to be in error or Choice is just not happy to correct/change.
My understanding is a semi-auto is differentiated by programmed dispensing buttons for single and double shots; most semi-autos can also be programmed for amounts of water, temperatures, and so on. Put on the portafilter and press a 1 or 2 cup button and wait while it brews or dispenses hot water. Steam is on/off. There is usually a ‘manual’ button in addition that starts and stop water flow.
Manual machines only have on/off switches for functions, not auto anything nor metering of water. Power on, the boiler ‘lights’. Water switch on, espresso flows. Water switch off espresso stops flowing. Same with steam/hot water.
Notable curiosities include the Sunbeam EM5300 that is shown as a manual, yet it is a virtual clone of the semi-auto Breville870, as is another Breville and a Delonghi for example.
The Breville 870 (listed correctly as semi-auto by my categorisation)
The Breville 878, essentially an 870 with a LCD panel is categorised as manual
The Sunbeam EM5300 is also listed as a manual yet it is programmable as are the Brevilles above.
The Delonghi is also listed as a manual and is similarly programmable to the above.
Then the Gaggia Classic, no automated anything, just on/off switches, is a manual to me but is listed as a semi-auto. @Liffet also referenced it as a semi-auto as do a few sales web sites, but Gaggia shows it as manual on their products page, as per my expectation.
Does it matter to consumers? Maybe not, but I would appreciate an insight to how the seemingly similar products using those shown above as examples, have been categorised as they have been.
The Breville Oracle Touch is such a great machine but with a shonky part.
The drip tray has a fascia in the so-called black truffle colour, but it is a thin and highly vulnerable coating subject to inadvertent scuffs, nicks, scores and scratches caused during normal use. Just nicking it with a fingernail during cleaning will take off the black truffle coating and expose a shiny metallic surface underneath. Every time the stainless steel grating on the top of the drip tray is removed or replaced, it marks the top edge of the fascia until there are scores of tiny but very visible scratches.
Breville’s solutions are (1) Deny liability under warranty OR (2) Provide a new drip tray assembly with exactly the same issue OR (3) Claim the drip tray assembly is a consumable item subject to wear and tear.
For a unit with an RRP of around $3,499 and still under warranty, this is unsatisfactory.
Welcome to the community @geoff.gorham,
Thanks for your report on the Oracle. I moved it to this ongoing topic about machines and reviews as it will be interesting for most consumers to know finishes are not always as robust as the rest of a machine.
I have a Sunbeam EM7000 in red, that has had a hard life over 7+ years, with many nicks. Sunbeam’s enamel was not at fault, it was from my being clumsy and inattentive on occassion. I found ‘hot chilli’ auto touchup paint is a perfect match. If all else fails you, you might find some touchup that matches.
It is pretty ordinary for such an expensive product to have such an easily scratched drip tray. I would side with anyone considering it a design or manufacturing flaw even though it does not affect operation.
You might review the Australian Consumer Law to ascertain your rights, but this one is probably a ‘minor fault’ and the offer to provide a new drip tray may be all you can expect. If you acquire one, consider spraying it with clear satin or matte clear coat/automotive paint prior to use. If you have a mate at a panel beater you might ask them to spray it next time they are doing a car w/clearcoat. It will almost certainly be more robust than what you show.