As you can see by our web site, Whole Latte Love offers a very extensive selection of espresso machines and coffee equipment. Each machine has its own unique characteristics and features. You will often read that machines come with features such as bypass doser, rapid steam, and programmable buttons. In this blog I will focus on the programmability of espresso machines as it pertains to coffee controls, and describe the various level of programmability that are offered.
Some of the home semi-automatic espresso machines that we offer have programmable brew buttons. With the semi-automatic line, programmability generally applies to the amount of coffee that can be set to brew. Some machines, such as the Gaggia Baby Twin also offer the ability to turn features such as pre-infusion on or off. Programming a semi-automatic espresso machine is a relatively easy thing to do. In most machines, the feature is simply activated by pressing and holding the brew button until the set amount of coffee is brewed. The machine will remember this setting and will brew for the same amount of time every time the button is activated. To reset the programming simply press and hold the brew button again. With programmable semi-automatic espresso machines, once you have your grinding and tamping dialed in, brewing becomes easy because you do not have to worry about your brew time being variable. Varying brew times can change your coffee extraction even with the same tamp and grind. In the home line, popular programmable machines are the Gaggia Baby Twin , Gaggia Espresso Dose , Breville 830XL , and Cuisinart EM-200. Popular programmable prosumer machines are the Expobar Office Control , Pasquini Livia 90 Auto , and the La Valentina Auto .
Aside from programmable coffee volumes, super-automatic espresso machines offer a whole other level of programmability. With super automatic machines coffee controls such as the amount of coffee that is used, the temperature of the coffee, the coffee brewing flow rate, your grinder settings, and on/off pre-infusion settings are available. Other programming features such as automatic on/off times, cup-warmer settings, sleep modes, rinse cycles, and steamed or frothed milk volumes are available as well.
Most super-automatic espresso machines offer some level of programmability. Some simply use a dial to control programmable features, others have LED displays with push buttons or ring technology similar to those found with an Ipod. There are even high-end machines with touch screen displays. I won’t get in the individual programmability of each machine we offer: but I would like to touch upon some of the machines that feature great programmability options.
Programmable Coffee Flow Rates
Previously, I mentioned that there is a level of programmability for coffee flow rates. In the Gaggia line this is known as the E-Plus system. With a machine that uses the E-Plus system there is a dial located in the front of the machine that can be turned at any time to adjust the water flow rate, or strength of your espresso- even while brewing. Turning the dial counterclockwise will decrease the strength, and turning it clockwise will increase the strength. I find this feature valuable when brewing a large cup of coffee or Café Crema. When attempting to brew a larger cup of coffee with a machine that does not have this feature you run the risk of over-extracting your coffee. Quarter of the way through the brew cycle you will have very weak coffee going in to your cup. This weak coffee can result in a bitter taste. Increasing the flow with the E-Plus system helps eliminate this problem by decreasing the extraction time and filling your cup more quickly. The Gaggia Titanium Plus , Gaggia Platinum Vogue , Gaggia Platinum Swing , Gaggia Platinum Swing Up , and Gaggia Platinum Vision all have the E-Plus system. Saeco offers a similar feature called the SBS.
Many super-automatic machines now include a “one touch” milk frothing system that will steam or froth the milk for you. The machine will also add the espresso to your milk to complete your latte or cappuccino. The one-touch feature by itself is nice to have, but there are some machines that take it a step further and allow for adjustments to be to the espresso and steamed or frothed milk. For instance, I like my cappuccinos with a long shot of espresso and more steamed milk than frothed milk. Machines like the DeLonghi Gran Dama 6700 or Gaggia Academia allow the user to make micro-adjustments to both the espresso and milk with their one touch system.
There are many programmability options that can be considered when purchasing super-automatic machines. At the very least you will want a machine that has controls for coffee volumes, coffee dosage (the amount of coffee in grams that are ground), and grinder adjustments. Most super-automatic machines offer at least this basic level of programmability: I would stay away from machines that do not. There are many people that are die-hard traditional style espresso machine users: they prefer to only use a manual or semi-automatic machine. They argue that you cannot get the level of adjustability to your coffee controls with a super-automatic machine as you can with a traditional machine. While this may have been the case in the past, super-automatics have really progressed with their level of adjustability in recent years and that argument does not hold as much weight anymore. With features such as temperature adjustments, E-Plus, and pre-infusion the programmability in today’s super-automatic espresso machines really allow the user to dial the machine in to suit their preference.