First timers: the world of domestic espresso machines

domestic espresso machines

Maurizio Marcocci on why now is the perfect time to delve into the world of domestic espresso machines and take the time to be a curious and skilled home barista.

There’s unwarranted pressure during lockdown to emerge your own version of Picasso, a sourdough champion or become fluent in French. 

If you’re anything like me and have been juggling home schooling, managing a business, and supporting your customers, then you know that this imposed lockdown is hard work.

Here at Service Sphere, we’ve stuck to our strengths and remained open for machine installation, services and repairs, but one of the largest growth areas we’ve observed in the past four months has been the volume of home espresso machines dusted off and brought in for an overhaul. Without offices to cater to the daily cup, home workers have had to become their own barista. 

We’ve also been excited to watch a new wave of coffee lovers begin their journey with domestic coffee machines. It’s a time of discovery, education, and appreciation for what could one day turn these consumers into the next generation of barista or café owner. 

Maurizio Marcocci is the Director of Service Sphere.

You wouldn’t believe the number of text messages I’ve received that start with: “I’m interested in getting a coffee machine for home, what do you recommend?” Equally, if you’re a café or roaster getting similar questions from customers, then adding a domestic range to your umbrella of products might be worthwhile considering. 

My response starts a chain of responses based on option A or option B: whole beans versus capsules, entry level versus top of the range. I find most people have come from a background of instant coffee use, filter, plunger, even capsule consumption, and now they’re looking for the next step up.

When they’ve opted for a whole bean approach, the team at Service Sphere takes the time to first understand what people want from their machine: fully automated or barista style, price point, thermo blocking heat exchange system or boiler, and plumbed-in water system or free standing. Don’t worry, we walk you through step by step. 

From our years of experience, what we find is that most customers just want a good, reliable machine that produces delicious espresso and textures milk well.

When we introduce customers to the DeLonghi range, many have had an older DeLonghi model and are looking to move up to next level in the same range.  

If we imagine “Steve” is looking for a machine that delivers the same quality cup as what he gets from his local café and ‘Joe’ the barista, then consider DeLonghi’s PrimaDonna Elite and Eletta fully automatic machines with the DeLonghi LatteCrema System for a perfect milk texture. Its thermal carafe with double wall keeps the milk at an ideal temperature for longer. The machine’s interface allows the user to customise the parameters of the coffee: shot time, temperature, and milk temperature. It’s an all-rounder.

In terms of quality, DeLonghi remains at the forefront of fully automatic domestic coffee equipment. In December 2019, for the second year in a row, it was awarded the award for its PrimaDonna Elite and PrimaDonna Elite Experience machines. This award illustrates the presence the brand has built and position it has solidified over the years through positive experience and a quality product.

domestic espresso machines
The LaCimbali M21 Junior one-group machine produces Italian-style espresso and cappuccino.

The Delonghi Magnifica range and its Compact Cappuccino machines each have their own characteristics, but the beauty of the Delonghi range is its simplicity and ease of use. 

Additional features such as touch screen and Bluetooth connectivity will also bump up the price for the added user experience, but it all comes down to what you want from your machine. For example, some domestic models will texture milk for you and others put that responsibility on the user. The choice is yours. 

Moving into barista style espresso models, and it’s hard to look past the LaCimbali M21 Junior. This is a machine designed and built for those who, although have limited space at their disposal, want to offer traditional Italian-style espresso and cappuccino. It is a one-group machine for small production needs, available both in an automatic (M21 Junior DT) and semi-automatic (M21 Junior S) version. 

M21 Junior S is a continuous semi-automatic machine, equipped with a vibration pump, a boiler water auto-level and an automatic valve. Unlike the DT, the Junior S can’t be linked directly to water mains, instead it is equipped with a built-in tank and a water softener, to solve those situations where a permanent connection to the mains is not possible or desired.

The Rancilio Silvia is another great reliable option that brings a little Italian dècor to any home. This traditional espresso machines offers total professional levels of performance and reliability and is a great choice for any first home coffee user. 

ECM Mechanika Slim 1 Group machine is another level at the absolute top of the single boiler category. Beautifully made, it comes with boiler and pump pressure gauge, control lamp for the indication of water shortage, and automatic water shortage switch-off function. 

Its big brother, the ECM Synchronika 1-group, is handcrafted with precision down to the last detail. It comes with a stainless steel coffee boiler and steam/hot water boiler, subtle silver-coloured PID display for the individual adjustment of the temperatures, and low-noise rotary pump, which is switchable from water tank to a fixed water connection. This machine is convenient yet functional, and an impressive unit that will have friends in awe – the next time they’re permitted to visit of course. 

domestic espresso machines
The Rancilio Silvia will offer professional levels of performance and reliability at home.

Pair it with one of our many Eureka or Mazzer grinders available – built to last and handle your domestic grinding needs simply and efficiently –  and you’ve got everything you need to set you on your espresso journey. 

While we’re still on the theme of equipment for ‘first timers’, don’t discount the Bravilor Junior filter machine that has been designed especially for domestic use. 

From the tank, fresh water runs down into the stainless-steel boiler where it boils in no time thanks to 10-amp power. The spray head then carefully pours the water just like a barista does. It has a 16-hole stainless steel nozzle so hot water contacts the ground coffee at many points simultaneously. It takes just six minutes to brew a total of 1.3 litres, or roughly 10 cups in six minutes at a temperature between 92°C and 96°C.

The other important consideration we advise all new domestic coffee machine users, is to care for your equipment. That means using Cafetto product to regularly backflush grinds and grit from your group head, cleaning the oils from your hopper, and replacing your water filter at least once a year. Filters act as a barrier to unwanted minerals that cause lime sale and can lead to unnecessary blockages and leave a nasty taint in your cup. 

Last year, DeLonghi went one step further, releasing anti-limescale spheres called Softballs. Instead of a water filter, these little guys are placed in water tanks to eliminate the risk of airlocks and the potential of developing limescale. 

Domestic machines in particular have lots of seals and moving parts. It’s a small capsule of hard-working technology that needs to be looked after. To keep it working well, and safely, put an annual service on your to-do list, just like you pencil in a car service, or a check-up at the dentist. We promise it won’t be as painful if you visit regularly. If you don’t, the only pain you’ll endure is an unhappy machine and potentially in your hip pocket because the longer you leave a problem, the more expensive it becomes. 

 While buying your first espresso machine for home can be overwhelming, we at Service Sphere are here to help you on that path, and achieve one new skill during lockdown. If you haven’t learnt to play the guitar by now, you can still learn to make yourself a delicious cup. 

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This article appears in the October 2020 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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