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Product Description An Entry to Mid-Level pump driven espresso machine with a thermo-block heat source. Plastic exterior, black, with painted pieces and multi-part construction. Features a unique milk frothing apparatus and a "crema enhancing" portafilter.
Review Summary An inadequate machine for its price. The machine hits disappointingly low marks for cup quality, construction, ease of use/assembly, and clean up. Additional cons include performance related items and over-all quirks. See the Detailed Review below.
Machine Manufacturer Capresso; Switzerland. http://www.capresso.com Machine Name/Description EspressoPRO with FrothXpress
Currently retails at 249.99USD
From the manufacturer's website:
Name/Model #: Capresso EspressoPRO/#112
Colors: Silver metallic/black finish or Copper metallic/black finish
Safety Approval: UL Listed
Machines Weight: 9 lbs. Machine dimensions: 10.5"W x 13"H x 10"L
(14"W with milk container attached)
Water Container: 40 oz.
Milk Container: 32 oz.
Capresso One Year U.S. Limited Warranty
Detailed Review To begin on a positive note, Capresso has always impressed me with their box art, packaging, and Use and Care Guide. The EspressoPRO is no exception. The box, while somewhat bulky, is a store display winner as it features full color pictures of the product, product's use, and easy to read product descriptions. The packaging is simply exquisite and robust, ensuring a very low chance for product damage during shipping and handling. It was intimidating at first, to remove the machine from its box, but appreciated nonetheless for its sound packaging.
First read-thru of the Care and Use Guide showed thoughtful and, at times, attentiveness to detail of the machine and its uses. Some coffee facts are in error but do not negatively impact the machine's use.
For this review, fresh roasted coffee from the Cedarburg Coffee Roastery was used. The blend was especially designed for use with espresso machines. Softened water was used in addition to 2% milkfat milk. Three grinders were used for the testing: Capresso's own home burr grinder, Rancilio's Rocky (a commercial-like home burr grinder), and a commercial Mazzer grinder. Shots from the EspressoPRO were rated against shots from a Rancilio Silvia and a commercial LaCimbali M30 Bistro.
Set-Up and Tear-Down Once out of the box, there is a myriad of bags and parts one must assemble to prepare the machine for use. The removable water reservoir was, at times, difficult to re-assemble when approaching the machine from its front, and not its side. Switch selection was not terribly intuitive and the front-most selector switch, on this unit, had a very soft throw to it, causing it to be switched inadvertently to incorrect positions during use.
The stainless-steel Thermo-block did have excellent heating capabilities and fast refresh times not seen with other common thermo-block machines. The ready-light was very intuitive: when it lights up, the machine is ready for operation.
Note: any pump machine needs to be primed before use as well as after steaming milk.
Use and Abuse During use, in any of the three modes (brewing, hot water, steam), a large vaporous cloud was constantly being emitted form the rear and top-center of the machine. Not terribly a source of concern, those with low countertops may wish to place the machine elsewhere during use.
Both single and double shots were made. The goal was a 2 fluid ounce shot using approximately 14 grams of ground coffee, extracted in 25 seconds. Dialing in to the correct grind was horrifically tedious. Capresso's own grinder, even when set to the finest level, failed to produce a fine enough grind for proper extraction. Too fine a grind, an easy enough mistake to make, resulted in sloppy and wet coffee pucks, and forced the steam release valve to work overtime.
The machine's steam release valve is a welcomed addition to this class of machine. While it only worked adequately, it did come in handy.
Use of the single and double portafilter basket was consistent with shot quality. This is surprising as even commercial machines fluctuate on cup quality between single and double shots.
The drip tray, after two double shots with minimal cleaning in between, filled up quickly but was easy to clean out.
Switching between frothing and brewing was very quick.
Steaming and Frothing To begin with, this model fails miserably with the traditional "wand style" of frothing. So, one is forced to succumb to the use of the FrothXpress system. Simply put, it is a throttling device that sucks up milk from a source and injects steam and air in to it before spitting it into an awaiting vessel. It is consistent and provides adequate quality "wet foam." However, forget trying to go after Latte Art.
The system, unfortunately, is rigorous in setting up and, while easy to use once one understands the "how," even a studious reader of the Use and Care Guide may mistakenly fail to properly use it. The throttling device is uncomplicated in theory, but may leave novice users upset.
When all is said, it is a downfall to the product not due to quality of the deliverable (the frothed milk), but in set-up, learning curve, and clean-up. Too many parts, and too many small parts offset the advantages of the system.
Cup Quality Perhaps the over-all defining factor of any machine.
Perfect espresso happen when 5 conditions are met.
A Good Grind
A Good Operator
And a Good Machine
The coffee, both single and double shots as well as cappuccino, were disappointing. Even when all brewing conditions were met, the coffee exhibited a blasé taste, strongly lacking in varietal notes, subtle flavor hints, and general cup depth. While it was indeed strong coffee, it was only mediocre in performance.
The crema enhancing filter basket did, at first place a faux crema in to the shot glass. It quickly dissipated and lacked the reddish-brown hues that this particular blend is known for when prepared and executed correctly. Worse, the machine continued to drip brew water from the puck in to the shot glasses, resulting in easily over extracting the pull. To get around this foible, one only had to pull the shots away before switching the pump off, creating more of a mess.
It is opinionated then that this machine suffers from inadequately heating up for a proper extraction. The machine could be cheated for heat, but dribble and mess (attributed to the crema enhancing portafilter baskets), can not be ignored. Two thumbs down on cup quality.
Quirks and Foibles A shelled plastic housing does no justice to the vibratory pump used in the machine. It is simply too loud and annoying. The coffee is to wake one up in the morning, not the sound of the machine.
The constant dripping after the shot is pulled is a strong mess-maker. A smallish drip tray exacerbates the problem.
Total machine wipe down goes smoothly, albeit the frothing system's quirks offset this entirely.
Storage after use is difficult for those with limited countertop real estate. Too many parts for the frothing system.
Closing Remarks In conclusion, 250$ will net you a better boiler and pump machine even if it is refurbished. Capresso would fair well to take their experience and talent and apply it to a machine who's attributes would give other Swiss manufacturers as well as Italians a run for their money. This machine falls short in so many vital categories that even the most die-hard espresso fan, if to receive this machine as a gift, would do his or hers darndest to avoid having you see them return it for a refund.
About the Author Christopher Schaefer is an avid coffee hound. Once rooted in the manufactured consumer's goods market, he now uses his engineering talent for the medical appliance field. When not irradiating himself with magnets, his free time is partially filled with working for the Cedarburg Coffee Roastery as: roaster, coffee jerk, new products agent, customer service, and preventative maintenance go-to guy. He enjoys roasting and brewing at home as well as in the shop; telling all who dare listen about the big, bad Coffee Universe; treating his girlfriend to outdoor patio dinners (complete with bistro table); and following in the footsteps of his Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.