Articles From Whole Latte Love

Product Spotlight: Solis Master 5000 Digital

Posted: 02/20/08
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Solis Master 5000 DigitalWhat do you get when you combine the engineering of a Swiss Army knife with the taste and quality of Swiss chocolate? The answer: Solis. These espresso machines are known for their exceptional craft with a touch of lighthearted design, all while preparing some of the best espresso around. The Solis Master 5000 Digital is is designed and engineered for great tasting espresso, while its digital control panel is simple, straightforward, and seamless.

Espresso should be something we drink with joy. Solis’s design reflects that – a design that is slightly off beat, a little different, simple to use, and results in a café style beverage that’ll put the local coffee shop “on notice.”

Packaged to Please

Solis gets the details right from the start – they’re actually known for how well they package their machines. Tucked snugly into a Styrofoam case inside a box, your Solis Master 5000 Digital will arrive safely. Inside a padded bag in the box, you’ll find the user manual, SoliTab cleaning tablets, a grinder brush, water hardness test kit strips, and the grinder adjustment key as well as the details of your two-year warranty.

Take a minute to look at the Solis Master 5000’s housing and design. The beverage dispensing spout is on the left, and you can adjust it from a height of about 3” to 4 ½”. To the right of the spout is the steam wand. While other machines put their steam wand on the side of the machine, Solis’ decision to place it in the front saves you counter top space and makes it easy to maneuver. The steam wand rotates nearly 180º from left to right.Drip Tray

To keep your countertops clean and spill-free, the Solis Master 5000 Digital features a large drip tray and cover below the coffee spout and steam wand – most drip trays don’t extend beneath the steam wand. This is an extra plus if you like to make milk based drinks and want to keep your countertops clean. The cover has ridges, so it looks almost like waves – I couldn’t help but run my fingers over it a few times. It lifts up easily, and it has a red drip tray level indicator, which rises and becomes visible as the drip tray fills. Pull the drip tray straight out to remove and rinse it. You can also rotate the Digital on its base, much like a lazy Susan, so it’s easy to fill the beans and water.

But this is the Solis Master 5000 Digital, right? Let’s take a look at some of its programming options.

Find the Best for your Beans

The control panel is located above the steam wand. Four control buttons form a semi-circle around the digital display screen. From left to right, these buttons are identified by an up arrow and a large cup icon, a down arrow and a small cup icon, the word “esc” and a pitcher icon, “ent” and a blast of steam icon, and a blue button with a circular icon. They stand for coffee, espresso, large coffee, steam, or cleaning when the machine is in brewing mode. When you enter programming, the first four buttons stand for the up arrow, down arrow, escape, and enter.
Control Panel

To enter into programming mode, first make sure that the machine has warmed up. Press the enter (steam) button, until the words “Language … Water Hardn” appear on the screen. Then, you can use the up and down arrow buttons to scroll though the following topics: language, water hardness, temperature, pre-brewing, pre-grinding, total coffees, descaling, signal descaling, and timer.

The digital display screen also informs you of any alerts or maintenance issues as they arise. Expect an on-screen notification when the water tank is empty, when the machine is out of coffee beans, if the used coffee grounds drawer or drip tray is inserted incorrectly, if the brew unit is inserted correctly, when the used coffee grounds drawer is full, when descaling is necessary, when the appliance is warming up to brew temperature, when the machine is ready to brew, and when the machine is in energy saving mode.

It all Depends on the Brew

Now it’s time to brew! Lift up the water reservoir located on the top of the machine on the left and fill it at the sink, then add your favorite blend of beans to the hopper on the right. Press the green on/off switch located in the back of the machine, and in a few moments the words “Warming Up …” will appear on the display. Wait until the words “Select Product … Ready For Use” appear, and press the button of the beverage you prefer – espresso, coffee, or large coffee. If you want two of that drink, press the button twice.

You’ll find that the Solis’s grinder works quietly, grinding the exact amount of beans you need for each shot. The Solis’s powerful pump can produce up to 15 bars of pressure, and your shot will display a layer of golden crema – marbleized foam produced from a properly brewed shot of espresso.

You can change the volume of your drinks without even entering the programming menu. Press and hold the button corresponding to the drink you want to customize. The machine will brew, and your beverage will begin dispensing. Release the button when you have your desired volume. The Solis is now set to brew drinks at the new volume.

hopper dialsYou can also customize your grind setting and dosage. Lift up the hopper cover on the top of the machine on the right, and you’ll see two dials. The back dial has numbered settings from 1 (fine) to 18 (coarse) corresponding to the grind setting. You can adjust it only when the grinder is running, and Solis recommends setting it between 6 and 10. It’ll take between three and four brews before this adjustment becomes effective.

