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Choice tests of Espresso machines Febraury 2008

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  • Choice tests of Espresso machines Febraury 2008

    Choice has tested 19 manual and semi automatic espresso machines priced between $140 and $1299. The report is available on line for members at It will be out in the magazine as well.
    I have no argument with the taste testers who were from the Barista Basics Coffee Academy in Sydney and Choices Home Economist.
    Who was the tester who tested each machine and what was his experience?
    Were all the 12 coffees made from each machine tasted?
    Magimix LExpresso Program Automatic $499 came out on top,
    Sunbeam Cafe Latte EM5600 $299 next,
    Krups K2 Plus Pump Espresso XP 4020 $195.95 third,
    Sunbeam Cafe Espresso Stainless EM3800 $179 4th.
    The Vibiemme Domobar Manuale $1299 6th,
    and the Rancillio Miss Silvia $789 10th.
    Krups K2 Plus Pump Espresso XP 4020 $199.95 came first in the taste test.
    There is a video included in the article which has some tips for making good espresso but misses out on many important points.

  • #2
    Re: Choice tests of Espresso machines Febraury 200

    Test results for 19 manual and semi-automatic espresso machines priced between $140 and $1299
    CHOICE TV: Espresso machines

    CHOICE tests are different. We buy the products we test — no freebies from manufacturers. Companies cant buy ads on our site and our work is funded by people like you.
    If you aspire to produce café quality coffee at home, there are a variety of espresso machines to choose from. Your first task is to choose between an automatic, semi-automatic or manual machine.

    Automatic models grind the beans and produce a cup of coffee at the press of a button — all you need to do is periodically top up the coffee beans and water. While it sounds like a coffee aficionados dream, past tests have revealed that automatic models don’t produce the quality of coffee that manual and semi-automatic machines do.

    So if you take your coffee seriously, a little more work is required. Manual and semi-automatic machines need pre-ground coffee — which you can buy or grind yourself. Everytime you want a cup, you have to load the machine with fresh coffee. Semi-automatic models switch off when they have poured a pre-set amount of coffee into the cup. But you’ll have to keep an eye on manual machines and halt the flow when theres enough in your cup.

    CHOICE tested 19 manual and semi-automatic espresso machines. Our tester looked out how easy each model was to use as well as milk frothing, temperature and heat up time. An expert panel assessed in blind tasting how good the coffee looked, smelt and tasted.

    Whether you want to make a latte or a long black with a decent crema, CHOICE’s independent testing gets rid of the guesswork. Armed with our test results, buying a new espresso machine is easy.

    Brands tested

    Ascaso Dream M.F
    Breville 800ES
    Breville Bar Vista BES200
    Breville Ikon BES400
    DeLonghi Le Cube EN185.M + Aeroccino
    DeLonghi Living Innovation EC330S
    DeLonghi Living Innovation EC750
    Krups K2 Plus Pump Espresso XP4020
    Krups XP 4050
    La Pavoni Eurobar De Luxe V230
    Magimix LExpresso Program Automatic 11233
    Rancilio Miss Silvia
    Saeco Via Venezia Espresso
    Solis Crema SL 90
    Sunbeam Café Espresso Stainless EM3800
    Sunbeam Café Latte EM5600
    Sunbeam Café Series Twin Thermoblock System EM6910
    Vibiemme Domobar Manuale
    Vice Versa Koala Evolution Art 02807ev

    The machines in this report are either manual or semi-automatic
    If its anything like the last review Im glad Ive cancelled my subscription after many years.

    The last one mentioned something about fresh beans make a difference.

    If you look at the video the G bros mention fresh beans right after supermarket coffee.
    Maybe some of what they say sounds not quite right because of the editing.
    But if it was me Id want editorial approval before release.

    To view this report online you need to be an Online Member ($18-95 p/qtr) or pay $13-95


    • #3
      Re: Choice tests of Espresso machines Febraury 200

      On No.... here we go AGAIN!!!

      I wonder how Choice would taste test red wine....

      1. Open the bottle/cask and leave it open for weeks...
      2. Place in fridge to get really cold.....
      3. serve over ice.....

      What do you know.... Château Cardboard 2008 tastes so much better than Grange Hermitage..... especially when consumed from a plastic cup!! : : :

      Seriously, I think Choice should confine their coffee endeavours to testing instant.... or put some really bold caveat on their results....

