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Saeco V'spresso Superautomatic Espresso Machine

Posted: 07/23/04
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Saeco V'spressoThe V’spresso’s looks stand out no matter how you feel about them. The machine’s boxy frame and V shaped front panels are a complete departure from the classic rounded exteriors that Saeco has made so popular. In a footprint roughly the size of the Charisma, Saeco accented the sharp angles of the V’spresso by adding silver detailing, designing a new control panel, and in a bold step, changing the color of their LED display to a muted orange. The design is innovative and perfectly suited for those inspired by minimalist modern designs. However, it may be a bit much for some.

Looks aside, the V’spresso has a meaty feature list that will appeal to a wide variety of consumers. Included in the V’spresso is a multitude of options and settings that are easily accessible through the redesigned control panel and menu system. The control panel is very user friendly; you can decipher what each button does without needing the user manual in front of you. Labeled with a single "M", the menu button is located on the far left of the control panel and will take you directly to your list of available options, as well as confirming the changes you make within the menu system. The two center buttons on the console, which depict large and medium coffee mugs for use during the brewing cycle, also picture up and down arrows and are used to navigate the options list. In this menu you can set the display language, indicate the hardness of your water, and turn the active cup heater on or off, just to name a few. Several brewing and cleaning features that we’ll explore later in this piece are also controlled by this menu and, by selecting the "factory settings" option, can all be restored to their presets if you prefer them or feel like you’ve done too much tinkering.

On the control panel, the three buttons that picture coffee mugs are your brewing selections. Each of the buttons is preprogrammed to dispense a certain amount of liquid, but they can also be reprogrammed. Simply press and displayhold one of the buttons all the way through the brewing process until your preferred amount has been released, and the same amount will be brewed each time you select that button. Pressing any of these buttons once will brew one cup and pressing them twice in rapid succession will produce twice the programmed volume. You have the option of brewing with fresh whole beans, which the super automatic machine will grind for you, or a preground espresso using the bypass doser. To use a preground espresso, simply press the bypass button, add your coffee in the doser, and press one of the three brewing buttons for your desired liquid volume.

If you are going to have the V’spresso grind whole beans for you, the ground coffee dosing adjustment and grind fineness settings will allow you to get exactly bean hopperwhat you want. Two knobs located in the spacious 10 oz bean hopper control the dosing and grind fineness. There are 18 grind selections on the fineness knob, which is located on the left of the hopper; turn it counterclockwise to grind finer and water will flow more slowly through the coffee, creating a stronger brew. Turning clockwise will cause the grind fineness to be coarser and permitting water to move more quickly, allowing you to make the popular Café Crema. The knob on the right side of the hopper lets you adjust the dosage of ground coffee between 6 and 9 grams for a single brewing cycle. For a higher dose of coffee, you must turn the knob counterclockwise and vice versa. This is one thing about the V’spresso that seemed rather counterintuitive: you turn counterclockwise for both a higher dose and lower grind setting. It’s definitely something to keep in mind when you’re making adjustments.

You can further customize your espresso experience by using several of the menu options. The menu will let you choose between low, medium, and high temperature settings as well as allowing you to turn on the prebrewing process, which moistens ground espresso before the brewing begins and provides a more even extraction. If you want to save time when you’re making several drinks in succession, the V’spresso also has a pregrinding option that will cause the machine to grind for a second drink when it begins brewing the first. This feature is great when you’re entertaining a large group, but you will want to remember to turn it off before you make your last drink of the session. Otherwise, the next time you turn the machine on you may be brewing with old coffee.

If you’re one of those folks who need to have a little something extra in their espresso, you’ll appreciate Saeco’s Rapid Steam feature. The V’spresso’s stainless steel Thermoblock boiler has two heating elements, so there’s no wait between brewing and steaming. Steam is ready just as quickly as you can open the steam knob. To get hot water for Americanos, hot chocolate, or tea, you just need to press the water button on the main control panel before opening the steam knob. Hot water and steam are both expelled through steamthe Panarello wand that is mounted on the front of the V’spresso. Unfortunately, the wand is mounted in such a way that it only turns from side to side, like a key. With no availability to move up and down, your space for steaming and frothing is limited, so you won’t be able to use anything larger than a 20oz. frothing pitcher. Like most machines with a Panarello wand, the internal wand is constructed of plastic, however the V’spresso’s frothing sleeve is uniquely made of metal. The Panarello is one of the easiest ways to get fabulous froth, and with a 67 oz capacity water reservoir, you’ll be able to froth milk for several drinks at a time. If the water level does get low, a message will appear on the LED display indicating that the removable reservoir needs to be refilled.

The display on the V’spresso will also let you know when the machine needs to be decalcified. After selecting your water hardness level from the menu during your initial setup of the machine, the V’spresso automatically calculates how much water can go through the machine before it needs to be decalcified. You can access and view this "countdown" through the menu, so you can always be prepared. If you descale the machine before it notifies you of the necessity, you can reset the machine to begin counting down to the next decalcification. Between decalcifying cycles however, you will want to perform some basic maintenance such as emptying the drip tray and the dredge drawer, and rinsing the brew group. The drip tray can simply be removed from the front of the machine at any time, but the dredge drawer and brew group are both located inside of the machine and need to be removed for cleaning. On the left side of the V’spresso there is a knob that allows you to swing open the front panel, providing easy access to both of these components. This is one of those design elements that will remind you that despite a long list of features, the V’spresso is a fairly small machine. The front panel access does not allow for as much capacity in the dredge drawer and drip tray as one would expect on larger super automatics. However, in a small innovation, Saeco included a handle on the dredge drawer to make removal and transport to the garbage clean and easy.

Super automatic espresso machines are generally very user friendly, but the Saeco V’spresso makes it extremely easy to take advantage of the options that are available to you. In addition to the well-marked buttons on the control panel and a menu system that is effortless to navigate, Saeco has included a spectacular user manual. The manual explains in words and through pictures exactly what buttons to press to control the menu options and explains what each option will help you to do. These efforts make the V’spresso easy for people at any experience level to use, but provide an overall package that even the most seasoned espresso lover will appreciate.