The dial closer to the front of the machine has a + and a – sign corresponding to the dosage, or the amount of espresso that is ground and tamped for each shot, between 6 and 9 grams This should be adjusted when the grinder is off.

So even for those of you who are wary of technology, the Solis Master 5000 Digital offers plenty of one-step customizations that are simple, effective, and result in a drink that tastes the way you want it to taste.

It’s Up to You – Creating Your Drinks

Now that you’ve got your espresso, it’s time to start playing around with the steam wand to create a full beverage menu, much like what you see at a café. The Solis Master 5000 Digital is really an all-encompassing coffee center; from grinding and tamping your beans, all the way to providing sufficient steam for foamed and textured milk, you’re ready to one-up the nearest coffee shop.
steam wand

The steam wand uses a plastic Pannarello frothing device. This tip is specially designed to inject steam from the heat exchanger boiler into your milk. To steam, press the steam button (which is designated by a steam icon) and wait until the words “Steam … Ready For Use” appear on the digital screen. Position your milk under the wand, and open up the steam knob located on the right side. Steam will flow out of the wand – this is how you can foam and texture the milk. Once you’re finished, close the steam knob and remember to exit out of steam mode by pressing the steam button again.

You can also dispense hot water from the steam wand. As long as the machine is heated to brewing temperature, you can open the steam knob for hot water and close the knob when you’re done. With instant hot water and a steam wand, you can make tea, hot cocoa, steamers, cappuccinos, lattes, espresso, coffee, large coffee, instant soup, americanos, macchiatos, ristrettos, café cremas, and more. See what we mean about it being a full service coffee center?

Great Results, No Matter What you Choose!

This machine can do things a coffee shop can’t – or won’t – do for you. Enter into programming by holding down the “ent”/steam button until the words “Language … Water Hardn” appear on the digital screen. Then, use the up and down arrow buttons (the coffee and espresso buttons) to scroll through the menu options – language, water hardness, temperatures, prebrewing, pregrinding, total coffees, descaling, signal descaling, and timer.

You probably won’t change the language from English, but being able to program the water hardness is important – it ensures that you’ll be descaling at the proper times. Use the water hardness test kit to test your water and enter it into the machine.

Other options are more fun, though. You can adjust the temperature of your beverage to minimum, low, medium, high, or maximum. Prebrewing refers to pre-infusion, or soaking the grounds with hot water before brewing begins in order to bring out the depths of espresso’s flavor and aromas. You can set the pre-infusion stage to on, off, or long.

Language...Water HardnPregrinding is a timesaving step that’s especially helpful if you have a lot of people using the Solis Master 5000 Digital. When pregrinding is on, after each shot is brewed the Solis grinds enough beans for the next shot so the next person brewing an espresso doesn’t have to wait for the grinder to run. However, coffee beans degrade more quickly after they are ground, so for the freshest tasting coffee it’s best to leave this function off.

The next option, total coffees, allows you to view the number of drinks that have been made on the machine – a good way to see how much money you’ve saved as opposed to going out for drinks!

After total coffee, there’s also a descaling feature. This begins the descaling process, while the next option, descaling signal, tells you how much water you can use before you have to descale again. Descaling is an important part of taking care of your machine. This process removes lime scale buildup from the internal brewing components, so your Solis Master 5000 Digital functions at its best.

Finally, the timer function is an energy saving device – you can set the Solis to enter into standby mode automatically after a certain amount of time has lapsed from the last brew. This means that you don’t have to remember to turn your Solis off when you leave your house in the morning, and when you get back home all you need to do is press the “ent” button to turn your Master 5000 Digital back on again.

Simple Steps, Great Results

The Solis is just as easy to clean as it is to use, again thanks to its digital display screen. It features three cleaning programs: an integral deep cleaning program that should be run monthly, a weekly cleaning program, and daily cleaning. Use the included SoliTab cleaning tablets for the monthly cleaning – this ensures that coffee oils and residue will be removed from inside of your machine.

As for daily and weekly cleaning, wipe down the machine with a damp cloth when needed. About once a week, wash the water reservoir, drip tray, cup tray, and used coffee grounds container by hand.

Gestalt: More than the Sum of its Parts

I’m sure there’s more to know about the Solis Master 5000 Digital – but you have to discover it for yourself. This machine is straightforward and easy to use, while resulting in a gorgeous, crema-topped shot of espresso. In the world of Solis, gorgeous design can only go so far – and high-quality engineering makes up the rest.