      "This machine - given Uber stale supermarket crap coffee of god knows what grind size and no tamping skill or attention - produces the best coffee..... tastes just like that stuff with 43 beans in every cup" :P


      • #4
        Re: Choice tests of Espresso machines Febraury 200

        In general I find Choices testing pretty useful. Of course I have to read the full article, work out what they tested for, what would be important to me, and then re-work the ratings!
        If the absolute best coffee was important (it is to me!) I somehow have difficulty believing an automatic machine would be on top.


        • #5
          Re: Choice tests of Espresso machines Febraury 200

          Lets see....

          Choice cant even get their definitions correct!!!

          Manual.... you provide the extraction pressure (via lever).... no pump (the machine regulates only the temperature).... bit like a Presso with a built in hot water source. (La Pavoni lever is a good example)

          Semi Automatic.... the machine uses a pump to generate the extraction pressure and temperature is also regulated. (Silvia is a good example)

          Automatic.... the machine uses a pump for pressure, the extraction temperature is controlled.... and the volume of coffee extracted is also determined by the machine. (Sunbeam 6910)

          Super Automatic.... the machine grinds, tamps, generates the extract pressure, sets the volume and temperature.... basically does the lot!! (Saeco Incanto)

          So if you cant get the basic definitions correct.... what hope is there anything else is correct.


          • #6
            Re: Choice tests of Espresso machines Febraury 200

            Howdy. I read this thread and I had to comment, so this is my first post on the forum. First things first: disclosure. My name is Georgina and I work at Choice on the website side of things. I can assure you that, contrary to some people’s opinion, this test is not just a few people sitting around trying out the odd product. It’s serious stuff. A lot goes into it – researching the market to find out what products are available, where and when, developing a robust testing methodology and buying the products from retailers as a regular person would. Then there’s testing, verifying all test data, checking specifications with suppliers, writing the article and expert and peer review of the article. It’s not a slash and dash approach! We also recognise that sometimes people just don’t have the time to, for example, store beans in exactly the right way or grind them just before they make a cuppa (although I know this may be considered heresy by some). So we give advice for both eventualities.

            Our tester has trained as a barista and has been testing coffee machines for almost eight years. He makes coffee every day (Choice coffee lovers know to keep on his good side for obvious reasons). When we test we are also mindful that not everybody will have professional training – after all, the machines are for home use. We also use a reference machine.

            We use the same brand and batch of coffee for each product and we grind the beans just before we make the coffee (except if we’re testing products that use capsules or whatnot). Obviously, the tasting score will depend on the coffee used, which is why we’re consistent with the brand and batch. Our tester regularly reviews the type of coffee used for testing as well as the way it is packed (air-tight plastic vs one-way valves vs metal containers and so on).

            The expert tasters rate the coffee produced by each machine (this is a blind tasting), giving a score for crema colour, crema thickness, aroma, flavour, how it feels in the mouth and aftertaste.

            Then there’s milk frothing. We rate the quality based on manufacturer instructions and on accepted methods for achieving quality froth. If a product includes a ‘frothing mechanism’ we test this too. We don’t just look at the quality – size of the bubbles etc - we also test how easy it is to froth the milk.

            Apart from the quality of the coffee and froth, we also look at things like how easy the machines are to use – particularly the water container, filter, controls, cleaning and general operation.

            For many at CoffeeSnobs, some of these things won’t be relevant because you obviously already know and love your coffee! But lots of people just want to be able to make a good cup of coffee at home and want independent product comparisons without hype and jargon. That’s the aim, anyway. 8-)


            • #7
              Re: Choice tests of Espresso machines Febraury 200

              Originally posted by Georgie link=1203156005/0#5 date=1203657517
              Howdy. I read this thread and I had to comment, so this is my first post on the forum. First things first: disclosure. My name is Georgina and I work at Choice on the website side of things. I can assure you that, contrary to some people’s opinion, this test is not just a few people sitting around trying out the odd product. <snip>

              For many at CoffeeSnobs, some of these things won’t be relevant because you obviously already know and love your coffee!   But lots of people just want to be able to make a good cup of coffee at home and want independent product comparisons without hype and jargon. That’s the aim, anyway.  8-)
              Hi Georgie and welcome,

              With all due respect, the bar has been lifted and its time to review what you do with coffee and coffee equipment, how you do it and also the make up of the team (or was that just one "barista"  :-?) who operate the machines which your publication reviews.

              There is a long line of very dissatisfied CSers who paid to read your content, listened to your message and found themselves with a good looking boat anchor which produced absolute rubbish in the cup. People get angry when they waste their money on attractive junk (more often than not from large retail chains) which produces garbage coffee.

              Maybe its time for you guys to look, listen and learn? Maybe its time to put a true barista onto the team? How about employing a competition barista with some integrity rather than a salesman who it appears wouldnt know a good coffee if it bit him on the butt? Grab a De Los Reyes, Makin, Callaghan or Cooper- they are just a few names who really know their stuff.

              There are good home machines out there and many of us own them. You guys just dont review most of them. Wed love to see you broaden your horizons and test some real espresso machines rather than just appliances.



              • #8
                Re: Choice tests of Espresso machines Febraury 200

                Sidestepping the issue of who does the test and how it is conducted, I find it hard to believe that anyone can take the results all that seriously.

                I mean, we have a $179 machine out-ranking a $1299 machine. Not to say that there isnt a definite bang-for-bucks argument here, but I cant for a second imagine that anyone will be cross-shopping between these two products, and anyone who is buying in the premium price range is almost certain to understand the limitations of a cheaper machine and justify why they would avoid it.

                It would be like a car magazine road testing a Hyundai Excel alongside a Ferrari F430, and rating the hatch better because it fits more shopping bags in the boot. Might be right for some, but not everyone has the same criteria!


                • #9
                  Re: Choice tests of Espresso machines February 200

                  Hi Georgie.

                  Welcome to Coffee Snobs.

                  Very brave of you to post here.
                  I hope you stay around and dont just hit and run like some others (not Choice) have done in the past.

                  Let me tell something about me first.
                  As well as now being a coffee snob I am also an experienced and qualified process auditor currently working on a project as a Test Analyst.

                  So I understand all about how tests are meant to be done and on the surface the Choice ones appear to try and do it the right way.


                  Unfortunately, what comes across in the articles is far short of expectations.
                  Ive just cancelled my subscription after many years partly because of my disappointment in the coffee equipment reviews.
                  I dont feel I can trust Choice as much now on reviews of other items.

                  Let me give you some examples of where coffee equipment articles of the past have bothered me (I havent seen the new one obviously).

                  The only bad point given for the ECM Botticelli II was "Its expensive".
                  Not an objective comment considering it was one of many machines tested in a price range of $299 - $999.
                  (It was $995 by the way).
                  The ASCASO Dream M.F was $999 but no disparaging remark about the price.
                  Inconsistency is not good when it comes to report writing. Credibility is the first casualty.

                  My machine cost more than double that so in my opinion the ECMs cheap.
                  But thats a subjective opinion and I know it.

                  Heat up times were quoted as between 0:45 and 2:45 (min:sec).
                  Thats atrocious. I dont know how you could get a decent coffee out of any machine in that state.
                  Those machines are not up to working temperature in so short a time. 30 minutes would be a better starting point.

                  Its things like the heat up times used and the subjective comments that have turned most people here off Choice.

                  "One of our testers swears by using local beans over the major players, which he believes to be fresher than those available in supermarkets."
                  Hes right!
                  What about the other testers? Do they disagree?

                  I dont live too far from Choice, youre more than welcome to pop in and Ill make you a coffee and you can tell me if any of the machines youve just tested can do better.


                  • #10
                    Re: Choice tests of Espresso machines Febraury 200

                    Welcome from me, too, Georgie.

                    Would you say that the previous Choice tests of espresso machines were serious and robust? They did come to similar conclusions.

                    My own conclusion, if I were to take these tests seriously, would be that the home is simply not the place to be making espresso - unless you are willing to make a substantial commitment of time and effort. For the average consumer, absolutely ALL the semi-automatic machines tested will produce awful coffee. If Choice were serious about real-world testing, they wouldnt employ a barista at all; they would grab someone off the street and let them test the machines according to manufacturers instructions. Do this, if you are serious, and see what the hapless consumer will end up with after following Choices recommendations. Then, I challenge you to drink some... Basically, no machine other than a super-automatic or pod, can be made to produce drinkable coffee without training (I use the term drinkable cautiously). Hence the popularity of sites like this one.

                    But, please do stick around. Your participation is very much appreciated, and involving yourself in some of these discussions is the first step to learning about the gulf that exists between Choice testing methodology and the really real world.



                    • #11
                      Re: Choice tests of Espresso machines Febraury 200

                      Welcome from me, too, Georgie.

                      After the last write up and a number of people at work become interested in coffee. They keep complaining to me about the system they purchased. Thus discontinued my subscription some time ago, coffee and another product that I have had lots to do with.

                      1: Most assumed that a simple 2 - 5 min job with a low end system (as highlighted by Choice) would give them GREAT coffee.
                      2: A couple got disappointed and went FULLY automatic - Significant cost outlays (Since then they have given up and decided the $ was better spent in a Coffee shop).

                      After a quick reality check, and some of the most basic tips (All can be found on CS) had been explained to those left, those that have stuck with it have said in affect; " Why did they not explain or consider this.. If so I would have got a different system or may be not even bothered".

                      What is even worse is where some management have bought any number of systems for meeting rooms, and expect that anyone attending would be able to make GREAT coffee. Needless to say, I have seen significant wastage or equipment and materials, let alone the frustration and time wasted. Supermarket coffee, in an unsealed container in a fridge for 4 - 6 months, and told that it will still be fresh... Just look at the crema :-(

                      As a qualified auditor, I would love to review your processes, methods etc.

                      As an aside, If the systems are meant for members of the Public, then how many of these carried out any testing or commented on usability, and were they defined into groups, as to levels of previous experience / or expectations?

                      I could test any number of computer Operating systems, and rest assured my findings may well not be the same as most of those in the market.. [MSCE :-)]

                      Fit for purpose is the aim of the game, and the testing should reflect that.

                      Please feel free to come back, and you have my Full permission to print and provide my comments to Choice management.



                      • #12
                        Re: Choice tests of Espresso machines Febraury 200

                        Its good to hear everybodys thoughts on this since we do regularly look at our test methodology. The first thing that stands out for me (coz I personally agree with it wholeheartedly) - if you want a good coffee, see the professionals. I love my coffee but I have come to the realisation that I have neither the expertise, time, nor patience (even if I had the equipment) to make a coffee that is anywhere near as good as my fave cafe.

                        Thats easy for me to say: I live in a suburb of Sydney where great coffee is a short walk away. Not everybody is in the same situation (and Im sure lots of people have more patience - Im a shocker ). Sales of espresso machines are still chugging along and we regularly receive requests to test these products. Obviously, we cant test everything on the market at once (time, expense etc) so we look at things like whats selling in what price range, new features, consumer feedback and so on before we go out and buy the products to test.

                        The Choice testers are very cognisant of the potential differences between their own expertise and somebody who is using a product for the first time and modify the method accordingly (its one of the reasons we froth the milk according to manufacturers instructions *and* using accepted methods, for example). Sometimes, tests will also include a user trial component, although we didnt do that for this one.

                        We sometimes receive criticism from manufacturers (in general - Im not talking coffee specifically here) because our tests are designed to replicate the experience of a regular person - and there can be a real gulf between the industry accepted norms and that of the consumer, so I’m with you there! Choice testers and content producers (theyre the ones who manage the tests) have to have a strong mix of technical expertise and understanding of what ordinary people want from product.

                        Thundergods comment about inconsistencies with regards to expense is something we keep an eye out for (we have a quality control team that checks all the data and conclusions etc) - if both machines were about the same price, they should both include this in the profile. The new report doesnt have any comments about the relative expense of the machines - except to talk about the expense of capsules.

                        This is a newly updated test so it will be a few months before we revisit it again but well review this discussion when we do so.


                        • #13
                          Re: Choice tests of Espresso machines Febraury 200

                          Thanks Georgie for your feedback, and your courage to continue this thread. I appreciate your comments as it all helps see things from perspectives we dont otherwise consider. Im sure this thread has a bit more to discuss though



                          • #14
                            Re: Choice tests of Espresso machines Febraury 200

                            Georgie thanks from me too for your reply.

                            Ill trust the quality control team will have their slip up pointed out to them so theyll take more care next time.

                            AngerManagement and I arent the only ones here that have an eye for detail.
                            Were all sure to keep Choice on its toes.

                            Your publication and its readers can only benefit from the feedback you can get from Coffee Snobs.

                            By the way if you want to learn how to make a better coffee than even your local favourites then keep reading and learning here.
                            Its not as difficult or as time consuming as you think.

                            Please keep posting.


                            • #15
                              Re: Choice tests of Espresso machines Febraury 200

                              Happy to be part of the discussion. Some people like to know all the details, and others just want to know what to buy - I think most people at CS are of the former persuasion (else they wouldnt be here). The articles aim to provide as much information as possible without overloading people with too much information.